Note: Any news conferences from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot or other officials will be streamed in the video player above.
One Illinois school district announced Thursday that schools will switch from a remote learning style to a hybrid style starting late October.
The move comes as the state announced more than 2,200 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker is scheduled to announce funding for health centers across Illinois on Friday.
And a new survey indicates 90% of independent music venues may close due to the pandemic.
Here are the latest updates from across Illinois on the coronavirus pandemic today (Sept. 25):
Illinois District 211 Announces Schools Will Switch to Hybrid Learning by Late October
One of the largest school districts in Illinois, Township High School District 211, announced schools will switch to hybrid learning with half the number of students in the classroom by late October, according to the district superintendent.
In a letter to parents, district superintendent Dr. Lisa Small explained the hybrid learning model would bring 50% of students back to the classroom by Oct. 26, asking parents to complete a family commitment survey.
The survey will ask parents to declare their intent to keep their children in the remote learning on in-person learning model, along with giving the option for students to leave school during a first or last period study hall.
Parents have until Tuesday to respond to the survey and their answers cannot be changed, according to the letter from the district.
Small noted that all students are eligible to participate in in-person athletics, activities and academic supports, regardless of hybrid or remote learning status.
The district, which includes Conant, Fremd, Hoffman Estates, Palatine and Schaumburg high schools, began the 2020-2021 school year with remote learning on Aug. 13.
90% of Independent Music Venues May Close Due to Pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on numerous industries, including independent music venues, and according to a national survey of professionals, approximately 90% of clubs could close if they don't receive government assistance.
And Chicago is no exception.
The 90% statistic was featured in a new video created to highlight the plight of music venues, featuring music from the band "Varaha" and showcasing 17 establishments from across the area.
"I think as artists, it's our responsibility to help the music community and artistic community of Chicago," said Fabio Brienza, a vocalist and guitarist with "Varaha" who also directed the film.
For one establishment owner, Dave Jemilo, of the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge in the Uptown neighborhood, the pandemic has been terrible for his business.
Jemilo secured a permit to serve drinks out doors, but even that will soon come to an end.
"If you can’t be open then you have no income coming in... You can only last so long," he said. "If something doesn’t happen by the end of the year, a lot of venues are never going to open again."
The National Independent Venue Association, an advocacy group that represents music venue owners and promoters, has been lobbying Congress to support the Save our Stages Act, a bill that would provide six months of financial support for struggling venues.
"The live event industry is experiencing upwards of 90% revenue loss and will be closed well into 2021 due to safety concerns posed by large gatherings," according to a letter from the NIVA. "Without support from Congress, 90% of NIVA’s independent venues across America say they will be forced to close their doors forever."
The association said live events account for 75% of all artists’ income, and for every $1 spent on a ticket at small venues, a total of $12 in economic activity is generated at nearby restaurants, hotels and retail establishments.
To support Chicago's favorite live music spots, visit SaveOurStages.com and send a letter to local representatives in Congress.
Pritzker to Announce Funding for Health Centers
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expected to announce new funding for health centers on Friday, according to his public schedule.
He will be joined by local leaders "to announce funding for Federally Qualified Health Centers to help support healthcare partners across Illinois" at a news conference at 11 a.m. at the Howard Brown Health Center in Chicago, his office says.
The news conference can be watched live in the video player above.
Where to Get Free Flu Shots Across Chicago This Fall
Chicago residents can use an online portal to find free flu shots across the Chicago area beginning Monday.
The website also includes links to find flu medications, spot the differences between COVID-19 and the flu, top flu myths and updates on public health guidelines.
"The Chicago Department of Public Health is hosting over 50 community flu clinics where Chicago residents can get their flu shot at no cost," the website read. "The vaccine is available to adults and children six months of age and older regardless of immigration status and ability to pay."
According to the website, insurance and ID card will not be required to receive a shot and walk-ins are welcome.
The Illinois Department of Public Health emphasized the importance of getting a flu shot Thursday, especially amid the coronavirus pandemic.
IDPH director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said that this season is more crucial than ever for people in Illinois to get flu shots.
“Flu and COVID-19 each can cause serious respiratory illness and co-infection could possibly lead to more severe illnesses, hospitalization and even death," Ezike said. "While a vaccine for COVID-19 is still in development, a vaccine for flu already exists and is your best protection against flu. The choice is yours, but I urge you to not risk co-infection of two potentially deadly viruses."
Anyone six months of age and older should get the seasonal flu vaccine, according to IDPH. Health officials said the vaccine is available as either a flu shot or a nasal spray this year.
IDPH warned that the flu comes on suddenly and can spread by coughing, sneezing or talking.
