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31 More Dead, 899 New Coronavirus Cases Confirmed In Illinois, Officials Say Sunday

There have now been 274 deaths and 11,256 confirmed cases in Illinois.

Gov. JB Pritzker speaks at a press conference on the updates about COVID-19 in Illinois on Friday, March 20, 2020 in Chicago.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — An additional 31 people died from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours in Illinois, and another 899 new cases were identified, state officials announced Sunday afternoon.

One of the new deaths was a person incarcerated at Stateville Correctional  Center, the second death from the virus spreading within the suburban Crest Hill prison.

There have now been 274 deaths and 11,256 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Illinois. In Chicago, there have been 4,614 confirmed cases and 90 deaths.

“You know, as I know, these numbers represent people. They represent our fellow Illinoisans,” said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, who again urged people to stay home to slow the spread of the virus and prevent a surge in cases.

Sunday’s increases were fewer than the day-to-day rises reported Saturday, when 1,453 new cases and 33 more deaths were reported. But officials have warned daily totals can be misleading based on testing lags, and Illinois is still expected to hit its peak of cases in mid- to late April. It’s not certain how long the peak will last.

Pritzker and Ezike also said there is a racial disparity among the state’s victims of coronavirus. Part of that is because health care inequities were already in place before the virus hit, and the crisis is exacerbating those inequities.

WBEZ reported this weekend that 70 percent of the people dying from coronavirus in Chicago are black.

“We already started out with an unequal system of health care for people,” Pritzker said, noting he is “deeply concerned” by such disparities across the country. “What I can tell you is, by opening the MetroSouth Hospital, as we are intending to do … by opening the West Lake Hospital, as we are intending to do, those are two examples, anyway, of hospitals that are in communities of color, that are serving communities of color.

“But it is a much broader problem … that it’s hard to make up for decades, frankly, maybe centuries, of inequity of application of health care to people of color.”

Pritzker said he is hopeful, but not certain, precautions taken will be enough to flatten the curve to allow hospitals to keep pace with the growing number of victims. He said he’s still desperately searching for more personal protective equipment and ventilators.

Pritzker said he prays “we’ll be able to manage through this with the resources we have. But I’m not fully confident of that.” That’s why the state is still looking for personal protective equipment: “So when we do peak, [they’ll think], ‘Well, maybe we prepared too much.’ That would be my dream: that we prepared too much for this.”

And Pritzker did say there are other measures that could be enacted, such as taking temperatures of shoppers before they are allowed into grocery stores or stronger stay at home rules.

“These are all measures that potentially could be put in place,” the governor said. “There are other things we could do as well; in South Korea, just to give you one example, everybody that walks into a grocery store, before they walk in, their temperature is taken.

“… These ideas … are perfectly good ideas. We could do those things. I think what we’re seeing is people are, for the most part … are abiding by our stay at home. They are are doing the right things. But we will continue to look at what is possible, what is likely.”

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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