Governor J.B. Pritzker said the State legislature should convene and pass a comprehensive plan to support families, small businesses and towns.

The State reported a record 4,014 COVID-19 cases in a single day, but also a record number of 29,266 cases.

The Restore Illinois Plan

In the Restore Illinois plan, the State is already in Phase 2 of the five-phase plan. There are four regions of the State, and each region may move through the remaining phases at its own pace, depending on when they meet the criteria to do so. Evanston, along with the rest of Cook County and eight other counties, is in the Northeast Region.

To move to Phase 3 and Phase 4, a region must meet benchmarks relating to hospitalizations, testing, and tracing.

The Number of Infections and Hospitalizations

One metric being used to determine if a region may move from Phase 2 to Phase 3 and from Phase 3 to Phase 4, is that there be no overall increase in hospital admissions for 28 days, and that hospitals in the region have an unused bed capacity of at least 14%.

 While the criteria focus on the number of hospitalizations, rather than new COVID-19 cases, the number of new cases is still important because about 30% of the people who test positive for COVID-19 are hospitalized, said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health.  

The data below show new COVID-19 cases in Evanston, Cook County, and Illinois, and the number of hospital admissions in the Northeast Region.

New COVID-19 Cases

New cases and deaths of Evanstonians. The number of Evanston residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 increased by 19 cases today, for a total of 499 cases, according to information provided by the City of Evanston. The trend is shown in the above chart. 

To date, a total of 16 Evanstonians have died due to COVID-19. Of the persons who lost their lives due to the virus, 13 were residents or staff of long-term care facilities in Evanston.

New cases and deaths in Cook County and Illinois: Today, there were 2,089 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Cook County and 4,014 in the State.

This was the highest number of new cases in the State, said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. She added that the State had 29,266 COVID tests in the last 24-hours, and, “As you test more, you’re going to get more positives on those tests.”

Since May 1, there have been 18,947 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Cook County and 30,103 new confirmed cases in Illinois. The trend is shown in the smaller chart box.

The number of deaths in Illinois due to COVID-19 increased by 144 in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths due to COVID-19 in Illinois to 3,601.  

Hospital Admissions/Capacity in the Northeast Region

IDPH has begun to post summary information showing how the Northeast Region is doing in terms of meeting the criteria to move to Phase 3. The data shows that as of May 12:

Hospital admissions have declined by 18.6% in the Northeast Region since May 1. This is on track to meet the criteria.

The Northeast Region has 17.8% of its medical/surgical beds, 18.8% of its ICU beds, and 64.3% of its ventilators available. This is on track to meet the minimum capacity of 14%

The test-positive rate, using a 7-day rolling average, is 22.3%, which is higher than the maximum of 20.3%.

Adequacy of Testing

Researchers often use two measures to assess the adequacy of testing for COVID-19: 1) the number of tests given in relation to the population; and 2) the percentage of people who test positive on COVID-19 tests.

The Number of Tests in Illinois

The Restore Illinois plan does not set a goal in terms of the number of tests that must be given in a region to advance to less restrictive phases. Rather, to move from Phase 2 to Phase 3, a region must have testing available “for all patients, health care workers, first responders, people with underlying conditions, and residents and staff in congregate living facilities.” To move from Phase 3 to Phase 4, testing must be “available in region regardless of symptoms or risk factors.”

The plan does not state how IDPH will determine if these criteria are being met.

In a May 7 study, the Harvard Global Health Institute (HGHI) estimated that Illinois needed to be administering 64,167 tests a day in order to safely open the economy.*

When asked about this number on May 7, Gov. Pritzker said, “I don’t think 64,000 is adequate for the State of Illinois. I think we’re going to need many more tests than that. We want people to be safe when they go to work. We want people to be safe when they go to school. People want to be safe in all their activities and they want to know that others have been tested around them.” He said it was important “nobody is without an opportunity to get a test.”

Between May 7 and 11, the average number of tests administered per day In Illinois was 16,233. Today, the number was a record 29,266 tests.

Both numbers fall far short of the target of 64,167 set by HGHI.  

