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Coronavirus In Chicago: City Could Reopen Slowly, Face More Restrictions Than Other Parts Of Illinois

"The important thing is we want to keep people safe and also give them the ability to do as much as possible without spreading the virus," Gov. Pritzker said.

Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Illinois could open in stages, with each region of the state facing different restrictions amid the pandemic, Gov. JB Pritzker said Monday.

Pritzker, speaking at a Monday press conference, offered more hints on how he could ease up on restrictions that were put in place to combat the spread of coronavirus. He hasn’t said yet when those restrictions will be lifted or shared concrete plans, though he said he’ll announce changes to the stay at home order as soon as possible.

But Illinois could see different restrictions across its regions because people face different challenges and lifestyles.

People in more rural areas might not need to wear a mask around their large properties, while people going outside in Chicago might need them since they’re around people, Pritzker said.

And areas that have more hospital capacity “could do more than some other places” where the virus has hit harder, Pritzker suggested.

That could signal longer, more stringent restrictions for Chicago, where people are more tightly packed together and where there’s been more cases and need for hospitals than in other parts of the state.

RELATED: How Can Chicago Reopen After Coronavirus? Here’s How We Did It After 1918’s Spanish Flu

So far, Illinois has had 31,508 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with about 41 percent — or 13,000 — of those coming from Chicago. And Chicago has seen 538 deaths, accounting for about 39 percent of the state’s 1,349.

“There’s a lot of distance, if you can imagine, between people’s homes in rural areas of Illinois. The idea of people going outside and wearing a mask on a property of theirs might be 100 acres or 10 acres is very different than” someone in the city going outside, Pritzker said. “The important thing is we want to keep people safe and also give them the ability to do as much as possible without spreading the virus.”

And the governor said he’s still considering requiring people to wear masks in public as part of changes to the state’s rules.

“We’re trying to put it together with the other things we want to change about our stay at home order, but we also want to make sure it’s understood properly,” Pritzker said. “This shouldn’t stop somebody from taking a walk in their local park if it’s open. That’s not the idea.”

Illinois’ stay at home order was put in place and is currently set to expire April 30, though it could be extended. Governors in nearby states have extended similar orders through mid- to late May.

Pritzker is working with other Midwestern governors to determine how they can collaborate to reopen the region. He’s also said he’s talking with scientists and industry leaders to make safe changes.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot does not have any planned press conferences Tuesday and Pritzker has his briefing at 2:30 p.m.

Coronavirus Cases

• There have been 31,508 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Illinois as of Monday afternoon. Some of those patients have recovered since testing positive.

• There have been 13,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Chicago.

• Illinois has seen at least 1,349 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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