Illinois public health officials briefing state legislature on coronavirus developments

Illinois Department of Public Health officials have been providing regular briefings to the General Assembly about the novel coronavirus from China and one lawmaker who has taken part in those briefings said residents should remain vigilant.

China had reported 78,190 cases, including 2,718 deaths, to the World Health Organization as of Wednesday. Outside of China, 2,790 cases in 37 countries, including 44 deaths, have been reported, according to the World Health Organization.

In Illinois, two cases of COVID-19, the name the given to the novel coronavirus from China, have been reported. Both of those people have recovered.

Illinois Department of Public Health officials said they are “working with local, state, and federal health partners to take all preventative steps available to limit the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).”

Department officials also are giving regular briefings to the Illinois General Assembly.

State Rep. Deanne Mazzochi, R-Elmhurst, has taken part in multiple briefing calls with public health officials.

“All of the individuals who were in contact with the two infected individuals, they in fact are past the 14- and 21-day window where you would anticipate seeing an infection,” Mazzochi said. “So at least when it comes to that particular locus, it appears that the infection has been fully contained.”

She said caution was warranted.

“I don’t think that we’re in a panic-mode stage, but I do think that it’s appropriate for everyone should be thoughtful and vigilant and make sure that they’re not taking unnecessary risks,” Mazzochi said.

House Majority Leader Greg Harris, D-Chiago, said he wasn’t aware of the briefings, but said from what he’s seen, there was no reason for people to change their daily routines.

“I think the important thing to do for all of us to remember in these situations is don’t be stampeded into panicking,” Harris said.

He said when he recently picked up a prescription he saw a display with medical masks and asked himself if he should buy some, but refrained after seeing a news story that the masks don’t provide much protection.

A spokesperson for House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said staff members have been taking part in the briefings, as have staff members from Senate Republicans. Another briefing is scheduled for next week.

Mazzochi said she had follow up calls to push officials to ensure Illinois will be prepared if the virus spreads.

“Are we going to have the right kind of hospital equipment, and doctors and protective measures in place to make sure that if we do actually get individuals who are sick that we do have the resources on hand to take care of them, that we do have the ability to make sure that even if we do get some additional hot spots here in Illinois that it really doesn’t grow into a pandemic situation,” Mazzochi said.

“IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike has held conference call briefings with legislators’ offices as new information becomes available,” said IDPH spokesperson Chris Martinez. “[The] director and IDPH staff have also been available to answer questions or to provide an update in person or via phone at any time.”

Other steps the department has taken include:

Implementing testing for COVID-19 in Illinois, becoming the first state to do soSetting up a statewide hotline for questions about coronavirusProviding guidance and recommendations to local health departments, hospitals, EMS, clinicians, and other partners in a variety of areas of infection control practices, evaluation and reporting and other strategies

Public health officials said it is always important to practice routine hygiene like covering coughs and sneezes and washing hands.

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