Fifth coronavirus case in Illinois; officials say risk remains low

Fifth coronavirus case in Illinois; officials say risk remains low

Pritzker says state working to ensure access to testing, treatments

Capitol News Illinois

SPRINGFIELD – Public health officials in Illinois reported Thursday that a fifth person in the state has been infected with the novel coronavirus, but they insist the overall risk to the public remains low.

The latest case involves a man in his 20s who recently returned to Chicago from Italy, where more than 100 people have died from the disease caused by the virus, COVID-19. The Illinois patient was being isolated Thursday at Rush University Medical Center and was reported in stable condition.

“We call this a ‘presumptive positive’ pending the final confirmation at the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention),” state Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said during a news conference with Gov. JB Pritzker. “But meanwhile, as we trust our test results, the public health officials here in Illinois are quickly taking action and the person is in the hospital.”

So far, all of the coronavirus cases in Illinois have been in the Chicago area. The first case was reported in January in a woman who had recently returned from Wuhan, China, where the virus initially broke out. She, in turn, transmitted it to her husband. The couple has fully recovered, Ezike said.

The third case was reported Saturday, Feb. 29, in a Chicago-area man in his 70s. That individual had not traveled abroad but had traveled to another state where “community transmission” of the disease had occurred. He later transmitted it to his wife.

“Whether the third individual picked up COVID-19 during his travels in that state, or here in Illinois, given the uncertainty, we have to consider the possibility that this could have been a case of community transmission. But that is as yet unconfirmed,” Pritzker said.

“Rest assured that we are fully coordinating across the state and local governments to prepare if there is any further spread,” the governor said. “Given this virus’ intensified influence on the elderly, we are paying urgent attention to our nursing homes, our veterans homes and long-term care facilities, as well as to the employees who serve those vulnerable populations.”

Ezike said COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that causes symptoms similar to the flu – fever, coughs and difficulty breathing. Unlike the flu, however, there is not yet a vaccine to control its spread, and it is most dangerous in the elderly and people with pre-existing medical conditions.

Pritzker said his administration is taking several steps to make sure Illinoisans have access to testing and treatment of the disease. He said the Illinois Department of Insurance has communicated with health insurance companies about their responsibilities for coverage of insured and under-insured patients. He said the administration is also on alert for any price gouging or unfair trade practices.

The state has also set up an insurance hotline for anyone who questions or complaints about their coverage. That number is 1-877-527-9431.

The Illinois Department of Public Health also has a hotline where people can get general information or report suspected cases of COVID-19. That number is 1-800-889-3931. The agency’s website also has information about the status of the disease in Illinois:

“And on that note,” Pritzker added, “my administration is closely monitoring the affordability of over-the-counter goods and services necessary for Illinoisans to be healthy. So let me say this loud and clear, any price gouging will not be tolerated.”

In Italy, where the latest case is believed to have originated, the BBC reported Thursday that schools have been ordered closed for 10 days and all professional sporting events will be played behind closed doors for a month.

But Pritzker said Illinois is not taking any such actions.

“We're not in that situation today,” he said. “Again, the risk to the general public remains low. We've contained the five cases that we are aware of, but we're monitoring very closely. We're going to keep people informed. We're not going to delay to let you know, and that's why you've seen us out here virtually every other day.”

Peter Hancock

Peter HancockPeter Hancock

Peter was one of the founding reporters with Capitol News Illinois. A native of the Kansas City area, he has degrees in political science and education from the University of Kansas.

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