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Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has extended the state’s stay-at-home order through the end of May, with some modifications, designating new essential businesses and allowing some nonessential businesses to restart certain operations as the state grapples with coronavirus.
Pritzker on Thursday announced he would sign a modified order “based on data from scientists and health experts,” which would go into effect on May 1.
“Make no mistake, Illinois has saved lives. By staying home and social distancing, we have kept our infection and death rates for the months of March and April thousands below the rates projected had we not implemented these mitigation strategies,” the Democratic governor said in a statement. “I know how badly we all want our normal lives back. But this is the part where we have to dig in and understand that the sacrifices we’ve made as a state to avoid a worst-case scenario are working -- and we need to keep going a little while longer to finish the job.”
Pritzker also announced that the state is projected to see a peak or plateau of deaths per day from coronavirus in late April and early May, but noted that if the stay-at-home order were lifted this week, the model “anticipates a second wave of the outbreak in Illinois starting in May, which would claim tens of thousands of lives and greatly exceed the state’s hospital capacity.”
The new executive order will allow a phased reopening of state parks and will allow fishing and boating in groups of no more than two people. The order will also allow residents to go “under strict safety guidelines” and when social distancing is followed.
The order also designates several new essential businesses, including greenhouses, garden centers and nurseries, as well as animal grooming services -- which are all required to follow social distancing and enforce the use of face coverings.
Retail stores, under the order, are still considered nonessential businesses but are allowed to reopen for telephone and online orders through pickup outside the store and delivery.
The order also requires that all individuals wear a face covering or a mask when in a public setting where they are unable to maintain a 6-foot distance. Those face coverings will be required in areas such as stores, and applies to all individuals over the age of 2 “who are able to medically tolerate a face covering or mask.”
The order also states that essential businesses and manufacturers will be required to provide face coverings to all employees, as well as follow new social distancing guidelines that include occupancy limits and precautions such as staggering shifts and operating only essential lines for manufacturers.
As for schools, the order allows educational institutions to establish procedures for pickup of necessary supplies or student belongings. The order also requires move-outs from dormitories to follow public health guidelines, including social distancing.
Pritzker also said Thursday that the Illinois Department of Public Health would issue guidance to hospitals to allow for certain elective surgeries for non-life-threatening conditions, beginning May 1. The order, though, states that the facilities would need to meet specific criteria, including proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and ensuring that enough overall space for COVID-19 patients remains available. It also requires facilities to test elective surgery patients to ensure a COVID-19 negative status.
“If the stay-at-home order were lifted this week, death rates and hospitalizations would start rising sharply by the middle of May,” the release from Pritzker’s office stated. “It’s projected that the peak death rate and peak resource needs would be almost as high as if there were never any mitigation measures put in place. Over the course of the current outbreak, the model estimates there would be 5 to 10 times more deaths than we would see if we continued mitigation.”
As of Thursday, Illinois reported more than 35,000 positive cases of COVID-19 and more than 1,500 deaths.
Pritzker's move comes as several states begin relaxing social distancing measures and begin phase one of the White House's guidelines to reopen the economy. The guidelines pass the decision on when to move to each phase to governors and local officials.
The Trump administration's guidelines outline what individuals, businesses, health care workers and more should do over three phases in reopening the economy, with states making it to the first phase only if they see a decrease in the number of cases within their borders for 14 consecutive days.