Pritzker issues disaster proclamation; four new Chicago-area coronavirus patients diagnosed

With the state's coronavirus count mounting, Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a disaster proclamation for Illinois Monday, which enables it to receive federal funding and resources to fight the disease.

“This decision will build on already robust response,” Pritzker said at a briefing.

The state's tally of coronavirus cases has increased to 11, up from seven on the weekend, officials said.

The new cases are in Chicago. Two are related to a special education classroom assistant at Vaughn Occupational High School in Chicago, who fell ill from the respiratory disease COVID-19. Another is a woman in her 40s who had traveled to California; the fourth is a woman in her 70s who had recently been on an Egyptian cruise.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle also issued a disaster proclamation for the county as a “proactive” measure.

The four people who most recently were diagnosed with the coronavirus are “in good condition,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady said.

Officials also said a man in his 60s, infected with the seventh confirmed case of coronavirus in Illinois, remained hospitalized in serious condition. “Our thoughts are with him and his family,” Arwady said.

“I know this is a difficult time for people as we try to respond to something new and it's reasonable to feel apprehensive; this is going to affect your daily life,” Pritzker said. “But know your city, county and state officials are working hard to stay ahead.”

Also on hand was DuPage County Chairman Dan Cronin, who said “the risk remains low to Illinois” but the declaration “provides an avenue for state and local governments to access federal funding.”

Asked if there were any plans to cancel mass gatherings, Arwady said no but advised people who are 60 or older to avoid such events.

Of the 11 cases, all except one were connected to another confirmed case of the coronavirus or a high-risk activity, such as travel to China, where the disease originated. The exception is the hospitalized man.

“So from that we deduce the virus is not circulating widely in the community, but we must be prepared for the eventual spread,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike said.

The disaster proclamation unlocks federal reimbursements to Illinois for coronavirus response and the State Disaster Relief Fund, allows the governor to activate Illinois National Guard reservists and allows use of the state's mutual aid network of emergency responders.

At a briefing earlier, Centers for Disease Control physician Nancy Messonnier elaborated on who's at greatest risk for the contagious disease.

“But again — based on what we know — we do not expect most people to develop serious illness,” said Messonnier, CDC National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases director.

• Chinese researchers studied 70,000 coronavirus cases and found in 80% of them the illness was mild and people recovered, Messonnier said, while 15% to 20% of people contracted serious illnesses.

• Children are at a low risk of developing coronavirus. “It seems to be a disease that affects adults and most seriously older adults,” Messonnier said.

• Starting at age 60, there is an increasing risk of becoming infected and “the risk increases with age,” Messonnier said.

• The highest risk of falling seriously ill from the coronavirus is in people older than 80 or individuals with serious underlying health conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes.

The CDC advises people at higher risks to avoid cruise ship vacations or long plane flights.

Americans should also consider stocking up on essentials gradually just in case someone falls ill, but don't overdo it, Messonnier advised.

“This is the time for people to prepare, but not to clear out the shelves,” she said.

Illinois authorities urged residents to stay follow common-sense precautions like washing hands and to get a flu shot if you haven't already.

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday issued a disaster proclamation for Illinois aimed at garnering funds to fight coronavirus. Courtesy of state of Illinois/March 5, 2020
Toni Preckwinkle
Dan Cronin
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