Illinois Governor JB Pritzker announced he was making a “disaster declaration” Monday for the state of Illinois as administration officials confirmed an 11th coronavirus case in the state. Pritzker told reporters in a press conference on Monday at the Thompson Center that the declaration, which effectively creates a state of emergency in Illinois, is an “operational procedure that opens up a set of federal and state resources and tools.”
“To be clear this declaration will build on an already robust response that’s well underway,” said Pritkzer, adding that Illinois has one of the “strongest public health systems in the nation.”
Officials reported four more cases of novel coronavirus have been identified. Two new victims – a woman in her 50s and a woman in her 70s, are related to an aide at Vaughn Occupational High School who officials announced had the illness on Friday. Another woman in her 50s traveled to Illinois from California, and the fourth case is a woman in her 70s who had returned from a trip to Egypt.
Chicago City Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said that for now, the four new cases are in good condition and that the new cases “highlight what we know about this virus,” which is that the most at risk people are those who come into close contact with a person who has tested positive.
“We said all along we anticipated more positive cases. This news is not surprising,” said Arwady. “It’s an example of the public health system working as it should.”
Arwady said that people who have come in close contact with the new cases are being tested, and that while there are still tests pending, many have returned negative. Arwady said that people who are symptomatic—that is those already experiencing symptoms like fever, cough, shortness of breath—are being tested. Officials say they define “close contact” as someone coming into contact within 6 feet of a confirmed case for 10 minutes. The virus is spread via droplets from things like coughs and sneezes.
Officials said they’re also conducting surveillance testing to monitor the spread of the virus. At present, Illinois has three testing facilities. Commercial facilities are expected to start coming online this week.
Pritzker and other officials at the press conference urged Illinoisans to be calm, cautious, and prepared.
“Don’t let fear replace levelheadedness,” Pritzker said. “I want people to understand: this is going to affect your daily life. Know that your city, county, and state officials are working hard to stay ahead of this.” The governor added that his administration would begin daily briefings on the virus on Tuesday.
Pritzker and government officials also reiterated steps that everyone in the general public can take to help get ahead of the spread of the disease. Those include staying home and self-isolating if you feel ill, coughing into napkins, cleaning surfaces that are regularly touched, and at the top of the list – WASHING YOUR HANDS.
Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said that people should “prepare in advance as opposed to being caught flat-footed,” and encouraged residents to think of commuting to work by alternative methods, talking to employers about working from home or taking extended leave if possible, and considering the possibility of postponing large events or gatherings.
Governor Pritzker added that his administration was looking into ways the state could mitigate lost work hours and wages for people living paycheck to paycheck. All major insurance companies meanwhile, he said, have agreed to cover testing and the costs surrounding testing for COVID-19.
For more information on the spread of the virus and how you can be prepared, please visit the Illinois Department of Public Health website.