Note: Any news conferences from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot or other officials will be streamed in the video player above.
New restrictions take effect in Chicago, shutting down indoor dining and bar service in the city once again during the coronavirus pandemic, despite concerns from the city's mayor over such mitigations.
The rules from the state are now in effect in a majority of Illinois' healthcare regions, with more areas to see them begin this weekend.
Meanwhile, NBC 5 Investigates and Telemundo Chicago Investiga have found a confidential list showing thousands of outbreaks of coronavirus in Illinois. Yet for months, the state has concealed these outbreaks from the public, despite the fact that these are the very cases that could directly support officials’ continued pleas for people to avoid large groups of people.
Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic across the state of Illinois today (Oct. 30):
49 Illinois Counties Now at 'Warning Level' for Coronavirus, Health Officials Say
Forty-nine counties in Illinois are now at a "warning level" for coronavirus, the state's health department said Friday.
The warning means each of the counties saw increases in two or more COVID-19 "risk indicators," the health department said.
The counties now under a warning include: Adams, Alexander, Bond, Boone, Clark, Clay, Clinton, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, DeKalb, Douglas, DuPage, Effingham, Ford, Franklin, Greene, Grundy, Hamilton, Henderson, Jackson, Jo Daviess, Johnson, Kane, Kendall, Knox, Lee, Macon, Marion, McHenry, Mercer, Morgan, Ogle, Perry, Pike, Randolph, Rock Island, Saline, Sangamon, Shelby, Stephenson, Wabash, Warren, Washington, Wayne, Whiteside, Will, Williamson. And Winnebago.
Last week, 51 counties were at a "warning level." The week before that it was 34.
"Although the reasons for counties reaching a warning level varies, some of the common factors for an increase in cases and outbreaks are associated with university and college parties as well as college sports teams, large gatherings and events, bars and clubs, weddings and funerals, family gatherings, long-term care facilities, correctional centers, schools, and cases among the community at large, especially people in their 20s," the Illinois Department of Public Health said in a statement.
IDPH said officials observed businesses "blatantly disregarding mitigation measures, people not social distancing, gathering in large groups and not using face coverings."
"Mayors, local law enforcement, state’s attorneys and other community leaders can be influential in ensuring citizens and businesses follow best practices," IDPH added.
Illinois Sees Record Daily Cases, Tests as Positivity Rate Rises and State Crosses 400K Case Total
Illinois health officials reported the state's highest number of daily coronavirus cases and tests of the entire coronavirus pandemic so far on Friday with nearly 7,000 cases and more than 95,000 tests, but the positivity rate continues to rise.
According to data released by the Illinois Department of Public Health, the state saw 6,943 new cases, a number higher than daily totals reported during the coronavirus peak earlier this year.
There were also an additional 36 deaths reported in the state Friday.
The new cases mark only the fourth time the state has reported a single-day total above 6,000. The new numbers bring the statewide total over 400,000 coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.
The new fatalities bring the state’s death toll to 9,711, according to state data.
A total of 83,056 new tests were performed over the last 24 hours, with 7,542,098 performed during the pandemic.
The state’s seven-day positivity rate, on a steady rise for nearly all of October, increased from 6.9% to 7.3% Friday, marking the highest it has been since at least early June.
IDPH noted that this number is calculated as total cases over total tests. The state health department also noted the preliminary test positivity number, which is the number of positive tests over total tests, rose from 8.2% to 8.5%.
"Case positivity and test positivity rate are both relevant and offer insight into the bigger COVID-19 picture. Case positivity helps us understand whether changes in the number of confirmed cases is due to more testing or due to more infections. Whereas, test positivity accounts for repeated testing and helps us understand how the virus is spreading in the population over time," IDPH said.
Hospitalizations increased again as well, health officials said, with 3,092 patients currently hospitalized due to COVID-19. Of those patients, 673 are in intensive care units, while 288 are currently on ventilators.
One of Illinois' Last Regions Without Heightened Restrictions Triggers New Mitigations
One of the final two regions without heightened restrictions in Illinois has now triggered enhanced mitigations from the state, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Friday.
Region 6 in East-Central Illinois will now see the suspension of indoor dining, gathering limitations and more as the positivity rate in the area continues to rise.
