Pritzker Calls On Volunteers To Step Up; Illinois COVID-19 Deaths Now Total 9

CHICAGO (CBS) — As the Illinois stay-at-home order approaches the one-day mark, Gov. JB Pritzker called on volunteers to step up Sunday amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike announced there are 296 new confirmed cases of the virus in the state – bringing the total to 1,049; and three new deaths, bringing the total to nine.

The deaths included a Cook County man in his 80s, a Chicago man in his 80s, and a McLean County woman in her 70s. Jo Daviess, Livingston, Rock Island, and Stephenson counties have also now seen their first cases.

One of the new cases Sunday was an infant, Ezike said.

As CBS 2’s Marissa Parra reported, the virus for the first time has made its way into the Illinois jail system.

“My concern is there are too many people in the jail,” said Alan Mills of the Uptown People Law Center.

Mills worries that COVID-19 won’t stop with the correctional officer who tested positive this weekend.

“It will spread first to all the prisoners, and then back to the correctional officers, and eventually back out to their families,” he said.

In a court hearing on Monday morning, the Cook County Public Defender will be making an emergency petition for the release of certain jail detainees in the wake of COVID-19.

Over at the Chicago Police Department, three new cases were announced on Sunday – for a total of four. The department said none of them were related to each other.

While the medical updates on coronavirus in Illinois remain grim, Pritzker on Sunday struck a more positive tone – lauding companies and organizations that have stepped into do their part during the coronavirus pandemic, and calling on others to do the same.

Pritzker noted that the distillery Koval has shut down its whiskey and gin operation and has pivoted to making hand sanitizer. As of Sunday morning, Koval had raised $17,000 via GoFundMe for the mission.

Pritzker said 28-Mile Vodka in Lake County is undertaking the same mission.

The governor also noted that restaurants are giving out free food to kids, and people are volunteering to go grocery shopping for neighbors. He also urged the public to look at the Twitter hashtag #ILSchoolStepUp to see how teachers and schools have mobilized statewide for students and families.

“We asked all of you to help any way you can, and overwhelmingly, resoundingly, you have responded,” Pritzker said.

But more needs to be done, Pritzker said.

Healthy individuals need to donate blood, as the American Cross has severe blood shortages that could make the situation worse, Pritzker said.

American Red Cross of Greater Chicago & Northern Illinois chief executive officer Celena Roldan noted that more than 6,000 blood drives have been canceled nationwide, and more than 120 in Illinois alone.

She noted that blood collection is an “essential function,” and called on those who are able and willing to donate blood to go to redcross.blood.org or call (800) RED-CROSS.

Roldan also noted that the Red Cross will still need volunteers for the victims of home fires, and that flooding and major storms will continue this spring and will also require volunteers.

Jenne Myers, chief executive officer of Chicago Cares, also asked the public to step up and engage in volunteer activities, such as packing food for those in need. She encouraged people can volunteer to go to serve.illinois.gov.

Pritzker also noted that several organizations have donated personal protective equipment (PPE) in Illinois.

The state has received N95 masks, surgical masks, and other supply donations from cast members of the shows “Chicago Med,” “Chicago PD,” and “Chicago Fire;” from the Indian Valley Vocational Center in DeKalb County, and from trade unions.

Pritzker said any person or business that wants to help protect first responders should contact ppe.donations@illinois.gov.

Pritzker also addressed a tweet from President Donald Trump that targeted him earlier Sunday.

In the tweet, Trump wrote that Pritzker “shouldn’t be blaming the Federal Government for their own shortcomings. We are there to back you up should you fail, and always will be!”

It did not take long for the governor to respond.

Pritzker wrote, “You wasted precious months when you could’ve taken action to protect Americans & Illinoisans … Get off Twitter & do your job.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot also got into the debate, writing, “dear Lord–please step up and be a leader. While you have been yammering about hoaxes and fake news, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit all over America. @GovPritzker and others have filled this country’s leadership gap. Lead or get out of their way.”

Pritzker said he has been heartened that Republicans in Illinois – even those with home he has had strong disagreements – have been stepping up and asking how they can help. But he said no such thing has been happening with the Trump administration.

“I’m a pretty even-keeled guy, but even I’m finding it hard to contain my anger with Donald Trump’s response,” Pritzker said. He said in Illinois, doctors and nurses have been begging for more equipment and more tests, and the state has a floor full of staff looking to hunt them down.

“We’re doing that because Donald Trump promised to deliver for all the states weeks ago, and so far has done very little,” Pritzker said. “So apparently, the only way to get the President of the United States to pay attention is to go on television and make noise about it, which I won’t stop doing until we get what we need.”

The lack of test kits in particular has been a nationwide issue. Just this weekend, that problem forced Advocate hospitals, such as Lutheran General in Park Ridge, to pause their drive-through test site because they do not have enough tests.

One Walmart in Northlake just debuted a drive-through test site for first responders and health care workers – seeing about 65 vehicles on Sunday alone. But even their start date to unveil that drive-through site was delayed, also because there were not enough tests.

Pritzker also answered a question about the stay-at-home order that went into effect on Saturday afternoon. He said police will not be stopping people on the street and asking for proof of where they are going.

“Nobody is being stopped on the streets unless they in fact seem to be directly violating the stay-at-home order,” Pritzker said. If they are stopped, they will likely be told to go home.

CBS 2 also asked if Pritzker was planning to extend the state income tax filing deadline in light of the federal tax deadline being pushed back to July because of the pandemic. His office says he is working on it.