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Coronavirus

Governor hears seniors' fears, shopping-safety questions

Thousands remotely join AARP town hall on COVID-19

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Older Illinois residents, from outside of Chicago, who've been staying home, avoiding possible infection from the coronavirus and watching news conferences on TV had questions answered Wednesday by the governor and the state's top health official.

Many who spoke up during an AARP Illinois Telephone Town Hall asked Gov. JB Pritzker and Illinois Public Health Chief Dr. Ngozi Ezike already have been practicing social distancing in the battle to curb the spread of COVID-19. Many had questions related to safely shopping or acquiring the food they need.

Lonnie from Flossmoor asked, "Would it be better for me to go to the store and use the senior hours or to send my son, who lives with us, to the store to get the groceries we need? Which would be safer for us?"

Ezike said: "If you're already living with someone you're already in close household contact, but still I would always prefer for your son to go out and bring things back. But everyone should still promote social distance. Hopefully the stores have some delineation to keep people an appropriate distance away from each other."

She said the stores are working to provide wipes for carts and to keep carts and surfaces clean, but shoppers should try to avoid touching surfaces and stay at least 6 feet away from other people. "When returning home, family members should be very diligent about washing their hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and then minimize contact with people and surfaces during the time outside."

"My team and I are working with the Illinois retail merchants association to ensure that all our residents can access the food they need at grocery stores in the safest manner possible," Pritzker said. "I encourage everybody please stay in if you can. If you're particularly vulnerable, you may want to ask others to get your groceries for you."

Later, he and Ezike noted people could leave the groceries on the porch, not enter the house and not hand them to the senior citizen.

The governor said people need to take precautions once they re-enter their homes.

"Even if you're the only person there (in the house) and the only person touching a surface, whenever open a package or touch something else that may have COVID-19 and when you return to that surface and touch it, that surface then might have COVID-19 on it and if you or anybody else in your home touches it, touches your face, eyes or anything else, you have the ability to give yourself COVID-19."

OTHER QUESTIONS

Barbara from Granite City: Do you know when the peak time is?

"Nearly all of the models center around a two-week period between the middle of April and the end of April," Pritzker said. "Let me also remind you just because we reach a peak, it doesn't mean we're going to come off it immediately or that it will precipitously fall. ... That's one of the reasons 'stay at home' is so important. We don't want our health care system overwhelmed. ... We believe that over the next two to four weeks we will be reaching that peak."

Jenny from Rockford said she is "running very low on masks" and is "one of the stay-home people. Where do you find the masks?" Pritzker said the masks are hard to find, but if she's leaving her home and feels more comfortable wearing one, she might continue her search for masks in various ways. Ezike said if she's staying inside and alone, and keeping surfaces clean and staying isolated, she should not need to wear a mask inside her home.

Willie from Country Club Hills asked "After a 14-day quarantine, is it safe to visit family members who have also been quarantined?"

Ezike: "This is a new virus, a novel virus. We're learning more about it every day."

She said for many types of illnesses, people develop antibodies and should be safe from re-infection.

"But for our seasoned population, immunity might not be acting in the same way as we expect it to," Ezike said. "I still think it's best to stay at home and minimize your exposure even if you feel like you recovered. We don't want situations where people did not know that their immunity was not what it should be. Without having a test to prove you have antibodies, you wouldn't want to put anybody in harm's way."

Robin from Lewiston: My understanding is in serious cases of the coronavirus, it advances to pneumonia. Does the pneumonia shot help?

Ezike: The pneumonia vaccine is for pneumonia that is caused by a specific bacteria. Pneumonia that's caused by COVID-19 would not be prevented by the pneumonia vaccine.

INFORMATION SOURCES:

ON THE WEB: www.dph.illinois.gov/covid19 and aarp.org/coronavirus and coronavirus.illinois.gov. Ezike emphasized older people should not invite someone, even a family member, into their homes to set up program or internet access, as they could bring in the virus.

TV: The governor invited people to watch his administration's daily updates on COVID-19 at 2:30 p.m. on many television stations and Illinois.gov/livevideo

PHONE: Other information lines they gave out included 1-800-889-3931 (Cook County Health) and 1-866-252-8966 (Illinois Department on Aging). People also can call their local health department, and if they feel ill, they should first place a call — don't drive to — their physician or the hospital, who can ask questions to determine whether the person needs to be tested.

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