“As of this morning, Region 6 has now sustained an average positivity rate of 8 percent or higher for three days, today hitting 8.6 percent – meaning that, starting Monday, they will join the majority of the state in operating under resurgence mitigations,” Pritzker said in a statement. “With community transmission rates on the rise all around our state, it’s more important than ever to take caution, mask up, avoid gatherings and ensure your family gets through this as safe as can be."
New Coronavirus Restrictions Take Effect in Chicago, Shutting Down Indoor Dining
Indoor dining is shut down yet again in Chicago as the city sees new coronavirus restrictions imposed by the state beginning Friday.
Due to continued increases in hospitalizations and positivity rates, Chicago, also known as Region 11, has become the latest region to see intervention from the state, triggering a mitigation plan health officials say aims "cut down on some of the highest high-risk activities until we bring down the positivity rate in a region once again."
"Region 11 is now averaging more than twice as many COVID-related hospital admissions per day as it was a month ago, with a positivity rate that has almost doubled since the beginning of October," Pritzker said in a release. "For a time late in the summer Chicago seemed to have this more under control than other regions of Illinois, but that’s no longer the case."
Chicago's mayor said restaurant owners are struggling during the pandemic and are the most impacted industry by COVID-19 restrictions.
"Some are hanging on by a thread, so we need to double down on our efforts," Lightfoot said. "That's my commitment to them privately and publicly."
Lightfoot encouraged all Chicagoans to support neighborhood restaurants as much as possible by eating there before the added restrictions and ordering takeout after Friday's mitigations are put in place.
After Pritzker on Tuesday announced that new coronavirus restrictions will go into effect in the city, Lightfoot called on the governor to reconsider, saying she is concerned that the new mitigations could have dire consequences for already struggling businesses.
“I'm not sure that we're reaching the right people with the restrictions that are going to be imposed by the state and that's my concern,” she said.
Speaking on PBS’ “NewsHour,” Lightfoot said she was “very concerned” about the new regulations, warning they could have a massive impact on businesses in the city that are struggling amid the pandemic.
Lightfoot was asked if she disagreed with the Pritzker administration’s decision-making, and while she didn’t directly say the new restrictions were wrong, she said that the governor’s office should look at other metrics to help make determinations on where new restrictions should be implemented.
“I think that we’ve got to look at what our metrics are,” she said. “No question we’re seeing an uptick in cases, and we’re also seeing positivity (rates) going up, but hospitalizations are not at the breaking point like we feared back in the spring, and I think that’s an important metric. We’ve gotta be very surgical in the way we impose these new restrictions.”
While Pritzker and Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike have presented research that shows bars and restaurants are one of the primary locations where coronavirus is spreading, Lightfoot warned that the greater challenge is posed by what individuals are doing in their own homes.
“The truth is that where we're seeing the greatest challenges is in people's homes, in social settings that are not public,” she said. “That's harder to regulate to be sure but that's at least in Chicago where we're seeing the challenges. Two-thirds of the people that are testing positive and are talking to our case investigators are telling us that they got it from somebody that they knew and that they got it in a home or other social setting that's not in public.”
Illinois Keeps a Secret List of Thousands of Coronavirus Outbreaks. Now NBC 5 Has It
NBC 5 Investigates and Telemundo Chicago Investiga have found thousands of little-known outbreaks of coronavirus in Illinois -- in restaurants, bars, retail stores, preschools, workplaces, gyms, clubs, churches and parties -- all kinds of parties -- across the state. Yet for months the state has concealed these outbreaks from the public, despite the fact that these are the very cases that could directly support officials’ continued pleas for people to avoid large groups of people.
The confidential list -- maintained by the Illinois Department of Public Health -- was obtained by the “Documenting Covid-19 project” at Columbia University’s Brown Institute for Media Innovation, working with the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. The group received the list, apparently by mistake, in response to a public records request to a county health department.
“The email we received says ‘confidential - do not share,’” said Sky Chadde, the Midwest Center’s Gannett Agricultural Data Fellow. "[It was] pretty much of an accident in terms of getting these records.”
Those records contain 2,553 confirmed outbreaks of coronavirus cases across the state — outbreaks which resulted in the infections of 43,780 people.
