HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. – Protective face masks have been sold out for days in this northwest Chicago suburb, where two patients were being treated for coronavirus.
Health officials on Thursday announced the first U.S. case of person-to-person spread of coronavirus and the second case in Illinois – the husband of a Chicago woman who developed symptoms after visiting China.
On Friday, the Donald Trump administration declared the coronavirus outbreak to be a public health emergency in the U.S., setting quarantines on Americans who have recently been to certain parts of China.
And it’s not just people who are wearing face masks. Some dog owners, undeterred by the World Health Organization’s proclamation that pets are highly unlikely to get coronavirus, are neverthless stocking up on anti-bacterial muzzles for their pets.
Many residents around Chicago, however, say they aren’t alarmed by their proximity to the virus.
“I’m not really too worried about the coronavirus. The hospital seems to have it under control and in isolation. I feel like if there was a threat, the CDC would have reported it,” said Preena Patel, 21, a licensed EMT who lives in Hoffman Estates.
Reg Niadoo, 39, who lives in nearby Schaumburg with his wife and kids, said he and his family have not adjusted their daily routine in any way.
“We’ve heard about it and read all the articles, but (the town) is pretty calm,” Niadoo said.
Katie Krienheder, 27, an Elgin resident who works in reservations for an airline, said her customers have been canceling their trips to China, or trying to get an earlier flight out.
“People that are traveling (to China), they care. But people in this area don’t really care,” Krienheder said. “Flu’s here, and people still don’t get flu shots. So I’m not really worried about it.”
A few people were wearing face masks at the local Walmart Friday, according to Riffat Naz, 20, a Walmart cashier who lives in nearby Hanover Park.
“Some people are scared about this virus,” Naz said. “I’m scared a little bit.”
A Walgreens located blocks away from AMITA Health St. Alexius Medical Center Hoffman Estates, where the Chicago patients were being treated, has been sold out of four types of surgical masks for a week and a half, according to a store manager, who was restocking clorox wipes.
The store on Friday put out a new display of “advanced protection” masks.
Nearby Target and Walmart had also been sold out for more than a week, managers said.
A similar trend struck Chicago’s Chinatown last week: Hours after health officials confirmed a coronavirus case in Illinois, the neighborhood’s lone Walgreens sold out of face masks, and Lunar New Year events across the city were canceled, the Chicago Tribune reported.
At St. Alexius, the multi-building complex, covered in a layer of snow, appeared to be operating normally Friday. Only the occasional health advisory – printed in both English and Mandarin – and visitor restriction notices hinted at the presence of coronavirus.
The first patient in Illinois, a woman in her 60s, was hospitalized after being diagnosed with the illness following her return from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the virus outbreak, on Jan. 13. She and her husband, who is also in his 60s and did not join her on the trip, are hospitalized.
“There is no need for the general public to change their behavior in any way,” Allison Arwady, chief medical officer at Chicago Department of Public Health, said in a press conference Thursday. “There is no local emergency.”
The Illinois Department of Public Health reported Friday that 29 people, including the two confirmed cases, are under investigation for coronavirus. Health officials said that it is still not yet clear how easily the virus spreads from one person to another.
Arwady described the Chicago woman as “doing well” and said her husband is in “stable condition.”
First quarantine in 50 years:Trump administration declares coronavirus emergency
“Both patients are being monitored in isolation at our hospital in accordance with established infection control protocols and with guidance from the CDC,” AMITA Health said in a statement. “We have in place strict infection control precautions and protocols established by the CDC to protect patients, associates and visitors.”
Many more residents in and around Hoffman Estates said that they were making an effort to carry hand sanitizer and wash their hands more regularly.
Some said that, should the virus transmit to another person in the area, then they would begin to worry.
On Thursday, the World Health Organization reversed an earlier decision and declared coronavirus to be a global health emergency.
As of Friday, the outbreak had infected nearly 10,000 people, most of them in China, and killed more than 200 people, all in China.
Follow Grace Hauck on Twitter at @grace_hauck.