Illinois schools to remain closed for rest of school year; state sees highest daily spike in COVID-19 cases

Illinois suffers highest spike in COVID-19 cases in 1 day
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Illinois schools will remain closed for the remainder of the academic year, Gov. JB Pritzker announced Friday at his daily coronavirus briefing.

Gov. Pritzker said all in-person learning will be suspended for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year, as part of an effort to limit COVID-19 spread.

It's a decision most teachers, parents and students considered inevitable as the pandemic has paralyzed any sense of normalcy.

"This was not a decision I made lightly," Gov. Pritzker said Friday. "The shutting of in-person classroom time also risks a drop in instructional time. These challenges weighed heavily on me."

Chicago Public Schools only officially began remote learning just days ago as the city scrambled to distribute technology and re-work curriculum.

The school suspension comes Illinois health officials announced 1,842 new coronavirus cases and 62 additional deaths Friday. The jump raises Illinois' case total to 27,575, including 1,134 deaths.

It's the single largest increase in cases in one day.

"We do expect cases to rise," Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said.

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

For low-income and rural communities, learning at home can present many difficulties.

"Many families also do not have sufficient access to computers or internet at home," said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen Ayala.

Stacy Davis Gates, vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union, offered a recommendation Friday.

"There are hotels downtown that are empty. We would make a demand that those students and families housed in those hotels and they have access to wireless that they be given devices immediately," she said.

Many students are coming to terms with the news that there will be no proms, no formal graduations and no real school goodbyes.

"You're going to see what it looks like when the world comes together," Gov. Pritzker said. "What it looks like to put your faith in science and research, and the teams of people here in Illinois and beyond. We're working on treatments and vaccines to save lives."

Indiana announced earlier this month that its schools would remain closed for the rest of the academic year as well.

WATCH: Gov. JB Pritzker on Illinois' deadliest day of COVID-19 outbreak
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Watch Gov. JB Pritzker and Dr. Ngozi Ezike's opening remarks during the COVID-19 briefing on April 16, 2020.



On Thursday, Illinois saw its deadliest day since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Illinois health officials reported 125 additional deaths statewide Thursday.

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

"While these numbers are disheartening, I don't want people to despair," Illinois Dept. of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said. "Instead, I want them to renew our collective resolve to do what is needed to end the pandemic. We continue to learn and amass new information about this virus every single day."

WATCH: Gov. Pritzker expands COVID-19 testing in Illinois, secures more PPE
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Gov. Pritzker said you will not need a doctor's order for the three state-run drive-thru centers, including the new site in Markham.



Discovering who has already recovered from possible unknown cases of COVID-19 will be the focus of antibody testing that state labs are working to expand. But even the lack of basic nasal testing for COVID19 has been the biggest struggle since the virus showed up in Illinois four months ago.

"The state of Illinois has expanded those eligible to get a test to include anyone who had COVID-like symptoms, even if you have not been given a doctor's order," Gov. Pritzker said.

Gov. Pritzker said you will not need a doctor's order for the three state-run drive-thru centers, including the new site in Markham.

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

Because African-Americans have been hit hard by COVID-19, the state is teaming up with University of Chicago medicine to ramp up testing in minority neighborhoods.

"We've committed together to generate 1,000 tests each day for the communities on the South Side and the Southland," said Dr. Stephen Weber, chief medical officer at University of Chicago Medical Center. "We hope this makes us much closer as a state to the governor's commitment of 10,000 tests a day."

Gov. Pritzker said access to more labs that process the tests have allowed for the expansion.

With a supply chain strained by a sudden high demand, health care workers in Illinois have been strapped for critical protective gear to guard against the spread of COVID-19. The state is burning through millions of masks, gloves and gowns a week.

"We also have outstanding orders due to arrive in the coming days and weeks with an additional 27 million 95 and N95 masks, 27 million surgical and disposable masks, 8.4 million gowns and coveralls, 23.5 million gloves, and 7.5 million face shields," Gov. Pritzker said.

WATCH: Gov. Pritzker partners with Midwest governors on plans to reopen economy
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Gov. JB Pritzker is working with governors from six other states on plans to re-open the regional economy.



While doctors and scientists work on testing, Gov. Pritzker formed a partnership with his Midwestern counterparts. The agreement includes Indiana Governor Mike Holcomb, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Kentucky Governor Andy Bashear.

"We are committing all of us to work in close coordination as a region to most effectively to reopen our economy with a fact-based, data-driven approach," Gov. Pritzker said. "Each state will design its own plan."

Priorities for each state plan will be based on holding down infection and hospitalization rates, healthcare capacity to handle a possible resurgence, social distancing in the workplace and testing on a widespread basis.

While the state of Wisconsin will stay locked down through the month of May and Ohio may slowly open before May, the governor is still weighing what's next for Illinois.

When asked if he would be extending Illinois' stay-at-home order, Gov. Pritzker said he is watching the data and expects to make a decision within the next week.

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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