As coronavirus cases climb, St. Patrick's Day parades in Chicago still on for now

State health officials have announced a new batch of coronavirus cases in Illinois, raising the total to 19.

Two of the new cases are the first ones reported outside of Chicago and Cook County, the Illinois Department of Public Health said in a statement.

The cases include a Kane County woman in her 60s and a McHenry County teen, neither of whom have traveled or been in contact with a known coronavirus case.

“As anticipated, we have reached the point where we are likely to see additional cases, reflecting additional spread within the communities each day forward,” Pritzker said.

Two new cases in Chicago have also been reported: two men in their 40s.

“Public health officials are investigating the travel history of all the new cases, as well as any contacts with a known case,” said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the state public health director. “All the new cases are in isolation, either at home or in a hospital, and are doing well.”

The other cases are in Cook County, and include a man in his 70s, a woman in her 60s, a woman in her 40s and a man in his 40s.

“As we anticipated, the number of cases in Illinois is increasing and now includes the first cases outside of Chicago and Cook County,” Dr. Ezike said in the statement. “The State of Illinois continues to take action to reduce spread of COVID-19 in Illinois and we again want to encourage people to start thinking and preparing now in the event they are not able to go to work, if schools are closed, if public transportation is not available, and how else their lives will be disrupted by this outbreak.”

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Given the concerns about the possibility of viral transmission at large gatherings, Pritzker said government officials and organizers of this weekend’s popular St. Patrick’s Day celebration in Chicago are discussing its fate. An announcement is expected by the end of the week.

“As you saw, Boston and Dublin have both canceled their St Patrick’s Day celebrations,” Pritzker said. “I want to keep people safe and I think we’ve got to follow the guidance that medical experts give us.”

Still, organizers of the city’s three Irish parades are gearing up for what they are hoping will be a busy weekend. 

“We are waiting to hear form the city. Still a go until we are told otherwise,” said South Side Irish Parade organizer Kevin Coakley.

At the South Side Irish Parade, expect to see coronavirus precautions.  

“Extra hand washing stations, and sanitizer in every porta-potty,” Coakley said.

Governor Pritzker, though, is not so sure going through with the parades is the right choice.

"The CDC is talking about avoiding mass gatherings. They aren't giving a number to what is a mass gathering and I think that is not helpful, frankly,” he said.

Coakly says Western Avenue, more than likely, will be packed.

The new coronavirus that has sickened thousands across the globe causes only mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and can sometimes be fatal.

The vast majority of people recover. 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. In mainland China, where the virus first exploded, more than 80,000 people have been diagnosed and more than 58,000 have so far recovered.

MAP: This is where there are confirmed coronavirus cases in the US and around the world

At least one Illinois case acquired the virus in the community, health officials said.

“As IDPH continues to conduct surveillance testing, additional cases will be identified, and we will have a better understanding about the amount of virus circulating in Illinois communities,” health officials said in the statement.


Sun-Times Media Wire and Associated Press contributed to this report.