Coronavirus Illinois: IL COVID-19 cases top 76K with over 3K deaths; State poised to receive supply of drug remdesivir

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The federal government has announced it's shipping donated remdesivir to help patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in six states, including Illinois.

Illinois is poised to receive a supply of the medication, which is considered the first drug that appears to help some COVID-19 patients recover faster.

Iowa, Connecticut, Maryland, Michigan and New Jersey will also get cases, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Saturday.

The Food and Drug Administration approved emergency use of the drug to treat hospitalized patients.

Gilead Sciences, Inc., the maker, donated it to the federal government. It'll be up to state health departments to distribute it to hospitals.

A spokesperson for Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker's Office said the total allotment hasn't yet been determined. The plan to distribute the drug is also still being finalized, the spokesperson said.

The announcement comes as Illinois reports 2,325 new coronavirus cases and 111 additional deaths. As of Saturday, there are now 76,085 confirmed COVID-19 cases across the state, and a total of 3,349 deaths.

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A rally held outside Chicago's Thompson Center Saturday is calling for Gov. JB Pritzker to allow Illinois businesses to reopen.

On the second weekend of Illinois' modified stay-at-home order, Chicago protesters are calling for Gov. Pritzker to allow businesses to reopen.

Demonstrators gathered outside Chicago's Thompson Center Saturday, saying actions by the state and city to limit the spread of COVID-19 are violating their civil liberties.

Some of the protesters questioned why some stores can remain open, while others cannot.

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On Friday, Gov. JB Pritzker announced that the state is further expanding its COVID-19 testing. He plans to announce three new drive-thru testing locations in the coming days.

Illinois reached a new COVID-19 testing milestone Friday, reporting that more than 20,000 tests were conducted in a single day.

"As of May 6th, Illinois ranks second among the 10 most populous states in the number of tests completed per capita over the last 7 days," Pritzker said. "And Illinois is fifth among all 50 states in total tests completed since the beginning of this pandemic."

So far, Illinois has conducted more than 410,000 COVID-19 tests.

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Health officials said Friday that they're actually seeing a slight decline in deaths this week compared to the last couple of weeks.

But doubling the initial COVID-19 testing goal of 10,000 still isn't enough for a broad reopening of Illinois' economy.

According to a Harvard University analysis, Illinois needs more than 64,000 tests before loosening the stay-at-home order.

"Even if we're one of the best states in the nation on testing, we know it's not enough to be where we need to be on a longer time frame," Pritzker said. "I'm committed to continuing our successes on this front because it is fundamental to our economic future and to keeping Illinoisans safe while COVID-19 is still out there."

Pritzker said a shipment of hundreds of thousands of swabs and other testing materials from the White House has been delayed a few days, but once it arrives it will help Illinois ramp up testing even more.

On Friday, the governor was hit with another lawsuit. This time, the lawsuit came from a downstate hair salon owner, who says Pritzker doesn't have the authority to close her business.

"The legislature never delegated the authority to the governor to close businesses even under a disaster. That was specifically delegated to the Department of Health," said attorney Thomas DeVore.

ABC7 Legal Analyst Gil Soffer said, "The executive branch has immense authority, especially in emergency situations, which this is. It doesn't mean it's limitless authority. But it means it's very broad. And in an emergency, you typically see courts be very deferential to the executives."

On Friday, historic national unemployment numbers were reported, rivaling the Great Depression.

More than 20 million U.S. jobs were lost in April, with the national unemployment rate near 15%. Leisure and hospitality marked one of the hardest hit industries, with a 47% drop in employment.

In Illinois, restaurant and bar owners are pressing the governor to allow them to resume in-person dining soon.

The current reopening plan would allow that to happen June 26th, at the earliest. But the Illinois Restaurant Association is proposing a May reopening at 25% capacity.

The governor, however, is holding firm, saying he's listening to what his scientific team is telling him.

"It's very difficult to socially distance as between a server and the food, the server, the food, and delivery of the food to the table," Pritzker said. "It's also difficult to even to seat people at tables the way they're normally configured in a six foot distance."

The governor is also promising that more help is on the way for residents trying to file for unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With so many people still unable to get through on the phone, Governor Pritzker said a new unemployment call center is now up and running, with 100 new agents expected to be working there by Monday.

Nearly 75,000 unemployment claims were made last week, bringing the total since March 1 to more than a million.

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Governor JB Pritzker said more help is on the way for people who are trying to file for unemployment as public health officials announced 2,641 new cases of coronavirus in Illinois

"The pain and devastation for people who lost their jobs is heartbreaking," Pritzker said.

The governor says the state's unemployment agency continues to increase staffing but many still cannot get through to file.

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"You've got to get these unemployment offices open," said unemployed electrician Noal Arce. "I tried online, but it will not accept the social security number unless it's been verified through the unemployment office. And you can't get into the unemployment office."

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Despite the skyrocketing unemployment numbers, the governor said the state has made significant payouts.

"In the first four months of 2020, Illinois has paid out over $2 billion in claims," Pritzker said. "That's $500 million more than what was paid out in all 12 months of 2019."

WATCH: Gov. Pritzker announces more help for Illinois' unemployed
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As the frustrations continue to mount among those trying to file claims online or get questions answered on the phone, the governor said more help is on the way.

With many still reporting problems filing claims online and over the phone, the governor said the state's unemployment agency continues to increase staffing and update systems. Starting Monday, independent contractors and gig workers will be eligible for benefits. The state's computer system has been updated and can now process 140,000 claims an hour, Pritzker said.

"Under the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUA, program, claimants can receive up to 39 weeks of benefits backdated to the first week of unemployment," Pritzker said.

With so many hurting, the Illinois Chamber of Commerce is demanding the state reopen faster.

"Government really needs to be able to do both things: listen to scientists plus also listen to the economy, people who provide jobs," said Todd Maisch, Illinois Chamber of Commerce.
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