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

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said there are four field hospitals under construction to support existing hospitals as 715 new coronavirus cases and 16 new deaths were reported in the state on Thursday.

The Illinois Department of Public Health said the state’s COVID-19 total has reached 7,695 cases and 157 deaths. The number of people tested so far is at 43,656, data shows.

Pritzker said at his daily press conference on Thursday that Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park will be reopened. Crews are also working to convert McCormick Place in Chicago, former Advocate Sherman hospital in Elgin and former MetroSouth Health Center in Blue Island into field hospitals.

The four temporary facilities will used to support existing medical infrastructure. Coronavirus patients will be directed to existing hospitals and if they have mild symptoms they will be transferred to one of the four alternative facilities, Pritzker said.

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Illinois Department of Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike said that she spoke with a man and woman who were the third and fourth coronavirus cases in Illinois and they are doing great.

Ezike also said that the state is seeing clusters of cases in essential businesses.

“We’re also starting to see clusters of cases in essential businesses. And although these businesses need to continue operating, they must take steps to protect employees and customers,” Ezike said.

On Tuesday, Pritzker extended the state’s stay-at-home order, disaster proclamation and school closures until April 30. The stay-at-home order was initially set to end on April 7 before Pritzker extended it by 23 days.

“Each step we have been forced to take by this pandemic has made things more challenging for our residents. The cascading consequences of these steps weigh on me every minute of every day,” Pritzker said.

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“But from all the modeling we’ve seen, our greatest risk of hitting capacity isn’t right now but weeks from now. The virus’ spread is growing, so are its risks,” Pritzker noted.