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Concerns About COVID-19 Spike Coming To Illinois With Phase 4 Reopening Underway

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Illinois has been rather conservative about reopening, mask wearing, and capacity requirements during the pandemic; but as we see huge spikes in other states that reopened earlier, does that mean we are headed down the same path?

As Illinois begins to circulate in a more open Phase 4, other states are seeing a rise in cases, and taking a step back.

"We are in a very fortunate position to be able to look and see exactly the repercussions of not doing this properly," said Dr. Mia Taormina, an infectious disease expert with DuPage Medical Group.

After a spike in positive cases in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott ordered bars to close on Friday, and restaurants to cut capacity from 75% to 50%. Since early June, most businesses were already operating at 50% capacity. In May, some communities were banned from enforcing individual mask policies.

"We are able to start to interact in bigger groups, and to go to indoor dining, and to go to movie theaters, but if we're not wearing masks, and we're not spaced appropriately, we're going to be very much at risk," Taormina said.

In Texas, reopening faster and less-restrictive health measures have led to a huge spike in cases. Three weeks ago in Texas, the average number of new cases per day was 1,451, but by this week that number had shot up to 4,757. Texas saw a record 5,996 new cases on Thursday.

"I think some of the Sunbelt states didn't have as strictly-enforced policies as we have had in the Midwest," Taormina said.

Florida began opening widely on May 18. Restaurants, museums, libraries, and fitness centers were allowed to reopen at 50% capacity; with some restrictions. Some beaches and parks could reopen with social distancing as early as April 17. Face coverings in public in many outdoor situations were optional.

The impact in Florida? Three weeks ago, the average number of new cases per day stood at 985, this week the number had more than quadrupled to 4,013. On Saturday, Florida reported a record 9,585 new cases.

"I think Texas and Florida are good examples of simultaneously opening those doors, but also taking off those masks, disregarding the social distancing; and that's why they have ended up in a heap of problems," Taormina said.

Taormina said a sharp rise in cases in Illinois is not inevitable as long as officials are strict moving forward and prepared to make any changes, even for the smallest upward trend.

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