The Percent Positive-Test Rate

One measure used by researchers to assess whether the amount of testing is adequate is to look at the percent of people who test positive on COVID-19 tests. The World Health Organization suggests that a test-positive rate should be between 3% and 12%. A test positive rate over 10% likely reflects that there is an inadequate amount of testing and that it should be increased to cast a wider net.**

In the Restore Illinois plan, one criterion to move from Phase 2 to Phase 3 and from Phase 3 to Phase 4 is that a region have a test-positive rate below 20%. In determining whether this criterion is met, IDPH says it will use a seven-day rolling average for the last 14 days.

The 20% threshold is double what some researchers say should be the maximum.

As of May 12, IDPH reported that the test positive rate for the Northeast Region, was 22.3%.  

Gov. Pritzker: The Legislature Should Meet

Gov. Pritzker said today that the State Legislature needed to convene and pass a comprehensive plan to support families, small businesses and towns; and he outlined some things the legislation should include.  

 “The damage that this virus has done to jobs and businesses has really been devastating,” said Gov. Pritzker. “National projections show some industries will begin recovering in the reasonably near future. Some others may take longer. Meanwhile, workers and their families are hurting.”

He said, “From early on, my administration has worked to support our residents and small businesses by banning residential evictions, providing help to pay rent and utilities, delaying tax-filing deadlines, expanding unemployment eligibility, and instituting loan and grant programs to support small business owners.

“That isn’t enough. We must do more. The legislature must convene so that we can begin to put our financial and economic house back in order, even as we battle this terrible virus. The General Assembly needs to pass a comprehensive plan to support families, small businesses and small towns.”

The Governor outlined some things that should be included in the plan. “In addition to significantly increasing rent assistance for families and working with banks on mortgage forbearance, we need rent and mortgage assistance for small businesses too. We ought to provide grants and loans for businesses, starting and restarting as tax credits for small business job recovery. Industries and businesses left out of the Federal PPP should be first in line.

“And we must pass a law to distribute funds to small cities and towns to support their need to fund first responders and basic services that could fall apart from COVID related revenue losses. As we work to keep our residents safe and gradually reopen businesses, I hope the legislature will act expeditiously to support jobs and economic recovery.”

He said the size of the legislative package will be significantly dependent on whether the State is able to get assistance from the federal government to make up for lost sales-tax and income-tax revenues.

He added that he had spoken with the legislative leaders about calling the legislature back to session and suggested it would make sense if the leaders could agree on a package beforehand.

Gov. Pritzker also announced a program to provide $25 million in DCEO grants to help local governments jump start public infrastructure projects for the summer construction season. He also said $75 million was being made available to hospitals to help cover their losses when they took steps to increase capacity to handle a potential surge in COVID-19 cases.

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Footnotes

*Ashish Jha, MD, MPH, the Faculty Director of the Harvard Global Health Institute (“HGHI), and two colleagues conclude in a May 7 report, “HGHI and NPR publish new state testing targets” that on a nationwide basis 900,000 tests for COVID-19 are needed by May 15 to open the economy. They also provide estimates of the tests each state should be ready to provide by May 15. For Illinois, they say that 64,167 tests a day are needed. Link to HGHI’s report: https://globalepidemics.org/2020/05/07/hghi-projected-tests-needed-may15/

HGHI’s report said it was publishing its results in partnership with NPR, and it provides a link to the article that published HGHI’s results in a little more detail. The article notes that other organizations have estimated that Illinois needs 44,898 tests per day (Los Alamos) and 96,342 tests per day (MIT). What the various models have in common is that they show that the number of COVID-19 tests currently being administered on a daily basis in Illinois is very low. Link to the article: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/05/07/851610771/u-s-coronavirus-testing-still-falls-short-hows-your-state-doing

A report, “Roadmap to Pandemic Resilience,” published by the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University, concludes that on a nationwide basis the nation needs to be doing 5 million tests per day by early June to deliver a safe social reopening. ” Link: https://ethics.harvard.edu/files/center-for-ethics/files/roadmaptopandemicresilience_updated_4.20.20_0.pdf

** See above article by Ashish Jha, MD, MPH.