Illinois crosses 19,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases

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Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, along with local elected and health officials speak Friday, Feb. 28, 2020, in Chicago, to members of the media about Illinois preparedness for COVID-19. (Tyler LaRiviere/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

CHICAGO (WEHT)- Dr. Ngozi Ezike from the Illinois Department of Public Health confirmed an additional 81 fatalities from COVID-19 Saturday, bringing the statewide total to 677 deaths.

Ezike added that Illinoisans must continue to wash their hands and stay at home to bend the virus curve, saying the pandemic is unlike any that anyone alive has seen. However, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker said Illinois is flattening the curve and seeing a lower rise in hospitalization than previously expected.

Pritzker also announced a new emotional support line for Illinoisans, adding that it is not a crisis hotline but people who text “TALK” to 552020 will receive a phone call from a counselor. People may also text things like “food” and “shelter” and also receive assistance.

Illinois is also starting a statewide program for symptomatic patients who do not need emergency or in-patient care. Healthcare workers will connect digitally with patients and monitor them while patients receive kits with thermometers and blood pressure cuffs. Pritzker says the plan can reduce the spread of the virus and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed with patients.

Pritzker will host a children’s town hall meeting with Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago starting around 5:00 PM Saturday. Pritzker added that the Easter Bunny is officially an essential employee Sunday. However, officials are recommending against attending or hosting drive-in religious services.

The Illinois Department of Human Services announced $100 million more in funding for community residential providers and $1 million more for mental health crisis services.

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(This story was originally published on April 11, 2020)

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