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Nervous Health Department Warns: Coronavirus ‘Does Not Care What Else Is Going On In City’

The warning came on a day when state officials announced 22 additional people died from COVID-19 and 974 tested positive for the disease.

Chicago Police officers guard Trump Tower in River North on May 30, 2020 as protests occurred downtown Chicago following George Floyd's death in Minneapolis.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — After a weekend of protests and outside gatherings, Chicago health department officials on Monday warned residents to not lose sight of the risk of contracting and spreading coronavirus.

The warning came on a day when state officials announced 22 additional people died from COVID-19 and 974 tested positive for the disease. Officials have noted that Monday numbers are often artificially dampened by slow reporting from labs around the state.

There have now been 5,412 deaths from coronavirus and 121,234 confirmed cases.

Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said she is worried about the close contact of Chicagoans over the weekend.

“I am concerned that this weekend — not just related to the protests, but related to a lot of people gathering in Chicago for a lot of reasons — we may see ourselves take a step backwards down the line against COVID here in Chicago,” she said. “And that’s because COVID-19 is caused by a virus, and that virus does not care what else is going on in the city.

“And nothing has changed, unfortunately, related to COVID-19. We still do not have a treatment. We still do not have a cure. We do not have a vaccine. COVID-19 still takes every opportunity it can to spread. And I’ll remind you that still here in Chicago, we are seeing hundreds of new cases of COVID-19 every day.”

Arwady warned everybody out this weekend at a gathering, including protests, is now at an increased risk of contracting the virus.

“And my ask is that if you have been in groups — especially if you were not able to keep that six-foot distance and wear the face covering — I ask that as much as possible for the next 14 days you self-quarantine,” she said. “And that’s because it takes up to 14 days from a time when you were potentially infected with COVID for the disease to show itself.” 

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Sunday also warned the protests could be “super-spreading” events for the coronavirus.

The vast majority of people in Chicago’s protests wore masks, and some organizers set up their marches to allow social distancing. But there were crowds that gathered and marched throughout the city — and officials have warned for months large groups of people pose a serious risk of spreading COVID-19.

“This disease is still ravaging our Black and Brown communities, and our public health officials are gravely concerned that yesterday’s action could turn out to be a super spreader event,” Lightfoot said during a Sunday press conference.

A “super-spreading” event is an incident where one person “infects a large number of other people — sometimes 10, 20, sometimes even more in one setting,” Dr. Justin Lessler, of the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told CBS News.


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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