CHICAGO — Illinois saw its highest death toll yet from coronavirus Saturday with 125 deaths in the past 24 hours.
Illinois now has 29,160 confirmed cases and a “sobering” 1,259 lives lost, said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health. There have been 1,585 confirmed cases since Friday and 137,404 people tested statewide.
Increases in testing will make these numbers continue to climb, Ezike said.
“Although our numbers continue to climb, it it with some guarded optimism we say the … growth is slowing,” Ezike said. “That is definitely a good thing. But we must continue to be strong and hold the line. I know people are getting tired of hearing the same message, but the same tactics continue to apply.”
Ezike urged people to continue to stay home, wear a mask and wash their hands to combat the spread of coronavirus.
And Gov. JB Pritzker, who on Friday announced he’d extend the closure of schools through this academic year, said he cannot say yet what will happen with the state’s stay at home order.
The order went into place March 21 and was set to expire April 7, but Pritzker extended that to April 30. Other governors have now extended similar orders in their states to mid- or even the end of May.
Pritzker has said he’s in talks with experts — including scientists and business leaders — about when and how to reopen Illinois and ease up on restrictions. But the governor has said his priority is saving lives.
“I don’t feel any heat [to reopen]. I listen to the people who know and who have informed opinions about what we ought to do,” Pritzker said. “I’m gonna do what’s best for the people of our state. We’re not yet at our peak so it’s very hard to make decisions” about things happening months from now.
Pritzker said he’s frustrated people can’t enjoy the warm weather like they normally would be able to, and he can’t advise people on if they should plan events this summer — like weddings and memorials — because the state has yet to hit its peak.
“… There’s so many uncertainties ahead of us. We don’t even know when the peak will be,” Pritzker said. “Depending on the size of the things, I would say that people need to be vigilant in keeping track of where we are in this process and making plans accordingly.”
Pritzer also said he wants to remove restrictions as soon as it’s safely possible to do so.
“We want people to get back to work. We want people to get back to their lives,” Pritzker said. “The concern is … trying to balance protecting people’s health and safety with trying to protect people’s livelihoods.”
Still, Pritzker has repeatedly said Illinois need three things to reopen — widespread testing, tracing and treatments — and none of those are yet available. And it’ll be “months and months” before a vaccine is developed and life can return to normal here, he’s said.
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