Pritzker announces 73 new COVID-19 deaths, Illinois' largest single-day increase

Governor's Office staff member has tested positive for virus

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In his daily news conference on Tuesday afternoon, Gov. JB Pritzker announced that there were 73 new COVID-19 deaths since Monday’s press briefing.

This marks the state’s highest fatality increase over a 24-hour period to date.

“There are so many tragedies here,” he said.

“The countless family members, loved ones, friends and neighbors who grieve, the indefinite delay of funerals and celebrations of life, the fact that this will not be the last day that we say goodbye to our fellow Illinoisans because of the terrible toll of COVID-19,” Pritzker said.

Pritzker also announced that a member of the Illinois Governor’s Office has tested positive for COVID-19.

The Governor’s Office has since done a deep clean of its office space and has instructed many of its employees to work from home, he said. In the 12 days that have passed since the staffer began feeling sick, no other staff members have shown symptoms of the virus.

“Let this affirm what we already know: nobody is immune,” Pritzker said.

Pritzker and Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said they were not in close contact with the staffer who tested positive and neither have been tested for the virus.

Tuesday's announcement brings the statewide death toll to 380 deaths, according to the IDPH.

The IDPH reported 1,287 new cases Tuesday, bringing the state's total to 13,549 confirmed cases. The state has performed 68,732 tests.

These cases span across all age groups and across 77 of the state’s 102 counties. However, Ezike said it now is safe to assume that the virus is present in every county in Illinois.

The state continues its efforts to ramp up testing capability. Currently, about 19% of COVID-19 tests are returning positive results, Pritzker said.

Pritzker also announced that his team has been working to reduce the population of state correctional facilities by releasing certain non-violent offenders and by expediting pending releases.

“As of today, over 60 individuals at the Department of Juvenile Justice have been released," he said. This move resulted in a 25% decrease in the state’s population of juvenile justice detainees.

The Illinois Department of Corrections has released more than 1,100 "low-risk prisoners," he said.

Pritzker said correctional facilities are especially vulnerable to this rapidly spreading virus as incarcerated individuals are often housed in close proximity to one another.

“We’re doing everything that we can to protect those individuals who remain incarcerated in these facilities and we are focused on protecting our corrections and juvenile justice staff with PPE and medical checks,” Pritzker said.

All individuals are required to go through medical screening upon their release before they can return to their communities, he said.

The state continues to monitor the capacity levels of Illinois hospitals and is working to increase the number of ICU beds.

“We now have nearly 28,000 total beds, approximately 2,700 of which are ICU beds,” Pritzker said.

The construction of five alternate care facilities is underway at McCormick Place in Chicago, Advocate Sherman Hospital campus in Elgin, the Metro South Health Center in Blue Island, West Lake Hospital in Melrose Park and Vibra Hospital in Springfield, he said.

The state has seen a significant decrease in the amount of people needing to be hospitalized for reasons other than COVID-19, such as car crashes, since the stay-at-home order was put into place on March 21, Pritzker said.

This is a trend which is consistent across other states with stay-at-home orders and will help to free up extra room in healthcare facilities, he said.

“As of yesterday, April 6, 43% of our total hospital beds are available,” he said. “And 35% of our ICU beds are available.”

“As for our nearly 2,700 ventilators in Illinois, 57% are currently available,” he added. “Down from the 68% available on March 31, just one week ago.”

These are collective numbers from across the state, Pritzker said. Data reported by individual hospitals may vary widely based on the number of COVID-19 cases in the area.

“This isn’t just a Chicagoland issue,” Pritzker said. “We’re closely watching other areas across the state, places like Peoria at 42% of ICU beds available and dropping."

The Governor’s Office is prepared to facilitate the transfer of ventilators and other equipment across regions, if necessary, to ensure proper care can be provided to all COVID-19 patients, he said.

Illinois recently received 100 ventilators from California Gov. Gavin Newsom as well as 600 from the federal government, Pritzker said.