CHICAGO — Illinois Governor JB Pritzker said Tuesday he will extend the state’s stay-at-home order and keep schools closed through April 30, in order to keep the spread of COVID-19 from overwhelming the healthcare system.
Speaking during his daily COVID-19 update Tuesday, Pritzker said he would also extend the state’s disaster declaration through the end of April.
“Illinois has one of the strongest public health systems in the nation – but even so, we aren’t immune to this virus’ ability to push our existing capacity beyond its limit. We need to maintain our course and keep working to flatten the curve,” Pritzker said.
Pritzker’s stay-at-home order mandates residents to mostly stay in their homes, maintain social distance of at least six feet from others while in public and limit their travel to visit the sick or meet essential needs. Only businesses deemed “essential” will stay open, including grocery stores, gas stations and pharmacies.
Additionally, “on-site” school instruction will remain suspended through April 30. The state is giving school districts time to implement remote or e-learning programs in the meantime, and in doing so they should not need to extend the school year.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot expressed support for extending the stay-at-home order Tuesday, and said remote learning plans will stay in effect as Chicago Public Schools remain closed through April 30.
“We will not allow this crisis to stand in the way of our children’s future and their dreams,” Lightfoot said.
The latest statistics released by the Illinois Department of Public Health Tuesday found 937 new cases of the coronavirus in the state, and 26 additional deaths. Of the more than 35,000 people who have been tested, a total of 5,994 tested positive and 99 people have died.
The latest deaths include 17 people in Cook County, 2 in DuPage County, 2 in Will County, and one death in Kane, Lake, McLean, Morgan and St.Clair counties. Ford and Ogle counties reported their first cases.
IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike stressed that as these numbers grow, they still do not include the majority of people who contracted the virus but never got diagnosed or required hospitalization. This makes social distancing important in preventing the spread of coronavirus, she said, adding that studies have proven that it works.
Ezike said the latest data suggests more than 80 percent of people who contract the virus should not require any medical care. She said an investigation into the death of an infant from coronavirus-related illness is still ongoing.
Pritzker said across Illinois, 59 percent of adult ICU beds are occupied, with 35 percent of the total taken by COVID-19 patients. Additionally, 32 percent of ventilators are currently in use, with 24 percent of them serving coronavirus patients.
Saying it’s still difficult to determine when cases of coronavirus may peak, Pritzker said the greatest risk of hospitals reaching capacity is “weeks from now.”
In Indiana, health officials said Tuesday 14 more people died from coronavirus-related illnesses as the number of confirmed cases in the state spiked to over 2,000. Indiana’s total death toll is now up to 49, with 2,159 cases of the virus in the state.
As the number of novel coronavirus cases rise, so does concern over the availability of hospital beds in Illinois. State legislators and community leaders are also calling on Pritzker to reopen shuttered health care facilities, like Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park and Vibra Hospital in Springfield, to help underserved communities and add capacity during the pandemic.
Some healthcare workers in Chicago say they’re already inundated by increased patient loads, as they prepare for an even greater surge in the coming days.
Coronavirus concerns are also taking a toll on the Chicago Police Department, where over 800 officers and employees were out sick Monday. Department officials said it could largely be attributed to people following preventative measures by staying home.