Coronavirus Update: Illinois sees biggest single-day jump in COVID-19 cases as testing expands, Gov. JB Pritzker says

Thursday, April 23, 2020
Illinois sees biggest single-day jump in COVID-19 cases
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While Gov. JB Pritzker says we're still weeks away from seeing a peak in COVID-19 cases, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Governor JB Pritzker has thrown cold water on talk about lifting COVID-19 restrictions around Illinois as the state saw its biggest single-day jump in new cases Wednesday.

WATCH: Gov. JB Pritzker's daily COVID-19 briefing on April 22

Illinois reported 2,049 new cases and another 98 deaths from the virus as health officials say we might not reach the peak until the middle of May. There are now 35,059 patients who have tested positive for coronavirus in Illinois, including 1,565 deaths.

Coronavirus in Illinois: Latest news on COVID-19 cases, Chicago area impact

Health officials say as the infection rate slows in Illinois, it is pushing the state's peak back to mid-May. But Gov. Pritzker said that's a good thing because a later peak means a lower peak.

"We are indeed doing better, and I want to make sure everybody understands," Pritzker said. "A very good sign of how, the direction that things are going."

Gov. Pritzker attributed the spike in confirmed COVID-19 cases 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."

Coronavirus testing: Where to get tested for COVID-19 in Illinois, Chicago area

Officials announced two new state-run drive-thru testing sites in Aurora and Rockford, where they say testing is now available for anyone with symptoms and any front line worker without symptoms.

WATCH: New state-run testing site opens in Aurora

"Testing will help us know just how widespread the virus is and what communities are being impacted most and where we need to target our responses," Illinois Dept. of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said.

Officials also shared sobering numbers on how Illinois healthcare workers are being impacted by COVID-19. At least 2,500 have tested positive for the virus, with eight deaths of healthcare workers reported.

ZIP CODE TRACKER: Where is coronavirus in Illinois?

The governor said Wednesday he plans to make some changes to the stay at home order, but he has yet to extend it.

WATCH: Gov. Pritzker teases extension to stay-at-home order, with changes

Testing, tracing and more personal protective equipment, or PPE, are the three things Illinois needs more of before a stay-at-home order is lifted, Pritzker said.

"We're looking at an extension, but I don't know," Pritzker said. "I can't tell you right now how long that extension should run."

The governor said weighing heavily on him is striking balance between the cost of keeping the economy closed and flattening the COVID-19 curve at the same time. Some suggestions from state GOP lawmakers include reopening golf courses, department stores, hair salons and auto dealerships as long as masks are worn and people social distance.

"The more we show common sense from the government, the more there's going to be buy-in from the public," said State Rep. Mark Batinick, R-Southwest suburbs. "If we don't get the buy-in from the public because we can't police everybody, I think we're going to be in much better shape long term."

Gov. Pritzker said he is taking all of it under consideration as he works on tweaking the order, including allowing elective surgeries again - a big revenue source for hospitals.

But for now, he wants to remind people, we remain on the wrong side of the curve. And even when Illinois gets to the right side, until there is a vaccine, social distancing and wearing masks must continue.

"The better we do at this, the more likely it is we can start to think about what are the safe ways to reopen, so that people can go back to work and go back to school," Pritzker said.

WATCH: COVID-19 crisis ravaging budgets of Illinois' big cities, mayors say

Meanwhile, mayors from Aurora, Joliet and Waukegan took part in a virtual roundtable Wednesday where they said their budgets are being devastated by the COVID-19 crisis.

Calling it a "horrible experience," Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin has recovered from Covid-19. He knows firsthand about the virus that is wreaking havoc with not only his city, but cities around the world.

"I made it out and got better, but I don't want anyone to have to experience that," said Irvin.

Irvin and the mayors of five other big cities in the state talked about the impact COVID-19 is having during a Facebook Live conversation - and the most serious problem they are all facing is economic.

In Aurora, the city is trying to operate while collecting zero tax revenue from its largest attractions, including Fox Valley Mall, the Casino and the Paramount Theater downtown.

The mayor of Joliet said his city is losing about $300,000 a week in tax revenue from the two casinos there, amounting to about 70 percent of the city's revenue.

"You can't cut your way out of that. That money can't be replaced," said Mayor Bob O'Dekirk.

The mayors, including those from southern and central Illinois, seem to agree that reopening the state is the key to financial recovery. But like many experts, they say it needs to be gradual.

"We cannot open up and close back down. That's not acceptable. We need to do it right the first time," said Waukegan Mayor Sam Cunningham.

According to health experts, testing is one of the keys to reopening the state. Aurora's mayor says the opening of a new testing site near the outlet mall is another step forward.

"Testing is key. We need to test people to see who has the virus," said Irvin.

Together the six cities the mayors represent account for about 800,000 people. They say the sooner those people can get back to normal routines, the better.

The Illinois Department of Public Health has created a hotline at 1-800-889-3931. More information can be found at the IDPH website and the Chicago Department of Public Health website