By Jim Hagerty
CHICAGO – The Illinois Department of Public Health on Friday announced 2,724 new cases of COVID-19 including 108 additional deaths.
There are now 1,795 COVID-related deaths in Illinois, including four local fatalities–two Winnebago County and two in Boone County.
Cook County accounted for 81 of Friday’s deaths. They included 14 women in their 70s, 15 men in their 70s, 10 women in their 80s, four women in their 90s and five men in their 90s.
According to Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the average age of those who have died from coronavirus complications is 63 and that 94% of fatalities included more than one underlying health condition.
As a result of COVID-19’s lethality among senior citizens, officials have aimed more testing efforts at nursing homes and assisted-living centers.
“IDPH is pushing testing materials to more and more long-term care facilities,” Ezike said. “Since last Friday, we’ve pushed testing materials to 37 long-term care facilities–some who are actively experiencing outbreaks and some that had not identified a single case.”
Ezike said by testing staff and residents at nursing homes located in areas with high levels of community transmission, officials can detect cases earlier, hopefully before an outbreaks occur.
“Testing is one of the very key elements to helping us stop the spread and overcome this pandemic,” she said.
Another is contact tracing–identifying and contacting those who have had contact with an infected person to determine where the infection occurred. It is also aimed at monitoring and potentially isolating people who have been exposed.
The most common way coronavirus enters nursing homes is by infected staff.
As of Friday, 39,658 people in Illinois have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
There have been 16,124 people tested since Thursday. The increase in testing now reflects a 17% infection rate, down from the 21% rate that was based on 6,000-8,000 tests per day.
“We have flattened the curve,” Ezike said. “We have lowered the amount of lives lost. I encourage people to remain vigilant. We will get through this. We will do that by staying at home, by wearing masks when outside, washing our hands incessantly, and cleaning frequently touched surfaces.”
Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he anticipates the stay-at-home order to be lifted June 1, giving Illinoisans time to adjust to a “new normal.”
“It will be all based on whether people are getting sicker and where we are in the curve,” Pritzker said. “I will be making decisions about how to phase out the new normal that’s going to occur at the end of May or that is occurring even now that we’re evolving into the new normal. It’s something that we’re going to have to figure out as we go because the researchers honestly are still figuring it out, too. So, believe me, I’m just as committed as everyone else is to getting out of a stay-at-home order and getting things back to normal.”