Despite More Deaths, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker Sees A Slowing In COVID-19’s Trajectory

Still, Pritzker predicts summertime concerts and festivals could be a no-go.

Official Updates COVID-19 Pritzker
AP Photo
Official Updates COVID-19 Pritzker
AP Photo

Despite More Deaths, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker Sees A Slowing In COVID-19’s Trajectory

Still, Pritzker predicts summertime concerts and festivals could be a no-go.

As Illinois’ COVID-19 death toll continued to grow, Gov. JB Pritzker said Thursday his “stay at home” order is showing dividends with a slower climb in new cases and fatalities but warned large summer festivals and concerts still may need to be shelved.

“Our rate of rise is looking less and less exponential,” the governor said at his daily briefing on the virus. “That indicates to us that we are, in fact, bending the curve. There is even some evidence that we may be moving to a flatter curve but we need to keep watching the data on a daily basis.”

Thursday’s numbers showed 66 more deaths statewide from the coronavirus, bringing Illinois’ tally to 528 and marking the fewest deaths in three days. Pritzker’s administration also announced 1,344 new COVID-19 cases, which represented a drop in new daily tallies from Wednesday. The latest new cases bring the total number of confirmed cases to 16,422.

Despite wisps of optimism, Pritzker made clear that he does not see any basis to lift his “stay at home” order before its scheduled April 30th expiration and worries about people “throwing caution to the wind” and venturing out as warm weather approaches.

“The curve is still upward trajectory and so just because we’re bending the curve does not mean it’s bending down yet,” the governor said. “People need to understand that it is unlikely we will be able to lift this stay-at-home (order) before April 30.

“And indeed as we approach April 30, we will be thinking about what are the restrictions or rules we need to set going forward after April 30 because it isn’t going to be — unlike what some have said at the federal level — it isn’t gonna be that all of a sudden you’re gonna drop the ‘stay at home’ [order] and every other restriction,” he said.

Pritzker said social distancing is going to have to become a way of life for those in Chicago and the rest of Illinois deep into the summer, going so far as to suggest that promoters of warm-weather concerts and festivals still months away should contemplate cancelling their events.

“I think everybody needs to think seriously about canceling large summer events. From my perspective today, I do not see how we’re going to have large gatherings of people,” Pritzker said. “Again, until we have a vaccine, which is months and months away, I wouldn’t risk having large groups of people together anywhere. I think it’s hard for everybody to hear, but that’s just a fact.”

In other COVID-19 developments from Pritzker’s briefing:

  • Testing in African American neighborhoods: Pritzker says he wants to increase COVID-19 testing in African American neighborhoods, saying he plans to dispatch newly acquired rapid-testing equipment from North Chicago-based Abbott Labs into those hot spots. Data from the Illinois Department of Public Health show black people account for 42% of state’s deaths. “Testing sites is directly related to who’s getting tested, of course,” Pritzker said. “We wanted to make sure that we spread … the rapid tests into communities where we know we have significant issues, like the African American community.”

  • Illinois’ take of the latest federal stimulus package: Pritzker estimates the state of Illinois is in line to receive $2.7 billion in reimbursements from the last federal stimulus bill passed by Congress and signed by President Trump. Pritzker said the rules as to how the state collects that money are still “in flux,” but he’s optimistic the state will get the full $2.7 billion. The governor has previously said that he expects another stimulus bill out of Washington to help states with the budget holes caused by the response to COVID-19.

  • The cost of COVID-19: Pritzker indicated the public will soon have a better idea of how much the state is spending on personal protection equipment (PPE) and other emergency contracts the state has had to issue in response to the pandemic. Pritzker has so far been unwilling to share how much the state has spent on the PPE it has been able to track down because, he said, it would hurt the state’s negotiating ability for the next PPE purchase. But some of the orders have been for $5 million or even $10 million. “The cost of what is normally an 85 cent or one dollar N95 mask is going for anywhere between $4 and $7 a piece. So if you need millions of them as we have indicated that we do, a million of those at $5 a piece is $5 million. And that’s just N95 masks,” Pritzker said.

Dave McKinney and Tony Arnold cover Illinois politics and government for WBEZ. Follow them on Twitter @davemckinney and @tonyjarnold.