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Illinois health officials confirm 3rd COVID-19 case in Cook County; Loyola sends Rome study abroad students home due to coronavirus concerns

ABC 7 Chicago logo ABC 7 Chicago 3/1/2020 Alexis McAdams

A Cook County patient has tested positive for novel coronavirus, bringing the number of confirmed cases in Illinois up to three, according to state health officials.

The public health departments of Illinois and Cook County announced that another person has become infected with COVID-19 on Saturday.

Health officials said the person's test results will need to be confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but the patient is currently in isolation.

"Public health officials are working to identify and actively monitor individuals who were in contact with the patient in an effort to reduce the risk of additional transmission," the departments said in a statement. "The state of Illinois will request CDC deploy a team to Illinois to support these efforts."

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A Chicago husband and wife became the first two cases of coronavirus in Illinois. The woman traveled to Wuhan, China and her husband later became sick. Both were treated at St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates and later released to home monitoring.

Health officials said they have made a full recovery.

Coronavirus: What to know about COVID-19 in Illinois, how it's affecting Chicago area

Gov. JB Pritzker has asked hospitals across Illinois to implement additional testing for the virus.

On Saturday, Loyola University Chicago announced its sending students studying abroad in Rome back home over concerns about the novel coronavirus.

School officials said that students must leave its John Felice Rome Center by Wednesday, March 4.

All students will have to stay at home for a 14-day observation period, under guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The university is deferring midterms for returning students and is expected to help offset additional travel costs, officials said.

RELATED: Coronavirus: US bans travel to Iran, elevates travel warnings to Italy, South Korea amid virus fears

Meanwhile, a Palatine family is worried about their daughter who's currently quarantined while studying abroad in Italy due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Jena Spahic has been studying abroad in Italy for a month. But the Marquette University sophomore said she's barely been able to leave her Airbnb as concerns over COVID-19 continue to grow.

"It seemed kind of like an apocalypse when I went out. It was really eerie," Spahic said. "I was kind of really scared. I didn't know if people were going to be wearing masks, if there was going to be any people out, if there was going to be food at the grocery store."

Classes at the university canceled last week after Italian officials announced hundreds of confirmed cases of novel coronavirus.

"So far, I'm not studying anything. I haven't even been in the classes yet. Our classes were supposed to start last week, Spahic said.

Spahic's family is taking action to get their daughter back to Chicago.

"She is packing right now. As soon as we can get the flight, she is coming home," said Dee Spahic, Jena's mother.

The family said Marquette University did not have students' health and safety as a top priority.

"We contacted the school and the school said you can bring her home, it is up to you, but she will lose a full semester," Dee Spahic said.

Marquette University sent a letter to students studying abroad in Italy on Saturday, recommending that they return to the U.S.

"Due to recent changes in the virus outbreak in Italy, Marquette University is strongly recommending that you return to the U.S.," the statement read.

But will students lose credit for this semester?

"They said it is more than a month into the semester and they cannot catch up, so they will lose a semester," Dee Spahic said.

What about a refund for the thousands of dollars now wasted on canceled classes?

"I'm basically taking a semester off involuntarily," Jena Spahic said.

"They should have got the students out, back on a plane, back here and back in school," said Rick Spahic, Jena's father. "That is what they have to do."

On Saturday, the Trump administration elevated travel warnings to regions of Italy and South Korea, urging Americans not to travel to those areas.

RELATED: Washington declares state of emergency after 1st US coronavirus death

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said efforts are continuing to contain the virus, but he said the spread of it was expected.

Health officials announced the first reported death in the U.S. from COVID-19 on Saturday.

A man in his 50's died in Washington state, and the governor declared a state of emergency over the weekend.

Chicago Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.


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