Despite a recent increase in the number of fatalities related to coronavirus in the state of Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker says that other metrics, including positivity rates and case numbers, offer a clear picture of where the state is in fighting the pandemic, and will allow Illinois to move forward into new phases in its reopening plan.
The state recorded 40 deaths on Thursday, the most it has seen in a single day since mid-March, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Those fatalities are part of a recent upswing in deaths, but Pritzker says that the decision to move forward into a “Bridge Phase” is based on “leading indicators,” like positivity rates and new cases, than on so-called “lagging indicators,” like hospitalizations and deaths, that follow spikes in COVID case rates.
“Deaths are a lagging indicator, not a leading indicator, and so as you know we had a surge (in cases) in early March,” he said. “As a result of that surge, when you look six-to-eight weeks later, which is about the time period that Dr. (Ngozi) Ezike has been teaching me all year, you see a surge in deaths.”
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In all, the state has recorded 22,136 deaths as COVID-related since the pandemic began last year. Another 2,347 deaths are currently classified as “probable” COVID-19 fatalities, according to IDPH data.
Case numbers in the last two weeks have begun to drop, with the 1,1778 new cases of the virus reported on Thursday serving as the lowest single-day increase in cases since late March.
The state’s positivity rate on new cases is currently at 3%, a significant drop from marks the state was recording in mid-to-late March, and the positivity rate on individuals tested is now at 3.8%, according to the latest IDPH data.
Those numbers are part of the reason the state is planning to move into a so-called “Bridge Phase,” with increased occupancy limits and other loosened restrictions. That move could happen as soon as May 14, while a move to “Phase Five,” a complete reopening of the state, could come as soon as June 11.
Even though the state’s move into those new phases gives residents a reason for optimism, Pritzker says he hasn’t lost sight of the tragic loss of life that the pandemic has caused, and is continuing to cause, both in Illinois and in the rest of the United States.
“I don’t disregard that. It pains me every day, frankly, to see those numbers, and to think about the families that are affected by those deaths,” he said.