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Illinois surpassed 10,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the Illinois Department of Public Health announced Saturday.
Illinois has now seen 10,357 total positive cases and 243 deaths. The state reported 1,453 new cases of COVID-19 Saturday, along with 33 deaths. According to the IDPH, the state has now tested 53,581 people.
Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs Director Linda Chapa LaVia, Illinois Department of Children and Family Services Director Marc Smith and Illinois Department of Human Services Secretary Grace Hou spoke during Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s coronavirus news conference Saturday.
Pritzker spoke to the increased responsibilities of each agency to provide services for “our most vulnerable residents,” calling them heroes.
“When we talk about essential workers, that includes the many, many public servants who are among those saving lives and making life a little bit easier for all Illinoisans,” Pritzker said. “There are front-line workers in agencies who spend their days and nights caring for our most vulnerable Illinoisans, even in normal times.
"Those responsibilities don’t go away during a global pandemic. In fact, they become even more critical.”
Each agency acted early to shape emergency plans in response to COVID-19, Pritzker said, including strict procedures for visitors in facilities, new staff, health checks and policies, directing personal protective equipment (PPE) to front-line workers, and "regular updates to family members and designated contacts of those in the state’s care.”
Pritzker urged everybody to reach state agencies by phone.
“There are no DHS or DVA public benefits that require face-to-face appointments in the office at this time,” Pritzker said. “We’re working to increase access to services like Medicaid and food assistance to Illinoisans who find themselves newly in need of help. This is a really, really hard time, financially and emotionally, for adults and children alike, and too many people across the state."
Chapa LaVia announced no known cases of COVID-19 in any of the Veteran Affairs' long-term care facilities. There was a single positive case in an employee at Prince Home for Homeless Veterans in Manteno. That person is home and recovering, Chapa LaVia said.
Chapa LaVia added that DVA employees are subject to pre-shift health screening, including temperature checks twice daily.
“The health and safety of our military veterans, and those devoted staff who care for them, is and always will be the top priority of the DVA," Chapa LaVia said. "On March 11, each of our homes were directed to restrict all visitation to non-essential personnel. Our residents have been encouraged to stay in their units and minimize movement within their facility.”
Smith said that 88% of DCFS workers no longer reported to a physical office, but DCFS is “still supplying the support that families and communities depend on.”
Starting March 20, DCFS announced new guidelines for case workers, residential monitors and birth parents, giving them the ability to use phone and video to replace in-person contacts with their children.
Smith said DCFS has provided protective gear for both front-line staff and private partners, distributing 400,000 protective gloves and 15,000 masks over the last two weeks. They are continuing to look to gather more protective gear, including a shortage of child-sized masks.
DCFS increased board payments to foster parents for March and April, Smith said, and the agency also is providing additional funding for foster care.
DHS immediately created an infection control team with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, IDPH and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, Hou said.
On March 12, DHS initiated health screenings, including temperature checks for staff during every shift change, sending staff home for fevers or other COVID-19 symptoms. Hou said DHS tracks the availability of PPE daily, "down to the individual glove."
Only 13 public-facing DHS offices remain open. Case volume has gone up by more than 170% in those offices.
“We know from the data and experts that our job is to flatten the curve," Hou said. "We know that our DHS population of patients and residents may be affected by COVID-19 more than the general population because of their underlying medical conditions. We’re taking every precaution to anticipate and take care of those individuals in our system who may become very ill. We’ll continue to be as transparent as possible for everyone involved.”
Pritzker said state models still indicate the virus might peak in Illinois in mid- to late-April in Saturday’s briefing.
IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike made a plea to the public in her opening statement.
"Please continue to stay home," Ezike said. "This will help Illinois flatten the curve, but we all must be willing to do this. We all have to do what’s necessary. The gesture of touching someone else, that’s not what we want at this time. We can defer those moves now, so that we can enjoy our connections later.”
Chicago has 4,296 confirmed cases of COVID-19, while the rest of Cook county has 3,143 cases. Lake County has 683, DuPage 590, Will 582, Kane 207, McHenry 122, Kendall 47, DeKalb 19, Whiteside 17, Grundy nine, La Salle seven, Carroll four, Bureau three, Ogle five and Lee 2.
Jasper, Lee, Mason, and Pike counties all reported their first case. The virus has spread to 68 of Illinois’ 102 counties. The age of cases ranges from younger than one to older than 100 years.