Pritzker: 168 new COVID-19 cases, one new death

  • Gov. J.B. Pritzker, shown here Friday, is ordering people to stay at home whenever possible to curtail the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

    Gov. J.B. Pritzker, shown here Friday, is ordering people to stay at home whenever possible to curtail the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Associated Press

Updated 3/21/2020 4:55 PM

Gov. J.B. Pritzker Saturday asked medical professionals like doctors and nurses who had recently retired or switched jobs to return and help combat the COVID-19 disease outbreak.

"Come back and join the fight; we need your help now," said Pritzker, reminding Illinoisans that a stay at home order begins at 5 p.m. Saturday in order to tamp down the disease spread.


The state also announced 168 new cases of the respiratory disease, which brings the state's total to 753.

A Cook County man in his 70s has died from COVID-19, the sixth fatality in the state, Illinois Department of Health Director Ngozi Ezike said. Cases spiked in Cook County from 411 announced Friday to 548 Saturday, records show, although that's also due to increased testing.

By county, DuPage has 65 COVID-19 cases, Lake has 63, Will has 12, McHenry has 11 and Kane has 8, data from the state's coronavirus website show. No new patients have emerged at a Willowbrook nursing home where an outbreak occurred.

On Friday, Pritzker issued a stay-at-home order lasting through April 7.

That means people should hunker down and avoid nonessential travel, he said, adding that necessary businesses will remain open.

"The grocery stores, the gas stations and pharmacies will all be open tomorrow, and Monday and Tuesday and every day after that ... and they are being constantly restocked," Pritzker said. "In fact, you would be better off going to the store Monday than today."

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The new restrictions ban gatherings of 10 or more people and close licensed child-care centers serving more than six children. Pritzker urged residents with questions to consult the FAQ tab on the state's coronavirus website.

"The more people stay at home, the less the disease will spread," Ezike said. She noted that the "vast majority of people recover uneventfully without being in an intensive care unit or on a ventilator."

But Pritzker added that "the numbers of people overall who are getting COVID-19 are so large, even the small number who have trouble recovering" has the potential to overwhelm the health-care system.

The state will expedite re-licensing for medical professionals seeking to re-engage and more information will be available Monday on the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation website.


Pritzker has set April 8 as a tentative date when public and private schools from kindergarten to grade 12 would reopen.

But he couldn't say when the situation would normalize, explaining more people need to be tested before scientists can estimate a peak, then a downward trend in cases.

Asked about supplies of masks, gowns and other personal protective equipment (PPE), Pritzker said "it's true everyone would like to have more PPE." The state has an inventory but "every day I reach out to manufacturers and distributors to get more PPE.

" I must admit we're getting no help ... or I should say limited help from the federal government," Pritzker said regarding PPE and test kits for COVID-19.

But "private companies are developing rapid COVID-19 tests that don't take four to five hours ... you can do it on the spot. That would be a revolution," Pritzker said.

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