CHICAGO — Illinois reported its second-highest daily total of coronavirus deaths Saturday, but Gov. J.B. Pritzker expressed optimism that the number of COVID-19 cases had started to flatten out as he urged the state’s residents to stay home over the holiday weekend.
Health officials announced 81 new deaths in the state on Saturday, just one shy from the single-day high of 82 set last Wednesday. The number of additional known cases was 1,293 — 234 short of the previous high mark, also set last Wednesday.
Experts in the pandemic repeatedly have noted that a decrease in deaths will lag behind drops in new cases and hospitalizations. Overall, Pritzker said the state has started to trend in the right direction, but he cautioned against complacency as he called on Illinoisans to enjoy Passover and Easter Sunday celebrations at home.
“What we’re seeing is a flattening of the curve, and what that means is a lower rise in hospitalizations than what was initially anticipated. That’s a really good sign,” Pritzker said. “We’ve had higher numbers than we had today and we’ve had lower numbers, but if you look at a kind of moving average of days, you can see that the rate of ascent has significantly diminished. It’s not flat, but it’s not going up the way it was before.”
Illinois now has 19,180 known cases of the virus and 677 deaths. The number of people who have perished from the disease in the state ranks fifth-highest nationwide while the number of known cases ranks ninth-highest as of Saturday.
Overall, the United States passed Italy on Saturday as the country with the most COVID-19 deaths worldwide, with the number at 20,229 and growing by the hour. More than 2,000 new deaths were reported in the U.S. on Saturday — the highest single-day tally nationwide.
As much of Chicago prepared for an isolated Easter Sunday, pastors in Michigan, Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana and other states vowed to hold services as normal. In California, some churches are planning drive-thru services.
And in Kentucky, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear will allow mass gatherings at churches on Sunday, but those who attend will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days. The state said it plans to record license plates at such services to enforce the quarantine requirement.
There were no such exceptions in Illinois.
After joking that the Easter bunny is considered by the state to be an essential employee and will leave eggs and money for children Sunday, Pritzker said he discouraged in-person gathering of any kind for Sunday services, including drive-thru ones.
“This is just one holiday,” Pritzker said. “It’s one time, it’s one year, when I would ask people to do something that I know is unusual and uncommon for them, but it’s to please to stay at home.”
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