The state defines an “outbreak” as a case of coronavirus that spreads to other people. The outbreaks on the state’s secret list range from infections of two or three people — to hundreds.
The list, in spreadsheet form, appears to include outbreaks from the beginning of the pandemic, through the summer months, and on into September. Beyond the “confirmed” outbreaks, there are also hundreds of additional “probable” and “suspected” outbreaks, bringing the total number of cases on the confidential list to 3,013 cases.
“As soon as we got this data, we thought we need to get this out there, because it does provide good health information,” Chadde says. "It can help people decide what actions they should take to protect themselves during the pandemic."
For two weeks, NBC 5 and Telemundo Chicago have been asking IDPH officials about the list and why it remains secret. The department did confirm the list’s authenticity, but still declined to make it public, and won’t talk about it either. A health department spokeswoman says "IDPH does not comment on confidential information." She added that the department is concerned that individual people could be identified, if the data were released. The state's outbreak list does not list any personal identifying information about individuals -- no names, for example, and no dates of birth.
However, in apparent change in policy this week, that IDPH spokeswoman now tells NBC 5 that the department is considering releasing some of this data. And Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker -- for the first time on Wednesday -- mentioned a potential release of just the type of information which is on this confidential spreadsheet.
"You’ll see that data as we come forward with it," Gov. Pritzker said in a Wednesday press conference. "It’ll be in the next few days or early next week."
In the meantime, NBC 5 Investigates and Telemundo Chicago Investiga have now analyzed the list, as it appears through September.As expected, we found that many — nearly one-third — of the confirmed outbreaks occurred at 988 nursing homes and long-term care centers across the state — resulting in the sicknesses — and, in many cases, deaths — of more than 27,293staff and residents. And, in fact — after much public pressure last spring — the state did make those particular cases public, and they are now posted — and updated weekly — on the IDPH’s website.
But we also found that the state has been tracking hundreds of confirmed coronavirus outbreaks in places that hit all of us close to home: 58 preschools (resulting in the spread of 235 cases), 69 grade schools (resulting in 226 cases), 28 colleges (resulting in 226 cases), and 42 churches (spreading 414 cases).
And we found 118 confirmed outbreaks at restaurants and bars around the state — from fast-food establishments and pizza joints to hotel bars and steakhouses. In all, those outbreaks infected 448 people, according to the state’s confidential list.
We discovered that the state has confirmed another 72 outbreaks at retail stores and businesses, ranging from local big-box stores and grocery chains to Ma-and-Pa markets and drug stores; from suburban salons and spas to car washes and jewelry stores — all places where the public is welcome — but has likely not been informed of these cases. In all, those outbreaks infected a total of 322 people, according to the secret state records.
And then there are the parties.
Health officials are now warning that as the weather gets colder there’s an increased danger of more “super-spreader” events at small family gatherings, as much as large, crowded events.
But NBC 5 and Telemundo Chicago discovered that for months state officials have kept hidden scores of parties they have already documented -- cases they could be using, to directly drive home their current warnings: outbreaks at private parties, pool parties, prom parties, gender-reveal parties, bachelor parties, showers, weddings and receptions — each of which infected multiple people, like a baby shower in Oak Lawn; a wedding at a venue in LaSalle County; a private party in Winnetka; two other parties -- both in the western suburbs; another party at a hotel in Chicago; another at a city park, and yet another in a nearby casino.
Basketball, Swimming, Gymnastics and More: IHSA Releases Guidance for Winter Sports
The Illinois High School Association released its guidance for winter sports Thursday, revealing its advice for schools as they prepare to potentially practice and host games during the coronavirus pandemic.
The new guidance focused on basketball, bowling, cheerleading, dance, girls gymnastics and boys swimming and diving. (Full list of guidelines below)
Among the guidance are certain social distancing and mask requirements, capacity limitations within gyms, and the possibility of no spectators. Schools that do allow spectators must require masks. No handshakes, high fives or fist bumps will be allowed, the guidance states.
Players are urged to bring multiple masks to "replace sweat soaked masks throughout games and practices."
For sideline and competitive cheerleaders, along with competitive dancers, pyramids, partner stunts and lifts will be prohibited along with cheerleader-to-cheerleader physical contact. Masks must also be worn.
