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Coronavirus In Chicago: Illinois’ COVID-19 Cases Expected To Peak In April — And We Don’t Have Enough Hospital Capacity

Coronavirus cases continue to grow exponentially in Illinois — and the state’s expected peak is still weeks off.

Amity Tyler of the Old Town neighborhood wears a mask in Chicago as fears of COVID-19 rise on Friday, March 20, 2020.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Coronavirus cases continue to grow exponentially in Illinois — and the state’s expected peak is still weeks off.

There have been 4,596 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Illinois as of Sunday afternoon; about 42 percent — or 1,975 — of those cases are in Chicago. Many more cases and deaths are expected in the coming weeks, Gov. JB Pritzker said this weekend.

Illinois is projected to hit its peak of cases in April. As of now, there’s not enough hospital capacity for all the people who will be ill, Pritzker said, just as there’s still not enough testing.

Hoping to fill the gap, officials are setting up triage centers outside hospitals across Illinois, plan to bring thousands of hospital beds to McCormick Place, are renting thousands of hotel rooms for people who are sick or need to isolate and are working to re-open closed hospitals.

Pritzker said this weekend Illinois has also ramped up testing: 4,000 people are being tested per day, and that will grow to 10,000 people per day in the next 10 days.

The state’s orders — like the stay at home order and the closures of schools, restaurants and bars — have led to a drop in the expected number of people who will die here, officials said last week.

Still, one projection from the University of Washington predicted Illinois will see more than 2,400 deaths by August.

So far, 65 people have died from coronavirus in Illinios.

Among the victims is a baby died in Chicago from coronavirus over the weekend. The 9-month-old was the first baby to die of the virus in the United States.

Children dying from the virus is “highly uncommon,” Pritzker said to try to reassure scared parents.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot will hold a press conference at 1 p.m. and Pritzker will hold a briefing at 2:30 p.m.

Coronavirus Cases

• There have been 4,596 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Illinois as of Sunday afternoon. Some of those patients have recovered since testing positive.

• There have been 1,975 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Chicago.

• Sixty-five people have died of coronavirus in Illinois.

• A Chicago infant who died over the weekend is the first baby in the United States to die from COVID-19.

If You Need Help

• Sick? Broke? Want To Help? Here’s A Massive List Of Coronavirus Resources In Chicago

What’s Happening In Chicago

Rent and Mortgages: The city will give $1,000 grants to 2,000 Chicagoans to help with rent relief. You can apply online.

State officials have also contacted major mortgage lenders, like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to ask them to offer multi-month forbearance to Illinoisans.

Pritzker has halted evictions throughout the state during the crisis.

Remote Learning: The city’s public school system is ramping up its virtual learning efforts as schools remain closed. More details are expected this week.

Hospital Supplies: Officials are still trying to acquire more personal protective equipment, ventilators and other supplies they’ll need to fight coronavirus. Chicagoans are finding creative ways to get supplies to hospital workers, too.

• McCormick Place: Thousands of hospital beds could be set up at the famous conference center to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed.

• Parks and Beaches: The city’s lakefront-adjacent parks are closed, as is the Lakefront Trail, the 606 and the Riverwalk.

Too many people crowded them during warm weather Wednesday, leading to the closures, Lightfoot said.

• Stay at Home: Police are issuing citations and fining people up to $500 if they don’t follow the state’s stay at home order. Those who don’t listen to warnings and citations could get arrested.

The state’s stay at home order 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. Lightfoot predicted the order will last “deep into April.”

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.

 Small Businesses: Illinois has created a grant program that will divide $14 million among hotels, bars and restaurants hit hard by the coronavirus. The businesses can use the money for payroll, rent and other things.

 Taxes: Pritzker moved back the state’s tax filing deadline to July 15, matching the federal deadline.

• United Center: The home of the Bulls and Blackhawks is becoming a medical supply and food distribution hub to help with relief efforts.

 Bills and Tickets: Lightfoot said the city would stop booting cars and collecting debt until at least April 30 — but parking tickets from a private company, Chicago Parking Meters LLC, are continuing.

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.

 Jail Detainees: More than 100 people at Cook County Jail have tested positive for COVID-19: 89 detained people and 12 jail staff members. 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.

 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.

• 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.

• Chicago Public Schools: Schools remain closed.

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.

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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