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Coronavirus In Chicago: COVID-19 Is Still Spreading Here As Officials Worry About 2nd Wave Of Cases This Fall

"Have we gotten to the point where there's no transmission of the virus? No. But we've done a fantastic job, and that's why we need to stay the course."

Raquel Gonzalez of Logan Square wears a mask and gloves as she waits for the Fullerton bus after working on Monday, April 27, 2020. Starting May 1, all Illinois residents are required to wear masks in public. | Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — More than 20,000 Chicagoans have now tested positive for coronavirus, and there have been more than 50,000 confirmed cases throughout the state.

The grim milestones echo what Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Gov. JB Pritzker and other officials have said: The virus is still spreading here, though the state’s peak is predicted to come soon. And even if cases drop off, officials are already thinking about what could happen this fall, when a second wave of COVID-19 cases is expected.

“As we continue to live in this COVID reality, we need to continue to work together and support each other,” said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health, at a Wednesday press conference. “More and more of us are being personally affected by this virus.”

So far, 2,215 people have died of coronavirus in Illinois, with 873 of those deaths happening in Chicago. An analysis found hundreds more people have likely died of COVID-19 without being counted.

There have been 20,499 confirmed cases in Chicago and 50,355 throughout Illinois.

Despite the stay at home order having been in place since March 21, there are still many opportunities for coronavirus to spread, Ezike said.

Still, Illinoisans have slowed down the virus’s spread significantly by following social distancing guidelines, officials said. It now takes weeks for cases to double in Illinois, while in the beginning of the crisis it took only a few days.

“We have curved that number significantly. Significantly,” Ezike said. “We have gotten the desired effect. Have we gotten to the point where there’s no transmission of the virus? No. But we’ve done a fantastic job, and that’s why we need to stay the course.”

The virus’s growth has slowed here so much, in fact, the “field hospital” set up at McCormick Place has shrunk. It was originally set to host 3,000 hospital beds, but the state has “stood down” 1,000 of them — and it might be able to shrink even further, Pritzker said.

But Pritzker is concerned winding down the stay at home order now could lead to a second, deadly wave of cases this summer — and he and other officials want to keep alternate care sites like McCormick open in case they’re needed in the fall.

“I don’t want to speak too soon because all of these identified alternate care facilities need to be in a state of some kind of readiness in the event that there’s a surge either because we reopened — and God forbid we reopen too fast — or because there’s a surge that people expect in the fall,” he said. “The reason we didn’t hit a higher peak is because of all of you at home.

“But we need to be ready. We just don’t know” what will happen.

Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, noted earlier this week Chicagoans who had the flu and COVID-19 at the same time fared worse than those who just battled COVID-19. She said the city will encourage people to get flu vaccines this fall and winter because they’re worried about “having a really bad flu season on top of even a lower level of COVID.”

Lightfoot has a press conference at 1 p.m. and Pritzker has his daily coronavirus briefing at 2:30 p.m.

Coronavirus Cases

• There have been 50,355 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Illinois as of Wednesday afternoon. Some of those patients have recovered since testing positive.

• At least 2,215 people have died in Illinois as a result of the virus.

• There have been 20,499 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Chicago and at least 873 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

Housing: The city created a “pledge” to put pressure on banks and landlords to keep people in their homes amid the pandemic.

Deaths: Coronavirus has likely killed hundreds more people in Illinois than has been counted by the state, a new analysis found.

Domestic Abuse: Survivors of domestic violence can get free hotel rooms during the pandemic.

Pre-mixed Cocktails: It’s illegal in Illinois for bars and restaurants to sell pre-mixed cocktails via delivery and curbside pickup. But a growing number of bar/restaurant owners hit hard by the coronavirus shutdown are fighting to change that.

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

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.

• 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.


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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