128 More Test Positive for Coronavirus in Illinois, Bringing Total Cases to 288

State officials on Wednesday announced the largest single-day jump in the number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Illinois: 128.

The total now stands at 288 positive tests for the virus across 17 counties in the state.

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“These numbers will get worse in Illinois before they get better,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday afternoon during his daily press briefing on the situation.

“I’m not saying this lightly, but unfortunately, these grim numbers will continue to grow significantly as well as the unfortunate statistic of fatalities,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said during the briefing.

Officials reported the state’s first novel coronavirus-related death Tuesday. Chicagoan Patricia Frieson, 61, died Monday night at the University of Chicago Medical Center, where she had tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office, which is investigating the cause of her death. Public health officials on Tuesday said Frieson had underlying health conditions and that she did not live in a nursing home.

The majority of the state’s 288 cases have been reported in Cook County, where 178 people have tested positive for COVID-19. Patients have ranged in age from 9 to 91, according to health officials

Of the 128 new cases reported Wednesday, 20 stem from a DuPage County long-term care facility, bringing the total of cases there to 42, according to IDPH. The majority of those patients are residents at the facility (30) and the remainder are staff (12).

Public health officials are recommending nursing homes cancel all group activities, including group dining, implement active screening of residents and health care personnel for fever and respiratory symptoms and restrict all visitation except for certain compassionate care situations, such as those for end-of-life residents.

Ezike called on everyone to do their part to “break the cycle of the virus” by staying home as much as possible, especially those who are elderly and have preexisting conditions.  

“We have to break the cycle of disease transmission. That means if you’re ill and otherwise healthy and think you were exposed to a COVID case, but you’re healthy, you can weather this illness. You don’t need a test,” she said. “Stay home and don’t transmit it to another person. … If you can stay home and weather it out, you are doing a tremendous part in creating a bed for someone who really needs it and whose life can be saved.”

Officials advise taking preventive measures to slow the spread of the virus, such as washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, sneezing or coughing into a tissue and then tossing it, limiting contact with people regardless of how you feel, and staying home when you are sick.

Tuesday marked the start of several new statewide initiatives to prevent further spread of the coronavirus. All bars and restaurants are closed to dine-in customers through March 30, though restaurants can still serve food via delivery or curbside pick-up. And all public and private K-12 schools, including Chicago Public Schools, are closed until March 31 per Pritzker’s orders. CPS will have grab-and-go meals available between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday through Friday to any child, regardless of whether they qualify for free and reduced lunches.

Those “drastic steps,” are necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19, Ezike said, adding kids should not be having play dates with their classmates at this time. “That negates the benefits of closing schools,” she said.

For more information about the coronavirus, visit IDPH’s website, call its dedicated COVID-19 hotline (800-889-3931) or send an email.

Contact Kristen Thometz: @kristenthometz (773) 509-5452  [email protected]

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