Here’s what you need to know about coronavirus in Evanston

Illinois+National+Guard+runs+a+coronavirus+testing+site+for+first+responders.

Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune

Illinois National Guard runs a coronavirus testing site for first responders.

Eva Herscowitz, Reporter

Though confirmed COVID-19 cases in Evanston aren’t nearing the numbers reported in New York, California and Washington, the novel coronavirus is affecting the Illinois suburb in a multitude of ways.

Here’s what Evanston residents should know about the coronavirus:

COVID-19 by the numbers

As of 3 p.m. Thursday, there were 55 confirmed cases in Evanston. 1,865 Illinois residents have tested positive for the virus, and 26 have died as of Thursday at 2:30 p.m., according to the state’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Response webpage.

The first deaths of Evanston and Skokie residents with confirmed cases of the virus were reported this week, according to officials in the two cities. In Evanston, the first death was a 93-year-old man. The man died March 22 and had been hospitalized since March 15, according to Phil Hemmer, executive director of Three Crowns Park, the retirement community where the man lived.

The first Skokie resident to die was an older man with underlying health conditions. Residents with confirmed cases range from three months to 88 years old, according to the Village of Skokie’s COVID-19 webpage.

Six Northwestern faculty or staff members on the Evanston campus have confirmed coronavirus cases, according to the University’s coronavirus/COVID-19 updates website. Four of the cases originated in the Kellogg School of Management’s Global Hub.

What should you do if you feel sick?

Common symptoms include fever, dry cough and shortness of breath and may appear two to 14 days after exposure. Other symptoms may include headache, digestive issues, body aches and fatigue. The American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery recently identified a loss of smell or taste as a potential indicator of coronavirus.

If you are experiencing mild to moderate symptoms or have recently traveled to a region with sustained community spread of COVID-19, call your healthcare provider. Experts advise you stay home and manage symptoms with rest, hydration and acetaminophen. Contact your physician to determine if you need to be tested. Patients without insurance should call their local health department.

People over the age of 60 as well as those with underlying health conditions should call their healthcare providers if symptoms emerge. If you develop emergency warning signs — including trouble breathing, persistent chest pain or pressure, confusion, or bluish lips or face — call 911 immediately and tell them you are experiencing coronavirus symptoms.

At home, practice isolation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises mildly ill people to remain in a “sick room” and, if possible, use a separate bathroom. Those sick at home should limit contact with pets, monitor their symptoms and wear a facemask when around other people. In accordance with guidance from their healthcare provider and local health department, people who haven’t been tested can stop home isolation seven days after symptoms appear if they have experienced three full days of no fever without the use of medicine that reduces fever, as well as a reduction of other symptoms.

Getting tested in Evanston, Chicagoland

In a March 23 letter to the community, Mayor Steve Hagerty wrote that Evanston’s NorthShore University HealthSystem is conducting in-house testing and “tops 500 tests a day.” The NorthShore corporate headquarters parking lot in Skokie is offering drive-thru testing, and people need an order from their doctor to be tested at these sites.

Other sites offering drive-thru testing of staff and in-network patients with doctor’s orders include Northwestern Memorial Hospital, the University of Chicago Medical Center, Rush Oak Park Hospital and the parking lots of the corporate headquarters of Edward-Elmhurst Health in Warrenville.

“Doctors and academics in Evanston and across the country are racing to develop a cure, antiviral medications, and new ways to treat the disease, but we need to buy them more time,” Hagerty wrote in the letter.
Hospitals in the Cook County system are currently testing patients who qualify after being screened, regardless of whether they have insurance, according to Cook County Health spokeswoman Deb Song. Patients seeking a test at facilities in the Cook County network should call ahead, Song said, and those with a physician or health care provider in the system should first consult with them.

The Chicago Sun-Times created an interactive map that shows where people in the Chicago area can get tested. The newspaper reported that some sites have paused drive-thru testing due to a national testing supply shortage.

The latest on local businesses

Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a stay-at-home order for the state of Illinois March 20. The order, which currently extends to April 7, mandates that residents leave their homes only for essential activities such as taking pets on walks and visiting grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations.

The order also requires non-essential businesses to close. Healthcare and public health operations, long-term care facilities, financial institutions, hardware and supply stores, mail services, laundry services, transportation for purposes of essential travel and daycare centers for employees are exempt from the order. NBC Chicago compiled a complete list of businesses considered essential.

