Gov. Pritzker and Mayor Lightfoot announce enhanced preventive action to limit spread of coronavirus

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Illinois expands COVID-19 testing capacity with new testing labs in central and southern regions

information provided by the Office of the Governor

CHICAGO, Ill. (March 2, 2020) – Governor JB Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot joined city and state public health officials last week to announce a robust and coordinated effort to prevent spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Earlier this month, Illinois became the first state to provide COVID-19 testing in-state, allowing IDPH to produce results within 24 hours. This week, the administration will expand testing statewide, with new testing labs in the central and southern regions to join the existing testing lab in Cook County. Following the recommendation of the CDC, the state will also partner with hospitals in every region to engage in voluntary testing, which will allow for quick diagnosis of new cases. Under the plan, certain emergency departments will soon begin testing select patients who present with influenza-like symptoms for COVID-19.

“This is a coordinated effort with state, city, and local entities working together to put the full weight of our government behind this response,” said Governor Pritzker. “Illinois has a leading public health system that was the first—and remains one of just a few nationally—able to test for COVID-19, and we will continue leading the way forward to protect our communities.”

To date, Illinois has had two confirmed cases of COVID-19. Both individuals have made a full recovery. The immediate health risk to the state remains low. While the latest available information suggests that person-to-person spread will continue to occur, and additional cases are likely to be identified in the United States, most cases of COVID-19 cause a mild illness. In very rare cases people infected with the virus have died. Additionally, to date, data shows that children are less likely to become ill.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said, “While the chances of contracting coronavirus remain extremely low, we will continue to closely monitor this situation as it evolves, and take appropriate preventive and pre-cautionary measures as needed in coordination with public health agencies, and our many community and healthcare partners.”

The city and state are experienced at responding to infectious disease outbreaks and continue to put systems in place to respond to this new virus. Current efforts include:

  • Airport screening and monitoring health of travelers returning from China
  • Investigating confirmed cases of COVID-19, and monitoring friends and family who may have been exposed
  • Planning community measures that can help limit the spread of disease, like having ill individuals stay home (including housing and transportation needs)
  • Providing regular guidance to hospitals and healthcare professionals, including information on infection control, personal protective equipment (PPE) supply planning, and clinical evaluation
  • Working to expand local laboratory testing for COVID-19
  • Developing and distributing guidance for childcare facilities, schools, universities, businesses, community- and faith-based organizations, and others

In addition to efforts by local health systems, there are important steps individuals and communities can take to help minimize the risk of COVID-19 spread:

  • Practice everyday preventive actions:
    • Frequent hand hygiene, using hand sanitizer or soap and water when visibly soiled
    • Covering your cough and sneezes
    • Avoiding ill people
    • Staying home when sick (except to seek medical care)
      These simple actions can prevent the spread of many illnesses, including COVID-19.
  • Healthcare providers should continue to ask patients with fever and respiratory symptoms about their travel history. Refer to CDC’s Guidance for Healthcare Professionals for more information on screening and evaluating Persons Under Investigation.
  • Childcare facilities, K-12 schools, and colleges/universities should review their emergency operations plans, including strategies for social distancing and online learning.
  • Businesses and employers should actively encourage all employees to stay home when sick, perform hand hygiene, and cover coughs and sneezes. Businesses should review their emergency operations plan, including identification of essential business functions, teleworking, and flexible sick leave policies. For more information see CDC’s Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers.
  • Community- and faith-based organizations should review existing emergency operations plans, including strategies for social distancing and modifying large gatherings such as concerts and festivals.

Officials also warned against stigmatization toward specific populations and said knowing the facts about COVID-19 will help minimize stigma and misinformation.

This is a rapidly evolving situation and information will be updated as it becomes available.