Note: Any news conferences from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot or other officials will be streamed in the video player above.
A woman who's still battling coronavirus symptoms a month after she tested positive has one question for those planning to gather this Thanksgiving: "Is it worth it?"
Meanwhile, according to the latest data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, nearly all Illinois regions have seen a drop in positivity rates.
Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic across the state of Illinois today (Nov. 25):
What Illinois Health Officials Say Could be Early Signs of a Post-Thanksgiving Surge
As airports and travel hubs fill up with Thanksgiving travelers despite warnings from health officials in the state and country, experts are bracing for the potential of a post-Thanksgiving coronavirus surge.
But what will that look like?
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 Wednesday.
Health experts have long said that hospitalizations and deaths typically follow a spike in cases, so those numbers will likely be the first indicator.
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.
Chicago's COVID Hospitalizations, Deaths May Not Peak for Several Weeks: Arwady
Chicago's coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths likely won't peak for several weeks, possibly even longer if the city sees a post-Thanksgiving surge in cases, according to the city's top public health official.
With Thanksgiving approaching, both Chicago and state health officials have expressed concerns over the rising number of coronavirus hospitalizations, but Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said a mid-December peak is an optimistic estimate.
As of Wednesday, Chicago reported more than 1,000 patients in hospitals with COVID-19 and more than 300 people in intensive care units. Both of those numbers mark an increased from early October and the city has "not seen any slowing."
According to Arwady, there's usually a 17-day lag between a rise in cases and a surge in ICU patients. Because of that, Chicago's hospitalizations could peak in mid-December, followed later by a peak in deaths.
"That would be if we can hold the very early progress that we have seen," she said. "And that's a big if I think across the country. There has not been any signs of flattening at all in hospitalizations or breaking records. And there's not going to be a lot of capacity to surge hospital staff, in particular, between regions. So the reason we're kind of, you know, have sounded this alarm so strongly is that an unmitigated rise in cases does lead inevitably to an unmitigated rise and hospitalizations. And then ICUs and then deaths."
Since Oct. 19, COVID-19 deaths have risen four times, Arwady noted.
"We're up to almost 100 deaths every week among Chicago residents," she said. "Even if this surge was done right now we would not expect our deaths to peak for several weeks."
More Than 1 Chicagoan Being Diagnosed With COVID Every Minute, City's Top Doc Says
Chicago's coronavirus cases are now at a point where more than one resident is being diagnosed with COVID-19 every minute, according to the city's top doctor.
"If we look at our case numbers we are now averaging still nearly 2,000 new cases diagnosed every day in Chicago residents," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Wednesday as she urged people to avoid gathering for the Thanksgiving holiday. "That's six times what we were seeing in September, 10 times what we were seeing in June and we still have more than one Chicago being diagnosed with COVID every minute, assuming that we're testing 24 hours per day."
As of Wednesday, data showed more than 150,000 Chicago residents have been diagnosed with coronavirus since the pandemic began in the spring. Of those cases, 15% remain active, 83% have recovered and 2% have died, Arwady said. She noted, however, that the actual number of infections is estimated to be five to seven times higher when accounting for people who did not get tested or who have shown no symptoms.
"That means our estimate is between 110,000 and 160,000 Chicagoans have active, meaning infectious, COVID right now," Arwady said. "And that means as many as one in 17 Chicagoans still has active COVID right now. That's a tiny bit better than it was last week, where one in 15 Chicagoans had active COVID, but one in 17 Chicagoans is in that range. Between one in 17 and one in 25 is at a point where it is not safe to gather and where we need everybody as we have directed under the stay-at-home advisory to be staying home unless it's for work, school or essential purposes."
NBA Moves Indianapolis' All-Star Weekend to 2024
Indianapolis will host the NBA All-Star weekend in 2024, the league said Wednesday, formally rescheduling the plans for that city to be the site of the league’s midseason showcase this season.
Cleveland will play host in 2022 and Salt Lake City will do so in 2023, both of those sites and years previously announced. The next open spot on the league’s All-Star calendar was 2024, which now belongs to Indianapolis.
