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Illinois reported 4,014 new cases of the coronavirus and 144 additional deaths in Gov. JB Pritzker's daily news conference Tuesday afternoon.
This marks a single-day high for confirmed cases, which correlates with a single-day record of 29,266 tests reported, Pritzker said.
"Although some of those are tests that were not reported in a prior day, over 20 thousand of those were performed in the last 24 hours, so we're very pleased with the progress that we're making on testing," he said.
These numbers bring statewide totals to 83,021 confirmed cases and 3,601 deaths, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Of the deaths announced Tuesday, 93 were Cook County residents, making up 65% of the day's total.
There were five additional deaths reported in DuPage County, three in Kane County, one in Kankakee, three in Kendall, 11 in Lake County, three in McHenry County, one in Ogle County, two in Whiteside and eight in Will County, according to the IDPH.
IDPH Director Ngozi Ezike said she has heard concerns expressed by members of the public around the ways in which the IDPH collects data on COVID-19-related deaths.
"Some are concerned that the numbers are inflated; others think that the numbers reflect an under-reporting," Ezike said.
The IDPH only reports on deaths that have laboratory confirmation of COVID-19, meaning that the person tested positive for the virus, she explained.
"As we learn more about the disease, there may have been less typical presentations of COVID-19 that were not appropriately attributed to COVID because there wasn't a test done because the suspicion was not there," Ezike said.
The department also has begun identifying deaths that occurred among people who had been diagnosed with COVID-19 but died for other reasons not associated with the virus, she said.
The IDPH has been working to remove the more obvious instances of this occurrence from the state's death totals in order to provide the most accurate data possible, she said.
Ezike gave the hypothetical example of a COVID-positive person who died from a gunshot wound or a car accident – both situations where it is clear that the virus had no role in the cause of death.
"But in the case where someone was elderly or battling cancer, it is obviously less clear that the COVID-19 disease associated with the coronavirus didn't actually play a part in hastening the death, so those deaths do stand," she said.
People with a diagnosis of COVID-19 who have died from symptoms and complications associated with the virus, such as respiratory failure, also are included in IDPH reports, Ezike said.
"We will continue to work to provide data quickly and responsibly and accurately represent what we are, in fact, seeing here in Illinois," she said. "Every person's life matters, and we're doing this for all the communities across the state of Illinois."
Ezike also reported that the state's COVID-19 positivity rate is at 18%.
Positivity rates are calculated based on a "seven-day rolling average with a three-day lag" in order to have a more complete picture of data trends, Ezike said. This means that Tuesday's positivity rate reflects data from May 2 to Saturday.
"Trying to report the positivity rate each day would show varying fluctuations in the rate," she said. "For example, if test results were largely from congregate settings where we have been seeing higher rates of positivity, you would see a much higher rate than what you would see in a broader slice of the population."
As of Tuesday afternoon, the state had conducted a total of 471,691 coronavirus tests.
For the second day in a row, Pritzker held his daily news conference through a live video teleconference after his administration announced Monday morning that a senior staff member has tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Northeast health region outlined in Pritzker's five-phase COVID-19 recovery plan, Restore Illinois, reported a positivity rate of 21.4% as of Tuesday. The region will not be able to move to phase 3 of the plan until this rate can be maintained below 20%.
The Northeast region encompasses Cook, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, McHenry, Lake and Will counties.
According to region-specific IDPH data, all three of the state's other health regions are on track to move to phase 3 of the governor's plan by May 29. This is the soonest that any region can move past phase, 2 as public health officials must show that there has been no overall increase in hospital admissions because of COVID-19 for the 28-day period since May 1.
Statewide, 4,626 Illinois residents were in hospitals with COVID-19 as of Tuesday afternoon. Of these people, 1,215 were reported to be in intensive care units, and 730 were on ventilators, Ezike said.
Illinois General Assembly
Also Tuesday, Pritzker called on the Illinois General Assembly to come together, in accordance with IDPH safety guidelines, to discuss the state's budget as well as a more comprehensive economic stimulus plan for the state.
"The legislature must convene so that we can begin to put our financial and economic house back in order even as we battle this terrible virus," he said. "The General Assembly needs to pass a comprehensive plan to support families, small businesses and small towns."
"We must do more," Pritzker said.
In response to questions from the press, Pritzker said he hopes the General Assembly will be able to meet sometime this month.
New DCEO Grant Money
Pritzker also announced a new program that will provide $25 million in grants from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity "to help local governments jump start public infrastructure projects for the summer construction season," he said.
The grant money made available Tuesday is part of a larger $50 million grant program through the governor's "Rebuild Illinois" plan, he said.
His administration recently decided to expedite a portion of the grant money to help with local projects that "may have otherwise been canceled due to revenue loss related to COVID-19," Pritzker said.
The DCEO grant money also will boost the availability of skilled labor jobs at the local level, he said. The DCEO will prioritize applications from "under-serviced areas" across the state, but all communities are encouraged to apply, Pritzker added.