Illinois passes 3,000 COVID-related deaths, officials see no sign of plateau’s end
The state’s COVID-19 death toll surpassed 3,000 people Thursday, and state officials said it’s still unclear when the cases and deaths may start to drop.
Officials announced 138 more deaths on Thursday, bringing the state’s total to 3,111.
Gov. JB Pritzker said during his Thursday press conference that he is concerned “that we are going to be on a plateau for a long period of time.”
“I think I have said many times from this podium though that we don’t know,” Pritzker said. “You don’t know until you see it in the rearview mirror whether you peaked.”
He added that science and data suggest the state can maintain a long plateau as long as there is hospital bed capacity.
Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said the next few weeks will be telling, as the weather gets warmer and more people take advantage of things that have reopened under the modified stay-at-home order.
“We now need to see what will happen with the new attitudes that are prevailing and the new behaviors that are prevailing,” she said.
Officials focused Thursday’s press conference on upgrades being made to the Illinois Department of Employment Security to better handle the number of unemployment claims since the pandemic started. The department announced it has recently passed 1 million unemployment claims in Illinois, and more than $2 billion has been paid out.
“That’s $500 million more than what was paid out in all 12 months of 2019,” Pritzker said.
Pritzker said he’s increasing the department’s workforce, improving the department’s servers and establishing a call center to handle claims.
Starting Monday, the department will begin processing claims for 1099 workers, including independent contractors and sole proprietors, self-employed individuals and others who do not qualify for traditional unemployment.
Officials announced 2,641 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the state’s total to 70,873 cases in 97 counties.
A total of 379,043 tests have been completed.
Ezike told reporters they did not take hospital beds in border states into consideration when calculating total hospital bed space for each of the four regions, part of Pritzker’s plan to reopen Illinois. While it’s true that residents in the Metro East and Quad Cities may go across the border, she said there’s no way to know how many out-of-state residents would use Illinois beds.
“You potentially could say that that’s a wash,” she said.
Pritzker also announced the daily COVID-19 press conferences will no longer occur during the weekend. They will continue to be held each weekday.
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