(NOTE: Daily press conferences from Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot will be streamed live in the player above. Check back for updates.)
Chicago is slowly loosening even more restrictions, soon allowing the Lakefront Trail to reopen - with new repairs thanks to a $4.75 million donation.
Meanwhile, Illinoisans struggling to pay rent or mortgages, and small businesses hit hard by the pandemic will have access to $900 million in newly-announced grants.
Here are the latest developments on the coronavirus crisis today (June 18):
Illinois Reports Nearly 600 New Coronavirus Cases, 55 Additional Deaths Thursday
Health officials in Illinois reported 593 new cases of coronavirus statewide Thursday, along with 55 additional deaths.
The new cases bring the statewide total since the pandemic began to 134,778 cases and 6,537 deaths.
The state also reported 25,504 total test specimens returned to state labs in the last 24 hours. That comes one day after Illinois saw the highest single-day testing total since the pandemic began with more than 29,000. The latest increase lifts the state to 1,283,832 tests conducted.
The rolling seven-day positivity rate is still dropping, standing at three percent according to new figures from the department of public health.
Will Chicago Be Ready to Enter Phase 4 by July 1? Mayor Weighs In
Chicago could enter phase four as early as July 1, but will the city be ready?
When asked during a press conference surrounding the reopening of the lakefront Thursday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the answer is complicated.
"I can't predict a particular date," she said. "You have to be guided by the data. Period."
Chicago is currently in its third phase of reopening, and while health and city officials have already announced additional reopenings set for next week, phase four isn't here just yet.
When asked last week about the earliest the city could move forward to the next phase of reopening, Arwady said "we could be looking at July 1."
"If things went really well... we could go even before then," she said.
But health officials still worry the city could see a spike, similar to other states in the U.S.
606 Trail, Chicago Harbors Will Reopen Along With Lakefront Trail Monday
The popular 606 Trail will now be reopening along with Chicago's Lakefront trail next week, the city's mayor announced Thursday.
The 606 Bloomingdale Trail is slated to reopen under the same rules as the Lakefront Trail, with both open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
Chicago harbors also will open for the 2020 boating season Monday along with South Shore and Sydney R. Marovitz golf courses.
Lightfoot Talks Lakefront Reopening, Announces Donation for Repairs
Billionaire hedge fund manager Ken Griffin is donating $4.75 million to repair portions of Chicago's Lakefront Trail damaged by weather and rising water levels as the city's iconic landmark prepares to reopen.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the donation during news conference with Chicago Park District officials on Thursday morning.
The donation was initiated in April, Lightfoot's office said, and has enabled repaving of damaged parts of the pedestrian and bike paths while the trail was closed to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
The funding will also go toward fortification measures to protect the trail from future storms and stabilize sections of the shoreline, particularly on the city's South Side, the mayor's office said.
The announcement of the donation comes days after the city revealed that the Lakefront Trail, closed to the public since March, would reopen with some restrictions on June 22.
The trail will open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily east of Lake Shore Drive. Parkgoers, however, will be required to adhere to a "keep it moving" strategy in which walking, running, biking and rollerblading will only be permitted.
All 4 Regions in Illinois on Track to Enter Phase 4 Next Week, Pritzker Says
All four of Illinois' health regions are currently on track to move to phase four as early as next week, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday.
"All regions seem to be meeting metrics to move to phase four," the governor said during a press conference.
The state has been in phase three of the "Restore Illinois" plan since late May, and according to current metrics, the earliest phase four of the plan could begin is June 26.
Pritzker Announces Rent Support and Business Relief Fund
Illinoisans struggling to pay mortgages and rent and small businesses, all impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, will have access to $900 million in grants, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Wednesday.
According to state officials, $150 million of the funds, to be administered by the Illinois Housing Development Authority, will be available for emergency rental assistance, with the same amount for mortgage assistance, beginning in August.
Pritzker also announced a residential eviction ban will be extended to July 31. He first banned evictions when he issued a stay-at-home order on March 21.
The governor also announced that, in early July, the state Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity will begin distributing the first $60 million installment of Business Interruption Grants, which are funded by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act. In all, that program will receive $540 million in funding, half of which the state has dedicated to child care providers.
Calls of Rat Issues in Chicago Increasing During Pandemic, Data Shows
The coronavirus may be having another unintended consequence in the city of Chicago: an increase in the number of complaints made to the city about rats.
The number of complaints made to the city of Chicago have skyrocketed this spring, up 46 percent for the month of May, according to records released by the Department of Streets and Sanitation.
City officials don’t think there are any more rats than usual, however.
“It doesn’t mean that there’s a lot more rats. People are seeing them, and they are calling,” Josie Cruz, the Deputy Commissioner of the Bureau of Rodent Control, said.
In addition to more sets of eyes available to see the rats since more people are at home, another issue has also arisen. With restaurants shut down for three months, rats needed a new food supply, and rats are becoming more brazen in their attempts to find sustenance.
To help address the rat problem, Cruz has several tips for residents to help avoid getting the pesky rodents around their properties:
-Pick up after your pets when they use the bathroom. The faster you can pick it up, the better.
-Close recycling and trash bins.
-If you see a rat, call 311.
Chicago City Council Votes to Allow Sale of To-Go Cocktails
Chicago restaurants and bars can sell curbside cocktails under a new measure approved by City Council Wednesday.
The vote comes amid efforts to expand the hospitality industry in phase three of reopening and on the same day bars and breweries across the city reopened for outdoor service.
A similar measure was already signed by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker earlier this month as Illinois joined 34 other states in enacting a to-go cocktail policy for bars and restaurants.
Lightfoot's COVID-19 Spending Plan Passes City Council
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot's $1.1 billion COVID-19 spending plan passed City Council Wednesday.
Council members voted 37-12 to approve the plan, despite some opposition from aldermen who said they could not vote yes without knowing that money would not go toward police funding.
Suburban School District Offers Parents Options for Kids Returning to Class This Fall
A suburban school district is taking a hybrid approach to getting kids back into classrooms this fall, giving parents three different learning options to choose from amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Students in Kankakee School District 111 will be given the three different options for returning to class. Parents will be able to choose between having their children take classes completely online, a “hybrid” program with students only attending classes twice a week and doing the rest of their learning online, and a third option, which would have students attend classes five days a week, but in different parts of school buildings.
More details can be found here.
Illinois Reports 546 New Cases, 87 Additional Deaths
Health officials in Illinois have reported 546 new cases of coronavirus statewide Wednesday, along with 87 additional deaths.
The 87 additional deaths marks the second day in a row of elevated numbers of fatalities, as 72 deaths were confirmed on Tuesday. The single-day increase was the highest since Thursday, with 6,485 deaths now confirmed statewide.
With Wednesday’s new cases of coronavirus, 134,185 total cases of the virus have been confirmed statewide since the pandemic began. All but one county in Illinois has confirmed at least one case of coronavirus.
Pritzker Tests Negative After Attending Protests
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Wednesday that he has tested negative for coronavirus after attending multiple protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.
According to a social media post, Pritzker was tested after attending several protests, and he also came into contact with a person who later tested positive for the virus.
“I strongly encourage anyone who’s attended a gathering and couldn’t maintain social distance to get tested today,” the governor said in a Facebook post.