What you need to know about coronavirus in Illinois

What you need to know about coronavirus in Illinois

This page will be updated daily to reflect developments related to the spread of COVID-19 in Illinois.

In a matter of days, life across America and Illinois has been dramatically changed by the outbreak of the coronavirus in the United States. Here is what you need to know about COVID-19 in Illinois, what you can do to stop it from spreading, and what steps state and local governments have or have not taken in response.

Illinois issues ‘shelter-in-place’ order

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a “shelter-in-place” order that started 5 p.m., Saturday, March 21, for all of Illinois. The drastic order intended to curb the spread of the virus continues through April 30, and schools were ordered to remain closed until then as well. The order was originally to expire April 7 but was extended by Pritzker on March 31. The order means Illinoisans should stay home as much as possible, but allows them to take walks, drive on both local roads and interstate highways as well as go to grocery stores, gas stations and pharmacies.Pritzker’s list of essential workers was long, including health care, industry, trades, food production and distribution. A complete list is below.

How many people have coronavirus in Illinois and where do they live?

Seventy-three more deaths were reported April 7 for a total of 380 related to the coronavirus. There were 1,287 new cases reported Tuesday, bringing the total confirmed cases to 13,549 in Illinois. Approximately 85% of fatalities are among patients age 60 and older, IDPH reported. The first Illinois death was on March 17. Deaths reported Tuesday included: in Champaign County, one male in his 80s; in Christian County, one female in her 80s; in Cook County, one female and two males in their 30s, three females and two males in their 40s, one female and two males in their 50s, two females and four males in their 60s, four females and five males and one unknown in their 70s, eight females and five males in their 80s, and one male in his 90s; in DuPage County, one male in his 40s, one female and two males in their 80s; in Ford County, one male in his 80s; in Kane County, one male in his 70s, one male in his 80s, and one female in her 90s; in Kankakee County, one female in her 60s; in Lake County, one female in her 40s, one male in his 50s, one female and one male in their 70s, and one female in her 90s; in Madison County, one female in her 80s; in McHenry County, one female in her 70s; in Monroe County, one male in his 80s; in Tazewell County, one male in his 80s; in Will County, one female in her 50s, two females and one male in their 60s, three females in their 70s, and one female and two males in their 80s; and in Winnebago County, two males in their 80s.

The total counties reporting COVID-19 cases is 77. State officials on March 17 announced the first death in Illinois attributed to the coronavirus – a Chicago woman in her 60s with an underlying health condition who was diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier in March. Of the state’s 380 deaths, 249 have been in Cook County and 135 of those in Chicago.

Coles, Lawrence, Richland and Shelby counties reported their first cases as the total grew to 13,549 cases in 77 Illinois counties on April 7 from 105 cases in 15 counties on March 16. Cases were reported in Adams, Bond, Boone, Bureau, Calhoun, Carroll, Champaign, Christian, Clark, Clinton, Coles, Cook, Crawford, Cumberland, DeKalb, DeWitt, Douglas, DuPage, Effingham, Fayette, Ford, Franklin, Gallatin, Grundy, Henry, Iroquois, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Jersey, Jo Daviess, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Knox, Lake, LaSalle, Lawrence, Lee, Livingston, Logan, McHenry, McLean, Macon, Macoupin, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Mason, Massac, Menard, Mercer, Monroe, Montgomery, Morgan, Moultrie, Ogle, Peoria, Piatt, Pike, Randolph, Richland, Rock Island, Saline, Sangamon, St. Clair, Shelby, Stephenson, Tazewell, Vermilion, Wabash, Washington, Whiteside, Will, Williamson, Winnebago and Woodford counties. Because of the lack of testing abilities, delays in results and the behavior of the virus, the number of people with coronavirus in Illinois is likely significantly higher than the 13,549 reported. The state tested over 68,732 specimens for the virus as of Tuesday. IDPH has been updating the spread at 2:30 p.m. daily.

