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Springfield And Central Illinois Coronavirus Updates

Public health experts say hand-washing can reduce spread of the novel coronavirus.
Brian Mackey
NPR Illinois
Public health experts say hand-washing can reduce spread of the novel coronavirus.

These are updates between March 16 and March 22. For the latest updates, go to this post. You can send tips, questions or announcements to engage@nprillinois.org. You can send tips, questions or announcements to engage@nprillinois.org.

Illinois reported its first case of the novel coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 disease, in January.

On Sunday afternoon, the total number of confirmed cases is 1,049, including an infant, and 6 people have died.  The latest deaths included a Cook County man in his 80s, a Chicago man in his 80s, and a McLean County woman in her 70s. 

There are confirmed cases in 30 counties.  Jo Daviess, Livingston, Rock Island, and Stephenson counties are now also reporting cases.  

The Illinois Department of Public Health also issued this statement: At this time, it is still unknown if a pregnant woman with COVID-19 can pass the virus to her fetus or baby during pregnancy or delivery.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, no infants born to mothers with COVID-19 have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.  In these cases, which are a small number, the virus was not found in samples of amniotic fluid or breastmilk.

There are four confirmed cases in Sangamon County, according to local public health officials as of Sunday afternoon.   None of those cases are hospitalized.  However, 7 inpatient cases at Memorial Medical Center are under investigation.  3 inpatient cases are under investigation through HSHS St. John's Hospital.  On Thursday, a 71-year-old Florida woman died at Memorial Medical Central in Springfield.

*A reminder:  the number of cases do not take into account the status of testing in private labs.  Local authoriities expect those numbers will be included in the county totals in coming days.  

You can keep up with state government's response to COVID-19 at this website. You can also find the latest COVID-19 information and updates from the Illinois Department of Public Health here.

To prevent further spread of the disease, Illinois officials are urging people to stay home as much as possible. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has guidelines for proper hand-washing and disinfecting surfaces.

March 22, 1:57 p.m.COVID-19 Hotline Information The Sangamon County Department of Public Health has a phone line dedicated to answering questions about COVID-19. County Health personnel will answer calls between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. County Health is looking into expanding hotline hours if necessary. After 4:30 p.m. a test through County Health can only be authorized under extreme circumstances. After hours if you do not have a medical emergency, and you suspect you could have been exposed and/or infected by the COVID-19 virus, call the IDPH 24-hour hotline at 1-800-889-3931 for further guidance. If you have a medical emergency and you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are being evaluated for the virus, dial 911. Notify the dispatcher of your medical emergency first, and tell them that you have COVID-19 or are being evaluated for the virus. If possible, put on a face mask before medical personnel arrive.

March 22, 1:45 p.m.

Hospital Donations

Locla hospitals issued a statement thanking the public for willingness to donate needed items.  HSHS St.John's said it will accept homemade facemasks, but are working out donation logistics and will share that information in coming days. 

March 22, 12:00 p.m.

Mayor Langfelder's Message To The City

Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder recorded a video messagefor residents after the Governor's stay at home order was issued. Langfelder said the city will continue to provide services the public needs while also keeping its workforce safe.  

March 21, 6:40 p.m.

Sangamon County Confirms No New Cases In Daily Update

There were no new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the area, according to the daily briefing by the Sangamon County Health Department. Additionally, COVID-19 patients who had been hospitalized have been released. Earlier this week, a Florida woman died at Memorial Medical Center, where seven possible cases are awaiting test results. Two patients at St. John's are awaiting test results. As of Saturday night, the county has done 59 tests.

March 21 3:30 p.m.

Pritzker Asks For Donations Of Masks, Gloves, Other Equipment, Calls On Retired Medical Professionals To Return To Work

Gov. Pritzker called on recently retired physicians and medical professionals to consider coming back to work in the effort to fight COVID-19. He announced his administration will waive normal license fees and offer flexibility in getting licenses reinstated.

Pritzker also said his administration is working on expanding the availability of child care, especially for essential personnel who must remain on the job. More information will be on the state's coronavirus website

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health, announced another 168 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Illinois, bringing the total to 753 cases, with six deaths to date – the latest a Cook county man in his 70s. Around 6,200 00 tests have been done by IDPH.

Ezike also said personal protective equipment for medical workers, also known as PPE, such as masks and gloves, are already running short. The administration is urging a temporary stop to elective or non-essential surgery and dental procedures. They asked that protective gear be donated to hospitals.

