CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- The state of Illinois' top health official warned churches Thursday not to hold any gatherings or services during the COVID-19 crisis.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said some houses of worship reportedly are allowing congregations to gather, in violation of the state's "stay-at-home" order to stop the spread of novel coronavirus.
"We all must make this sacrifice," said Ezike, who did not specifically name any religious organization.
Churches should be holding any services online, in virtual fashion, she said.
She also said there have been "clusters" of cases some businesses. She urged companies that remain open during the crisis to monitor the health of employees and to sanitize their places of operation. Essential businesses such as supermarkets are open to the general public to buy food and supplies, and several stores have imposed safeguards to ensure people recognize new "social distance" requirements.
Illinois Gov. JB Pritkzer announced an "All In Illinois" public-service campaign to encourage social distancing. He said the state has done what it can to prepare its hospitals for a crush of patients, and it's up to the public to do its part. He blamed the federal government for not imposing greater restrictions earlier.
“This will go down in history as a profound failure of our national government," Pritkzer said at his daily COVID-19 briefing.
The state health department on Thursday said the number of Illinois coronavirus cases has grown by 715 overnight, taking the state's total caseload to 7,695. Illinois reports 16 additional deaths, taking the overall death toll to 157.