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Coronavirus In Chicago: Officials Preparing For Peak In Cases, Hoping To Save Lives

Illinois' peak in coronavirus cases is expected to come in mid- to late April.

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 — Gov. JB Pritzker said the state is still trying to prepare before Illinois’ expected peak in coronavirus cases this month.

It’s unknown when exactly the peak will hit or how many days it will last, but it is expected to occur in mid- to late April. In the meantime, officials have said Illinois will see many more cases and deaths from coronavirus.

So far, the state has had 11,256 confirmed cases of the virus and 274 deaths. Chicago has been particularly hard hit with 4,680 confirmed cases.

Pritzker said he is hopeful, but not certain, precautions taken will be enough to flatten the curve to allow hospitals to keep pace with the growing number of victims. The state has closed schools, restaurants and bars and enacted a stay at home order.

Illinois has also set up a “field hospital” with 500 beds — and another 2,500 coming — at McCormick Place and is creating at least three similar facilities elsewhere in the state. Pritzker said he’s still desperately searching for more personal protective equipment and ventilators.

Officials have also recruited hordes of health care workers and provided them benefits like hotel rooms so they can isolate in Chicago and child care so they know their kids are safe while they work.

Pritzker said he prays “we’ll be able to manage through this with the resources we have. But I’m not fully confident of that.” That’s why the state is still looking for personal protective equipment: “So when we do peak, [they’ll think], ‘Well, maybe we prepared too much.’ That would be my dream: that we prepared too much for this.”

And Pritzker did say there are other measures that could be enacted, such as taking temperatures of shoppers before they are allowed into grocery stores or creating stronger stay at home rules.

“These are all measures that potentially could be put in place,” the governor said. “There are other things we could do as well; in South Korea, just to give you one example, everybody that walks into a grocery store, before they walk in, their temperature is taken.

“… These ideas … are perfectly good ideas. We could do those things. I think what we’re seeing is people are, for the most part … are abiding by our stay at home. They are are doing the right things. But we will continue to look at what is possible, what is likely.”

Still, officials again emphasized this weekend, the most important thing Illinoisans can do to slow the virus’ spread is to stay at home.

Coronavirus Cases

• There have been 11,256 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Illinois as of Sunday afternoon. Some of those patients have recovered since testing positive.

• There have been 4,680 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Chicago.

• Illinois has seen 274 deaths as a result of the virus so far.

If You Need Help

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

What’s Happening In Chicago

Racial Disparities: A WBEZ report found 70 percent of the people dying from coronavirus in Chicago are Black. The state acknowledged there are longtime disparities in health care for people of color.

Masks: Pritzker is now urging all Illinoisans to wear masks, even if just homemade cloth ones, when going outside to protect others.

• McCormick Place: The convention center was turned into a field hospital for coronavirus patients in just five days. It already has 500 beds, and another 2,500 will be set up by the end of the month.

Incarcerated People: Pritzker said the state would care for incarcerated people just like it would any others during the outbreak — but hundreds of detained people have tested positive for coronavirus, and two men have died at Stateville. One sick inmate’s wife said she’s terrified.

• Undocumented Chicagoans: A new fund that will help laid-off undocumented people is accepting applications.

• All In Illinois: A new campaign — with PSAs from local celebrities — urges Illinoisans to stay at home and encourage neighbors to stay home to prevent spread of coronavirus.

• Rent and Mortgages: Aldermen are pushing for the state to act now to help renters — but Pritzker has said his hands are tied due to the state’s rent control ban. The state Legislature has to make changes, he said.

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.

• CPS: The district will continue giving away free meals, even during what would have been spring break. But some of the giveaway sites are being consolidated.

Students across the state are likely sad to be missing events like prom — or even just hanging out with friends in hallways, Pritzker said, and that’s OK. He encouraged students to feel their emotions — but then find ways to help amid the pandemic.

CPS is sending out 100,000 laptops and tablets to students so they can learn at home, with remote learning set to begin April 13. It could also be a sign schools will stay closed longer than first announced.

• Stay at Home: The state’s stay at home order has been extended through April 30. The 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.

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.

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.

 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.


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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