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

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced testing expansion and alternative housing for COVID-19 patients as deaths in the state reached nearly 600 on Friday.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) said the state’s COVID-19 total has reached 17,887 cases and 596 deaths. The number of people tested so far is at 87,527, data shows.

“Generations of systemic disadvantages in healthcare delivery and healthcare access in communities of color, and Black communities in particular, are now amplified in this crisis all across the state and across the nation,” Pritzker said at his press conference Friday.

“We are making sure that our plans reflect equity in access, testing and treatment and we are asking the same of healthcare providers across the state. It’s in moments of crisis that we owe each other even greater expressions of humanity,” Pritzker said.

Through a partnership with Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and four Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) on Chicago’s South and West Sides, Illinois will expand testing in these communities over the next several days to an additional 400 tests per day.

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The state has prepared 2,000 hotel rooms across Illinois for alternative housing to help residents who test positive quarantine in a safe space.

The state has facilities with rooms that could be ready to be activated next week in Springfield, Rockford, Metro East, the Quad Cities, Schaumburg, Mt. Vernon, Peoria, Carbondale, Quincy, Marion, Macomb, Champaign and the collar counties. The state is also supporting the City of Chicago and Cook County in building out their own response, the governor’s office said.

“Across Illinois, multi-generational families live in one home, and in our cities, families or roommates live in smaller apartment units that make self-isolating much more difficult,” a statement from Pritzker’s office said.

“These rooms will be available to help address that need and will be available to residents who tested positive for COVID-19 but do not require hospital-level care or for asymptomatic high-risk individuals who need social distancing as a precautionary measure. These rooms will also be available to medical professionals and first responders,” the statement said.

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Residents will be able to access these resources through their local health departments and the Illinois Department of Public Health has directed $6.8 million dollars of its COVID-19 response funds to support every health department across the state.

On Thursday, Pritzker said that Illinois is bending the coronavirus curve and there’s evidence the state is moving towards a flatter curve.

“Our rate of rise is looking less and less exponential. That indicated to us that we are in fact bending the curve. There’s even some evidence that we may be moving toward a flatter curve. But we need to keep watching the data on a daily basis,” Pritzker said.

Pritzker said that case numbers and the death toll continue to grow. He said that the state is receiving approximately $2.7 billion in reimbursement from the federal government for COVID-19 expenses.

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“We are headed in the right direction because of all the tremendous efforts by all of you. All of these actions are making the difference, and we must continue to work together,” IDPH Director Ngozi Ezike said Thursday.

Pritzker also said that the CDC has determined that someone who has recovered from COVID-19 is very likely to be immune from getting it again unless it mutates.

Illinois’ stay-at-home order remains in effect through April 30.