On Friday, the governor said more than 16,000 tests were processed in a single day. It's a critical milestone in the state's marathon battle against coronavirus.
"It is not only important to identify individuals who need to be isolated or treated in a hospital, but it also informs our efforts on how to stop the spread," said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said.
A day after extending the state's stay-at-home order through May, Gov. Pritzker is hoping for, but not promising, a June reopening of the state.
"The new normal that's going to occur at the end of May, or that is occurring even now, but we're evolving into new normal, is something that we're going to have to figure out as we go because the researchers, honestly, are still figuring it out," Pritzker said.
But not every type of test is supported by the state.
With growing interest in antibody tests, which are meant to assess if someone has had COVID-19 in the past, Gov. Pritkzer gave a warning Friday.
"I'm afraid we've seen many of tests promoted in a way that errs on the side of irresponsible," he said. "As of today, there are still no antibody blood tests certifiably proven to accurately and consistently diagnose COVID-19 antibodies."
Illinois health officials announced 2,724 new coronavirus cases Friday, bringing the state's total to 39,658. It marks the largest 24-hour increase to date, Dr. Ezike said.
There were also 108 additional deaths reported. Illinois' COVID-19 death toll has now reached 1,795.
Pritzker's modified stay-at-home order begins on May 1 and will remain in effect through the end of the month. The original stay-at-home order was set to expire on April 30.
You can read Gov. Pritzker's full announcement of the new stay-at-home order at the bottom of this article.
A key component of the modified order is a face covering requirement for public places, including stores.
Some business owners are concerned about angry confrontations if customers without face coverings are turned away.
"Just like with everything else, you're not allowed to go into a restaurant without wearing shoes," Pritzker said.
He added, "So it's perfectly acceptable to tell people that you're not allowed in if you're not wearing a face mask."
But Pritzker's announcement was also a ray of hope for retailers who have been shut down in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new order allows some non-essential businesses to take phone and online orders for pick-up and delivery beginning in May.
"This would be perfect for the stores at Water Tower, 900 North, The Shops at North Bridge, where they especially have the ability to set aside a loading zone, a pick-up area," said Kimberly Bares, president and CEO of The Magnificent Mile Association.
Back in March, several shops along the Magnificent Mile and throughout the city started boarding up, as the stay-at-home order took effect.
FULL VIDEO: Gov. JB Pritzker extends stay-at-home order
Now that the governor is allowing some modifications to his original order, some of the plywood could start to come down.
"I do think that this tells folks that there's a light at the end of the tunnel. The tunnel was a little longer than we expected, I think for good reason, but there's a light at the end of the tunnel," Bares said.
Retailers like clothing stores and book stores will begin the slow process of calling some workers back and partially reopening.
"They have been hit so hard, and this is something that I believe is going to at least put an employee back on or allow the owner to be able to get a little money in their pocket," said Maureen Martino, executive director of the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce.
Retail stores could have modified hours and still may not be open seven days a week.
WATCH: Some Illinois businesses prepare to reopen under modified stay-at-home order
Garden centers will be able to open just in time for the busy planting season.
At Platt Hill Nursery in Bloomingdale, they are loaded with blooming plants and trees ready to find permanent homes.
They normally do about a third of their business for the entire year in May.
"It's definitely our busiest time of the year, we're excited but it's going to be a difficult and trying time," said Graham Hill.
At Crystal Lake Country Club, they're looking forward to big crowds anxious to get out of the house for a few hours.
"We believe golf is a good way to get people out of the house," said General Manager Bob Botod. "We have been working on this for several weeks."
The country club's management is still determining exactly what social distancing guidelines will be in place when golfers return in a week.
The goal will be to prevent the spread of germs, and they said they're ready.
"It's going to be safe, I think when we get the right guidelines together and people understand how to social distance I think that plan will make it a lot safer," said golf pro David Thompson.
Even though things will be a little different on the golf course next week, golfers said they are excited to return no matter what the new normal means.
Coronavirus in Illinois: Latest news on COVID-19 cases, Chicago area impact
WATCH: Here's why Illinois is extending its stay-at-home order
Starting next Friday, it will be mandatory for all residents over the age of 2 to wear a mask in public places, such as stores and other spaces where it's not possible to maintain 6 feet of distance.
"We're not encouraging police officers to stop people and arrest them," Pritzker said of the new mask rules. "Private establishments do need to require that people who enter their establishment wear a mask."
