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Record-high 144 people die in Illinois from COVID-19 as state toll surpasses 2,000

The state previously saw two days in which 125 people died. But Tuesday’s 144 deaths now mark a record-high for COVID-19 fatalities.

Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike speaks at an April 17 news conference.
Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike speaks at an April 17 news conference.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Health officials on Tuesday said another 144 people in Illinois have died from COVID-19, marking the highest number of deaths in a day as the pandemic’s toll surpassed 2,000 fatalities.

Officials also reported 2,219 newly confirmed cases, raising the state’s total to 48,102. Those were the latest numbers as the state received 14,561 test results Monday.

In all, 2,125 people have died of the coronavirus in the state.

Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said 80% of the latest deaths occurred in northern Illinois, with 14% in southern Illinois and 6% in central Illinois. About 44% were white, 28% black, 13% Hispanic and 8% percent Asian.

But still stinging from a Clay County judge’s ruling on Monday that a Downstate legislator could be spared from the stay-at-home order Gov. J.B. Pritzker is poised to extend through May, Pritzker again warned that the virus is not just affecting Chicago and Cook County. It has been reported in 96 of the state’s 102 counties.

“All of us must maintain social distancing, wear masks in public and keep non-essential businesses closed until we can lower our still increasing hospitalizations and lower our ICU bed use,” Pritzker said. “The danger has not passed yet, no matter whether you live in ‘Little Egypt’ or in Freeport, or in Quincy or in Chicago.”

Ezike acknowledged people in Illinois, and around the world, are getting tired of fighting the virus. But she also warned the battle is not over.

“I know that people are getting tired. We all are tired of this pandemic. The enemy, the common enemy, is the virus. It’s not the people. It’s not public health that’s trying to keep people safe. It’s not the governor who’s working so hard to help us manage these community mitigation strategies,” Ezike said. “We all need to try to hang in there so that we can prevent the loss of life of our loved ones and ourselves.”

Ezike also outlined recovery rates of COVID-19 patients in Illinois, with 49% of patients responding to a survey indicating their symptoms went away within two weeks of testing positive. About 61% person said their symptoms were gone between two and four weeks after testing positive, and after more than four weeks from testing positive, 74% said they had recovered.

“I hope that’s seen as encouraging news — that people do recover,” Ezike said. “We mourn the loss of all the lives, and we’re sorry for all those who have had to endure a battle in the hospital, but the majority of individuals do recover.”

Also at the governor’s daily briefing, Piotr Janicki, the consul general of the Republic of Poland in Chicago, detailed the efforts of a Polish medical delegation that arrived in Chicago last week. A well-known cardiologist and an anesthesiologist are among the group sent from Poland to help Illinois with its COVID-19 response.

Pritzker’s administration last week acknowledged the state was experiencing a peak period regarding COVID-19 fatalities that could stretch into the first week of May. Pritzker’s team projections show a range of between 50 and 150 deaths on those days. But deaths are considered a lagging indicator of the virus, since it takes time for COVID-19 patients to become ill enough to require hospitalization or a ventilator.

The state previously saw two days in which 125 people died. But Tuesday’s fatality count set a new high.

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Pritzker’s office on Tuesday said there were 4,738 COVID-19 patients in the state’s hospitals as of midnight Monday, which was 66 patients more compared to Sunday. There were also an additional 15 COVID-19 patients on ventilators in that same time period.

A third of statewide hospital beds were still available.

Appearing on NBC’s “Today Show” Tuesday morning, Pritzker said the White House has vowed to send Illinois 20,000 swabs a day for the month of May in order to ramp up testing capacity.

The Democratic governor has said the state needs to obtain more swabs, reagents and VTMs [viral transport medium] to process COVID-19 tests.

Also on the “Today Show,” Pritzker said there are elements of the White House reopening guidelines that he finds “reasonable.”

“I like the idea of paying attention to 14 days of down cycle of the numbers, the hospitalizations and ICU beds and so on, as a marker for when you should reopen,” Pritzker said. “I think it’s going to be different in different areas of the country. Right now, we’re still rising in hospitalizations, so it’s not the time for us to remove restrictions.”