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Coronavirus In Chicago: We Are ‘Bending The Curve,’ But Normalcy Remains Far Off

Pritzker is warning that even in November, life won't be normal in Illinois. That's seven months away.

Paul, Michele, Beckett and Buster Bolger of Elmwood Park pose for a photo in Humboldt Park as temperatures reached 80 degrees Fahrenheit in parts of Chicago while cases of Coronavirus in Illinois continue to rise on Tuesday, April 7, 2020.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Illinois is beginning to “bend the curve” in its fight against coronavirus, a milestone officials have talked about needing to hit since the start of the crisis a month ago.

But normalcy is still far off, officials have warned, and people must continue to stay at home to ensure COVID-19 cases and the resultant deaths don’t spike here again.

Coronavirus is still growing in Illinois: There have now been 23,247 confirmed cases of the virus throughout Illinois and 9,666 in Chicago. So far, at least 868 people have died in Illinois and 347 in the city.

But the rate at which that growth is happening has slowed significantly. It’s now taking Illinois 8.2 days to see its newly confirmed cases double, while on March 22 cases doubled every three days, Gov. JB Pritzker said at a Tuesday briefing.

And while deaths were doubling every 2.5 days on April 1, they’re now doubling just every 5.5 days.

“To be clear, there is nothing good about twice as many people having this virus or, worse, dying from it, no matter how long the increase takes,” Pritzker said. “But we won’t get to zero cases overnight. The fact that our doubling rate continues to increase in every metric is a clear demonstration that there is a deceleration of virus transmission. We are, in fact, bending the curve.”

Still, Pritzker warned all that progress could be undone if people don’t continue to stay at home and practice social distancing.

Pritzker said he has started talks with experts and with other Midwestern governors about how Illinois and the rest of the region could “reopen.” They could lift social distancing orders in phases and could change guidelines on an industry-by-industry basis, allowing businesses to reopen if their employees are able to be safe.

But the governor has repeatedly warned it will be a long time before Illinois returns to “normal” life.

Pritzker’s stay at home order is in place through at least April 30, though he and Mayor Lori Lightfoot have already warned people it’s highly unlikely the state will lift all its social distancing orders at the end of the month. He’s also told people to prepare themselves to think about what a summer without large events could be like.

The governor warned Illinois will need widespread testing, tracing and treatment to reopen, and none of those things are yet available. He’a also said life won’t be fully normal until there’s a vaccine and it’s been widely distributed, allowing people to once again safely gather. Such a vaccine is “months and months” away, he’s said.

And on Tuesday, Pritzker said he is already pushing for everyone who is eligible to vote in the general election to get a vote-by-mail ballot so they don’t gather at polling places, indicating “normalcy” won’t have returned even in November — seven months away.

Coronavirus Cases

• There have been 23,247 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Illinois as of Tuesday afternoon. Some of those patients have recovered since testing positive.

• There have been 9,666 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Chicago.

• Illinois has seen at least 868 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

• Stay At Home Order: The state’s stay at home order is set to expire April 30 — but Lightfoot said she thinks it will go longer.

Pritzker said he is in talks with experts and other states’ leaders about how to lift the stay at home order. Here’s how Chicago managed to save lives while lifting its social distancing orders during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic.

• Unemployment: People who have struggled to file for unemployment in Illinois will soon have relief, Pritzker said, but gig workers won’t see their money until at least mid-May.

• Demolition: A dust cloud enveloped Little Village on Sunday after a planned explosion. Neighbors are wondering why the city let it happen amid a respiratory pandemic.

Lightfoot shut down demolitions throughout the city this week and said a report will be released with information about what was in the dust cloud.

Now, Lincoln Park residents want General Iron shut down.

• Large Events: Some event producers are already canceling major summer festivals — including the Silver Room Block Party and West Fest — after Pritzker said he thinks all large summer events should be nixed.

A summer without festivals would be “devastating,” but it could save lives, producers said.

The Waldos Forever 4/20 Fest has moved entirely online amid the pandemic, and Misommarfest has been postponed.

• Elections: A Chicagoan who worked the polls during the March primary has died of coronavirus. Voters from his precinct are being warned.

 Homeless Shelters: The city has begun having nurses visit shelters for people who are homeless so they can educate and screen people there. Chicago doctors and the city also teamed up to bring thousands of coronavirus tests to shelters.

• Detained Children: At least 19 children at a Chicago shelter for immigrant detainees have tested positive for coronavirus, ProPublica Illinois reports.

• Cook County Jail: More than 180 correctional officers at Cook County Jail have tested positive for coronavirus, and their union says the remaining guards are overworked and being forced to cut corners. More than 300 detained people have also tested positive for coronavirus.

• Restaurant Losses: The famed Billy Goat Tavern and other Chicago bars and restaurants are suing their insurer in federal court, arguing the state’s dine-in ban is resulting in a “physical loss” that should be covered by their policies.

• Call4Calm: People in need of mental or physical health care during the pandemic now have more free services from the state.

Symptoms

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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