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Coronavirus In Chicago: Illinois Has 1,285 Cases, But Hospitals Are ‘In Decent Shape,’ Pritzker Says

Chicago, which has had 598 cases of the virus so far, has taken steps to ready its hospitals and health care workers.

A sign reminding patrons to practice social distancing is seen on a window of a southbound Ashland CTA bus in Chicago as fears of COVID-19 rise on Friday, March 20, 2020.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Gov. JB Pritzker said he’ll release more details Tuesday about how Illinois’ hospitals are faring as cases of coronavirus surge in the state.

There have been 1,285 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Illinois so far — a jump of 1,125 since just one week ago. Part of that growth — and the growth Illinois will continue to see in the weeks to come — is due to testing being expanded, but it’s also because people are still becoming infected and spreading coronavirus, officials have said.

And while coronavirus is mild for the vast majority of people who do catch it, there are so many cases of it in Illinois that Pritzker and other officials worry hospitals could be overwhelmed by the number of patients who need professional care.

“Right not, we’re in decent shape across the state,” Pritzker said during a Monday briefing.

The governor noted he’d share more information Tuesday on how many hospital beds are available and how full they are now.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, has said some of Illinois’ COVID-19 patients have recovered, but there hasn’t yet been information on how many of them are now well. She did say 15-20 percent of patients have required hospitalization and 5 percent have needed intensive care. A portion of that group has needed to use ventilators.

Chicago, which has had 598 cases of the virus so far, has taken steps to ready its hospitals and health care workers: Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the city is partnering with hotels so empty rooms can be used to house patients with mild cases, people who need to self-isolate and people who are homeless.

The city also worked with the YMCA to open up closed Ys and bring in beds for up to 400 people who are homeless since Chicago’s shelters are packed and trying to practice social distancing.

That will help stop the spread of the virus and help hospitals keep beds available for patients who need the most urgent care, Lightfoot and other officials said.

Some city hospitals, like Swedish Hospital, have asked for donations of personal protective equipment needed to keep health care workers safe during the outbreak.

But on Monday, Lightfoot said the city has thus far been able to provide the personal protective equipment needed for health care workers and first responders, though more could be needed in the future.

Coronavirus Cases

• There have been 1,285 cases of coronavirus in Illinois as of Monday afternoon. Some of those patients have recovered since testing positive.

• There have been 598 cases of COVID-19 in Chicago.

• Twelve people have died of coronavirus in Illinois.

What Happening In Chicago

• Weddings: Chicagoans are ditching big weddings and large guest lists for intimate ceremonies so they can practice social distancing.

“It wasn’t what we planned, but it was still beautiful and perfect,” said one bride after her weekend wedding.

Jail Detainees: Two people at Cook County Jail have tested positive for COVID-19, and activists are urging for non-violent detainees to be released so they can stay healthy.

The Sheriff’s Office has taken steps to ramp up cleaning and reduce visits so the virus doesn’t spread at the jail, but Pritzker has acknowledged the state is facing difficulties with figuring out how to make social distancing possible in Illinois prisons.

National Guard: The Illinois National Guard has been activated, but its troops are working on things like distributing supplies and giving coronavirus tests. Adjutant Gen. Richard Neely tried to dispel rumors about the National Guard’s work during a Monday news conference.

• Via Crucis: Pilsen’s Stations of the Cross procession has been canceled due to the outbreak.

• 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 PPE.donations@illinois.gov.

• 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. Blood donations do not weaken your immune system, Pritzker 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.

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. 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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