March 21, 2 p.m.

Sangamon County Updates Number Of Confirmed Cases

Sangamon County has four confirmed tests, including one woman who died at Memorial Medical Center on Thursday. A spokesman for the county said a positive test that came back earlier in the week was a false positive. He said the department of public health is following up with the hospitals to understand the test result. The county has tested 49 people, according to its website. 

SMTD Limits Service

The Sangamon Mass Transit District Saturday announced it has limited travel to all except those needing essential services or those who provide them. On Monday, night service will cutoff off when the 9 p.m. routes are returned to the station. Those are trips that begin at 8 p.m. The district is re-evaluating service offerings on a daily basis in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“In the last few days, while our regular ridership has dropped significantly, we have seen an increase in passengers getting on the buses just to ride around,’’ stated SMTD Managing Director Frank Squires. “According to the Governor’s order Friday, people are only supposed to be out in public if they are obtaining essential services or somehow providing those services through their job, and officials have been clear if you are sick, do not go out and expose others.”

Essential services include picking up groceries or medication, for instance.

March 20, 4 p.m.

Illinois Governor Issues "Stay-At-Home" Order

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has issued a statewide stay at home order starting Saturday at 5 p.m. through April 7.

Essential services like grocery stores, gas stations and pharmacies will remain open. Residents will still be able to do things like go for walks and pick up food from restaurants. All transportation services and roadways will remain open.

The governor ordered all non-essential businesses to close until further notice, and is encouraging those that can work from home to start doing so. Pritzker has also called for a temporary halt to evictions to allow residents to remain in their homes. Schools will remain closed through April 8.

Local Hospitals Restrict Visitation

With a few exceptions, HSHS St. John’s Hospital, Memorial Medical Center, and the health systems’ other six hospitals in central Illinois will no longer allow visitors. The changes will take effect Saturday, March 21 at 7 a.m.

Both health systems will screen individuals entering the building, and will not allow them in if their temperature is above 100.4, or if they show any symptoms related to COVID-19.

Exceptions for those permitted in hospitals: One support person per patient for the maternity department; one support person over 18 per patient undergoing surgery and those in emergency care; the parent of a child receiving care, and a parent or gaurdian for pediatric inpatients. Exemptions are also permitted for patients on end-of-life care.

Patients with appointments in outpatient services should ask their support person to wait in the car.

More information is on the HSHS Illinois System website. 

These restrictions will take effect at HSHS Good Shepherd Hospital, Shelbyville; and HSHS St. Francis Hospital, Litchfield; Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital, Lincoln; Decatur Memorial Hospital; Passavant Area Hospital, Jacksonville; and Taylorville Memorial Hospital.

Similar restrictions are in place at HSHS St. Mary’s Hospital and Decatur Memorial Hospital.

Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce Starts Business Relief

Sangamon County businesses have another option to get assistance. The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce announced a grant fund for businesses affected by closures or limitations due to social distancing policies, which are aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19.

“The intent of the funding is to act as a bridge, a lifeline to assist with the long-term sustainability of the businesses applying for and receiving funding,” the chamber’s news release reads.

The chamber put in $15,000 to the fund, and its board members donated another $10,000. The chamber is seeking more donations, with the goal of raising $50,000. Donations can be made on its website or by texting “RELIEF” to 866-612-5378.

Businesses can request funding on a first-come, first-served basis Friday through April 6. Disbursements will be made immediately after approval, the chamber said.

March 19, 6:00 p.m.

Sangamon County Confirmed Cases Grows to 5, 16 Outstanding COVID-19 Tests

Officials announced Thursday there are now five confirmed COVID-19 cases in Sangamon County, between the county's health department and each of Springfield's four health systems, including one death.

In a joint statement, officials said currently, all active cases are no longer hospitalized. Memorial Health System has six inpatients currently under investigation. St. John’s has six inpatients currently under investigation.

Three of the total confirmed cases are Sangamon County residents and Sangamon County has 16 outstanding tests.

March 19, 5:00 p.m.

State Rep. Butler To Host Facebook Live Forum on COVID-19

From a statement: "To help keep residents informed and answer questions, State Representative Tim Butler (R-Springfield) is going to hold a COVID-19 Facebook Live Forum on Saturday, March 21 at 11 a.m."

