Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot says she expects cases in Chicago will peak in "the coming weeks."
But just how high they will go remains unclear.
"There's no sugar coating this," Lightfoot said. "The numbers are going to get worse before they get better."
Her comments echo those made by Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady, who noted that an increase in cases will likely come along with an increase in testing.
The mayor had previously said the city is preparing for upwards of 40,000 hospitalizations and U.S. health experts worry Cook County could become one of the nation's next hotspots.
"Forty thousand hospitalizations. Not 40,000 cases, but 40,000 people who require acute care in a hospital setting," Lightfoot said. "That number will break our healthcare system... This will push our city to the brink."
Illinois' stay-at-home order was extended Tuesday until April 30, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced.
The news comes one week before the initial order was set to end and just days after the state saw its biggest one-day jump in cases of the coronavirus pandemic so far.
Health officials warn that a continued increase in patients threatens to overwhelm state hospitals, healthcare workers and first responders.
Although the number of new cases reported Monday and Tuesday were lower than those seen Sunday, both Pritzker and Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said that is not an indication that cases have peaked.
Pritzker noted Tuesday that it remains unclear when Illinois cases will begin to slow.
"The truth is that we don't know when we're going to peak and we won't know when we're going to come off that peak," he said, adding that the April 30 date is an "educated guess" that could ultimately change.
Already, the state is bringing back online once-shuttered hospitals and working to prepare Chicago's McCormick Place convention center into an alternate care facility for patients with mild symptoms.
"What we’re seeing in places like New York is that the peak may last for several days or more," he said. "They’re seeing this in other places in the world as well. The whole idea is that we keep patients safe at home if they don’t need to be at a hospital or hospitalized if they need, but we really don’t want people to get this in the first place so we can keep them away from hospitals and manage through this. We want people to get it over some period of time."
The comments are similar to ones made by national health experts as well as President Donald Trump extended restrictive social distancing guidelines through April.
Trump acknowledged that he may be forced to extend the guidelines again at the end of April, but expressed hope that by June 1, "we should be well on our way to recovery."