Illinois officials and Governor J.B. Pritzker speak at a press conference Thursday afternoon | Photo: Illinois Information Service.

President Trump has approved a disaster declaration for Illinois as the number of coronavirus cases rise to 2,538 and 26 deaths as of Thursday.

Trump declared that a major disaster exists in Illinois and ordered federal assistance to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by COVID-19, the White House said.

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike announced 673 new cases on Thursday, an increase from 1,865 total cases on Wednesday bringing the new total to 2,538.

Ezike also announced seven new virus-related deaths since Wednesday. The new deaths include a man in his 50s, two men and two women in their 60s, a man in his 70s, and a woman in her 90s.

There are now 26 coronavirus-related fatalities statewide. Approximately 87% of the fatalities are among people age 60 and over.

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Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker said 450 Illinoisans have submitted applications to rejoin the health care workforce.

Pritzker announced Thursday that the Illinois COVID-19 Response Fund has been established and already raised $23 million. The money will be distributed to non-profit groups to help with emergency food and basic supplies for people impacted by the virus.

On Wednesday, Pritzker announced over $90 million in small business aid and a state income tax filing extension.

Pritzker said the state is extending income tax filing and payment deadline by three months to July 15. The Department of Revenue (IDOR) will continue to process tax refunds for those filing ahead of the new deadline.

Pritzker also said a more than $90 million fund will support three programs of emergency assistance for small businesses in need of capital.

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“Our department is leveraging every resource we have available to support small businesses in these challenging times,” said Erin Guthrie, Director of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

“These funds will provide small businesses on the brink with much needed working capital to continue making payroll and paying other bills while our administration continues to advocate for additional resources from the federal government,” Guthrie said.

A $60 million fund will support low-interest loans of up to $50,000 for small businesses in every industry outside of Chicago.

A $20 million fund will support small businesses in suburban and rural counties across Illinois, providing grants of up to $25,000 to small businesses in communities served by DCEO’s Office of Community Development.

A $14 million fund will help small hospitality businesses make ends meet, providing up to $25,000 to eligible bars and restaurants and up to $50,000 for eligible hotels, state officials said.

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Illinois businesses can apply to these programs on the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity website.

The majority of cases are in Cook County, followed by Lake and DuPage counties. Over 16,600 people have been tested in Illinois so far.

Pritzker’s ‘stay at home’ order, which was announced on Friday, remains in place throughout Illinois until April 7.