Basketball players, coaches and officials will be required to wear masks during play.
Practices for each sport would start in mid-November, with seasons getting underway on Nov. 30. The seasons would end on Feb. 13.
IHSA voted to allow the basketball season to move forward this winter, despite Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health re-classifying it as a "higher-risk" sport.
“After a diligent discussion, the board has made the decision today to follow the recommendation of the IHSA’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee as it relates to basketball,” the IHSA said in a statement. “The board has not been presented any causal evidence that rising COVID-19 cases make basketball more dangerous to play by the IDPH or any other health organization, nationally or internationally.”
The organization said that states bordering Illinois who have allowed sports to go forward in the fall have “noted a low incident rate of COVID-19 spread,” despite the IDPH guidance issued on Tuesday.
The decision by the IHSA would allow schools to make the final determination on whether or not they will participate in the basketball season, according to a press release following the board vote.
Tuesday’s decision by the IDPH to classify basketball as a “higher-risk” sport came as the IHSA continued its debate over moving forward with high school athletics this winter. Under guidelines issued by the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, any sport labeled as a “higher-risk” activity should only conduct non-contact practices and workouts, meaning that returning to the court for competition would go against that guidance.
Illinois' State Board of Education warned that moving forward with the spot could have serious consequences.
“Defying the state’s public health guidance opens schools up to liability and other ramifications that may negatively impact school communities,” Dr. Carmen Ayala, the superintendent of education for the state of Illinois, wrote in a letter to school officials Wednesday. “We are relying on superintendents and school leaders to make responsible choices to protect health and safety and to focus on bringing all of our students back to the classroom.”
Another Region Triggers Heightened Mitigations in Illinois, Bringing State Total to 9 of 11
Another Illinois region will see heightened coronavirus restrictions beginning this week as Region 3 triggered the state's mitigation plan, the ninth of Illinois' 11 regions to do so.
Region 3 in West-Central Illinois, will see the new restrictions, including the suspension of indoor dining, beginning Sunday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced.
Pritzker said Region 3 saw a positivity rate at or above 8 percent for three consecutive days. According to state data, the area's positivity rate as of Thursday was 8.8%.
“As of this morning, Region 3 – which encompasses Quincy, Springfield and much of West-Central Illinois – has now sustained an average positivity rate of 8 percent or higher for three days, today hitting 8.8 percent – meaning that, starting Sunday, they will join the majority of the state in operating under resurgence mitigations,” Pritzker said in a statement. “Something has got to give, and these mitigations aim to cut down on those high-risk activities until we bring down the positivity rate in an area once again. Because let’s be clear: well-meaning and reasonable people can have fair disagreements about how and where to draw lines and connect dots – but when every single metric in every single corner of the state is trending poorly, we have to take meaningful action to keep our people safe.”
Illinois Sees Highest Number of Daily Coronavirus Cases of Pandemic So Far
Illinois health officials reported the state's highest number of daily coronavirus cases of the entire coronavirus pandemic so far on Thursday.
According to data released by the Illinois Department of Public Health, the state saw 6,363 new cases, a number higher than even daily totals reported during the coronavirus peak earlier this year.
There were also an additional 56 deaths reported in the state Thursday.
Thursday's new cases mark only the third time the state has reported a single-day total above 6,000. The new numbers bring the statewide total to 395,458 coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.
The new fatalities bring the state’s death toll to 9,675, according to state data.
A total of 83,056 new tests were performed over the last 24 hours, with 7,542,098 performed during the pandemic.
The state’s seven-day positivity rate, on a steady rise for nearly all of October, increased from 6.7% to 6.9% Thursday, marking the highest it has been since at least early June.
Hospitalizations increased again as well, health officials said, with 3,030 patients currently hospitalized due to COVID-19. Of those patients, 643 are in intensive care units, while 269 are currently on ventilators.
Thursday's metrics were announced as several counties - making up eight of the state's 11 healthcare regions- are set for enhanced mitigations, many of which took effect this week or will begin this weekend across the Chicago area.
Those mitigations include the shutdown of indoor dining and bar service as well as the limiting of group sizes to 25 people, among other changes.