CHICAGO - Officials have announced seven new coronavirus cases in Illinois, including a child in Chicago, bringing the state total to 32.
The announcement was made late Thursday afternoon at a press conference with Governor JB Pritzker, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Toni Preckwinkle and state health officials.
Pritzker also announced that all events having 250 people or more in attendance, private or public, should be canceled or postponed until May 1. He also mandated all events that would have 1,000 people or more be canceled immediately.
Lightfoot said all events in the city of Chicago that would have 1,000 people or more in attendance are canceled and banned, "period."
Pritzker also said he spoke with the heads of all major Chicago sports teams and asked them to cancel games, unless they can be played without fans, until May 1.
Pritzker said he is not ordering Illinois schools to close, "but we are monitoring the situation on a day to day basis."
“At this time, CPS will remain open,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “We would never put our children in danger.”
Pritzker also said he is asking every private business that is able to have employees work remotely to consider doing so immediately.
“I wish I could tell you that going about your everyday lives without adjustments was the best course of action right now,” Pritzker said. "It is not. And I owe you honesty.”
He says he knows some people will ask whether these measures are necessary in places that don’t have documented cases of the new virus, but says “we have seen what works and what doesn’t work in countries around the world.”
“Don’t be fooled into thinking that your community is immune,” Pritzker said. “It is not.”
The seven news cases of COVID-19 include the following: In Chicago, a woman in her 40s and a young boy. The child is in good condition and did not have to go to the hospital. In Kane County, a man in his 70s. In Cook County, two women in their 70s and a man in his 50s. In McHenry County, a man in his 60s.
Public health officials are still investigating the travel history of these individuals, and they say they will identify and contact people who are considered close contacts of these cases.
At this time, there have been no deaths in Illinois from COVID-19.
Pritzker said Tuesday’s primary election will go forward, and he encouraged all election authorities to extend their early voting hours.
The spread of the coronavirus has made the University of Chicago to move to remote learning for undergraduate and graduate classes for the entire spring quarter beginning March 30.
The announcement came a day after Illinois, Southern Illinois, DePaul, Northwestern and Illinois State universities announced the suspension of in-person classes due to coronavirus concerns. Loyola University in Chicago also announced the cancellation of in-person classes. Western Illinois University said it is cancelling classes from March 14 until March 20, and that when classes resume they will take place online, until at least April 3.
The schools joined colleges and universities nationwide that have announced a halt to face-to-face instruction for several weeks to stem the spread of the coronavirus, now declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. None of the Illinois universities have reported cases of COVID-19 on their campuses.
Meanwhile, the Illinois High School Association announced late Thursday that it has canceled the remaining games in this year’s 2020 Boys Basketball State Series and other IHSA events. Earlier Thursday it announced it will significantly limit attendance at the remaining games in the tournament.
Games affected by the cancellations include the 2020 IHSA Class 1A/2A Boys Basketball State Finals on Friday and Saturday, as well as the remaining contests at the Class 3A and Class 4A sectionals, super-sectionals and state finals. The IHSA State Series’ in Debate, Drama & Group Interpretation and Scholastic Bowl.
“The virus is here in Illinois. While it may not be in your community now, we anticipate it will be eventually. We all need to take action now by postponing large events and restricting visits to nursing homes to limit the spread,” Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement. “Guidance for this novel virus is changing day by day, sometimes hour by hour, but we want to empower people to think about what they can do to reduce their risk of possible infection, as well as spread of the virus. The state will continue with containment efforts while also implementing mitigation strategies and we’re asking for your help in these efforts.”
About 29% of the cases in Illinois are associated with travel and 44% are due to contact with a COVID-19 diagnosed person, while the rest do not have a clear connection and could be the result of spread in the community, officials said.
Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, had said she expects the number of cases in the city and state to “continue to grow.”
"With these new cases, we are seeing more spread in our community. If anyone is feeling symptoms, if they have had contact, they should notify their provider,” Dr. Ngozi Ezike said Wednesday.
Earlier Wednesday, Mayor Lightfoot announced that the city’s St. Patrick’s Day parades would be postponed due to concerns over coronavirus.
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For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
In the U.S., the number of coronavirus cases has topped 1,000. Worldwide, more than 119,000 have been infected, and more than 4,200 have died.
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The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.
Associated Press and Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.