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Coronavirus Patients Occupying 40% Of State’s ICU Beds, Far Less Than Projections: ‘You Have Saved Thousands Of Lives’

The state still saw another 59 coronavirus deaths in the past 24 hours. But Illinoisans who came together to social distance "so far prevented our worst-case scenarios."

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at a press conference announcing a statewide stay-in-place order Friday, March 20.
Colin Boyle/ Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Forty percent of the state’s ICU hospital beds are occupied by coronavirus patients, as Illinoisans who have stayed at home helped the state avoid “the worst-case scenarios,” Gov. JB Pritzker said Monday.

The announcement comes as Illinois saw another 59 deaths from the coronavirus in the past 24 hours. There have now been at least 1,349 deaths from coronavirus in the state and 31,508 people have tested positive for the virus.

Early modeling in mid-March showed that, without social distancing, Illinois would have exceeded hospital capacity by more than 25,000 beds by April 5, Pritzker said. But Illinoisans who came together to social distance, learn from home and stay home “so far prevented our worst-case scenarios” and hospital beds remain open, the governor said.

As of Monday, 4,599 Illinoisans are hospitalized with coronavirus, and 1,239 of them are in the ICU, occupying 40 percent of the state’s 3,100 beds, Pritzker said.

On April 6, COVID patients occupied 43 percent of the state’s 2,700 ICU beds; on April 10, patients occupied 40 percent of 2,900 ICU beds; on April 14, patients occupied 40 percent of the nearly 3,000 ICU beds, Pritzker said.

“All the projections indicate that you have saved thousands of lives,” Pritzker said. “But as you have seen, our case numbers and our hospitalizations are still rising, even if that rise is slowing down. Our curve is bending the right way.”

The state may not have reached it’s peak yet, “but your actions are helping keep that peak as low as possible,” Pritzker said.

Of the 4,599 Illinois patients hospitalized for coronavirus, 757 are on ventilators — accounting for 23 percent of the state’s total ventilator inventory of 3,200 ventilators, Pritzker said. That’s down from 25 percent on April 14, 27 percent on April 10 and 29 percent on April 6.

An additional 1,151 people tested positive for the virus in the past day. A total of 148,358 tests have been performed, an increase of more than 5,000 tests from the day before, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Despite the positive numbers, Pritzker said more testing — among other things — is still needed.

“On the testing front, I would ask you this question: What would make you feel comfortable going back into your place of work?” Pritzker said. “I would suggest to you that no, we don’t need to test everybody every day in every workplace, but it’s a lot more than one test per person.

“We need a lot more testing across the country before I think everybody’s gonna feel comfortable, including the business owners and managers and people who work there, not to mention the customers.”

But Pritzker reiterated he is looking at ways to reopen the state. That could look different across Illinois, he said: People in more rural areas might not need to wear a mask around their large properties, while people going outside in Chicago might need them since they’re around people.

And areas that have more hospital capacity “could do more than some other places” where the virus has hit harder, Pritzker suggested.

Still, the governor said he’s still considering requiring people to wear masks in public.

“We’re trying to put it together with the other things we want to change about our stay at home order, but we also want to make sure it’s understood properly,” Pritzker said. “This shouldn’t stop somebody from taking a walk in their local park if it’s open. That’s not the idea.

“… The important thing is we want to keep people safe and also give them the ability to do as much as possible without spreading the virus.”


Coronavirus can be deadly, but the vast majority of cases have been mild. Those most at risk from the virus are people who are elderly or who have underlying health conditions.

Symptoms of coronavirus can appear two to 14 days after a person has been exposed to the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control. People with no symptoms may have the virus and spread it to others.

The virus spreads between people through coughing and sneezing, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The most common symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

People have also experienced body aches, nasal congestion, runny nose and sore throat, according to Harvard Medical School.

If you or someone else has difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, become confused, cannot be roused or develop a bluish face or lips, get immediate medical attention, according to the CDC.

How To Protect Yourself

Here’s what you can actually do to prevent getting ill:

  • The CDC and other officials have said people should wash their hands often, including before, during and after eating; after using the bathroom; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
    The CDC has a guide here for how to properly wash your hands. Remember: Wash with soap and water, scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • If you can’t wash your hands with soap and water, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose and mouth, with unwashed hands.
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces you touch frequently, like cellphones and light switches. Here are tips from the CDC.
  • Stay home when you’re sick and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • If you have to sneeze or cough with a tissue, throw it out immediately after using it, according to the CDC.

What To Do If You Think You’re Sick

Even if you’re not showing symptoms, the Chicago Department of Public Health recommends people coming from high-risk countries (here’s a CDC list) self-quarantine for 14 days after returning home.

If you do have symptoms of coronavirus, contact your primary doctor or a health care facility before going in. Explain your symptoms and tell them if you’ve come into close contact with anyone with coronavirus or traveled to an area where COVID-19 is widespread (here’s a CDC list) within the last 14 days, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

From there, the experts will work with your local health department to determine what to do and if you need to be tested for coronavirus, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

And, of course, if you think you’re sick with coronavirus, don’t risk exposing other people to the virus. Anyone who feels unwell has been ordered to stay home or risk getting a $500 fine.

Those with questions and concerns about coronavirus can call the Illinois Department of Public Health at 800-889-3931.

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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