Illinois health officials announced 2,563 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday and 141 additional deaths, the second highest daily death toll since the pandemic began. That brings the state's total cases to 52,918 and 2,355 deaths. Within the past 24 hours, testing laboratories have processed 13,200 specimens for a total of 269,867.
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You can read Gov. Pritzker's full announcement of the new stay-at-home order at the bottom of this article.
The governor is now facing three lawsuits over the extended stay-at-home order. The most recent was filed in federal court by a pastor who accuses the governor of being hostile to churches.
WATCH: Illinois' stay-at-home order faces new challenge from pastor
Pastor Steve Cassell with Beloved Church in Lena, Illinois, is now challenging the governor's restrictions on church gatherings.
"I'm not some political activist," Cassell said. "I'm not some rabble rouser, some rebellious guy. I just want an opportunity to preach the gospel."
He's seeking a temporary restraining order to allow his congregation to once again meet in person and not online. Cassell's church is in Stephenson County, where there have been 35 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and no deaths. He said the governor's ban on in-person services violates his civil rights.
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"The First Amendment has been taken away," Cassell said. "I would like it back, please. The freedom to exercise my religious liberties and the freedom to peaceably assemble are some of the core foundations of what our entire nation is built on."
The governor called Cassell "a bit of an outlier" and pointed out that pastors across the state are following his directives. He spoke of the risk of having one person carrying the virus be in a church gathering.
"If you put one of those people in a room full of parishioners, you run the risk that you're going to get a kind of exponential run of this disease, this infection rather, through a crowd of people that you love and care for," Pritzker said.
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Rockford-area Republican lawmaker John Cabello filed the second lawsuit over the stay-at-home order on Wednesday. Cabello said he's motivated by small shop owners who've asked why they can't fully operate, but big box stores can.
"We're just being told how things are going to be," Cabello said. "And I don't believe that the constitution allows him to do this for another 30 days."
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Unlike the stay-at-home order lawsuit filed last week by Republican State Representative Darren Bailey, it aims to lift the order for everyone in Illinois.
"It seeks to expand the ruling to all citizens of Illinois and it gives other reasons to do so," ABC7 Legal Analyst Gil Sofer said. "So I think we may see other suits, but really this is the one that's going to decide the question."
The governor dismissed the latest litigation as "another attempt at grandstanding," but if successful, it would severely limit the governor's emergency authority.
"I think it's a similarly irresponsible lawsuit," Pritzker said. "We're in the business here of keeping people safe and healthy, that's what the stay-at-home order is all about."
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Meanwhile, the state's attorney in Woodford County, near Peoria, has told local law enforcement that he will not be prosecuting anyone charged with violating the stay-at-home order.
Republican members of Congress sent a joint letter to the governor saying that he needs to do a phased-in approach to reopening across the state, and if not, the effects will cause the economy to collapse.
Led by Adam Kinzinger, a portion of the letter reads, "The pandemic is impacting different parts of the State in different ways, and like you, we believe a phased reopening can and should begin in those communities that have had fewer cases."
"He's got to offer some kind of an olive branch," ABC7 Political Analyst Laura Washington said. "He doesn't want this to become a political football. He also doesn't want to appear to be the nanny governor that he's trying to control every activity and every single minute of everyone's lives."
"I've listened to many mayors," Pritzker said. "Many have written plans for their region that they wanted me to see. And we're taking all of that into account."
The governor said his modified order, which begins Friday, did incorporate a number of Republican ideas, including reopening garden centers, golf courses, and some state parks.
New stay-at-home order takes effect Friday
Starting Friday, under the new stay-at-home order, non-essential retail stores can resume sales, but only through delivery or pick-up.
State parks and golf courses can re-open, with restrictions. Also, everyone will be required to wear face masks whenever social distancing is difficult.
Republicans ramped up a push for lawmakers to return to session and play a role in deciding when and how to reopen the state.
"We're not set up to be a government run by a governor all the time, we're set up to be a government that works with the legislature and the governor to make decisions on the best interests of people of Illinois," said State Sen. Bill Brady, Senate Republican Leader.
The governor said the Department of Public Health has offered guidance, but there's no simple solution.
Meanwhile, Friday morning an organization called "Freedom Movement USA" will hold a rally outside the Thompson Center, protesting the governor's handling of the pandemic response. They want to open the discussion of cautiously reopening the state.
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.