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Coronavirus In Chicago: Illinois Passes 1,000 Cases As Pritzker Calls For Everyone To Pitch In

Gov. Pritzker is calling for retired doctors to return to work, community members to volunteer and more to battle COVID-19 in Illinois.

Amity Tyler of the Old Town neighborhood wears a mask in Chicago as fears of COVID-19 rise on Friday, March 20, 2020.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — There are now more than 1,000 cases of coronavirus in Illinois — and Gov. JB Pritzker is calling for all hands on deck as the state tries to prevent further spread of the virus.

The grim milestone came Sunday as officials announced there have been 1,049 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state — and there will likely be many more, especially as testing is done more frequently. So far, nine people have died of the virus in Illinois.

Sunday was also the first full day of Illinois’ stay at home order. The order is meant to keep people at home as much as possible, with “non-essential” businesses across the state closed.

Officials hope the order will prevent the spread of the virus, but Pritzker said this weekend it will be weeks before experts can determine what impact the order has had on slowing the growth of coronavirus cases.

With confirmed cases still growing exponentially, more help is needed, Pritzker said at briefings this weekend.

On Saturday, the governor urged doctors, nurses and other health care workers who recently retired or switched professions to join back up so they can help in Illinois. Those who want to “re-enlist” can go to or for applications.

The state is also extending doctors’ licenses and making it easier for people who live on Illinois’ borders and practice medicine in other states to practice here.

And Pritzker asked anyone with medical supplies like gloves, masks and gowns to donate them to the state and local hospitals so they can be used to keep health care workers healthy while treating COVID-19 patients.

TV shows like “Chicago Fire” have donated their supplies, Pritzker noted, and he’s asking veterinarians, dentists offices and others to do the same.

RELATED: Here’s What’s Open And What’s Closed Under Stay-At-Home Order To Curb Coronavirus Outbreak

The extra help is needed because the federal government has been slow to provide Illinois with the resources it will need to fight back coronavirus, Pritzker said.

Pritzker has criticized President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, saying Trump was ill-prepared, made false promises about test kits that haven’t come and denied the severity of the crisis for too long.

“My optimism has waned, honestly,” he said. “Weeks ago, we were promised tests. We were told, ‘Right around the corner.’ Then weeks went by. Now, are we seeing more tests? Yes, but not even at the number we were promised weeks ago.”

On Sunday, Trump fired back on Twitter, saying Pritzker and “a very small group of certain other governors” should not blame the federal government for their “shortcomings.” The tweet led to a war of words between the president, governor and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

RELATED: ‘Where Were The Tests When We Needed Them?’: Trump, Pritzker Spar On Federal COVID-19 Response As Illinois Hits 1,049 Cases

People without medical experience can help during the COVID-19 crisis, too, officials said: Blood donations are badly needed and people can volunteer or donate locally to help their communities during the crisis.

While the virus is mild for the vast majority of people, the concern is so many people in Illinois are getting it that “even the small number of people who have trouble recovering is more than our health care system may be able to handle,” Pritkzer said Saturday.

That’s proven deadly in other locations: Italy’s health care system was overloaded by the sheer volume of cases there and doctors and hospitals haven’t had the resources to care for people who could otherwise be saved. That’s led to a surge of deaths there — 5,476 as of Sunday.

Coronavirus Cases

• There have been 1,049 cases of coronavirus in Illinois as of Sunday afternoon. Some of those patients have recovered since testing positive.

• There have been 490 cases of COVID-19 in Chicago.

• Nine people have died of coronavirus in Illinois.

What’s Happening In Chicago

• Stay at Home: The state’s stay at home order went into effect on Saturday. That means non-essential businesses are shut down (here’s what remains open) and people are urged to stay home and practice social distancing as much as possible.

Chicagoans who have tested positive for coronavirus, or even those who simply have symptoms of coronavirus, are being ordered to stay home or risk up to $500 fines.

Health Care Workers: Doctors, nurses and other health care workers who recently retired or left the profession are being urged to rejoin so they can help in the fight against coronavirus.

Information about “re-enlisting” is available online.

• Protective Equipment: The state needs personal protective equipment for health care workers so they can stay healthy while treating COVID-19 patients. N95 masks, gloves, gowns and other items will be “essential,” Pritkzer said Saturday.

Businesses and organizations are being urged to donate their supplies to local hospitals. Those interested in donating items can email

• Blood Donations: Illinois needs people to donate blood or the state will be facing a second health care crisis.

It is still safe to donate blood so long as you feel well and practice social distancing, officials said.

Volunteering: Those interested in helping people impacted by COVID-19 can look up community service opportunities on the state’s Serve Illinois site. Pritzker also urged people to go online and look for opportunities to donate or volunteer in their communities.

• Testing: Coronavirus testing is still extremely limited in Chicago — which is leading to fear and frustration for some residents.

Testing has expanded, though, and Pritzker has said he expects more tests will be available in the weeks to come.

 Bills and Tickets: The city will stop ticketing and booting cars and collecting debt until at least April 30.

However, a city program that promised to cut utility bills for low-income residents and families by up to 50 percent and to have past-due balances forgiven has been put on hold.

• Koval: A Ravenswood distillery known for its whiskey and gin is now focusing on making hand sanitizer for health care workers and retirement homes.

• Restaurants and Bars: Eateries around the city closed their dining rooms — or closed completely — last week. Some will still offer drive-thru, pickup and delivery options.

• Helping Workers: Aldermen are calling for the city to launch an emergency fund to help workers hurt by coronavirus.

Fat Rice is offering pay-what-you-can meal kits to laid-off industry workers and others in need.

Restaurant owners and chefs are teaming up to ask to the state to help them and their staff members, who face financial difficulties with the closures.

And here’s a guide for getting unemployment, rent relief and more if coronavirus has impacted your job.

• Chicago Public Schools: Schools remain closed.

Some people are finding alternative ways to educate kids: A South Side group created shipping container schools with class sizes of just 10 kids, while students at Michelle Clark created a podcast to stay connected and informed.

The district will hand out three days of food for all children in a family 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday-Friday at every school. Those needing emergency delivery can call 773-553-KIDS.

Parks: The city’s parks have closed their facilities, like field houses, but people can still explore the green space, walk their dogs and play with their kids. Everyone is urged to practice social distancing.

• Weed: Curbside weed sales are being allowed for medical marijuana patients due to the outbreak. Dispensaries have been deemed an essential business and can remain open for the time being.

• Artists: Local musicians and artists are suffering because of the bans on public gatherings, but Chicagoans have started streaming live shows to help those in need.

• LGBTQIA: The Brave Space Alliance is creating a crisis pantry for queer and trans residents on the South Side.

• Grocery Stores: Officials have repeatedly urged Chicagoans not to hoard and stockpile food and home supplies at the city’s extremely busy stores.

Grocery stores, liquor stores and convenience stores remain open during the stay at home order.

Many grocery stores are offering special shopping hours for seniors so they can get the food and supplies they need safely. Seniors can call stores or look up their special hours online.

Jewel-Osco and Mariano’s are hiring as demand for groceries has skyrocketed.


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. People with no symptoms may have the virus and spread it to others.

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

The most common symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

People have also experienced body aches, nasal congestion, runny nose and sore throat, according to Harvard Medical School.

If you or someone else has difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, become confused, cannot be roused or develop a bluish face or lips, get immediate medical attention, according to the CDC.

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 or cough 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 COVID-19 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. Anyone who feels unwell has been ordered to stay home or risk getting a $500 fine.

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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