Note: Any news conferences from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot or other officials will be streamed in the video player above.
For the fourth day in a row and the 16th time in the last 17 days, Illinois on Sunday reported more than 10,000 new cases of coronavirus in a single day.
Meanwhile, the Archdiocese of Chicago has announced that some Catholic schools will move to remote learning following the Thanksgiving holiday.
Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic across the state of Illinois today (Nov. 23):
Chicago Archdiocese Says Some Schools to Switch to Remote Learning After Thanksgiving
As coronavirus surges across the city, the Archdiocese of Chicago announced that some Catholic schools will move to remote learning following the Thanksgiving holiday this week.
Archdiocese spokesperson Manuel Gonzales commended teachers and principals in a statement, saying educators "continue to do an outstanding job of providing in-person instruction during these unprecedented challenges."
Here is a message from the statement:
"In light of the recent rise in the general infection rate, and the warnings about travel during the holidays, the Office of Catholic Schools and the Archdiocese COVID Task Force, surveyed parents, principals and other school employees early last week to gauge their comfort with in-person learning in December. In 80 percent of schools, there was strong support to stay the course of providing in-person and remote learning options. On Friday, we notified the other 20 percent of schools that we would work with them on any need for alternate plans, which may include moving to remote learning for some or all of the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s too soon to say which schools will be switching to remote learning."
Gonzales added that the Archdiocese has had fewer than 10 "possible cases of secondary spread" of the coronavirus in schools due to health and safety protocols already in place.
Because schools are spread out across the city, the new approach takes into consideration the varying infection rates among neighborhoods and communities, Gonzales said in the statement.
"We have always said that we will respond to the continued evolution of the pandemic and continue working with local health departments to keep the safety and wellbeing of our students and employees our top priority," he wrote.
Last week, the Archdiocese announced several changes to protocols to ensure safety during church services across the state. Read more on the updated guidance here.
Naperville Mayor Defends Decision to Attend Daughter's Florida Wedding
Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico is defending his decision to attend a family wedding out of state after a photo of the mayor circulated widely on social media.
In the photo, Chirico can be seen standing in a group at his daughter’s wedding, which took place recently in Naples, Florida.
None of the individuals in the photo were wearing masks. The photo sparked controversy on social media after it was posted by one of the mayor’s relative.
In a statement, Chirico says that he and his family were tested for coronavirus prior to leaving for their trip to Florida, and all tested negative.
“It was an outdoor wedding and reception with a total of 53 guests,” Chirico said. “Upon my return to Naperville, I will be quarantining and testing again.”
The images of the mayor stirred up anger on social media amid the ongoing surge of coronavirus cases in numerous parts of the country, including Florida. Americans are being urged not to travel for Thanksgiving as a result of the pandemic, with more than 12 million Americans having contracted the virus since the pandemic began.
Hundreds of Illinois Cities Still Eligible for COVID-19 Relief Funds
Gov. J.B. Pritzker's administration is reminding local government officials of a Dec. 1 deadline to submit applications for federal relief from the coronavirus pandemic.
Congress approved so-called Local CURE funds as part of a COVID-19 relief package last spring. The money must be spent by Dec. 30.
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity reports that it has initiated the process with the 1,400 eligible government but many have yet to complete required steps.
DCEO said 503 local governments have received or will receive a total of $112 million thus far. But more than 400 government bodies are still eligible and have not completed applications.
Eligible costs incurred between March 1 and Dec. 30 include payrolls for public health and public safety, COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, emergency medical expenses, and public health spending necessary to comply with government orders.
Money not spent by year's end is returned to the federal government.
Illinois Reports 10,012 New Coronavirus Cases, 76 Additional Deaths Sunday
For the fourth day in a row and the 16th time in the last 17 days, Illinois has reported more than 10,000 new cases of coronavirus in a single day.
Illinois health officials announced 10,012 confirmed and probable coronavirus cases on Sunday, along with 76 additional deaths attributed to the virus.
According to the latest data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, the new case total brings the state to 656,298 cases of the virus since the pandemic began in March. The 76 deaths reported Sunday bring the state to 11,506 amid the ongoing pandemic.
The state continues to test at a brisk level, with 92,437 new tests performed over the last 24 hours. The state is drawing closer to a significant milestone of 10 million coronavirus tests performed, currently sitting at 9,801,419 as of Sunday.
Even with the state’s recent run of high case totals, the seven-day positivity rate continued a slow decline on Sunday, dipping to 11.3%. After a rapid rise in that number over the month of October and the beginning of October, the positivity rate has now fallen four of the last five days.
The state is still seeing large numbers of hospitalizations related to the virus, a trend that will likely continue even if case numbers begin to decline slightly. In all, 6,072 patients are currently hospitalized for the virus in Illinois, with 1,179 of those patients in intensive care unit beds and 589 on ventilators.
