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Coronavirus In Chicago: Here’s Everything You Need To Know

By Charli Renken

Coronavirus In Chicago: Here’s Everything You Need To Know

Check the Illinois Public Health Department for the state’s latest number of coronavirus cases.

The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a global pandemic March 11. In an opening statement, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom announced that in the past two weeks, the number of COVID-19 cases outside China has increased thirteen-fold with the number of affected countries tripling. At the time of publication, there are more than 118,000 cases worldwide in 114 countries. 4,291 people have lost their lives while thousands more are fighting the virus in hospitals.

We want to keep our readers informed about all updates when it comes to coronavirus including information about the virus, event cancelations, global news, and local impact. Here’s everything you need to know about coronavirus and COVID-19 in Chicago.

What is coronavirus?

Coronavirus is a large family of viruses, many of which are known to cause respiratory infections in animals or humans. These infections range from the common cold to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The most recently discovered coronavirus (the one that’s been called a pandemic) causes the coronavirus disease COVID-19.

What is COVID-19 and what are its symptoms?

COVID-19 is an infectious disease that was first detected in Wuhan, China in Dec 2019. The most common symptoms are fever, fatigue, and dry cough. Some patients have also reported aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, and diarrhea.

Who is most at risk?

While everyone can contract COVID-19, 80% of people recover without needing special treatment. WHO reported that around 1 out of 6 people who contract COVID-19 becomes seriously ill. Older people, people with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart issues, or diabetes are more likely to develop serious illness. Anyone with a fever, cough, and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.

How does it spread?

COVID-19 is spread from contact with others who have the virus. This can be through small droplets from the nose or mouth spread when someone coughs, sneezes, or exhales. You can catch it by breathing in these droplets or touching a surface or object with these droplets and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth; this is why it’s so important to wash your hands regularly.

 

How to protect yourself from COVID-19.

The first thing WHO recommends is to stay aware of the latest information on the COVID-19 outbreak. Check WHO’s website as well as the Center for Disease Control and your local public health authority i.e. the COVID-19 updates page on the Chicago government website.

As of March 21, all IL residents that don’t work for essential businesses must stay home by emergency ordinance enacted by Gov JB Pritzker. Find out more here. 

WHO also recommends taking the following precautions to lower your risk of being infecting and/or spreading COVID-19:

  • Regular, thorough handwashing.
  • Keep at least six feet away from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Work from home if possible.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Follow good respiratory hygiene like covering your mouth and nose and disposing of tissues immediately. Encourage others to do the same.
  • Stay home if you feel sick. Seek medical attention if you have a fever, cough or difficulty breathing.
  • Keep up to date on local COVID-19 “hotspots” such as cities and local areas where COVID-19 is spreading widely. Try to avoid travel, especially to very crowded or affected areas where you have a higher chance of catching COVID-19
  • Avoid unnecessary travel especially to affected areas.

During President Trump’s Coronavirus update March 16, he announced that “[his] administration is recommending that all Americans, including the young and healthy, work to engage in schooling from home when possible; avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 people; avoid discretionary travel; and avoid eating and drinking at bars, restaurants, and public food courts.”

If you have recently visited (in the last 14 days) areas where the virus is spreading, follow the above suggestions and:

  • Self-isolate at home if you begin to feel unwell, even if your symptoms are mild, until you recover.
  • If you develop symptoms, seek medical attention quickly. Call ahead to inform your healthcare provider of the situation so they can quickly direct you to the right facility and prevent possible spread of the virus and other diseases.

While work is being done every day to create a vaccine or antiviral medicine, there currently isn’t anything to prevent COVID-19. Antibiotics do not work against viruses, including COVID-19 because antibiotics only work on bacterial infections. There is no current medicine to prevent or cure the diseases, although some western, traditional, or home remedies may alleviate symptoms and there are several ongoing clinical trials. WHO will provide updated information as soon as findings from these trials are available.

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Getting tested

If you feel you may have contracted COVID-19, you will want to get tested. Call your healthcare provider for assistance on whether or not you should get tested and where to go for testing. You can also call the IL Department of Public Health coronavirus hotline at 1-800-889-3931 or email dph.sick@illinois.gov.

Unfortunately, IL is currently experiencing a test kit shortage for the virus. However, the CDC is sending IL $17 million to combat the virus and hopefully, the shortage will end soon. Politicians are continuing to pressure the CDC to send more test kits.

Panic and paranoia

While the coronavirus pandemic is a serious issue, it’s also important to stay calm during the outbreak; undue panic and paranoia can create equally or more dangerous situations. Stay informed on global, national, and local updates on the coronavirus, take necessary precautions, and seek assistance if needed. Don’t work yourself into a frenzy, but take guidance WHO, CDC, and local government seriously. Take a deep breath. Practice self-care. Wash your hands.

Coronavirus, Xenophobia, and Stigma

The city of Chicago is urging people to stay informed and reduce the spread of rumors about the coronavirus. Unfortunately, there has been an increase in hate crimes against people of Asian descent. Businesses in Chicago’s Chinatown have also seen as much as 50% decreases in sales due to coronavirus paranoia. Fortunately, a number of Chicagoans did mitigate some of the financial damage via restaurant crawls through the neighborhood before the stay-at-home ordinance, but for some businesses, it hasn’t been enough.

Viruses cannot target people from specific populations, ethnicities, or racial backgrounds. Being of Asian descent does not increase the chance of contracting or spreading COVID-19.

Please consider ordering from Asian restaurants and other local food spots to support businesses impacted by the coronavirus.

St. Patrick’s Day Parades in Chicago have been canceled. Photo by Shutterstock.

Many larger events like St. Patrick’s Day parades, the Special Olympics Illinois State basketball championships, and the American Lung Association’s “Fight For Air Climb” have been canceled in order to prevent COVID-19 from spreading. The CDC has a detailed guide of how event planners should prepare and what actions they should take.

If you are planning on attending a public event, make sure to stay updated on COVID-19 related changes, postponements, and cancelations. Many large events in the city have already been canceled while smaller events are either still operating as usual or making adjustments to keep attendees and workers safe. Events in IL with more than 1000 people have been officially ordered to cancel or postpone until further notice

Schools and childcare services, colleges and universities, community and faith-based organizations, and homeless shelters are also being advised by the CDC to review interim guidance available on the organization’s website for how to plan, prepare, and respond to the COVID-19 outbreak.

School Cancellations

Gov Pritzker and the IL Board of Education announced March 13 that all IL schools will close temporarily from March 17-30. These closures were extended to April 30 with CPS schools opting for remote learning during this time. More than two million students are out of school across IL. Find out more about school closures here and educational resources here.

CPS students who rely on free meals given during the school day will still be able to receive food from schools. Families can go to the CPS school closest to them to pick two meals per day per child and have the option of picking up three days’ worth of meals at a time. Families that need assistance, are encouraged to call CPS Command Center at 773-553-KIDS (5437) or email familyservices@cps.edu. You can find out more information about free meals here.

Restaurants and Bars

Gov JB Pritzker announced Sun, March 15 that all IL restaurants and bars must close their doors to customers at the end of the day Mon, March 16. Delivery and pick-up are allowed and food industry employees will still be able to work, provided they are not sick, although many have been laid off. Read more here.

We will continue to update our readers with news about the coronavirus and how it affects Chicago. Watch this page for news and updates.

Feature photo by Shutterstock.