February 13, 2020

Public Health Officials Report Local Progress in Containing Novel Coronavirus, Remind Residents No Need to Take Special Precautions

Chinatown is open for business - risk to general public in Illinois remains low

CONTACT: Andy Buchanan – 312-747-9698 CDPH    Kim Junius – 312-446-2984 CCDPH

Melaney Arnold – 217-558-0500 IDPH

CHICAGO – The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH), the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), and the Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH) today reported encouraging progress in containing the local spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and reiterated that the risk of transmission within the general public in Illinois and nationwide remains low. Public health officials gathered in Chicago’s Chinatown with representatives from the local business community to talk about the robust response from federal, state and local officials, and to remind people that they don’t need to take special precautions or avoid social interactions due to fears of novel coronavirus at this time.

“We are not currently seeing a spread of this virus out in the community in Chicago - or anywhere in the United States - so people do not need to alter their plans or behavior in any way at this time. Chinatown is open for business,” said Allison Arwady, MD, MPH, Commissioner of CDPH. “We have had a total of two local confirmed cases of this novel coronavirus, in a traveler to Wuhan, China and her husband. And today we’re pleased to announce, on behalf of all local health departments across the region, that we have completed the period of monitoring family and community contacts for both of our confirmed cases without any sign of further transmission. This is a huge milestone in terms of controlling this virus locally and should help everyone in the region breathe a sigh of relief.”

Local and state health officials continue to work very closely with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and are watching the growing number of cases in China carefully. Travel from China to the U.S. has decreased significantly since February 3rd, when new federal guidelines went into place, barring U.S. entry to anyone with recent travel to China who is not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Large-scale quarantines in China and the cancellation of most direct flights from China have also decreased the number of travelers arriving in the U.S.

Still, local officials said it would not be surprising to see additional cases in returned travelers in the U.S., but emphasized that there is a robust and coordinated public health system ready to respond. Additional screening is already in place at airports across the nation, including in Chicago, to screen anyone arriving in the U.S. with recent travel to China. Local public health officials are monitoring the health of individuals with recent travel to China as well as health care workers who helped care for the two locally confirmed cases.

“Another part of our robust public health system in Illinois is the IDPH laboratories. Last Friday, Illinois became the first state to implement testing for novel coronavirus,” said IDPH Assistant Director Evonda Thomas-Smith. “Despite issues with testing in some other states, CDC has confirmed IDPH should continue to provide in-state testing for novel coronavirus. Tests already provided have been confirmed to be accurate. The ability to test in-state means we will get test results back quickly and can take measure to protect the health and safety of our residents.”    

On Friday, January 24, 2020, CDC, IDPH, and CDPH announced the first confirmed Illinois case of COVID-19 in a Chicago resident, a woman in her 60s who had returned from Wuhan, China. The woman’s husband, also in his 60s, was diagnosed several days later. Both were hospitalized in stable condition and have since been released, and are doing well at home.

Public health officials worked to identify and actively monitor individuals who were in contact with both confirmed cases in an effort to reduce the risk of additional transmission. A CDC team was also deployed to Illinois to support these efforts and has now returned to Atlanta.

CDC is closely monitoring the outbreak of respiratory illness caused by COVID-19 that was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and which continues to expand. There have now been close to 50,000 cases worldwide and more than 1,300 deaths, the vast majority in China. Symptoms reported among patients have included mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. Right now, because it has not been found to be spreading widely in the United States, there are no additional precautions recommended for the general public to take. However, there are everyday preventive actions that can help prevent the spread of several viruses, including seasonal flu.

“Seasonal flu is usually at its peak in February,” said Cook County Department of Public Health Chief Operating Officer Dr. Terry Mason. “We are encouraging the public to stay vigilant about preventing the spread of flu - which is here right now - by washing hands often, covering coughs and sneezes and staying home when sick.”

Residents in Illinois outside Chicago can call the hotline with general questions about novel coronavirus at 800-889-3931 or email DPH.SICK@illinois.gov. The number for Chicago residents is 312-746-4835 Monday through Friday during business hours and 311 during evenings, weekends, and holidays or email coronavirus@chicago.gov.

More information and updates on COVID-19 can be found on the IDPH website, the CDPH website, and the CDC website.

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