SPRINGFIELD — As parts of the nation struggle with a worse coronavirus outbreak than during its high points last spring in other states, Illinois, where officials continue to congratulate residents for keeping the new virus in check, announced Wednesday an increasing number of newly confirmed infections.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker and his state public health director, Dr. Ngoze Ezike, made public pleas to wear masks when outside the home and continue physical distancing and conscientious hygiene to stem the spread of the highly contagious and potentially deadly coronavirus.
The state on Wednesday reported July’s highest one-day total at nearly 1,600 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, prompting a warning from the Democratic governor.
“There are those who mistakenly think, ‘No problem. You can’t eradicate the virus and our numbers are so low, we don’t need to do anything about it,’” Pritzker said at a news conference in Chicago. “To them I would say that in every one of the states like Arizona and Florida that are in full-blown crisis right now, it started with a gradual rise in the number.”
On Wednesday, the state’s number of confirmed virus cases totaled 1,598, with 23 additional deaths. The virus has now contributed to the deaths of 7,347 people in Illinois, among 165,301 people confirmed to have contracted it, many of whom have recovered.
The Democrat’s update came two days after President Donald Trump did an about-face on the pandemic, which he had sought to downplay in recent weeks. Trump warned that it will get worse before it improves and, after spurning them for weeks, urged the use of face coverings to minimize transmission.
“It’s never too late to learn what the right thing to do is,” Pritzker said.
Also Wednesday, Pritzker announced that the Illinois Department of Employment Security is working with federal authorities to crack a fraud ring penetrating the federal Pandemic Unemployment Insurance program in every state. He said it’s likely the perpetrators used personal information stolen previously and are now applying for benefits through the program.
He said anyone who has not applied for unemployment but receives a debit card or a letter from IDES should notify the agency. Officials said additional information is available online from the Federal Trade Commission.