Illinois may potentially be able to ease up on social distancing guidelines by late May, a new projection says, provided strict containment strategies for the coronavirus outbreak are put in place.
The projections come from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which classified social distancing guidelines as government-mandated restrictions on mass gatherings, stay-at-home orders, as well as closures of businesses, schools, non-essential services and more.
The IHME found that social distancing guidelines in Illinois could potentially be relaxed beginning around May 19. That finding is based on when the IHME's model predicts infections will drop below one per 1 million people.
Researchers picked that benchmark believing it would provide a "conservative estimate of the number of infections each location could feasibly manage using containment strategies to prevent a resurgence of COVID-19," the IHME said.
Those containment strategies - widespread testing, contact tracing, isolating cases and limiting large public gatherings - are the key to being able to relax social distancing guidelines, the IHME says.
The research includes projections for all 50 states in the U.S. and dozens of other countries around the world. All of the data and projections can be found here.
Illinois' projected potential target date of May 19 puts it roughly in the middle of the pack in comparison to when other states may be able to ease restrictions, according to the projections. Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana all also had dates projected to be between May 18 and May 24. Other Midwestern states like Iowa and Missouri, as well as some southern states like Florida, Texas and Georgia, may not be able to ease up until after June 8, the IHME says.
According to the Chicago Tribune, IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray said in a media briefing Friday that potential "opening dates" are likely to change as more information becomes available - noting in particular that whether deaths drop sharply after peaking, or plateau, is a key variable in projections.
Last week, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker extended the state's stay-at-home order for another month. The statewide stay-at-home order first took effect on March 21, was later extended through the end of April, and now remains in place through May 30, with some modifications.
Pritzker said Friday that he's hopeful the state can begin reopening by June, possibly even sooner, noting that the reopening would likely be gradual.
"I think that the new normal that occurs here - and you know, I hope that it could occur before the end of May, but again, it will be all based on, you know, whether people are getting sicker and where we are in the curve - but the fact is that I will be making decisions about how to phase out the new normal that's going to occur at the end of May, or that is occurring even now that we're evolving into new normal," Pritzker said. "It's something that we're going to have to figure out as we go because the researchers honestly are still figuring it out, too. So, believe me, I'm just as committed as everyone else is to getting out of a stay-at-home order and getting things back to normal.
Illinois health officials on Sunday reported an additional 2,126 new cases of coronavirus, for total of 43,903 confirmed cases since the pandemic began. The state also reported 59 additional deaths as a result of the virus, bringing the death toll to 1,933 statewide.
Illinois continued its upward trend in tests conducted in the previous 24 hours, performing 13,335 tests, Pritzker said Sunday, marking the third consecutive day that the state has tested more than 10,000 people.