DOWNTOWN — For the first time since coronavirus swept into Illinois, the state saw its first week-over-week drop in COVID-19 deaths, a positive sign in the battle against the virus, the head of the Illinois Department of Public Health said.
While there were still 39 deaths in the past 24 hours, Dr. Ngozi Ezike said the state is seeing progress.
“I am hopeful that this fact is the beginning of a downward trend, but, of course, that also depends on all of us and making sure we’re doing all we can to decrease the transmission of this virus,” she said during a Tuesday press conference.
There were 780 deaths in Illinois in the week that ended May 16, Ezike said.
In comparison, there were 613 deaths in the state in the week that ended May 23, according to state data.
“Looking at the numbers on a daily basis, looking at a weekly average basis, the answer is: We seem to have come off the peak,” Gov. JB Pritzker said.
There have now been 4,923 deaths in the state, including 1,940 in Chicago.
There have also been 113,195 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Illinois, a rise of 1,178 in the past 24 hours. Ezike warned reports of new cases tend to lag over the weekend, so she cautioned the 1,178 number is low.
Pritzker said all regions of the state are still on track to move to Phase 3 of the reopening plan at the end of May, though Mayor Lori Lightfoot has separately said Chicago is not yet ready for that.
The governor and Ezike urged people to continue to wear masks and practice social distancing even as more businesses reopen and small groups of people are allowed to gather.
“Take note that along with social distancing, face coverings can make all the difference in protecting each other. And it appears to be working,” Pritzker said. “Since we implemented that one change, we saw all the numbers, that had already stabilized, begin to fall.
“As always, all of our success thus far, and any that we have going forward, is dependent on the actions of each individual and all of us collectively to protect each other.”
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 and Prevention. Even people who show no symptoms may have the virus and can 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 are:
- 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, seek immediate medical attention, according to the CDC.
How To Protect Yourself
Here’s what you can 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, such as 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.
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