coronavirus illinois

Illinois Coronavirus Updates: COVID Testing Recommended for Thanksgiving Travelers, Vaccine Mandate Unlikely

Note: Any news conferences from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot or other officials will be streamed in the video player above.

Chicago authorities shut down a 300-person party in Wicker Park over the weekend where attendees were not social distancing or wearing face coverings, the city said, with one official calling it "absolutely unacceptable."

Meanwhile, Chicago's top doctor delivered an update to the city's emergency travel order requiring a 14-day quarantine or negative test for anyone entering the city.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Monday that none of the state's regions will lessen Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions in coming weeks.

Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic across the state of Illinois today (Dec. 1):

Pritzker Recommends COVID-19 Testing for Residents Who Traveled for Thanksgiving Holiday

During his daily coronavirus press briefing on Tuesday, Pritzker said that the Illinois Department of Public Health is encouraging residents who traveled for the holiday to get tested for the virus between five and seven days after their return to the state.

“If you didn’t socially distance at Thanksgiving and spent time with people who are not in your own family bubble, you may feel fine now – but you could nevertheless be passing COVID-19 onto others without knowing it,” he said.”

Physicians Urge Drug Makers to Step Up Efforts to Ensure COVID Vaccine is Safe for Children

Several coronavirus vaccines awaiting FDA approval have shown high levels of effectiveness in adults, but the results from phase three clinical trials haven’t included children, and a group of physicians is hoping to change that.

The lack of testing on children has led to concerns about how quickly vaccines can be rolled out and administered to the general public.

“We do not have any data right now about vaccine safety or efficacy in children,” Dr. Ronda Oram, an infectious disease physician at Advocate Children’s Hospital, said.

Arwady, Pritzker Don't Anticipate COVID-19 Vaccine Will be Mandated by Officials

As the state of Illinois and the city of Chicago prepare to receive the first doses of approved coronavirus vaccines in the coming days and weeks, public health officials say there are still no plans in place to mandate that residents receive the treatment.

Dr. Allison Arwady, director of the Chicago Department of Public Health, says that she “does not anticipate” that the vaccine will be required for city residents.

“We would not anticipate vaccine mandates in any setting,” she said. “I think time will tell as more vaccine becomes available on what decisions that have to be made in that regard.”

Chicago Includes 46 States, Puerto Rico in Coronavirus Travel Order Update

Chicago health officials updated the city's coronavirus travel order Tuesday to include 46 states and Puerto Rico requiring a 14-day quarantine or pre-arrival negative test.

The emergency travel order requiring a 14-day quarantine for travelers from certain locations was issued in July in an effort to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus and is updated every two weeks.

Last month, the city changed the way it reports states being added to its travel order, categorizing states in a color-coded map to determine which requirements are in effect for travelers, from the original requirement of a 14-day quarantine to a negative test result depending on the severity of the state's outbreak.

Two weeks ago, the order was updated to include 46 states and Puerto Rico - but Tuesday's update moved more states in the "red" category, which has the most stringent quarantine requirements.

As of Tuesday, 19 states were categorized as "red" states, meaning travelers must quarantine for 14 days when coming to Chicago from these states: South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wyoming, New Mexico, Nebraska, Kansas, Montana, Alaska, Indiana, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, Colorado, Utah, Oklahoma and Idaho.

Only three states are listed as "yellow," meaning they do not require a quarantine: Maine, Hawaii and Vermont.

The remaining 27 were listed as "orange," meaning they require a 14-day quarantine or negative test prior to arrival in Chicago.

Get a full breakdown of the guidelines here.

Illinois Reports 12,542 New Coronavirus Cases, 125 Deaths

Illinois health officials reported 12,542 new cases of coronavirus and 125 additional deaths on Tuesday as testing numbers returned to higher levels following the long holiday weekend.

The new cases reported Tuesday brought the total number to 738,846 statewide since the pandemic began, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Tuesday's figures also lifted the death toll to 12,403, officials said.

A total of 116,081 tests were conducted in the previous 24 hours, IDPH said. That marked the first time in five days that that number was back in the six-figure range after a slowdown over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, when daily testing numbers were in the 60,000 to 80,000 range.

In all, the state has performed 10,614,079 tests since the pandemic began, officials said.

The state’s positivity rate climbed to 10.4% Tuesday on all tests conducted, an increase from 10.2% on Monday, which was up a tenth of a point from the day before. In the last seven days, the positivity rate for individuals tested for the virus stands at 12.2%, the same as the day before.

