CHICAGO - Officials have announced three more coronavirus deaths in Illinois.
The announcement was made Thursday afternoon at a press conference with Governor JB Pritzker and state officials.
One of the deaths is a 71-year-old Florida woman who recently traveled to downstate Sangamon County and was being treated in Springfield, News Channel 20 is reporting. She died at Memorial Medical Center.
Another death is a Cook County woman in her 80s, Gov. Pritzker said. A third death is a Will County man in his 50s.
“I am saddened to announce three more people in Illinois with coronavirus disease have passed away,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike said in a statement. “We ask everyone to please, stay home as much as possible so we can reduce the number of people who are infected and potentially suffer serious illness, including death.”
The first coronavirus death in Illinois was a Chicago woman in her 60s.
State health officials also announced the total number of coronavirus cases in Illinois has risen to 422. The cases are spread across 22 counties and have occurred in ages 9 to 99.
Gov. Pritzker said the growth in positive tests for COVID-19 is tied to increased testing by state labs along with private labs and healthcare institutions. He also said more than 1,000 tests were administered statewide on Wednesday and officials hope to soon increase that to 2,000 tests per day.
Earlier Thursday, Chicago health officials announced that any resident with a confirmed case of COVID-19 or who is showing symptoms of the disease must stay indoors, formalizing advice they previously issued in the hopes of limiting the spread of the coronavirus.
Patients cannot leave their homes, go to work or visit any group setting except to seek medical care and “life sustaining needs,” including medicine or food, according to a statement from the Chicago Department of Public Health. Anyone who violates the order could be cited by health officials or the police department.
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Mayor Lori Lightfoot also extended the closure of Chicago schools for several more weeks, using a televised primetime address to quell city residents’ concerns. The nation’s third-largest school district will remain closed through April 20. School officials elsewhere in the country have taken similar actions, with the Kansas governor shutting down schools for the rest of the school year and California officials signaling they’ll do the same.
“I know these restrictions are causing hardships, but we are doing this to save lives, pure and simple,” she said.
Lightfoot said restricting the movement of patients and people with symptoms of COVID-19 “is the best way to prevent the virus from spreading further.”
“This move may seem severe to some but in this highly evolving situation it’s absolutely what we need to do at this time as we work to contain this outbreak,” said Dr. Allison Arwady, the commissioner of the health department.
The health department said symptoms of the acute respiratory disease include fever, cough, shortness of breath, nasal or lung congestion, sore throat, body aches or unusual fatigue.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said none of the four deaths in Illinois are linked to a nursing home or senior living facility.
Forty-two positive cases, including 30 residents and 12 staff members, previously have been linked to a nursing home in DuPage County, which is just west of Cook County. Ezike said Thursday’s updated results did not add to that count.
Pritzker ordered schools statewide to be shut this week through at least the end of the month and limited the size of gatherings. Restaurants and bars also were ordered to stop serving dine-in customers and to stick to carryout or delivery options.
Even with those efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, “these numbers will get much worse in Illinois before they get better,” Pritzker said Wednesday at a daily update on the state’s response.
Pritzker did not reject the possibility of added statewide restrictions to limit the virus’ spread but said he’s relying on the advice of medical and public health experts. He warned people not to hoard food or other essentials and said grocery stores, pharmacies and other necessary businesses would never be shut down.
Pritzker has enlisted 60 members of the National Guard so far for various missions, including delivery of meals to children who received food through their schools.
They also could help hospitals prepare outdoor screening areas for people who want to be tested for the coronavirus, allowing separation from other patients headed to an emergency room, he said.
For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The vast majority of people recover from the virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.
Social distancing measures everyone can take include:
-Staying home as much as possible
-If gatherings are necessary, limiting the number of people to 10
-Calling to check on family, neighbors, and older adults instead of visiting
-Checking with your provider about telehealth options
Associated Press and Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.