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Wear A Mask If You Leave Your Home, Gov. Pritzker Says

"Wearing something to cover your face is a good idea based upon what the science says," the governor said.

Christina King of the Grand Crossing 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 — Illinois residents should wear masks when going outside amid the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. JB Pritzker advised Friday, calling it a “common sense” move to slow the spread.

The governor urged people to follow his stay at home order, but he said if they do go outside, a mask will help stop a person from spreading the virus through droplets when coughing or sneezing.

“Blocking that by wearing a mask in public seems like a common sense way to do what’s right for everyone around you,” he said. “The most important thing you can do, frankly, is stay home. But when you do go outside, or when you must go to the grocery store or pharmacy, wearing something to cover your face is a good idea based upon what the science says.”

State officials had not discouraged people from wearing masks previously, but sought to make sure people didn’t snatch up so many masks that first responders and health care workers were left scrambling.

The Centers for Disease Control had previously advised people that masks were not necessary unless they had symptoms of coronavirus and they should be saved for health care workers. But the agency is now looking into changing that guidance.

Friday was the first time Pritzker advised citizens to wear them.

“Over the last few days, we’ve seen information start to trickle out from the White House and the CDC about whether or not the general public should be wearing masks,” the governor said.

“Epidemiologists and infectious disease experts are still studying how COVID-19 travels through the air between people, and particularly how it travels from people who are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic.

“There’s a reason that we’re raised to cover your mouth or use your elbow when you cough or sneeze. It’s a simple gesture to reduce the number of germs you spread to those around you.”

Pritzker said people don’t need the much-talked-about N95 masks or other medical masks — a homemade mask is a good option, too.

“Really just something to cover your nose and mouth out of courtesy to those around you in case you’re one of those who are symptomatic or pre-symptomatic and could be spreading the virus,” he said.

“Wearing a mask is just one more way that we can help take care of one another in our state.”


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

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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