Coronavirus: It's safe to shop, eat in Chicago's Chinatown, local and state health officials say

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago and Illinois health officials want people to shop and eat in Chicago's Chinatown neighborhood, despite the ongoing 2019 novel coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak.

Health officials were joined by the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce in a press conference Thursday to remind people that the risk to the general public remains low and that Chinatown is open for business.

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Fears of the virus have turned Chicago's Chinatown into a virtual ghost town. Busy sidewalks and restaurants typically teeming with lunchtime crowds were all but empty Thursday. Some locations have seen a 50% decrease in traffic and have had to reduce staffing.

"We know our Chinatown is very safe," said Mabel Moy, with the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce.

The viral disease has been diagnosed in 24 countries, with 15 confirmed cases in the U.S. Only two cases were confirmed in Chicago, including the first person-to-person transmission of a husband infected by his wife after she returned from a visit to China.

"We remain at just two confirmed cases in the Chicago area," Chicago Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady said Thursday. "Today I am thrilled to announce ... that we have completed the period of monitoring for both of these cases, family and community contacts, without any sign of further transmission. There remains no need for the general public to change their behavior in any way, no need to wear masks, no need to cancel events and certainly no need to avoid coming to Chinatown."

Health officials also said novel coronavirus has not been found to be spreading widely in the U.S. But Illinois is the only state in the U.S. that can test for novel coronavirus on its own. The new test can determine if a person has the infection within just 24 hours, giving health officials an important tool to stop the illness from spreading.

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Health officials recommend the following steps to prevent the spread of viruses, including the seasonal flu:

-Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

-Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
-Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
-Stay home when you are sick.
-Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
-Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
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