Note: Any news conferences from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot or other officials will be streamed in the video player above.
Four suburban counties will see enhanced coronavirus mitigation restrictions go into effect on Friday as the areas’ metrics continue to rise, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Tuesday.
State health officials said the changes are based on science and contact tracing, identifying the three primary areas where the deadly virus most easily spreads – and warning that four more of Illinois’ 11 regions are nearing the threshold for more restrictions as well.
Here are the latest updates from across Illinois on the coronavirus pandemic today (Oct. 21):
Indoor Dining, Bar Service Suspended in 4 Suburban Counties Amid New COVID-19 Restrictions
Residents in four suburban counties will see enhanced coronavirus restrictions go into effect on Friday, as Regions 7 and 8 in the state’s healthcare system have exceeded the 8% positivity rate threshold for three consecutive days.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker made the announcement during his daily coronavirus press briefing on Tuesday afternoon. The new restrictions will take effect Friday in the impacted counties, and will include the closure of indoor service at restaurants and bars in the affected counties.
Region 7, comprised of Will and Kankakee counties, had already been under the enhanced mitigation rules earlier this year, but will now go back to those policies for at least the next two weeks, according to Pritzker’s office.
Region 8, comprised of DuPage and Kane counties, has seen its positivity rate spike dramatically, rising from 5.6% on Oct. 8 to 9% on Oct. 17, the last date for which data is currently available.
Those increases in positivity rates mean that all indoor dining and bar service will be suspended effective Friday in those four counties, and bars and restaurants will be required to close at 11 p.m., with outdoor service only. Capacity limits will also be enforced for outdoor seating at those venues, and gatherings of over 25 people will be prohibited under the restrictions.
All party buses will also be banned in those four counties.
Two other Illinois regions are currently under the enhanced mitigation rules, including Region 1 in northwestern Illinois. Region 5, located in southeastern Illinois, will have the new rules go into effect on Thursday as a result of elevated positivity rates.
The news comes as Illinois continues to see record gains in coronavirus cases. The state has reported more than 26,000 new cases of the virus in the last seven days, a new record during the pandemic. The state’s rolling seven-day positivity rate now stands at 5.5%, the highest it has been since early June.
Those gains in cases and positivity rates have led to more talk of restrictions being put into place in Chicago and in other locations, but it is unclear at this time whether any statewide mandates could be put into effect to address the issues.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that four suburban counties will see enhanced coronavirus restrictions go into effect on Friday, as Regions 7 and 8 in the state’s healthcare system have exceeded the 8% positivity rate threshold for three consecutive days.
‘Not About Punishing Anybody:’ Officials Defend COVID-19 Restrictions in Suburban Counties
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker says the decision to re-impose coronavirus mitigation strategies in parts of the state are meant to be temporary and are based on science and contact tracing.
Those restrictions, which mainly target bars and restaurants, were chosen very carefully, Pritzker says, and are meant to put a stop to spiraling positivity rates and case numbers.
“It’s not about punishing anybody,” he said. “We didn’t pick it because it sounds good or because we want to do it. It’s because all studies done about bars and restaurants show they’re significant spreading locations, and we’re trying to stop that as best we can so that those places can reopen indoor service.”
Illinois Health Officials Identify 3 Primary Locations Where COVID-19 Spreads Most Easily
Speaking at a press conference Tuesday, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, says that contact tracing and a multitude of studies have shown that there are three primary locations where coronavirus is spreading in Illinois and the rest of the United States.
“The top three places that come up over and over again statewide are people’s workplaces, schools and restaurants and bars,” she said. “The one thing we can immediately act on is bars and restaurants.”
That data point poses a major problem, as state health officials try to walk a delicate line between allowing businesses to remain open, for children to continue receiving as much in-person education as is safely possible, and to allow bars and restaurants to continue to serve customers.
Ezike broke down each of those challenges in her remarks Tuesday.
