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42 more die in Illinois from coronavirus as state case tally approaches 7,000

There are now 6,980 new confirmed cases of coronavirus, with 986 new cases reported Wednesday.

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike provides an update Friday on Illinois’ COVID-19 response.
Illinois Department of Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike speaks at a March 13 news conference.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Illinois health officials on Wednesday said another 42 people have died from the coronavirus, a second straight record daily spike bringing the state’s death toll to 141.

There are now 6,980 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with 986 new cases reported, Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said at a daily briefing alongside Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

And Ezike warned the coming weeks will get worse in Illinois.

“But I’m not urging people to despair. Let’s be strong and courageous. Don’t be terrified. Don’t be discouraged. The courageous actions that we need to take are well within our grasp,” Ezike said. “And those actions are the ones we’ve been saying from the outset. Wash your hands. Stay at home. Clean frequently touched surfaces. All of these things seem minimal, but these are the courageous actions that are going to save lives and eventually end this pandemic.”

A majority of the new reported deaths — 34 of 42 — were from Cook County, officials said. The death toll has risen for days, with Wednesday marking the highest number of lives lost in a day due to the spreading virus. The youngest death was a Cook County man in his 20s.

The virus has also spread to 56 of the state’s 102 counties, officials said. About 74% of the state’s total cases have been in Cook County.

Ezike said about 20% of those who test positive are requiring hospitalization and about 5% are requiring intensive care. The mortality rate is between 1% and 3%.

“Our numbers are unfortunately going to bear that out,” Ezike said.

Wednesday also marked the first day of an extended stay-at-home order. Pritzker issued a second disaster proclamation for the state, and an executive order that extends the stay-at-home order until April 30, ensuring the state’s K-12 schools remain closed for another full month.

Since asking the state’s retired health care workforce for help in fighting COVID-19 more than a week ago, Pritzker said more than 1,100 have applied to rejoin the workforce. The governor said his administration is also exploring whether fourth-year medical students and nursing students at the end of their programs can help the state.

The governor was also asked if there are enough healthcare workers to staff what is intended to be a 3,000-bed field hospital at McCormick Place.

“We believe we have enough to staff the first 500 beds, which will be coming online this coming week, or during this week,” Pritzker said. “But we have some for the remaining beds, but we need more. There’s no doubt.”