Coronavirus update: CPS employee is 6th confirmed case of COVID-19 in Illinois, mayor says

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A sixth case of novel coronavirus in Illinois was announced Friday evening by health officials in Chicago.

Officials from the Illinois Department of Public Health and Chicago Department of Public Health said a woman in her 50s had tested presumptive positive for COVID-19. The state-administered testing still has to be confirmed by the CDC.

The woman was a passenger on the Grand Princess cruise ship that docked in San Francisco in February. The same ship is now quarantined off the coast of California with more than a dozen new cases of the virus.

The woman is an employee of Chicago Public Schools, a special education classroom assistant at Vaughn Occupational High School, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said. Vaughn serves more than 200 students with intellectual and physical disabilities.

Officials said that on Feb. 21, the woman disembarked the Grand Princess following a cruise to Mexico. She returned to work sometime last week.

She was last at the school on Monday, according to officials. On Wednesday the cruise line announced a quarantine of the Grand Princess after passengers on that previous cruise to Mexico were learned to be infected. The woman was then tested for the virus by the state and got a presumptive positive result.

She is hospitalized in isolation, and her condition is stable, health officials said Friday.

"Our city's been working relentlessly to protect the safety and security of our students, faculty and staff," Lightfoot said.

WATCH: Officials announce 6th case of coronavirus in Illinois
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Officials announced the sixth confirmed case of COVID-19 in Illinois Friday, a Chicago Public Schools employee.



CPS CEO Janice Jackson said classes at Vaughn would be canceled next week as a precaution. CPS is asking staff that may have been exposed to the virus to self-quarantine at home for 14 days.

Parents were notified by robocall. The Chicago Department of Public Health will also be reaching out to students and their families individually, Jackson said.

"It was a bit of a shock," said Cindy Ok, parent of a Vaughn student. "I'm just trying to let my family know what our next steps are."

The Chicago Teachers Union released a statement in response to the announcement, saying in part, "We urge educators, administrators, staff and students in all CPS school communities to continue to stay informed and take precautions regarding cleanliness. We also call on the district to rapidly ramp up its efforts to clean and disinfect all schools throughout the city to prevent the spread of the virus."

The union said CPS has assured them that Vaughn faculty and staff will be paid during the one-week school closure and any self-quarantine that is necessary.

"It goes without saying, our utmost concern is with everyone in the Vaughn school community," the statement said.

At the Friday evening news conference, which also included updates from Governor JB Pritzker, officials once again emphasized the risk to the public from novel coronavirus remains low.

The fifth confirmed COVID-19 patient was released from RUSH Medical Center Friday to recover in self-quarantine at home.

On Thursday, Illinois health officials announced a man in his 20s from Cook County had tested positive for COVID-19. Health officials said he had recently traveled to Italy, where he acquired the virus.

The man was treated at RUSH University Medical Center. He was released to home quarantine Friday, after doctors determined he would be able to recover at home, hospital officials said.

RUSH officials said while the patient is still showing symptoms, he "no longer requires hospitalization."

SENATOR DICK DURBIN DISCUSSES GOVERNMENT RESPONSE WITH LOCAL, STATE OFFICIALS
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Illinois' 5th COVID-19 patient was released from RUSH Medical Center to recover at home Friday, the same day Senator Dick Durbin met with CDC and health officials.



Earlier, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin joined local health officials as well as CDC Deputy Director for Infectious Diseases Dr. Jay C. Butler to discuss how the federal and local governments are working together to respond to the novel coronavirus.

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"Don't panic, don't be pessimistic, but be realistic and take it seriously," Durbin advised. "We want to make sure there is no spread of this coronavirus."

Earlier Friday, President Donald Trump signed an $8.3 billion bill to fight COVID-19 in the U.S.

"At this point we're still in a containment strategy," said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Health. "Any case that is identified, we are full court press at all levels of government."

"The question is now what do we do next? I think that we have to be prepared that this is the first of many appropriations. I think there will be others to follow," Durbin said.