“In terms of the workplace, there are simply people who can’t work from home,” she said. “We’re not going to not have people go to school. We’ll continue to let local health departments and school districts decide on what will keep children and teachers safe. The one thing we can act on is bars and restaurants.”
These Illinois Regions Could See Additional COVID-19 Restrictions Due to Rising Positivity Rates
As enhanced coronavirus restrictions go into effect in four different healthcare regions in Illinois, there are still more regions where additional mitigations could soon be implemented.
As of Tuesday, there are four more regions in the state that are currently seeing increasing positivity rates that have exceeded 7%. If those regions exceed an 8% positivity rate for three consecutive days, then they too would have additional COVID-19 mitigation strategies put into place.
If any region hits that rate, then indoor dining and bar service would be suspended, and gatherings would be restricted to 25 or fewer people.
Here’s a breakdown of the regions that are nearing mitigation thresholds:
Region 3 (Western Illinois)
This region, which includes Springfield, is dangerously close to the 8% threshold that would trigger the enhanced restrictions, currently sitting at 7.5%.
That rate has shot upward in recent days, as it had been sitting at 5% as recently as Oct. 8. The region has seen 10 straight days of positivity rate increases, and could be one of the next regions to trigger restrictions.
Region 4 (Southwestern Illinois)
This region, located next door to St. Louis, has already had enhanced coronavirus restrictions put into place this year, but could be heading back in that direction, as the region’s seven-day positivity rate now sits at 7.4%.
The region’s hospitalization numbers will also merit watching, as 27% of the region’s hospital beds are available in the event of a surge in COVID-19 patients. The state will trigger restrictions if that number dips below 20%.
Region 9 (McHenry, Lake Counties)
This region has seen its positivity rates shoot upward in recent days, rising from 5.7% on Oct. 8 to 7.5% on Oct. 17.
Hospitalization rates are on a very slow ascent in that region, but the region still has plenty of availability of both regular hospital beds and ICU beds, according to the IDPH.
Region 10 (Cook County outside of Chicago)
This region has one of the lower positivity rates in the state, but is still trending upward, going from 5.2% earlier this month to 7.1% as of Oct. 17.
Another statistic to monitor in that region is the hospital availability in the event of a surge in coronavirus cases, as that number sits at 28% as of Oct. 20
Will Illinois See Another Stay-at-Home Order? Here’s What Gov. Pritzker Says
As multiple regions across Illinois start to see heightened restrictions due to increased positivity rates during what’s being described as a “second surge” of the coronavirus pandemic, could the state see another stay-at-home order?
It’s unlikely, according to Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who noted the state’s previous success in targeted mitigations.
“That’s not something we’re considering right now,” Pritzker said when asked about the potential for another order during a press briefing Monday.
Pritzker said the state plans to continue with its current strategy of implementing restrictions in specific locations seeing increased positivity rates.
“We have resurgence plan in place,” he said. “It has worked as regions have gone into it and they’ve come out of it.”
Under the current plan, regions that exceed an 8% positivity rate for three consecutive days begin to see added restrictions, such as the suspension of indoor dining and bar service. If numbers remain too high after a two-week period, the state can either choose to allow those restrictions to remain in place, or can implement additional rules.
What Steps Pritzker Says You Should Take If You Are Bringing People Into Your Home
Gov. J.B. Pritzker urged Illinois residents to be “very careful” when hosting gatherings as the holidays near and coronavirus cases in the state continue to climb.
Though Pritzker said bars and restaurants are noticeable locations where the virus has spread, he added that private gatherings are a major source for spreading.
“I’m not saying you can’t do that,” Pritzker said during his daily coronavirus briefing on Tuesday.
He explained that Illinois residents can have the number of people over to their homes according to their region’s mitigations, but should wear a mask and keep six feet of distance at all times.
With the holidays approaching, Pritzker encouraged residents to continue following guidelines for indoor gatherings and have hand sanitizer available for guests.
“These are all things we’ll have to get used to, especially in this winter season when we all want to get together with friends and family,” Pritzker said.
