Officials announced 250 new cases of COVID-19 — the disease caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus — and four additional deaths March 24, bringing Illinois’ total to 1,535 active cases and 16 deaths.
The new numbers came from Ngozi Ezike, the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), during Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s coronavirus press conference on March 24.
Data from March 24 shows both standard hospital beds and intensive care unit (ICU) hospital beds in the state are just over half-capacity, at 51.6 percent and 57.4 percent respectively. Around 30 percent of ventilators — a medical device to help patients who cannot breathe by themselves — are in use as well.
Pritzker stressed the importance of strong measures early on to stop loss of life and said “science” is driving Illinois’ response to the virus. Pritzker said he doesn’t know when restrictions on business will end as the situation is constantly evolving.
“You can’t have a livelihood without a life,” he said. “We can revive our economy, we can’t revive the people that are lost to this virus.”
Worst-case-scenario projections from the IDPH estimated without “aggressive measures” — such as the stay-at-home order — Illinois’ medical system would be overwhelmed. The projections estimated that from March 24 to April 6, the state would need 28,000 more standard hospital beds and 9,400 more ICU beds than exist in Illinois today.
Various state and federal organizations — such as the IDPH, Illinois Emergency Management Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — are working to reopen closed hospitals to deal with the growing number of cases.
The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) announced March 23 that retired health care workers — such as doctors, nurses and physicians assistants — could get their licenses to practice reinstated temporarily to treat COVID-19 cases. Health care workers with a license to practice out of state can also treat COVID-19 cases under the new regulations, set to last until Sept. 30.