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119 more die from COVID-19 in Illinois as death toll nears 1.5K

In total, 1,468 people have died from the outbreak. There were also 1,551 new cases reported Tuesday, raising the state’s total of patients testing positive to 33,059.

Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike speaks at an April 17 news briefing alongside Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike speaks at an April 17 news briefing alongside Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Officials on Tuesday said another 119 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois as the state anticipates an extension of a stay-at-home order.

And Gov. J.B. Pritzker warned the state’s “peak” impact from the pandemic might not hit until mid-May.

In all, 1,468 people have died from the outbreak. There were also 1,551 new cases reported, bringing the state’s total of patients testing positive to 33,059.

The virus was also confirmed in an additional county, with 96 of 102 counties now reporting cases.

Of the deaths reported in Illinois today, a staggering 88 were in Cook County, including 10 men in their 60s, 14 men in their 70s and 17 men in their 80s. The youngest death statewide was a Boone County man in his 20s.

There have been 1,002 people killed by COVID-19 in Cook County, including 433 deaths in the suburbs and 569 in Chicago, according to the Illinois Dept. of Public Health.

Hospitalizations, however, have remained relatively level, according to Pritzker’s office. On Monday, there were 757 COVID-19 patients on ventilators and in intensive care units. On Sunday, there were 781 patients using ventilators. Pritzker’s office said there were 13 fewer ICU beds occupied by coronavirus patients from Sunday to Monday.

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Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said there are 4,776 COVID-19 patients in the state’s hospitals, including 1,226 in ICU beds and 781 on ventilators. That leaves 30% of hospital ICU beds and 60% of ventilators available, she said.

The Democratic governor has repeatedly warned that the state has not yet reached its peak of the pandemic, but Pritzker on Monday said with mitigation efforts in place, Illinois’ curve is “bending the right way.”

‘Adjustments’ to stay-at-home order

Illinois residents are abiding by an executive order to stay-at-home until April 30, but Pritzker is expected to extend the order into May. The governor last week suspended all in-person learning at the state’s schools for the remainder of the school year.

Pritzker has teased that there would be “adjustments” to any new executive order, and he has repeatedly vowed the state has not yet seen its peak. On Monday, he hinted different regions of the state may see different economic reopenings.

“The peak is still yet to come. We need to be careful,” Pritzker said “...To remove it entirely is to simply open everything back up to infection.”

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Responding to a Rockford reporter’s question about what he’d say to those who consider a lockdown a “punishment,” Pritzker outlined that the doubling time is different in different counties. He also said “punishment” is “an odd word to use” during a global pandemic.

“You find that different areas of the state, even though they have smaller populations, have a higher doubling time than some very urban areas of the state,” Pritzker said. “So there’s no punishment involved. The goal here is to do the right thing for everybody, and it’s true that in some areas of the state there’s been a lower infection rate and a lower doubling rate. So that needs to be taken into consideration as we make changes.”

Speaking on a Washington Post Live event on Tuesday afternoon, Pritzker said the stay-at-home order in Illinois has resulted in “pushing out of what had been anticipated to be a peaking in the middle or near the end of April.”

“So it’s been pushed out now, according to the models, to maybe Mid-May, but at a lower level,” Pritzker said. “And so we’re moving toward that date. People are doing what they need to do in the state of Illinois, staying indoors or staying at home, wearing masks outside as I’ve urged them to do... The result is that we’ve had many fewer deaths than were anticipated.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she expects the order to be extended deep into May and possibly June.

“We have to see a lot of things in place before we’re gonna have a comfort level that we can come back in a congregate setting,” she said.

“The cases not only have to slow, as they have. They have to decrease dramatically. We haven’t seen that yet and we’re not near there. We have to see a substantial drop in the number of overall ICU cases, particularly the percentage of ICU beds occupied by COVID positive” or suspected COVID cases.

Pritzker on Tuesday also announced that 20 private student loan companies would be offering relief to borrowers, including 90-day minimum forbearances, pausing of debt collection and other assistance programs.

“As of today, nearly 140,000 more student loan borrowers in Illinois will now get relief,” Pritzker said.

The federal CARES Act already provided relief for students with federal loans, but left out millions of borrowers who have private loans. Borrowers with financial difficulty due to the coronavirus outbreak are being asked to contact their providers to identify the best relief options.

Contributing: Fran Spielman