Another 59 people die of COVID-19 in Illinois; hospitalizations remain flat during outbreak

Illinois has 1,151 new confirmed cases of the virus, bringing the state’s total to 31,508 positive case. The state has lost 1,349 people to the outbreak, and the coronavirus is now in 95 of the state’s 102 counties, officials said.

SHARE Another 59 people die of COVID-19 in Illinois; hospitalizations remain flat during outbreak
Gov. J.B. Pritzker at a daily briefing in March 2020.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has held daily briefings on the coronavirus situation in Illinois.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

Illinois health officials on Monday said another 59 people have died from the coronavirus, while the state’s hospitalization levels remain relatively flat.

There are also 1,151 new cases, bringing the state’s total to 31,508 positive cases. The state has lost 1,349 people to the outbreak, and the virus is now in 95 of the state’s 102 counties, officials said. There were 5,040 tests conducted on Sunday, although private labs have not been reporting results on Sundays.

The percentage of ICU beds in Illinois used by COVID-19 patients has remained steady at 40%, and the percentage of ventilators being used by those patients is actually declining slightly, now standing at 23%, Pritzker said.

At his daily briefing, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker warned case numbers are rising — but at a slower rate.

“Our curve is bending the right way,” Pritzker said. “With the current mitigation strategies in place, we may not have reached out peak yet, but your actions are helping to keep that peak as low as possible.”

He added that without the drastic mitigation efforts that have been implemented, “we would have required thousands more ventilators beyond our initial capacity.”

Pritzker said the state hasn’t “quite hit the peak yet.”

“And you won’t really know if you’ve hit the peak until you start to go down,” the governor said.

According to Pritzker’s office, 757 patients were on ventilators as of midnight on Sunday. On Saturday, there were 749 ventilators being used; on Friday, there were 738.

In total, there are 1,239 COVID-19 ICU patients in Illinois hospitals, up slightly from Friday, when 1,192 coronavirus patients were hospitalized in the ICU, his office said. There were 4,599 COVID-19 patients in total in hospitals on Sunday, up from 4,340 on Friday.

After two days of a record high 125 deaths last week, the state reported 33 deaths Sunday.

Illinois residents are abiding by a stay-at-home executive order that expires on April 30. But an extension is anticipated. Pritzker on Friday ordered all Illinois schools closed to in-person learning for the remainder of the school year.

Pritzker has remained tight-lipped about an extension, just as he was before announcing the first executive order.

“A lot of this has to do with looking at every aspect of the order and seeing all of the things that we might change,” Pritzker said. “We’re looking at it, working on it every day. I promise you that I will be out here and tell you as soon as I can.”

The governor was also asked if the state might re-open region by region. He signaled that is a possibility.

“I absolutely think that we need to look at where the capacity exists. For example if the hospital capacity in a certain area is quite large and very available, even with coronavirus in existence, then that might be a place where you could do more than some other place. What’s most important, though, is keeping people safe and healthy,” Pritzker said, adding social distancing is a very different concept for those in rural areas than those “on the North Side or the West Side of Chicago.”

Pritzker said he is speaking with medical experts “and we’re trying to follow that advice and look at how best to give people the most freedom, while also making sure people are healthy.”

The governor also said some of the federal guidelines for re-opening the country “are worth looking at,” including the notion that getting past the peak equates to 14 days of numbers going down.

Pritzker offered other hospitalization numbers at the daily briefing, as well. The state on Sunday released data showing 1,860 residents and staff members at state long-term care facilities have tested positive for COVID-19, and 286 of them have died.

Long-term care facilities in Cook County have by far seen the largest number of cases and deaths. The data show 804 people related to Cook County nursing homes have tested positive for the coronavirus, with 146 of them succumbing to the disease.

Pritzker outlined some state procedures for COVID-19 cases in nursing homes, including treating any symptomatic residents or staff as confirmed cases, if there is already a confirmed case at the home. He said nursing home workers “are considered healthcare workers” and have access to testing at the state’s drive-thru sites and other hospital locations that prioritize first responders.

The governor said the state is also working on testing all residents and staff at nursing homes.

“We’re prioritizing testing at long-term care facilities that are home to our populations where a COVID infection is more likely to lead to higher-severity cases, especially among black and brown communities,” Pritzker said. “This testing at non-COVID facilities will allow us to identify early the presence of COVID-19 in a facility and isolate those cases before widespread transmission.”

The state is working with the Illinois National Guard and the Illinois Department of Transportation to ramp up testing at the state’s nursing homes.

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