The league said “public health conditions prevented the Pacers, the NBA All-Star Host Committee and the NBA from appropriately planning and executing fan-focused All-Star activities in Indianapolis that were envisioned for this February.”
The new dates for Indianapolis’ All-Star weekend: Feb. 16-18, 2024.
“While we are disappointed that the NBA All-Star Game will not take place in Indianapolis in 2021, we are looking forward to the Pacers and the city hosting the game and surrounding events in 2024,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said.
Illinois Reports 11,378 New COVID Cases, 155 Deaths as State Crosses 10M Testing Mark
Illinois health officials reported 11,378 confirmed and probable coronavirus cases Wednesday, along with 155 additional deaths attributed to the virus as the state reached a significant testing milestone and as hospitalizations climb ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.
According to the latest data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, the new case total brings the state to 685,467 cases of the virus since the pandemic began in March. The 155 deaths reported Wednesday bring the state to 11,832 amid the ongoing pandemic.
The state continues frequent testing, with 114,233 new tests performed over the last 24 hours, lifting the state to more than 10 million coronavirus tests performed since the pandemic began.
The seven-day positivity rate increased slightly Wednesday, rising to 10.6% after dropping to 10.4% on Tuesday. After a rapid rise in that number the last month, the positivity rate had fallen six of the last eight days.
The state continues to see large numbers of hospitalizations related to the virus. In all, 6,133 patients are currently hospitalized for the virus in Illinois, with 1,208 of those patients in intensive care unit beds and 679 on ventilators.
Chicago Will Make COVID Vaccine Data Public, Including Possible Side Effects, Top Doctor Says
Chicago's top doctor said the city plans to make vaccine data, including information on potential side effects, available for residents before rolling out doses to the public.
According to Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady, the city could have its first doses by the end of the year, with frontline workers in the healthcare industry and first responders among the first to receive them.
"We will be absolutely transparent with you about what we know about these vaccines as soon as we know," Arwady said.
Pfizer and BioNTech have applied for an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for their coronavirus vaccine. According to Arwady, the agency is set to discuss the matter during a meeting on Dec. 10.
"We will be sharing, and this will be made public immediately upon conclusion of that meeting, the data that that team and the external experts will be using to make an emergency use authorization decision," Arwady said. "There will be additional data related to the trial, related to the demographics of who was in this trial, related to side effects and related to efficacy. The FDA will not approve a vaccine that is not safe, first and foremost, where we are seeing signs of serious side effects, and they will not approve a vaccine that is not at least 50% effective."
The vaccine engineered by Pfizer has seen a 90% efficacy rate in clinical trials.
Another vaccine, engineered by Moderna, has a 94% efficacy rate in clinical trials according to the company, and could follow suit in seeking FDA approval in early December.
Following a potential authorization from the FDA, the CDC will then meet, with a recommendation expected by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, or ACIP, an outside group of medical experts. ACIP is expected to call an emergency meeting to make specific recommendations on distribution once the FDA authorizes a vaccine.
"That committee will continue to meet as additional vaccines come or are put forward for possible approval, or if side effects emerge, or are there any other concerns related to vaccines that are already being distributed," Arwady said.
Should the committee recommend the vaccine, Chicago could begin vaccinating as early as mid-December, Arwady said.
Read more here.
Thanksgiving Could Be Coronavirus ‘Super Spreading Event,' Chicago Officials Warn
Chicago's mayor and top doctor warned Wednesday that the Thanksgiving holiday could become a "super spreading event" in the deadly coronavirus pandemic, pleading again with residents to forego gatherings.
"Let me put this as bluntly as I can: We are extremely concerned about Thanksgiving weekend becoming a super spreading event," Mayor Lori Lightfoot said at a news conference Wednesday morning.
"Despite the ongoing warnings from responsible leaders across the country, about 50 million Americans are still expected to travel this weekend," she continued. "That is why we need to double down on our precautions in order to prevent a continued rise in cases, hospitalizations and unfortunately deaths, all of which we continue to see an uptick in."
"I'm urging you not to engage in your normal Thanksgiving plans, to keep it limited to your immediate household," Lightfoot said, noting that Chicago is projected to see an additional 1,000 coronavirus deaths by the end of the year.
