Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update

As the total number of coronavirus cases worldwide continues to increase, it remains important that we stay informed and take everyday actions to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including the coronavirus.

First and foremost, I want you to know that, as your Congressman, I am closely monitoring the situation.  The House Energy and Commerce Committee, on which I serve as a senior member, questioned the Secretary of Health and Human Services on the government’s response to this novel virus and funding needs.  Additionally, I have attended multiple briefings on the matter with Administration officials and other public health experts.  Moreover, the House of Representatives has recently passed three landmark pieces of legislation to address the coronavirus and the related economic fallout.

First, we passed a $8.3 billion emergency supplemental appropriations bill to help address the coronavirus and protect Americans from this public health crisis, and it was signed into law on March 6.  Following that, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act was then signed into law and provides free coronavirus testing for everyone who needs it, paid sick and family leave to all Americans, strengthened nutrition assistance programs, and increased funding for Medicaid.  Most recently, the the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act became law and provides direct cash payments to Americans, expands unemployment benefits, and makes available emergency grants and loans for small businesses across the 1st Congressional District of Illinois and the nation.  As your elected representative, I will continue to monitor this situation closely and take Congressional action where appropriate to ensure our federal, state, and city public health officials have the resources they need to remain vigilant.

I also wanted to ensure that you have the most up-to-date information on the disease in order to better protect and care for yourself and loved ones as we learn more about this potentially deadly disease, which you can find below. I have also created a printable Rush Resource Guide: Available Resources for Combatting the Coronavirus.  This guide provides a list of resources you will need to combat the coronavirus, as well as federal, state, and local resources to support you and your loved ones

Symptoms
For confirmed coronavirus cases, symptoms have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and even death. Symptoms can include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

At this time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes that symptoms of coronavirus disease may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 days after exposure.  

If you were in close contact with a person known to have the coronavirus or have recently traveled from an area with widespread or community spread of this disease and you feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, the CDC advises that you seek medical care and limit contact with the general public.  Remember to call your doctor’s office before you go to tell them about your symptoms.

Prevention
The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus.  According to the CDC, best practices include:

  • Cleaning your hands often with soap and water;
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth;
  • Minimizing close contact with people who are sick;
  • Staying home when you are sick, except for when receiving medical care;
  • Covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throwing the tissue in the trash;
  • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe; and
  • Following the CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
  • The CDC does not currently recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including the coronavirus.  Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of coronavirus to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.  The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).

Travel Warnings

CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to the following destinations. Most foreign nationals who have been in one of these countries during the previous 14 days will not be allowed to enter the United States.

CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to the following destinations:

CDC recommends that older adults and people of any age with serious chronic medical conditions should consider postponing nonessential travel to most global destinations.

Other Helpful Information from the CDC:

Here are helpful links to information for your constituents about coronavirus, including important steps they can take to prevent the spread of the disease:

Further Information for Illinois Residents

Coronavirus Scams & Rumors

Unfortunately, scammers and other bad actors are taking advantage of fears related to the coronavirus.  These scams come in many forms, from fraudsters peddling fake vaccines to unscrupulous online sellers needlessly raising prices on certain products like hand sanitizers.  In order to avoid being taken advantage of during these perilous times, here are some tips from the Federal Trade Commission:

  • Don’t click on links from sources you don’t know.  They could download viruses onto your computer or device.
  • Watch for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts saying they have information about the virus.  For the most up-to-date information about the Coronavirus, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • Ignore online offers for vaccinations.  There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) — online or in stores.
  • Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites.  Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation.  If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, don’t do it.

For more on what the FTC is doing, please visit: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/coronavirus-scams-what-ftc-doing.

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group has also provided some information on steps you can take to avoid the abusive act of price-gouging:

  • Use a price tracking tool to see if the price of a product increased recently.
  • Compare the price to similar products, especially the cost per unit.  For example, a 50ml bottle of hand sanitizer should not cost hundreds of dollars.
  • Be cautious of buying opened products that are being resold individually.  For example, surgical masks, which typically come in packs, are being sold individually at an increased markup.  This is not only dishonest, but also unsanitary.
  • Check ingredients closely: The CDC states that the only kind of hand sanitizer known to kill the coronavirus contains at least 60% alcohol.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has also created a page to help the public distinguish between rumors and facts regarding the response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.  Much like the coronavirus, it is also common for rumors and misinformation to spread if left unchecked.  That is why it is critically important to always rely on trusted sources of information, such as coronavirus.gov or other federal, state, and local official websites or social media accounts for instructions and information.  For more information on combatting common coronavirus myths and rumors, please visit: https://www.fema.gov/Coronavirus-Rumor-Control

