CHICAGO — Gov. JB Pritzker said Illinois is “bending the curve” and slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus, a crucial step to give hospitals a chance to keep pace with severe cases.
But deaths from COVID-19 and new confirmed cases continue to rise in Illinois.
On Thursday, the one-month anniversary of the governor’s state emergency proclamation, officials said an additional 66 people died in the past 24 hours, bringing the state’s total deaths from coronavirus to 528.
And another 1,344 people were confirmed to have coronavirus since Wednesday, raising the state’s total number of confirmed cases to 16,422.
Pritzker said there is some positive news in the overall numbers.
“Our rate of rise is looking less and less exponential,” Pritzker said. “That indicated to us that we are in fact bending the curve. There’s even some evidence that we may be moving toward a flatter curve. But we need to keep watching the data on a daily basis.”
Still, Pritzker cautioned people to stay inside and put the “bend” into context.
“The curve is still upward trajectory. Just because we’re bending the curve does not mean it’s bending down yet,” Pritzker said. “People need to understand that it is unlikely that we will be able to lift this stay at home before April 30. And, indeed, as we approach April 30 we will be thinking about, ‘What are the restrictions or rules that we need to set going forward after April 30?'”
Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said the actions of the state’s residents are helping to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“We are headed in the right direction because of all the tremendous efforts by all of you,” she said. “All of these actions are making the difference, and we must continue to work together.”
But Pritzker said he’s concerned people might think all is safe at this point — which would be inaccurate.
“I am worried about people throwing caution to the wind and seeing a nice day outside and thinking that they’re not in danger. You heard Dr. Ezike talking about how some young people think they’re invincible, that this virus won’t affect them. So, everybody needs to know that, if we are improving — and it’s still up in the air — but if we are improving here in the state, it is because people are staying at home.”
Pritzker also said large summer festivals should not be held because they could lead to spread of the virus.
“I think everybody needs to think seriously about canceling large summer events,” he said. “From my perspective today, I don’t see how we’re going to have large gatherings of people, again, until we have a vaccine, which is months and months away.
“I would not risk having large gatherings of people, again, until we have a vaccine, which is months and months away. I would not risk having large groups of people getting together anywhere. And I think that’s hard for everybody to hear, but that’s just a fact. Even with testing and tracing and treating as is necessary for us to begin to make changes, it isn’t enough for me to say that it’s OK to have a big festival with a whole bunch of people gathering together.”
Illinois will not be able to “move on” until there is widespread testing, contract tracing — or tracing who patients have been in contact with — and treatment for coronavirus patients so deaths decrease.
“We have to have those available,” Pritzker said. “That’s even before there’s a vaccine.”
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.
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