coronavirus

After Rep. Sued to Open Illinois, Data Shows His Community Doesn't Meet Guidelines to Reopen

State Rep. John Cabello's home county has seen a steep rise in new coronavirus cases and deaths in the last part of April. New testing in his community also does not meet national standards, NBC 5 Investigates has found

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NBC 5 Investigates has analyzed the cases and deaths caused by coronavirus in the home county of state Rep. John Cabello, who filed a lawsuit against Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker to try to quash the governor’s stay-at-home order, issued in an effort to slow the spread of the deadly virus.

“We need to do something to get back to our normal American way of life,” Cabello, a Republican from Machesney Park, said of his legal effort.

But NBC 5 has found little indication that Cabello’s Winnebago County is going back to normal, in terms of the coronavirus outbreak. In fact, the data shows that Cabello’s region saw one of its highest rises so far in new coronavirus cases, and there’s no immediate sign that the county’s rates of cases - or deaths - are easing off.

The official White House guidelines for “Opening Up America Again” say that there needs to be “a downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period” before a community begins to reopen.

But in Cabello’s Winnebago County, northwest of Chicago, the slope of new cases isn’t flattening. In fact, it has gotten steeper just in the past few days.

The chart above shows the accumulated total of coronavirus cases in Winnebago County, as logged each day by NBC 5 Investigates since mid-March. As of Wednesday evening, Winnebago’s total case count was 392.

The goal is to have the slope of cases start to ease off and flatten - like a high plateau - progressing through the next few weeks. But there’s no evidence of that right now in Cabello’s home county.

The next chart below shows the number of new coronavirus cases that are reported each day in Cabello’s area. To adhere to the federal guidelines, the lines at the right should progressively get shorter over a 14-day period to show that there has been a clear two-week trend of fewer new cases each day - so that the bars on the right eventually resemble a mirror image of the lower bars on the left.

That’s simply not happening right now in Winnebago County. In fact, on Wednesday, NBC 5 found that new cases reached their second-highest level ever in the county, with 27 new residents falling ill in just one day.

The next chart shows the number of fatalities due to coronavirus in Winnebago County, where a total of 10 residents have died in the pandemic, beginning in early April. The rate of deaths isn’t abating either. In fact, Winnebago County lost a majority of its residents - six - in just the past 10 days.

“This [lawsuit] isn’t going to force people to leave their homes," Cabello said in a Tuesday interview. "Anyone who wants to abide by the recommendations can.”

But another criterion of the White House guidelines is “the ability to set up efficient screening and testing sites for symptomatic individuals,” which might help people decide, in Cabello’s words, whether or not to “abide by the recommendations.”

NBC 5 Investigates has also been tracking coronavirus tests and cases by zip code, including Cabello’s zip code of 61115 in his hometown of Machesney Park.

Guidelines issued by Harvard University say that sufficient coronavirus testing in a community the size of his means an average of 34 residents should be tested each day. But after counting tests in every zip code for the past week, NBC 5 Investigates has found that Machesney Park never had sufficient testing on any of the past seven days. On Wednesday, for example, only eight residents there were tested.

And for the 13 zip codes NBC 5 examined throughout Winnebago County, 10 of those never had sufficient testing on any day during the past week. Three zip codes did receive enough tests for their population levels - each on a single day over the last week.

Cabello's lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Winnebago County Circuit Court, alleges he and "all citizens similarly situated are being irreparably harmed each and every day they continue to be restricted to their home and limited in their activities" under the stay-at-home order.

Cabello is seeking an injunction stopping Pritzker and any other state officials from enforcing the stay-at-home order or issuing any new orders, the suit says.

Pritzker's office slammed the lawsuit, the second filed against him over the order, in a statement Wednesday.

"This callous disregard for science, reason, and the value of human life will be settled by the courts," Pritzker's press secretary Jordan Abudayyeh.

"The governor is focused on the statewide response to COVID-19, an effort that is not just legal, but is keeping people safe and saving lives," Abudayyeh's statement continued.

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