Illinois Department of Public Health Dr. Ngozi Ezike last week provided guidance for gathering with loved ones during the upcoming holiday season. Among the guidance was:
- If you are hosting a holiday gathering, limit the number of guests.
- Try to have as many activities outside as weather permits.
- If your gathering needs to be inside, try to increase air flow by partially opening a couple windows.
- Please prepare yourself and your guests to wear masks indoors when not eating and drinking.
- Limit your activities in the two weeks before your gathering and ask your guests to do the same. This will decrease the risk of exposure to the virus and further spread.
- Think about the seating arrangements if you are planning a meal. Keep members of the same household together and try to put space between one family and another.
- When serving food, avoid a buffet-style or potluck setting and consider having one person serve all the food so that multiple people are not handling the serving utensils.
- Try to limit the number of people going in and out of areas where food is being prepared – like the kitchen and dining room.
- If you are sick, do not travel and do not attend gatherings and celebrations. Even if your symptoms are mild, you may still be able to infect others.
- To help stave off illness, get your flu vaccine now. It takes the body several weeks after receiving the vaccine to build up antibodies that will help protect you from flu, so get it now to help protect you and others during the holidays.
On Monday, Chicago’s top doctor urged residents to not invite anyone into their homes or apartments as the city experiences multiple coronavirus “warning signs” and enters what officials are calling a “second surge” in the pandemic.
“Please do not invite anyone over to your house or apartment,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Monday. “This is not the time for non-essential gatherings, period.”
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady issues a message to residents as the city sees multiple coronavirus “warning signs.”
Business Owners Bracing for Impact of COVID-19 Restrictions on Indoor Dining, Bar Service
Business owners in some Chicago suburbs are bracing for the worst as a troubling rise in coronavirus cases and positivity rates have led state officials to impose new restrictions in four different counties beginning Friday.
At Cooper’s Corner in suburban Winfield, steady business was the order of the day Tuesday, but the governor’s plans for DuPage County have employees concerned.
“I was swearing when I heard it,” Shirley O’Shea said. “I was not very happy. It’s our jobs, our livelihoods. We have servers and cooks and it makes a difference.”
The owners of the restaurant had just invested in a massive air purification system, and takeout orders have picked up in recent days.
“We have a large staff size because of our restaurant,” Kevin Crawford said. “Unfortunately some of us are going to have to seek unemployment or look for unemployment, and that couldn’t at a worse time. It’s going to set us back quite a bit.”
Business owners in some Chicago suburbs are bracing for the worst as a troubling rise in coronavirus cases and positivity rates have led state officials to impose new restrictions in four different counties beginning Friday. NBC 5’s Natalie Martinez has more.
Matt Vanini of Restaurant Solutions Incorporated says that employees will suffer greatly with the new restrictions, but did have some encouraging words for businesses that will be looking to ride through the coming challenges.
“While the interior dining is not going to be available, the need for the product will still be there,” he said. “The restaurants that have the greatest chance of survival are going to be the ones that can identify and handle their expenses for the next 90-to-120 days.”
With some outdoor dining, restaurants could make up expenses, but takeout is going to be critical as the weather turns cooler.
“From the restauranteurs’ perspective, the next three months should be about how ‘I can extend my brand into your living room,’” Vanini said. “We’re willing to order more than one time a week. We’re willing to help guests get the restaurants through the winter time with a bit of creativity.”
Vanini also recommends that business owners look to pivot their brands, and to be sure that their websites are optimized for takeout orders.
Suburban Schools Navigate Rising COVID-19 Cases
As coronavirus case numbers soar, suburban school districts are faced with increasingly difficult decisions about safe learning.
In Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205, students will go back to learning remotely for two weeks beginning Wednesday.
“Today could be my last day of school,” said York High School senior, Miguel Montamez, who hopes to eventually major in music in college. “Luckily, I’m able to make beats at home. I have my program, but York has a bunch of equipment that’s super crucial. Everything comes out better here.”
