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Saturday marks three years since COVID-19 was deemed worldwide pandemic

This weekend marks three years since COVID-19 was deemed worldwide pandemic
This weekend marks three years since COVID-19 was deemed worldwide pandemic 00:50

CHICAGO (CBS) -- It has been almost three years since COVID-19 was declared a worldwide pandemic.

The World Health Organization made the announcement on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted at the time that over two weeks, the number of cases of COVID-19 outside China – where the virus had first been detected – had increased 13-fold around the country.

On Friday, March 13, Gov. Pritzker ordered all public and private schools in Illinois to close effective the following Tuesday.

By that point, many school districts across the Chicago area already had already announced plans to close to reduce the spread of COVID-19, though Mayor Lori Lightfoot had yet to order the closure of the Chicago Public Schools. The Chicago Teachers Union had already urged the mayor to close all CPS schools -- including charter and contract schools -- immediately.

Schools remained fully remote for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year, and many districts – including the Chicago Public Schools – remained remote well into the 2020-2021 school year. The issue of reopening schools went on to become a point of serious condition between Mayr Lightfoot and the CTU.

On Sunday, March 15, 2020, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker announced that all bars and restaurants would need to close effective at the end of business Monday, March 16. At the time, the closure was to be for two weeks, but bars remained fully closed until late June – and were closed off and on into 2021.

Pritzker's announcement came a day after people packed into bars for St. Patrick's Day festivities – despite the dangers of the virus being clear and against the advice of officials at every level.

"It's unfortunate that many people didn't stake that seriously. The time for persuasion and public appeals is over. The time for action is here," Pritzker said on March 15, 2020. "This is not a joke. No one is immune to this."

Only four days after that, Gov. Pritzker announced a stay-at-home order – which took effect at 5 p.m. Saturday, March 21. It was initially scheduled to run through April 7, but was renewed through the months of April and May – with some restrictions being loosened in May.

"As this epidemic has progressed, we have had to make some hard decisions," Pritzker said that Friday afternoon. "To avoid the loss of potentially tens of thousands of lives, we must enact an immediate stay at home order for the state of Illinois, so that is the action that I'm announcing today."

Mayor Lightfoot said that day that the governor's order was a necessary step to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and "flatten the curve" -- or slowing the outbreak so clinics and hospitals are not overwhelmed with virus-infected patients.

"We have seen what bold measures have yielded in places like Japan, and Singapore, and South Korea; and, sadly, we are witnessing what is not happening around the world in countries that did not mobilize. The coronavirus will not go away by happenstance. We must be intentional about taking steps to flatten the curve," Lightfoot said on March 20, 2020. "Now is not the time for half measures."

At the time, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Illinois was growing exponentially – though the day the stay-at-home order was announced, the confirmed case count for the day was only 163, which may seem like a small number compared with figures that came later at the height of the pandemic. But testing was relatively scarce, and the state was looking for ways to expand it.

Three years later, Illinois has seen 36,431 deaths from COVID-19, and 4,083,292 confirmed cases.


Currently, there are a few downstate counties with high risks of transmission, but all Chicago area counties come in at low risk.

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