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Coronavirus In Chicago: Illinois Needs To ‘Be Very Careful’ About Reopening Or People Could Die, Pritzker Says

Pritzker suggested he could require people to wear masks in public as Illinois eases up on other restrictions.

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker at the McCormick Place Convention Center in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Chicago on April 2, 2020.
U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Jay Grabiec
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CHICAGO — Illinoisans need to continue to stay home and save lives, Gov. JB Pritzker said, despite small but attention-grabbing protests for the state to reopen.

Such protests have been small in Chicago, but they’re happening — and gaining attention — across the United States. But Pritzker, speaking at a Sunday press conference, said people need to be patient as officials and scientists try to save as many lives as possible.

Illinois’ stay at home order was put in place March 21 and is set to expire April 30, though it could be extended. Just Friday, Pritzker extended the closing of all schools in the state through the academic year.

“I want people to get back to work. I want people to go back to school. And I want us to have a great summer,” he said. “And so I’m looking for all the best ways to make that happen. But we’re in the middle of an emergency, a pandemic. It’s like nothing we’ve ever seen.

“We’re listening to the experts and the scientists. … The fact is we have got to be very careful as we make decisions about change in the stay at home order to keep people safe. I’m looking at all of the ways in which we can open things up and keep people safe.”

Pritzker suggested again he could require people to wear masks in public, among other measures meant to keep down the spread of coronavirus as Illinois eases up on other restrictions.

What is truly needed is rapid and regular testing until a treatment and vaccine are developed, Pritzker said. That’s particularly needed now that it’s become clear people can spread coronavirus to others even while not showing symptoms.

“You want to know that people who are coming to work with you are not COVID-19 positive,” Pritzker said.

And though the curve is bending here, Illinois still faces a growing number of coronavirus cases: There have now been more than 30,000 confirmed cases in the state, including 12,571 just in Chicago. At least 1,290 people have died in Illinois.

Another shipment of personal protective equipment will arrive Monday in Illinois as the state continues its battle against the virus.

Pritzker confirmed last week the state paid thousands to secretly in fly shipments of medical and personal protective supplies from China. The federal government has seized such shipments in other states, he said, and he didn’t want to risk that happening here when Illinois needs supplies.

“That’s the landscape we’re operating in: competing with other states, other countries and even our own federal government for supplies,” Pritzker said. “If an airlift is what it takes to bring our PPE … then it’s an airlift that we’ll use.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has a press conference at 1 p.m. Monday and Pritkzer has a briefing at 2:30 p.m. Monday

Coronavirus Cases

• There have been 30,357 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Illinois as of Sunday afternoon. Some of those patients have recovered since testing positive.

• There have been 12,571 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Chicago.

• Illinois has seen at least 1,290 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

Schools: Pritzker announced Friday schools will remain closed during this academic year. Opening them provides too many opportunities for coronavirus to spread, he said.

Hydroxychloroquine: A drug touted by President Donald Trump is unproven and shouldn’t be used to treat coronavirus, Pritzker said.

• 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.

Here’s where you can get tested in Chicago.

• 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: The city has put a six-month moratorium on implosions and issued a $68,000 fine against Hilco and its contractors following the demolition disaster in Little Village. 

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.

 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.

• 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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