Number of new coronavirus deaths in Illinois up to four
Three more people in Illinois have died from the new coronavirus, bringing the state’s total to four, officials announced Thursday.
The individuals were a Will County resident in their 50s, a Cook County resident in their 80s and a Florida woman in her 70s, who was visiting Sangamon County when hospitalized.
“My heart goes out to the family and the friends of these patients,” Gov. JB Pritzker said during his Thursday press conference. “I feel I can speak for all Illinoisans when I say we offer them our collective strengths at this time.”
The state reported its first death Tuesday, a Chicago woman in her 60s.
Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike announced 134 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 Thursday, including the first positive tests in Jackson, Kankakee, LaSalle, Washington and Williamson counties. There have now been 422 confirmed cases in the state in 22 counties.
“We did expect to see this rise,” Ezike said. “As you test more, you will identify more.”
A total of 3,151 individuals have been tested.
Pritzker said the state can now do at least 1,000 daily tests, with the expectation that it will double that number in the coming days.
Ezike said they will continue to prioritize testing for the “most vulnerable population” as well as individuals who live in “cluster” settings, such as nursing homes, who have been hospitalized with unexplained pneumonia.
She said testing will not be recommended for all residents or staff of a long-term care facility, but that they will take “all the precautions necessary” and isolate any individual who begins to show symptoms.
Pritzker also announced Thursday that he signed an executive order to expand telemedicine for both individuals on Medicaid and private insurance.
Under the order, effective immediately, all health insurance issuers regulated by the state are required to cover the costs of all telehealth services rendered by in-network providers. Issuers may establish “reasonable requirements and parameters” around the service, but may not impose any cost-sharing for in-network service or utilization review requirements.
“This will allow patients more flexibility and safety in getting the medical care and guidance they need,” Pritzker said.
He also called for all Illinois physicians to sign up for the State of Illinois Rapid Electronic Notification System to receive up-to-date information on COVID-19.
The Department of Healthcare and Family Services has officially submitted an 1135 waiver that will, among other things, waive certain prescribing regulations, suspend prior authorizations and authorize payments for services in alternative settings.
To keep up with the demand for hospital beds, Pritzker said they are looking at reopening previously closed facilities and retrofitting existing “surgicenters.”
“We’re looking at all the hospitals right now, inventorying how we can reopen them,” he said.
Pritzker also announced Thursday that the U.S. Small Business Administration has approved the state’s eligibility for disaster assistance loans for small businesses facing financial hardship due to the virus. Eligible businesses can apply for up to $2 million in low-interest loans.
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