Radio DJ From Little Village Dies After Battling Cancer and COVID-19
The United States hit another grim milestone Saturday in the fight against COVID-19, surpassing 12 million coronavirus cases.
Illinois is also seeing a surge with more than 11,400 lives lost. In Indiana, the virus claimed the lives of nearly 5,000 people. 55-year-old Juan Suarez was one of them.
“It was a real big shocker,” longtime friend Gino Romo said. “When I got news of the day he passed away—it changed my life forever.”
Romo used to work with Suarez in the 90s at a community radio station run out of the Boys and Girls Club in Little Village.
“Magic Juan was the voice of that radio station, so he was like a celebrity,” he said. “I met him when I was about 14 years old.”
Suarez was known as Magic Juan on the air and would play house and freestyle music. Many listeners had no idea he was blind.
“He would use vinyl because back then vinyl was the thing,” Harv Roman, longtime friend and former colleague, said. “He's feeling the grooves with his finger tips and he's feeling the labels and the album covers and this is how he could figure out what the songs were that he was about to play.”
According to family, Suarez was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer two years ago. By this time, Suarez had already lost his daughter, his wife and twin sister to cancer.
“A lot of people had no idea he was struggling behind the scenes,” Romo said. “Everybody just knew Magic Juan as the guy who was on the radio station that I grew up listening too—he played great music and he was just a soothing voice.”
Then, one month ago Suarez contracted COVID-19.
“It really was a big set back. They had to delay his chemo treatment so his cancer treatment had to take a backseat and unfortunately this happened,” Romo said.
His sister told NBC 5 News on the phone his liver was not functioning when he got COVID-19. The virus impacted his lungs. He was placed in the ICU at Franciscan Health in Munster, Indiana and died on Tuesday.
“I really want people to understand that COVID is real first of all and no matter how defeated you may feel, you have to remember there's a lot of Magic Juans in this world,” Romo said. “Magic Juan, being the person that he was, he was able to touch a lot of lives and he did it through music.”
Roman said Suarez was always "so positive" about everything.
“For everything that he went through his energy level was inspiring,” Roman said.
Roman said he last talked to Suarez earlier this month.
“When he talked to me on the phone, that was the first time he’s ever told me he was scared. He said, 'Harv, I’m scared,' because he was battling COVID, he was at stage 4,” said Roman. “But with COVID he didn’t have the comfort of people being there because you’re isolated.”
DuPage County Opens New COVID-19 Testing Site in Response to Rising Numbers
As a response to rising coronavirus metrics and a need for testing, DuPage County health officials announced the department will open a second community-based testing site Monday.
The additional site will be located at the Odeum Expo Center at 1033 N. Villa Ave. and will open Monday at 10 a.m. until 6 p.m., or until testing capacity hits 600 tests.
Due to Thanksgiving week, the testing location will only be open Monday through Wednesday. The week of Nov. 29, however, the site will begin operating daily through Dec. 4 with the same hours and testing capacity, according to officials.
“While testing is a crucial component of DCHD’s COVID-19 response, we must remember that it is only one part of the overall strategy to slow the spread of this virus. Even more important than identifying cases and their close contacts, is preventing new cases from occurring,” Karen Ayala, Executive Director of DuPage County Health Department, said.
Officials said any individual can be tested with no appointment, doctor referral or insurance necessary. Visitors are encouraged by the health department to pre-register at testdirectly.com/dupage.
The department reminded that pre-registering does not guarantee a test or place in line for that given day.
DuPage County lies in Region 8, which has seen a decrease in positvity rates over the past week, but rose 0.2% from one day before Wednesday to 14.8%.
Hospitalization rates remain the third highest in the state in Region 8, reporting 60 as of Wednesday. ICU bed availability is at 23% and hospital beds at 17%, which is below the 20% threshold.
Chicago's Midway and O'Hare Airports to Set Up COVID-19 Testing Facilities
The Chicago Department of Aviation plans to establish COVID-19 testing for both travelers and employees at Midway and O'Hare international airports, the department announced.
In a news release issued Friday, the CDA stated its seeking proposals from vendors who hope to provide testing services at both airports. The "successful bidder," the department said, will be able to provide both PCR and rapid tests and have the capacity to begin testing before the start of the December holiday travel season.
On Tuesday, a drive-up COVID testing site will be established at Midway and will be available to the community as well as airport travelers and employees. In addition, the airport seeks to construct a second walk-up site inside the facility.
Negative coronavirus tests are required to travel to many international destinations.
O'Hare will feature a walk-up, pre-security site in the terminal area as well as a drive-up testing site in a remote parking lot, according to the CDA.
All sites will be limited to employees and fliers except the drive-thru testing facility at Midway. For the three remaining locations, users will need to show proof of flying or proof of airport employment.
The deadline for vendors to submit bids is 9 a.m. on Nov. 30. The winner will be notified the same day, officials said.