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also issued warnings regarding fraudulent coronavirus tests, vaccines, and treatments. Because COVID-19 has never been seen in humans before, there are currently no vaccines to prevent or drugs to treat COVID-19 approved by FDA. The FDA is working with vaccine and drug manufacturers to develop new vaccines for and find drugs to treat COVID-19 as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, some people and companies are trying to profit from this pandemic by selling unproven and illegally marketed products that make false claims, such as being effective against the coronavirus. For more information, please visit: https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/beware-fraudulent-coronavirus-tests-vaccines-and-treatments

The Department of Justice is also remaining vigilant in detecting, investigating, and prosecuting wrongdoing related to the crisis.  If you think you are a victim of a scam or attempted fraud involving COVID-19, you can report it without leaving your home by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via email at disaster@leo.gov

Assistance for Small Businesses

Earlier this month, I hosted a Telephone Town Hall with local and national business experts and a repsentative from the Small Business Administration to discuss resources available to Small Business Owners in my district and beyond.  If you were unable to attend, the entire event can be listened to here

On program we disccused on the call was the the Paycheck Protection Program, which is available to self-employed individuals, independent contractors, and other businesses meeting size standards based on their North American Industry Classification System code. To find eligible lenders for the PPP, please visit: https://www.sba.gov/paycheckprotection/find

For a top-line overview of the program, please click here

If you’re a lender, more information can be found here.  

If you’re a borrower, more information can be found here

The application for borrowers can be found here

We also discussed the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, which provides a $10,000 forgivable advance, is for any small business with less than 500 employees (including sole proprietorships, independent contractors and self-employed persons), private non-profit organization or 501(c)(19) veterans organizations affected by COVID-19.  For questions, please contact the SBA disaster assistance customer service center at 1-800-659-2955 (TTY: 1-800-877-8339) or e-mail  disastercustomerservice@sba.gov. For more information on the EIDL, please visit: https://www.sba.gov/disaster-assistance/coronavirus-covid-19#section-header-3.

Additional Federal Resources

Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services

The most up-to-date information can be found at: https://www.cms.gov/medicare/quality-safety-oversight-general-information/coronavirus

Additional information can be found at: https://www.medicaid.gov/state-resource-center/disaster-response-toolkit/covid19/index.html

Federal Aviation Administration

The most up-to-date information can be found at: https://www.faa.gov/news/updates/?newsId=94991

Federal Housing Finance Agency:

FHFA announces the suspension of  foreclosures and evictions for enterprise-backed mortgages: https://www.fhfa.gov//Media/PublicAffairs/Pages/FHFA-Suspends-Foreclosures-and-Evictions-for-Enterprise-Backed-Mortgages.aspx

Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

The most up-to-date information can be found at: https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/mcm-issues/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19

Additional information:

Information for Labs: The FDA’s hotline (1-888-INFO-FDA) is available 24 hours a day for labs to call regarding difficulties obtaining supplies for collecting patient samples for COVID-19 testing, including swabs, media needed for transport, and conservation of the samples.  The FDA also encourages labs to reach out at CDRH-EUA-Templates@fda.hhs.gov with any questions related to diagnostic development.

Personal Protective Equipment:  If a constituent or health care provider has questions or is experiencing spot shortages of personal protective equipment or other supplies, they should call our toll-free line at 1-888-463-6332 (1-888-INFO-FDA), then choose option (*). The line is available 24 hours a day to help address difficulties obtaining supplies. Please note, however, that FDA does not control the production volume or distribution of medical devices.

Food:  If a constituent in the food industry has a question for FDA, they may find information on common questions about food safety and COVID-19 here.  If they need to contact FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition about a COVID-19 related question, they may do so by submitting a question here.

For more information related to vaccines, biologics, human tissue products, drugs, medical devices and tests, and food products, please visit FDA’s COVID-19 FAQ .  FDA also has specific COVID-19 FAQs for Emergency Use Authorizations, Diagnostic Testing, Food Safety for Industry, Healthcare Professionals, and other specific audiences. These are updated as information becomes available.

