OutbreakCoronavirus, COVID-19 and Chicago

Illinois, Other States Struggling to Slow COVID-19 Spread 

By Janette Romero, Merari Taboada and Oscar Herrera |  @RedLineProject | Posted: Friday, May 8, 2020

Target employee Vanessa Jimenez notices that some customers in her Wheaton, Illinois, store have been following social distancing guidelines, and understand that they shouldn't hoard in order to keep products in stock during the global pandemic.

But some interactions between the employees and customers have gotten increasingly tense. 

"There are exceptions," she said. "A few people have gotten angry at us for not knowing where high, in-demand supplies are such as hand sanitizer and disinfectants, due to the overnight crew constantly moving inventory around since our store is currently under remodeling. So when I get to work in the morning, customers get upset and yell at me demanding to speak to the manager.

“It’s a risk being in a public place with so many people shopping at one time. I wish people knew how hard my coworkers and I are working.”

Across the country, grocery stores have been seeing a tremendous rise in customer demand in response to anxieties about COVID-19. Scanning store shelves show entire aisles of goods and toiletries empty.

“My coworkers and I have slowly watched the panic buying rise over the last couple of weeks,” Jimenez said. “I work in the nursery department, and we’re immediately out of  baby food, wipes, diapers, and even medicine within an hour of our store opening.  

“A mother of twins came up to me asking if we had any more baby food in the back, she’s been going store-to-store all day trying to find these items for her children. I had to tell her no we unfortunately do not. Sadly, all we can do is apologize.”

Over the past six weeks, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot have implemented preventive measures such as closing non-essential businesses, social distancing, stay-at-home orders and curfews to lower the cases of coronavirus. Other states have followed suit, leaving many people wading in uncharted waters.

The stay-at-home order and closures of specific businesses and services enforced in Illinois help improve chances that social-distancing and self-quarantine are followed, state and city officials insist. But many other states have struggled to contain the virus as well:

New York

As the amount of coronavirus cases quickly rises in the United States, New York leads the pack with the most out of the 50 states. New York City Council members have even suggested temporarily shutting down the NYC subways in effort to contain the virus. 


Florida has taken another approach, by opening up their beaches to the public. Despite the increase in infections in Florida, the state reopened their beaches and parks to allow citizens to exercise.

Due to the ongoing situation regarding COVID-19, college students are required to transition their education into online classes. 

Jennifer Serrano, a pre-nursing student at UIC, said she has to spend more money on lab work now that it’s required to be done at home. 

“I have to buy my own materials, put more money into it when I already paid a fee for my labs,” Serrano said. “I have to put extra money into school when I shouldn’t have to.” 

As a volunteer at Rush Hospital, Serrano was notified by the hospital when it received its first coronavirus patient. 

“They emailed [the volunteers] just to tell us it’s alright and we’ll be safe to volunteer," she said. "Either way, I didn’t feel secure to go and volunteer."

The coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 3 million people globally, according to the WHO. As of May 1, at least 235,000 have died worldwide and the virus has been detected in at least 177 countries, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. As of May 1, Cook County has 31,953 confirmed coronavirus cases, and 52,918 in Illinois, according to City of Chicago data.

The virus, which causes the respiratory infection COVID-19, was first detected in 2019 when the government in Wuhan, China, confirmed that health authorities were treating dozens of cases. Days later, researchers in China identified a new virus that had infected dozens of people in Asia. 

China has ended its lockdown of Wuhan. On March 19, China reported zero local infections, for the first time — a milestone for the fight against the pandemic. The news signaled that an end to China’s epidemic could be in sight.

However, experts have said that the country would need to see at least 14 consecutive days without new infections, in order for the outbreak to be considered completely over.

By late April, COVID-19 had become the leading cause of death in the U.S.

Healthcare workers have become vital in the fight against the infamous virus. Edith Mendoza, a registered nurse at Mt. Sinai Hospital, said there are extra precautions being taken.

“We are required to wear a surgical mask at all times from the moment we enter the hospital,” she said. “When we arrive to work our temperature is taken. We are given a sticker to indicate we have been screened (which includes a series of questions) and have passed the screening.”

Mendoza said there are limitations on visitors, too.

“There are no visitors allowed,” she said. “The only exception is the neonatal intensive care unit which only allows the parent(s) of the newborn and labor/delivery which allows only one support person.”

Decisions about the timing of imposing social distancing are now largely behind U.S. residents. The next critical decisions will emerge when stay-at-home policies are lifted and people return to work.

Getting that wrong will lead to a second wave of infections and a return to lockdowns, experts say. But the U.S can’t afford to repeat the same mistakes.

“It's scary because you could be infected and not know you have it,” Mendoza said. “By the time you realize you have the disease others have been infected. Unfortunately I'm unable to work from home and carry a greater risk of getting this virus and transmitting it to my immediate family.” 

“If you can't remember how long to wash your hands to prevent the spread of germs, sing the happy birthday song and that is the time it takes to properly wash your hands.” 

Preventing the spread ...

The CDC and the WHO recommend several basic measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  • Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Contact a health worker if you have symptoms; fever and a dry cough are most common.

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