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Coronavirus In Chicago: This Week Was Full Of Hope, But Battle Far From Over

Though officials said Illinois is flattening the curve, the state saw its deadliest day yet in the coronavirus fight, with 125 people dying between Wednesday and Thursday.

A pedestrian is seen wearing a protective mask in downtown Chicago as fears of COVID-19 rise on Friday, March 20, 2020.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Illinois saw its deadliest day yet in the fight against coronavirus, with another 125 people dying between Wednesday and Thursday.

Though officials have said Chicago and Illinois are “flattening the curve” and there are glimmers of hope, the sharp spike in deaths underscored another thing they’ve repeated: The fight against coronavirus is far from over.

So far, there have been 1,072 deaths from coronavirus in Illinois and 25,733 confirmed cases here. Chicago alone has seen 420 deaths and 10,721 confirmed cases.

The uptick in deaths Thursday came toward the end of a week that had otherwise seen positive news: The growth of cases here has slowed dramatically with newly confirmed cases doubling just once every 12 days in Chicago, where they had once doubled every two days. That’s a sign Chicago is making progress, said Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health.

“… That rate of increase, [that] flattening, is the most important sign, and we need to get to a point where it is entirely flat and we stop talking about doubling and we start talking about it coming down,” Arwady said Wednesday. “And we’re going to get there. But we’re not there just yet.”

Illinois has seen a similar flattening of its curve — though it also is still seeing growth in coronavirus case. This is a marathon, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health, has repeatedly said.

At the same time, officials are looking at how they can slowly reopen Illinois and Chicago and get people back to work.

But Gov. JB Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot have emphasized things will not return to normal until local officials are able to do widespread testing and contact tracing of people with coronavirus.

Pritzker said Illinois is expanding its testing — though it’s still not where he wants to be — and is “spinning up” a contact tracing program. The development of treatment is reliant on scientists and researchers, who are working on that across the world, including in Chicago.

Officials said said treatments for people with coronavirus are needed before “normalcy” can resume — and Pritzker has said he can’t imagine large crowds will be able to form until there’s a vaccine, which is “months and months” away.

Coronavirus Cases

• There have been 25,733 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Illinois as of Thursday afternoon. Some of those patients have recovered since testing positive.

• There have been 10,721 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Chicago.

• Illinois has seen at least 1,072 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

Testing: Officials are now saying anyone with coronavirus symptoms can get tested in Illinois. Before, they’d advised most people to simply stay at home and assume they had coronavirus.

And University of Chicago Medicine is partnering with other South Side organizations to test up to 1,000 people every day.

COVID Care Station: A free coronavirus screening station is coming to Little Village.

• Stay At Home Order: The state’s stay at home order is set to expire April 30, though that could be extended. Pritzker has teamed up with six other Midwestern governors to collaborate on when to lift their various stay at home measures.

Here’s how Chicago managed to save lives while lifting its social distancing orders during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic.

Food Pantry: Lakeview Pantry is using the Wrigley Field concourse to box and distribute food for people in need. The space allows the staff to have more room to store food and to practice social distancing while working.

• 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.


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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