All four additional cases are in Chicago, and all of the patients are in good condition, according to a statement from the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Two of the new victims — a woman in her 50s and a woman in her 70s — are both family members of the Vaughn Occupational High School aide who was announced last week as the state’s sixth case, Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department, said at a Chicago news conference with Pritzker.
“These two new cases associated with the employee at Vaughn High School highlight what we know about this virus, particularly that close contacts to confirmed cases are the ones most at risk, like the family members in this case,” said Arwady, who added that “there is not (a) sign of transmission at the school.”
The third is a woman in her 50s who had travelled from California to Illinois. The fourth is a woman in her 70s who recently returned from an Egyptian cruise.
Pritzker also made a “disaster proclamation” that was needed to officially put Illinois in a state of emergency, which gives the state access to state money and possibly federal reimbursement for the costs of fighting the potentially deadly illness.
“The state of Illinois will use every tool at our disposal to respond to this virus, and this is the next step in that commitment,” Pritzker said in the statement. “We stand ready to put the full weight of state government in preparation for a full-fledged response when needed and will continue to update the public regularly, responsibly and honestly as the situation evolves.”
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.
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. 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.
Pritzker said 13 other states have also made disaster proclamations, which he stressed is an “operational procedure that opens up a substantial set of federal and state resources and tools.”
It allows for the use of state disaster relief funds for COVID-19 control and will put the state in line for federal coverage of costs if that money becomes available as officials expect.
“In every step that we take our priority is getting ahead, and staying ahead in our response and doing so with the safety of our most vulnerable residents at the core of our preparedness,” said Pritzker, who announced that daily updates will now be provided by his administration.
Pritzker said the government is now assembling mobile support teams of emergency responders to react quickly when new situations arise. The disaster declaration allows the state to request on-site assistance from federal authorities from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The Illinois Emergency Management Agency and Department of Public Health will supervise and coordinate local responses from the state’s emergency operations center in Springfield, he said.
Residents are encouraged to take preventative measures to slow the spread of coronavirus, including hand washing, avoiding close contact with anyone who is sick and avoiding touching the eyes and face.
Over the weekend, officials confirmed Illinois' seventh confirmed case of COVID-19. Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwardy said the 7th confirmed case is likely a case of "community transmission," since the man had not traveled and had no connection to other coronavirus cases. He has no connection to the sick teacher at Vaughn Occupational High School in Chicago.
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"We do expect to see additional cases," Arwady said. "It signals how important it is for everybody who has flu-like symptoms to stay home from school or work unless needing to seek medical attention. It is important for us all to proetect older residents and those with underlying medical conditions."
Director of Illinois Department of Public Health Dr. Ngozi Ezike said that she encourages people to plan now in case schools close or you are too sick to work.
Sun-Times Media Wire and Associated Press contributed to this report.