CHICAGO — More than 5,000 people in Illinois have now died from coronavirus after 160 deaths were reported Wednesday.
There have now been 5,083 deaths, Gov. JB Pritzker said.
“These are real people whose lives came to an end because of this pandemic,” the governor said from East St. Louis during his daily coronavirus briefing. “They are grandparents and uncles and aunts, parents, cousins, children, friends.
“They had whole lives that were cut short because COVID-19 knows no boundaries and only seeks to destroy. We can never forget that. May the memories of those who were lost be for a blessing.”
An additional 1,111 people tested positive for coronavirus in the past day, bringing the state’s total since the beginning of the pandemic to 114,306.
The vast majority of those people have recovered. There are now 3,826 people hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide. Of those, 1,031 are in intensive care units and 592 are on ventilators.
The state is still trying to increase its testing and contact tracing efforts, Pritzker said.
The state will ultimately need nearly 4,000 contact tracers, and it currently has just a few hundred in local health departments. The state is sending funding to local departments to speed up hiring.
As of now, the state’s doing just 30 percent of the contact tracing it needs, Pritzker said. Officials want to eventually do more than 60 percent, but it will take time to hire and train staff and get the technology needed for contact tracing.
“It’s gonna take us weeks and weeks … some people think it will take through August to do it,” Pritzker said.
The governor is also still looking at ways to increase testing. He’s particularly eager to increase testing in nursing homes and longterm care facilities, which have been among the spots worst hit by COVID-19.
Currently, the state is testing staff at nursing homes where there have been outbreaks and testing everyone at homes where there have not been outbreaks, Pritzker said. He’d like to see everyone get tested, though, he said.
“I’d like to do it all at once. If we had the national leadership on this subject, if we had the supplies available, we could do this much more quickly, but we’re getting to it as fast as we can,” Pritzker said.
And Pritzker said it will still be a long while before the state’s more than 1,200 nursing homes can allow visitors once more. They’ve been banned from facilities since early March, but — even though the state is reopening — they’ll need to stay away because they pose a risk to nursing home residents, Pritzker said.
“COVID-19 doesn’t live in a facility; it comes in with somebody and then it spreads,” Pritzker said. “I must admit to you the CDC is telling every state this may be one of the last things happening with COVID is … visitors being able to come back in those facilities … .”
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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