CHICAGO — Illinois should be concerned about a second wave of coronavirus that could hit this fall, the state’s top doctor said.
The warning from Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health, came even as state and city officials are looking at how they can ease up on the stay at home order.
Ezike said the flu is an epidemic that Illinois sees on a “scheduled basis” — that is, every fall. That epidemic combined with coronavirus could make for deadly outcomes, she said.
“I think we should be concerned,” Ezike said. “We know that the fall is already traditionally an established time for flu outbreaks and flu…. If there was supposed to be any resurgence [of COVID-19], we could see why that would be at that time.
“If you had COIVD as well as flu it’s very concerning that, that could be a significant second surge. … Without a treatment, without a vaccine for COVID, those two overlaid could be very problematic.”
Gov. JB Pritzker said he had a similar concern during a press conference last week, emphasizing he’s worried Illinois could see a “second wave” of cases this summer or fall if the state reopens too quickly — or if nearby states do that.
“It’s not just about the peak that we’re potentially going through over the next several weeks,” he said. “There’s also the threat of a peak in the fall. Doctors will tell you that if you look back at the Spanish Flu, other pandemics and even other countries that have opened up … that you see a resurgence of cases because we don’t have a vaccine yet.
“If you really begin to open things up, you’re gonna have a second wave. So we need to make sure that we’re fully prepared. We don’t want to have a second wave.”
Still, officials are looking at how they can get people back to work without risking lives. Pritzker said he’s in talks with industry leaders about how their workplaces could open up while allowing workers to practice social distancing.
Pritzker said he’s also looking to tweak the stay at home order — though he and Mayor Lori Lightfoot hinted strongly Tuesday the order could go into June. Pritzker outright dismissed lifting stringent restrictions soon, as Georgia plans to do.
Lightfoot and Pritzker have said Chicago and Illinois need more widespread testing, contact tracing and treatment options for coronavirus patients before they can lift the stay at home order. Pritzker said he doesn’t think people will be able to gather in crowds until there’s a vaccine, which is “months and months” away.
Lightfoot will reside over a virtual City Council meeting at 10 p.m. Pritzker has his daily coronavirus briefing at 2:30 p.m.
• There have been 33,059 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Illinois as of Tuesday afternoon. Some of those patients have recovered since testing positive.
• There have been 13,612 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Chicago.
• Illinois has seen at least 1,468 deaths as a result of the virus so far.
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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.
• 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.
• 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.
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:
- 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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