Illinois reports 73 new deaths, largest single-day total

A member of Gov. JB Pritzker's staff tested positive for COVID-19 last month and is recovering at home, the governor revealed Tuesday.

Pritzker and Dr. Ngozki Ezike, the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, have not been tested for the disease because neither displayed any symptoms, the governor said during his daily news briefing from the Thompson Center in Chicago. No one else in the office has displayed any symptoms, either, he said.

"It should be a cautionary tale that even among those that are most attentive and taking the most precautions, it is still possible to get the virus if you leave home and interact with others," Pritzker said. "So let this just affirm what we already know, nobody is immune."

The state reported 73 additional deaths from COVID-19 on Tuesday, the largest single-day total in Illinois so far.

"I've said all along that this would be worse before it gets better, but speaking the truth in no way softens the blow when it does in fact get worse," Pritzker said.

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There were also 1,287 new cases of the disease, bringing the statewide total to 13,549, including 380 deaths. Five additional cases were confirmed in Winnebago County, bringing the total to 67 including three deaths.

"There are so many tragedies here. The countless family members, loved ones, friends and neighbors who grieve. The indefinite delay of funerals and celebrations of life. The fact that this will not be the last day that we say goodbye to our fellow Illinoisans because of the terrible toll of COVID-19," Pritzker said. "It's OK to let yourself feel all the pain that there is to feel today. I too am grieving, but I want you to know that my grief is only fueling my efforts to fight this virus and win."

Pritzker said 3,680 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized in the state.

Pritzker said the employee in his office felt ill on March 26 and immediately went home. Everyone else in the office was also sent home and a professional deep cleaning of the facility was conducted.

The employee has self-isolated since leaving the office and is recovering at home, Pritzker said. The individual did not have regular close contact with the governor.

He noted that most of his office's staff works from home. Those who still must go to the Thompson Center have a temperature check before entering the building.

Pritzker was asked to respond to the suggestion that a lengthy stay-at-home period will delay so-called "herd immunity," the time when so many people become infected that disease stops spreading. That was the initial theory adopted in Britain, Pritzker noted, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who initially suggested the country "take it on the chin," was admitted into intensive care Monday after worsening symptoms of COVID-19.

"If you let everybody have it all at once, which is what happens when you just let it go, you overwhelm your health care system and more people die. A lot of people can die," Pritzker said.

Pritzker said every day that people stay at home to help flatten the curve is "another day that the incredible roster of scientists and researchers and innovators in the world come a little bit closer to finding solutions in the fight against COVID-19."

Kevin Haas: khaas@rrstar.com; @KevinMHaas