The Illinois Department of Public Health and the Chicago Department of Public Health are reporting four additional people in Illinois have tested positive at the IDPH laboratory for novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). According to a news release, two of the cases -- a woman in her 50s and a woman in her 70s, are both family members to the sixth case, a woman in her 50s who acquired the virus on a cruise ship and is an employee at Jacqueline B. Vaughn Occupational High School.
The third new case is a woman in her 50s from California who traveled to Illinois. The fourth most recent case is a woman in her 70s who returned earlier this month from an Egyptian cruise. All four people are in isolation and in good condition.
The Chicago Public Health Department and Chicago Public Schools will continue investigating the case at the Jacqueline B. Vaughn Occupational High School. They are reaching out to all students, faculty and staff, and are monitoring the health of everyone who might have been exposed. In addition, testing for COVID-19 has begun on students and staff from the school and, so far, no additional positive cases have been identified at the school, although more laboratory tests are pending.
On Monday, Governor J.B. Pritzker issued a disaster proclamation to unlock additional federal resources and help the state prepare for the potential of further spread. Issuing a disaster proclamation is the method of declaring a state of emergency in the state of Illinois, which 13 states across the United States have entered into.
The proclamation formalizes emergency procedures already underway across state government by activating the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC), physically bringing together decision-makers from every state agency and the state’s highly qualified mutual aid network to deploy resources as necessary during this public health threat.
According to the release, state and local partners benefit from a disaster proclamation in the following ways:
• Allows federal reimbursement for state response costs
• Allows use of State Disaster Relief Fund, covering direct state costs and reimbursements to Illinois National Guard and mutual aid groups
• Allows use of the state’s mutual aid network, groups of public safety response professionals — including hundreds of health care providers and management professionals, law enforcement officers, fire fighters, emergency medical technicians and disaster response professionals — that are available to deploy to areas of shortage
• Authorizes the Governor to activate Illinois National Guard reservists, some of whom may be doctors and nurses
• Allows expedited procurement should it be necessary
• Authorizes additional executive authorities to protect public health and safety
HEALTH CARE SYSTEM
IDPH is currently operating three testing labs statewide -- in Chicago, Springfield and Carbondale. These state labs meet current need, and commercial testing expansion is anticipated this week.
In addition, a sample of patients who present with flu-like symptoms are being tested at 15 hospitals statewide: seven hospitals in Cook County, three hospitals in other areas of northern Illinois, three hospitals in Central Illinois and two hospitals in southern Illinois to monitor for the presence of the virus in our communities.
Gov. Pritzker has been in communication with the CEOs of the largest insurance companies in Illinois. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, UnitedHealthcare, Aetna and Cigna have announced they will waive the costs for COVID-19 testing. Medicaid and Medicare are also covering testing costs.