First COVID-19 cases in Kane, McHenry counties; Illinois up to 19

The first two COVID-19 cases have surfaced in the suburbs outside Cook County, bringing the total number in Illinois to 19, officials said Tuesday.

One new case involves a man in his late teens who lives in McHenry County and has ties to Lake County, while the other involves a Kane County woman in her 60s, officials said.

Each likely reflects community transmission of the virus, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said during a press briefing. The two individuals are not related and have no known history of traveling to countries affected by outbreaks of the disease, nor contact with other known cases.

"We have been in contact with officials from all of the impacted counties, directly, about the next steps in containment and protecting our most vulnerable residents," Pritzker said.

Earlier in the day, Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen announced during a county board meeting the county's first COVID-19 case. Lauzen said Pritzker informed him about it Monday. He urged residents to embrace common-sense preventive measures, such as washing hands.

"We've got to keep our heads," Lauzen said, noting most cases of the disease are mild.

A spokesperson for Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital near Lake Barrington said the hospital is treating a patient with the illness.

"The patient is in stable condition and is being treated in isolation in accordance with our strong infection prevention protocols," a hospital statement read.

Among the 19 cases, one person is in serious condition. The others are stable or have been discharged from the hospital, officials said.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle issued a disaster proclamation for the county, enabling it to receive federal funding and resources to fight the respiratory disease. Pritzker has issued a similar proclamation for the state.

COVID-19 tests are being conducted by state health officials in Chicago, Springfield and Carbondale, and commercial availability is anticipated "in the near future," Pritzker said.

He blasted the federal government, saying officials should have acted sooner in getting testing for the U.S. population. "I have personally reached out to senior federal officials to demand that we get more tests as soon as possible," he said.

Organizers of Chicago's St. Patrick's Day parade are planning an announcement Wednesday, Pritzker said.

And people are being encouraged to vote by mail, he said. State officials are talking to local boards of elections to see if the mail-in deadline can be extended, but it's up to each local entity, he said.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention experts have advised that the highest risk of falling seriously ill from the coronavirus is in people older than 80 or those with serious underlying health conditions.

The state has issued new guidelines for nursing homes, veterans homes and long-term care facilities, such as recommending restricting visits from people under 18 and anyone showing obvious signs of a cold, the flu or COVID-19, said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. Employees of these facilities should be screened for symptoms of a fever, she said.

"We know this is going to spread. We are probably not at the peak now. Everything that we do now will help determine how high that peak gets," Ezike said.

She declined to divulge more details about the individuals diagnosed with COVID-19, citing concerns about their privacy and stigmatization. Results are pending for testing on 63 individuals, while another 244 people tested negative, according to state data.

Allison Arwady, commissioner for the Chicago Department of Public Health, said the recommendation is people over age 60 and those with heart and lung conditions, diabetes, immune system problems and those undergoing cancer treatment avoid large gatherings. People also should check in on the elderly.

People with medical conditions should be proactive about their health: Check in with their doctors, ensure they have adequate medication, possibly set up prescription delivery, and take care of themselves by getting enough sleep, eating healthy and drinking plenty of water.

"This is not thinking about causing panic," she said, but about being proactive. "Now is the time."

• Daily Herald Staff Writer Marni Pyke contributed to this report.

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker says the total number of COVID-19 cases in Illinois has now reached 19, including the first two from outside Cook County. Associated Press
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