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Pritzker Defends Statewide Approach To Coronavirus Response

A map of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Illinois by the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Illinois Department of Public Health
A map of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Illinois by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Illinois is seeing the highest number of COVID-19 cases and related deaths in Chicago and its suburbs, which is also the most populous region of the state.

Critics of the governor say the stay-at-home order and other restrictions shouldn’t be applied statewide because there are fewer cases in central and southern Illinois. But Gov. J.B. Pritzker defended the move Monday, saying that infection and death rates are guiding decisions.

In an op-ed in Crain’s Chicago Business published Friday, Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady praised the governor for incorporating some recommendations from Republicans into his updated stay-at-home order. These include opening some state parks, allowing more medical procedures, and allowing non-essential businesses to open for pick-up and delivery orders.

“However, one area not included in this extension was a regional, phased-in reopening of our state,” Brady wrote. “Downstate communities, while following the proper social distancing guidelines, are not seeing the same number of cases, but they're suffering just the same (and if not more) economically.”

At his daily news briefing, Pritzker said raw numbers cases don’t tell the whole story, and that the focus should be on infection and death rates – how many people are getting sick and dying compared to how many people live in a county.

“It would be doing a massive disservice to our downstate residents if we governed only by raw numbers, no matter where you live,” he said.

He said that Jasper County – near Effingham – and Monroe County in the Metro East have two of the highest deaths rates statewide.

Confirmed coronavirus cases in Illinois number nearly 44,000, with 1,933 deaths. Cases COVID-19 have been found in 96 of the state's 102 counties.

Pritzker announced last week his new executive order will take effect Friday.

Mary Hansen is a former NPR Illinois reporter.
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