CHICAGO (CBS) — The death toll from COVID-19 in Illinois climbed to 34 on Friday, as the total number of cases statewide surpassed 3,000.
Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike announced 488 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, including eight more deaths. Illinois now has seen 3,026 confirmed cases in 40 counties, and a total of 34 deaths.
“As we expected, and as we have feared, the greatest number of hospitalizations is among individuals older than 65 years of age, and approximately 86% of those with COVID-19 who have died here in Illinois are over the age of 60,” Ezike said. “We must continue to do all that we can to protect our older adults – our grandmothers, our grandfathers – who are most vulnerable to serious illness and death.”
Asked if he might have to extend the state’s “stay at home” order beyond April 7, Gov. JB Pritzker said “nothing is set in stone,” and that state officials are constantly monitoring the number of COVID-19 cases in Illinois to determine their next steps.
“The truth is, we evaluate this every day, we really do. We try to look at the trajectory of the people who tested positive for the virus; we look at the trajectory of the hospitalizations and the issues around the deaths, of course, that are occurring; the ICU beds; and we ask ourselves, what’s the next move?” Pritzker said.
Pritzker also asked all licensed healthcare providers to sign up for a new emergency alert system in the event authorities need to ask for immediate assistance if there’s an urgent need for doctors, nurses, medics, or other medical professionals. Healthcare workers can sign up at Illinoishelps.net.
The governor also said, since he issued a “call to action” asking retired and former medical professionals to come back to the field to join the fight against COVID-19, more than 500 have signed up to do so.
Pritzker also blasted President Donald Trump for questioning the need for mass production of ventilators to save lives in the U.S.
“To say that these comments are counterproductive is an understatement, and frankly at worst the comments are deadly,” Pritzker said.
The governor said he and others across the country are still seeking additional ventilators to help treat COVID-19 patients who suffer severe breathing problems.
“We need exactly what we’re asking for, perhaps more. If we don’t get the equipment we need, more people will die,” he said.
As Pritzker was speaking, Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to require General Motors to produce ventilators in the fight against COVID-19.
“Our negotiations with GM regarding its ability to supply ventilators have been productive, but our fight against the virus is too urgent to allow the give-and-take of the contracting process to continue to run its normal course. GM was wasting time. Today’s action will help ensure the quick production of ventilators that will save American lives,” Trump said in a statement.
However, Pritzker and other governors had been asking for weeks for Trump to invoke the Defense Production Act to require manufacturers to produce ventilators, personal protective equipment, and other medical supplies.
Pritzker said it was “really great news” to learn the president finally did so, but he said much more needs to be done. The governor said Illinois alone needs thousands more ventilators, and is competing with other states and even foreign countries for the limited supply available on the open market.
“As I said to the president directly, look, he’s a businessman, he didn’t want to interfere with the capitalist market, he wants businesspeople to do what they do. That’s all well and good, but we are in a crisis. We are in a national crisis,” Pritzker said. “The market is the Wild West out there. We’re competing with each other in the United States, and then against other countries for what already exists in the United States. So I’m so pleased to hear there’s some movement, but that’s only GM. It’s terrific, but we need more, we need much more.”
Meantime, the governor said the state Friday morning received a new shipment of state-purchase N-95 masks, and began delivering stocks of PPE to Champaign, Peoria, Edwardsville, and Marion.
“We will not rest until each and every region of our state has what it needs, but without the federal government, individual states don’t have enough market power to procure what is needed on their own,” Pritzker said.
Pritzker also announced an $80 million expansion of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits in Illinois, and said the state has been able to waive the physical presence requirement so that people can apply for or adjust their food stamp benefits online, at dhs.illinois.gov.
The governor also said SNAP certifications that had been set to expire in March, April, or May, have been extended by six months.
The state also now is offering stipends to help licensed child care providers operate during the pandemic, given the added burden of schools statewide being closed. Licensed home child care providers can get $750 stipends, centers with one or two classrooms open can receive $2,000, and centers with three or more classrooms open can get $3,000.
Applications will be available Monday through local Child Care Resource & Referral agencies. For more information, visit emergencycare.inccrra.org/