Illinois COVID-19 Update

March 16, 2020

This afternoon, Governor J.B. Pritzker ordered gatherings of more than 50 people to be cancelled. That is in line with new guidelines issued yesterday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Today, the Illinois Dept. of Public Health announced 12 new cases of COVID-19 across Illinois in Peoria and Will counties. The state has a total of 105 cases in 15 counties. IDPH yesterday announced 29 new cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) across Illinois, including five additional counties reporting cases – Champaign, Clinton, Sangamon, Whiteside, and Winnebago counties. Other locations with cases include Chicago and Cook, Cumberland, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, St. Clair, and Woodford counties. Cases have occurred in all age ranges and the number of cases that do not have a clear connection to travel or a known COVID-19 case is increasing.

During Saturday’s daily press briefing on the state's response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that his administration will file a federal waiver to expand Medicaid coverage.

"With the federal government's newly declared state of emergency, under the Stafford Act my administration is filing a request for a federal waiver to allow our Medicaid program to more freely respond to the COVID-19 crisis by expanding medical services," said Governor Pritzker."During this crisis my administration is working to ensure that those who fear that they may be getting sick have access to the testing and treatment that they need without being saddled with costly medical bills for their care."

Building on the state's earlier measures to help working families through the expansion of unemployment insurance and calls for utilities to halt shut-offs and late payment fees, the Pritzker administration started working on the waiver application as soon as the federal government declared a national emergency and activated the Stafford Act.

If the federal waiver is approved, the state will be able to expand Medicaid services through the addition of new medical providers, increased access across the state and ramped up services to many of the state's most vulnerable populations.

“We are seeing the number of COVID-19 cases increase exponentially and in more locations across Illinois,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.  “At this point, it is best to assume that the coronavirus is circulating in your community and you should take the same precautions when interacting with other people that you would when interacting with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.  This may seem like an extreme step, but this is how we reduce the number of new cases and prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed.”  

Social distancing measures, such as working from home when possible, limiting the amount of time spent in the community, and trying to avoid public transportation as much as possible, will help reduce the number of people who become sick at any given time and the possibility of exhausting our healthcare resources.

On Friday, the Governor announced that public schools in the state of Illinois will be closed from March 17 through March 30. As of now, day care centers will remain open and will follow strict health and safety guidance. Yesterday, Gov. Pritzker announced the closure of all bars and restaurants in the Illinois starting close of business on Monday, March 16 through March 30. The state is working closely with restaurant owners and food delivery services to ensure kitchens can safely remain open to continue food delivery and put in place drive-thru and curbside pickup options for restaurants to continue to serve the public.

Gov. Pritzker also announced that he has directed state agencies to implement plans for a temporary reduction of government functions and workforce while maintaining core functions and essential operations. The governor remains committed to utilizing social distancing as the key strategy for minimizing the spread of COVID-19.

In recognition of the unprecedented challenges families, medical providers, and state agencies are facing from COVID-19, the Illinois Dept. of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) announced the postponement of the transition of launch of YouthCare services for Dept. of Children and Family Services (DCFS) youth in care from Medicaid fee-for-service to Medicaid managed care for a minimum of 30 days. Letters are being sent to all families and group homes informing them of this delay. In close coordination with IDPH and stakeholders across the state, HFS and DCFS will assess the timeline and announce a new transition date as soon as possible. This delay does not affect the Former Youth in Care and Other Special Needs Children populations, which transitioned to Medicaid managed care on Feb. 1, 2020.