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Coronavirus In Chicago: Opening Up Too Fast Will Lead To Surge In Cases, Officials Say

"They're putting people at risk and they're putting the entire region's economy at risk by opening early," Gov. JB Pritzker said.

A person power washes the sidewalk in front of the James M. Nederlander Theatre with a sign reading "Keep Calm & Wash Your Hands" in Chicago on Tuesday, April 28, 2020. | Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Gov. JB Pritzker is defending his plan to slowly reopen Illinois, saying moving too quickly could lead to a surge in coronavirus cases that would overwhelm hospitals.

Pritzker unveiled his five-phase plan to reopen the economy last week, saying progress would have to be slow — with at least 28 days between each phase — to ensure loosening up on social distancing and reopening businesses doesn’t lead to the virus beginning to spread quicker again.

Critics have said the plan puts businesses at risk because they’ll have to stay closed, with some calling on Pritzker to move quicker or to even completely reopen now, as other states have done.

Pritzker dismissed those ideas during a Monday press conference, warning such plans would put lives at risk.

“There are people who want to open everything up sooner, much sooner. … If we did that, we would really have a surge of cases and it could potentially lead to an overwhelming of our hospitals and many more people getting sick,” Pritzker said. “We have a good plan out there. It is a regional plan and it takes into account that Adams County is very different than Cook County, for example.”

In mid-April, two scientists said a second wave would inevitably hit this spring and summer if social distancing measures were “reduced prematurely.”

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health, acknowledged Monday even the state’s slow-moving plan could lead to cases going up again.

“We can’t be sure that it won’t rise again this summer, and that is obviously the concern,” Ezike said. “That’s why we want to slowly and cautiously be able to follow the data and move through these stages … .”

Pritzker has said he is worried about businesses and small towns in Illinois, and he’s pushing for more federal relief through another CARES Act.

And the governor said he’s willing to “alter the playbook” and change the state’s reopening plans if something changes, like if a treatment or vaccine is developed.

“As circumstances change, as we find, for example, that there are fewer COVID-19 symptoms that are affecting people because there might be a treatment that’s available, we will of course revisit Restore Illinois,” Pritzker said. “The goal here is … to reopen the state as fast as possible, but in a safe fashion … .”

Nothing has changed so far that would lead to Pritzker changing the plan, he said Monday.

And the governor noted areas where businesses and officials are refusing to follow the stay at home order have the potential to now see cases and hospitalizations grow again, which could ultimately lead to an even slower reopening for that region.

“They’re putting people at risk and they’re putting the entire region’s economy at risk by opening early,” Pritzker said.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who released her own plan to reopen Chicago, has praised the governor’s strategy. She and Pritzker have said they’re talking to leaders in various business industries to see how they can safely reopen businesses.

There are signs of hope, Pritzker said: So far, every region but the Northeast one — of which Chicago is a part — is on track to meet the state’s benchmarks to move into Phase 3 by the end of May. The Northeast Region is only missing one goal so far, and there’s still time to turn that around, Pritzker said.

And the state has pushed out its expected peak to mid-June, which is a good thing, Pritzker said. That means Illinois has flattened its curve and slowed down the spread of the virus.

Lightfoot has a press conference at 9 a.m. and Pritzker has his daily briefing at 2:30 p.m.

Coronavirus Cases

• There have been 79,007 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Illinois as of Monday afternoon. Many of those patients have recovered since testing positive.

• At least 3,459 people have died in Illinois as a result of the virus.

• There have been 31,477 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Chicago and at least 1,400 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

Church Services: A Belmont Cragin church held services illegally and most of the attendees were from outside the neighborhood. The area is struggling as it battles thousands of coronavirus cases.

Lightfoot: The mayor said she was “not going to apologize for caring about Black Chicago” after some criticized her for telling a group of Black youths to go home.

Reopening: Chicago is not on track to enter the next phase of the state’s reopening plan by May 29, Pritzker said.

Peak: The state’s expected coronavirus peak has been pushed back into mid-June.

Remdesivir: Illinois received its first shipment of remdesivir, the antiviral drug that has shown success in helping people recover from coronavirus.

Testing Sites: The city is opening six more testing sites on the South and West sides.

Blue Angels: The famed U.S. Navy Blue Angels will fly over Chicago on Tuesday.

Glassblowing: A West Side ceramics and glassblowing studio is launching a free weeklong virtual art experience for neighbors struggling during the coronavirus pandemic.

• Unemployment: 1099 and gig workers can now file claims for unemployment.

• Latino Communities: Faced with a surge of coronavirus cases in Chicago’s Latino neighborhoods, the city is scrambling to increase testing and treatment on the city’s South and West sides.

 Pro Sports: Chicago sports teams likely won’t be able to have fans at games for months, Pritzker said.

• Keep Isolating: It’s not safe to start expanding your “quarantine circle,” doctors said.

 “Still At War:” Though the weather is getting nicer, people must continue to stay at home so Illinois can win its war against COVID-19, Ezike said.

• Restaurants: The city’s eateries are urging customers to skip GrubHub and similar services and order directly from them so they can make it through the crisis.

• Help for Artists: The statewide Artist Relief Fund is again taking applications.

 Masks: Everyone is now required to wear a face covering or mask when unable to social distance. 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.

• 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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