Chicago reserving hotels for isolation or quarantine needs

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CHICAGO (AP) -- Chicago is reserving thousands of hotel rooms for people with mild cases of the coronavirus and others unable to return home while they await test results, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Monday.

The city has partnered with five hotels and will have 1,000 rooms available by Tuesday, Lightfoot said. She estimates 2,000 rooms will be available by the end of the week.

Chicago officials said the proactive measure should keep hospital beds available for people with severe symptoms.

Some people may not be able to quarantine at home due to family members’ age or underlying health factors that put them at a higher risk of infection, said Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the city’s public health department.

“This move is an acknowledgement that people in our city have diverse and difficult living conditions,” Arwady said. “Simply staying home is not a strong possible option for everyone.”

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. 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. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild cases recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe infections can take three to six weeks to get better.

Officials said hotel workers won’t interact with people isolated in their rooms, but will prepare food and be trained to perform other tasks. Chicago Department of Public Health employees will supervise each site.

Lightfoot said city officials were still determining how much it would cost but that they anticipate $1 million would be needed for a 30-day supply of rooms.

Illinois officials reported 1,285 cases as of Monday afternoon and 12 deaths, up from 1,049 cases and nine deaths on Sunday. Arwady said Sunday that 490 of those cases and four deaths were in Chicago.

Karen Kent, the CEO of the Unite Here Local 1 union representing thousands of hospitality workers, said members “want to help heal the city and heal the world.”

“At a time when people feel powerless, it is great to feel there is something to do and something important we can contribute,” she said.

Lightfoot also announced Monday that the YMCA of Metro Chicago opened several of its facilities to act as shelters for the homeless. More space was necessary because beds at existing shelters must be spaced six feet apart, she said.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he’s working with the state’s congressional delegation to secure stimulus aid to ensure federally required community health centers stay open. The 18 Democrats and Republicans wrote to Pritzker that without financial assistance, 51 health centers could go broke within three months. The delegates said the centers that largely serve low-income populations have lost 70% of their income because routine visits have been canceled to curb the spread of the virus.

Jordan Powell, president and CEO of the Illinois Primary Health Care Association, said a federal stimulus package signed March 6 provided $100 million for the centers, but that has yet to be distributed. The centers are seeking more than $3 billion in another package being debated on Capitol Hill.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart’s office said Monday afternoon that two inmates had tested positive for COVID-19 and were being held in isolation at the jail’s hospital. Dart said detainees from the same units were being monitored. On Sunday, Dart’s office said a correctional officer was in isolation at home after testing positive for COVID-19. Other staff were advised to self-quarantine for two weeks. None has shown any symptoms.

Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli argued a motion Monday seeking the release of inmates with underlying health conditions, pregnant women, inmates locked up for nonviolent offenses and those who remained in jail because they cannot afford to post bond.

Chief Criminal Court Judge LeRoy K. Martin Jr. said a team of judges would review thousands of cases this week, Campanelli said.

Last week, the Cook County Circuit Court ordered the jail to release about 100 detainees who were determined at high risk of contracting the virus. Dart had already halted all jail visits and the county’s chief judge suspended most criminal and civil cases for 30 days.

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Associated Press writer John O’Connor contributed