CHICAGO — This Mother’s Day will be a hug-less one for many Chicagoans.
Illinois has made progress in its battle against coronavirus, but doctors said it’s still not safe for people to expand their “coronavirus circle.” A coronavirus circle is the people you’ve lived and isolated with during the stay at home order — which is meant to only be members of your immediate household.
That means people shouldn’t visit friends or family members because doing so expands everyone’s circles in a way that’s not yet safe. The state’s top doctor said virtual visits will simply have to do so you don’t put your mom at risk Sunday.
“Even my mother, the kids can only drop something off at the door because we don’t want to expose her to any additional risk,” said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health, during a Wednesday press conference. “We really don’t want to put anyone at risk, especially our most vulnerable.
“Virtual hugs are still, I would say, the order of the day.”
One of the main issues is people can have COVID-19 and not know it because they do not experience symptoms. These asymptomatic carriers can transmit it to the people they make contact with, and then those people can become ill.
By visiting with friends and family, even if they’ve also isolated from other people, you’re increasing your risk of being infected or unknowingly spreading an infection to them, doctors said.
“We warn expanding our circles will increase your risk of infection. It’s that simple. The more people you’re around the higher the risk of contracting the virus from someone in this new, expanded circle,” Ezike said. “As you expand [your circle], you are absolutely increasing the risk of contracting the virus.”
If your mom or another loved one is older, they’re particularly at risk from coronavirus. Elderly people and people with underlying health conditions — like diabetes, heart disease and lung disease — are those who are most likely to face severe cases or death from COVID-19.
Dr. Richard Novak, chief of Infectious Diseases at University of Illinois at Chicago, also advised against people expanding their quarantine circle for now. Coronavirus is still a “huge problem” and there’s no vaccine to prevent it or treatment to help those who do become ill, he said.
The progress Illinois has made in flattening the curve is thanks to social distancing and face mask use, Novak said. If people stop social distancing too early by broadening their quarantine circles, Illinois could see a surge in new cases — possibly elongating the stay at home order.
“People are wishing this problem would go away, but it’s not going away yet,” Novak said. “Yes, the weather’s getting better. Despite that, this problem is still with us. … We’re starting to see a gradual decline in cases, Chicago and elsewhere. If we want that to continue we have to still stick to the game plan.”
It’s unwise to hang out with fellow young people, even if they are asymptomatic, since they still could be sick. And it’s “dangerous” to visit parents or grandparents, Novak said.
“We don’t wanna just see the numbers drop, we want this to disappear,” he said.
So far, 68,232 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Illinois, and 2,974 people have died.
Officials advise people to stay 6 feet from others in public — and only for short periods of time — and to wear masks when unable to social distance in public. The stay at home order requires people to stay at home as much as they can.
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 droplets, like when you cough or sneeze, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The most common symptoms:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Chills and shaking with chills
- Muscle pain
- 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
If you 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 where you can 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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