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Death Of Chicago Infant From COVID-19 ‘Highly Uncommon,’ Pritzker Says While Trying To Reassure Scared Parents

"This is not something we should expect to hear a lot more of because it's just not happening very often at all," Gov. JB Pritzker said.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at a press conference announcing a statewide stay-in-place order Friday, March 20.
Colin Boyle/ Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — With the death of a Chicago infant from COVID-19 raising new levels of fear about the deadly pandemic, Gov. JB Pritkzer on Sunday sought to reassure parents the death was extremely uncommon.

There have been “relatively few” instances of babies dying from the coronavirus worldwide, Pritzker said.

“Just to get past the sorrow of the child passing, I guess I would remind parents out there that is highly uncommon. It really is highly uncommon. That isn’t to say every infant is safe; but it’s so uncommon,” he said. “I got some comfort in the idea that this is not something we should expect to hear a lot more of because it’s just not happening very often at all.”

Pritzker said the 9-month-old infant’s death was the first in the nation and one of only a “very few” in the world. When he learned of the child’s death, he immediately studied other cases and learned how rare it was.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health, released no new details of the child’s death, saying the state wanted to fully understand the circumstances before releasing additional information.

“I know there is a lot of concern of hearing about the death of an infant who also had COVID, and so we really want to get a complete report,” she said.

Ezike said when children are infected, they typically only show mild common cold symptoms such as a red throat, fever and runny nose.

“We know this is very top of mind for people, and we want to be deliberate and allow the proper processes to take place so we can give you the best information,” Ezike said.

The child is one of 65 people in Illinois to have died from the virus as of Sunday. There have now been 4,596 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the state.

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.


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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