'More than 100' being monitored after exposure to coronavirus patients in Arlington Heights

More than 100 people are being monitored for signs of coronavirus infection after they had contact with a man treated at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights or his wife, who also contracted the disease.

Among those being monitored are health care workers and people who had community contacts with the couple, who are doing well, health authorities said.

"All of those individuals are tracked," Cook County Department of Public Health Senior Medical Officer Kirin Joshi said at a briefing organized by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Springfield.

He said the health department is in daily contact with the individuals by email or phone. He could not immediately say how many were self-quarantined. Some of them live outside Cook County.

"It's a regional response," Joshi said, "because some of these folks live in neighboring jurisdictions."

The couple, both in their 70s, had traveled to another state with evidence of community transmissions of the coronavirus, officials said. The man became ill and his wife was infected from him.

The man was hospitalized over the weekend and Northwest Community announced Thursday he had been released. His wife did not require hospitalization but was recovering in isolation at home, where her husband will join her.

There are six confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Illinois. In addition to the Cook County husband and wife, another married couple contracted the disease in January and are doing well, authorities said.

A fifth case - involving a Cook County man in his 20s who traveled to Italy - was released Friday from Rush University Medical Center after a day in hospital.

Rush "has been working closely with public health officials and has determined that the patient is able to begin recovery under quarantine at home. The patient still is showing symptoms but no longer requires hospitalization," a hospital statement said.

And Chicago officials as well as Gov. J.B. Pritzker late Friday afternoon announced a sixth case - a Chicago woman in her 50s who was on the Grand Princess cruise ship now being held at bay off San Francisco. She is a special education classroom assistant at Vaughn Occupational High School in the city.

CPS CEO Janice Jackson said classes at Vaughn would be canceled next week as a precaution. CPS is asking staff that may have been exposed to the virus to self-quarantine at home for 14 days.

The Chicago Department of Public Health will be reaching out to students and their families individually, health officials said.

Before the earlier Friday briefing started, officials greeted each other by bumping elbows, instead of shaking hands, something Americans should adopt to avoid infection, advised Centers for Disease Control expert Jay Butler.

"We have some suspicions the virus can survive for a short period of time on certain surfaces, probably in the order of minutes, so there's an opportunity for hands to become contaminated, which is why we have so much emphasis on hand washing," said Butler, CDC deputy director for infectious diseases.

At the briefing held at the Illinois Medical District, Durbin said one positive was that Congress passed an $8 billion package to help combat the disease in a bipartisan manner. Nearly $15 million will go to Illinois.

"The bottom line is it's a good start," Durbin said.

"Don't panic, don't be pessimistic, but be realistic and take it seriously," Durbin said.

"Be prepared, don't be scared," Butler said.

The death rate among people over age 80 is at 20%, Butler said, while in the general population it's currently estimated at about 1%.

"What we know about this virus is that it's most likely transmitted by respiratory droplets, which means things projected when we cough or sneeze," Butler said.

Asked how uninsured or uninsured people can afford coronavirus care, Durbin said he asked Vice President Mike Pence, who heads a coronavirus task force.

The Trump administration "wants to make the testing affordable to everyone," Durbin said, adding he didn't have any more details.

Easy precautions to reduce infection include: avoid shaking hands; staying home if you are sick and avoiding close contact with people who are ill; not touching your mouth, eyes and nose; cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze and cough with a tissue and throw the tissue in the garbage; clean objects that are frequently touched in the house.

• ABC 7 Chicago contributed to this report.

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A man in his 70s infected with coronavirus was a patient at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights earlier this week. Health authorities are monitoring more than 100 people who were in close contact with the man and his wife, who also tested positive. Daily Herald file photo
  U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, center, briefed the public on the coronavirus along with Centers for Disease Control expert Jay Butler, left, and other local state and federal officials at the Illinois Medical District Friday. Marni Pyke/
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