Internal Revenue Service

IRS announced that their offices are closed for face-to-face business and that the tax filing deadline has been extended to July.  More information can be found here: https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus

Following the passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the IRS will work to deliver cash rebates in the form of advance payments directly to most Americans. The amount of the rebate depends on family size. The payment is $1,200 for each adult individual ($2,400 for joint filers), and $500 per qualifying child under age 17. The advance payment of rebates is reduced by $5 for every $100 of income to the extent a taxpayer’s income exceeds $150,000 for a joint filer, $112,500 for a head of household filer, and $75,000 for anyone else (including single filers). 

The IRS has launched two tools to help taxpayers get their payments:

  1. Get My Payment is for those who have filed taxes with the IRS in 2019 and/or 2018.  The IRS reminds taxpayers the information is updated once daily, usually overnight, so they only need to enter information once a day. 
  1. The Non-Filers Enter Payment Info tool is only for people who are not required to submit a tax return.

How to Use the Tools on IRS.gov to Get Your Economic Impact Payment: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/how-to-use-the-tools-on-irsgov-to-get-your-economic-impact-payment

The IRS is regularly updating the Economic Impact Payment  and the Get My Payment tool frequently asked questions pages on IRS.gov as more information becomes available. Taxpayers should check the FAQs often for the latest additions; many common questions are answered in these. 

National Institutes of Health

The most up-to-date information can be found at: https://www.nih.gov/health-information/coronavirus#!/detail/403327

Occupational Safety and Health Administraion

OSHA guidance on preparing workplace for COVID-19 can be found here: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf

Small Business Administration

In response to the coronavirus, the Small Business Administration has made their disaster loan program available for eligible businesses to apply for up to $2 million in low-interest loans at: www.disasterloan.sba.gov

For questions, please contact the SBA disaster assistance customer service center at 1-800-659-2955 (TTY: 1-800-877-8339) or e-mail  disastercustomerservice@sba.govFor more information on the EIDL, please visit: https://www.sba.gov/disaster-assistance/coronavirus-covid-19#section-header-3.

Social Security Administration

All local Social Security offices will be closed to the public for in-person service starting Tuesday, March 17, 2020.  However, they are still able to provide critical services.

For Social Security services, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov.  Local offices will also continue to provide critical services over the phone.

For more information, please visit https://www.ssa.gov/news/press/releases/

Additionally, more information can be found at: https://www.ssa.gov/coronavirus/

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration 

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is accepting applications for fiscal year (FY) 2020 Emergency Grants to Address Mental and Substance Use Disorders During COVID-19 (Short Title: Emergency COVID-19). SAMHSA recognizes there are currently 57.8 million Americans living with mental and/or substance use disorders (National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2018). The current national crisis of COVID-19 will certainly contribute to growth in these numbers. Americans across the country will struggle with increases in depression, anxiety, trauma, and grief. There is also anticipated increase in substance misuse as lives are impacted for individuals and families. The purpose of this program is to provide crisis intervention services, mental and substance use disorder treatment, crisis counseling, and other related supports for children and adults impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information, please visit: https://www.samhsa.gov/grants/grant-announcements/fg-20-006. 

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

On March 18, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services temporarily suspended in-person services at its field offices, asylum offices, and application support centers (ASCs). Currently, USCIS is readying offices to re-open in compliance with local and state orders, on or after June 4.  During this time, individuals may still submit applications and petitions to USCIS. Online filing remains the most convenient and interactive way to submit forms, check the status of your case, and receive notices.

In response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that it is adopting a measure to assist applicants and petitioners who are responding to requests for evidence (RFEs) and notices of intent to deny (NOIDs) dated between March 1 and May 1, 2020.  

For applicants and petitioners who receive an RFE or NOID dated between March 1 and May 1, 2020, any responses submitted within 60 calendar days after the response deadline set forth in the RFE or NOID will be considered by USCIS before any action is taken. (Usually only 30 days is allowed.)

More information can be found here: https://www.uscis.gov/about-us/uscis-response-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19.

U.S. Department of Education

General information and advisories related to COVID-19 and federal education policies: https://www.ed.gov/coronavirus

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

The most up-to-date information can be found at: https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/coronavirus/index.htm

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development:

HUD announces the suspension of foreclosure and evictions: https://www.hud.gov/sites/dfiles/OCHCO/documents/20-04hsgml.pdf

For gnereal infromation about HUD's response to COVID-19, please visit: https://www.hud.gov/coronavirus

U.S. Department of Treasury

Coronavirus: Resources, Updates, and What You Should Know can be found at: https://home.treasury.gov/coronavirus

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

VA announced it will begin rehiring retired VA health care workers to bolster their medical staffs during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The department is inviting interested retired physicians, nurses, pharmacists, laboratory technicians, respiratory therapists, and other medical professionals to register here.

