CHICAGO — Officials are increasingly optimistic Illinois has hit its coronavirus peak and is now coming down.
The state experienced its first week-over-week drop in deaths related to coronavirus, said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health, during a Tuesday press conference.
The city is also seeing a decline in cases, Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said last week. The number of people hospitalized for coronavirus in Chicago is also falling, and the number of people going to ICUs and dying has stabilized.
“We seem to have come off the peak,” Gov. JB Pritzker said Tuesday.
Every region of Illinois is still on track to move into Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan by the end of May, though Mayor Lori Lightfoot has said Chicago won’t be able to progress to that phase until early June.
Once Phase 3 does start, many businesses — including stores, salons and offices — can reopen and groups of 10 or fewer people are allowed to gather again.
With those changes coming, officials have started releasing guidelines about how businesses can safely reopen. The state put out detailed rules over the weekend. The city released its own guidelines Tuesday and is expected to provide more information on them Wednesday.
Businesses will need to follow those guidelines to keep employees and customers safe, officials have said.
And people need to continue wearing masks, practice social distancing and washing their hands to avoid an uptick of coronavirus cases as restrictions relax.
“The pandemic is still here. Just because the numbers are moving in the right direction in the state of Illinois, that does not mean the virus has gone away,” Pritzker said.
Lightfoot does not have any scheduled press conferences. Pritzker has his daily coronavirus briefing at 2:30 p.m.
• There have been 113,195 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Illinois as of Tuesday. Many of those patients have recovered since testing positive.
• At least 4,923 people have died in Illinois as a result of the virus.
• There have been 43,333 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Chicago and at least 1,981 people have died.
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What’s Happening In Chicago
• Arrests: Despite the mayor’s claim that police have enforced social distancing equally across Chicago, data shows almost all arrests and citations for congregating have been issued on the city’s South and West sides.
• 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.
The city is also looking for an organization to head up a 600-person contact tracing team.
• Phase 3: Chicago is not yet ready to progress to the next stage in the state reopening plan, Lightfoot said.
But here’s what will reopen in the city when it moves into Phase 3, hopefully in early June, Lightfoot said.
• Mental Health: Lightfoot urged Chicagoans to embrace their feelings and find ways to care for themselves, saying she’s allowed herself to cry during the pandemic.
• “We’re Not Them”: Lightfoot said Chicago won’t rush to reopen like Florida and Georgia and will instead focus on saving lives.
• Churches: At least three Chicago churches were cited for holding in-person services during the stay at home order. The city has ordered them to stop hosting in-person services.
• Unemployment: A staggering 1 million people are out of work in Illinois, according to newly released data.
• 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.
• Domestic Violence: Demand is spiking at domestic violence shelters, but they’re losing beds for social distancing.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
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:
- 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
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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