A total of 5,835 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide as of Monday night, officials said. Of those patients, 1,195 were using ICU beds, authorities say, and 721 were on ventilators.

Chicago Officials Shut Down 300-Person Party in Wicker Park

City of Chicago officials shut down a party with more than 300 attendees in Wicker Park over the weekend for violating the city's coronavirus rules.

The party took place in the early morning hours of Sunday, Nov. 29 in the basement of Vault/All Access, 1612 W. Division Ave., according to Chicago's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.

A task force focused on shutting down large gatherings issued multiple citations, cease and desist orders as well as closure orders for throwing a "dangerous and unlicensed commercial party."

None of those in attendance were practicing social distancing or wearing face coverings, officials said.

"It’s extremely upsetting and disappointing that we have some operators that are completely trying to fly under the radar and not adhering to the guidelines," said Rosa Escareno, commissioner of Chicago's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.

Escareno said the task force was investigating another location when they came across the establishment, which appeared to have a lot of people going in and out.

"This is basically a slap in the face of the businesses that are operating and trying to do the things that are correct," she stated.

Since Oct. 30, BACP has issued 20 citations and 54 notices to correct to bars, restaurants and other business that permitted indoor dining and/or drinking.

Additionally, officials have issued one-day closure orders to nine businesses, four of which were given long-term closure orders for egregiously violating the COVID-19 regulations.  

Since March, BACP has conducted more than 6,500 COVID-19 investigations and cited more than 330 businesses for violating regulations.

The following establishments have been issued one-day closure orders for egregious and/or repeated violations of Chicago's COVID-19 regulations:

  • Chicago Sport Complex - 2600 W. 35th St. – Hosting a party with over 600 attendees, no face coverings or social distancing
  • Wildberry Pancake - 196 E. Pearson St. - Repeatedly allowing indoor dining despite multiple Notices to Correct and Citations
  • The Ballroom - 6351-59 S. Cottage Grove Ave. - Hosting a party with over 200 attendees, no face coverings or social distancing
  • Fat Fish Bar & Grill - 234-236 W. 31st St. - Egregiously violating social distancing and face coverings requirements on outdoor patio
  • Black Cat Lounge - 1640 W. 115th St. - Patrons drinking indoors, no face coverings or social distancing
  • The Delta - 1745 W. North Ave. - Egregiously violating social distancing and face coverings requirements on outdoor patio 
  • Mariscos La Diabla - 4222-24 W. 63rd St. - Patrons eating indoors, no face coverings or social distancing 
  • Effe Inc - 4216 W. 63rd St. - Patrons eating indoors, no face coverings or social distancing
  • Linda's Place - 1044 W. 51st - Patrons eating indoors, no face coverings or social distancing  

No Illinois Regions Will End Tier 3 Mitigations in the Next Few Weeks, Pritzker Says

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Monday that no Illinois regions will lessen coronavirus restrictions in coming weeks.

Due to an increase in hospitalizations and an expected surge following the Thanksgiving holiday, Pritzker said the Illinois Department of Public Health with downgrade no regions in Illinois from Tier 3 mitigations in "the next few weeks."

"With the advice of IDPH and other infectious disease experts, no region will be downgraded from our current Tier 3 mitigations for the next few weeks even if they might be on track to meet those metrics," Pritzker said. "We are still very much in a precarious place, and we have got to take the time to evaluate any Thanksgiving effect before we make any premature adjustments."

As of mid-November, all of Illinois has been under Tier 3 coronavirus mitigations imposed by the state.

The new restrictions have forced the closures of several businesses and spaces, including casinos and museums, among others. There has also be new limitations for non-essential businesses like gyms and salons.

Get a complete look at the restrictions for each industry here.

Post-Thanksgiving COVID-19 Surge Could Overwhelm Illinois' Health Care System

Citing national health experts who've expressed concerns over the possibility of a post-Thanksgiving surge in coronavirus cases, Illinois' Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a stern warning to residents Monday, saying the state's health care system could become overwhelmed if Illinoisans aren't careful.

At his daily coronavirus briefing Monday, Pritzker said no region will be downgraded from Illinois' Tier 3 mitigations in the upcoming weeks, even if they meet the threshold to move to other levels.

Pritzker said he came to the decision after discussions with local health experts and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who told the governor "this is no time to pull back on mitigations," with the nation gearing up for another potential surge.

