Four New Coronavirus Cases Prompt Illinois Disaster Declaration

JB Pritzker Coronavirus
Gov. JB Pritzker (right) stands with Illinois Emergency Management Agency Director Alicia Tate-Nadeau (left) and Illinois public health director Dr. Ngozi Ezike (center) at a March 5 press conference. Pritzker declared a disaster proclamation in Illinois today, which grants the state access to federal resources, like medical assistance. John O’Connor / Associated Press
JB Pritzker Coronavirus
Gov. JB Pritzker (right) stands with Illinois Emergency Management Agency Director Alicia Tate-Nadeau (left) and Illinois public health director Dr. Ngozi Ezike (center) at a March 5 press conference. Pritzker declared a disaster proclamation in Illinois today, which grants the state access to federal resources, like medical assistance. John O’Connor / Associated Press

Four New Coronavirus Cases Prompt Illinois Disaster Declaration

Gov. JB Pritzker has announced four new coronavirus cases in Chicago, bringing the total number of cases in Illinois to 11.

The governor on Monday also declared a disaster proclamation, which grants the state access to federal resources, including medical assistance. Pritzker said his administration will now provide daily updates.

The new 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, authorities said.

The other new cases are a Californian woman in her 50s and a woman in her 70s who was on an Egyptian cruise that had COVID-19 cases, health officials said.

“Although these most recent cases are close contacts to a confirmed case or have a history of travel, we want people to prepare for the virus to spread in the community,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “The virus is not circulating widely in Illinois at this time, but we must prepare now to reduce the impact to our communities if it becomes widespread.”

The four new cases are the most in a single day in Illinois since the first case was announced on Jan. 24.

Yesterday, health officials announced the first case that appears to be through community transmission and not travel. In that case, a man in his 60s was hospitalized in serious condition.

Chicago health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said she’s taking that case “very seriously,” but stressed that it “does not mean there is widespread transmission of COVID-19 occurring in Chicago.”

Cancellations and closures

The growing number of cases have caused major conventions to back out of Chicago, schools to close and polling places to change.

On Monday, Loyola Academy in Wilmette canceled classes after learning that a student and their family had contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Loyola, which stressed that no student or staff member has been diagnosed with COVID-19, was closed to do “enhanced cleaning of the school and to consult further with public health officials,” according to a statement on the school’s website. The school will remain closed on Tuesday.

On Chicago’s Northwest Side, all students and staff at Vaughn Occupational High School, in addition to anyone present in the school from Feb. 25 to March 6, were told by CPS to stay home through mid-March after a teacher assistant tested positive for the coronavirus.

And the cancellations of four McCormick Place conventions means the city has lost about 100,000 visitors, who on average spend about $300 each, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Coronavirus fears have also prompted seven Chicago nursing homes to back out as polling places for the March 17th primary. Officials are still working to notify voters in those precincts of the new voting locations, said a spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

A national epidemic

The virus has infected about 600 people in the United States, and at least 26 have died, most in Washington state.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said communities will need to start thinking about canceling large gatherings, closing schools and letting more employees work from home, as many companies have done after an outbreak in the Seattle area.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.

In mainland China, where the virus first exploded, more than 80,000 people have been diagnosed and more than 58,000 have so far recovered.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.