Coronavirus In Chicago: What You Need To Know | WBEZ
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Coronavirus In Chicago: What You Need To Know

Updated at 12:58 p.m, March 11

While coronavirus, the virus which causes the disease COVID-19, continues to spread around the world, there have been only seven cases in Illinois as of March 8. All have been in the Chicago area, and health officials stress the risk of infection remains low. Three of those cases have been confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Four other cases of people who tested positive for COVID-19 in Illinois are waiting for confirmation by the CDC.

Here’s a rundown on the state of the coronavirus in Illinois and answers to some common questions:

What’s the latest on COVID-19 in Illinois?

Here’s a snapshot of the 19 cases so far:

  • Eight new cases on March 10: Among the eight are a Kane County woman in her 60s and a McHenry County teen — the first Illinois cases outside of Cook County. Neither had been traveling or had contact with a known COVID-19 case. The other six cases include two Chicago men in their 40s, Cook County men in their 40s and 70s, and Cook County women in their 40s and 60s.
  • Four new cases on March 9: The four cases include a woman in her 50s and a woman in her 70s, both of whom are relatives of a COVID-19 patient who works at Vaughn Occupational High School; a Californian woman in her 50s; and a woman in her 70s who was on an Egyptian cruise that had COVID-19 cases.
  • 7th case on March 8: A Chicago man in his 60s who was not infected during travel or though contact with a confirmed coronavirus patient. He may be the first local case of community transmission.
  • 6th case on March 6: A woman in her 50s who is a teacher's aide at Vaughn Occupational High School, a special education school on Chicago's Northwest Side. She was on the Grand Princess Cruise ship, currently quarantined in California, which reported more than 20 coronavirus cases among passengers.
  • 5th case on March 5: A Cook County man in his 20s who caught the virus while traveling in Italy and flew into O'Hare International Airport.
  • 4th case on March 2: A woman in her 70s who is the wife of the man who was Illinois' third case.
  • 3rd case on Feb. 29: A man in his 70s who had recently traveled to another state, but not out of the country. Health officials aren't sure where he was infected.
  • 2nd case on Jan. 30: A man who is the husband of the woman who was Illinois' first case. The couple were the first U.S. case of person-to-person infection.
  • 1st case on Jan. 24: A Chicago woman in her 60s who had been in Wuhan, China, where COVID-19 is believed to have originated.

What are state and local health agencies doing?

Illinois was first in the U.S. to provide in-state testing for the virus, which allows the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to get results within 24 hours. The state has testing labs in Cook County and in two other locations in Illinois.

Under an $8 billion emergency bill passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump, Illinois and Chicago health agencies will receive $23.4 million from the federal government to fund patient monitoring, lab testing, buying test kits and protective equipment and research into vaccines.

What’s the latest on the global outbreak?

The virus has infected more than 110,000 people worldwide and caused more than 3,000 deaths since emerging in China. There are more than 500 cases in the U.S. and more than 20 deaths have been reported.

What is the coronavirus?

Technically, it’s called the 2019 novel coronavirus. The disease which is caused by this coronavirus is called COVID-19. It’s a member of the coronavirus family that's a close cousin to the deadly SARS and MERS viruses that have caused outbreaks in the past. COVID-19 was first detected in Wuhan and has been linked to a live animal market. It began as an animal-to-human virus, but then spread rapidly from person to person.

What are the symptoms?

Fever, cough, fatigue, shortness of breath, vomiting and diarrhea in some cases, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Symptoms can occur two to 14 days after exposure to the virus. People who show symptoms are urged to see a doctor.

What’s the difference between COVID-19 and seasonal flu?

They’re both infectious respiratory illnesses, and they have similar symptoms, but they’re caused by different viruses. As of now, the flu is much more prevalent in the U.S. than COVID-19 is. Still, comparing the two viruses is problematic, says one health communication expert.

How do infected people spread the virus?

Coronaviruses are generally spread by respiratory droplets that go into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

What precautions should I take?

Federal, state and local officials continue to offer this sensible advice: take the same precautions you do during a normal flu season. These include:

  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently.

  • Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze.

  • Stay home if you’re sick, except to see a doctor.

  • If you develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, visit a doctor.

  • Avoid people who are ill.

Should I wear a facemask?

The CDC doesn't recommend that people who are healthy wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including coronavirus. But the agency says facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19.

Should I stock up on meds and household items?

Experts say that if you use daily medications you should have supplies to last a couple weeks. And they say you should consider having a supply of food staples in case you get sick and have to stay at home for a while. See more household tips here.

How do you teach kids about the virus?

Here’s an informative comic from NPR made just for kids.

Is there a vaccine?

Not yet, but efforts are underway to develop one. One company, drugmaker Moderna, announced last week that it has shipped its first batch of a possible COVID-19 vaccine for humans to government researchers for testing.

Can I get COVID-19 from packages or products sent from China?

The CDC says on its website that it’s difficult for the virus to survive on surfaces, so “there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures.”

Will COVID-19 go away when the weather warms up?

We don’t know yet. Winter is the season for the common cold and flu, but the CDC notes that you can still get sick during warmer months. Only time will tell with this coronavirus.

Should I be concerned about pets?

There’s no reason to believe that any animals in the U.S., including pets, could be a source of infection for COVID-19, the CDC says. So far, the agency hasn’t received any reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with the virus.

Where can I get more info?

  • The CDC web page.
  • The IDPH web page. It updates on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. You can also get information from the state by calling 800-889-3931 or emailing 
  • The CDPH web page.

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