Statewide, COVID-19 was infecting 107 of very 100,000 residents through April 7, compared to a national infection rate of 114 of every 100,000 residents. The infection rate was 185 of every 100,000 residents in Cook County. Cases are being tracked by ZIP code on this map compiled by the Chicago Tribune.

Economic impacts of COVID-19 in Illinois

Illinois’ unemployment claims were hitting record levels, with more than 178,000 new unemployment claims filed for the week ending March 28. That is more than 1800% higher than new claims filed for the same week a year earlier. Nationally, 6.6 million Americans sought unemployment in that same week, bringing the U.S. total since the beginning of March to 10 million.

The job sectors immediately impacted by the COVID-19 virus employ 24% of Illinois’ job force, or 1.5 million workers. The sectors were responsible for $100 billion in Illinois economic activity last year, or $103 million per day. Depending on the length of the closures, COVID-19 is expected to take away between 24% to 50% of the nation’s gross domestic product, worth between $54 billion and $113 billion.

The Illinois Policy Institute has recommended the state enact measures to blunt the economic damage from the virus. They include delaying commercial property tax payments, suspending collection of traffic fees and fines that do not impact public safety, and removing the progressive tax question from the Nov. 3 ballot so small businesses and the state economy are not hit by $3.7 billion in new taxes just as the economic recovery is expected to begin.

What to do if you think you have coronavirus and how to stay healthy

Symptoms of COVID-19 include a fever, shortness of breath and coughing. The strength of the symptoms will vary from person to person. If an individual exhibits symptoms, it is imperative they immediately minimize contact with other people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a list of directions for infected people to follow:

  • Stay in a single room in your home away from other people.
  • Call ahead to your doctor, health care provider or emergency room to let them know you may have coronavirus so they can prepare for your arrival and limit your exposure to others.
  • If you are sick, wear a face mask.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes. Then, wash your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your face. Your eyes, nose and mouth are the easiest way to transfer the virus into your body from your hands.
  • Do not share things with others. This includes eating utensils, cups, dishes, towels or even bedding.
  • Avoid contact with pets. If you must come in contact for their care, wash hands before and after.
  • Clean frequently. Disinfect surfaces in your house including tables, sinks, toilets, phones and computers.

Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you may not need medical attention and can remain in your home for 14 days until the symptoms subside. Remember, there is no treatment for the coronavirus, but the strength of symptoms is different for each person. This why it is important to minimize contact as much as possible. Check the CDC website for more information.

The Illinois Department of Public Health also provides information specific to the state about best practices and information for dealing with exposure to the virus.

IDPH also maintains a hotline at 800-889-3931. It supports English and Spanish at present but will soon be in Polish and Mandarin as well. You can email questions to dph.sick@illinois.gov.

Social distancing

The best way to stop the spread of coronavirus is to practice social distancing. Social distancing means staying away from others as much as possible, both in public and private spaces. The IDPH further outlines exactly how Illinoisans can practice social distancing:

  • Stay six feet away from others. Exchange verbal greetings instead of hugs or handshakes. Chicago officials also recommend an elbow bump instead of a handshake.
  • Work with your employer to find alternate ways to work. While many jobs require social interaction and must go on, those who work in offices should find ways to work remotely and minimize in-person meetings.
  • Avoid public transportation and travel in general to areas with high rates of the coronavirus.
  • Avoid going to large events. The state has already taken action to limit event sizes to fewer than 1,000 people and has asked any event with over 250 people be canceled through May 1. Avoid going to any sporting event that has not been canceled, visiting crowded stores or attending religious services. The Archdiocese of Chicago canceled all Masses in Cook and Lake counties until further notice.

For more information on how to practice social distancing, visit the IDPH’s website. Experts believe social distancing is the best way to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The Illinois Retail Merchants Association has published a list of grocery stores adopting special shopping hours for senior citizens and other vulnerable residents.

Policy responses

State and local leaders have taken a variety of actions in response to the coronavirus.

