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State sees 59 more COVID-19 deaths, and Pritzker ‘worried’ protest crowds could mean more cases down the road

The state has lost 5,795 to the pandemic. Public health officials reported 1,156 new cases out of 18,903 tests returned for a daily positivity rate of 6%. So far, 1,000,919 tests have been performed.

A technician processes nasopharyngeal swab samples positive for COVID-19 at Simple Laboratories in Harwood Heights in April 2020. Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

The coronavirus has claimed another 59 lives in Illinois, officials said Friday, as the state has surpassed more than 1 million tests performed.

The state has lost 5,795 to the pandemic. The Illinois Department of Public Health also reported 1,156 new cases out of 18,903 tests returned for a daily positivity rate of 6%. In total, there have been 125,915 positive coronavirus tests and 1,000,919 tests performed.

According to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office, 2,094 COVID-19 patients are in the state’s hospitals, with 817 in intensive care and 500 on ventilators.

The 59 deaths reported on Friday is a break from the last three days, when the fatality count hovered around or above the 100 mark. Friday’s report closed out the week more like it began, when Monday saw 23 deaths, the lowest daily tally in two months.

Speaking at a testing site in Peoria on Friday, the Democratic governor was asked whether he’s concerned about the many mass protests in the state leading to more coronavirus cases.

“I’m glad to say so many were wearing masks. That’s half the battle, for sure. But I’m worried,” Pritzker said. “And you won’t see it show up. It doesn’t show up in the case numbers early. Where it shows up, where you really will see it is two to three weeks. ... Look at the hospitalization numbers. That’s where you’ll start to see either movement or not. And then we can either develop some confidence, the outcome for phase three, or concern.”

Pritzker was also asked if it’s possible the state won’t see an uptick — and whether that might impact the state’s Phase 4 of reopening.

“Well that would be fantastic. I mean, let’s all celebrate,” Pritzker said.

The Democratic governor said he’s “listening to the scientists, to the epidemiologists.”

“You don’t want a politician making decisions about that. What you want is your elected official, your leader, listening to the scientists, to the epidemiologists, which is what I do,” Pritzker said.

As for any changes to the reopening plan, “I’m not doing it myself. I’m doing it in collaboration with experts,” Pritzker said.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at a briefing in April.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at a briefing in April.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

The public health department on Thursday said all 11 state-run drive-thru testing sites would be open to everyone, regardless of whether or not they have symptoms of COVID-19. Previously, the sites were intended for first responders and essential workers, as well as those with symptoms and asymptomatic people who had contact with someone who had been exposed to the virus. The goal is to reach the capacity of testing at these sites, which is more than 6,000 tests per day.

The more tests, the better information the health department has to understand the movement of the virus. And public health officials this week have said anyone who has participated in large gatherings or protests should get tested five to seven days later.

There are now 279 public testing sites, with 108 of those at federally qualified health centers. A list of testing sites can be found at on the Illinois Public Health Department website.