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8 More COVID-19 Deaths In Illinois In Deadliest Day Yet For State

There are now 3,026 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Illinois and 34 deaths.

A pedestrian wears a mask in downtown Chicago as fears of COVID-19 rise on Friday, March 20, 2020.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Eight more people in Illinois died from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, marking the deadliest day so far since the coronavirus pandemic swept into Illinois.

The state did see a slight day-to-day decrease in the number of new confirmed coronavirus cases Friday after an additional 488 people were found to have the virus. There were 673 new cases announced Thursday.

Gov. JB Pritzker made a grim pronouncement though, saying, “There’s a vast majority more people out there who have COVID-19 than we are currently testing.”

Many hospitals are simply assuming if a patient has a deep cough, trouble breathing and a fever, they are COVID-19 positive because there aren’t enough tests to find out, Pritzker said.

“We’re only doing so many tests. There’s a limit to the number of tests we can do,” Pritzker said. “We’re increasing the tests, but not enough, but we’re increasing it.”

There are now 3,026 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Illinois and 34 deaths, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Twenty-seven of the deaths have occurred in Cook County.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said the majority of victims are older Illinoisans.

“As expected and as we have feared, the greatest number of hospitalizations is among individuals older than 65 years of age,” she said. “And approximately 86 percent of those with COVID-19 who have died here in Illinois are over the age of 60.”

Cases have now been found in 40 of Illinois’ 102 counties, marking an additional three counties since Thursday, Ezike said.

Pritzker and Ezike repeated their calls for anyone with medical experience — be it a former medic in the military, a podiatrist or a recently retired doctor — to volunteer to help.

So far, more than 510 former health care workers have filed applications asking to “get back into the fight” against coronavirus, Pritzker said, and the state has started sending out expedited temporary licenses and permits.

And more than 1,000 medical and non-medical volunteers have registered online to help with the state, Ezike said.

But more health care workers are needed. Ezike said even those who would be at risk by coming into contact with COVID-19 patients, like elderly volunteers, can do work safely by doing things like monitoring ICU beds remotely or by helping with planning and organizing.

“All of these individuals will be critical, but we still need to have more help as this pandemic continues,” Ezike said. “We all have our parts to play … .”

The state is also still working on getting more medical supplies, like ventilators, to help those who do become ill.

Thousands more ventilators are needed in Illinois, Pritzker said, but it’s been challenging to acquire all the equipment needed. He urged President Donald Trump to invoke the Defense Production Act so the federal government can more easily get supplies to states in need, like Illinois.

“We need exactly what we’re asking for, perhaps more,” Pritzker said. “If we don’t get the equipment we need, more people will die.”

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, speaks at a press conference on the updates about COVID-19 in Illinois on Friday, March 20, 2020 in Chicago.

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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