The Illinois Department of Public Health announced this afternoon that the number of COVID-19 coronavirus cases in Illinois has now risen to 64, up by 18 cases from Friday and that for the first time cases have been identified in central and southern Illinois.

There were seven new cases in Chicago today, four in suburban Cook County, one each in DuPage, Kane and Lake counties. The new downstate cases include two in St. Clair County and one each in Woodford and Cumberland counties.

At a news conference, Gov. J.B. Pritzker urged people to telecommute to work if possible and travel only if absolutely necessary.

He criticized people who’ve headed out for St. Patrick’s Day bar crawls, saying people need to take social distancing guidelines seriously.

He also urged people who think they might be infected to call a health care provider rather than just showing up at an emergency room, “unless your condition is of a dire nature.”

Update 5:45 a.m. 3/15/20: Two additional cases were announced Saturday evening by Sangamon County health officials who said one of those patients was critically ill and in intensive care.

Adding those to the cases announced by state officials earlier in the day raises the statewide case total to 66.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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