Don’t Drink Bleach, Illinois’ Public Health Director Warns

New statewide totals: 41,777 cases, 1,874 deaths

As Illinois seeks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the state’s chief health director warned residents from resorting to possibly lethal, unproven means of prevention, such as drinking bleach.

As of Saturday, Illinois has confirmed 41,777 cases of the new coronavirus and 1,874 deaths. The figures include 2,119 new cases and 80 additional deaths since Friday.

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“I hate to have to do this, but I’d like to address some of the myths, rumors and general misinformation,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said. “Injecting, ingesting, snorting household cleaners is dangerous. It is not advised and can be deadly.”

Her comments came after President Donald Trump on Thursday raised the prospect of disinfectants’ ability to kill COVID-19. Trump has since walked back that claim, saying he was being sarcastic.

The Illinois Poison Center says it has since received calls on two cases about individuals “who were exposed to disinfectants from inappropriate use.”

In the days since Trump’s remarks, the IPC said it has seen a 60% increase in calls related to “inappropriate exposures to disinfectants/cleaners.”

“Some recent examples include the use of a detergent solution for a sinus rinse, and gargling with a bleach and mouthwash” mixture, Ezike said. “Please do not try home remedies that involve ingesting cleaners or disinfectant. You could have very dire consequences.”

The IPC received 750 household cleaning product calls from March 1 through April 20 last year. In that same period this year, it got 1,024 calls.

Meanwhile, for the second day in a row, Illinois met its goal of testing at least 10,000 people for the coronavirus; 11,985 tests were run in the past 24 hours.

On Friday, the state reported running 16,124 tests. That produced a single-day record of 2,724 new cases in Illinois.

The ramped-up testing “will allow us to make more informed decisions going forward,” Ezike said. “So for now, let’s continue to join together – not literally, of course – and follow the science” that shows techniques like social distancing work to prevent spread of the coronavirus.

Of those currently battling COVID-19, state numbers show 4,699 were hospitalized as of midnight, with roughly a quarter of those patients in intensive care and 763 on ventilators.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Illinois is still “climbing this peak.”

“As the curve has bent, it is flatting, and so I don’t know whether there will be any prolonged period of plateau,” he said. “I hope that we’re able to simply peak and start going down again. But all of that is something we’re going to have to wait and see.”

Ezike was unable during Saturday’s press conference to delve into details about the number of doctors and nurses who are among the COVID-19 cases, but she said they do include health care workers.

“It’s a sad and sobering truth that the people who are doing the most to protect the society as a whole are also falling victim,” Ezike said.

Ezike was asked about potential therapies, including using transmissions of plasma from a recovered COVID-19 patient to someone currently fighting the virus.

“I think all of us are just hoping that we can find a cure sooner than later,” Ezike said. “We have recommended and we still recommend that people go to a blood center” if they are willing to donate blood for convalescent plasma therapy studies.

Illinois has been under a stay-at-home order since March 21. A revised version of the order will take effect Friday through the end of May.

Business groups, Republican lawmakers and other critics say because of the ensuing economic distress, Pritzker should remove his proposed tax amendment to the state constitution from November’s ballot.

“Gov. Pritzker’s insistence on raising taxes this November illustrates the vast disconnect between those feeling the intense pain of the economic shutdown – struggling business owners, job creators and the unemployed – and the politicians and ideologues leveraging the crisis for political gain,” Illinois Business Alliance President Jared Carl said in a recent statement.

“Illinoisans have answered the call to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, at enormous cost. We’ve lost jobs and paychecks. Businesses remain shuttered. Some may never re-open. So many face complete financial ruin. We’ve looked to the governor and the state for leadership, but all we get is the threat of a tax increase.”

Voters in the 2020 general election will be asked whether Illinois should move to a graduated income tax system, in which tax brackets are based on income levels rather than a flat income tax rate for all individuals and all businesses.

“Apparently they don’t fully understand how income taxes work,” Pritzker said in response Saturday. “You only pay income taxes based upon getting income. And so it is certainly true that people will have much lower net income this year as a result of the economic challenge that COVID-19 has brought, companies included.”

Pritzker said it’s too early to tell when Illinois may be able to further ease social distancing restrictions, such as resuming youth sports.

“I’m anxious too to find out the answers to those things, but those answers just aren’t clear yet,” he said. “I’m working very hard to try to move us forward with testing and contract tracing so that we can begin to open things up.”

Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky

Coronavirus Prevention Tips and Resources

Officials advise taking preventive measures to slow the spread of the virus, including: 

—Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water
—Using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
—Sneezing or coughing into a tissue and then disposing of the tissue
—Limiting contact with people regardless of how you feel
—Staying home when you are sick

Symptoms of COVID-19 include, but are not limited to:

—New onset of fever, cough, shortness of breath
—Congestion in the nasal sinuses or lungs
—Sore throat, body aches or unusual fatigue

If you think you have COVID-19:

Call you doctor before showing up at their office. If you have a medical emergency and need to call 911, tell the operator that you think you have COVID-19. If possible, wear a mask before medical help arrives or presenting at a doctor’s office. More advice for those who think they have COVID-19.

Additional resources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Illinois’ COVID-19 website
Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) website
—IDPH COVID-19 hotline: 800-889-3931
—IPDH COVID-19 email link
City of Chicago COVID-19 website
—City of Chicago COVID-19 hotline: 312-746-4835
—City of Chicago COVID-19 email link

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