Mayor Lori Lightfoot at a press conference announcing a statewide stay-in-place order Friday, March 20. Credit: Colin Boyle/ Block Club Chicago

CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Gov. JB Pritzker dismissed President Donald Trump’s idea of returning to business as usual in the United States while the nation fights coronavirus.

On Tuesday, Trump went on TV to say he “would love to have the country opened up, and just raring to go, by Easter,” which is April 12. He suggested his guidelines on social distancing and the shutdown of businesses could soon be lifted in the interest of the economy.

That would go against what experts have advised is needed to save lives and “flatten the curve” — that is, reduce the growth of coronavirus cases.

Lightfoot, speaking during a call with reporters on Tuesday, criticized Trump’s suggestions, as well.

“… Pulling back now, in my view, for Chicago does not make sense at all,” Lightfoot said. At another point, she said, “Unfortunately, President Trump has not been a reliable leader. He’s said things that are flat-out wrong.”

Illinois’ stay at home order went into effect on Saturday, while Chicago’s order that sick people must stay home started Friday. Bans on large gatherings and the closures of restaurants, bars and schools are all relatively recent, as well.

The orders and changes “haven’t been in place that long,” Lightfoot said. “The stay at home order was just issued last Friday; and if you think about two weeks ago, we were still talking about St. Patrick’s Day.

“A lot has happened in that time, but there’s always going to be a lag between when we put these measures in place and when you’re going to start to see a” flattening of the curve.

Pritzker, speaking during a briefing Tuesday afternoon, said he’s “very, very concerned” about what Trump has said and doesn’t think Trump is “listening to the science.”

“… He’s looking at the stock market, which I know he essentially judges himself by, and making decisions in that way,” Pritzker said. “I understand that what’s happening now is very, very difficult for families all across the nation. Everybody is suffering financially from this, some more than others.

“… But I think the president is not taking into account the true damage that this will do to our country if we see truly millions of people die. And that’s what I think would happen; that’s what the scientists and doctors say would happen.”

Without restrictions like those in place in Illinois, lives would be lost and the health care system overrun with coronavirus cases, Pritzker said.

“We can revive our economy. We can’t revive people that are lost to this virus,” Pritzker said. “In case there’s any doubt in your minds, I’m not willing to sacrifice anyone. There is no life in this state that is more or less precious than any other; no person more or less worthy of saving.”

There have been 1,285 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Illinois, with 598 of those in Chicago. Twelve people have died throughout the state.

It will take time to see those numbers go down, city and state officials have said; in fact, as testing expands, they expect to see the number of confirmed cases rise for several weeks to come because more people will be getting tested.

But officials are hopeful the measures taken in Illinois and Chicago will lead to a decline in coronavirus cases and, thus, fewer deaths.

Lightfoot noted the federal government hasn’t given any mandates about how states and cities should act during the pandemic — and if Illinois’ and Chicago’s stay at home orders are lifted, it’ll be done by local authorities, not Trump.

The mayor and Gov. JB Pritzker have repeatedly said the federal government under Trump has done little to help Illinois and Chicago and they’ve had to get medical supplies on their own. Pritzker said he had a productive conversation with the president Monday, however.

“The things we’re hearing on a daily basis coming from the president are unreliable and, frankly, scary,” Lightfoot said. “That’s why we’ve been aggressively taking steps here at the local level in Chicago to do everything we can to support our residents. … It would be great if the federal government was responsive, but they’re just not.”

Dr. Allison Arwady, the head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, also rejected Trump’s assertion that keeping businesses closed would lead to more suicides over the economy than it would save lives from coronavirus.

“You would have to see quadruple the number of suicides before you become anywhere near the bottom end of projections for what coronavirus is likely to have,” Arwady said. “Everything we’re doing, we’re thinking about the major economic and social consequences that come with it.”

Arwady said she’s having to spend a large amount of her time correcting false information put out by Trump and she wants him to start getting his information cleared by experts.

“It’s unfortunate we have a leader with such a large platform every day who’s not careful with his messaging. Daily … somebody has to come behind him and clean up the mess,” Lightfoot said. “It’s really, really damaging to our country.”


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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