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Illinois coronavirus tally hits 105 in 15 counties

The Illinois Department of Public Health made the announcement Monday before Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s daily briefing on the COVID-19 response in Illinois.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker provides an update on Illinois’ coronavirus situation Saturday at the Thompson Center. 
Gov. J.B. Pritzker has been offering daily updates on the state’s response to the coronavirus.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Illinois now has 105 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with 12 new cases in two new counties, the Illinois Department of Public Health announced Monday.

Monday also marked the first night all bars and restaurants would shutter to in-person customers in Illinois — at 9 p.m. — to try to contain the spread of the virus.

“The numbers of cases are increasing each day, as is the number of locations,” Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the state’s public health department head said at a press conference in Springfield. “People should assume that this novel coronavirus is in their community, and take steps to protect themselves and reduce the spread.”

Pritzker’s administration and experts are hoping Illinois residents heed many warnings and stay home from work — and away from some of the most vulnerable residents in the state, the elderly and those with weak immune systems. The hope is to “flatten the curve,” and see numbers drop.

The governor’s bar and restaurant closing order is until March 30 but could be longer if the numbers continue to climb.

At a daily press conference on COVID-19, Pritzker was asked if there would be more restrictions in place for Illinois residents, as in a total shutdown.

“Obviously, the fundamental functions that people need — being able to put gas in your car and all that — I cannot anticipate. I do not anticipate that we would be doing anything to prevent people from getting in their own car if they absolutely need to,” Pritzker said. “And I would suggest to people they should stay home, but they may need to go to the grocery. They may need to go somewhere else, to a doctor perhaps. So we’re not going to prevent any of that. But I will say that I don’t know what the next day will bring. As you’ve seen, we’ve had to evolve as the science has evolved.”

Ezike urged residents who suspect they may have the virus to seek medical care “responsibly,” first by calling a medical provider.

“Not everyone needs to be tested for COVID-19,” she said.

Ezike said those at higher risk of several illness must be prioritized for testing.

“We ask those who have mild symptoms to stay home so the health care system is not overwhelmed,” Ezike said.

In all, the 105 cases are located in 15 counties in Illinois. New cases have been identified for the first time in Peoria and Will counties. Other counties in Illinois with cases are Cook, Champaign, Clinton, Cumberland, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, Sangamon, St. Clair, Whiteside, Winnebago, and Woodford counties.

Pritzker again pointed the finger at the federal government, saying it had made the situation worse. The Democratic governor for weeks has said Illinois still needs more tests.

“Precious time has been lost because the White House made some bad decisions early on, which led to the current low levels of testing across the United States,” Pritzker said.

Pritzker said hard decisions are being made — and an earlier stock of tests could have helped to prevent the spread. He’s also urging the Food and Drug Administration to give approval for other commercial testing.

“The more sentinel surveillance we could have done earlier, the more we would have known where the virus was popping up, the more we would have been able to target the solutions that we’re bringing today,” Pritzker said. “But because so few tests were done, because there were so few tests available because of decisions that were made more than a month ago by the federal government, we’re stuck with using the little bit of science that we have and then statistics and mathematics.”

Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said the administration is working to get more tests, both with private laboratories and with the federal government. The administration is also hoping the Food and Drug Administration issues an emergency order to approve other commercial testing from overseas.