Shelter in place for non-essential workers: Pritzker ordered people to stay home statewide from 5 p.m., March 21, through April 30. He defined essential workers as: Health care and public health operations, human services operations, essential infrastructure, stores that sell groceries and medicine, food, beverage and cannabis production and agriculture, organizations that provide charitable and social services, media, gas stations and businesses needed for transportation, financial institutions, hardware and supply stores, critical trades, mail and delivery services, educational institutions to provide distance learning, laundry services, restaurants for consumption off-premises, supplies to work from home or for essential businesses, home-based care and services, residential facilities and shelters, professional services, day care centers for employees exempted by the executive order, manufacture, distribution, and supply chain for critical products and industries, critical labor union functions, hotels and motels for lodging or carry-out food services, and funeral services.

Bars and restaurants: Pritzker announced all restaurants and bars in Illinois will be closed to dine-in service from March 16 through at least April 30. Establishments will still be allowed to continue drive-thru and take-out services, including pickup and delivery.

Schools: Schools in Illinois will also be closed through April 7. Chicago Public School will be closed until April 20, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said. Pritzker’s order applies to all schools with students in kindergarten through seniors in high school. Day care centers will still be allowed to remain open to care for children of essential workers. Universities across the state have also suspended most in-person learning. Many have moved all classes online for the remainder of the spring semester and told their students to move home.

Unemployment: On March 11 the Pritzker Administration announced it was filing emergency rules so those unemployed as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak could receive benefits. For the week ending March 28 there were more than 178,000 new unemployment benefits claims, about 1800% more than the same week a year earlier. The Illinois Department of Employment Security has a guide to COVID-19 and unemployment benefits, including answers to frequently asked questions. IDES offices closed to the public on March 19 to prevent the virus from spreading, but services are available online or by phone. To file an unemployment claim, click here. IDES staff can answer questions by calling 800-244-5631, or persons using TTY devices may call 866-488-4016. Benefits certification can be performed at this link or by calling 312-338-4337 between 5 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. weekdays.

Primary elections: The March 17 primary elections went forward as planned, despite state guidance to cancel gatherings of over 50 people and federal guidance to limit gatherings to 10 people or fewer. The chief spokesman for Chicago’s Board of Election Commissioners told reporters March 17 that local election officials on March 11 requested Pritzker suspend in-person voting. Ohio shut down polling places ahead of the March 17 primary. Ohio Health Director Dr. Amy Acton ordered the closures to “avoid the imminent threat with a high probability of widespread exposure to COVID-19 with a significant risk of substantial harm to a large number of the people in the general population, including the elderly and people with weakened immune systems and chronic medical conditions.” Georgia and Louisiana also postponed their primary elections, which were slated for late March.

Public events: Pritzker recommended avoiding any gathering of more than 10 people. Gatherings have been canceled until at least May 1. In addition, Pritzker spoke with the owners of all major sports teams in Illinois and asked they not host any home games until at least May 1. The owners agreed, meaning the home opener for the Cubs and White Sox will not take place until at least May 1 and possibly as late as July depending on how Major League Baseball reacts to the situation. The Bulls and Blackhawks will most likely not play at the United Center again this season based on this recommendation and their playoff chances.

Casinos: All 10 casinos in Illinois have been told by state gambling regulators to shut their doors through April 30.

State parks: The Illinois Department of Natural Resources also announced they will be closing all state parks until further notice.

Toll roads: The Illinois Tollway also announced all tolls will need to be paid electronically, and it will not operate toll booths staffed by employees for the time being.

Metra: Metra cut weekday train service in half starting March 23, due to severe drops in ridership.

Relief efforts for small businesses

United States Bartender Guild’s National Charity Foundation: Offering emergency grants to bartenders.

The Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation: Funds on-the-ground relief efforts in the restaurant industry, zero-interest loans for affected businesses and direct aid to workers.

This list will be continuously updated.

Want more? Get stories like this delivered straight to your inbox.

Thank you, we'll keep you informed!