The Illinois Department of Public Health on Saturday reported 81 additional deaths statewide related to COVID-19, the potentially fatal respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus.

To date, 677 COVID-19-related deaths have been reported in Illinois. The department reported 1,293 new COVID-19 cases across the state Saturday raising the total number of cases to 19,180. Five new cases were reported Saturday in Winnebago County and no additional deaths.

Easter 2020 will go down in history as unique because people won’t be permitted to attend church services together, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said.

“Please enjoy your time at home and keep your community safe,” Ezike said. “Let me be clear: If there are churches that were planning to convene, please cancel now. We can’t risk spreading the virus through this church congregation. We do have evidence of people who got sick through attending church and other similar gatherings. Let’s not do that.”

Tracking the curve
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The Illinois Department of Human Services Mental Health Division has launched a free-of-charge emotional support text line for Illinois residents experiencing stress related to COVID-19.

People who wish to use the service dubbed 'call for calm" should text “talk” to 552020. Once a resident texts the hotline, they’ll receive a call from a counselor from a local community mental health center.

“We are living in a deeply unprecedented moment and holding the emotional ramifications of that inside will only be harder on you,” Gov. JB Pritzker said. “It’s okay to feel and please know you don’t have to feel alone. Again, this service is free to use and it’s available to you no matter your personal circumstances and you will remain completely anonymous. My administration is here to serve you and to help see you through this time of crisis. This text line is just one more way that we can meet you where you’re at."

Pritzker's stay-at-home order for Illinois residents remains in effect through April 30, though the governor has indicated the order could be extended.

Ken DeCoster: 815-987-1391; kdecoster@rrstar.com; @DeCosterKen