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Illinois announces 465 new COVID-19 cases, 13 deaths including infant

Gov. JB Pritzker listens to a question during a news conference March 19 in Chicago.
Gov. JB Pritzker listens to a question during a news conference March 19 in Chicago.

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Illinois has 465 additional COVID-19 cases and 13 additional deaths, including an infant, the Illinois Department of Public Health announced Saturday.

It is believed to be the first case of an infant death from COVID-19. Also among the 13 new deaths is a state employee: a member of the Department of Human Services.

The state now has 3,491 confirmed cases and 47 total deaths. It has tested 25,429 people as of Saturday afternoon.

“Today is a really hard day,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said. “There has never before been a death associated with COVID-19 in an infant. A full investigation is underway to determine the actual cause of death. I want everyone in Illinois to take COVID-19 serious. If you haven’t been paying attention, maybe this is a wake-up call.”

According to IDPH data Saturday afternoon, Chicago has seen 1,610 confirmed cases. The rest of Cook County has 1,003. Lake County has 264, DuPage has 202, Will 127, Kane 90, McHenry 51, Kendall 11, DeKalb four, LaSalle three, Grundy and Whiteside two and Bureau one.

Gov. JB Pritzker began his Saturday update with the “terribly sad news” of the infant death, as well as the death of a member of his team.

“I know how difficult this news can be, especially about this very young child,” Pritzker said. “Upon hearing it, I admit that I was immediately shaken, and it’s appropriate for any of us to grieve today. It’s especially sorrowful for the family of this very small child, for the years stolen from this infant.

“We should grieve for the many people we have already lost to the virus, young and old; we should grieve for the sense of normalcy we left behind just a few weeks ago.”

Ezike said that more than 85% of deaths in Illinois from COVID-19 have been people ages 60 or older.

She said early research suggests that if you’ve had the virus, your body produces immunity within a week, which is why testing is important.

“The only way to stop the spread of the virus is to reduce the number of people infected, and the only way to do that is to reduce the number of people exposed, and the best way to accomplish that is to stay at home,” Ezike said. “I’m sounding like a broken record, but the truth is the truth.

“We must take this seriously. Even if you have a mild illness, that illness spread to someone else can have a tragic result.”

Pritzker said that Saturday marked one week since his stay-at-home order, and the approach to fighting the state’s virus is two-pronged: suppressing the spread and increasing hospital capacity. He’s identifying additional facilities to support hospitals, and announced that McCormick Place in Chicago would be Illinois’ first field hospital.

“The baseline is we are not waiting for the worst, we are preparing for the worst,” Pritzker said.

Pritzker said that he’s placed orders for millions of personal protective equipment, and announced that McDonald’s Corp. on Saturday provided 400,000 additional N95 masks.

“I want to express my gratitude to each of the individuals and companies who have thrown their own store of supplies into the mix,” Pritzker said. “Each mask, gown or set of gloves will make a difference.”

Working with the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, Pritzker said that new “best practices” for shoppers will be rolled out in the coming days. They include designated signage at entrances reminding customers to keep 6 feet of separation, floor markers and announcements throughout the store to reinforce that, shield guards for cashiers not 6 feet apart, and encouraging the use of online ordering and curbside pickup.

“To be clear, nothing that shoppers need to know, other than to be diligent about their social distancing practices,” Pritzker said. “It’s up to each individual to follow social distancing.”

Asked about President Donald Trump’s suggestion early Saturday of a quarantine for parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, Pritzker pointed out that Illinois was among the states that led in the stay-at-home orders relatively early.

Pritzker’s stay-at-home order is set to last through April 7.

“I’m not sure what the president has in mind in terms of quarantining,” Pritzker said. “If we here in Illinois do what we should be doing, following the rules to stay at home, we will be able to bend the curve.

“But I think we are all deeply concerned with what is happening in New York.”

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