SPRINGFIELD – As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to grow during Easter weekend in Illinois, Gov. JB Pritzker announced new initiatives Saturday to extend telehealth services and mental health support throughout the state to support people who are coping, either physically or mentally, with the disease.

That announcement came as the state reported 1,293 new confirmed cases of the disease, including 81 additional deaths, in the previous 24 hours. That brings the totals in Illinois during the pandemic to 19,180 confirmed cases and 677 deaths, although officials say those numbers are likely understated due to lack of testing.

People who are experiencing symptoms of the disease, such as a fever or shortness of breath, or who are at high risk of contracting the disease but do not need emergency care or hospitalization can sign up for a remote monitoring from “pandemic health workers,” or PHWs, who will check in virtually with those individuals on a daily basis.

People in east central and north central Illinois – including Peoria, Bloomington, Champaign-Urbana, Evergreen Park, Danville, Galesburg, Kewanee, Monmouth, Ottawa, Mendota, Streator, Pontiac and Rockford – may now call the OSF Healthcare hotline number, 833-673-5669, to find out if they are eligible for the program and sign up.

Starting Monday, people in west central and southern Illinois will be able to sign up by calling 217-545-5100. That region includes Springfield, Quincy, Decatur, Carbondale and Metro East St. Louis communities. More information may be found at www.siumed.edu/phw.

A hotline for northern Illinois will be announced in the coming week.

Pritzker said the state has also established a text hotline where people can find mental health support or information about financial and other kinds of support services.

People who wish to speak with a mental health professional may text “talk” to the number 552020. Spanish language speakers may text “hablar” to the same number. Those who send a text to the hotline will receive a call within 24 hours from a counselor employed by a local community mental health center to provide support.

People can also text to that same number using keywords such as “unemployment,” “food” or “shelter” to receive information on how to access supports and services.

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