(The Center Square) – Coronavirus metrics in Illinois are not as grim as they were two months ago, but a coalition is warning Gov. J.B. Pritzker and state leaders that the state is starting to move in the wrong direction.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday told the U.S. Committee on Homeland Security that the state took decisive action early in the pandemic, which has kept Illinois from becoming another COVID-19 hotspot.
“Our COVID cases are down 71 percent from where they were nine weeks ago,” the governor told the committee. “The number of COVID-positive hospitalizations, including in the ICU, has dropped by over 70 percent since early May.”
He said earlier this month that the state would not move backward in its plan to reopen the state in phases.
At one point, Illinois was the only state to meet all of the White House’s criteria for reopening its economy, but OpenSafe Illinois said cases and deaths are trending upward as the state reopens.
“Illinois is currently meeting 2 out of 4 the CDC benchmarks that Illinois PIRG has been tracking, but the recent increases in cases have been small so far,” the group said. “However, recent outbreaks in other states have shown that the virus can resurge at any time if businesses or consumers do not follow social distancing recommendations and other public health guidelines, such as wearing a mask in public spaces. Failure to do so could lead to new outbreaks, or even require a second lockdown.”
Specifically, Illinois is no longer meeting CDC thresholds on the number of days where COVID-19 cases are declining, nor does the state meet the criteria regarding the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests over the last two weeks.
The coalition of labor unions, environmental advocates and public health associations wants to ensure the state is “following the science” in its plan to reopen.
“There’s a fatigue,” said Tom Hughes, director of the Illinois Public Health Association. “I think people are tired. We’re also in a political season and, for some people, masks have become a political issue.”
At one point, Illinois had among the most restrictive COVID-19 limitations in place, but has since moved to the middle of the pack, according to a report from WalletHub. That’s because some other states have reported new waves of cases and have had to move backward on reopening plans.
Pritzker’s closure orders were struck down by a judge in southern Illinois, but Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul is appealing the ruling.