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updated: 3/16/2020 10:32 PM

COVID-19 cases top 100 in Illinois; it’s now in 15 counties

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  • Daily Herald File Photo Gov. J.B. Pritzker addressed measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus at a briefing Sunday.

    Daily Herald File Photo Gov. J.B. Pritzker addressed measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus at a briefing Sunday.

  • Travelers returning from Madrid wait in a coronavirus screening line at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on Saturday.

    Travelers returning from Madrid wait in a coronavirus screening line at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on Saturday.
    Elizabeth Pulvermacher via Associated Press

 
 

The number of cases of COVID-19 in Illinois reached 105 Monday, state officials announced, as Gov. J.B. Pritzker banned gatherings of 50 people or more on the eve of St. Patrick's Day to reduce the spread of the respiratory disease.

That total includes 12 new cases of the coronavirus, which can cause pneumonia and lead to death.

"Illinoisans who can stay at home should continue to do so," Pritzker added, saying he was following new Centers for Disease Control guidelines. On Sunday, Pritzker ordered all bars and restaurants to shut down at close of business Monday through March 30.

"It is imperative that our residents take responsibility for themselves, their families and their communities."

Asked about revelers or bars owners who might thumb their noses at his directives particularly on St. Patrick's Day, Pritzker said, "Obviously, we can't police everything," but he expected most people understand the crisis and would comply.

If someone becomes sick or dies as a result of participating in illicit parties, the hosts "should know they are responsible," Pritzker said.

President Donald Trump and the Centers for Disease Control on Monday advised people to avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people, and Pritzker said he "encouraged" Illinoisans to heed those guidelines.

COVID-19 cases have been reported in 15 of Illinois' 102 counties, with Peoria and Will counties new to the list Monday. Other locations with known cases include Chicago and Champaign, Clinton, Cook, Cumberland, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, Sangamon, St. Clair, Whiteside, Winnebago and Woodford counties.

Last week, the governor closed public and private schools from kindergarten through grade 12 until March 30, although many suburban school districts had already closed their doors.

Meanwhile, Illinoisans are advised to stay at home and practice social distancing when out.

On Monday night at a village board meeting, Buffalo Grove Village Manager Dane Bragg mentioned a potential exposure to coronavirus, but he did not specify whether it was within the village. "There is a potential exposure that we found out about a few minutes before this meeting," he said. "So we are investigating that now and following the appropriate steps."

Pritzker again criticized a lack of test kits, saying, "There are tests approved for use in Europe and Asia that are not available in the U.S."

With limited tests available, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike said the state wants to "prioritize testing for those at highest risk of illness and ask those who do not meet those criteria do not demand to be tested." We want to "make sure the worried well do not overwhelm our health care system."

Pritzker confirmed 51 Illinois residents were in quarantine at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Georgia after disembarking from the Grand Princess cruise ship where the disease broke out.

He and his staff had been making calls on behalf of the contingent on issues like getting their medications delivered, and they were expected to be released in a week, Pritzker explained.

Asked about crowds voting Tuesday, Pritzker said election judges were instructed to wipe down voting stations and reminded people to keep 6 feet of social distance from others. Many Illinoisans had taken advantage of early voting.

"We have to have our election continue," he said. "In my opinion, it's the right thing to do. Democracy needs to go on."