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COVID-19: A History of the Virus’ Spread in Illinois

Emily Burdett | The PhoenixThere are now 288 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Illinois, up from 160 yesterday.

March 11

In Illinois’ daily coronavirus press conference, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced six new cases of COVID-19 — the respiratory disease caused by coronavirus — bringing the statewide total to 25. 

Five of the cases are from Cook County, with one Lake County man in his 50s affected, officials said. In Cook County, the cases include two men in their 70s, a woman in her 50s, a man in his 40ss and a patient in their 80s, according to Illinois officials.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has allotted more than $14 million to Illinois to help combat COVID-19, Pritzker confirmed. 

However, Illinois isn’t receiving as many tests as it needs, Pritzker said. While Illinois has access to thousands of tests, Illinois needs “tens of thousands,” Pritzker said. 

Earlier in the day the World Health Organization (WHO) officially labeled the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic in a media briefing. WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the spread of the disease and the inaction by many countries is concerning. 

March 10

Illinois officials announced eight new coronavirus cases March 10, the first known cases outside of Chicago and Cook County.

Illinois officials are working to contain the spread but recommend residents create contingency plans, Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a March 10 press release

“We again want to encourage people to start thinking and preparing now in the event they are not able to go to work, if schools are closed, if public transportation is not available, and how else their lives will be disrupted by this outbreak,” Ezike said.

Two of the new cases are males in their 40s in Chicago, according to the press release. Also in Cook County is a male in his 70s, a woman in her 60s and a male and female both in their 40s. The press release did not detail how these people were infected or what condition they’re in. 

The first cases outside Cook County are a Kane County woman in her 60s and a McHenry County teen whose age is unknown, neither of whom had a history of travel to an affected area and no connection to a known case of COVID-19, according to the press release. 

March 9

Governor Pritzker announced a disaster proclamation March 9 to address the coronavirus, after confirmed cases in Illinois jumped from seven to 11 overnight March 8 to March 9. 

The disaster proclamation is an operational procedure that opens access to federal and state resources including state disaster relief funds, Pritzker said in a March 9 press conference

In response to the declaration proclamation, Loyola’s Office of the President sent an email confirming there have been no cases on campus and none of the reported cases have a connection to the university. Loyola will continue with campus operations, including classes or group meetings, the email said.  

Pritzker said the state has three labs that can test for COVID-19 and it expects commercial testing facilities to open over the next week to help keep up with increased testing needs. He said this will impact the community but there are things residents can do to increase the safety of themselves and others. 

“I want folks to understand, this will affect your daily life, but know your state, county and city officials are working to stay ahead of this,” Pritzker said. “There are things you can do, and as your governor, I’m asking you to do them.” 

He stressed that people should not be buying products in bulk — especially medical supplies — as it takes away from health care officials who need them. 

The four new cases of COVID-19 are all in good condition, according to Dr. Allison Arwady, the commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH). 

Two of the cases include a woman in her 50s and a woman in her 70s who were both family members of the sixth confirmed case, according to Dr. Arwady said. 

Arwady said this shows that close contacts are most at risk for contracting the virus, because it’s transferred through droplets and is not airborne. Close contact is considered exposure within 6 feet for 10 minutes, she said.

The other two cases are a woman in her 50s who traveled from California and a woman in her 70s who took an Egyptian cruise early this month, according to Arwady. 

Arwady said the CDPH had expected to see more cases, and the detection of the new cases means the healthcare system is working. Currently, they’re only testing people who are symptomatic, because testing people who don’t show symptoms may create false negatives if the virus is not developed enough to show up on the test, Arwady said. 

March 8

The seventh case of coronavirus was confirmed in Illinois March 8 and is thought to be the first community transmission in Chicago, according to city and state officials. 

The man is in his 60s and is hospitalized in serious condition, according to Arwady. She said his case does not appear connected to travel.

“Though this may be the first case of community transmission in Chicago, it does not mean that widespread transmission of COVID-19 is happening here,” Arwady said in a March 8 press conference.

Those at risk for COVID-19  such as the elderly or people with compromised immune systems should avoid travel or large gatherings, Arwady said. She said there’s no recommendation to cancel gatherings or public events in Chicago.

March 6

Cook County’s sixth case of COVID -19 was announced March 6. The affected individual is a woman in her 50s, and has been hospitalized in stable condition, according to Arwady. 

The woman got off a Grand Princess cruise ship in San Francisco Feb. 21, and returned home, Arwady said. On March, 4 the cruise ship announced initial cases of COVID-19 and now there are at least 20 cases connected to the ship, according to Arwady. 

The woman is a special education classroom assistant at Vaughn Occupational School, and had returned to work, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said. Classes are now canceled for week at Vaughn — a specialty school for students with disabilities — and officials are reaching out to students, faculty and any others who may have had contact, according to Janice Jackson, Chief Executive Officer of Chicago Public Schools. 

March 5

The new cases come on the heels of man in his 20s returning from Italy testing positive early last week, according to a press release by IDPH. The individual has now been released from a local hospital. 

The man was tested at the IDPH laboratory and specimens have been sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for confirmatory testing, according to the press release. 

Illinois Begins Testing

Illinois became the first state able to independently test for COVID-19 mid-February, according to an IDPH press release.

“The ability to do this testing will mean we will be able to detect any new cases of novel coronavirus earlier and prevent any possible spread,” said IDPH Assistant Director Evonda Thomas-Smith in a Feb. press release. 

As of publication, of the 263 people tested in Illinois, 221 cases have tested negative for COVID-19, while 30 other tests on Illinois residents are pending, according to the IDPH website

Illinois’ first two confirmed cases have both recovered, while the third and fourth cases are in quarantine at home, but how they contracted COVID-19 is still unknown, according to the press release. 

Safety Reccomendations

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, both the CDC and Loyola’s Wellness Center recommend people wash their hands frequently and avoid touching their eyes, nose or mouth. Facemasks are also not recommended as a protective measure and should only be worn by those showing symptoms to prevent possible spread, the CDC said. 

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough and difficulty breathing, according to an March 5 email from Loyola’s Office of the President. 

The email also detailed updated travel restrictions from the CDC and World Health Organization (WHO). This comes a week after Loyola joined other universities in sending students studying abroad in Italy back to the U.S., The Phoenix reported

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