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Coronavirus In Chicago: Illinois Might Have Hit Its Peak, But Caution Still Needed, Officials Say

Coming down from the peak doesn't mean the battle is over: Officials say Illinoisans still need to wear masks and practice social distancing.

Alivio Medical Center's Pilsen drive-thru COVID-19 testing site in the Lower West Side neighborhood in action on Saturday, May 9, 2020.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — The state might have hit its coronavirus peak, but officials cautioned people to keep wearing masks and practice social distancing to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Gov. JB Pritzker said he’s “optimistic” the state is now falling from a peak. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 fell to its lowest point in weeks Tuesday, and the percent of people who were tested and came back positive for coronavirus has tumbled to a statewide 8 percent.

Hospitalization, the test positivity rate and hospital capacity are the “best number[s]” to track when seeing how the state is doing in its battle against coronavirus, Pritzker said.

“I am optimistic that we are falling from a peak; however, I want to point out that if you look at all the metrics, they’re not all headed straight down. Some of them have sort of flattened, they’re floating a little bit off their peak,” Pritzker said. “You can see the line gradually headed in the right direction. It feels good. It’s the right direction.”

But not everything is going down, Pritzker cautioned.

And Pritzker and Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health, have previously warned against reading too much into data from any one day, saying trends can only be seen in the long term. It’s impossible to know you’ve hit a peak and are coming down from it until afterwards, when you see numbers fall for a period of time, they’ve said.

“We’re hoping we are there,” Ezike said. “We are gonna know in a few more days to weeks if” it’s heading down.

The two also told people the data is really a reflection of infections and anti-virus measures that happened weeks ago, since it can take up to 14 days for symptoms of coronavirus to appear.

But this “is good news,” Ezike said.

“This just solidifies: These measures have been working, both the stay at home, both the masking, both the social distancing,” Ezike said. “All of those things are effective; that’s why we’ve got numbers that are improving.”

Ezike and Pritzker urged people to continue practicing social distancing, washing their hands and wearing masks to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

And people and businesses must follow safety measures even when the state moves into its next phase of reopening at the end of May, the two said. Things like wearing masks in stores and staying 6 feet away from others can help prevent a spike in cases as more businesses and workplaces reopen.

Pritzker has previously said he’s worried about a surge in cases as the state reopens this summer or another spike this fall.

“A lot of onus is on individuals; it’s not just the people making policy, writing policy,” Ezike said. “Everybody has a part to play, and if everybody [does it the right way] we can open businesses safely.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot will oversee a City Council meeting starting at 10 a.m. and will speak to reporters afterward. Pritzker has his daily briefing at 2:30 p.m.

Coronavirus Cases

• There have been 98,030 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Illinois as of Tuesday afternoon. Many of those patients have recovered since testing positive.

• At least 4,379 people have died in Illinois as a result of the virus.

• There have been 37,974 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Chicago and at least 1,742 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

• Salons: Barber shops and salons are preparing to reopen with new safety measures.

 Small Gyms: Workout reservations and temperature checks could be on the docket as small gym owners get ready to safely reopen.

• Contact Tracing: Pritzker is ramping up the tracing program that intends to isolate every person known to be in recent contact with someone who has newly confirmed case.

• Masks: Two local designers have switched from high fashion to protective masks as part of the city’s effort to provide 1 million reusable cloth masks to Chicagoans.

• Humboldt Park: Center Home for Hispanic Elderly marked a grim milestone last week: It had the most deaths due to coronavirus out of any nursing home in the city.

• Domestic Violence: Demand is spiking at domestic violence shelters, but they’re losing beds for social distancing.

• I Grow Chicago: The group is raising money to better help Black Chicagoans who are struggling during the pandemic.

• Undercounting Deaths: The number of COVID-19 deaths in Illinois is likely higher than what’s been reported, said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health.

 Street Vendors: Street vendors are seeing sales plummet — but they have few, if any, options for emergency relief. Volunteers are raising money to help families, many of them undocumented, who are struggling.

• Food Delivery: Services like Grubhub and DoorDash will soon have to tell customers just how much they’re charging restaurants for delivering food. The city is pushing for more transparency from the services as restaurants struggle during the pandemic.

 Armory: The Broadway Armory has become an emergency homeless shelter as city officials try to alleviate crowding at existing facilities and protect people who are homeless from coronavirus.

• Therapy: The Center on Halsted is launching virtual therapy groups to support LGBTQ people during the coronavirus pandemic.

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

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

• 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.

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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