Gov. J.B. Pritzker reiterated that it’s up to schools to decide whether students will learn in-person or remotely. As coronavirus case numbers rise, the decision is getting more difficult. NBC 5’s Kate Chappell reports.
Another senior, Abby Reich, is concerned about losing focus at home.
“I don’t really like it very much. It’s hard to pay attention and focus online at home where there [are] a lot of distractions, but I think it’s safer that way,” she said.
The decision is based on a single metric, according to Superintendent Dave Moyer. DuPage County is recording more than 100 cases a week per 100,000 residents.
“We want them in school, so we’re going to do what we can to get them back as soon as possible. [We] hope these trends start to turn around very quickly,” said Dr. Moyer. “We knew that the community would not react favorably. We know the kids do better when they are in school. I would call it a brutal decision for all of us.”
On Monday, the DuPage County Health Department (DCHD) recommended schools in the county
stick to online learning as community transmission of the coronavirus becomes more widespread. The county is potentially facing new mitigation restrictions as a result of an elevated positivity rate in the region.
Despite the warning, some districts are moving forward with hybrid learning plans.
Glenbard District 87 says its metrics don’t meet the criteria to go fully remote. Downers Grove 58 also moved forward with its hybrid model this week. And in Wheaton, District 200 will welcome back all students for hybrid learning this week.
“We are certainly balancing and have said from the get-go that student [and] staff safety is of utmost priority for us. But we do want to provide a consistent learning environment as well,” said Superintendent Jeff Schuler.
CUSD 200 uses a variety of metrics and trends to make decisions about learning plans. Dr. Schuler says they are closely watching the rising case numbers in DuPage County, but for now, they will go forward with in-person learning plans.
“Clearly the data is of concern. The trend is of concern, and I think when you see data point that rises to that level, it heightens the need to look very closely for those trends and make sure we’re making good informed decisions,” he said.
The DuPage County Health Department is recommending that schools stick to remote learning as coronavirus cases and positivity rates surge forward in the area, but some schools are moving ahead with plans to hold at least some in-person learning in their districts. NBC 5’s Trina Orlando has more.
According to the DCHD, the weekly case count in DuPage County has risen to 119 cases per 100,000 residents in the county, a 34% increase over last week. The county is currently adding an average of 211 new cases, every day. That’s its highest rate ever in the course of this pandemic.
School districts moving to hybrid learning models say they will keep a close eye on health metrics, and will not hesitate to move back to remote learning if required to do so.
In a statement, U46 said, “We are monitoring the COVID-19 positivity rate daily by county and even by zip code. We are proceeding with plans to implement some limited in-person instruction beginning Oct. 27 for our Pre-K-2 grades.”
District 211 tells NBC 5 in part, “As a District, we look at health metrics remaining in the “minimal” and “moderate” range as indicators that a safe learning environment can be provided for students and staff in the hybrid scenario. If a “substantial” designation for a single metric occurs, we will directly contact the Cook County Department of Public Health for an evaluation of the specific metric in relationship to our hybrid plan and an evaluation of the transmission levels within our school community and each school. Currently, all metrics are indicating a move to a hybrid scenario as early as Oct. 26.”
Naperville District 203 has halted its return to the classroom, and will continue e-learning through at least Nov. 4.
Chicago Adds 5 States to Coronavirus Travel Order Requiring Quarantine
The city of Chicago on Tuesday added five states to the city’s emergency travel order requiring a 14-day quarantine.
Chicago health officials added Colorado, Ohio, Delaware, West Virginia and Texas to the quarantine list, the mayor’s office announced. No states were removed from the order Tuesday.
The travel order now covers 31 states and territories: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Gov. Pritzker Resumes Daily Coronavirus Briefings
Gov. J.B. Pritzker will once again deliver daily coronavirus briefings alongside the Illinois’ top public health official as coronavirus cases rise statewide during the pandemic, sparking concerns over a “second wave” of the virus.