General information from the Department of Veteran Affairs on latest significant events and updates related to COVID-19: www.va.gov/coronavirus

Veterans and their beneficiaries who receive Compensation and Pension (C&P) benefit payments from VA will receive their $1,200 Economic Impact Payment, as mentioned above, with no further action needed on their part.

U.S. Postal Service

USPS has announced it will suspend priority mailing but constituents can refer to this link for more information: https://about.usps.com/newsroom/statements/usps-statement-on-coronavirus.htm

Testing Locations

Google Maps has created a COVID-19 Testing Map for the Chicago Area, which you can find here.

Free COVID-19 testing is being provided within the City of Chicago. The tests provided through this program are mouth swab tests that do not require assistance. At this time, testing is limited in Chicago to people who meet certain screening criteria. For more information, please visit: https://chicago.curativeinc.com/welcome.

Testing locations for the State of Illinois can be found here: https://dph.illinois.gov/covid19/covid-19-testing-sites.  Please note: this is not a comprehensive list of testing sites. Locations are continuously being added as information is provided. 

A full list of testing sites for Cook County can be found here.

The University of Chicago Medicine health system, including Ingalls Memorial, will expand COVID-19 testing for up to 1,000 symptomatic people each day.  For more information on University of Chicago Testing locations, please visit: https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/coronavirus-disease-covid-19/uchicago-medicine-expands-covid-19-testing

Additional State & Local Resources

Illinois

This website will provide the latest news releases related to coronavirus, video archives of press conferences, and tips from leading experts to keep you and your family safe: http://coronavirus.illinois.gov/

All Illinois school closings and guidance to support Illinois education communities regarding the coronavirus can be found here: https://www.isbe.net/covid19 

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation has issued a proclamation to allow out-of-state physicians, nurses, physician assistants, and respiratory care therapists to provide care to Illinois residents affected by COVID-19.  Additionally, the Secretary of IDFPR has prepared a series of Variances allowing Illinois physicians, nurses, physician assistants, and respiratory care therapists whose license status is inactive, non-renewed, or expired that also satisfy an additional set of specific criteria to restore their licenses temporarily during this pandemic.  For all relevant information and applications related to increasing the health care professional workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit https://www.idfpr.com/COVID-19.asp. Interested and qualifying constituents should be direct toward this page as well to begin the application process. These applications will be processed on an expedited basis, with all related fees waived.

The State of Illinois has received its statewide Economic Injury Declaration which means small businesses in all 102 Illinois counties may be eligible for low-interest, economic injury disaster loans up to $2 million per business.  Businesses can access additional information and apply for the loan online here. Eligibility requirements are determined by SBA and can be found here.

Cook County

This website provides Cook County's resources and response to coronavirus (COVID-19): https://www.cookcountyil.gov/service/information-covid-19

Will County

This website provides Will County's resources and response to coronavirus (COVID-19): https://www.willcountyillinois.com/Coronavirus-Updates

City of Chicago

This website provides the latest information on a range of topics regarding COVID-19: http://www.chicago.gov/coronavirus

Chicago Public Schools (Meals and Educational Enrichment Activities)

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) will be closed until April 20, 2020, due to COVID-19.  CPS families may receive meals for every student within their household outside of their nearest CPS school throughout the closure Monday through Friday between 9:00 AM and 1:00 PM.

Enrichment learning resources are available to students while schools are closed due to COVID-19.  Resources ranging from Pre-K to high school grade levels are available online and printed materials are available at any school-based food distribution site.

More information can be found here: https://cps.edu/oshw/Pages/HealthyCPS.aspx

Chicago Housing Assistance

The City of Chicago is offering emergency housing assistance to those impacted by the economic fallout. Until April 1st, applicants can apply online to be entered into a lottery.  Applicants should scroll down to housing and complete the online application, which can be found at: https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/sites/covid-19/home/resources.html

Additional information for unemployment benefits, summer employment for youth, food pantries, public benefit assistance and other resources related to COVID-19 can be found here.