CHICAGO — In the latest dramatic and unprecedented move to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus impacting life all over the globe, Gov. JB Pritzker ordered all Illinois bars and restaurants closed for in-person dining beginning Monday and lasting for at least two weeks.
The move came as Illinois’ number of positive COVID-19 cases jumped to 93 on Sunday, up 27 from Saturday. The cases are now spread out over 13 counties, with the majority still in Cook County. There have been no deaths related to the disease in Illinois, but more than 5,762 people have died worldwide, including 368 people in Italy in one day.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Dept. of Public Heath, said the cases are increasing exponentially in Illinois.
“People should assume that this novel coronavirus is in their communities, and we need to take measures to reduce the spread,” Ezike said at a Sunday press conference.
Watch Gov. JB Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Sunday press conference:
Pritzker’s order closing bars and restaurants will allow them to still cook food for delivery, drive-thru service or curbside pickup. Acknowledging it is “unprecedented,” Pritzker said his move came after seeing people not listening to his pleas to stop crowding into bars Saturday.
“I tried earlier this week to appeal to everyone’s good judgment to stay home, to avoid bars, not to congregate in crowds. It’s unfortunate that many people didn’t take that seriously. The time for persuasion and public appeals is over,” he said. “The time for action is here. This is not a joke. No one is immune to this, and you have an obligation to act in the best interests of all the people in this state.”
Pritzker said he understands the hardship this will cause workers and businesses, but he said it was necessary to slow the spread of the virus. The closure is at least through March 30.
“Every decision that I make is between a bad choice and a less-bad choice. The only thing I know is I can’t fail to make a decision at all,” he said.
Said Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot: “This is one of the most challenging times that any of us will face … . We can save lives if we work hand in glove together and if we use common sense.”
Sam Toia, president and CEO of Illinois Restaurant Association, said the safety and health of customers and workers was the most important factor. But he acknowledged the industry is scared and “in a crisis.”
Tuesday’s Election Day, however, will continue, Pritzker said.
“If we delayed the election, it is unclear when we might be able to hold another one,” Pritzker said. “Many thousands of people have already voted through the mail or have early voted.
“Democracy must continue. We have to elect leaders even in less than ideal circumstances.”
And as people stockpile food and home goods and leave shelves empty, Pritzker said he is asking for an end to prohibitions on overnight grocery deliveries and is asking federal officials to lessen regulations to free up the flow of merchandise from warehouses to stores.
“Please do not hoard food. Buy what you need, but please be reasonable. Think of your friends and your neighbors. There is enough food to go around, but we need people to not be selfish,” he said.
Positive Cases Continue
Illinois has now had 1,025 patients under investigation for COVID-19, with the vast majority of them testing negative.
A total of 93 cases have returned as positive compared to 932 negatives. But the cases are now spreading throughout the state.
No deaths have been reported in Illinois, but some cases are said to be critical.
Ezike of the Illinois Department of Public Health said most COVID-19 patients have mild symptoms, but for older people and those with chronic medical conditions, “these populations seem to be at higher risk of developing serious illness. It is crucial that we limit contact with older people and those with certain health conditions.”
Here is the Illinois Department of Public Health’s graphic tracking the “patients under investigation,” or PUIs, in the state.
Early cases were concentrated in Chicago and Cook County, but they have now spread to central and southern Illinois. One case announced Saturday was at a longterm care facility in DuPage County, where a woman in her 60s was diagnosed with COVID-19.
On Friday, Pritzker announced Illinois schools were ordered closed starting Tuesday to curb the spread of coronavirus.
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 Lightfoot is urging employers to be flexible with parents who have children to look after.
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. On Saturday, Lightfoot told restaurants and bars to cut their capacity in half and allow no more than 100 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.
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.
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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
Are you having trouble accessing a COVID-19 test? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
• 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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