The first COVID-19 patients in Illinois faced stigma, bigotry.
She was known as Patient 1. The Chicago woman in her 60s had traveled on Christmas Day to Wuhan, China, where she cared for her elderly father who had fallen ill to a mysterious, undiagnosed respiratory sickness. After returning to Chicago in mid-January, her own symptoms emerged: fever, cough and fatigue, followed by nausea and dizziness. While hospitalized for pneumonia, she became the first patient in Illinois and the second in the nation to test positive for the novel coronavirus, a new and little-understood illness that would soon burgeon into an international pandemic, sickening millions and altering all aspects of daily life across the globe. Her husband, who had not gone to China, also tested positive days later, marking the first documented case of person-to-person transmission in the United States. What medical experts learned from that local couple through lengthy interviews, rigorous coronavirus testing and analysis of so many of their specimens helped shape much of the nation’s earliest knowledge of the virus, which would later be called COVID-19.