Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday outlined the state’s hospital capacity to deal with some of the most serious cases of coronavirus, while officials announced another four people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois.
The Democratic governor said he doesn’t know how long the coronavirus will affect the lives of Illinois residents.
“The honest answer is we don’t know yet,” Pritzker said. “I want to be 100% clear about what will drive my decision making in the weeks ahead. Science. I understand how difficult it is to see the economy slowed down and watch friends and neighbors laid off from jobs. Those concerns keep me up at night too.”
He also warned that although the virus has affected mostly Cook County residents, “it is coming to every county.”
The governor’s words came hours after President Donald Trump said he hopes the country will be reopened by Easter to reboot the economy, despite many public health officials warning it may take longer for the country to flatten the curve of the spread of the virus.
Pritzker seemed to have a very different view.
“I will say again, you can’t have a livelihood without a life,” Pritzker said. “As long as Americans still have breath in their lungs, we will find a way to survive and thrive. We can revive our economy. We can’t revive the people that are lost to this virus.”
Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health, announced the deaths of four more people from the coronavirus: a Chicago man in his 50s; two Cook County residents, both in their 60s; and a DuPage County woman in her 90s.
An additional 250 cases have been added to the state’s total, Ezike said, bringing the Illinois tally to 1,535 confirmed cases in 32 counties. Ages of those afflicted range from an infant to 99 years.
Ezike, who has appeared next to Pritzker for 16 consecutive daily briefings, became emotional in announcing the latest toll — especially since many families can’t mourn their loved ones in a world of social distancing.
“And for those who have passed on, their loved ones are now grieving, and don’t have the opportunity to celebrate their lives with traditional funerals in weeks,” Ezike said. “Let’s send our thoughts, our support and our prayers to all of these families and their families.”
So far, 16 people in Illinois have died from the coronavirus. Ezike said 16% of Illinois cases have required hospitalization, with about 4% of patients requiring intensive care and a ventilator. Of the state’s fatalities, 92% were people over 60.
Ezike said 54% of confirmed cases in Illinois are white; 33% are black; 5% are Asian and 11% are Latino or Hispanic.
About 51.6% of hospital beds are already in use in the state, according to data provided at the press conference. The state said 57.4% of intensive care beds and 28.4% of ventilators are currently in use.
Pritzker said in the worst case scenario projection, “with no interventions,” the state would need 2,500 more non-ICU beds and 800 ICU beds. In two weeks the state would need 28,000 additional non-ICU beds and over 9,400 additional ICU beds. He called that “untenable.”
Of Illinois’ 211 hospitals, 66 have set up triage tents with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. Another 26 hospitals are working to set up triage centers. And the Illinois National Guard and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers are investigating closed hospitals that could temporarily reopen to support COVID-19 response in a worst case scenario.
Illinois residents have been largely abiding by a stay-at-home executive order which began Saturday at 5 p.m. And the state’s schools have been closed since March 17.
Pritzker spent most of his daily briefing on Monday outlining medical equipment shortages in the state. The governor also announced a partnership between the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association and the Illinois Biotechnology Innovation Organization to ramp up in-state production of supplies like masks, gloves, gowns, ventilators and sanitizers.
After several national TV appearances and some Twitter taunts, the White House on Monday vowed to send Illinois 300 ventilators and 250,000 masks.
But Pritzker on Tuesday said he’s still pushing for Trump to utilize the Defense Production Act, something he told him directly in a phone conversation that prompted the sending of medical equipment.
“I know I sound like a broken record, but if I have to stand here every single day until I’m blue in the face and advocate that the federal government fully utilize this act, then I will,” Pritzker said. “There is a finite supply of critical resources. ... There is an enormous supply of governors and countries trying to get those resources. ... We are on a wartime footing right now. And we need an allocation of resources to the front lines.”