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Get the Facts: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak

I want to reassure you that addressing the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is the top priority in Congress. As part of the response, my office and I have been in frequent contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Chicago Department of Public Health, and other relevant agencies. I am also coordinating closely with local health care professionals and Chicago-area hospitals.

Out of an abundance of caution and to protect the health of my staff and visitors, my Washington, D.C. and Chicago offices will be operating remotely. My staff and I will continue to carry out their official duties and I will continue to monitor the situation very closely as it continues to develop. I can be contacted through my website at and by phone at (202) 225-4061 or (773) 267-5926.

It is important to remain calm and know that there is no reason to panic. Through my website, I hope to provide you with some basic information about the virus and its spread as well as updates on action Congress has taken to address this crisis.

Governor Pritzker has issued the following guidance to keep Illinois safe:

  • The Stay at Home order for Illinois has been extended until at least May 31, 2020.
  • The order prohibits things like visiting the homes of friends and holding gatherings of any size and closes all nonessential establishments, including most retail, recreation, and entertainment businesses. It does NOT prohibit essential activities like going to the grocery store, receiving medical care, or taking your pet for a walk.
  • FAQ on the Governor's stay at home order is available by clicking here.
  • ​Businesses and employers still operating should actively encourage all employees to stay home when sick, wash their hands, and cover coughs and sneezes. Businesses should review their emergency operations plan, including identification of essential business functions, teleworking and flexible sick leave policies.
  • You can contact the Illinois Department of Public Health by emailing or call 1-800-889-3931 for health-related questions.
  • Click here to watch Governor Pritzker's daily 2:30 pm CT press briefing.

Mayor Lightfoot has issued the following guidance for Chicago:

  • Chicago Public Schools have suspended in-person instruction for the remainder of the school year. Remote learning continues through Thursday, June 18.
  • Mayor Lightfoot and Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady, M.D. have issued a call for assistance from the medical community to help the City of Chicago in its response efforts to the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency. If you are a student and or interested in working in the medical or public health setting, regardless of experience, please volunteer. Click here for employment opportunities.
  • The Chicago Department of Health has established a call center to address questions from the public. Phone lines are currently staffed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m, seven days a week. Please note that this call center can not access COVID-19 testing results. For testing inquiries or results, please contact your health care provider. You can email the Chicago Department of Health at or call 312-746-4835.

Fight stigma and fear by understanding the facts about COVID-19 and taking the effective precautionary steps recommended by health professionals. Support people returning from COVID-19 quarantine and help reduce the spread of rumors by letting people know that viruses cannot target people from specific populations, ethnicities, or racial backgrounds.

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a type of virus. There are many different kinds, and some cause disease. A newly identified type has caused a recent outbreak of respiratory illness, now called COVID-19. Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed coronavirus cases.

People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms or combinations of symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

Or at least two of these symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

If you are experiencing a fever, cough, and shortness of breath and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19, you should contact your doctor immediately. The CDC has launched a "Coronavirus Self-Checker" tool to help you make decisions about seeking appropriate medical care. Please click here to learn more about the symptoms of COVID-19 and access the Self-Checker.

If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately. Emergency warning signs include:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face

Preventing the Spread of Coronavirus

The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. The current best information is that the virus is spread mainly from person-to-person between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) or through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneeze.

The CDC guidelines for protecting yourself include:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission. The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance. You can click here to learn more about how to properly wear a cloth face covering.

Hospitals are currently experiencing a severe shortage of facemasks and other personal protective equipment (PPE). If you have purchased any N-95 or surgical facemasks that you would like to donate to medical providers, you can contact to arrange a donation.

Take steps to protect others and stay home if you are sick, except to get medical care, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.

For the latest information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention please visit
For the latest information from the Chicago Department of Public Health, please visit

Last updated May 4, 2020