Three more people have died from the novel coronavirus in Illinois, where the number of people who have tested positive for the illness now stands at 422 across 22 counties, state officials said Thursday. Patients have ranged in age from 9 to 99, officials said.
The three deaths reported Thursday include a Will County resident in his 50s, a Cook County resident in her 80s and a Florida resident in her 70s who was in Sangamon County, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. None of the deaths in Illinois have so far been connected to a nursing home, according to officials.
“My heart goes out to the family and friends of these patients, and I feel like I can speak for all of Illinois when I say we offer them our collective strength at this time,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said during his daily press briefing Thursday afternoon. “May their memories be for a lesson. These moments will not get easier, nor should they. We are fighting this fight for every person in Illinois. We’ve all lost something today.”
Both Pritzker and Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said Illinois will see more cases of COVID-19 as testing capacity expands and more people become infected with the virus. “This is an equal opportunity virus,” Ezike said.
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. She died as a result of bronchopneumonia due to COVID-19, with asthma, diabetes mellitus, hypertensive cardiovascular disease and obesity as contributing factors, according the medical examiner.
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.
Illinois Department on Aging Director Paula Basta says healthy adults should find creative ways to interact with elderly adults outside of face-to-face contact. That population will experience even more isolation during this time because of measures taken to protect them.
Officials also announced grocers across the state will have special hours for senior citizens and others who are most vulnerable to COVID-19.
“This virus can be very dangerous for older people and my priority is to ensure older Illinoisans feel safe and secure,” Pritzker said.
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.
This week 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.
To help the restaurants and bars that are suffering as a result of his order, Pritzker on Thursday announced he’s directed the Department of Revenue to defer sales tax payments for more than 24,000 small- and medium-sized bars and restaurants.
Establishments that incurred less than $75,000 in sales tax liabilities last year will not be charged penalties or interest on payments due in March, April or May, according to release from the governor’s office. While penalties and interest will be automatically waived, qualified taxpayers must still file their sales tax returns even if they are unable to make a payment, according to the release. For more information, visit the Illinois Department of Revenue’s website.
All public and private K-12 schools, including Chicago Public Schools, are closed until March 31 per Pritzker’s orders. But on Thursday, the governor said parents should plan for an extension beyond that date.
While schools are closed 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.