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Gov. JB Pritzker detailed hospital readiness for COVID-19 and the state announced four more virus-related deaths at the governor's daily news conference Tuesday. An additional death of a Crystal Lake man was announced hours after Pritzker's news conference.
The state saw an additional 250 confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Illinois now has seen 1,535 confirmed cases of the virus and 17 total deaths.
“The report for today is sobering, as it is every day,” IDPH Director Ngozi Ezike said. “It is not easy to be reporting these numbers every day. We won’t fall into the trap of forgetting that these are people with families and friends who love them, and people who are worried about them.”
Currently in Illinois, 54% of confirmed COVID-19 cases are in individuals who are white, 33% are black, 11% are Latino and 5% are Asian.
The state is rapidly preparing for an increase in cases in the coming weeks. Pritzker said that without intervention, the state’s models indicate coronavirus cases would far outpace Illinois’ availability of hospital beds.
The state, of course, has intervened with its “stay-at-home” order, closing of schools, bars and restaurants, and various other measures.
Right now, the state has 2,600 ICU beds, with 1,100 currently available, Pritzker said. The state has 26,000 non-ICU hospital beds, with 13,000 currently available.
Worst-case scenarios indicate that with no intervention, the state would need an additional 28,000 non-ICU beds and 9,400 ICU beds within the next two weeks.
“That’s untenable,” Pritzker said.
The state has 2,200 ventilators, with 1,600 currently available. Those worst-case scenarios indicate the state could need 4,100 more ventilators.
“What we’ve done already is … to make sure a worst-case scenario does not become our reality,” Pritzker said.
Additionally, Pritzker said the state now is testing about 2,000 individuals a day. In February, the state had the capacity to test only about 50 people a day. The state expects to be testing more than 4,300 people a day in the near future.
While President Donald Trump has indicated that he is wavering on whether the impact of the virus is worth causing disruptions in the economy, Pritzker made it clear that he’s “not willing to sacrifice anyone.”
Asked if his statewide “stay-at-home” order could extend past its current April 7 deadline, Pritzker indicated that it’s a possibility.
“I’m trying to follow the science here,” Pritzker said. “I am concerned that we may have to extend that deadline. We have to start to see some movement in the numbers in the right direction. … It’s early. I just can’t tell you anything quite yet.”
Ezike said that it’s “not wise” to put a timeline on it.
Omar Lateef, CEO of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, said every scenario still indicates the situation is going to become worse before it becomes better throughout the Chicago area.
“Now is not the time to abandon the only measures we know will help protect us,” Lateef said. “Be sure to wash your hands, to shelter in place and to practice social distancing. We are in a city where COVID-19 is actively spreading through our neighborhoods today.”
The state is working to potentially reopen previously closed hospitals. In such a scenario, current hospitals would be converted almost entirely into COVID-19 response hospitals, while the re-purposed facilities could house individuals who need hospital care for other reasons.
Hotels also are being considered for isolation space for those who are exhibiting mild symptoms of the virus, or those who might have come in close contact with someone who has the virus.
The state put out a call this week for former members of the medical community who have changed careers to consider coming back to the medical field. In the first 24 hours, the state received 180 applications, Pritzker said. Interested individuals can visit coronavirus.illinois.gov for more information.
“What we need to do is to ensure that our health care system can fully support and care for those who won’t easily recover,” Pritzker said.