The view of Chicago's skyline from the West Side on April 5 | Photo by Darius Griffin [The TRiiBE]

Illinois residents are going to be indoors for another 30 days.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker extended the state’s stay-at-home order from April 30 to May 30, citing new models projecting that the state will hit its peak number of deaths between late April and early May, he announced at a Thursday, April 23 press briefing.

He’s also strengthening some public health measures. Anyone over the age of two will be required to wear a mask when in a public place where social distancing isn’t possible. This will begin on May 1. 

“Next week, I intend to sign an extension of stay-at-home order, with some modifications, through Saturday, May 30,” Pritzker said.

Without the stay-at-home order, experts said, modeling estimates found that there would have been 10 to 20 times as many deaths in Illinois to date. The peak death rate and peak resource usage also would have shifted 20 to 30 times what we’re seeing now with the stay at home order and other mitigation efforts by state and local leaders. 

If accounting for the number of deaths due to lack of access to healthcare, experts said these numbers would likely have been even higher. 

If Pritzker lifted the stay-at-home order this week, COVID-19 death rates and hospitalizations would start to rise sharply by mid May — modeling estimates five to 10 times more deaths than the state was on track to see now if mitigation had been discontinued.

Graph provided by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Thursday, April 23.

At an earlier press conference on April 23, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she worries about low-income residents having access to masks and face covering should the governor require everyone to wear them. She said once she sees the guidance from Pritzker, her administration will work hard to help city residents comply.

“We won’t ticket and arrest people,” Lightfoot said when it comes to residents without masks.

The governor will be modifying the stay-at-home order with new requirements that will begin on May 1. Because the state is bending the curve, Pritzker said, physicians will be able to schedule surgeries for non-life-threatening procedures that have been delayed due to COVID-19. 

Medical facilities will need to meet new criteria, including proper personal protective equipment (PPE), ensuring that enough overall space for COVID-19 patients remains available, and testing of elective surgery patients to ensure COVID-19 negative status. 

SCHOOLS

Educational institutions may allow and create procedures for students and families to pick up necessary supplies and student belongings. Dormitory move-outs must follow public health guidelines, including social distancing. 

NON-ESSENTIAL RETAIL

Additionally, retail stores — that were initially deemed non-essential businesses during the original stay-at-home order  — will now be able to take orders online and by phone, and offer pickup outside the store and delivery options beginning May 1, Pritzker said. 

ESSENTIAL BUSINESSES & MANUFACTURING

Greenhouses, garden centers, nurseries and animal grooming services will be able to reopen as essential businesses. Each store must follow social distancing requirements, and must require customers and employees to wear face coverings.

Other essential businesses and manufacturers must provide face coverings to all employees who are unable to maintain six feet of social distancing, Pritzker said. New requirements also include occupancy limits and precautions such as staggering shifts and operating only essential lines for manufacturers.

STATE PARKS & TRAILS

Pritzker is also working on a phased re-opening of state parks for activities such as hiking, fishing and boating with no more than two people inside the boat. 

In a press release, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources said it will reopen the following state parks, recreation areas, fish and wildlife areas and trails beginning May 1. 

In region one (Northwest Illinois): Argyle Lake State Park, Jubilee College State Park, Lowden State Park, Morrison-Rockwood State Park, Rock Island Trail, Shabbona Lake State Recreation Area.

In region two (Northeastern Illinois): Chain O’ Lakes State Park, Illinois and Michigan Canal State Trail, Kankakee River State Park, Moraine Hills State Park, North Point Marina.

In region three (East Central Illinois): Clinton Lake State Recreation Area, Eagle Creek State Park, Kickapoo State Recreation Area, Wolf Creek State Park.

In region four (West Central Illinois):  Eldon Hazlet State Recreation Area, Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area, Sangchris Lake State Park, Siloam Springs State Park, Washington County State Recreation Area.

In region five  (Southern Illinois): Fort Massac State Park, Giant City State Park, Stephen A. Forbes State Recreation Area, Wayne Fitzgerrell State Recreation Area.

Anyone visiting these sites is advised to bring alcohol-based hand sanitizer and face coverings. They also must practice social distancing and should cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. All other IDNR sites, including historic sites, will remain closed for now.

For essential businesses and manufacturers, new caps on occupancy and new requirements on social distancing will be enacted.

If he starts to see crowds, Pritzker said he will need to bring back these restrictions. 

“I’m hopeful that we will not need to do that,” he added.

For at least the past week, Pritzker and Lightfoot had hinted at a possible extension of the stay-at-home order. 

On April 22, Pritzker said he’s been speaking with leaders in the restaurant and hospitality industries about how to safely re-open dining rooms, considering that booths and tables in these businesses tend to be placed closer together than in other industries. 

Health officials also reported the highest increase in COVID-19 cases within a 24-hour period with 2,049 cases statewide. The totals across the state were 35,108 cases and 1,565 fatalities.

On April 21, Pritzker said the state hadn’t yet reached its peak number of COVID-19 cases and deaths. Before extending the stay-at-home order, he said he wanted to give himself and his staff enough time to have conversations with epidemiologists and other experts to understand if any tweaks or updates to the stay-at-home order were possible in the event of an extension.

Back on April 17, Pritzker announced all Illinois schools will remain closed for the remainder of the school year.

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Check out our coronavirus updates page for information on testing sites in the Chicagoland area: https://thetriibe.com/covid-19-coronavirus-chicago-illinois/