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State Rolls Out Coronavirus Mental Health Crisis Hotline, Call4Calm, As Cases Near 20,000 In Illinois

In the past 24 hours, 81 people have died from COVID-19 and 1,293 new confirmed cases have been reported.

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CHICAGO — After another deadly 24 hours in Illinois, Gov. JB Pritzker announced a new program to connect scared and depressed Illinois residents to badly needed mental health services.

In the past 24 hours, 81 people have died from COVID-19 and 1,293 new confirmed cases have been reported.

Hoping to help those in need of mental and physical health care during the crisis, the state has created programs that will help people from afar.

“This moment is, understandably, grueling in just about every aspect possible for so many people,” Pritzker said Saturday. “We’re all dealing with a new situation. … It’s OK to feel. And please know that you don’t have to feel it all alone. I want you to know we’re here to help, and here’s how.”

Call4Calm, a free emotional support text line, was created to serve Illinois residents “swimming in the stress and uncertainty” caused by COVID-19, Pritzker said.

To connect with a counselor, people can text “TALK” to 5-5-2-0-2-0 or text “HABLAR” to the same number for counseling in Spanish. Users will remain anonymous, and the state has partnered with mental health organizations to have counselors respond.

Once a resident texts the hotline, they’ll get a call from a licensed counselor within 24 hours.

People can also use the text line to get information on vital services. If you text “unemployment,” “food” or “shelter,” to the same number, it will send you information on those topics.

And the state has created the Remote Patient Monitoring Program to help people who have symptoms of COVID-10 but don’t require in-hospital care.

Those people will be able to sign up for the program and a pandemic health worker will contact them virtually every day and ensure they’re doing all right and don’t need further assistance. People who sign up for the program will also receive a wellness kit with essential health care tools like a thermometer and blood pressure cuff.

The program will allow people receive care while staying home and isolating, and it’ll prevent hospitals from being overrun by people with mild to moderate cases of coronavirus, Pritzker said.

The state is still finalizing a partnership for that program for the northern Illinois region, with more information on how to sign up expected to come this week.

The announcement of the programs came as the state reached 19,180 confirmed coronavirus cases, said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health.

This brings the death toll in the state to 677, which led Ezike to warn Easter Sunday celebrators to attend church online and stay home.

“It’s important that we all know that the decisions we make today have real consequences and they extend beyond ourselves as individuals,” Ezike said. “Let me be clear: If there are churches that were planning to convene tomorrow, please cancel now. We can’t risk spreading the virus through this church congregation. We do have evidence of people who got sick through attending church and other similar gatherings. Let’s not do that.”


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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