The Illinois Department of Public Health on Tuesday announced 1,222 new COVID-19 cases including 74 additional deaths.


To date, there have been 868 deaths from COVID-19 and 23,247 cases across the state.


The Winnebago County Health Department reported six new confirmed cases of COVID-19 Tuesday including one additional death.


Winnebago County now has 119 confirmed cases and eight deaths.


"We have to stay the course," Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said. "I’m almost grateful for seeing snowflakes outside my windows to ease the temptation of people to want to be outside. I know many of you are tired of hearing this but it will make a difference, it has been making a difference and it will continue to make a difference."


People who do leave their homes should wear a mask and practice social distancing while in public, Ezike said.


"Keep washing your hands, keep cleaning frequently touched surfaces," she said. "We stay the course and together we will turn the tide."


Tracking the curve
Infogram

Illinois hospitals are working every day to increase capacity, Gov. JB Pritzker said, noting the state has added about 4,500 beds since August.


Pritzker also pointed to what he said was evidence of positive trends in the past week: a declining percentage of ICU beds occupied by COVID-19 patients and a declining number of ventilators used by COVID-19 patients.


The stay-at-home order for Illinois residents is scheduled to run through April 30, and Pritzker hinted that the order may be extended.


"Folks, this curve may not flatten and it may go up again if we don’t adhere to the stay-at-home order," Pritzker said. "We need to stay the course for now for our efforts to truly remain effective. Let me lay it out more clearly: There is no one who wants to open up our state more than I do."


Pritzker vowed to do what’s best to safeguard the health and safety of the state’s residents.


"That means test, trace and treat," he said. "I’m hopeful the president will help us accomplish that because that’s what will make it safer for people to begin to return to their normal lives. What we have to do is to design a new normal. A way of life to carry us to the other side and while that day is not here yet, my team and I are working to bring that about as are experts around the state and across the globe."


Pritzker also used his daily media briefing to thank the 3,600 retired and out-of-state health care professionals who the governor said have applied to join the fight against COVID-19 in Illinois.


Ken DeCoster: kdecoster@rrstar.com; @DeCosterKen