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74 more die in Illinois from coronavirus; Pritzker administration hopes cases are leveling

The 1,173 new, confirmed cases bring the state’s overall tally to 22,025. More than 100,000 tests have been administered, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker at a daily briefing in March 2020. Sun-Times file

Illinois health officials on Monday said another 74 people have died from the coronavirus, bringing the state’s death toll to 794.

There are also 1,173 new confirmed cases, bringing the total of cases in the state to 22,025. There have been more than 100,000 tests administered, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. The virus has also spread to an additional county, with 87 of 102 counties reporting cases.

Private labs do not report their results on Sundays, which has led to a lower number of confirmed cases on Mondays, according to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office.

Pritzker on Sunday said he was “cautiously optimistic” the state could be “bending the curve” to keep hospitals within their patient capacity. He echoed that message on Monday, saying it appeared the number of cases were at least “leveling.”

As of midnight on Sunday, 39% of ICU beds in the state were taken by COVID-19 patients. That’s 1,159 of total beds in use. There are still 967 ICU beds available, Pritzker’s office said. Out of 3,079 total ventilators, 1,285 are in use, and 800 of those are for COVID-19 patients.

Asked repeatedly about whether he will extend a stay-at-home executive order, Pritzker said “it’s likely that there will be adjustments to the orders that we’ve put in place.”

“But it’s also true that...it’s not like we’re anywhere near herd immunity and there isn’t a treatment. And in order for you to get to a point where you want to start moving significantly back to normalcy, you need widespread testing,” Pritzker said. “We don’t have anywhere near widespread anywhere in the country. There’s no widespread testing.”

The governor said it’s also important to have a tracing system to make sure all people who have come into contact with COVID-19 patients self-isolate.

President Donald Trump on Monday said he will ultimately make the decision on when to relax the nation’s social distancing guidelines. Many governors across the nation, including Pritzker and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, have discussed their concerns over opening up the states too quickly. Both have spoken out about a fear of a second wave of infections that could cost more lives.

Asked about whether Trump or governors are truly in charge of relaxing those regulations, Pritzker said it’s up to the governors.

“I think he’s going to issue some advice about it but it is true that its up to the governors to make decisions about the executive orders that we’ve put in place, Pritzker said. “All the governors that I’ve talked to and especially me, we want to lift these orders as soon as we can. We want to get things back to more normal, as soon as we can. But one thing we have to pay attention to is what direction are the curves going and what is the advice that we’re getting from again the scientists and the doctors, who know more about immunology and about all the issues of COVID-19 then an elected official who’s not a doctor.”

Pritzker on Monday also highlighted ways for Illinois residents to get unemployment benefits — and the problems his administration is working through as a record number of out-of-work Illinoisans try to seek benefits. He also planned to discuss an emergency rule adopted Monday by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission that will allow essential workers — like grocery store workers and health care workers — to get workers’ compensation should they get COVID-19.

The governor said the state’s online unemployment filing systems, “built a decade ago for a much lower number of claims, simply haven’t kept pace.”

An outside call center with 200 employees also is being opened. The existing website has been upgraded, he said.

Over five weeks, 513,000 claims were filed, Pritzker said. That was five times the numbers from the Great Recession, which was seen as the high-water mark that the filing system was built to handle, he added.

Employees bravely went back into the office to process claims, Pritzker said - doing in a month a workload that could have taken a year.