104 more Illinois coronavirus deaths; Pritzker issues Phase 3 guidance for churches

104 more Illinois coronavirus deaths; Pritzker issues Phase 3 guidance for churches

A coronavirus test is administered earlier this month in the parking lot of St. Rosalie Catholic Parish in Harwood Heights. | Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

“The safest options remain remote and driving services, but for those that want to conduct in-person activities,” Pritzker said of religious services, with the state poised to enter the next phase of his reopening plan.

State health officials on Thursday announced 104 more deaths attributed to the coronavirus, raising Illinois’ pandemic toll to 5,186.

The Illinois Department of Public Health also reported 1,527 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19. A total of 115,833 people have tested positive statewide.

Nearly 44% of those cases have occurred in long-term care facilities like nursing homes, state Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said.

“We are ensuring that swift action is being taken and we know that facilities must immediately notify state health officials of any cases of COVID-19,” Ezike said.

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As of midnight Wednesday, 3,649 people were hospitalized with the virus across the state. Just over a thousand were in intensive care units, with 576 on ventilators.

The latest numbers come a day before Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s executive stay-at-home order lifts, allowing all four regions of the state to enter Phase 3 of his reopening plan.

That’s delayed for Chicago, though, which Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Friday will advance to Phase 3 on June 3.

Pritzker said his office would share recommendations Thursday for churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship entering Phase 3 — which he stressed were a “guidance, not mandatory restrictions, for all faith leaders to use to ensure the health and safety of their congregants.

“This includes suggestions on capacity limits, new cleaning protocols, indoor gatherings of 10 persons or less, a reduction of activities like sharing food, and the safe conduct of outdoor congregating,” Pritzker said. “The safest options remain remote and driving services, but for those that want to conduct in-person activities, [the state health department] is offering best practices.”

The Democratic governor also confirmed horse racing will resume in June at two of the state’s racetracks.

Ezike urged Illinoisans to remain vigilant even as most businesses are poised to resume limited operations, by wearing face coverings, regularly washing hands and maintaining 6 feet of social distance.

“We are definitely headed in the right direction… but we must still proceed with caution. The risk of contracting the virus remains,” Ezike said.

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