Illinois coronavirus cases rise above 10K, including 243 deaths; Gov. Pritzker recommends wearing masks in stores

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Illinois has reached a grim milestone in the fight against COVID-19 Saturday, when the state's confirmed cases surpassed 10,000.

With new totals reported at 10,357 cases and 243 deaths, state officials are asking the public to stay committed in slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

"The number is sobering and reminds us that it's critical we all do our part," Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said.

Dr. Ezike asked residents to "continue to stay home" after announcing 1,453 new COVID-19 cases and 33 additional deaths Saturday.

Meanwhile, Gov. JB Pritzker is recommending residents wear masks in stores or pharmacies. He said the coverings aren't necessary for walking outdoors in areas where it's unlikely to encounter others.

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Gov. JB Pritzker gives an update on Illinois' COVID-19 cases on April 4, 2020.

Across the country, there are still a handful of states where governors have yet to issue a "stay-at-home" order.

Iowa is the only border state to Illinois with no such order. Missouri's order doesn't go into effect until Monday morning.

Gov. Pritzker said that has a direct impact on Illinois.

"While we talk about individual states, this should have been done by the federal government," Gov. Pritzker said.

Over the next few weeks, Pritzker warns the number of COVID-19 cases will continue to rise in the state.

"I would say most of the models I've seen say we will peak between middle and end of April," he said. "You see the numbers we report. One day you feel hopeful, the next you feel we've taken a step backward."

At his daily briefing Saturday, the governor brought in officials from the Department of Human Services and the Department of Children and Family Services. Both agencies promised they're not putting their work on hold during the crisis.

DCFS is arming their case workers with protective gear for house calls.

SEE INSIDE: Chicago's makeshift hospital for COVID-19 patients at McCormick Place
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Get a first look inside the makeshift hospital built to care for COVID-19 patients at McCormick Place in Chicago.

Illinois health officials are also preparing alternative care facilities for a possible surge in patients.

On Friday, Gov. JB Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot toured the makeshift hospital built at Chicago's McCormick Place as it prepares to accept its first patients.

The facility is ready to go, and the plan is to open it when needed to relieve the strain on hospitals.

"When I walked into this building and saw how it was transformed in just five days, I was truly flooded with an overwhelming sense of pride and patriotism," Gov. Pritzker said.

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The facility was designed and built by the Illinois National Guard, Army Corps of Engineers and a battalion of skilled tradesmen now houses 500 beds, with plans to scale up to 3,000 if needed.

It features individual patient care rooms, nursing stations and storage areas for medicine and supplies.

"It's a low-acuity center, intended to take the strain off the existing hospital system, the largest planned alternative care facility in the country," Mayor Lightfoot said.

The McCormick Place facility will not have an emergency room and patients won't be able to walk-in. Rather, they'll be transferred from existing hospitals if they don't need ICU care.
Officials said it'll be staffed by medical professionals on 12-hour shifts.

"Our focus will be on staffing this with local knowledge and expertise, but don't disrupt the local hospital ecosystem," said Dr. Nick Turkal, who will serve as the facility's administrator. "We want the hospitals to be able to keep all their employees with them doing the work that they need to do there."

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Gov. JB Pritzker discusses Illinois' coronavirus response efforts from Chicago's McCormick Place Friday, as the makeshift hospital prepares to accept its first patients.

On Friday, Gov. Pritzker also said that based on the medical inflation, he believes it would be a good idea for people to wear masks when they are out in public, calling it a common sense way to stop the spread of the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised its guidance on masks Friday night, now advising a non-medical clothe face covering be worn in public.

Though a mask may not protect you, it could protect others from you, if you're infected and don't know it.

"When you must go to the grocery store or pharmacy, wearing something to cover your face is a good idea," Gov. Pritzker said.

Based on models, Pritzker said he's expecting Illinois' COVID-19 peak should happen sometime in the middle or end of April. But it remains unclear how quickly Illinois will come down off that peak."

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In Melrose Park, the former Westlake Hospital will soon reopen and house 230 beds, joining a growing list of alternate care facilities.

"Patients will be directed first to existing hospitals and if they are lower acuity, they will be transferred to these alternative sites," Gov. Pritzker said.

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McCormick Place will be the largest facility, with roughly 3,000 beds by the end of the month and 500 are already in place. But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which was the lead on the effort, says Chicago is not in the red for regular hospital beds yet, so they may not receive any patients Friday.

The Army Corps of Engineers said the beds are ready whenever they're needed and the project is ahead of schedule.

And again the governor is criticizing the White House saying Illinois has had to cut its own deals with airlines and shipping companies to bring personal protection equipment from China after Washington denied his request to help with transport.

Amid a daily drumbeat of tragic news and numbers, officials shared positive data about how people are recovering.

"Seven days after diagnosis, essentially 50% of the people reported that they were recovered," Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said.

"If we were to do 14 days after the diagnosis, you can only imagine that those numbers will only grow," Dr. Ezike added.

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Doctor Susan Bleasdale, Medical Director of Infection Prevention at UI Health joined ABC7 Friday morning to talk about protecting yourself from coronavirus.

Meanwhile, drive-through testing began Thursday at Roseland Hospital. Hundreds of people showed up Thursday at what is the only community hospital doing drive-through testing on the South Side. They hope to offer 200 tests each day.

Governor Pritzker has called for licensed health care providers available to fight against COVID-19 to register online at

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 websiteid
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