Illinois’ COVID-19 hospitalizations, infection rates drop

May 26, 2020 GMT
Members of the Illinois National Guard work with the public at the state's new drive-through COVID-19 testing facility at Rolling Meadows High School Friday. The test is self-administered by the person being tested, and the test kits are passed through the partially-opened car window. (Joe Lewnard/Daily Herald via AP)
Members of the Illinois National Guard work with the public at the state's new drive-through COVID-19 testing facility at Rolling Meadows High School Friday. The test is self-administered by the person being tested, and the test kits are passed through the partially-opened car window. (Joe Lewnard/Daily Herald via AP)
Members of the Illinois National Guard work with the public at the state's new drive-through COVID-19 testing facility at Rolling Meadows High School Friday. The test is self-administered by the person being tested, and the test kits are passed through the partially-opened car window. (Joe Lewnard/Daily Herald via AP)
Members of the Illinois National Guard work with the public at the state's new drive-through COVID-19 testing facility at Rolling Meadows High School Friday. The test is self-administered by the person being tested, and the test kits are passed through the partially-opened car window. (Joe Lewnard/Daily Herald via AP)
Members of the Illinois National Guard work with the public at the state's new drive-through COVID-19 testing facility at Rolling Meadows High School Friday. The test is self-administered by the person being tested, and the test kits are passed through the partially-opened car window. (Joe Lewnard/Daily Herald via AP)

CHICAGO (AP) — Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Tuesday that metrics gauging the spread of the coronavirus are trending downward as Illinois prepares to further open businesses within days.

Illinois’ rate of positive COVID-19 tests, which hit a high of 23% in late April, averaged roughly 9% over the last seven days. Also, the number of hospitalizations hit a six-week low, Pritkzer said.

He credited safety measures, including requiring masks.

Illinois is on track to enter the next phase of Pritzker’s gradual reopening plan tied to health metrics starting Friday, but he cautioned there was still risk. His administration released detailed rules over the weekend for businesses planning to reopen.

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“Just because the numbers are moving in the right direction in the state of Illinois that does not mean that the virus has gone away, it’s still there,” Pritzker said.

Public health officials announced 1,178 new cases and 39 deaths, cautioning that a drop was likely due to a lag in reporting over the holiday weekend. Overall, there have been 113,195 cases and 4,923 deaths.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others, especially older people and the infirm, it can cause severe symptoms and lead to death.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who has announced a similar multi-phased plan, has said businesses could likely start to loosen restrictions in early June. City officials announced a key part of that plan Tuesday with the hiring and training of 600 people to boost contact tracing efforts.

Contact tracing is a routine public health strategy to limit the spread of infectious diseases. Typically, the city’s Department of Public Health would be responsible for contacting people who test positive and building a list of people they’ve been in contact with.

But the number of coronavirus cases quickly overcame the ability of public health workers across the U.S. to investigate the source of new cases and contact others who may have been exposed.

The $56 million price tag for Chicago’s effort will be covered by federal grants.

Lightfoot called contract tracing “one of the most important weapons” in Chicago’s strategy to slowly reopen businesses and public amenities.