Updated at 5:14 p.m.
A fourth person in the Chicago area has tested positive for COVID-19, and Illinois officials are now monitoring 286 people around the state for possible exposure to the coronavirus, health officials announced Monday.
The news comes as COVID-19, which is caused by a member of the coronavirus family that’s a close cousin to the SARS and MERS viruses, continues to spread in the U.S. and around the world. Four more people have died outside Seattle after contracting the virus, health officials said Monday, bringing the total number of U.S. fatalities to six, all in Washington.
The latest case in Illinois is a woman in her 70s. She is being quarantined at her home, according to a statement from the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Cook County Department of Public Health. She is the wife of a man in his 70s, who officials said this weekend was the third confirmed case in Illinois.
He is currently at Northwest Community Healthcare, a hospital in suburban Arlington Heights.
The couple are in good condition and their positive tests will have to be confirmed by a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lab, authorities said.
Health officials are working to identify and monitor anyone who was in contact with the couple.
The new cases are the second time the virus has been found in Chicago this year. A husband and wife were treated last month at St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates, and both made a full recovery.
As of 3 p.m. on Monday, Illinois Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike said 286 individuals are being monitored statewide for possible coronavirus exposure.
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker stressed that “the risk to the general public remains low.”
“But as public officials charged with the safety and welfare of the people of Illinois, we take that risk seriously,” Pritzker said on Monday.
The Democratic governor, who participated in a national conference call with other governors and Vice President Mike Pence, said Illinois is warning health insurers against price-gouging or unfair coverage practices and drafting safety guidelines for nursing homes and employees at state facilities that care for vulnerable populations.
On Friday, he asked hospitals across Illinois to implement additional testing to improve surveillance for coronavirus. He also announced that two more Illinois Department of Public Health labs in central and southern Illinois would begin testing specimens this week.
Pritzker and health officials aren’t the only ones acting with an abundance of caution.
In Arlington Heights, a school district sent a notice to parents and staff Sunday about a family that may have been exposed to the virus. The Chicago Tribune reported that Arlington Heights School District 25 said two adults who work at district schools and their two children had been possibly exposed to a person related to another person who works at a hospital and may have had contact with a coronavirus patient. District 25 said the two adults and their kids are staying home.
And students from Loyola University Chicago’s Rome program are heading home Tuesday and Wednesday. The university cancelled their program after the federal government elevated its travel warning for Italy this weekend. Universities across the country, including the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, have pulled students from Italy and elsewhere.
“It still doesn’t feel real even though I’m packing right now,” junior Kyra Amundson said on Monday. She’s heading back to Chicago on Wednesday. “It was shock and disappointment and just awful.”
Amundson and her friends were traveling to Barcelona when they heard the news. She said the mood across the Rome campus is depressing, with many students hugging and crying together. Many students already arranged travel plans for the rest of the semester and are also scrambling to get refunds.
Amundson and her classmates will have to quarantine themselves for 14 days upon return to the United States. Loyola plans to resume most classes online in mid-March.
COVID-19 has infected more than 86,000 people across the globe and caused more than 2,900 deaths since emerging in China. The virus can cause fever, coughing, wheezing and pneumonia.
WBEZ politics reporter Dave McKinney and education reporter Kate McGee contributed to this report.