WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Illinois Sees Surge of Confirmed COVID-19 Cases

Mar 19, 2020
Originally published on March 18, 2020 11:27 pm

Illinois health officials announced a surge of new COVID-19 cases Wednesday. The state’s Department of Public Health has confirmed 128 new cases across 17 counties, bringing the total to 288.

Among those new cases are an additional 20 in a nursing home in DuPage county, where an outbreak has sickened 43 residents in all.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker says the new cases underscore how severe the pandemic has become.

“Look at the news coverage of other countries that have seen this virus spread. Look at the degree of lockdown in countries like Italy,” Pritzker said during a news conference in Murphysboro. “Make no mistake: no place, and no person, is immune from COVID-19.”

Public health experts expect the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths to increase in the coming days. Officials continue to encourage social distancing and personal hygiene, as well as self-isolation if a person believes they have come in contact with someone with the disease.

Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said the virus isn’t going anywhere any time soon, but stressed limiting social interactions will help usher it out.

“The steps we’re taking now are what we have to do: closing the schools, closing the restaurants,” Ezike explained. “It will decrease the number of people who become infected and that’s what we want.”

The state public health department’s lab in Carbondale - one of three statewide - is currently processing between 60 and 100 COVID-19 tests a day, Ezike said.

Pritzker, meanwhile, said testing availability remains the state’s largest challenge, but that “thousands and thousands” more COVID-19 testing kits may be available in the coming days.

Ezike said some have viewed the actions of recent days as too drastic, but explained widespread closures are among the only tools officials have to help quickly return life to normal.

“These actions are not taken lightly and are not meant to be cruel: quite the contrary. We are trying to take care of our residents. It will take every single person in our community to do their part to break this [infection] cycle,” she said.

When asked about calling a special legislative session to deal with the crisis, Pritzker said he would work with leaders in the Illinois House and Senate before making a decision.

The governor’s office has also launched a website Wednesday with information on the state’s response.

CORRECTION: An earlier headline for this story stated cases had doubled since Tuesday when in fact they had risen by 80 percent. We regret the error.

Copyright 2020 NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS. To see more, visit NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS.