The fifth COVID-19 patient in the state is a Cook County man in his 20s who flew into Chicago through O'Hare Airport earlier this month after traveling from Italy.
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The patient acquired COVID-19 while in Italy and is hospitalized in isolation at Rush University Medical Center and is in stable condition, health officials said.
Health officials said they are working to identify all close contacts with the patient.
The patient tested positive at an Illinois Department of Public Health laboratory. Samples have been sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for further confirmation.
The state has three testing labs up and running, and patients testing negative for flu are being asked to volunteer to be tested for COVID-19. This "surveillance testing" is in an effort to assess whether community spread of the virus is occurring.
"Because the virus has been spreading in some communities in the U.S., community spread here in Illinois is expected. However, at this time, we are not seeing widespread transmission of this virus in the general public," Dr. Ngozi Ezike from the Illinois Dept. of Public Health.
HEALTHCARE WORKERS TREATING THE ELDERLY TAKE EXTRA PRECAUTIONS
The combination of advanced age, close living conditions and healthcare workers who are treating different residents is placing skilled nursing facilities at a much great risk for the spread of the coronavirus.
"The most important thing a nursing home can do is actively monitor signs and symptoms of a respiratory infection, so looking for things like fever, shortness of breath and cough," said Dr. Theresa Rowe, Northwestern Hospital Geriatrician & Infectious Disease Specialist.
Monitoring their residents for any type of infectious illness is standard practice for the Admiral at the Lake. The Chicago North Side facility provides different levels of care from independent living to skilled nursing.
"For us as a community, we already have a pretty robust infectious control program in place," said CEO of Admiral at the Lake Nadia Geigler.
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To prevent COVID-19, administrators are going beyond what is already in place, in addition the usual protocols of washing hands, keeping workers home when sick and wearing protective equipment when treating sick residents, the facility is screening visitors.
"We are now asking them if they traveled out of the country anytime recently where have they been, how long they've been back, we are also asking about symptoms they might have fever," Geigler said.
And the Admiral at the Lake medical experts are keeping in daily contact with the CDC, the Illinois and Chicago departments of health and sharing that information with residents.
"We are really putting our efforts around education and communication," Geigler said.
LOCAL POLITICIANS PREPARE AND RESPOND TO COVID-19 CONCERN
Governor JB Pritzker reiterated that the risk to the general public remains low although concerns over the outbreak have led to a number event cancellations across the Chicago area.
Governor Pritzker called lawmakers together in Springfield on Thursday.
Lawmakers attending the briefing were provided a packet of information and hand sanitizer as they arrived for the meeting.
"You all know as well as I do that people across the nation and across our state are deeply concerned about this new virus, the unknown can be scary," Pritzker said.
"The state of Illinois is working around the clock to contain COVID-19 and educate the public," Pritzker said Thursday. "Public health officials anticipated there would be additional cases and we will continue to implement robust measures to contain the virus while also preparing for further transmission. The risk of COVID-19 to the general public in Illinois remains low, but we encourage the public to be vigilant and take extra care with the normal precautions you should take during flu season."
During Thursday's legislative briefing, the head of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency announced plans for a cabinet level table top exercise March 12th to plan for how do deal with the virus if it spreads, with three scenarios of concern.
"This briefing has really provided a clear articulated message to us," said Democratic State Rep. Carrol Ammons, who represents Champaign Urbana. "Where we should get out information from and how we should engage in our community so people will know exactly what they should be doing right now.
The Illinois Department of Public Health has created a hotline at 1-800-889-3931. More information can be found at the IDPH website and the Chicago Department of Public Health website.
The third case of COVID-19 in Illinois, a man whose wife also contracted the virus, is now in isolation at home and doing well, hospital officials said. The source of the infection is unknown, but Pritzker said the husband had traveled to a state with community transmission.
Staff who were identified as having had contact with the man have been screened, and based on the risk assessment, appropriate steps have been taken to monitor, test or isolate, according to Northwest Community Healthcare.
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The first two Illinois cases of COVID-19 have both made a full recovery.
"We will continue to monitor all three recently identified cases daily for the presence of fever, cough, or difficulty breathing until CDC criteria for release are met," said Cook County Department of Public Health Chief Operating Officer Dr. Terry Mason. "With the ability to test for COVID-19 in the IDPH laboratories, we were able to get results quickly and potentially limit further spread of this virus.
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