Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Saturday issued a “call to action” for retired doctors and nurses to return to the field as the state’s health care system braces for an increase in confirmed coronavirus cases.
Pritzker asked for the medical reinforcements while announcing Illinois’ COVID-19 outbreak expanded by 168, bringing the statewide number of patients to 753.
A Cook County man in his 70s was also announced as the sixth person to die in Illinois of the disease, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike said.
The latest numbers came hours before Pritzker’s statewide “stay-at-home” order was set to take effect.
“So many of us have neighbors who are vital to our future: nurses, doctors, law enforcement officers, firefighters, ambulance and truck drivers, grocery workers and pharmacists,” Pritzker said. “This an opportunity for the rest of us to do your part to protect those on the frontlines of this fight and most vulnerable by simply staying home.”
The number of cases could hit 3,400 within a week, Pritzker’s office said.
“What’s important now is to try to reduce the further spread and prevent the healthcare system from being overwhelmed,” Ezike said.
The stay-at-home order lasts from 5 p.m. Saturday through April 7 and orders all people in the state to stay home and follow social distancing guidelines.
Only essential businesses — including grocery stores, pharmacies, medial offices, hospitals and gas stations — will remain open. The measure also extends to Illinois schools, which be closed through April 7. Chicago Public Schools, however, will stay closed through April 21, Mayor Lori Lightfoot previously directed.
The state will also offer daycare to all “essential workers,” authorities said Friday.
“Non-essential” retailers along the city’s Magnificent Mile started preparing for the closures Saturday morning, with The Disney Store, Sephora and MCM all boarding up their front windows.
Roads and highways will stay open. So will public transportation systems, although Metra has already started cutting services.
Earlier Saturday, CTA officials announced a bus driver working out of a Northwest Side garage tested positive for the coronavirus. A Chicago police officer and two fire department employees were diagnosed earlier in the weeks as well.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot urged residents to keep calm and shop responsibly during a Saturday morning news conference.
“There’s absolutely no need for people to rush to grocery stores or hoard any food or supplies,” Lightfoot said. “We are in constant communication with major retailers to maintain a strong food supply. And they have and they will. Everything will remain stocked and available.”
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