Residents may send questions in advance to Butler@ilhousegop.org. The event will be broadcast live at this web address.

March 19, 4:30 p.m.

Hospitals Plea for More Protective Equipment

The Illinois Health and Hospital Association is making a plea to dentist, construction companies and their ilk to donate masks to hospitals. Vice President Mike Pence has made a similar nationwide donation request. The group said there is a dire need for supplies to protect healthcare workers from the spread of COVID-19.

"Hospitals are in jeopardy of running out of face masks and other protective supplies," said CEO and President A.J. Wilhelmi. "Organizations should find alternative supplies to ensure hospitals don't run out as the COVID-19 crisis continues."

March 19, 4:10 p.m.

Several More COVID-19 Deaths Statewide, Pritzker Announces New Relief Measures

Governor J.B. Pritzker Thursday announced the deaths of three more Illinois residents, including a Florida woman who had been visiting the Springfield area. The governor continued to implore residents to practice social distancing and self-isolation meant to help bring the virus under control.

"We can’t forget the exceptional human costs of these mitigating measures. We must do all that we can to address them," he said.

Meanwhile, Pritzker said he has directed the state's Department of Revenue to defer sales taxes for some 24,000 small and medium-sized restaurants and bars whose earnings have been clobbered by shutdowns. They won't have to pay penalties or interest that would be due in March, April and May. The federal government has also approved disaster assistance loans for small businesses, and a number of grocery stores throughout Illinois said they would offer special shopping hours for seniors in need of supplies.

March 19, 1 p.m.

Another COVID-19 Death in Springfield

A 71-year-old Florida woman died of COVID-19 at Memorial Medical Center in Springfield. Her death was the first in Sangamon County.

The woman becane ill while visiting the Springfield area, according to the Sangamon County Public Health Department. Her COVID-19 case was the first confirmed in Sangamon County. More info can be found here.

March 18, 8:45 p.m.

Blood Supply Low As Drives Are Canceled

With the current guidelines to stay home, blood drives are being canceled at an unprecedented rate.

That creates a big problem for the blood supply.

An urgent callis being made for donors to step forward. Jim Watts with the Central Illinois Community Blood Center said it's a concern now and going forward.

"Depending on how long some of these restrictions are in place for social distancing, we will see this for weeks and perhaps months to come,” he said.

Springfield Struggles To Protect Homeless Amid COVID-19 Spread

Closures of many nonprofit and government buildings in Springfield follow new rules put in place by Illinois’ governor limiting the size of public gatherings and closing bars and dine-in restaurants. The hope is that it will help stem the spread of the new coronavirus by getting people to stay home and keep a safe distance apart.

But they are a challenge for people who now have nowhere else to go during the day.

Tourism in Springfield Hit By Closures

The tourism industry in Springfield is looking toward summer travel plans, rather than the spring conventions that usually bring millions of dollars into the city.

The BOS Center in Springfield — which hosts conventions, concerts, and trade shows — has canceled several upcoming functions. Some of those events include the IWCOA Wrestling Tournament, the R-V and Camping Show, and the Mary Kay Conference.

Scott Dahl, director of the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau, said this year the city had more events booked than usual.

“We’ve received multiple cancellations from conventions in both March and April,” Dahl said. We’ve had some inquiries for summer, but at this point, the main focus is the next 60 days.”

March 18, 5:55 p.m.

Sangamon County Confirmed Cases Still at 4

Credit Sangamon County Department Of Public Health

There are still four confirmed coronavirus cases, according to a news release from the Sangamon County Department of Public Health. The update is similar to yesterday’s, but updated the number of pending tests. Memorial Medical Center has eight inpatients currently under investigation, and St. John’s has nine.

The county has 30 outstanding tests.

The four healthcare organizations and health department also started a campaign to support healthcare workers. They published animage of a pink heartwith “Hearts for Healthcare Workers.” “As our healthcare workers drive into work each morning or evening, they will see these hearts on their way in to the hospitals, the clinics and the health department.”

March 18, 5:30 p.m.

Confirmed COVID-19 Cases Nearly Doubles, White Oaks Mall Among Nationwide Mall Closings

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 128 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 across 17 Illinois counties on Wednesday. The new report means the number of people who have tested positive for the virus has nearly doubled since Tuesday, to a total of 288 so far. 

