DOWNTOWN — As Gov. JB Pritzker showcased a new emergency hospital built inside McCormick Place, he released grim numbers from the coronavirus outbreak: 53 more people died in the past 24 hours and 1,209 more people tested positive for the virus.
There have now been 210 deaths in the state and 8,904 confirmed cases.
State officials have projected the state will see its peak of cases later this month, but Pritzker warned that even after the peak, there will still be many cases to handle. There might not be an immediate decline in cases once Illinois does hit its peak.
“Once we get to that peak, we’re all gonna be praying we come off that peak quickly,” Pritzker said. “But we might not.”
Illinois has tried to lower its peak through the stay at home order and through the closures of schools, restaurants and bars. Officials have also worked furiously to gather medical and protective supplies, recruit health care workers and expand hospital capacity.
Part of that effort was the facility at McCormick Place, which currently has 500 hospital beds but should have 3,000 by the end of the month.
That facility was built in just five days, Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot touted Friday, and it’ll help patients with mild to moderate cases of coronavirus.
Setting up that facility — and three others that are expected around Cook County, the area hardest hit by COVID-19 in Illinois — means hospitals can focus on the most serious cases of coronavirus. Officials hope that means hospitals and their workers don’t become overwhelmed, which could lead to more deaths.
And once Illinois hits its peak and cases decline, the state might be able to help others still experiencing a surge of patients by sending them medical equipment it no longer needs.
“But our first and foremost duty is to protect the people of the city of Chicago and state of Illinois,” Pritzker said.
And officials continue to push for more help from the federal government. On Friday, Pritzker and Lightfoot slammed Jared Kushner — President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and a White House senior adviser — for suggesting the federal stockpile of medical supplies should not be distributed among states.
“I don’t know if Jared Kushner knows this but it’s called the ‘United States’ of America,” Pritzker said during a Friday press conference. “I don’t think anybody expected a respiratory pandemic that would deplete all the respiratory stockpiles that exist and that the federal government would abdicate its role and have 50 states, and five territories on top of that, all competing among one another and competing against the federal government.”
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
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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