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Coronavirus In Chicago: What If Illinois Reopens And Gets A Spike In Cases? ‘I Don’t Think People Could Handle That’

"Places where they came out of these restrictions too soon, they've seen a spike," Mayor Lori Lightfoot said. "We can't open up and then have to close back down.

Sebastian Arboleda and Stephanie Paul wear masks after buying coffee on Monday, April 27, 2020. The duo couldn't decide if they lived in the Ravenswood or Lincoln Square neighborhood. Starting May 1, All Illinois residents are required to wear face masks in public. | Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Gov. JB Pritzker are asking people to follow the new stay at home order, which goes into effect Friday, even as pressure mounts for them to provide more information on when life can return to normal here.

The mayor and governor have said they’re using science, data and guidance from experts to make decisions about the stay at home order and other restrictions.

RELATED: The Stay At Home Order Is Different This Time Around. Here’s How

Both have also warned normalcy is a far way off, with Lightfoot saying Chicagoans might need masks all summer and fall to avoid spreading coronavirus and Pritzker saying things won’t be “normal” until a vaccine is developed — which isn’t expected to happen until 2021.

The officials worry lifting the stay at home order will lead to a second wave of cases this summer. Two experts who created models for the state warned removing the order would lead to thousands of people dying daily just by the end of May, according to their predictions.

“Places where they came out of these restrictions too soon, they’ve seen a spike,” Lightfoot said a Thursday press conference. “We can’t open up and then have to close back down. Psychologically, I don’t think people could handle that.

“I’m just asking people to hang in there a little bit longer, be patient. And we are gonna be as transparent as we can and as soon as we are able to open back up — again, it won’t be a light switch. It’ll be a gradual turning of the dimmer switch. And we will open back up in a way that’s responsible and consistent with the public health data.”

Countries that have lifted restrictions have seen significant surges in cases and deaths as a result.

RELATED: You Must Cover Your Face In Illinois Starting May 1. Here’s What You Need To Know

But multiple Republican lawmakers and a northern Illinois church have filed lawsuits challenging Pritzker’s stay at home order. The church’s leader has said he plans to hold services Sunday, some officials have said they won’t enforce the stay at home order in their areas and extremely small suburban and rural groups have held protests.

And throughout the crisis, there have been people who have flouted the order and gathered in parks, thrown parties or celebrated events like weddings together despite the risk that poses.

While police can arrest people for reckless conduct if they break the stay at home order, Pritzker and Lightfoot have urged officers to instead focus on educating and citing people.

Pritzker emphasized Thursday he is trying to get the stay at home order lifted as soon as possible. The current one is set to go through May 30, though it could be extended again.

The governor urged people to continue following social distancing guidelines and to stay home as much as possible, even if their local officials or faith leaders are saying they won’t follow the rules.

COVID-19 is still spreading in Illinois, which is why the stay at home order needed to be lengthened, officials said Thursady.

But the virus’s spread has slowed significantly here, as has the rate at which people are being hospitalized and dying. Pritzker said “that’s no accident” — it’s because social distancing works.

“It went down because people stayed at home. It’s because people are following the social distancing rules,” he said. “I would point people to the fact that people are still getting infected. More and more people are ending up in the hospital and more and more people are dying. We had 141 people die today, and not all of them were in Cook County or Chicago. Some of them were in downstate Illinois.”

Still, Pritzker said he, other elected leaders and experts are working on devising a plan that will allow Illinois to reopen gradually and regionally so people can return to work.

Pritzker has his daily coronavirus briefing at 2:30 p.m.

Coronavirus Cases

• There have been 52,918 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Illinois as of Thursday afternoon. Some of those patients have recovered since testing positive.

• At least 2,355 people have died in Illinois as a result of the virus.

• There have been 21,506 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Chicago and at least 932 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

Nice Weather: It’ll be 75 with sun this weekend, but Lightfoot wants Chicagoans to stay home.

CPS: The class of 2020 will have its graduation ceremony online — with Oprah giving the commencement speech.

Mask Giveaway: The city plans to give 1 million masks to residents. Lightfoot said Chicagoans will likely need them throughout the summer and fall.

Urban Density: In Chicago, urban density might not be to blame for the spread of coronavirus, a ProPublica investigation found.

Speeding: Drivers are speeding more often on Chicago streets amid the pandemic, according to city data.

High Cases: Coronavirus continues to hit the Black and Latino communities of Chicago hard, as evidenced by early test results coming from Norwegian American Hospital in Humboldt Park.

Mask Theft: The Art Institute put enormous masks on its famous lions — only for one of the masks to be stolen the same day.

Koval: Koval delivered 500 gallons of free hand sanitizer this week to Chicago-area nonprofits struggling to find supplies amid the coronavirus pandemic.

• 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.

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

• 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.

 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.

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

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

• 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.


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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