In Evanston, some restaurants are adapting to the stay-at-home order by offering takeout and delivery. The Main-Dempster Mile and Downtown Evanston webpages list local business’ modified hours and takeout and delivery services, and Central Street is providing updates on its Facebook page. Student favorites, including 10Q Chicken, Bennison’s Bakery, Bagel Art Cafe and Edzo’s Burger Shop remain open for takeout and delivery. Tomate Fresh Kitchen is closed until March 30.

Evanston officials loosened liquor license restrictions, allowing businesses to sell alcohol with takeout and delivery orders until the end of the city’s state of emergency, which Hagerty declared March 15. For a $30 minimum, D&D Finer Foods is allowing customers to place grocery delivery orders by filling out an online form or emailing the store directly.

In addition to restaurants and liquor stores, local businesses like Vogue Fabrics are shipping orders to customers directly.

What students need to know

Illinois schools will remain closed through April 7 as students transition to e-learning.

Evanston/Skokie School District 65 and Evanston Township High School will remain closed through April 12, when spring break ends. In District 65, co-interim superintendents Phil Ehrhardt and Heidi Wennstrom halted in-person instruction and announced an e-learning plan that began March 16. On the last day of in-person instruction, students with limited or no access to technology were able to check out a limited number of Chromebooks. ETHS students also began e-learning March 17.

“We don’t know how long this pandemic may continue to affect our lives, but your education will be vitally important to you for a lifetime, long after the pandemic has ended,” ETHS superintendent Eric Witherspoon wrote in a March 17 letter. “Your teachers are fully committed to your learning, and we want you to continue to grow intellectually and academically.”

Ehrhardt said District 65 is looking into plans for long-term remote learning. Families will receive districtwide updates from Interim Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction Stacy Beardsley and the District 65 website.

School officials have been serving free cold breakfasts and lunches to children aged 1 to 18, with a weeks’ worth of meals available for pickup on Mondays. The meals are distributed from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at four locations: the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center, the Robert Crown Community Center, Kamen Park David Wood Fieldhouse and Mason Park. Participants must eat meals off-site, and no residency or income-based restrictions are required to participate in the program.

Here’s how coronavirus is impacting city services

The Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center is closed to the public until further notice, and all branches of the Evanston Public Library will remain closed through April 12. EPL is encouraging residents to use its free, 24-hour digital library. Residents who don’t currently have an EPL library card can receive a temporary 30-day card remotely by completing a digital form.

All Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department programs, including preschool programs, are canceled through April 12. All recreation community centers will be closed until further notice. Evanston parks and trails remain open, though playgrounds, basketball and tennis courts, and other park facilities are closed.

Weekly trash and recycling collections will occur, though no loose, bulk items will be picked up.

The city is eliminating nonpayment penalties for certain bills between March 16 and April 30. These bills include water, sewer and sanitation bills; parking and compliance citations; liquor taxes; and amusement taxes. Officials are also pausing the enforcement of water service shutoffs and vehicle immobilizations from March 16 through May 16.

The Levy Senior Center and Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center’s senior congregate meal programs will continue to provide meals to seniors in to-go containers for pickup only. Seniors unable to leave their homes may arrange for someone else to pick up meals for them.

In-person, walk-in police reports are not being accepted at the police station, and community members should call the Police Service Desk non-emergency number (847-866-5000) to file a report via phone. In an emergency, dial 911.

How to stay informed

The Evanston Health and Human Services Department created a COVID-19 webpage in English and Spanish for residents to stay up-to-date on health and safety information, including a list of confirmed cases in Evanston, FAQs and communication updates. People can also subscribe to the city’s coronavirus e-Newsletter for local updates.

Pritzker is delivering a daily COVID-19 update, which people can watch or listen to at 2:30 p.m. The Illinois Department of Public Health compiled an archive of past daily updates on its coronavirus webpage.

Other financial and physical and mental health resources:
IDPH hotline: 1-800-889-3931, dph.sick@illinois.gov
Cook County Department of Public Health COVID-19 hotline: 708-633-3319, ccdph.covid19@cookcountyhhs.org
EPL social worker Christina Mendez is providing free support and help navigating services. She can be reached at 847-448-8659 and is available Monday through Thursday from 1 to 4 p.m. Leave a message and she or another mental health provider will return your call.
The city’s Health and Human Services Department offers financial and emergency assistance toward rent, mortgage, utilities and food. Call or text 847-448-4311.

Email: evaherscowitz2023@u.northwestern.edu

Twitter: @herscowitz

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