While statewide metrics have offered a "hint of potential progress," Illinois officials said, the number of hospitalized patients fighting COVID-19 is 23% higher than the state's spring peak.

Pritzker added he hopes Illinois can fend off the surge in the next few weeks in order to get to a healthier holiday time in the second half of December.

"We are still very much in a precarious place, and we have got to take the time to
evaluate any Thanksgiving effect before we make any premature adjustments," he said.

Investigations Underway After 28 Veterans Die in Coronavirus Outbreak at Illinois VA Home

Two investigations are underway after Illinois officials say nearly 200 residents and staff members tested positive for coronavirus at the state-run LaSalle Veterans Home and 28 veterans at the facility have died since late October.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Tuesday every aspect of the issue should be looked at, but at a press conference earlier in the day, Republican state lawmakers demanded hearings and more transparency.

"The lack of urgency from this administration should be very concerning to every Illinoisan about what is happening, and we must do better," said state Rep. David Welter.

"We have a responsibility to provide oversight, to call witnesses and to get to the bottom of what exactly happened," said state Rep. Randy Frese.

According to the state's Department of Veterans Affairs, there are currently two independent investigations into the incident.

The state says a hand sanitizer at the facility was not effective against the virus, and it has since been switched out for a more effective variety.

Investigators also are looking into a report that a number of employees who tested positive were at the same off-site Halloween party.

Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger tweeted that the people of Illinois "deserve action and answers."

"There was protocol and the ball was dropped in many places," Welter said, "and we need those answers so we can move forward in an effective way to make sure we save lives."

Pritzker said Tuesday that if there’s a failure of procedure or wrongdoing, people should be held accountable.

"It’s never acceptable when we see rampant infections somewhere," Pritzker said during his daily coronavirus briefing. "Now remember, this virus is virulent. Whenever it gets into a facility like this, and it usually comes in through somebody who’s coming in to the door, it’s not the people who are there already who are negative."

The state says it has strengthened the screening process for employees as they arrive to work.

First Air Shipment of COVID-19 Vaccine Arrives in Chicago, Airlines Prep for Distribution

The "first mass air shipment" of COVID-19 vaccines arrived at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport Friday as airlines and pharmaceutical companies continued to prepare for large-scale distribution.

United Airlines carried Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on board a cargo flight from Brussels, Belgium, to O'Hare Airport, according to people familiar with the matter.

United Airlines didn't confirm any details about the flight, but in a statement said, "United Cargo established a COVID Readiness Task Team earlier this summer to help ensure we have the right people, products, services, and partnerships in place to support a vaccine distribution effort on a global scale."

Pfizer is still seeking emergency use approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The pharmaceutical giant completed its phase three trial and found the vaccine to be 95% percent.

Ahead of the approvals for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, pharmaceutical companies, airlines and other parts of the supply chain are preparing for distribution once regulators give a green light, a vast network that will include cold storage to preserve the vaccines, CNBC reported.

Pfizer didn't respond to multiple requests for comment. Spokeswoman Kim Bencker has previously said the company won't ship the vaccine until it wins approval from the FDA for emergency use. 

At his daily coronavirus news briefing Monday, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he believes the shipment was sent to a Pfizer facility near Kenosha, Wisconsin, as the company awaits FDA approval.

Pfizer submitted its application for emergency clearance on Nov. 20, and the FDA is expected to publicly discuss it when the agency's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee next meets Dec. 10.

Pfizer's vaccine requires a storage temperature of minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit. By comparison, Moderna has said its vaccine remains stable at 36 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature of a standard home or medical refrigerator, for up to 30 days. It can be stored for up to six months at negative 4 degrees Fahrenheit.

The United flight, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, required special approval from federal regulators to carry more dry ice than is normally allowed, the people said. Vaccines are stored at below-freezing temperatures.

Other airlines are also preparing for vaccine shipments.

American Airlines' cargo department last week started trial flights with its pharmaceutical partners from Miami to South America "to stress test the thermal packaging and operational handling process we have created for shipping vaccines," spokeswoman Stacy Day said in a statement. 

One challenge ahead is that air cargo capacity has been limited because of the pandemic. Since airlines have canceled so many flights, there is less aircraft belly space available to transport goods. United and other airlines, however, have begun operating cargo-only flights to help make up for lost passenger revenue.

