COVID-19 cases spike by 2,724 as state test count hits 'milestone,' DIY masks suggested

  • Gov. J.B. Pritzker provides a daily Illinois coronavirus update at the Thompson Center in Chicago.

    Gov. J.B. Pritzker provides a daily Illinois coronavirus update at the Thompson Center in Chicago. Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

 
 
Updated 4/24/2020 6:37 PM

Illinois has surpassed its initial COVID-19 testing goals, officials said at a Friday briefing where they also announced 2,724 additional cases, a new daily high, and 108 more virus-related deaths.

That puts the total cases of the respiratory disease at 39,658 and fatalities at 1,795 statewide.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The 2,724 tally is linked to a surge in testing, officials said.

The state's goal was to achieve 10,000 tests a day, and in the last 24 hours about 16,000 people were tested, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said. He called it an "important milestone."

Of the latest tests, about 17% were positive, which is "well below our cumulative average of 21%," Pritzker said.

"It's too early to say if this is a result of expanded testing criteria versus an indicator of flattening the curve. But it's a positive sign, nonetheless."

The new data comes a day after Pritzker extended the state's stay-at-home order through May 30 to keep the virus in check. The order will require residents to wear face masks in public places effective May 1, a move that's raised some questions about implementation and specifics.

Currently, it's virtually impossible to find masks in retail stores, and ordering online can take weeks.

Asked about the issue and how residents without credit cards might obtain one, Pritzker suggested individuals try a homemade version.

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"I saw a video of how somebody can take a T-shirt and use it to make a mask with, tying it behind their head and so on," Pritzker said. "I think there's lots of ways to do it. I would recommend somebody go online and type in 'homemade masks' or 'homemade face covering.' They're much less expensive than trying to buy one online."

The Centers for Disease Control recommends the general public leave surgical or N-95 masks for health professionals and, instead, wear cloth face covers. Surgeon General Jerome Adams offers a short video on making your own cloth mask from household items on the CDC's coronavirus website.

Regarding wearing masks outdoors as the weather improves, DuPage and Lake county forest preserve officials said they wanted more guidance from the state.

A spokeswoman for the Forest Preserve District of Kane County says the district wants visitors to follow federal guidelines, including social distancing and masks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We're not going to cite people for not wearing a mask," but "it's bad form" not to, said Laurie Metanchuk, community affairs directors.

The Forest Preserve District of Will County, which plans to reopen its preserve parking lots and boat launches May 1, is encouraging visitors to wear masks and maintain social distancing.

"Our forest preserve police will continue to patrol our preserves to ensure visitors adhere to the state's guidelines for their safety and the safety of others," Chief Operating Officer Ralph Schultz stated.

Meanwhile, some Republican lawmakers are chafing at the governor's recent stay-at-home action.

Downstate Republican state Rep. Dan Bailey filed a lawsuit challenging the legitimacy of Pritzker's extension. The governor called the suit a "political maneuver" and said he relied on scientists and physicians in making his decision.

Hawthorn Woods Republican Sen. Dan McConchie on Friday filed legislation requiring governors to seek General Assembly approval before extending disaster proclamations. That would "restore a balance between the executive and legislative branches," McConchie said in a statement.

Pritzker on Friday addressed the efficacy of antibody tests. Unlike diagnostic tests that detect active infections, these typically identify antibodies showing if people were previously infected with COVID-19 and may indicate if they have immunity.

He said some companies are promoting the technology in an "irresponsible" way. The Food and Drug Administration has approved a only few antibody tests.

"It's a novel virus, so researchers don't know to what extent having COVID-19 antibodies equals immunity," Pritzker said.

• Daily Herald staff writer Robert Sanchez and Daily Herald wire services contributed to this report.

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