“While we continue to see a safer pandemic landscape than back in the spring – in terms of positivity, hospital capacity, and community spread – and safer than much of the Midwest, things have changed,” Pritzker announced on Oct. 19. “Every region of the state has started to move in the wrong direction. Cases, positivity rates, hospitalizations and deaths are rising statewide. So to ensure you have utmost transparency on where the state is headed, Dr. Ezike and I will resume these COVID-19 briefings on a daily basis until Illinois returns to a better standing in our handling of this pandemic.”
Pritzker had delivered daily updates early on in the pandemic, but those updates were reduced to weekly briefings over the summer “as Illinois began to see relative success in keeping this virus at bay.”
Watch the daily updates live here.
Illinois Reports 3,714 New Coronavirus Cases, 41 Deaths as Case Total Tops 350K
The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 3,714 new cases of coronavirus Tuesday, along with 41 additional deaths, nearly double the single-day death toll the state saw Monday.
In all, 350,875 cases of the virus have been confirmed in the state during the pandemic.
Tuesday’s additional deaths, which are nearly double the 21 reported Monday, bring the total number of coronavirus-related fatalities to 9,277.
In the last 24 hours, 59,077 tests were returned to state laboratories, meaning that the state has performed 6,883,314 total tests during the pandemic.
The state’s seven-day positivity rate increased once again, going up to 5.5%, an increase from the 5.4% reported Monday. That number is the highest the state has reported since early June.
According to new data, hospitalizations rates are also increased. As of Tuesday, 2,261 people were hospitalized with coronavirus, with 489 patients in the ICU and 195 on ventilators. On Monday, the state reported 2,096 hospitalizations with 485 requiring intensive care unit beds and 179 on ventilators.
Officials Again Urge Illinois Residents to Fight Back Against COVID-19 Fatigue
For the second day in a row, Illinois officials are urging the public to fight back against so-called “coronavirus fatigue,” saying that vigilance and buy-in will be required to turn back the recent increases in COVID-19 cases and positivity rates in the state.
During a press conference Tuesday, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker says that while individuals in rural parts of the state may not have been personally touched by coronavirus during the initial surge of cases in March and April, the newest numbers show that the cases are now widespread across the state, and that individuals will now need to “pick their guard back up” in the battle to stop the spread of the virus.
“We need to make sure that people hear the message again, because it’s personal to people,” he said. “When they hear from a local doctor, when they see that their local hospital is getting fuller, and that people are getting sick and having long-lasting symptoms, it’s real to people.
“Although people feel fatigue from this, and I know we would all like to go back to our lives before we heard the words COVID-19, the truth is that we are going to have to tough this out a little longer,” he added.
Pritzker had sounded similar notes during his press conference Monday, saying that it’s time to start doing little things again to keep from getting worse, including getting flu shots and wearing masks.
“If you’re getting tired and you’ve let your guard down, now is the time to pick it back up,” Pritzker said during a press conference Monday. “Things are now getting worse. Now is the time to wear a mask wherever you go, get your flu shot, forego unnecessary trips or gatherings, and take extra care to stay six feet away from others, especially in public.”
In remarks made Monday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot echoed similar sentiments.
“I understand that a lot of sacrifices have been made over these many months, and I understand the fatigue factor that people have,” she said. “But folks, given what we’re seeing, and the incredible escalation of the rates of cases every day, this is not a time where we can indulge in COVID-19 fatigue. This is a time for us to be more diligent and more determined to fight this deadly disease.”
‘A New Wave Could Be Upon Us,’ Pritzker Warns as All Regions See COVID-19 Uptick
Gov. J.B. Pritzker warned Monday that Illinois could be in the predicted second wave of the coronavirus pandemic as cases surge in all regions across the state.
“Experts have predicted for months that the country could see a resurgence of the virus as temperatures get colder and more people spend more time inside,” Pritzker said. “Here in Illinois, it looks like a new wave could be upon us.”
Pritzker said every region of the state has started to move “in the wrong direction,” as cases, positvity rates, hospitalizations and deaths increase throughout Illinois.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker addresses media during his daily press conference Monday.
