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Coronavirus In Chicago: What To Know As 19th Case Confirmed In Illinois

Local agencies are taking steps to prevent the spread of coronavirus, like canceling travel or recommending employers encourage sick employees stay home.

Vaughn Occupational High School in Portage Park was closed on March 6, 2020 after a teacher was diagnosed with COVID-19. The school reopened to staff Monday.
Bob Chiarito/Block Club Chicago
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DOWNTOWN — Nineteen cases of coronavirus have been reported in Illinois — including multiple cases in Chicago.

That means there have been eight additional cases confirmed since Monday afternoon, when Gov. JB Pritzker declared a disaster proclamation over the virus. All known coronavirus patients are quarantined at home or are hospitalized.

“… Illinois has one of the strongest public health systems in the nation,” Pritzker said during a Tuesday news conferenece, adding Illinois was one of the first states to test for COVID-19. “Of course, we must also contend with the reality that our capacity cannot be separated from the material response of the federal government, our federal partners.”

Pritzker said Illinois will use all the resources it can to respond to coronavirus, but he’s reached out to federal officials to “demand” more testing resources, which he said will be critical to Illinois’ response to the virus.

“In order to best care for our patients, we need to be able to gauge the exact scope of COVID-19 spread,” Pritzker said. Later, he added, “I am very frustrated with the federal government. We have not received enough tests.”

Older adults should limit community activities, especially at large, indoor events, said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Ezike suggested nursing homes and longterm care facilities restrict visitors who have obvious symptoms of coronavirus, cold or flu and those 18 or younger. Staff at those facilities should also be screening employees for signs of fever and illness, she said.

Working from home and canceling large events could help slow the spread of coronavirus, Ezike said.

“As we have been saying for days, even weeks, we want everyone to start thinking and preparing now for the virus to circulate more widely in the community,” Ezike said. “Social distancing will be important to slow and reduce and dampen the effect in our community.

“… Spread in the community similar to what we’ve seen around the world will definitely cause disruption to our daily lives. So we can minimize that by putting some plans in place.”

What’s Happening In Chicago

• So far, Chicago’s major St. Patrick’s Day festivities will still go on.

Polling places in nursing homes will be closed on Election Day, which is March 17, in a bid to protect elderly people. Officials are still working to determine where those polling places will be moved to.

Pritzker encouraged people to vote early, as all polling places will still be open, or to vote by mail. He said the state is working with election officials to see if the Thursday deadline for vote by mail applications can be extended.

Here’s more information on early voting and vote by mail.

My Block, My Hood, My City is collecting disinfectant supplies to pass out to people who are elderly or who have disabilities.

• The Sun-Times has a list of cancelations and closures due to coronavirus.

• Vaughn Occupational High School in Portage Park remains closed. An employee there was confirmed to have coronavirus on Friday and students were encouraged to self-isolate.

But on Tuesday, CPS CEO Janice Jackson said no students or CPS employees connected to the Vaughn patient have tested positive for coronavirus so far. The district currently has no plans to close any other schools.

CPS has canceled school-related trips to locations it considers at risk for coronavirus and has “strongly” recommended employees not travel to those spots.

• The Chicago Department of Public Health advised businesses to encourage employees to stay home when sick and recommended childcare facilities, schools and universities review their plans for online learning programs.

Multiple large conventions and events have been canceled due to the virus.

Symptoms

Coronavirus can be deadly, but the vast majority of cases have been mild. Those most at risk from the virus are people who are elderly or who have underlying health conditions.

Symptoms of coronavirus can appear two to 14 days after a person has been exposed to the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The virus spreads between people through coughing and sneezing, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

How To Protect Yourself

First, reject the hype: You don’t need a facemask if you’re well. The CDC only recommends those are already sick wear facemasks because they help you avoid spreading the virus.

Here’s what you can actually do to prevent getting ill:

  • The CDC and other officials have said people should wash their hands often, including before, during and after eating; after using the bathroom; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
    The CDC has a guide here for how to properly wash your hands. Remember: Wash with soap and water, scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • If you can’t wash your hands with soap and water, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose and mouth, with unwashed hands.
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces you touch frequently, like cellphones and light switches. Here are tips from the CDC.
  • Stay home when you’re sick and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • If you have to sneeze with a tissue, throw it out immediately after using it, according to the CDC.

What To Do If You Think You’re Sick

Even if you’re not showing symptoms, the Chicago Department of Public Health recommends people coming from high-risk countries (here’s a CDC list) self-quarantine for 14 days after returning home.

If you do have symptoms of coronavirus, contact your primary doctor or a health care facility before going in. Explain your symptoms and tell them if you’ve come into close contact with anyone with coronavirus or traveled to an area where corona is widespread (here’s a CDC list) within the last 14 days, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

From there, the experts will work with your local health department to determine what to do and if you need to be tested for coronavirus, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

And, of course, if you think you’re sick with coronavirus, don’t risk exposing other people to the virus.

Those with questions and concerns about coronavirus can call the Illinois Department of Public Health at 800-889-3931.

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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