She added that the projected death toll, while a "sobering reminder and figure," doesn't fully illustrate a holiday-related surge's impact on the health care system and its workers, both already strained, or the long-term effects COVID-19 survivors have reported.
"What we are hearing here and around the world is survivors who've been experiencing ongoing challenges ranging from continued trouble breathing, fatigue, migraines, pain and numbness, dizziness, tremors, blurred vision, memory loss and continued loss of smell and taste, and more which scientists and health officials are still working to understand," Lightfoot said. "That is why we are asking every Chicagoan to avoid travel and avoid visiting someone else's home this Thanksgiving holiday and weekend."
"Please only celebrate Thanksgiving with those in your immediate household or remotely over the internet," she continued, adding that she had expected to celebrate with her 92-year-old mother and other family members but made the choice to celebrate apart.
"It is the best way for us to protect each other and celebrate future Thanksgivings together," Lightfoot said. "It is truly a sacrifice for sure but in my mind it's an expression of love."
Lightfoot noted that a stay-at-home advisory remains in place for Chicago, asking that residents stay home unless leaving is necessary, like for grocery shopping or work.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady shared a graph showing a dramatic spike in cases in Canada after the nation's Thanksgiving celebration on Oct. 12.
"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. "So it's not too late to change plans you might have, even for tomorrow. Anything that we can do as a city to limit this risk here is a win for you, your family and Chicago."
Arwady said the latest data indicates that as many one in every 17 Chicagoans has an active and infectious coronavirus case as of Wednesday, saying that figure meant the city "is at a point where it is not safe to gather."
Graphic: Here's How COVID Could Spread During Thanksgiving
For weeks, the Illinois Department of Public Health has echoed Thanksgiving coronavirus guidance heard around the country from health care professionals and public officials: Don't travel and limit gatherings to those you already live with.
With Thanksgiving now upon us, last-minute warnings aim to prevent Thanksgiving from becoming a "super-spreader" holiday that dangerously elevates hospitalizations and the number of coronavirus deaths.
"We don’t have to have 'super spreader' events at homes throughout our state and throughout the country and bring it back," Illinois' Department of Public Health Director, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, said this week. "Please reconsider your plans and be part of the solution to decrease infections, instead of part of the plan to increase them."
To underscore this point, the IDPH produced a graphic, "On the 14th day of COVID," to show the potential spread of the virus.
The graphic lays out a 14-day scenario in which a fictitious person named Joe becomes exposed to coronavirus. On Day 5, Joe feels well and gets a negative COVID-19 test. He is, likely unknowingly, contagious and attends Thanksgiving dinner with 17 family members. He develops symptoms on Day 10 and gets a positive test, and on Days 13 and 14, according to this scenario, 10 of the 17 family members who attended Thanksgiving with Joe develop symptoms and test positive.
COVID Long-Hauler Shares Message to Thanksgiving Travelers
Candice Lepek and her family thought they were being careful during the coronavirus pandemic, but that didn't stop the virus from spreading to them and eventually infecting her - a 34-year-old breast cancer survivor.
Now, weeks after her diagnosis, she's still battling symptoms and has a message for families planning to get together this Thanksgiving.
"I write in all my posts, 'Is it worth it?'" Lepek said.
Lepek was diagnosed with coronavirus nearly one month ago.
"The COVID went into my lungs- pneumonia in both lungs," Lepek said.
Still, even weeks after her diagnosis, Lepek continues to have a fever and a painful cough, among other symptoms.
"When I got it I didn't think it would last like this," she said.
Lepek is considered by medical professionals a "long-hauler," which includes those who experience symptoms for weeks or even months after contracting it, but don't require hospitalization.
She said she plans to celebrate with her family via Zoom and that she hopes her story can possibly change even one mind.
"It spread through my family and we were careful," she said. "It is not a joke."
Almost Every Illinois Region Sees Decrease in Positivity Rates, Hospitalizations Remain High
According to the latest data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, nearly all Illinois regions have seen a drop in positivity rates for the coronavirus with hospitalizations remaining high.