Public health officials said social distancing techniques, like the closures of Illinois schools and restaurants, are imperative to slowing its spread. In an effort to keep the public as up-to-date as possible, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announceda new website with information on the state's COVID-19 response.

Separately, Simon Property Group said it's closing Springfield's White Oaks Mall as well as more than 200 other U.S. malls and retail properties beginning at 7 p.m. Wednesday, in an effort to slow COVID-19.

Editor's Note: The number of cases rose by 128, nearly doubling. A previous version of this post stated it doubled. We regret the error. 

March 18, 2 p.m.

New Website For Springfield Businesses

Springfield businesses can add their adjusted hours and services to a new website, economic development organizations announced Wednesday. The public can use the website to support local businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Local businesses - GoWeb1 and AlertsMadeEasy.com – donated their services to build the site, and organizers say it takes just minutes to create a post.

March 17, 7 p.m.

Illinois' First Death

Gov. J.B. Pritzker Tuesday announcedIllinois’ first COVID-19 death – a Chicago woman in her 60’s with underlying medical conditions. “I’m deeply saddened to share news that I’ve dreaded since the earliest days of this outbreak – the first COVID-19 related death in Illinois,’’ he said. “The patient was diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier this month.” Pritzker said the woman had close contact with another person who has tested positive.

Still Four Cases In Springfield Area, Healthcare Groups Make Changes

There are still four confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Sangamon County, according to a news release from the Department of Public Health and the city’s four major health care organizations. Only one patient is at Memorial Medical Center; the remaining three are at home.

Sixteen patients in Springfield’s hospitals are under investigation for the virus.

The health department clarified that there are 21 outstanding tests of Sangamon County residents.

The health care organizations also announced changes to their practices in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

HSHS St. John’s, Memorial Health System, Springfield Clinic and S-I-U School of Medicine will delay all non-essential and cosmetic surgeries. For questions, contact your physician.

The health care facilities will also begin screening patients when entering hospitals, clinics and other facilities, which could include questions and a temperature check. They advise allowing extra time for doctor’s visits and other appointments.

The two local hospitals – HSHS St. John’s and Memorial - have set up separate screening areas outside their emergency rooms for people who suspect they have the deadly virus. Patients will be asked a series of questions, and only tested for COVID-19 if they meet certain criteria.

Free Parking Spots For Take-Out

The city of Springfield is designating free parking spots in parts of downtown to help restaurants with new curbside pickup service. The move comes as Illinois bans dining in at restaurants temporarily. In response, many restaurants are expanding take-out and delivery services. For a list of parking locations, visit the city’s website.

A list of downtown restaurants offering take-out is on Downtown Springfield Inc.’s website.

New Guidelines for Cannabis Dispensaries

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation announced guidelines and restrictions for cannabis dispensaries to ensure patients have access to medical marijuana.

Until March 30, 2020, dispensaries will be allowed to sell medical cannabis to patients and Opioid Alternative Pilot Program participants outside their facilities.

Sales outside would only apply to medical cannabis patients, not adult use purchasers.

Guidelines also permit dispensaries to sell medical cannabis on public walkways or curves adjacent to the dispensary, to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Other routes dispensaries are taking for disease prevention is to make sure consumers are standing at least six feet away from each other, and making sure the environment is properly sanitized.

If a medical cannabis patient has a designated caretaker, they will be allowed to purchase medicine for them, but dispensaries are not allowed to deliver medical cannabis to a patient’s home.

Dispensaries will be monitored by inspectors who will ensure they are in compliance. Other guidelines can be found here .

March 16, 3:00 p.m.

Springfield Hospitals Offer COVID-19 ER Screening, ICC Asks Customers To Minimize Contact with Utility Workers

Memorial Medical Center and HSHS St. John’s Hospital on Tuesday morning began screening emergency department patients for COVID-19 symptoms in a triage area near their emergency department entrances.

From a statement: "Patients will be screened in an area just outside the emergency department of each hospital. Patients without respiratory symptoms will be screened and sent to the emergency department check-in areas. If a patient has respiratory symptoms, one of the hallmarks of COVID-19, he or she will go to a portable screening bay for assessment. The patient then will be directed to appropriate treatment settings"

The Illinois Commerce Commission, meanwhile, asked utility customers to minimize all contact with workers in their area in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease and to ensure residents receive continual service.

