Kankakee County recorded two new coronavirus-related deaths over the weekend, bringing the county’s total to 5.

The county now has 76 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according the Kankakee County Health Department. Positive cases have been reported county wide and the health department encourages residents to continue taking precautions and practicing social distancing.

Significant increases in both confirmed cases and deaths were recorded across the state of Illinois this weekend. On Thursday, Illinois had 7,695 cases recorded. By Sunday’s daily briefing by Gov. J.B. Pritzker and state health officials, that number stood at 11,256 while deaths were recorded at 274. The largest increase came Saturday, with state officials reporting 1,453 new cases and 33 additional deaths in one day.

Pritzker said the number of people to test positive in the state more than doubled in a week.

Boone, Calhoun and Gallatin counties are the latest to report cases, while the state reported the first deaths in Peoria and Montgomery counties on Sunday. Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill recorded its second inmate death from COVID-19. Ezike said the prisoner died at a local hospital, and Stateville has 60 cases of COVID-19.

As of Sunday, 58,983 people had been tested for the virus in Illinois, up by about 5,400 from Saturday.

Pritzker has recommended for the first time that people wear face coverings when venturing outside.

“This virus can be spread through droplets, like when you sneeze or cough,” Pritzker said. “So, blocking that by wearing a mask in public seems like a commonsense way to do what’s right for everyone. The most important thing you could do frankly is stay home.”

Expanded child care funding

During his daily COVID-19 briefing on Sunday in Chicago, Gov. JB Pritzker said he had “given up” on an adequate coronavirus response from the federal government and announced an expansion of emergency child care.

He said the Head Start program has made it difficult for the child care providers funded by it to expand their services to emergency, essential workers. As a result, the state is expanding the eligibility for child care funding assistance for essential workers and increased financial support for emergency child care centers and homes.

Effective April 1, the governor said, all essential workers now qualify for the state’s Child Care Assistance Program, meaning the state will cover “most if not all of the cost of care” for qualifying workers.

“That includes everyone from nurses and doctors to support staff in hospitals, to grocery store clerks and food producers,” he said.

Information on the assistance is available at coronavirus.illinois.gov and at DHS.illinois.gov/helpishere.

Also effective April 1, the state will pay 30 percent above the usual reimbursement rates to emergency child care centers and homes.

Pritzker said the state offered a new permit for child care centers serving essential workers, and more than 550 have received such a permit. He said more than 1,500 home child care providers continue to operate as well. Home child care providers do not need a permit and can serve up to six children.

Information on the programs is available on the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development website: www2.illinois.gov/sites/OECD.

More ventilators needed

Illinois needs thousands more ventilators than the federal government plans to send and the state is desperately searching for more before its expected peak in coronavirus cases later this month, Pritzker said during an appearance Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

He said he requested 4,000 ventilators from the federal government last Tuesday and has received 450, far short of even the 1,400 ventilators that Vice President Mike Pence said the state needs.

Underlining the state’s desperate need, the governor said: “Now, we’re looking everywhere and anywhere across the world to get ventilators.”

Pritzker warned that plans to move ventilators from New York to other virus hot spots after cases peak in that state may come too late.

“New York does not look like it will be coming off its peak by the time we’re hitting our peak,” he said.

And while the governor said he hopes Illinois only needs 4,000 ventilators, in one worst-case scenario the state may actually require more than 7,000.

“We’re looking at all of the numbers and everybody is taking an educated guess because we really don’t know — this virus is unpredictable,” Pritzker said.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and a cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, or death.

The Associated Press and Capitol News Illinois contributed to this report.

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