Coronavirus Illinois: COVID-19 cases top 90K with over 4K deaths; GOP congressmen write angry letter responding to Pritzker funding comments

Republican congressmen fire off letter after Pritzker says counties that don't comply risk losing federal aid
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Illinois continues to move closer to the next phase in the plan to reopen, but the pressure continues to mount from politicians and counties who want to reopen earlier.

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

Illinois health officials announced 130 additional deaths and 2,432 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. That brings the statewide total to 90,369, including 4,058 deaths.

Within the past 24 hours, state health officials said laboratories have tested 26,565 specimens in the last 24 hours for a total of 538,602.

Friday Pritzker said every region of the state continued to meet the positivity rate benchmark, including the Chicago area.

Friday's positivity rate for May 5 through May 12 was 12%.

The positivity rate, or rate of positive COVID-19 tests, is a critical metric in Gov. Pritzker's "Restore Illinois" plan - and now the northeast region is hitting its mark. Dipping just below 20 percent over a 14-day average is a requirement for getting to the next phase of reopening.

A week after hitting a critical testing milestone, officials said they've been able to maintain it. The state is launching four new drive-up testing sites, including one in Chicago's Chatham neighborhood set to open Saturday and another in Rolling Meadows that will open starting next week.

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

Officials are looking to expand testing of pregnant women who are arriving at hospitals for delivery, saying symptoms arising from labor can mimic or hide symptoms of COVID-19.

"Early data from hospitals in Illinois that have already implemented universal screening of women admitted for labor show a positivity rate of anywhere from 3 percent to 12 percent," said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, IDPH director.

EMBED More News Videos

The governor said if positivity percentages hold, the whole state will be able to move onto Phase 3 of reopening On May 29.

All four regions of the state remain poised to move to Phase 3 of the governor's reopening plan on May 29. At that point, with hair salons and barbershops can re-open with capacity limits and restrictions, as can offices, manufacturing and retailers.

The lights have been off at Chicago's Ambra Salon for almost two months in compliance with the governor's orders. Stylist Paolo Bivona is anxious to get back to work.

"We can be more than six feet apart, we have more than adequate room to do each client safely," he said.

Child care facilities and summer youth programs will also be able to reopen with limits, and fitness and health clubs can offer outdoor classes and one-on-one personal training only. Gatherings of 10 people or fewer will be allowed. The mask order remains in effect, as does e-learning and as much teleworking as possible.

"I want to reopen as fast as everybody else does," Pritzker said. "But I want to be clear: you get a group of people together in a space and there is potential for spread, and we are trying to avoid that."

Restore Illinois: 5-phase reopening plan by Governor Pritzker splits IL into 4 regions

Pritzker is hoping the entire state can stay on track to move into Phase 3 by May 29. And while Bivona is looking forward to getting a paycheck again, he admits he's worried about being exposed.

"We are going to be taking some risk because we are going to be letting people in," he said.

If every region stays on track to move into Phase 3 by May 29, it will be another 28 days until Phase 4 can begin, which includes dine-in service at restaurants and gatherings of no more than 50 people.

EMBED More News Videos

Republican Illinois congressmen wrote a letter to Congress.

With some smaller communities threatening to reopen on their own, the governor is getting pushback on his threat to withhold their federal funding.

Madison County effectively reopened businesses this week, defying the governor's stay-at-home order.

In response, Pritzker said Wednesday, "To the small community of businesses that choose to ignore the medical doctors and the data, and to ignore your legal obligations to the residents of your communities, there will be consequences."

Among those consequences, Pritzker said, was possible loss of federal aid to communities that don't comply.

"Don't threaten federal funding to local communities," said Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL 16). "That's the wrong way to go."

Kinzinger has teamed up with the state's four other Republican congressmen, all of them upset with the governor. They fired off a letter to congressional leaders, writing, "We write to you with deep concern over the recent threats issued by Governor JB Pritzker to possibly withhold federal aid."

The congressmen's letter asks Congress for action.

"We urge you to act immediately to ensure no governor can withhold federal funds," they write.
"I know they have the best interests of their constituents at heart, but in this case I think they are missing the point," Pritzker said during is Friday afternoon update.

"All that's going to happen when you threaten communities or you come at this in a hard way and say we're going to do this stick approach to something is you foment people's anger," Kinzinger said Friday.

Regional leaders have been arguing about the governor's regional map and plan since it was announced. Friday, Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering wrote to the governor in support of his plan.

"Highland Park supports your four-region plan to restore our state, as this plan was guided by health metrics," she wrote.

"To think that people are staying in smaller regions, and they can reopen safely in smaller regions is unrealistic," Rotering told ABC7 Friday. "So what I want to say to the governor is, I agree with you."

Rotering said efforts to separate the collar counties from Cook in the reopening plan is simply not feasible because the entire region is economically intertwined.

Will County's Board will vote on a proposed resolution next week. Some Will County leaders do not want to be grouped with Cook County in the governor's plan. Some board members say they would rather work with the collar counties.

"We really want to move forward. We are not like the City of Chicago. We are Will County," said Board Member Judy Ogalla, who represents Will County District 1. "We are not Chicago."

The Will County Board will consider the proposed resolution at a meeting next Thursday.

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
Copyright © 2021 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.