WATCH: Senator Dick Durbin speaks at coronavirus roundtable discussion
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With a fifth Illinois resident testing positive for COVID-19, Senator Dick Durbin met with local health officials and the CDC officials on the response to coronavirus.


Health officials warned the population most vulnerable to the virus is the elderly.

"The population most heavily impacted by COVID-19 are the elderly, particularly people over 80," said Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director of infectious diseases for the CDC.

The Illinois Department of Public Health is slated to receive $14.7 million of that which can be used to pay for test kits, protective equipment, lab testing and vaccine research. The Chicago Department of Public Health is set to receive an additional $8.7 million.

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Durbin and the CDC are advising people to take precautions, but not panic.
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Dr. Mark Loafman, chairman of Family Medicine at Cook County Health, explains the proper technique and duration for washing your hands to prevent the spread of illnesses. Scrubbing should continue for at least 20 seconds, which happens to be the amount of time it takes to hum the"Happy Birthday" song twice.



"Be prepared, don't be scared," Butler said. "Here in Chicago I know sometimes you get tornadoes, blizzards; think through how you prepare for those type of things, and these are frightening events. They are events that sometimes result in injuries and mortality, but panicking in the middle of the tornado is not the way to survive."

Durbin also gave an update on the possibility of a vaccine. He said health officials are saying that could take a year or two.

The third COVID-19 patient in Illinois, a man whose wife was also infected, is in isolation at home and doing well. The state's first two COVID-19 patients have both made a full recovery.

The death toll in the United States has risen to 15 as of Friday afternoon. Fourteen of those deaths have been in Washington state, with an additional death in California.

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Concerns about the virus have led to other cancellations in the Chicago area.

Ace Hardware has canceled its spring convention, which was planned for next week here in Chicago.

"The health and safety of our Ace employees, retailers and vendors is and has always been our top priority. Due to growing concerns around the Coronavirus (COVID-19), we have made the difficult decision to cancel the Ace Spring Convention next week in Chicago," company officials said.
Cardinal Blase Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, with a delegation of Jewish and Catholic leaders from Chicago, will reschedule their planned trip to Jerusalem, where the cardinal was scheduled to deliver the 25th annual Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Jerusalem Lecture at Hebrew University on March 16.

"In light of developing concern over the spread of the coronavirus, the State of Israel imposed travel restrictions on persons entering the country from certain countries," a spokesman for the Chicago archdiocese said Friday. "These restrictions affect some members of the delegation, making it impossible for all members to make the trip as planned."

A Chicago gathering for the lecture is being planned.

SPORTING EVENTS CONTINUE, BUT FANS TAKE PRECAUTIONS AMID SPREAD OF COVID-19
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No sporting events in Chicago have been canceled due to COVID-19, but fans are taking precautions in the large gatherings of people.



The Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks are sticking to their game schedules, and the Big East conference women's basketball tournament will be on the court all weekend at Wintrust Arena, but fans are taking precaution in response to the novel coronavirus.

"The kids are really good. When they were walking out they were all using the hand sanitizer. They know what to do," said Patty Hanner, fan.

Providence College pep band members said their university provided them with information about the virus and how to protect themselves before they flew in from Rhode Island.

"There were people on the plane that were definitely concerned, but for me it just feels like another virus, another thing that is passing,' said Joseph Pekar, Providence College pep band.

United Center officials are monitoring the situation closely, and said they are following CDC guidelines. They have no plans to cancel any events.

The Illinois High School Association convened its Sports Medicine Advisory Committee to educate member schools about COVID-19.

"We are happy with the conversations that we have had with our sports medicine doctors and we continue to work closely with them, welcome their input," said Craig Anderson, IHDA executive director.

The winter statement tournaments are taking place as planned. IHSA said there have been no known cases at any schools.

"We are continuing to play the games. We think it is in the best interest of our students to continue to compete," Anderson said.

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.

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