As of Saturday, COVID-19 metrics showed positvity rates generally falling across the state, but hospital admissions increasing or remaining high in many regions.
Region 1, located in northwestern Illinois, reported a 16.3% positvity rate as of Saturday, which is the latest number in the region's 12-day decline.
Seeing a slow and steady decrease, Region 2 dropped 0.2% in a single day, sitting at a 14.5% positvity rate as of Saturday, latest data showed.
Regions 3, 4 and 5 all saw lower positivity rates Saturday than days prior, according to IDPH data. Region 5 recorded the lowest of the three at 12.5%.
Without the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Region 6 reported a positivity rate of 13.4%, which is down 0.3% from one day prior. However, with data from the rapid saliva test from the university, Region 6 would have a 5.3% rate, which is the lowest in the state.
In Champaign county alone, health officials calculated the positvity rate to be just 2% with the saliva test, but reaching 9% when not using the university's data.
Regions 7 and 8 are each comprised of just two counties, both of which have seen a decrease in positvity rates over the past week, according to IDPH data. However, Region 7 recorded the highest rate in the state Saturday at 18.5%.
Also comprised of just two counties, Region 9's positivity rate was the only to increase in Illinois Saturday, now at 14%. The region peaked at 17.1% Nov. 13.
Region 10, which includes all of Cook County not within Chicago’s city limits, decreased Saturday, reporting a 14.8% positvity rate. The number is 0.2% lower than the prior day, which had seen a slight increase.
Chicago's positivity rate also dropped slightly Saturday to 13.7%, which is nearly 2% lower than the city's latest coronavirus peak.
Hospitalizations, however, remain high in areas close to Chicago and within the city itself. Regions 2, 8, 10 and 11 have reported the highest numbers of hospital admissions ranging between 511 and 1,601 patients with coronavirus, IDPH data showed.
Regions 1, 4, 6, 8 and 9 have each seen a decrease in hospitalizations, according to the latest metrics, though numbers had been increasing throughout the month.
More than half of Illinois' regions had been seeing rising hospital admissions during the past week, but data showed some have increased ICU and hospital bed availability.
Five regions remain below the 20% availability threshold set by the state for hospital beds, ICU beds or both. IDPH reported that some are sitting on the cusp of dropping "too low."
For a full list of coronavirus metrics and counties in each region, click here.
Chicago Mayor Seeks to Extend Outdoor Dining, Other Relief Efforts
With businesses struggling during the coronavirus pandemic, Chicago’s mayor is proposing an extension of relief efforts to get them through tough times ahead.
This could mean larger outdoor dining spaces and a reduction in fees to keep restaurants afloat.
“There’s a lot more that will need to be done, starting with, we’ve got to get the federal government to stand up and do its job,” said Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
On Tuesday, Chicago’s mayor proposed an ordinance that would extend many of the programs rolled out over the summer into next year.
-If the City Council passes the mayor’s proposal, businesses with expired public vehicle licenses would have until next summer to renew.
SIDEWALK CAFE REFORMS:
-Businesses issued a sidewalk cafe permit next year would have an option to extend their sidewalk cafe space in front of a neighboring business.
-There would also be a 75% reduction in permit fees.
-More than 1,000 existing permits set to expire in February would be recognized through June 2021.
EXPANDED OUTDOOR DINING PROGRAM:
-The 450 Chicago bars and restaurants operating under expanded outdoor dining could see the program extended through the end of 2021.
The City Council could vote on this ordinance at December’s meeting.
Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe Cancels December Pilgrimage
The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines has canceled its festivities and pilgrimages in the face of rising COVID-19 cases across the state and country.
The Shrine, which typically sees thousands of visitors during its December pilgrimage, will now hold services virtually in lieu of in-person services Dec. 11 and 12, the Archdiocese of Chicago announced Tuesday.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused much hardship and pain for so many,” Rev. Esequiel Sanchez said in a statement.
“The message of comfort offered by Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego: ‘Am I not here, I, who am your mother?’ extends particularly to us today,” Sanchez said. “While we cannot observe this feast as we have in the past, it is still a time of prayer, petition and hope.”
The Shrine’s website at www.solg.org will host a schedule of livestreamed masses.