Despite cautious talk of Illinois potentially reaching its peak number of coronavirus cases sooner than expected, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said it's unlikely the statewide stay-at-home order will be lifted early.
Currently, the order, which began exactly one calendar months ago, remains in effect until April 30, though some models predict the state could reach its peak as early as this weekend.
"Look, you know, we talk a lot about peaking and we talk a lot about how we're bending the curve, the curve is still upward trajectory," Pritzker said in his daily coronavirus briefing Thursday. "And so just because we're bending the curve does not mean it's bending down yet. And so people need to understand that, that it is unlikely that that we will be able to lift this stay at home before April 30. And indeed, as we approach April 30, we will be thinking about what are the restrictions or rules that we need to set going forward after April 30? Because it isn't going to be unlike what some have said, you know, at the federal level. It isn't going to be that all of a sudden you're going to drop the you know, stay-at-home and every other restriction."
Health experts have stressed that it remains unclear when Illinois will reach its peak number of cases and cautioned there are multiple models showing various outcomes. The state on Thursday reported more than 16,000 confirmed cases of the virus with 528 deaths, numbers that are certain to rise.
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Asked if there is a possibility the state could see a resurgence in cases come fall and winter, Pritzker said yes.
"In short, yes," Pritzker said. "The fact of the matter is that we are not going to be truly able to begin to move on until we have a testing, much greater testing, contact tracing and treatment."
When asked during his daily coronavirus briefing if organizers of major summer events should plan on limiting crowds or making adjustments, Pritzker said he thinks "everybody needs to think seriously about canceling large summer events."
"Until we have a vaccine, which is months and months away, I would not risk having large groups of people getting together anywhere," Pritzker said. "And I think that's hard for everybody to hear, but that's just a fact. They're just, you know, even with testing and tracing and treating, it's necessary for us to begin to make changes. It isn't enough for me to say that it's okay to have a big festival with a whole bunch of people gathering together."
So far, several planned events, festivals, sports seasons and major competitions have been canceled well into summertime.
Meanwhile, the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases across the state climbed over 16,000 Thursday, with 528 deaths, health officials announced.
Cases have been reported in more than 80 of Illinois' 102 counties.
But Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the head of the state’s Department of Public Health, also noted there is evidence that the state is making at least some progress in the fight to contain the virus.
"The rate at which they're increasing is less and that is a good sign," Ezike said Wednesday. "We're not seeing the exponential growth we were seeing before."
But Pritzker cautioned that doesn't mean social distancing guidelines don't need to be followed.
"I am worried about people throwing caution to the wind and seeing a nice day outside," Pritzker said. "And thinking that we're they're not in danger. You heard Dr. Ezike talking about how some young people think that they're invincible, that this virus won't affect them. So everybody needs to know that if we are improving - and it's still up in the air - but if we are improving here in the state, it is because people are staying at home. That is something to keep in mind."