Illinois Officials Prepare Response Infrastructure for COVID-19, Say Public Risk Remains Low

ILLINOIS (IRN) — The state’s public health officials said Friday the risk from COVID-19, the novel coronavirus from China, remains low for Illinois residents and the state is preparing in case the outbreak intensifies.

The elderly and those with immunocompromised systems are most susceptible to the virus. And while the World Health Organization said the risk of spread is high, Illinois officials said diligence among public health officials and residents practicing routine hygiene will keep the risk low in Illinois.

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said Illinois was ready and public health officials will immediately update the public if the situation changes.

“The risk of infection to Illinoisans is low, however, we have to plan and prepare for all possibilities,” Ezike said.

She said one statistic that showed Illinois and the U.S. has been handling the situation properly is clear.

“To date, every person in the U.S. that has contracted the virus has made a recovery – a full recovery,” Ezike said.

In Illinois, two cases have been reported. One was a woman who visited China and the other was her husband. Both have since recovered.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said last summer there were tabletop exercises for such an outbreak originating from China so officials could prepare for any real-world outbreak.

“And next week as a precautionary measure, and so we can test for and respond to any potential cases, we’re expanding to two additional testing labs beyond Cook County to increase our testing capacity statewide,” the governor said.

The other lab locations will be in Springfield and Carbondale.

Screening at Chicago’s international airports for people arriving from China has been increased, officials said.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot reiterated that risk to the public remained low.

“Our residents should continue and enjoy the city, it’s neighborhoods, particularly Chinatown, and it’s amenities as they normally do,” Lightfoot said. “Fear cannot guide us in this moment. Thoughtfulness and preparations are the rule of the day.”

State officials said they continue to work closely with federal and local health officials. Other preparations include continued monitoring and sampling from hospitals of people who may be showing symptoms.

Public health officials emphasized simple precautions such as washing hands, cleaning surfaces, staying home when sick and getting medical attention if needed.

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