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WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: Illinois protests continue; cases reach 94,000; defending rule; next reopening phase; outdoor restaurant seating; reopening guidance

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: Illinois protests continue; cases reach 94,000; defending rule; next reopening phase; outdoor restaurant seating; reopening guidance

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SUNDAY, MAY 17

Illinois protests continue

More than 2,000 additional cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in Illinois and 74 more people have died. Statewide, 92,457 people have tested positive for the virus, including the 2,008 new cases reported Saturday. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, 4,129 people have died.

A third resident of the Illinois Manteno Veterans’ Home is among those to die and 63 people have tested positive for the virus at the facility.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the state was again expanding its criteria of who can get tested. People with symptoms or working an essential job under the statewide stay-at-home order are now eligible. Anyone exposed to a confirmed COVID-19 patient also can get tested.

Protesters who want Illinois to move faster gathered Saturday for rallies featuring Republican politicians or candidates and small business owners. A few hundred people clustered on downtown Chicago streets outside the Thompson Center; protesters also gathered in Springfield outside the state Capitol.

MONDAY, MAY 18

Cases reach 94,000, deaths eclipse 4,000

Health officials reported 1,734 new cases of COVID-19 Sunday and 51 deaths. Overall, there have been 94,191 cases and 4,177 deaths.

The age of cases ranges from younger than one to older than 100 years, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Within the previous 24 hours, labs have reported 20,295 specimens for a total of 581,944.

The statewide seven-day rolling positivity rate is 15%, the agency said.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others, especially older people and those with existing health conditions, it can cause severe symptoms and lead to death.

TUESDAY, MAY 19

Pritzker gives details, defends rule

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the launch of Illinois’ contact tracing program, which he said was an important tool in slowing new COVID-19 cases and lifting social and economic restrictions.

Pritzker also defended an emergency rule filed to allow for misdemeanor charges against businesses defying his stay-at-home order.

The contact-tracing effort for COVID-19 — one that is required to move the state along the governor’s “Restore Illinois” reopening plan — will begin in two pilot counties.

Pritzker said contact tracing, which was used early on in the state’s coronavirus outbreak when the number of cases was smaller, consists of tracers interviewing people who have newly tested positive about who they had significant contact with in the past 48 hours.

WEDNESDAY, MAY 20

Set for next reopening phase

All of Illinois is “on track” to progress into the next phase of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s plan to reopen the state safely, he said during his daily update teleconference in Chicago.

The current phase of the plan allows residents to visit golf courses and state parks, retail shops to deliver orders placed remotely and medical centers to allow elective surgeries to resume.

By moving into the “Recovery” phase in 10 days, offices, salons, barbershops and manufacturers will begin to return with some capacity restrictions. Pritzker said the progress in various metrics — including the rate of positive COVID-19 tests, hospital admissions and ventilator availability — is “terrific news.”

The governor added while some residents are “itching” to move ahead quicker than the 28-day period prescribed, the Restore Illinois plan was designed by experts to ensure safety.

THURSDAY, MAY 21

Outdoor restaurant seating allowed

As the entire state remains on pace to enter the next phase of reopening in just nine days, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced a major addition to the allowed activities under the phase: outdoor dining at restaurants.

Pritzker said restaurants will be able to open outdoor seating to customers when the businesses’ region moves into Phase 3 of the Restore Illinois reopening plan, which all four regions are on pace to do on May 29.

“With the right restrictions, tables six feet apart and away from the sidewalks, masks and distancing measures for staff and other precautions, the experts believe that these services can open at a risk comparable to other outdoor activities,” Pritzker said during his daily COVID-19 briefing in his office at the Capitol, the first time he’s held a briefing in Springfield since March 16.

Pritzker said that no specific restaurant or legal action forced the addition of outdoor seating to the Phase 3 plan. Instead, he said that he has been continuously listening to health experts and industry leaders.

FRIDAY, MAY 22

Working on guidance for reopening next week

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said his administration is developing guidelines for local governments and businesses to follow as the state prepares to enter the next phase of reopening the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have guidance documents that are being prepared, work that’s already being done to make sure that people have enough time to open safely,” Pritzker said during his daily pandemic briefing in his office at the Capitol.

He reiterated that all four regions of the state are on track to enter Phase 3 of the reopening plan on May 29, when offices, barber shops, beauty salons and most retail businesses will be allowed to reopen under capacity limits and social distancing guidelines. People will also be allowed to gather in groups of 10 or fewer people.

Still, Pritzker faced a number of questions from news media throughout the state Thursday on issues ranging from youth sports activities to worship services. Pritzker indicated he is not backing away from the 10-person limit.

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