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With 86 More Deaths And 1,600 New Coronavirus Cases, Health Department Urges Caution In Phase 3

A total of 5,270 people in Illinois have now died from COVID-19.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, former director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, speaks at a press conference about COVID-19 in Illinois on March 20 in Chicago.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — On the first day of Illinois’ Phase 3 gradual reopening, the state’s public health director urged people to still to do their part to slow the spread of coronavirus because new cases and deaths continue to mount.

An additional 86 people died from coronavirus in the past 24 hours, Dr. Ngozi Ezike said.

That brings the state’s total number of deaths tied to COVID-19 to 5,270.

And 1,622 people had confirmed cases in the past day, raising the total since the start of the pandemic to 117,455.

There are now 3,599 people hospitalized statewide with COVID-19, including 980 in intensive care units. Of those, 593 are on ventilators.

“Happy Phase 3 of Restore Illinois,” Ezike said during a media briefing Friday afternoon. “While some restrictions are lifting, we must still take personal responsibility to continue the reopening but safely. We must continue to keep our distance and wear face coverings.”

Gov. JB Pritzker congratulated Illinois residents on reaching Phase 3 in the battle against coronavirus, a stage that allows the partial reopening of restaurants, coffee shops, non-essential retail stores, salons, barber shops, offices, child care and outdoor facilities like golf courses. Social gatherings will be limited to 10 people or fewer.

Chicago delayed its entry into Phase 3 until Wednesday.

“The journey is far from over. Let’s be clear on this: The virus is still out there and it is still very dangerous,” the governor said. “But here’s what’s different: In March we became the second state in the nation to put a stay at home order in effect in order to reduce the potential for exponential spread and unimaginable suffering and to prevent our hospitals from becoming overwhelmed and be unable to comfort and treat COVID-19 patients and those with other emergencies.

“And over many weeks, we did just that. Not me and not Dr. Ezike; all of you. Millions of Illinoisans doing the right thing for their communities.”

Since the start of the crisis, Pritzker has held more than 80 live media briefings, including sessions seven days a week for months. He announced Friday the afternoon briefings are coming to an end. He said he will continue to take questions at other news conferences.

The state will continue to release the number of new positive cases, deaths and tests administered on a daily basis, he said.


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:

  • 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, 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.

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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