Illinois sets new daily record by processing nearly 20K coronavirus tests, finding 2,994 new cases

The new numbers released Sunday come as the first small religious services begin around the state since the stay-at-home order took effect.

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced new coronavirus data for Illinois at his Sunday press briefing.

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Illinois processed a new daily record of 19,417 coronavirus tests Saturday and 2,994 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed, health officials announced Sunday.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Illinois also suffered another 63 deaths from COVID-19 on Saturday, bringing the state’s coronavirus death toll to 2,618 and total case count to 61,499.

The 63 deaths mark only the third time since April 21 that the state has recorded fewer than 70 deaths in a given day, and the 19,417 tests processed shatters the previous record of 16,316 set on April 24.

The 15.4 percent infection rate — the percentage of tests that came back positive — is also lower than normal.

A total of 4,701 Illinoisans are currently hospitalized due to COVID-19, with 1,232 occupying ICU beds. Ninety-seven of the state’s 102 counties have recorded cases.

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Pritzker mentioned at the Sunday briefing that Illinois has sent back the 100 ventilators loaned to them in early April by California, an act of inter-state cooperation that attracted attention at the time.

With Illinois’ ventilator supply having increased from about 2,200 when the pandemic started to now 3,690, and with only 759 COVID-19 patients currently on ventilators, Pritzker hopes the returned ventilators “could be sent to someone else who may need them.”

Initial models based on ventilator usage in Italy, Spain, China and other nations indicated Illinois may need as many as 4,000 ventilators to treat coronavirus patients, but Pritzker cited the success of the stay-at-home order for avoiding such a worst-case scenario.

“We hope that [our] inventory and the fact that there’s a lot of availability right now will be enough in case there is another surge,” he said.

Despite the new daily tests-processed record, though, Pritzker lamented that the state still needs “more of the pieces of the puzzle to get the testing done.”

The governor noted viral transport mediums, testing reagents, lab technicians access to processing machines in private hospitals and laboratories as easily overlooked steps in the testing process that are in short supply. He said the state is in the process of acquiring more testing swabs from the White House, too.

Also on Sunday, a northern Illinois church that has sued Pritzker in federal court flouted his latest stay-at-home order by hosting dozens of worshippers.

Pritzker added new language to the revised order allowing religious gatherings of up to ten people on Thursday, the same day The Beloved Church of Lena sued him and other officials over its members’ rights to congregate. On Saturday night, U.S. District Judge John Z. Lee shot down the church’s motion for a temporary restraining order and injunctive relief to permit members to gather Sunday morning.

Despite the ruling, a spokesperson said the church welcomed between 60 and 80 people for Sunday service, which was touted by the church as “the first public in-person worship service” since Pritzker’s initial stay-at-home order was instituted March 21. In addition to providing churchgoers with masks and hand sanitizers, the church also required families to stand six feet apart, according to a statement.

After referencing Judge Lee’s decision to deny the temporary restraining order, Pritzker told reporters that church leaders “shouldn’t have been having services at all, except if there were groups of ten or less.”

“This is temporary and people need to understand that, especially faith leaders, that keeping your parishioners safe is the most important thing that you can do,” Pritzker said. “Your leadership matters here, and we’re not stopping you from praying, we’re not stopping you from connecting with your parishioners.

“What we are trying to stop is the spread of this invisible killer,” he added.

Many congregations chose not to hold the small, in-person services allowed under Pritzker’s latest order, including Roman Catholic churches in the Chicago area that continued to broadcast online. Susan Thomas, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Chicago, said church officials tasked with determining how to hold socially distanced masses are still “in the planning stages.”

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