Illinois coronavirus tally reaches 25

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the tally and also slammed the federal response, especially from the president: “He’s not taking it seriously. You see what he tweets about this.”

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot (right) smirks as Gov. J.B. Pritzker decries the federal government’s response to the coronavirus during a press conference Wednesday at the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications headquarters

Flanked by other public officials, Mayor Lori Lightfoot (right) smirks as Gov. J.B. Pritzker decries the federal government’s response to the coronavirus during a Wednesday morning press conference. Later Wednesday, Pritzker held another media briefing to announce that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Illinois had reached 25.

Sun-Times file

As the number of coronavirus cases in Illinois reached 25 — and elected officials stepped in to cancel large gatherings — Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday again voiced his frustrations at federal officials over the lack of testing kits.

And the Democratic governor — a frequent critic of President Donald Trump — had choice words for the president and what he needs to see from him. The president will address the nation in a live address on Wednesday night.

“Number one that he’s taking this seriously, because I have not heard that from the president of the United States,” Pritzker said at his second Chicago news conference of the day.

On the other hand, the attitude is different “when you talk to the people who are actually doing the work” at the federal level, Pritzker noted.

“But when the president, you know, wears his red hat in a CDC facility and talks about his own resilience around being able to do research to determine an answer to this problem, I mean he’s not taking it seriously and you see what he tweets about this,” Pritzker said. “His people in his administration have called this a hoax. We need people to take this seriously.”

For days, the governor has complained about the lack of availability of commercial testing kits, which he said was promised by federal officials last Friday.

“It’s essential that our testing capability run ahead of this virus, not behind,” the governor said. “ We have been given access to thousands of tests but we’re using those as we go and if a couple of weeks go by and we don’t receive help and we’re not getting more tests . . . we are going to run out.”

Pritzker has reached out to the federal government, but “I received no return phone calls” on Tuesday, he said.

The new cases are a Lake County man in his 50s, and five Chicago/Cook County cases: a man in 80s, two men in their 70s, a woman in her 50s and a man in 40s, said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Pritzker also discussed the decision to cancel any Illinois General Assembly sessions through March 24, the cancellation of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and touted the availability of mail-in ballots, which must be requested by Thursday.

The governor said he has reached out to the city’s major sports team owners to find out what kind of guidance they are being given by leagues. He said all options are being considered, but no decisions have been made. The NCAA on Wednesday announced basketball tournaments will still be held — but without an audience.

Former Vice President Joe Biden has also canceled a Friday campaign rally in Chicago. Biden plans to hold a “virtual” event instead.

Earlier Wednesday, Chicago’s top public health official had said the city is “a very long way” from having widespread transmission of the coronavirus, which has so far sickened at least 19 people in Illinois.

But Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said she expects the number of cases in the city and state to “continue to grow.”

As a preemptive move, Pritzker issued a disaster proclamation Monday intended to open up access to additional federal funding for the state’s COVID-19 response efforts.

On Wednesday, standing beside Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot at the city’s Office of Emergency Management in the West Loop, Arwady urged anyone who is unwell to stay home.

“First, and most importantly, we need everyone in Chicago and in Illinois to stay home if you are sick,” Arwady said. “Everyone who is sick must stay home, and not just for St. Patrick’s Day.”

Arwady also urged those with underlying health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, and the elderly — especially those 80 or older — to avoid large gatherings.

Lightfoot made a similar request: “For God’s sake, regardless of your age, if you’re sick, stay home. Don’t go to work, Don’t go to school. Don’t try to be a hero and tough it out. This is not the time for that.”

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