CHICAGO — Gov. JB Pritzker extended the state’s stay at home order and emergency declaration order to April 30, adding 23 days to the drastic measures meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The extension came as state officials announced another 26 deaths and 937 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Illinois, the spikes marking the largest day-to-day rises the state has seen so far.
The stay at home order went into effect March 21 and was originally set to end April 7. But officials have repeatedly said the end date was subject to change and more time could be needed to see what impact the order would have on “flattening the curve” of growing coronavirus cases.
“If we can end these orders earlier, I will be the first one to tell you,” the governor said at his Tuesday coronavirus briefing. “But that time is not today. And it’s not April 7.”
The order also pushes back the closures of Chicago Public Schools, which had hoped to reopen April 20. The closures of the lakefront, The 606 and the Riverwalk remain in place indefinitely.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who joined the governor at the news conference, said she supported the decision.
“This virus is lethal and growing,” the mayor said. “This might not be what residents want, but it is what we need.”
Coronavirus cases continue to grow at an exponential rate in Illinois, and experts have predicted the state won’t hit its peak of cases until mid- to late April. Many more cases and deaths are expected, though social distancing and stringent measures like the stay at home order will save lives, officials have said.
“Each step we have been forced to take by this pandemic has made things more challenging for our residents,” Pritzker said. “The cascading consequences of these steps weigh on me every minute of every day.”
But Pritzker said his priority is “saving as many people’s lives as possible.”
Pritzker made clear experts don’t truly know when the peak in cases will come, how long it will last and what happens after that. The April 30 date for the stay at home order is an educated guess based on science, modeling of the virus’ growth and experts’ advice, he said.
“First of all, we have to see the peak,” he said. “We haven’t seen the peak. … The truth is, we don’t know when we’re going to peak and when we’re going to come off the peak. … This is the best educated date they’ve come up with.”
There are now 5,994 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state and 99 deaths.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said the extended order will help slow the spread but the state knows the crisis here will still get worse before it gets better.
“We did know that these numbers would increase … and we also know that all of the illness is not reflected in these numbers because of the limits of testing,” Ezike said.
Lightfoot has warned Chicago could see 40,000 hospitalizations in coming weeks if people don’t abide by measures like the state’s stay at home order and local orders to stay off the lakefront, the Riverwalk and the 606.
As of now, Illinois simply doesn’t have the hospital capacity to handle all the cases that are expected, though state and city officials are working to build triage centers, reopen closed hospitals and more. McCormick Place alone will have 3,000 hospital beds for non-acute COVID-19 patients by the end of the month.
And officials are trying to increase testing, acquire more medical and protective supplies and recruit health care workers.
The No. 1 priority is ensuring the health care system and its workers aren’t overwhelmed, Pritzker has said.
The best way to do that is to prevent the spread of the virus by practicing social distancing and keeping people at home as much as possible, officials said.
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:
- 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.
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