WATCH: Pritzker's team of experts explain science behind extended stay-at-home order
In making the case for the stay-at-home extension, Pritzker introduced some of the members of his team of scientists, whose efforts at modeling show an extension of the order was needed to stave off a second wave of infections.
"By heeding the governor's stay-at-home order, the population of Illinois has dramatically altered the trajectory of the epidemic in ways that we had hoped for but could not precisely predict," said Prof. Nigel Goldenfeld, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
ZIP CODE TRACKER: Where is coronavirus in Illinois?
"If we lifted the stay-at-home order tomorrow, we would see our deaths per day shoot into the thousands by the end of May, and that would last well into the summer," Pritzker said. "Our hospitals would be full and very sick people would have nowhere to go. People who otherwise would have won their fight against COVID would die because we wouldn't be able to help them through. No amount of political pressure would ever make me allow such a scenario for our state."
But Pritzker has been pressured by state Republicans who are anxious to open things up. The new stay-at-home order comes with more flexibility for residents and non-essential businesses.
Starting May 1, retail stores that are not designated as essential businesses may take orders online and by phone and offer pick-up and delivery, greenhouses and garden centers may open with social distancing measures, and there will be a phased-in reopening of state parks.
Pritzker will also allow hospitals to resume some elective surgeries. Many hospitals have lost revenue that has resulted in some furloughs and layoffs.
"We're allowing some elective surgeries to resume for the benefit of patients and our hospital systems," Pritzker said. "But make no mistake, the first priority for our health care system continues to be the health and safety of all Illinois residents. That means preserving bed capacity for COVID patients, no matter where they come from."
In a statement, Illinois House GOP Leader Jim Durkin said the governor's modifications to the order did take into account many of the suggestions from state Republicans. He said he was "pleased with today's actions" but would like to see even more done to help the state's economy. But he and others question the accuracy and how the experts are reaching conclusions.
"There seems to be some inconsistencies over the past few weeks over this specific modeling that he is relying on," Durkin said.
Pritzker explained the modeling gets better over time because the experts are now able to use on-the-ground data. But, the governor admitted it's not an exact science.
"There is no crystal ball available to us, there are only estimates," Pritzker said. "Illinois is home to get some of the finest researchers in the world."
Officials now expect the state's peak to be in mid-May because the infection rate is slowing down. The governor says that's a good thing because it means the peak will be lower.
"We are indeed doing better, and I want to make sure everybody understands," Pritzker said Wednesday. "A very good sign of how, the direction that things are going."
Coronavirus testing: Where to get tested for COVID-19 in Illinois, Chicago area
Gov. Pritzker attributed a spike in confirmed COVID-19 cases earlier in the week to a testing milestone. The governor said Illinois performed 9,349 COVID-19 tests on Tuesday - the closest the state has come to its daily goal of 10,000 tests yet. Officials said they've been able to procure hard-to-find testing supplies.
"It's a complex set of things that you have to make sure you have altogether," Pritzker said. "And as you've heard, we've also lowered the bar a little bit on who can get tested now. It used to be you had to have a doctor's order. Now you don't need a doctor's order."
FULL PRESS RELEASE FROM GOV. JB PRITZKER ON MODIFIED STAY HOME ORDER:
Gov. Pritzker Announces Modified Stay at Home Order Will Be Extended Through May to Continue Progress
Based on data from scientists and health experts and after consulting with stakeholders across the state, Governor JB Pritzker announced that he will sign a modified version of the state's stay at home order that will go into effect on May 1 to continue the life-saving progress made over the last month while also allowing residents additional in the safest way possible.
In conjunction with today's announcement, the Governor released modeling today put together by top academic institutions and researchers in Illinois that predicts the course of coronavirus in the state over the coming months. On our current trajectory, the state is projected to see a peak or plateau of deaths per day between late April and early May, but if the stay at home order were lifted this week, the model anticipates a second wave of the outbreak in Illinois starting in May, which would claim tens of thousands of lives and greatly exceed the state's hospital capacity.
"Make no mistake, Illinois has saved lives. By staying home and social distancing, we have kept our infection and death rates for the months of March and April thousands below the rates projected had we not implemented these mitigation strategies," said Governor JB Pritzker. "I know how badly we all want our normal lives back. But this is the part where we have to dig in and understand that the sacrifices we've made as a state to avoid a worst-case scenario are working - and we need to keep going a little while longer to finish the job."
MODIFIED STAY AT HOME ORDER
Lifting mitigation measures is only possible with widespread availability and access to COVID-19 testing, tracing and treatment. The data show that if the state were to lift mitigations abruptly this week, this would result in a second wave of infections, hospitalizations and deaths.