March 16, 9:00 p.m.

Lincoln Library Closes, Public Encouraged Not To Attend Tuesday City Council Meeting, Springfield Fire Department Offers Phone Line To Self-Report COVID-19

The Lincoln Library closed Monday evening until further notice. Officials said in a release they will "follow the advice of health officials about when it is safe to re-open." Check the Library's Facebook page for further updates and more information.

City Council will proceed with its weekly Tuesday meeting at 5:30 PM, but encouraged the public to not attend unless an ordinance is being presented. To review the meeting agenda and ordinances, click here. The public is allowed to share their thoughts on any issues by submitting them in writing to the Springfield City Clerk at city.clerk@springfield.il.us. 

From the Springfield Fire Department: "the City has set up a hotline at 217.789.2464 for residents to self-report any addresses of households with COVID-19 exposures.  Similar to Crimestoppers, you do not have to provide your name.  We are simply looking for addresses so our first responders will know to wear the appropriate level of protection when responding to emergencies in the neighborhood. The addresses will be temporarily flagged in our dispatch system, and will be removed after 60 days." 

March 16, 7:00 p.m.

Sangamon County Declared "Disaster Area"County Administrator Brian McFadden said Sangamon County has been declared a disaster area in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. During a daily briefing, McFadden said the declaration will help the county acquire needed supplies and resources more quickly to prevent the coronavirus disease from spreading further.  Health officials confirmed four cases of COVID-19 in Sangamon County. One of those four is a county resident. A separate patient was discharged from Memorial Medical Center to their home Monday.

While the results of 17 tests for the coronavirus disease are pending, the county received six negative test results Monday. 

March 16, 4:40 p.m.

White closes all Secretary of State offices, including Drivers Services locations

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White announced all all Driver Services facilities and other offices under that Department's purview will be closed to the public starting Tuesday through March 31.

Expiration dates for driver’s licenses, identification cards, vehicle registrations and all other filings will be extended by 30 days. A number of services, like obtaining a duplicate driver's license or renewing vehicle registrations, will still be offered at the Secretary of State's website.

March 16, 3:55 p.m.

Primary election to proceed "as scheduled"

The Illinois State Board of Elections said the state will still hold its primary elections tomorrow despite COVID-19 concerns.

Officials said frequently-touched things at polling locations will be wiped down and election judges will continue to practice social distancing. In a briefing held in Springfield on Monday, Gov. Pritzker reminded the public that early voting and mail-in voting is still an option.504,000 early votes have been cast thus far in the 2020 Illinois primary, about 100,000 more than were cast at this time in 2016, according to Board of Elections spokesperson Matt Dietrich. 

Pritzker orders ban on events with 50 or more

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker ordered the cancellation of any event with more than 50 people. The state had previously banned events of more than 1,000.

It’s the latest mandate in the ongoing effort to slow the spread of coronavirus disease. Pritzker’s recommendation follows the latest guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — and comes after his order to close all bars and restaurants in Illinois effective at 9 p.m. Monday night.

The governor also called on the Food and Drug Administration to approve tests that are being used in Europe and Asia to help identify cases of COVID-19 in Illinois.

Memorial sets up respiratory clinic for COVID-19 testing

Memorial Medical Center in Springfield opened a respiratory screening clinic at its facility at 2950 S. Sixth Street to test for COVID-19. It will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week, according to a news release sent Monday. People who want to be tested should call the hotline first - 217-588-4019.

The clinic is following guidelines for testing from the Illinois Department of Public Health. If a patient does not call the hotline first, they’ll be directed to a parking spot and asked to call the hotline.

The test is a nose swab, and patients will be brought into the clinic by a separate entrance to protect others in the clinic.

Three Confirmed cases in Sangamon County

Sangamon County health officials announced there are three cases in Springfield. One patient is a 71-year-old woman who is in the intensive care unit at Memorial Medical Center. The other is a Springfield Park Board member , who is isolating at home. On Sunday, another case was announced. That person remains hospitalized at Memorial.

State employees working from home

Many State of Illinois employees are being told they will be working from home soon . It's part of the plan to slow the spread of COVID-19. Governor J.B. Pritzker said the change might mean a reduction in some government services, but that essential functions will continue. Pritzker said plans are being put together. Some employees, such as prison guards, will continue to report to the workplace.

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NPR Illinois News Staff