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Chicago woman in 60s is state’s 1st COVID-19 patient death

March 18, 2020 GMT
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Olivia Marton, 11th grader at Lincoln Park High School, studies school work with her computer at her home in Chicago, Tuesday, March 17, 2020. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker's executive order closes all kindergarten through 12th grade schools — public and private — "for educational purposes" from March 17 through March 30, with students returning to classes March 31. Some individual districts, and some other states, have chosen to keep schools closed longer than that. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
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Olivia Marton, 11th grader at Lincoln Park High School, studies school work with her computer at her home in Chicago, Tuesday, March 17, 2020. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker's executive order closes all kindergarten through 12th grade schools — public and private — "for educational purposes" from March 17 through March 30, with students returning to classes March 31. Some individual districts, and some other states, have chosen to keep schools closed longer than that. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

CHICAGO (AP) — A Chicago woman in her 60s became the first person to die in Illinois after contracting the coronavirus, the governor announced Tuesday, as the state went ahead with its presidential primary and schools were closed to reduce the spread of the disease.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said that announcing the death was something he has been dreading since the coronavirus crisis began. He said the victim had an underlying health condition and had extended contact with another infected person, and that she wasn’t a nursing home resident.

Also, The Federal Aviation Administration closed the control tower at Chicago’s Midway International Airport after “several” technicians tested positive for coronavirus. The FAA said in a statement that the airport remains open and operations will continue at a reduced rate until controllers and technicians have a safe working environment. Planes were being guided to Midway, Chicago’s second-largest airport after O’Hare, from a nearby air traffic control facility.

Illinois has had 160 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to the state Department of Public Health. Among them are 18 residents of a nursing home outside of Chicago and four of its staffers. All of those infected have been isolated, officials said. The location of the facility wasn’t disclosed.

“Residents in nursing homes are our most vulnerable population and we are doing everything we can to protect them,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “We may see cases in other long-term care facilities, which is why it is so important that we all do our part to reduce possible exposure in the community to those who go in and out of these facilities as they provide care to residents.”

The woman’s death came as Illinois, Arizona and Florida held their primaries, despite worries that doing so might raise the risk of spreading the virus. Ohio leaders postponed their state’s contest hours before polls were set to open.

Pritzker has activated about 60 members of the Illinois National Guard to assist the state’s COVID-19 response. Those activated to respond to the anticipated need for logistical support and medical staffing.

Coronavirus infections across the country reached approximately 5,200, and the death toll climbed to more than 100, with more than half of the dead from Washington state. Worldwide, more than 7,300 people have died.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the virus.

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