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Another 105 Illinoisans died from COVID-19 over the last 24 hours, state public health officials announced Saturday, marking the third day in a row outbreak deaths reached triple digits and bringing this week’s death toll to nearly 700 even as some extremist groups call for an end to, or blatant defiance of, restrictions designed to protect those most at risk of being infected.

“This is not a moment for that. This is life threatening,” said Gov. JB Pritzker. “You are putting others at risk and yourself and your own family.”

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, confirmed another 2,450 Illinois residents had tested positive for the disease in the past day. Those new cases were among more than 15,000 daily test results.

The death toll in Illinois has now hit 2,559 since the state started tracking the outbreak more than two months ago, and infections have spread to at least 97 counties.
Media questions continue to ping-pong between asking the governor why he isn’t doing more to protect people, to why isn’t he relaxing restrictions sooner.

Several questions during Saturday’s briefing sought the governor’s reaction to protests in Springfield and Chicago on Friday that included people carrying signs with Nazi swastikas and anti-Semitic slogans, and claims that they either don’t care about the deaths or the entire outbreak is a hoax. State Rep. Darren Bailey, who has sued to block the governor’s orders, was the featured speaker at the Springfield protest.

The daily face of the fight against COVID-19 in Illinois has been the press briefings featuring Pritzker, who is Jewish, and Dr. Ezike, an African-American woman.
Pritzker said the people carrying those signs either don’t know what those symbols mean or embrace the hate.

“What I can tell you for myself is that I have spent decades of my life fighting against bigotry and hatred. I helped to build a Holocaust museum, I’ve worked with Holocaust survivors,” Pritzker said. “The meaning of that swastika is apparently unknown to the people who are carrying it, or if it is known, it is a demonstration of the hate that is among us.”

Asked about the ongoing dilemma regarding unemployment benefits and the Illinois Department of Employment Security, Pritzker acknowledged that the wave of applications would overwhelm most any system but especially a state system that at 10 years old is already antiquated.

“It is still this 10-year-old system that’s been bolstered, you know from underneath, but in the end we’re going probably to have to replace the system. Significant improvements need to be made in the future but it won’t be able to happen during these first months of the coronavirus outbreak,” Pritzker said.