Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday reported the fewest daily deaths related to the new coronavirus in more than two weeks, and also announced fewer people were hospitalized with COVID-19 than a week earlier.
But he cautioned against reading too much into those small positive signs.
“Snapshots in time alone are not enough to offer a full understanding of where we are, but together they can offer some indication of how things are trending,” Pritzker said during a rare solo appearance at his daily news conference.
With the 46 additional deaths reported Monday, the statewide toll stands at 2,662, officials said. That means Chicago, home to less than a quarter of Illinois’ residents, accounts for considerably more than a third of the state’s coronavirus deaths.
Monday’s daily fatality count was the lowest since 33 deaths were reported April 19, and a sharp drop from the single-day record of 144 reported April 28.
“I would just encourage everybody to look at these things on a multiday basis, taking maybe a three-, five- or seven-day average,” Pritzker said. “I’m hopeful. When I saw this number today, I was hopeful that this was the beginning or a continuation of a trend that I’ve been praying for.”
Pritzker also noted improvement in two other key measures the state has been closely tracking in gauging the effectiveness of its response to the virus: the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 and the share of beds in intensive care units occupied by patients with the disease.
The percentage of ICU beds occupied by COVID-19 patients has also decreased statewide, Pritzker said. As of Sunday, about 33% of 3,681 ICU beds were filled with COVID-19 patients. That was down from 34% of 3,631 ICU beds a week earlier and 40% of 3,134 ICU beds two weeks earlier.all
Statewide, 933 ICU beds were available Sunday night.
Some regions, however, have less availability than others.
Hospitals in the north suburbs had only 11.9% of their ICU beds available Sunday night — the lowest percentage in the state, equaling about 27 beds. In Chicago, 16.9% of ICU beds were available, equaling 186 beds.
The governor said those are figures he’ll be watching closely in determining whether restrictions in his stay-at-home order can be eased in some areas before the statewide May 29 expiration date.
“A spike in one area that happens to have 25 hospital beds available or 25 ICU beds available, if there’s a significant spike in that area, 25 is not a big number, and so what we want to make sure is that we are able to handle a spike because that is what potentially could occur if we reopen things too fast,” Pritzker said.
The words of caution followed news on Friday that state and city officials have decided to wind down operations at the McCormick Place alternate care facility.
“The fact is that because we haven’t had to use as many beds as we thought, in fact most of McCormick Place we haven’t yet had to use, that is an indicator of the success that we’ve had both at issuing the stay-at-home order and at getting people to adhere to it,” Pritzker said Monday. “I think the total number of patients that have been in there at any time is about 29 or 30 … and thank God for that, that it’s only that number.”
The remaining 500 beds at McCormick Place will be left in place, for now, in case of a surge in coming weeks, but the facility is not planning to accept more patients at the moment.
Lightfoot and city officials also credited adherence to the governor’s directive and other restrictions with helping slow the spread of COVID-19 in Chicago.
The mayor said the city hasn’t experienced the scale of tragedy of other cities such as New York, in part due to the city’s efforts on bending the disease’s growth curve by encouraging people to stay home.
“We have to find hope that we haven’t had the same kind of outbreak as other cities,” Lightfoot said.
Still, while Chicago has seen “some slight progress,” the city isn’t where it needs to be, she said.
She cautioned against ending the state’s stay-at-home order prematurely or loosening restrictions. Doing so might lead to a spike in cases, she said, pointing to examples in Japan, Singapore and Germany.