Another 80 people have died of COVID-19 in Illinois as state health officials on Saturday announced 2,119 more people have tested positive for the virus.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health, also said 11,985 coronavirus tests were administered Friday, marking the second consecutive day that Illinois surpassed Pritzker’s stated goal of running 10,000 tests per day.
The latest cases bring Illinois’ death toll to 1,874, among 41,777 total cases of COVID-19 that have been confirmed in 97 of the state’s 102 counties.
More than 201,000 COVID-19 tests have now been administered in Illinois since the pandemic first hit in late January, officials said.
“We have been ramping up testing, and this will allow us to make more informed decisions moving forward,” Ezike said.
Although she did not directly address President Donald Trump’s false suggestion that injecting disinfectants might help kill COVID-19, Ezike sternly rebuked the “rumors and general disinformation” spreading about the virus.
She said the Illinois Poison Control Center saw a “significant increase” in calls associated with exposure to cleaning agents compared to this time in 2019.
“Injecting, ingesting or snorting household cleaners is dangerous. It is not advised and can be deadly,” Ezike said. “Please listen to scientists and health experts about how to stay healthy and how to protect yourself from being sick with this novel coronavirus.”
Trump later backtracked on his comments, saying he was being “sarcastic.”
Ezike also said nearly 4,700 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Friday. Of that, 1,244 patients were in ICU beds, including 763 people on ventilators.
Pritzker said the state could end up needing fewer hospital beds as it has bent the curve of the COVID-19 virus’ spread in the state, so plans at the McCormick Place field hospital have been scaled back.
“We have made alterations at McCormick Place where there are fewer beds than the original plan because it appears — at least for the moment — that we’re only gradually increasing the number of cases and hospitalizations,” Pritzker said.
Pritzker also said he’s looking at statewide programs that could support small businesses unable to receive PPP funding from the federal government.
He said companies that don’t need the PPP money “have an obligation” not to accept it. On Saturday, the Chicago-based sandwich chain Potbelly announced it will return its $10 million federal loan after taking heat for accepting the relief money meant for small businesses.
“Companies that don’t need it in order to keep their employees on payroll or their operations going should not accept it,” Pritzker said.
Pritzker said Illinois diverted $90 million from the Department of Commerce to support small businesses with grants, but it still needs more federal support to protect those companies.
“Small businesses — the ones under 200 employees that don’t have an accountant or lawyer on staff to get that federal PPP money — those are the ones we need to preserve,” Pritzker said. “They are a very important part of our economy.”
When asked whether the pandemic could put Pritzker’s proposed graduated income tax on hold, he doubled down that “now more than ever, we need to have a fair tax system for the state of Illinois.”
Angela Sedeńo, executive director of the Kedzie Center, a community-funded mental health facility in Albany Park, joined Pritzker and Ezike Saturday to encourage mental health awareness.
With the toll of the virus growing and the state’s stay-at-home order extended another month, Sedeńo said it’s normal for people to feel more anxiety, loneliness and grief.
She said the center, which has offered bilingual therapy sessions through phone and video conferences, has seen an increase in calls from people of all ages.
“There are families stressed out about basic needs, couples with relationship strain and youth who are worried about the safety of their loved ones and worried about the future,” Sedeño said.
“All these feelings are understandable in these traumatic circumstances, but you are not alone,” she said. “We are experiencing this event together, even as we are [affected] in different ways.”
Sedeño encouraged everyone to monitor their mental health as much as they would their physical health.
“Caring for ourselves is a necessary act of self-preservation in which there is no shame,” she said.
Anyone who needs to speak with a mental health professional can anonymously text “TALK” or “HABLAR” the state’s free-of-charge, emotional support line at 552020.