‘Nothing set in stone’ for stay-at-home order as Illinois tallies 8 more deaths, Pritzker says

Health officials also announced another eight deaths from the coronavirus, bringing the state’s total to 34. Friday marked the largest number of people killed in the state, with an additional 488 cases bringing the Illinois total to 3,026 confirmed cases.

SHARE ‘Nothing set in stone’ for stay-at-home order as Illinois tallies 8 more deaths, Pritzker says

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at a Monday news conference.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday said “nothing is set in stone” when asked whether Illinois residents will see a stay-at-home order extended beyond April 7.

The comment came hours after Mayor Lori Lightfoot warned that a statewide stay-at-home order is likely to continue “deep into April,” although she acknowledged Pritzker would be making the final call.

At his daily coronavirus briefing, the Democratic governor also addressed President Donald Trump’s televised comments on Thursday that some governors across America are overestimating their need for more medical equipment.

“To say these comments are counter-productive is an understatement,” Pritzker said. “And frankly, at worst, the comments are deadly.”

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Pritzker noted Trump made those comments on the same day the U.S. overtook China and Italy with the most coronavirus cases.

“We need exactly what we’re asking for. Perhaps more,” Pritzker said. “If we don’t get the equipment we need, more people will die.”

Health officials also announced another eight deaths from the coronavirus, bringing the state’s total to 34. Friday marked the largest number of people killed in the state. There are also an additional 488 new cases, with Illinois now seeing 3,026 confirmed cases in 40 counties.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Illinois public health chief, on Thursday announced the largest spike the state has seen — 673 new cases and seven deaths. But Ezike and Pritzker have repeatedly warned that the availability of testing in Illinois is contributing to more positive confirmations.

Pritzker’s executive stay-at-home order is in place until April 7, unless the governor chooses to extend it. Illinois bars and restaurants and non-essential stores are also closed to try to prevent the spread. The governor closed all Illinois schools on March 14. Lightfoot has ordered Chicago Public Schools closed through April 20.

Asked whether that executive order will be extended, Pritzker said, “nothing is set in stone.”

“You’ve seen there’s been a progression here right now,” Pritzker said. “You’ve seen, you know, there’s been a progression here right now. We were among the leaders among states to first ban large group gatherings and then to ban, to close schools, to ban bars and restaurants from opening, and so on...We’re evaluating the science as it comes in and making the moves that we think are necessary.”

The governor said the decision is being evaluated on a day-by-day basis.

“We don’t come to this as experts...but we rely upon the science. We rely upon the experts out there to tell us, are we on the right trajectory? Are we reaching a peak? When will we reach a peak? What happens on the other side of the peak,” Pritzker said. “So we’re constantly evaluating that.”

Pritzker has repeatedly said he doesn’t know when the virus will loosen its grip on the state. The governor has been consulting with health experts, his staff and officials from around the state in making key-decisions. He’s also in consultation with other governors in the state, who have been frequently speaking on teleconferences with the White House.

During Pritzker’s briefing he was told that Trump ordered GM to make ventilators under the Defense Production Act. Pritzker personally told the president to utilize the act to get more medical supplies last week and has continued to put pressure on the president to do so.

“That’s terrific. But we need more. We need much more,” Pritzker said. “We need thousands more ventilators.”

The governor said he was on the phone with a ventilator manufacturer on Friday morning, and the state is still in competition against plenty other players in the world.

“You’re competing against everybody all the time. And indeed, we’re competing against foreign countries, who’ve been named to me,” Pritzker said.

The governor implored Illinois residents who need social services during the crisis to visit coronavirus.Illinois.gov: “We want every eligible person to be able to access services as easily as possible,” the governor said, including childcare. Students who qualify for free and reduced lunch can also get their meals through their local school districts.

The Illinois Department of Human Services is increasing monthly benefit amounts, expanding SNAP access, and expediting process and flexibility. For many people, this will mean almost doubling their existing benefits, Illinois Dept. of Human Services Secretary Grace Hou said at the briefing.

The expansion will result in almost $80 million more for Illinois families. SNAP feeds nearly 900,000 Illinois households and is primarily for low-income seniors, people with disabilities and working families.

The governor also urged Illinois residents who are “living in fear” of domestic abuse to call the state’s hotline at 1-877-863-6338.

“I know how much scarier and more complicated the message of stay home might sound to you,” Pritzker said.

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