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Coronavirus In Chicago: Illinois Is Still On Wrong Side Of COVID-19 Curve — But We’re ‘Doing Better’

While social distancing has successfully saved lives by slowing the spread of coronavirus here, Gov. Pritzker said the state is still on the wrong side of the curve.

Humboldt Park on April 7, 2020.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
  • Credibility:

CHICAGO — Illinois has flattened its coronavirus peak, Gov. JB Pritzker said Wednesday — but now, we need to bend it.

Pritzker has emphasized in recent days that, while experts originally forecast Illinois’ peak as coming in mid-April, successful social distancing here has “flattened” the curve and moved the peak to mid-May.

That means that rather than looking like a mountain peak with a dramatic rise and then fall in cases, Illinois’ curve now looks more like a gradually growing plateau.

That was the exact point of the stay at home order, Pritzker said at a Wednesday press conference. Social distancing was meant to slow the growth of coronavirus and, in turn, flatten the curve. That ensured the state’s health care system wasn’t overwhelmed with a sharp spike in cases, which officials feared would have led to more deaths, he’s said previously.

“I think people need to understand actually the principle purpose of the stay at home order was to make sure fewer people got sick and fewer people would die than otherwise without a stay at home order,” Pritzker said. “The curve gets pushed down … as you’re trying to build capacity [in hospitals] … You don’t want to go above … how many beds do you have, how many ICU beds do you have, how many ventilators do you have … .”

And while social distancing has successfully saved lives by slowing the spread of coronavirus here, Pritzker acknowledged Wednesday the state is still on the wrong side of the curve. That’s because there is still a growing number of people getting coronavirus, being hospitalized and needing care in ICUs.

It’s not enough just to slow that growth, as Illinois has done, Pritzker said previously; the state needs to see declines in all those areas.

“You don’t want to be on this side of the curve,” Pritzker said Wednesday. “We have to get past that. That’s what we’re all aiming at.”

Still, a flat curve is better than a growing curve, Pritzker said.

“We are, indeed, doing better, and I want to make sure everybody understands,” Pritzker said. “And look at New York — they’ve seemingly flattened their curve, but it’s flattened at a reasonably high level. But flat is better than the direction they were going. And the same thing is true in Louisiana and the same thing is true in Chicago. So I absolutely agree that things are better.”

It won’t be possible to tell if Illinois has hit its peak until the state is on the other side of the curve — meaning the growth of cases and hospitalizations decline, Pritzker said.

And the governor has suggested Illinois might follow recommendations from the federal government to wait for 14 days in declining cases before lifting the stay at home order. With the peak projected for mid-May, that could mean the state won’t ease up significantly on restrictions until the end of May or start of June.

While Pritzker has said he is looking at “tweaking” the state’s stay at home order, he thinks Illinois will need widespread testing, contact tracing, more personal protective equipment and treatments for people before restrictions can be loosened up. A vaccine will be needed for things to go back to “normal,” he’s also said.

“Obviously the better we do of this, the more likely it is that we can start to think about, ‘OK, what are the safe ways to begin to reopen things so people can go back to work, people can go back to school?'” Pritkzer said. “I think I’ve foreshadowed for everybody, and I think it’s widely understood, that the things you need and things you need to reopen the economy are things we don’t have in place, nor does any state.”

Pritzker said he’ll talk more about the curve and what state officials are using for modeling the virus’s growth during his 2:30 p.m. Thursday press conference.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot will hold a press conference at 1 p.m. to talk about economic recovery in Chicago.

Coronavirus Cases

• There have been 35,108 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Illinois as of Wednesday afternoon. Some of those patients have recovered since testing positive.

• There have been 14,406 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Chicago.

• Illinois has seen at least 1,565 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

Health Care Workers: At least 2,500 health care workers have gotten sick and eight have died from coronavirus in Illinois.

Nursing Homes: The city’s nursing homes are seeing major COVID-19 outbreaks — especially on the Far North Side.

And 10 people have died at a South Shore nursing home where 70 percent of the residents have coronavirus.

Pride: The 2020 Pride Parade is being postponed.

Pride Fest has also been postponed, though Market Days is still on for now.

• Schools: Pritzker announced last week 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.

• 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. The developer has been cited by the state EPA with violating pollution laws.

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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