ILLINOIS — Illinois has implemented the 4th most-restrictive measures to combat the new coronavirus of any state in the country, just behind Hawaii, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia, according to the personal finance website WalletHub.
But statewide deaths from the new coronavirus continue to climb, even as Illinois has eased some restrictions to allow state parks to reopen, elective surgeries to go forward and some nonessential businesses to resume operations, as long as patrons wear masks and maintain social distancing.
The least restrictive states in the country were South Dakota, Utah, North Dakota and neighboring Missouri, according to the report.
The WalletHub study put states into four general categories: those with low restrictions and low death rates, low restrictions and high death rates, high restrictions and high death rates, and high restrictions and high death rates.
Illinois fell into the last category, ranking high for both restrictions and deaths.
WalletHub took into account nine different metrics across 50 states and the District of Columbia to come up with its rankings. They include: mask requirements, travel restrictions, prohibitions on large gatherings, school closures, restaurant and bar closures, nonessential business closures, strictness of shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders, suspension or postponement of legislative sessions and guidance on elective surgeries.
Here's where Illinois ranks on some of those metrics:
21st most strict — Requirement to Wear a Face Mask in Public
13th most strict — Large Gatherings Restrictions
24th most strict — "Shelter in Place" Order
17th most strict — Reopening of Non-Essential Businesses
33rd most strict — Reopening of Restaurants and Bars
Experts caution against making any inference on causality based on the findings. It makes sense that states with high death rates would also implement the most severe restrictions, but that doesn't mean the restrictions haven't worked. Likewise, states with fewer deaths might naturally implement less strict countermeasures, but that doesn't mean stricter measures won't be necessary in the future or weren't necessary elsewhere.
On Tuesday, shortly after announcing that 176 more Illinoisans had died from COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus, Gov. J.B. Pritzker rolled out "Restore Illinois," a 5-phase plan to reopen the state.
Experts say testing, contact tracing and hospital capacity are the keys to states reopening safely. If states reopen too early, or without sufficient precautions, it could lead to more infections and deaths and put the country back on the path to strict lockdowns.
And, according to WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez, people may be hesitant to resume daily life even after states begin to reopen, especially if they do so too quickly or haphazardly.
"We've heard a lot of conflicting information about what is safe and what is not since the beginning of the pandemic, so it's understandable that some people won't trust that everything is indeed all clear right away," she said. "It may take a while to shake lingering coronavirus fears, considering we're starting from a point where around 60 percent of people are even worried about the safety of having packages or food delivered to their home."
Clair Yang, an economist at the University of Washington, agreed.
"The major consequence of opening the economy too early is that we will see a comeback of the pandemic and the medical resources of the society will be stretched to beyond its limit," Yang said. "The consequence of opening too late, on the other hand, is that it could inflict unrepairable damage on a major contributor to the economy, the small and medium enterprises."
"At the end of the day, it is a trade-off between public goods and individual rights," she said.
That trade-off has led to tension between the state's Democratic governor and Republican lawmakers, who have unsuccessfully challenged the state's stay-at-home order in court. Protesters have also taken to the streets in Chicago and elsewhere to call on lawmakers to reopen the state now.
"Here's the truth, and I don't like it any more than you do,"