Another 82 die in Illinois from coronavirus as total cases top 15,000

State officials announced the latest daily record surges Wednesday in COVID-19 cases and deaths.

SHARE Another 82 die in Illinois from coronavirus as total cases top 15,000
Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at a March 30 news conference.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at a March 30 news conference.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Another 82 people have died from the coronavirus in Illinois as the state continues its path towards a peak, with Wednesday marking the largest number of deaths in a 24-hour period and the highest number of new positive cases; 1,529.

Officials said 82 more people have died, bringing the state’s death total to 462, while the new cases raised the state tally of positive coronavirus cases to 15,078.

The virus also spread to another county in Illinois, as it’s now confirmed in 78 of 102 counties.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker outlined the state’s testing capacity, which has greatly expanded since the outbreak began in late January. Pritzker has said his goal is to run 10,000 tests a day.

As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 75,000 people had been tested. But the governor has said the state is “not where we need to be.”

Despite Illinois-based Abbott Laboratories promising to send the state rapid-response COVID-19 machines that could provide 88,000 tests per month, Pritzker said the federal government has “waylaid” them to private entities, such as private hospitals and labs.

“Unfortunately, it is our understanding now that the federal government redirected most of these early tests to private systems without our state input about where the tests would make the most impact,” the governor said.

Pritzker said “some of those machines will end up in Illinois and so that’s good. But not what we had expected, and we won’t have as many as we expected.”

The governor also relayed that there have been inconsistent results with Thermo Fisher Scientific COVID-19 tests, which were authorized under a federal emergency authorization.

Pritzker said the state acquired five high-volume RNA extractors from Thermo Fisher, which promised to run 200 tests per hour. Those five machines were distributed across three state laboratories.

“Over the past 10 days working alongside experts from Thermo Fisher, we are still not getting the level of output that we want to see from these machines. More importantly, these tests are not producing valid results in a way that meets our exacting standards,” Pritzker said. “I am as impatient as the rest of you in wanting to increase testing, but I will not sacrifice accuracy.”

For now, the state will not use the Thermo Fisher tests, he said.

“We’re working around the clock alongside Thermo Fisher to accomplish our goal, but until these challenges are overcome, these machines will not be part of our testing capacity here in Illinois,” Pritzker said.

Abbott and Thermo Fisher did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

At his daily briefing, Pritzker was asked if he is optimistic about projections from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, whose coronavirus model on Wednesday suggested fewer projected deaths in Illinois.

The governor and his administration have said the IHME model is one of several they’re looking at, although they have not disclosed their own projections for when the state will reach its peak.

“The models that show that the death rate might be lower than expected, that the hospitalization rate might be lower than expected, gives me optimism,” Pritzker said. “What I can tell you is that we look at multiple models for the state of Illinois.”

“There are reasons to see glimmers of hope here in the numbers,” Pritzker said.

Pritzker says he is looking at “how many people does a single infected COVID-19 patient infect.” That determines new infections, he said. “That number by itself, if you change it by one point, [in] one direction or another, has an enormous effect on all of the rest of the numbers.”

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Dept. of Public Health, said despite record death and case totals, there is reason to believe the spread is slowing.

“We are confident with our team of epidemiologists that is what we’re seeing thus far,” Ezike said. “With guarded optimism we’re hoping that we’re getting closer to either the peak, or the plateau. It’s not clear how long that would be.”

Pritzker was also asked about whether Illinois residents should be wearing masks to retail stores.

“It is a good idea when you go out,” Pritzker said. ”I wear my own mask when I go outside, when I’m going to a store, or any other place. I would suggest that for everybody.”

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