CTA Chicago Coronavirus

PHOTOS: How Coronavirus Reached Chicago

CTA Chicago Coronavirus

PHOTOS: How Coronavirus Reached Chicago

In a matter of months, the coronavirus has swept the globe and left more than 250,000 dead worldwide. Now, as businesses begin to reopen, some scientists fear a second wave in the near future.

In Illinois, there have been more than 60,000 known cases of COVID-19 and more than 2,600 deaths.

The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. By mid-January, cases were reported in the U.S. — including Chicago. In an effort to control the pandemic in Illinois, Gov. JB Pritzker issued a stay-at-home order that took effect March 21. Pritzker has defended the order as a necessary action in an emergency, but the impact on restaurants, shops, factories and many other businesses has been severe. More than 830,000 Illinoisans have filed for unemployment in the last two months.

Here’s a look at the known spread of the coronavirus, from Asia to Chicago.


Dec. 31, 2019

Scientists identify a cluster of new coronavirus cases in Wuhan, China, a city of 11 million people. The disease the virus causes is known as COVID-19.

Microscope view of coronavirus
NIAID-RML via AP

January 2020

Within weeks, thousands of cases are reported in China, and the Wuhan Sports Center is converted into a temporary hospital.

Cai Yang/Xinhua via AP
Xiao Yijiu/Xinhua via AP

Foreigners and visitors leave China, including a woman who would become the first known COVID-19 case in Chicago.

A military officer inspects people for coronavirus
Arek Rataj/Associated Press

February 2020

Cases are reported around the world, with Iran, Italy and Spain becoming epicenters of an outbreak that disrupts worldwide travel.

Efrem Lukatsky/Associated Press
K.M. Chaudhry/Associated Press
Eugene Hoshiko/Associated Press
Associated Press

March 2020

The World Health Organization officially declares the coronavirus a pandemic on March 11. Locally, travelers coming to O’Hare International Airport one weekend are stuck in packed lines for hours due to new coronavirus screenings.

People Are Packed Into O'Hare Airport
Michael Sadler via AP

Panic buying leads to shortages of staple products including toilet paper, tortillas, soap and milk across the city and suburbs.

Manuel Martinez/WBEZ

In spite of increasing anxiety in the Chicago area, crowds still pack bars the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day. The next day, Gov. JB Pritzker orders all bars and restaurants to be closed to dine-in service for two weeks.

St. Patrick's Day 2020
Manuel Martinez/WBEZ

Illinois holds primary elections as planned on March 17, in spite of more than 800 election judges quitting at the last minute and concerns about social distancing at polling places. On the same day, Illinois reports its first COVID-19 death.

Marc Monaghan/WBEZ
John Davis, a polling judge volunteer, sanitizes an electronic voting machine screen
Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

On March 19, Oak Park becomes the first Chicago-area town to issue a shelter-in-place order.

Oak Park Stay At Home Order
Linda Lutton/WBEZ

Gov. JB Pritzker issues a statewide, stay-at-home order that takes effect March 21. Pritzker later calls for retired medical staff to temporarily return to work, as officials prepare for an influx of COVID-19 cases.

Stores Close Shut Down Stay At Home
Manuel Martinez/WBEZ
Becky Vevea/WBEZ
Paula Friedrich/WBEZ

Within days, heavily trafficked areas of the city appear deserted.

Manuel Martinez/WBEZ

But Chicagoans crowd the lakefront and parks on March 26, one of the first warm days of the year. The next day, Mayor Lori Lightfoot closes those outdoor spaces to force social distancing, and the U.S. surgeon general names Chicago a hot spot for coronavirus cases.

Chicago Lakefront Runners
Manuel Martinez/WBEZ

April 2020

As Illinois coronavirus cases surpass 10,000, mobile testing sites begin to open. The state is still struggling to find enough personal protective equipment for medical staff.

Manuel Martinez/WBEZ

At the Cook County Jail, an outbreak of coronavirus cases prompts nurses to protest.

Nurse strike at Cook County Jail Coronavirus
Manuel Martinez/WBEZ

Remote learning begins as Chicago Public Schools scramble to provide enough computers for needy students. All schools are closed for the year soon after, marking the second long-term shutdown for CPS students this school year, after an 11-day teachers strike in fall 2019.

Students Pick Up A Computer
Manuel Martinez/WBEZ

Stay-at-home orders coincide with holy days of three of the world’s major religions. Easter, Ramadan and Passover services take on new forms.

Rabbi Yaakov Kotlarsky talks with people who ordered Seder to go kits
Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

New data show COVID-19 deaths are higher at nursing homes than previously reported, and Illinois’ stay-at-home order is extended. Congress signs a $500 billion coronavirus relief bill. While the bill was designed to provide small businesses with loans, over $360 million of the funds went to publicly-traded companies.

Nancy Pelosi
Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

May 2020

Under an updated stay-at-home order, Illinois residents are required to wear masks in public places where social distancing is not possible.

Masks Stay At Home Chicago
Kate Walsh/WBEZ
A man sits waiting for a CTA bus during the coronavirus pandemic
Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

As the new stay-at-home order goes into effect through May 30, hundreds protest in downtown Chicago. On May 4, a judge upholds Gov. JB Pritzker’s stay-at-home order in a lawsuit by a northwest Illinois church.

Manuel Martinez/WBEZ