By Jim Hagerty
BELLVILLE, Ill. – This virus knows no boundaries.
Those were the words of Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker during a daily press briefing held at the St. Claire County Health Department in Bellville, Illinois, Wednesday.
Pritzker said if measures do not continue to be proactive in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the United States could see drastic casualties like those felt in Italy and other countries.
“I know how frightening it can be to imagine that,” Pritzker said. “But it could happen here if we do not act with all due haste. From everything we know about this virus, no place and no person is immune. That’s why it’s crucial that we take significant preventative measures.”
Pritzker noted that only nine days ago, there were only 11 known cases of COVID-19 in Illinois. As of this report, there are 288, with one fatality, across 17 counties. People from 9 to 91 have been diagnosed.
“Even though Illinois is being recognized in a national leader in response to COVID-19, make no mistake, the numbers will get much worse,” he said. “This virus has no boundaries.”
How much worse is anyone’s guess at this point. Meanwhile, thousands of people, namely in the service industry are suddenly out of work as companies of all sizes have reduced services if not been completely shuttered–at least until April 1.
Pritzker said the state will obtain federal assistance to provide unemployment benefits for those workers. Illinois will also offer long-term low-interest business loans for companies that have suffered financial losses.
“This week, we’ve expanded unemployment benefits for those impacted so people can apply for benefits immediately, instead of dealing with bureaucracy and the standard week-long lag.”
Pritzker said the Illinois Department of Employment Security has extended hours to deal with the large volume of applications since bars and restaurants were limited to carryout and drive-through service. The governor has also requested that Medicaid coverage be expanded to cover COVID-19 illnesses and that SNAP benefits be lenghtend during the crisis.
The majority of people who come down with COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, will experience mild symptoms and recover within several days. However, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems could become extremely ill. About 6% of all cases are critical. Symptoms include cough, sore throat, runny nose, fever and breathing difficulties, which can be severe in some cases.
This story has been updated to reflect that there are now 288 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Illinois.