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Coronavirus In Chicago: Here’s What’s Happened March 11

We've rounded up the latest news on coronavirus in Chicago, as well as ways to stay safe and avoid catching or spreading the virus.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot at City Hall in February 2020.
Colin Boyle/ Block Club Chicago
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Block Club is providing daily updates on coronavirus. Read the one for Friday, March 12, here.

DOWNTOWN — Gov. JB Pritkzer said he’s had to ignore President Donald Trump about coronavirus as the virus spreads in Illinois.

Pritzker, speaking at a Wednesday morning news conference, was flanked by Mayor Lori Lightfoot and other officials as they announced the cancellation of major St. Patrick’s Day festivities in Chicago — including the dyeing of the river and the Downtown parade.

As of Wednesday, there are 25 confirmed cases of the virus in Illinois — up six from Tuesday.

“Remember, even if you yourself are young and healthy, your neighbors, your family members, even the people who walk the same streets of your community as you do, might not be. It’s on all of us to minimize spread and keep Illinois healthy,” Pritzker said.

The officials urged Chicagoans to avoid large events this weekend and in the near future as a way to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

And officials are talking to sports teams — including the Blackhawks, Cubs, White Sox and Bears — about how to handle large crowds at games.

Asked if the venues could be shut down, Pritzker said, “We’re considering all options here.”

The virus will spread and there will be more cases in coming days, officials have said. There’s already been a small group of people in Illinois who appear to have caught COVID-19 through community transmission, though that’s not yet widespread.

The governor, who criticized the federal government just a day earlier for not providing enough testing resources, took aim at Trump again on Wednesday.

“The president clearly has been downplaying this. This is a very serious matter,” Pritzker said. “I’ve had to ignore much of what’s coming out of the president’s mouth.”

Pritzker wants the federal government to declare a national disaster so people in Illinois — and throughout the United States — can get unemployment benefits if they have to self-quarantine or stay home due to illness.

Many people are living paycheck to paycheck, he said, and can’t afford to have unpaid work days — yet staying home when sick will be key to preventing the spread of coronavirus.

Employers need to start thinking about their sick leave policies and should create plans for when their employees become ill or must have home with sick children, Pritkzer said.

The cancellation of large events will have an effect on Chicago’s economy, Lightfoot said, but they’re needed to protect people.

There are more than 1,000 cases of the virus throughout the United States, according to the New York Times.

What’s Happening In Chicago

St. Patrick’s Day: Chicago’s famous St. Patrick’s Day parades are canceled, as is the dyeing of the Chicago River. Officials said they’re being postponed but don’t know when the events would happen. Old St. Patrick’s Catholic Church announced they would postpone Shamrock’n the Blocka new event that was set to make its debut Saturday, as well.

Sports: The city is “in conversation with” sports teams — including the Cubs, White Sox, Blackhawks, Bulls and Fire — over crowds at games, Lightfoot said.

Pritzker said the state will also work with the city and the leagues themselves to figure out how to handle crowds at games.

Opening Day for the White Sox is March 26 and Opening Day for the Cubs is March 30. Both are expected to see major turnout.

CTA: “The CTA … have been taking a lot of precautions, extra cleaning of buses, of trains, of platforms, making other self-cleaning fluids available,” Lightfoot said. People are not being advised to avoid public transportation.

Ridership is not down yet, officials said Wednesday.

Metra: Metra officials said the agency is staying vigilant and keeping trains clean, but ridership is down as people work from home or drive, riders said.

Cinespace: Cinespace Film Studios is disinfecting after a worker tested positive for coronavirus.

Senior Centers: The city has closed senior centers, but free meals are still available for pick-up only.

• Election Day: Twenty-five polling locations will be moved due to concerns about coronavirus, according to the Sun-Times. Election Day is Tuesday.

Some of the locations being moved are nursing homes, where residents are particularly susceptible to more serious cases of coronavirus. Officials are still determining where the new polling places will be.

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.

Testing: Gov. JB Pritzker slammed the federal government during a Tuesday news conference, saying — despite multiple requests from him — the feds haven’t provided adequate testing resources to Illinois.

Google: Google told its employees — including those at the Midwest headquarters in the West Loop — to work from home for one month.

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

U of C: University of Chicago has canceled all “nonessential” travel and faculty-led study abroad programs. The university has also canceled any school-sponsored events of more than 100 people, among other changs.

Cancellations and Closures: The Sun-Times has a list of cancellations and closures due to coronavirus.

Closed CPS School: 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.

Chicago Public Schools: CPS currently has no plans to close any other schools.

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

Work from Home: 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.

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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