Human Services Committee discusses preparations for Coronavirus


Daily file photo by Emma Edmund

Ald. Peter Braithwaite (2nd). Braithwaite encouraged the city to begin stocking up on sanitary supplies in preparation for the potential spread of coronavirus.

Sam Heller, Development and Recruitment Editor

COVID-19 News

Director of Health and Human Services Ike Ogbo gave an update on the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, and how Evanston is preparing its response during Monday’s Human Services Committee meeting.

The possibilty of getting the coronavirus within the United States is still low, and there are zero cases of the virus in Evanston. Despite these low numbers, the Health and Human Services department has put together an internal response team dedicated to coronavirus planning, Ogbo said.

“We have been working with our residents, our schools and our local hospitals,” Ogbo said. “This week we’re going to have a meeting with Northwestern to discuss their strategies to prepare as well.”

Ogbo said the city has also met with institutions such as organizations that help those experiencing homelessness, Rotary International and the health directors of other nearby neighborhoods.

The speech followed a written update posted on the city’s website on Feb. 28 that outlined what the team is doing and what residents should do to stay safe.

There is currently no vaccine or any antiviral drugs to combat the virus, so the update mostly recommended people partake in nonpharmaceutical interventions, such as staying home when sick or routinely cleaning frequently touched surfaces.

“You should have discussions with your constituents on ways to prevent us from contracting this coronavirus,” Ogbo said to the aldermen. “That is making sure you wash your hands before you eat, after using the toilet rooms, cover your mouth and noises when you are sneezing and disposing of that tissue — these are things you can tell your constituents to do moving forward.”

Some aldermen raised concern with the Health and Human Services response, though, such as Ald. Peter Braithwaite (2nd), who asked Ogbo about whether the city has loaded up yet on hand sanitizers, masks and other similar items.

Ogbo said the city has not done so yet.

“I suggest you move with a level of urgency, as supplies are running out quickly,” Braithwaite said.

While there may be no cases of the coronavirus in Evanston yet, there have been two confirmed cases of the virus in Illinois, although both individuals have fully recovered, Ogbo said.

There are two adoptive cases, meaning a public health lab has confirmed them, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not yet done so. These cases were in Cook County.

The department’s major concern is avoiding cases of community spread, during which the virus spreads widely enough that officials cannot trace the source of an individual’s sickness to another specific person. Countries such as Italy, Iran and China have had cases of community spread.

Currently, there are more than 100 cases of the virus reported nationwide, according to the CDC, although only about 16 have been confirmed. CNN reports that six people have died of the virus in the United States as of Monday night. Oregon, California and Washington are all states closest to experiencing a community spread.

“If there is a wide expansion of this virus in our community, it will disrupt schools, (cancel) gatherings and overwhelm our public health systems and our hospitals.” Ogbo said. “These are things we have to keep in mind if there is a community virus in Evanston.”

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