Here is a list of symptoms for both the flu and coronavirus provided by IDPH:
- Symptom onset: two days for the flu, two to 14 days for the coronavirus
- Body aches: common for both the flu and coronavirus
- Cough: common for both the flu and coronavirus
- Diarrhea: sometimes seen with both the flu and the coronavirus
- Fatigue/weakness: common for both the flu and coronavirus
- Fever/chills/shaking: common for both the flu and coronavirus
- Loss of taste or smell: rare for the flu, sometimes seen with the coronavirus
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing: common for both the flu and coronavirus
- Stuffy nose: common for both the flu and coronavirus
- Sneezing: sometimes seen with the flu, rare for the coronavirus
- Sore throat: common for both the flu and coronavirus
- Headache: common for both the flu and coronavirus
Illinois Reports 2,257 New Cases of Coronavirus, 30 Additional Deaths
Health officials in Illinois on Thursday reported 2,257 new cases of coronavirus in the last 24 hours, along with 30 additional deaths attributed to the virus.
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, Thursday's new cases of the virus brings the statewide total to 281,371 confirmed cases since the pandemic began.
The 30 additional deaths bring the statewide death toll to 8,538 fatalities attributed to the virus.
The statewide seven-day average positivity rate remained at 3.5% Thursday, officials said, no change from the day before.
Currently, 1,414 intensive care unit beds remain available statewide, along with 4,478 ventilators.
Prepare for a ‘Different Type' of Halloween, Chicago's Top Health Official Says
With Halloween next month, Chicago's top health official said the city should expect a "different type" of holiday this October.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Tuesday that the city will not cancel Halloween, but people should expect to see different celebrations than previous years due to the coronavirus.
"I'll be honest with you, I'm more worried about the adults than I am the children," Arwady said. "To be perfectly honest, I am worried about the potential for large indoor gatherings."
Arwady asked people to have conversations with their children about dressing up and keeping the excitement of Halloween in a new way.
Arwady said Chicago will release more specific guidelines closer to Halloween as she said she worries about people "letting their guard down" due to the holiday.
How Chicago Officials Are Preparing for a Second Wave of Coronavirus
Though additional restrictions are not yet in place, Chicago's top health official said the city is already preparing for a coronavirus surge during the upcoming holiday season.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Tuesday that the department has prepared for a citywide health emergency a month to a year from now.
Arwady explained officials have been considering options involving long term care facilities, personal protective equipment, transfers, data sharing and other work related to healthcare.
"We've thought about alternate care facilities at the state level in case we were to really see a major surge," Arwady said. "Making sure from a clinical setting, we're as prepared as we can be."
The city's top health official said the department is also considering altering testing plans such as current outdoor testing sites, which "are not going to be possible" with colder weather.
South Shore Line's ‘Mask-Optional' Cars Spark Debate
The debate over wearing masks amid the coronavirus pandemic has been an ongoing issue for several months now, but the South Shore Line train service has come up with a solution to prevent confrontations with customers who choose not to wear the facial coverings.
The South Shore Line, operated by the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, has begun to make accommodations for those who refuse to wear masks, setting up so-called “mask-optional” cars on its trains.
“We were getting complaints from riders, telling us that others in their car weren’t wearing masks,” President Michael Noland said. “Because we had enforcement problems, we went with this approach.”
The South Shore Line, which runs from South Bend, Indiana, travels to Millennium Station in Chicago.
Employees on the train service are still required to wear masks, and passengers not in the “mask-optional” car must also wear them, unless prevented from doing so by medical condition or other extenuating circumstances.
Noland says the complaints for non-compliance have gone down since the mask-optional cars were added.
“It’s not a perfect policy, but we think it’s worked very well because we had a lot of concerned customers,” he said. “We are not encouraging them not to wear a mask, and we are advising them that there are mask requirements that they need to be aware of.”
Those requirements are in place in several communities along the train’s route, including St. Joseph, Laporte and Lake counties requiring masks in public areas.
Illinois requires masks to be worn in public when social distancing is not possible.
Even with those requirements in place, officials with the South Shore Line did not consult with officials in Chicago or in any of the other counties along the train’s route before implementing the mask-optional cars.
Metra says it has no plans to implement similar cars on its train lines.
Suburban School Says 4th Grader Tested Positive
A suburban school district announced Wednesday that a 4th grade student has tested positive for COVID-19.
North Shore School District 112 said in an email to parents that the student at Oak Terrace tested positive on Wednesday. That student has not been in attendance at school since Sept. 18 and is in isolation, officials said.
The school said it is working on contact tracing with the Lake County Health Department, which will contact the student directly and notify any close contacts.
"If you do not receive communication from school administration or the Lake County Health Department, your student has not been identified as a close contact and can continue to attend school," the email from Assistant Supt. Holly Colin reads.
Colin noted that federal privacy laws prevented the school from sharing the name of the student or any information that may lead to the child's identification. The email also warned the school community to be aware of scams, saying contact tracers won't ask for a social security number or any form of payment.
"Given the spread of COVID-19 in Lake County, we should not be surprised when presumed positive or positive test results are identified within our community," the letter says. "It may continue to occur, and this is a major reason why mitigation strategies such as maintaining social distance, masking and hand washing are all still very important."