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The number of Evanston residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 increased by 11 cases today, April 15, to a total of 197 cases, according to information provided by the City of Evanston. The trend is shown in the above chart. 

To date, a total of 5 Evanstonians have died due to COVID-19.    

For Chicago, the COVID-19 cases grew from 9,616 yesterday to 10,192 today; the cases in Cook County grew from 16,323 yesterday to 17,306 today; and the cases in Illinois grew from  23,247 to 24,593.  A total of 116,929 people in Illinois have been tested for COVID-19. The trend is shown in the first chart in the chart box.

A total of 948 residents of Illinois have died due to COVID-19.

The second chart in the chart box shows the number of new COVID-19 cases reported in Illinois each day starting on April 1. The chart reflects a buildup in the total number of cases between April 1 and April 4, then a drop on April 5, followed by a steady buildup through April 8 and fluctuations after that. 

The cases between April 1 and 5 increased on an average of 14.4% each day over the total on the previous day. The average percentage increase between April 6 and 10 is 9.6% each day over the total on the previous day. The average percentage increase between April 11 and 15 is 6.5%.

The five-day average is decreasing.

“We are seeing a slowed rate of increase,” said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, at the briefing on April 15.  She said this is due to the ban on large social gatherings, the stay-at-home order, social distancing, hand-washing and other restrictions.

 “These measures are cumulatively beneficial over time,” she said.

While the rate of increases of confirmed cases is going down, Dr. Ezike added that the total number of people who are infected by COVID-19 is “grossly understated.” She said her team knows this because there are limited supplies of testing materials and many people are not being tested.

The Economic Cost

At the briefing this afternoon, Governor J.B. Pritzker provided information on the impact of the pandemic on Illinois budget for this fiscal year ending June 30, 2020 (FY’20) and the next fiscal year ending June 30, 2021 (FY’21). He emphasized that the figures he was providing were “preliminary and estimated,” since the virus was not yet vanquished and a lot of uncertainty still remained as to when that would happen.

“The virus is going to hurt our budget hard,” said Gov. Pritzker. “The bottom line is this: Budget experts estimate that Illinois will have a $2.7 billion shortfall in revenues for this fiscal year and a $4.6 billion shortfall in revenues for the next fiscal year.” 

Part of the shortfall in revenues for this fiscal year is due to extending the time to file tax returns from April 15 to July 30, which pushes the receipt of some tax revenues from this fiscal year to the next. But shutting down the economy has reduced sales-tax and income-tax revenues.

The Governor said his administration is already working to address the shortfall for this fiscal year. He said at the start of the fiscal year, staff had identified cuts totaling $1 billion to make over a three-year period. He said he has asked staff to realize those savings much sooner.

In addition, he said staff are trying to leverage $700 million in other State funds to support the operation of State government and to issue up to $1.2 million in short-term borrowing, which he said is Constitutionally permitted in unexpected situations such as this one.

“This is not a path any of us would choose under normal circumstances,” he said. “It is the best path available to us with the two-and-one-half months left in this fiscal year.”

For FY’21, he said, “My administration is estimating that there will be at least $4.5 billion less in State revenues than our Department of Revenue originally estimated. If the short-term borrowing is paid back in FY’21, which is required, the budget gap would be $6.2 billion. If the Constitutional amendment to move from a flat tax to a graduated income tax system does not pass in the November referendum, the budget gap will expand to $7.4 billion, he said.

Gov. Pritzker emphasized, “We will not go without a State budget. We will need to make extraordinarily difficult decisions on top of difficult decisions we have already made. But together with the State legislature we will make them.”

He added that the budget will not be balanced “on the backs of the starving and the suffering. It’s in our most trying moments that our resolve is truly tested. Our character as a State is tested. So in the midst of a pandemic, I am more resolute than ever to protect those who are suffering physical and financial hardship.”

He pointed out that funds provided to states under the CARES Act can only be used toward “new expenditures related to coronavirus. They can’t be used to make up for shortfalls in government revenue shortfalls that are as a result of coronavirus.” He said additional funding is needed from the federal government.

Every state is in a similar situation, he said. “There’s massive economic disruption that’s unprecedented in modern history.

Phasing Out of the Restrictions

As is customary at the briefings, questions turned to when the school closing order and the stay-at-home order might be lifted.

Gov. Pritzker said, “We are going to rely on the epidemiologists’ and the scientists’ advice on what social distancing measures, stay-at-home measures we need to keep in place in order to prevent a spike in COVID-19 infection.”

He reiterated what he has said in the past week many times. The State needs widespread testing, a comprehensive tracing effort, and effective treatments to begin to open commerce across the State.

He described how he thought COVID-19 cases would wind down. He said one study that has been widely cited projected the number of COVID-19 cases would peak and then precipitously drop. “I personally, and others that I talk to, don’t think that’s going to happen. You’re working your way up to a peak, and when you get to the other side, it’s going to be a gradual downward slope, not an immediate drop. 

“So that is another reason why this testing, tracing, and treatment is so important and why we can’t do what President Trump has described, which is sort of a massive opening of a variety of states.”

Larry Gavin

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...