Gov. Pritzker frustrated with feds after Illinois coronavirus tally hits 19

The 19 cases include cases in Kane and McHenry counties — the first Illinois cases outside Cook County.

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Chicago Department of Public Health workers set up a tent outside Vaughn Occupational High School.

Chicago Department of Public Health workers set up a tent outside Vaughn Occupational High School on Tuesday; last week, a classroom aide at Vaughn tested positive for the coronavirus. The school has been closed to students and staff, and is being cleaned.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

As Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that the total number of people with coronavirus had grown to 19, he said he is becoming increasingly frustrated with the federal government’s inability to provide enough tests to screen the public.

Eight additional cases were recorded between Monday and Tuesday, including the first two in the state to be found outside of Cook County, Pritzker said at a Tuesday press conference. 

“These two cases outside of Cook County — a man in his late teens with ties to Lake and McHenry counties and an unrelated individual in her 60s from Kane County — are not healthcare workers, have no history, and have not had close contact with any known positive COVID-19 case,” Pritzker said. “Since health officials can not determine the origin of these two unrelated cases, each likely reflects community transmission of the virus.” 

The governor was highly critical of the federal government’s response to the outbreak, saying that, despite assurances, the state is still waiting for more testing kits.

“We have not received enough tests,” he said. “We have tests, we are testing, but we would like to be able to test anybody that shows signs that they need to be tested, and anybody who would like a test.” 

Pritzker stressed that those most susceptible to the virus — people older than 60 with pre-existing health conditions — “need to be extra vigilant” about staying away from large gatherings. 

The downtown and South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day parades are, as of Tuesday night, still planned for the coming weekend. However, Mayor Lori Lightfoot is expected to make an announcement Wednesday as to whether or not the parades — which both routinely draw hundreds of thousands of people — be carried out. Similar celebrations in Boston and Dublin have already been nixed. 

Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th), whose Beverly ward has hosted the South Side parade, told the Sun-Times that the festivities should be canceled this year. 

Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, joined Pritzker Tuesday and announced that the city would be temporarily suspending group classes and activities at the city’s six regional senior centers and 15 senior satellite centers. 

“This is, really, following the common-sense direction from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” Arwady said. “These are precautionary actions focused on thinking about the health and safety of seniors citywide.” 

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, encouraged Illinois residents to remain especially cognizant of their health so health officials can get a clearer picture of the outbreak’s severity. 

“We know that this is going to spread. We’re probably not at the peak now,” Ezike said. “Everything that we do now will help determine how high that peak gets. So people keeping themselves healthy now so that they can minimize the number of cases that we deal with so we don’t get close to a point of overwhelming our hospitals. … We need everybody’s participation, everybody keeping themselves well keeps a hospital bed open for someone who couldn’t succeed in keeping themselves well.” 

Monday night, local health officials alerted Cinespace Studios on the West Side that a crew member on the upcoming Fox show “neXt” had tested positive for the virus. A source said the crew member is a woman in her 50s who recently traveled to Chicago from California. In a statement, Cinespace said its campus would undergo a deep clean and would stay open. 

Meanwhile, two more conferences that were slated to be held in the Chicago area were canceled Tuesday

The Central States Communication Association, an organization of academics and teachers in communications, said it was canceling its 2020 annual conference. It was scheduled for April 14-19 in Rosemont at the Loews Chicago O’Hare Hotel. The association said it was exploring a “virtual option” for the conference at a later date.

The Clean Energy Trust announced it would not hold its Co_Invest Cleantech event, scheduled for May 12 at Revel Fulton Market. The organization said it would reschedule for the fall.

They join four McCormick Place events and numerous other programs and business meetings that have been scrapped or relegated to online versions. The decisions are causing growing losses and disruptions for hotels, restaurants and others in the meetings business.

American and Deltaboth announced Tuesday that the airlines were slashing trans-Pacific flights in the wake of the outbreak, joining Chicago-based United Airlines.

Daily operations at the Cook County Jail, including visitation and transport of detainees to hearings in the adjacent Criminal Court Building, have not been impacted in response to COVID-19 concerns, said Sophia Ansari, spokeswoman for Sheriff Tom Dart. 

The jail, which houses 6,000 inmates, has stepped up efforts to disinfect the jail and vehicles used to transport inmates, but so far, no inmates or staff have been diagnosed with the coronavirus. The jail has entered lockdown mode to quarantine inmates in the fairly recent past, including during a 2013 stomach flu outbreak that struck Division II at the jail complex, Ansari said. 

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