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Coronavirus In Chicago: Illinois Could Hit Peak In Cases This Weekend, But Growth Rate Is Slowing

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Chicago is now doubling cases every nine to 10 days, rather than the two to three days it took for cases to double earlier in the outbreak.

Members of the Illinois Air National Guard assemble medical equipment at the McCormick Place Convention Center.
U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Jay Grabiec

CHICAGO — Coronavirus cases are still on the rise in Chicago and the expected peak could come this weekend — but there are glimmers of hope.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot noted earlier this week Chicago is now doubling cases every nine to 10 days, rather than the two to three days it took for cases to double earlier in the outbreak.

The state’s growth rate of confirmed coronavirus cases has fallen, too, and it does appear Illinois has started to “bend the curve,” Gov. JB Pritzker said Thursday.

“Our rate of rise is looking less and less exponential. That indicated to us that we are in fact bending the curve,” Pritzker said. “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.”

But cases are still growing: There are now 6,619 confirmed cases in Chicago and 16,422 confirmed cases and 528 deaths throughout the state.

Illinois is expected to hit its peak in mid- to late April — and possibly as soon as this Saturday or Sunday, according to two widely shared models. But both those models predict Illinois will have the hospital capacity it needs to treat its COVID-19 patients.

The continued growth in cases means people need to continue to take coronavirus and local stay at home orders seriously, officials said.

Lightfoot, Pritzker and other officials have urged people to consider to stay at home as much as possible — including during the holidays this weekend — and to practice social distancing or else coronavirus will begin to spread more rapidly again.

And Pritzker warned on Thursday the stay at home order won’t be lifted before April 30 and he thinks all large events should be canceled this summer.

In fact, large gatherings shouldn’t be held at all until a vaccine is developed, which is “months and months away,” Pritzker said.

“I am worried about people throwing caution to the wind and seeing a nice day outside and thinking that they’re not in danger,” Pritzker said. “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. … If you go out, you have some propensity to infect other people, and we need you to stay at home. … The curve is still upward trajectory. Just because we’re bending the curve does not mean it’s bending down yet.

“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?’ Because it isn’t gonna be that all the sudden you’re gonna drop the stay at home and every other restriction, and that’s because there is a propensity that, if you do that, we’re gonna see a big spike upward and once again hospitalizations, ICU beds filled, beds filled and more death.”

The governor said the coronavirus crisis in Illinois won’t be over until there’s widespread testing, experts can track everyone who came in contact with a confirmed patient and there’s treatment available for COVID-19.

Coronavirus Cases

• There have been 16,422 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Illinois as of Thursday afternoon. Some of those patients have recovered since testing positive.

• There have been 6,619 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Chicago.

• Illinois has seen 528 deaths as a result of the virus so far. Among those is a second man who died at Cook County Jail.

If You Need Help

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

What’s Happening In Chicago

Coronavirus Deaths: The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office has opened a 2,000-body, offsite warehouse to handle the growing wave of deaths.

Large Events: Pritzker said he thinks all large events should be canceled this summer.

City Funds: $1.5 billion in federal coronavirus relief is likely coming to Chicago.

• Liquor Curfew: All stores must now stop selling liquor at 9 p.m. as officials try to reduce crowds outside liquor stores.

• Violence: “Enough, enough, enough,” Lightfoot demanded after saying the city’s violence epidemic was taking away resources from the fight against coronavirus. Seven people were killed and 14 others wounded just on Tuesday.

• Undocumented Chicagoans: With no safety net, undocumented Chicagoans are struggling to survive the pandemic, saying, “We’ve been left behind.”

Lightfoot signed an order to ensure all undocumented Chicagoans will be eligible for the city’s coronavirus relief programs.

A new fund that will help laid-off undocumented people is accepting applications.

• Cinespace: The movie studio has become a food pantry warehouse to help families impacted by coronavirus.

• Non-Essential Businesses: Some businesses have remained open, breaking the state’s stay at home order and facing collective fines that have added up to $120,000.

 Nice Weather: Officials have asked people not to congregate at city parks amid the nice weather. The city is cracking down on those crowds — but here are 10 parks where you can avoid the masses.

• Racial Disparities: More than 70 percent of the people who have died from coronavirus in Chicago are Black. Officials said the pandemic is exacerbating health disparities.

• 1099 Workers: Though the stimulus bill promised unemployment benefits to independent contractors, they’re now being asked to wait to apply — even as their savings are vanishing.

• Sports Teams: The city’s most famous teams — including the White Sox, Blackhawks, Cubs and Bears — have teamed up to urge Chicagoans to stay home.

 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.

• 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.

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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