BLOOMINGTON — Coronavirus slammed into Central Illinois Saturday as authorities confirmed a man from Woodford County, a person from Cumberland County and two patients from Sangamon County tested positive for coronavirus. Two cases were also reported in St. Clair County. They are the first six cases in Illinois south of Chicagoland.
None of the patients were fully identified. The Woodford man was described as in his 70s, recuperating at home in isolation. At a briefing Saturday afternoon in Peoria, health authorities said the man was tested at a UnityPoint Clinic, but would not specify which clinic among the several operated by UnityPoint.
The Sangamon County Department of Public Health said Saturday that a patient admitted at Memorial Medical Center in Springfield tested positive for COVID-19 and is critically ill and in intensive care.
"Our critical care team and other members of the patient’s care team are coordinating with local and state health officials in accordance with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Illinois Department of Public Health on isolation and on protective equipment for the healthcare providers," the department said in a statement.
The department said a "second patient has been identified who was tested at an outpatient facility. Details on the second patient are pending notification of family."
The Cumberland County patient had been treated in the emergency room of a Mattoon hospital.
The St. Clair County patients are a woman in her 60s and a woman in her 70s, according to the Belleville News-Democrat.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the additional cases Saturday, saying 64 Illinois residents in eight counties now have had coronavirus, an increase of 18 since Thursday. The list did not include the Sangamon County patients.
No deaths have been reported.
“We have all been preparing for this moment,” said Gregg Stoner, medical director of the Peoria City/County Health Department and chief medical officer of Heartland Health Services. “The fact that there is a known case in this region is not a surprise given the global pandemic spread of this virus that we have known about for some time.”
Throughout the region, churches canceled services and shoppers scrambled to buy necessities — or anything left on some store shelves — as concern rose and families prepared to have kids at home. All K-12 schools are closed for two weeks on Pritzker's order; many universities, colleges and community colleges also are closed. Most secondary schools and colleges are making plans for e-learning in the interim.
In Peoria, OSF Saint Francis Medical Center discouraged all visitors and said those who appeared sick may be asked to leave.
State and county health offices from Woodford, Peoria and Tazewell counties are notifying people who may have been exposed to the Woodford patient.
“We understand that individuals in our community are at the point where they want to know if they have had exposure and we are trying to do our contact tracing to understand who might be at high risk with this individual,” said Woodford County Health Administrator Hillary Aggertt. “For the general population at large, I would say it is low risk, but we are still evaluating that in our investigation process.”
Aggertt and others stressed the importance of contacting your doctor if you feel sick, rather than going to an emergency room.
Walmart stores across the country will adjust their hours, closing from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. as they grapple with heavy demand related to the spread of coronavirus.
The patient at Sarah Bush Lincoln Medical Center, Mattoon, appears to be a Cumberland County resident in his 70s, according to information shared by Pritzker during his press conference. Hospital spokeswoman Patty Peterson said the person is self-quarantined.
On Thursday, Pritzker mandated the cancellation of events of more than 1,000 people and encouraged organizers of events with at least 250 attendees to cancel on their own.
For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The vast majority of people recover. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to be over it.
President Donald Trump on Friday declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency, freeing up money and resources to fight the outbreak.
Pritzker on Saturday said the state will file a federal waiver to expand Medicaid coverage as COVID-19 continues to spread.
“With the federal government’s newly declared state of emergency, under the Stafford Act my administration is filing a request for a federal waiver to allow our Medicaid program," he said.
If the federal waiver is approved, the state will be able to expand Medicaid services through the addition of new medical providers, increased access across the state and ramped up services to many of the state’s most vulnerable populations.
Pritzker also urged residents to stay home if possible. He said people may be infected but not feel the serious symptoms for weeks, but will be spreading the illness.
"Please, please do the right thing for your community, for your friends and for your family," he said.
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