Most People Who Contract the Coronavirus Know Who Gave It to Them, Data Shows
Most people who contract the coronavirus know the person who gave it to them, Chicago officials reported from new data Monday.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said that through case investigations and contact tracing, data shows that every two out of three people who have COVID-19 contracted the virus from someone they know.
“What this means is it probably came from your friends, your family or coworkers,” Lightfoot said. “That means if you spread it, chances are you’ll be spreading it to someone you know.”
Lightfoot Reportedly Considering Property Tax Increase as Part of Plan to Address Chicago’s $1.2B Budget Shortfall
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is reportedly considering a property tax increase as part of her plan to address the city’s estimated $1.2 billion budget shortfall.
The Chicago Tribune reported Sunday that sources told the paper that Lightfoot was considering a $94 million property tax increase as well as layoffs for more than 300 city employees and an increase in the gas tax.
When asked Monday about the report, specifically the property tax increase, Lightfoot demurred.
“What I will say is this: on Wednesday, we have a lot to say about the specific ways in which we propose to close the $1.2 billion gap,” Lightfoot said. She is scheduled to deliver her annual budget address Wednesday morning, submitting her plan, after releasing in late August a forecast projecting a $1.2 billion shortfall for fiscal year 2021.
That shortfall, Lightfoot said in announcing the projection, was deepened by roughly $799 million due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has cratered revenues like sales tax and more as shutdowns to prevent the spread of the deadly virus have caused widespread economic devastation.
“I’ve been very clear since my forecast speech on Aug. 31 that we are looking at a range of different tools, because the enormity of this budget gap requires us to look at a number of different options,” Lightfoot said Monday.
“We always look internally first; we can’t go to taxpayers and ask them for more and we pretend that the status quo turning the size of the budget, the way in which we deliver services, that that’s all fine and can’t be touched,” she continued. “We’ve got to look internally first, to earn the trust of the taxpayers and demonstrate to them that we are being the fiduciaries that we are obligated to be for their precious hard earned tax dollars.”
Lightfoot had previously said in an interview that she couldn’t rule out layoffs for city workers due to the shortfall, looking to the federal government for assistance.
“I can’t take it off the table, because we’re still working on solutions for the 2020 budget,” she said in an interview on Aug. 18. “We’re still looking to Washington, but we’re gonna have to formulate some alternative plans if we don’t see that there’s any glimmer of hope of getting more support from Washington DC.”
New Coronavirus Restrictions Go Into Effect Thursday in Illinois’ Region 5, Pritzker Says
As coronavirus cases continue to surge around the state of Illinois, three different healthcare regions could be on the verge of having enhanced mitigation strategies put into place as a result of increasing positivity rates.
According to data available through the Illinois Department of Public Health, Region 5, located in southeastern Illinois, has exceeded the 8% threshold for its seven-day positivity rate for three consecutive days.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker says that the region will see new coronavirus mitigation standards put into place on Thursday, including a prohibition on indoor dining and bar service.
There will also be outdoor seating and cut-off times of 11 p.m. on a daily basis for those eateries and taverns.
Gatherings of more than 25 people are also dramatically restricted under the proposed mitigation strategies, and party buses are also banned under the rules.
The news is also bad in Region 7, comprised of Will and Kankakee counties. That region, which had already previously had the enhanced mitigation strategies in place earlier this year, has now exceeded the 8% positivity rate threshold for two consecutive days. That number stands at 8.3% as of Monday, and could trigger additional restrictions this week.
Region 8, comprised of Kane and DuPage counties, is also now over that 8% mark, standing at 8.5% according to the latest IDPH data. Restrictions on that region could also come down in coming days.
Region 1, located in northwestern Illinois, is already under enhanced mitigation rules, but has seen its positivity rate climb to an alarming 11.1% in recent days.
Several other regions are also nearing potentially bad territory when it comes to positivity rates, with Regions 3, 4 and 9 all currently over 7% positivity. Cook County and Chicago are both over 6% in positivity rates, as is Region 2, which stands at 6.9% as of Monday.