Coronavirus Update: Illinois reports largest spike in COVID-19 deaths, cases yet; feds award $52M to health centers

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Illinois marked the largest number of coronavirus deaths in a 24-hour period and the highest number of new positive cases Wednesday.

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

Illinois health officials reported more than 1,529 new cases and 82 additional deaths Wednesday, bringing the state's total cases above 15,000 and the death toll to 462.



In the war against coronavirus, testing is the equivalent of reconnaissance. But Gov. JB Pritzker said Illinois continues to face obstacles.

"No matter how much is beyond our control, the buck stops with me, and we are still not where we need to be on the testing front," Pritzker said.

Ten days ago, the governor said he was hoping by this week to increase the number of tests in the state to 10,000 per day. He said that was the benchmark that needed to be reached to get an accurate picture of COVID-19 infection in the state. But he said Wednesday the state is only at 6,000 per day and said the effort has been challenging.

Coronavirus Illinois Update: Latest news on COVID-19 cases, Chicago area impact
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Gov. JB Pritzker leads Illinois' daily COVID-19 update on April 8, 2020.



"I lay out these obstacles not to complain or to point fingers but to be fully transparent with all of you as to the challenges we face and how we're working to overcome them," Pritzker said. "It's on us."

The governor described several problems the state has encountered, including hiccups involving new laboratory automation machines which would have helped process an additional several thousand tests per day. Additionally, there have been problems with the accuracy of the tests as the state works with a private contractor, he said.

"I will not sacrifice accuracy for the sake of speed," Pritzker said.

Coronavirus testing: Where to get tested for COVID-19 in Illinois, Chicago area

Testing is occurring at 96 Illinois locations with the three state-run labs returning results within two days. The governor said private labs, which have greater capacity, have not been utilized more because results can take seven to 10 days.

"People can end up on a ventilator before they ever get their testing result," Pritzker said. "That's just not a timeline that I want to bet on."

Pritzker expressed hope that the addition of the Abbott Laboratories portable five-minute test will eventually increase testing numbers in the coming weeks.

While Illinois saw the largest rise so far in coronavirus cases and deaths Wednesday, officials were cautiously hopeful that the rate of rise seems to be flattening out.

"With the decrease in the rate of rise, with it not looking exponential, with it looking more linear, that just means there's a slower rate of increase," said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Illinois Dept. Of Public Health. "We are confident with our team of epidemiologists that that is what we're seeing thus far. So with guarded optimism we're hoping that we're getting close to either the peak or the plateau. It's not clear yet how long that would be."

If the trend line is flattening, it's because people are staying at home and social distancing. With Los Angeles and Miami now requiring masks be worn at stores, could the same happen here?

"We haven't ordered it, but...just for their protection, for the other people's protection, not to mention your own, it's the right thing to do," Pritzker said.

The governor highlighted a positive sign in the math, saying early in the crisis, the data suggested each infected person was spreading the virus to 3.5 people. But because of social distancing, that figure is dropping.

TIME-LAPSE VIDEO: McCormick Place hospital built in days
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A time-lapse of the field hospital being constructed at Chicago's McCormick Place during the COVID-19 outbreak. (Photo credit: Alexis Hall )



Officials also responding to a new report that McCormick Place, the state's largest alternate care facility, will be accepting patients in the next day or two, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. The governor said it may not be that soon, but officials say it is very possible that patients could receive care there starting next week.

Wednesday evening, the Illinois Air National Guard delivered a shipment of medical supplies, including negative pressurized tents from Oregon, which will go to McCormick Place.

WATCH: Illinois Air National Guard delivers supplies to fight COVID-19 in Chicago
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The Illinois Air National Guard delivered a shipment of medical supplies, including negative pressurized tents from Oregon, which will go to McCormick Place.



"We fight America's war, but as the National Guard, we're also here for our communities," Brig. Gen. Richard Neely said. "We're here for our neighbors and so this is the most rewarding missions we can have, is to help our neighbors in need."

With help of federal, state and local agencies, McCormick Place has been turned into a COVID-19 makeshift hospital intended to serve thousands of patients and to help free up beds at area hospitals.

The Illinois National Guard said this will be the first of three deliveries to help complete the massive but much-needed endeavor.

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 will receive more than $52 million in federal funding to help health centers across the state respond to the COVID-19 crisis.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced the award to 45 Illinois health centers on Wednesday as the state suffered another deadly day from the novel coronavirus.

The federal funding will go toward efforts to test, treat and prevent coronavirus. It'll also help health centers maintain and increase capacity and staffing levels necessary to address the pandemic.

The money comes from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, which President Donald Trump signed into law less than two weeks ago.

Of the 45 health centers to receive federal grants, 19 are located in Chicago.



Gov. Pritzker has called for licensed health care providers available to fight against COVID-19 to register online at illinoishelps.net.

On Wednesday, Illinois issued new measures to help employers and those in the real estate industry.

Employers will not face a penalty fee for filing wage reports for February 2020 late, the Illinois Department of Employment Security announced.

The agency is still encouraging employers to submit the wage reports, which were due March 31, as soon as possible. The department said the filings will help determine unemployment eligibility for workers who have been laid off due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Meanwhile, Gov. Pritzker's administration announced that remote notarization can be used during Illinois' "stay-at-home" order. The measure aims to remove barriers that are potentially holding back real estate closings and other related financial transactions.

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.
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