When Health Officials Say We Could See Signs of a Post-Thanksgiving Coronavirus Surge

Health experts are bracing for the potential of a post-Thanksgiving coronavirus surge. But what might that look like - and when could we see the first signs of it?

According to Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the first sign of a surge will be an increase in cases one to two weeks after the holiday.

"That will be a sign that maybe there was spreading at the Thanksgiving holiday," Ezike said during a briefing last week.

Health officials have long said that hospitalizations and deaths typically follow a spike in cases, so those numbers will likely be the first indicator.

Despite guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as pleas from health officials to celebrate virtually, large crowds and lines formed for several days at O’Hare International Airport as travelers departed Chicago for the holiday weekend.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's leading infectious disease expert, warned Sunday that the travel-heavy Thanksgiving holiday could make the current surge in COVID-19 cases even worse as the country heads into December.

Appearing on NBC News' "Meet the Press," Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said public health officials "tried to get the word out for people, as difficult as it is, to really not have large gatherings" during the holiday because of concerns that the celebrations could aggravate the spread of the coronavirus.

"What we expect, unfortunately, as we go for the next couple of weeks into December is that we might see a surge superimposed on the surge we are already in," he said.

"I don't want to frighten people except to say it's not too late at all for us to do something about this," he added, urging people to be careful when they travel back home and upon arriving and to take proven steps like social distancing and wearing masks.

It can sometimes take two weeks for infected people to develop symptoms, and asymptomatic people can spread the virus without knowing they have it. Fauci said the "dynamics of an outbreak" show a three- to five-week lag between serious mitigation efforts and the actual curbing of infection rates.

Officials in Chicago and Illinois used press conferences last week to deliver last-minute warnings aimed at preventing Thanksgiving from becoming a "super-spreader" holiday that dangerously elevates hospitalizations and the number of coronavirus deaths.

"Let me put this as bluntly as I can: We are extremely concerned about Thanksgiving weekend becoming a super spreading event," Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said at a news conference Wednesday morning.

"The safest thing we can do for one another is stay within our own households – but if you are gathering with even just a few people, it’s a better idea to take Thanksgiving outside. This is not the year to have everybody over at Grandma’s house," Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said Sunday on CBS' “Face the Nation" that Americans who traveled this past week should try to avoid people over 65. She also said that those who were around others for Thanksgiving “have to assume that you were exposed and you became infected and you really need to get tested in the next week.”

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady last week also shared a graph showing a dramatic spike in cases in Canada after the nation's Thanksgiving celebration on Oct. 12.

The image shows the number of cases reported daily between 1,000 and 3,000 for the month leading up to the holiday. After the holiday, the number of cases climbed to between 4,000 and 6,000 reported daily on some days roughly a month later. That spike was consistently and noticeably higher than the days before the holiday beginning roughly one week after.

"After the Canadian Thanksgiving, unfortunately Canada saw a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases and let me tell you the U.S. rates of cases right now are much worse than Canada's was and our potential for a surge is much greater," Arwady said, again begging residents to only celebrate virtually and follow public health guidance.

Here's When Anyone Potentially Exposed at Thanksgiving Should Get a COVID Test

Although federal and state health officials are encouraging residents not to gather for the Thanksgiving holiday due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, officials do have a recommendation for those who fear that they’ve come into contact with the virus over the holiday.

During a press availability Wednesday, IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezikie said that state residents who fear they’ve been exposed to the virus should not immediately rush out and get tested, saying that unless they’re showing symptoms, they should wait at least one week prior to getting tested.

“We would like people to wait at least a week,” she said. “We know it can take up to 14 days to show the signs of infection if you got infected, but most people who will show a positive test by day seven.”

Although Ezike says that most infections show symptoms within a week of exposure to the virus, that is not always the case, and that residents should exercise caution for 14 days after a potential exposure.

“Always wear your mask and try to keep distance if you have been in a high-risk setting and you know you’ve potentially come into contact with others,” she said. “Take precautions before you get a test result.”

Ezike also cautioned state residents not to use a negative test as an excuse to halt quarantining, saying that residents can certainly test negative for the virus and then later test positive if they begin to develop symptoms.

Ezike also emphasized that residents should get tested as soon as possible if they begin to show symptoms of the virus.

Symptoms of the virus widely vary, and some patients who are diagnosed with the virus could show mild-to-no symptoms at all. Common symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle aches, headache, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion, nausea or vomiting and diarrhea.

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