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Coronavirus Isn’t A ‘Chicago Problem,’ Pritzker Says As Downstate Lawmakers Fight Stay At Home Order

Contrary to popular belief, you're more likely to die from coronavirus in two downstate counties than in Cook County or Chicago, the governor said Monday.

Two pedestrians wear masks in the Streeterville neighborhood on Monday, April 27, 2020. Starting May 1, all Illinois residents are required to wear face coverings in public.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — People across the state need to stop thinking about coronavirus as a “Chicago problem,” Gov. JB Pritzker said Monday.

The governor urged people throughout Illinois to come together and to continue to follow the stay at home order. He said lifting restrictions now for anywhere in Illinois would be a “disservice” and would put the health of Illinoisans at risk.

Chicago has undoubtedly been hit hard by coronavirus: about 40 percent of the state’s confirmed cases are in the city, and about 39 percent of the state’s COVID-19 deaths have occurred in Chicago.

But central and southern Illinois are in crisis, too, Pritzker said during a press conference.

“COVID-19 knows no county or regional boundaries,” Pritzker said. “It’s clear that some people are simply looking at the number of cases in a county and not looking at the infection rate.”

Pritzker noted that while Cook County and Chicago might have the most cases in the state, they’re also the most densely populated areas of Illinois.

Coronavirus has killed people in 42 counties across Illinois, Pritzker said. Two of the the state’s top five counties by infection rate are downstate, he said, and the two counties with the most deaths per capita are Jasper and Monroe.

“That means you’re more likely to die of COVID-19 if you live in either of those two counties than if you live in either Chicago or Cook County,” he said. “It would be doing a massive disservice to our downstate residents if we governed only by raw numbers. No matter where you live, I want you to be healthy and safe.”

Despite that, in recent weeks, people have peppered the governor with questions about when southern or central Illinois could see social distancing guidelines relaxed, extremely small groups of protesters from Rockford have called for the stay at home order to be lifted and a downstate lawmaker filed a suit against the governor’s order.

That lawmaker, Rep. Darren Bailey, is among a group of downstate Republicans who once sponsored legislation to kick Chicago out of Illinois, the Sun-Times reports.

A downstate judge granted Bailey a temporary injunction against Pritzker’s latest stay at home order Monday. Though the ruling only applies to Bailey for now, it could have broader implications for the rest of the state if more suits are filed.

Pritzker said Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office is already preparing to get a stay and to fight the suit so the order can still be enforced.

Pritzker has said officials are looking at reopening Illinois on a regional basis — for example, people in rural areas might not need to wear face coverings when outside since they can spread out from other people, while people in densely packed Chicago need face coverings since it’s harder to practice social distancing.

But counties in central and southern Illinois that have been hit hard by coronavirus would still face restrictions to prevent deaths and cases, just like Chicago with its “hot spot” of cases does. Pritzker said he’ll base regional decisions around case numbers and hospital availability — and some rural areas with fewer hospital beds are struggling.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has no scheduled press conferences and Pritzker has his daily coronavirus briefing at 2:30 p.m.

Coronavirus Cases

• There have been 45,883 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Illinois as of Monday afternoon. Some of those patients have recovered since testing positive.

• At least 1,983 people have died in Illinois as a result of the virus.

• There have been 18,679 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Chicago and at least 773 people have died.

If You Need Help

• Sick? Broke? Want To Help? Here’s A Massive List Of Coronavirus Resources In Chicago

What’s Happening In Chicago

• Stay at Home: Pritzker extended the stay at home order to May 30, but there have been changes. Here’s how it’s different.

A downstate lawmaker challenged the new stay at home order with a suit — and that could have broader implications for the rest of the state.

App: The city has a new app called Chi COVID Coach that will let you sign up for a vaccine, testing information and more.

El Milagro: The tortilla factory has closed for two weeks after a worker died of coronavirus.

Saint Anthony Hospital: The West Side hospital is so full, coronavirus patients are being intubated outside the ICU — but it’s losing nurses to McCormick Place, its leaders said.

Pilsen, Chinatown Residents: A new fund is giving $1,000 grants to people who are struggling during the pandemic.

 Masks: Everyone will be required to wear a face covering or mask when unable to social distance starting May 1. And yes, stores can require you to wear a face covering if you want to shop.

Here’s what you need to know about the requirement.

• Non-essential Stores: Starting May 1, non-essential retail stores can reopen — but only to fulfill contactless pickup and delivery orders.

• Emergency Powers: City Council voted Friday to give Lightfoot emergency powers to fight coronavirus. Critics said it was a “power grab,” but the mayor said she needs the powers — which end this summer — to save lives here.

• Gig Workers: Here’s how to apply for unemployment as a gig or 1099 worker in Illinois.

• Recovery: The city has created a task force that will start exploring how Chicago can recovery financially and emotionally from the pandemic.

• SchoolsSchools will remain closed during this academic year.

On Sunday, Pritzker told teachers they should use the summer to prepare for e-learning this fall, “just in case.”

• Ramadan: Chicago Muslims are celebrating a Ramadan unlike any other.

• Trump: The president has come under fire after wondering aloud if disinfectants could be injected to cure coronavirus. Local health officials have urged people not to try that, noting it can be fatal — and Ezike said Illinois Poison Control has seen more callers since Trump’s comments.

• Goodbyes: A Chicago doctor is collecting iPads and other tablets so her coronavirus patients can save goodbye to their loved ones.

• 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.

Here’s where you can get tested in Chicago

• 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.

• 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 or difficulty breathing
  • Chills and shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Loss of taste and/or smell

People have also experienced body aches, nasal congestion and runny nose, 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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