Coronavirus Illinois: Updated COVID-19 death toll nears 900, 24K total; Pritzker says IL 'bending the curve'

Wednesday, April 15, 2020
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Gov. JB Pritzker said the hospitalization rate and ventilator data show Illinois is beginning to flatten the curve.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Despite an increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths, Governor JB Pritzker said Tuesday that the spread of the rampant global pandemic may be slowing in Illinois.

Illinois health officials announced 1,122 new COVID-19 cases and 74 additional deaths Tuesday, bringing the total number of cases to 23,247 and the number of deaths to 868.

WATCH: Gov. JB Pritker's COVID-19 update on April 14, 2020

"The fact that our doubling rate continues to increase in every metric is a clear demonstration that there is a deceleration of virus transmission," Pritzker said. "We are in fact bending the curve."

The latest data shows the number of COVID-19 cases in Illinois is now only doubling every eight days. Just two weeks ago, it doubling every two days.

"To be clear, there is nothing good about twice as many people having this virus, or worse, dying from it," Gov. Pritzker said. "No matter how long the increase takes. But we won't get to zero cases overnight."

And fewer COVID patients are now relying on ventilators and intensive care beds. The governor said need for ICU beds for coronarivus patients has decreased by 3 percent in one week, while the need for ventilators has gone down by 4 percent.

Coronavirus in Illinois: Latest news on COVID-19 cases, Chicago area impact

However, more beds have become available during that time, and the state has also acquired more ventilators. At Elmhurst Hospital, ICU beds are between 60 and 80% full, estimated emergency room doctor Anita Schroff.

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"We are not full, and we've actually created new bed spaces for our COVID patients that need intensive level care," Dr. Shroff said. "We also have regular hospital beds available."

Gov. Pritzker says that he wants to reopen the economy as soon as possible and medically safe to do so. But with many economies in Midwest states intertwined, the governor and his staff are coordinating with their neighboring counterparts on how and when to do it.

With each day the governor's stay at home order continues, streets remain empty, and businesses shuttered. In the wake of regional efforts by governors out West and in the Northeast to restart their economies, Gov. Pritzker said he and other Midwest governors are having their own conversations.

"What are the preconditions for beginning to allow certain kinds of businesses to open their doors again, to expand the definition of you know, those who can work or those businesses they can have their doors open," Pritzker said.

Pritzker said they all agree about the need for more testing and the ability to trace and treat the virus as important considerations for lifting stay-at-home orders.

Coronavirus deaths in Illinois by county; COVID-19 victims of all ages

But even as the state reports more COVID-19 cases and deaths, the governor said Illinois seems to be bending the curve. But he added this warning.

"Folks, this curve may not flatten, and it may go up again, if we don't adhere to the stay-at-home order," he cautioned.

Those in the trenches at Elmhurt Hospital remain hopeful.

"I think overall the, the spirit is pretty positive," said Dr. Shroff. "You know we're all working together, we're staying strong. We're certainly seeing more COVID patients this week compared to last week."

But while the number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb, there were heartwarming scenes of patients who have recovered. They were cheered as they left various hospitals around the area, feeling better and thankful as they headed home.

While Gov. Pritzker said the stay-at-home order may need "adjustments" after April 30, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot believes the order will be extended into May.

"I think that's gonna be difficult for us to say April 30, everything comes up," Lightfoot said. "I don't expect that to happen. I think that it will still extend beyond that."

Gov. Pritzker said he will base his decision on information from health experts. He said there is a growing consensus in hospitals and from experts that COVID-19 cases in Illinois are leveling off more than before.

But he's not ready to announce any new decision on extending the stay-at-home order past April 30. Right now he says he needs more data.

"I can't tell you now because there isn't a date that I have in mind for it," Pritzker said.

The Illinois Department of Public Health has created a hotline at 1-800-889-3931. More information can be found at the IDPH website and the Chicago Department of Public Health website