The Illinois Department of Public Health on Saturday reported 125 additional deaths from COVID-19, matching the highest daily death toll statewide since the pandemic began.


To date, 1,259 Illinois residents have died from COVID-19, the potentially fatal respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus. There were also 125 deaths reported Thursday.


The department of public health also reported an increase of 1,585 COVID-19 cases Saturday, raising the statewide total to 29,160 confirmed cases.


"Although our numbers continue to climb, it is with some guarded optimism that we say that the growth is slowing," Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said. "That is definitely a good thing but we must continue to be strong and hold the line. I know people are getting tired of hearing the same message, but the same tactics continue to apply. Continue to stay home, continue to wash your hands and wear a mask if you go outside. Let’s keep up the progress we’ve made thus far."


Tracking the curve
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Gov. JB Pritzker said he hasn’t decided whether he’ll extend his stay-at-home order that was implemented March 21 and is scheduled to run through April 30.


"You have to look at all of the numbers and all of the trends and make a decision," Pritzker said. "I get asked this question virtually every day and I promise I will give you the answer as soon as I know it."


Pritzker was asked during his daily media briefing Saturday if he would consider reopening Illinois on a county-by-county basis or will it be a statewide action?


"In short, I understand there are differences in the number of cases that are occurring in different parts of the state and I understand the desire to try to regionalize," Pritzker said. "I’m looking at the data to try to make determinations. A lot of this has to do with when you hit peak are our hospitals going to be available to people who need hospitalization, ICU beds and ventilators. I’m trying to measure where we are and what the ascent rate is because we’re still increasing the number of deaths and the number of total cases in the state."


Pritzker said the rate of ascent of COVID-19 cases in rural areas of Illinois appears to have caught up to or even surpassed the rate of ascent of cases in urban areas.


Ken DeCoster: kdecoster@rrstar.com; @DeCosterKen