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Infant Among 47 Now Dead From Coronavirus In Illinois: ‘Today Is A Really Hard Day’

"Today is a really hard day. There has never before been a death associated with COVID-19 in an infant."

Governor J.B. Pritzker answers questions at a press conference on the updates about COVID-19 in Illinois on Friday, March 20, 2020 in Chicago.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — An infant and a state employee are the latest victims of COVID-19 in Illinois, Gov. JB Pritzker announced at a devastating Saturday news conference.

The announcement came after the deadliest 24 hours yet in the state, with 13 more people dead and 465 new confirmed cases since Friday.

As of Saturday, there have been 3,491 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state and 47 people have died. Since the crisis began, 25,429 people have been tested here.

“May their memories be a blessing,” Pritzker said of the dead.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said though the majority of victims are older Illinoisans, the baby who died did have COVID-19. The department is investigating the infant’s death.

The child, who died in Chicago, was less than a year old. He or she was the first infant to die of the virus in the United States.

“Today is a really hard day,” Ezike said. “There has never before been a death associated with COVID-19 in an infant.”

There is no cure for COVID-19, Ezike said.

It does appear people who get coronavirus and survive — which is the vast majority of people — might develop an immunity to it, Ezike said.

Pritzker said people might eventually be tested to determine if they did have coronavirus. He thinks those tests will show “many, many, many people” had the virus without knowing it and are now immune.

Illinois has not yet hit its peak of cases yet, Pritzker said. Officials have repeatedly said there likely will be many more cases — and deaths — in the weeks to come.

But people can prevent that by following the state’s stay at home order and avoiding contact with others.

“Right now the only way to stop the spread of this virus is to reduce the number of people infected, which means reducing the number of people exposed,” Ezike said. “If you haven’t been paying attention, maybe this is your wake-up call.”

Pritzker reiterated the need for people to stay at home and obey the state’s executive order. He was baffled by those who continue to ignore the seriousness of COVID-19.

“I’m not sure why people are ignoring this,” he said. “People are going to die if you don’t obey the rules.”

Pritzker also said he’s been working with other governors to secure badly needed supplies, like ventilators and personal protective equipment. But everyone would benefit if the federal government were to take the lead, Pritzker said.

His comments come after President Donald Trump told Fox News governors should “treat us well” and be “appreciative” of supplies from the federal government. Trump said he’s encouraged Vice President Mike Pence not to speak with governors who have criticized Trump’s actions amid the crisis.

Pritzker — who has himself been critical of Trump amid the pandemic — did not directly address those comments, but he said Illinois is still working on its own to acquire as much equipment as it can.

“We’re working very hard to make sure we keep everybody healthy and safe,” Pritzker said. “When we got on the other side of it, I think we’ll look back and say, ‘We did everything we could and, I think, did the right things … .'”

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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