DOWNTOWN — All Illinois schools were ordered closed starting Tuesday to curb the spread of coronavirus, Gov. JB Pritzker announced Friday.
School will be closed for about two weeks — though that might be extended, or cut short, as needed. In the meantime, CPS is working to provide food and learning opportunities to kids and Mayor Lori Lightfoot is urging employers to be flexible with parents who have children to look after.
The extraordinary announcement came during a wave of other major moves from Pritzker to help Illinoisans during the coronavirus outbreak.
The governor is reaching out to utility companies, asking them not to shut off services for people unable to pay bills during the outbreak. And he’s trying to get unemployment benefits for people unable to work due to coronavirus, including parents who can’t work because their children are home.
Earlier this week, Pritzker and Lightfoot banned all gatherings of 1,000 or more people for at least 30 days.
Officials are also heavily discouraging any events that could bring together 250 or more people.
The city is keeping public libraries and park facilities open, and officials are reaching out to people who are homeless to check on their health.
As of Friday afternoon, 46 people had tested positive for the virus in Illinois, many of them in Chicago and Cook County.
“None of the choices that we have to make over the last week, or have had to make over the last week, have been easy or simple,” Pritzker said during a Friday news conference. “All of these choices have cascading effects for citizens and vulnerable populations when it comes to food access and safety, childcare.”
Still, Election Day this Tuesday will go on — though officials are moving polling places out of nursing homes, where the residents are most at risk of coronavirus, and are having to find new election judges to replace senior people who usually fulfill that role.
Chicagoans who do plan to vote Tuesday can look up their polling place online to ensure they have the right address.
But officials encouraged voters to cast their ballot early or by mail to avoid large crowds.
Officials already canceled Chicago’s large St. Patrick’s Day festivities this weekend. MLB, NBA, the NHL and other leagues announced earlier they’d postpone or suspend their seasons to prevent the spread of the virus. Bar crawls, however, will continue.
Pritzker and Lightfoot have repeatedly encouraged businesses to have employees work from home when possible and have asked people to stay home, especially if they feel sick.
Such “social distancing” is needed to stop people from catching and spreading coronavirus, Pritzker said.
What’s Happening In Chicago
• Chicago Attractions: The Lincoln Park Zoo, Field Museum, Museum of Science and Industry, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago Children’s Museum, Adler Planetarium and Shedd Aquarium are temporarily closing due to coronavirus.
• Restaurants: Grubhub, a Chicago-based food delivery company, won’t collect up to $100 million in commissions from independent restaurants to help them save money.
The move is expected to help restaurants stay afloat as they struggle to bring in customers during the spread of coronavirus.
• City Colleges of Chicago: Spring Break will now run March 30-April 12 — meaning it’s starting a week early — for students and most classes will be held remotely after that, according to an email sent out by City Colleges.
A union representing faculty and staff for City Colleges of Chicago is calling on the city to close the colleges immediately, however.
• Filming: The majority of shows filmed at CineSpace Studios in Chicago are expected to stop shooting, including “Empire” and “Chicago Fire.”
A member of the production crew for a show that films there tested positive coronavirus earlier this week.
• CPS Travel: 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.
• CPS Spring Break Travel: A tour company is refusing to refund students who booked Spring Break travel.
CPS says it’ll pay back the students, though has not answered questions on cost or a timeline.
• Major Sports: Sports are effectively canceled for now.
The White Sox and Cubs had to postpone their Opening Day games, which were set for March 26 and March 30. The games were expected to draw tens of thousands of people to the teams’ stadiums.
The NHL, NBA and MLS have also postponed or suspended their seasons.
• 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 it is postponing Shamrock’n the Block, a new event that was set to make its debut Saturday, as well.
• Incarcerated People: The Cook County Sheriff’s Office is taking more precautionary measures to protect staff and detainees, it announced in a news release.
That means all non-staff members, including visitors and attorneys, will be screened for coronavirus. Those with symptoms will be denied entry.
Visitors will only be able to visit one person once a week for 15 minutes until further notice, as well, and staff are ramping up their cleaning efforts.
• Blood Drives: Blood drives throughout the Chicago area are being canceled due to coronavirus, and officials are worried that could lead to a shortage of much-needed blood.
• Food Awards: The James Beard Foundation Awards have been postponed. Chicago had two spots up for Best New Restaurant.
• Newberry Library: The research library is closed through at least March 23.
• CHA: The Chicago Housing Authority has canceled events and is posting notices about COVID-19 in its buildings.
• 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.
• 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.
• U of C, Loyola: The University of Chicago will do remote learning for its entire spring quarter starting March 30, the university announced early Thursday.
Loyola University has suspended all in-person classes through the end of the semester, as well.
• 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 if they requested a ballot.
• Testing: Pritzker slammed the federal government during news conferences this week, saying — despite multiple requests from him — the feds haven’t provided adequate testing resources to Illinois.
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• 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.
• Cancellations and Closures: The Sun-Times has a list of cancellations and closures due to coronavirus.
• 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.
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.
- Shortness of breath
How To Protect Yourself
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.
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