By Diane Pathieu, ABC7 News
Governor JB Pritzker has issued a disaster proclamation as the number of COVID-19 cases in Illinois has grown to eleven.
As the number of cases in Illinois increases and three Chicago area schools remain closed, many are wondering if other large-scale events, like this weekend’s St. Patrick’s Parade, will be canceled.
Governor Pritzker said he has declared a state of emergency in Illinois, which will open up state and federal resources, including federal disaster aid, to address the spread of COVID-19.
“Our priority is getting ahead and staying ahead in our response, and doing so with the safety of our most vulnerable residents at the core of our preparedness,” Pritzker said. “That is why today, in the next phase of our continued effort to stay ahead of these changing circumstances, I am formally announcing a disaster proclamation for Illinois, our version of a state of emergency.”
A total of 13 states, including Illinois, have declared disasters or states of emergency.
“To be clear, this declaration will build on an already-robust response that has been developed over many months,” the governor added. “We have one of the most robust public health systems in the nation and we were one of the first states to test for COVID-19 because we knew to press for that.”
Pritzker also said voluntary surveillance testing has begun at 15 hospitals across the state to monitor the presence of the virus in communities; seven hospitals in Cook County, three hospitals in northern Illinois, three hospitals in central Illinois and two hospitals in southern Illinois.
Two of the new cases are female family members of the CPS employee at Vaughn Occupational High School that recently tested positive after a cruise vacation. Her infection prompted the closure of the school and the monitoring of students and staff, who have been asked to stay home until next week.
All of the students there have special needs, and are closely being monitored and tested for the virus.
“Although more lab tests are pending, at this point, the tests that have returned on students and staff have been negative,” said Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady.
Arwady said those cases highlight that transmission of COVID-19 appears to require close contact. She said there is no evidence that there has been any transmission at the school related to this case, and so far all testing has returned negative results.
Vaughn was disinfected on Saturday morning and will remain closed until March 18, officials said.
The third new case is a woman in her 50s who is from California. She traveled to Chicago to work at Cinespace Film Studios. The fourth case is a woman in her 70s, who returned from an Egyptian cruise earlier this month.
The governor encouraged people to continue to take reasonable precautions such as handwashing, making responsible travel decisions, and making responsible decisions about attending large public events.
Pritzker said he will now be holding daily briefings in the name of transparency and accuracy, in hopes of keeping Illinoisans informed and prevent the spread of misinformation.
Currently, there are no plans to cancel any big public gatherings, like this weekend’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Chicago, but health officials are warning anyone over 60 or with an underlying health condition to avoid large crowds.
Loyola Academy in Wilmette was closed Monday and remains closed for Tuesday for deep cleaning after school officials said they learned Sunday night that a student and the student’s family had contact with someone that tested positive for COVID-19.
Though classes are canceled Tuesday, the boys’ basketball game will go on as scheduled Tuesday night, the school said.
An announcement posted on Loyola Academy’s webpage said the student exposed was in class through Friday. The student and the student’s family are now under a 14-day quarantine and so far, are not showing any symptoms, which means the risk to other students remains low.
However, since the person with a confirmed infection was not physically in the school itself, and the student is not sick, officials are still evaluating what, if any, additional steps are needed.
Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School in Lakeview announced that it would be closed on Tuesday, “To ensure the health and safety of our community.”
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.
How to Wash Your Hands
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.
This article originally appeared on ABC7 News.