4th coronavirus patient confirmed in Illinois as officials monitor 286 more for symptoms


A fourth person has tested positive for coronavirus in Illinois and 286 other people in the state who were potentially exposed to the virus are being monitored for symptoms, officials announced Monday.

The fourth infected person is a woman in her 70s, and is the spouse of the third case — a man in his 70s — who is hospitalized in isolation, state health officials announced.

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“Federal, state, county and hospital level public officials are working to actively identify any individuals who were in contact with this couple,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said at a news conference Monday.

The man is being treated at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights and “doing very well,” according to the hospital. His infection was announced Saturday.

His wife is in good condition and is quarantined at home, officials said. It has not been made public where the couple is from.

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Health care workers who came into contact with the couple are staying home to prevent further spread of the disease. Hospital officials, citing privacy laws, offered no additional details about the man or how he contracted the disease.

Meanwhile, Arlington Heights School District 25 said two staff members and their children are isolating themselves at home after learning one of their babysitter’s relatives, a hospital employee, was exposed to a patient with coronavirus.

It was not immediately clear if the patient referred to is the third or fourth case announced in the state.

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The state’s chief health officials, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, said Monday the best place for patients who test positive for coronavirus to be is at home, to minimize exposure to other health care workers. Ezike said 286 Illinois residents are being monitored twice a day for symptoms. That number fluctuates based on how many days after they were potentially exposed to the virus.

“If they develop fever and respiratory symptoms and then they get tested, they can get confirmed. That’s when we count them as a case,” Ezike said, adding that “we’re not getting into details of all of those individuals.”

More than 100 cases have been confirmed in the U.S. — resulting in six deaths.

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The worldwide death toll has topped 3,000 and the number of those infected has risen to about 89,000 in 70 countries on every continent but Antarctica. The vast majority of infections and deaths have occurred in China, where the disease broke out in late 2019.

Illinois is also beginning “sentinel surveillance,” which includes taking samples voluntarily from people who agree to participate if they go to a hospital with flu-like symptoms but test negative for the flu or other common respiratory viruses. That is happening at select “pilot hospitals, in “Northern Illinois,” Ezike said. The plan is to expand that program to southern and central Illinois.

“We are using every tool and every resource at our disposal to contain the spread of this virus,” Ezike said. “We are still in containment mode.”

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Ezike spoke alongside Pritzker at a news conference Monday in which he showed support for merchants in Chinatown who say they’ve seen a drop in customers since the coronavirus began making headlines.

“Please join me in enjoying all the neighborhood has to offer,” he said.

Health officials say the chance of contracting coronavirus in Illinois remains low.

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Pritzker said he participated in a conference call Monday morning with Vice President Mike Pence and other governors to discuss coronavirus preparedness.

He also said he plans warn the state’s largest insurance companies against price gouging and unfair coverage practices when it comes to testing and caring for coronavirus patients.

A Chicago couple who contracted coronavirus in January were the first Illinois residents to test positive. They were released from a Hoffman Estates hospital last month and have since made a full recovery, health officials said.

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On Friday, Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced plans to expand testing for the disease, and Illinois state officials have requested a CDC team be sent to help with the response.

The public has been advised to “remain vigilant about keeping germs from spreading, by covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands with warm soap and water, and staying home when sick” — though altering daily routines is not necessary.

A state hot line for questions about coronavirus has been created: 1-800-889-3931.

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Despite the no-need-to-panic stance of local and national politicians and health officials, some Chicagoans are stocking up on supplies just in case.

Several shoppers at the Costco Wholesale on South Ashland Avenue said the store was sold out of toilet paper Monday.

“We’re being cautious. … You don’t want to come next week and you can’t get anything to buy,” said Claudette Grant, who loaded up on bottled water.

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Contributing: Associate Press