Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Illinois has 128 newly confirmed cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus, including 24 new infections at the Willowbrook nursing home that already reported nearly two dozen cases.
That brings the total number of cases to 288 in 17 counties, according to state officials. One person has died from the infection in Illinois, a Chicago woman.
The new cases included eight in Lake County, according to the Lake County Health Department. Since March 11, 22 Lake County residents have tested positive, officials said.
In all, 2,052 in the state have been tested.
DuPage County Health Department officials said that as of Wednesday all residents and staff members at the long-term care facility in Willowbrook have been tested and the department can confirm that a total of 46 people, including 33 residents and 13 staff members, have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. That’s up from 22 cases reported Tuesday.
They said the health department staff continues to work closely with partners from the Illinois Department of Public Health, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the facility’s staff.
The department said it will not provide any information on the patients and staff, to respect their privacy.
Meanwhile, the Church Creek senior living center in Arlington Heights sent a letter Wednesday to residents, their families and staffers saying local health officials told it a staff member has been diagnosed with the coronavirus. The staff member worked only in the memory care section of the community, the letter said, and is in quarantine, the letter said.
“We are not aware of any other resident or team member testing positive,” the letter said.
During his daily news briefing Wednesday, the governor announced a new website that warehouses all the state’s coronavirus information at coronavirus.illinois.gov. The website contains information regarding medical updates, unemployment benefits and other news.
“We must act with urgency,” he said. “We must act now. This virus knows no boundaries.”
Pritzker said the ages of those infected range from 9 to 99.
The governor added that it is important for residents to self-quarantine in an attempt to slow the spread of the disease and ultimately stop it.
He reiterated that people can be infected without showing any symptoms and because of the dearth of tests, there’s no way to ensure most people don’t have the disease.
“You should just assume that you have coronavirus,” Pritzker said. “Just assume that. What would you do? You should self-isolate.”
Pritzker assured that “essential services” such as grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations would remain open to the public.
When asked about the possibility of enforcing an even stricter lockdown like those enacted in parts of Europe, Pritzker said a key to the current approach is to employ prevention measures to avoid a situation as dire as that abroad.
“We need to avoid what happened in Italy,” he said.
Pritzker said he heard the state will soon have access to “thousands and thousands” of tests, but he remains skeptical because they would come from the federal government.
While the ability to test in Illinois has increased, it’s still not enough, he said, calling the acquisition of sufficient testing kits the biggest challenge facing the state.
“I’m trying to grab as much of the supply chain as I can for the state of Illinois,” Pritzker said.
The new cases at the Willowbrook nursing home are particularly troubling to state officials.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said that because older residents are most vulnerable, nursing home workers and visitors are being screened before they are allowed to enter facilities across the state.
She added that the number of diagnosed cases will continue to grow, as likely will the death count.
“Let’s weather this with as a little loss of precious life as possible,” she said.
Along those lines, Pritzker said that caring better for the homeless is another issue facing state officials. The state is looking into the availability of housing people who should be isolated due to known contact with the virus, and using those same resources for the homeless should also be considered, Pritzker said.