CHICAGO — The state of Illinois reached a grim milestone Thursday as it surpassed 3,000 people dead in the coronavirus pandemic, officials announced.
There were 138 deaths in the past day, bringing the state’s total to 3,111 people lost.
In addition, 2,641 people tested positive for COVID-19 in the past day. There have now been 70,873 confirmed cases, although officials say that number is far lower than the actual number of cases due to a slow start in testing.
Illinois currently has the most coronavirus cases in the Midwest. A New York Times analysis shows Illinois trailing only New York (332,931), New Jersey (133,635) and Massachusetts (72,025) in cases nationwide.
Illinois has the sixth-highest number of deaths in the country behind New York (26,605), New Jersey (8,801), Massachusetts (4,420), Michigan (4,250) and Pennsylvania (3,586).
Of Illinois’ coronavirus patients, 4,862 people are currently hospitalized, with 1,253 in intensive care units around the state. There are 766 people on ventilators.
Gov. JB Pritzker and Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health, announced the new numbers at their daily coronavirus briefing. It was the 60th straight day the governor has hosted a live, televised briefing. He said Thursday he will scale the briefings back to weekdays beginning this weekend. New data will still be released on weekends, he said.
Pritzker and Ezike noted that while Illinois has “flattened the curve” of once-exponentially rising cases, the state has not reached its peak. Instead, it has hit a “plateau” — and they don’t know how long the plateau will last or if cases could rise again.
“I think I have said many times from this podium … you don’t know until you see it in the rearview mirror whether you’ve peaked,” the governor said. “We could plateau and then go up again.”
The two urged people to continue following social distancing guidelines and to follow the stay at home order, though both acknowledged there’s been more pushback to that recently.
Ezike said she’s noticed more traffic when she goes to work and sees more people outside. With “new attitudes that are prevailing,” the state will have to see if the plateau continues or if there’s a rise in cases, she said.
“I think we’ve successfully flattened the curve. It’s stayed flat. We’ve been flat for some time now,” Ezike said. “Where we go from here is critical.
“… But we have to be realistic: The more people are out, the more infections there will be,” and more infections means more hospitalizations and deaths.
Ezike said the state is closely tracking data on cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations, and officials are willing to lift up restrictions if an effective, widespread treatment is developed.
“Everybody wants us to get back to normal. We want to get back to normal,” Ezike said. “I think we are sending some of the frustration toward the wrong entities. We should be sending it toward 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:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Chills and shaking with chills
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat
- Loss of taste and/or smell
People have also experienced body aches, nasal congestion and runny nose, 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.
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