Illinois health officials announced Thursday the first known case of coronavirus in a child in the state. The boy lives in Chicago and is in good condition at home, they reported.
Officials said the boy was one of seven new cases reported in the past 24 hours. The number of Illinois cases has risen to 32, officials said Thursday.
Chicago Public Schools said it was not aware of any confirmed student or staff cases in the district beyond a case announced last week that involved a special education aide at Vaughn Occupational High School. Public health officials would not identify the school the student attends.
In a joint press conference, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said they did not plan to close schools in the city or across the state.
The news came on a day that the governors of Ohio and Maryland announced statewide closures of schools. Indianapolis and several districts around Houston and Seattle also made closure announcements on Thursday.
Evanston, a Chicago suburb, said it would close schools beginning Monday through the end of spring break on Apr. 12. The district will implement an e-learning plan, according to the announcement.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said his city’s schools would stay open.
“It is a very big deal to say we would be shutting down schools,” Lightfoot said, stressing that many students rely on schools for shelter and meals.
“I am much less concerned about schools and more concerned about places like nursing homes,” said the city’s public health commissioner, Allison Arwady, who said the current data show low rates of transmission from children.
Pritzker said school closures at this point were still a community-level decision.
“I know that elected officials, school boards and school administrators are all making decisions with an eye toward protecting the children that are a part of their community, many of whom receive essential services that they attend,” said Pritzker, who has criticized the federal government for not supplying enough coronavirus tests.
Chicago Public Schools announced it will scale back large events and limit access to school buildings to essential personnel. It will also bar district-approved trips beyond the city.
“We are a city that is well prepared,” Lightfoot said. “We are a state and a county that are well prepared to address this continuing crisis regarding coronavirus.”
The Chicago Teachers Union has expressed concerns over how the city and school district will operate schools safely.
In a letter addressed to schools chief Janice Jackson and the mayor on Thursday, leaders of Chicago Teachers Union demanded that officials close schools on Tuesday, which is Election Day, since more than 500 schools are doubling as polling places. The district should use the closure for deep cleaning overnight, they added. “We understand this is uncharted territory. This moment, however, demands leadership and partnership among those of us charged with maintaining the health and safety of students and educators.”
The letter also requested that staff and faculty not lose pay or benefits if schools close due to the coronavirus. Since virus cases will impact attendance, the union asked the district to suspend its school ratings system that is based, in part, on attendance.
The union also urged the district and city to support 15 additional days of paid sick leave for district parents and city residents, to suspend evictions, and to pressure the Illinois High School Association to cancel all sporting events.