After consulting with doctors, scientists and experts in Illinois and across the world, the Governor has announced he will sign a modified version of the state's stay at home order that will go into effect on May 1 and extend through the end of the month. The modified order will strengthen the state's social distancing requirements while allowing residents additional flexibility and provide measured relief to non-essential businesses in the safest way possible.
The new executive order will include the following modifications effective May 1:
OUTDOOR RECREATION: State parks will begin a phased re-opening under guidance from the Department of Natural Resources. Fishing and boating in groups of no more than two people will be permitted. A list of parks that will be open on May 1 and additional guidelines can be found on the Illinois Department of Natural Resources website HERE . Golf will be permitted under strict safety guidelines provided by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) and when ensuring that social distancing is followed.
NEW ESSENTIAL BUSINESSES: Greenhouses, garden centers and nurseries may re-open as essential businesses. These stores must follow social distancing requirements and must require that employees and customers wear a face covering. Animal grooming services may also re-open.
NON-ESSENTIAL RETAIL: Retail stores not designated as non-essential businesses and operations may re-open to fulfill telephone and online orders through pick-up outside the store and delivery.
FACE COVERINGS: Beginning on May 1, individuals will be required to wear a face-covering or a mask when in a public place where they can't maintain a six-foot social distance. Face-coverings will be required in public indoor spaces, such as stores. This new requirement applies to all individuals over the age of two who are able to medically tolerate a face-covering or a mask.
ESSENTIAL BUSINESSES AND MANUFACTURING: Essential businesses and manufacturers will be required to provide face-coverings to all employees who are not able to maintain six-feet of social distancing, as well as follow new requirements that maximize social distancing and prioritize the well-being of employees and customers. This will include occupancy limits for essential businesses and precautions such as staggering shifts and operating only essential lines for manufacturers.
SCHOOLS: Educational institutions may allow and establish procedures for pick-up of necessary supplies or student belongings. Dormitory move-outs must follow public health guidelines, including social distancing.
The Illinois Department of Public Health will also be issuing guidance to surgi-centers and hospitals to allow for certain elective surgeries for non-life-threatening conditions, starting on May 1. Facilities will need to meet specific criteria, including proper PPE, ensuring enough overall space for COVID-19 patients remains available, and testing of elective surgery patients to ensure COVID-19 negative status.
MODELING COVID-19 IN ILLINOIS
While earlier projections relied on data from other countries applied to the United States, the modeling released today analyzes two months' worth of daily data on COVID-19 deaths and ICU usage here in Illinois.
Top researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Northwestern School of Medicine, the University of Chicago, the Chicago and Illinois Departments of Public Health, along with McKinsey and Mier Consulting Group working on behalf of the City of Chicago and Cook County, worked on these projections as a cohort under Civis Analytics, a data analytics firm with experience spanning the public and private sectors.
According to the state model, the stay at home order is having its intended effect of flattening the curve in Illinois.
Without the stay at home order, the model estimates there would have been 10 to 20 times as many deaths to date and that the peak death rate and peak resource usage would have been 20 to 30 times what we will see with mitigation. Moreover, these counts do not account for deaths due to lack of access to health resources, so the actual number would likely have been even higher.
If the stay at home order were lifted this week, death rates and hospitalizations would start rising sharply by the middle of May. It's projected that the peak death rate and peak resource needs would be almost as high as if there were never any mitigation measures put in place. Over the course of the current outbreak, the model estimates there would be 5 to 10 times more deaths than we would see if we continued mitigation.
In either of the above scenarios, as much as half of the state's population could be infected with COVID-19 at once, which would overwhelm the health care system and result in more deaths.
As a further caution against relaxing mitigations without carefully considering the consequences, the model estimates that the number of infectious people is likely similar in size to when the order began. Even as hospitalizations and deaths are starting to decrease, there are still enough active cases to lead to a second wave. Fortunately, the stay at home order has prevented most of the population from becoming sick, but that also means that most of the population remains vulnerable to the virus.
Maintaining our current vigilance to controlling this outbreak is crucial. Models contributed by UIUC and UChicago project a peak or plateau of daily fatalities between late April and early May. The median and range of daily deaths, within a 95% confidence interval, are illustrated below.
Both of these projections indicate that after the peak, we should expect it will take longer for deaths to decline to pre-epidemic levels than it took for them to rise, underscoring the importance of staying the course over the coming weeks and months.