Note: Press conferences from Gov. J.B. Pritzker or Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot will be streamed live in the video player above.
Restaurants on Chicago's lakefront are now allowed to begin reopening with new health and safety precautions, city officials say - even as beaches remain closed.
Meanwhile, a popular restaurant in suburban Crystal Lake closed for deep cleaning after multiple customers and staff members tested positive for coronavirus.
Also testing positive was Rep. Rodney Davis, a Republican who represents Illinois’ 13th Congressional District. Davis said he was experiencing no symptoms other than a slightly elevated temperature, which he discovered through twice daily checks.
This comes as parents are facing tough choices with the upcoming school year. Chicago Public Schools announced Wednesday that the first quarter would be entirely remote learning - spurring an influx of calls to private schools in the area.
Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around Illinois today, August 6:
Illinois Reports Nearly 2,000 New Coronavirus Cases Thursday
Health officials in Illinois reported more than 1,900 new cases of coronavirus Thursday, marking the highest daily total in recent weeks.
According to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, the state saw 1,953 new cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases since the pandemic began to 188,424.
The number is the highest daily case increase since May 24, which saw more than 2,500 new cases in a single day. That date also reported significantly fewer test results, however.
Thursday's 21 additional fatalities bring the state’s death toll to 7,594, according to IDPH.
The number of coronavirus tests decreased slightly from a day earlier, with 41,686 test samples returned to state laboratories over the last 24 hours. In all, 2,937,749 tests have been conducted during the pandemic.
The state’s seven-day positivity rate increased slightly, returning to 4% for the second time this week. The last time the state went above 4 percent in that category was on June 11, according to data compiled by the NBC 5 Investigates team.
At least 1,517 coronavirus patients were in Illinois hospitals as of Wednesday evening. Of those patients, 346 have been admitted to intensive care units, while 132 are currently on ventilators.
The state’s recovery rate, defined as the percentage of patients who aren’t reporting coronavirus symptoms six or more weeks after their first positive test, still stands at 95 percent.
DePaul University Student Tests Positive for Coronavirus
A DePaul University student who was recently on campus has tested positive for coronavirus, the school announced in a letter to students Wednesday.
The letter noted the student was at Centennial Hall as recently as Wednesday and the hall will "receive a thorough cleaning and disinfection."
The university said anyone identified as having prolonged contact with the student has been notified.
"Those who had brief, casual contact with an infected individual are not considered at great risk," the university's letter read. "As always, everyone should monitor their health and stay at home if they develop symptoms. Anyone who develops severe symptoms should seek medical care immediately."
In June, the school announced plans for a limited return to campus in the fall, but on Friday, the university questioned those plans.
"Since then, the environment has changed," the school said in an alert to students. "A concerning increase in the rates of COVID-19 locally is leading the university to reevaluate our return to campus planning and to take a second look at the number of courses that will occur on campus."
A decision is expected to be announced by Aug. 12.
"We understand the amount of uncertainty you continue to weather and your desire for a clear plan of action," the noticed read. "We realize your own plans are dependent on the constantly evolving public health crisis. Please know we do not make decisions of this magnitude lightly and want to reach our conclusion with the very latest information available."
Chicago Lakefront Restaurants Allowed to Reopen as Beaches Remain Closed
Restaurants on Chicago's lakefront are now able to open for business for the first time this summer during the pandemic, city officials said Wednesday, even as the city's beaches must remain closed.
Lakefront concessions fell under Chicago's order to close the lakefront during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, but will now be allowed to reopen under parameters that other restaurants currently have to follow due to the pandemic.
"Chicago Park District and City officials have engaged concessionaires during the past few months to determine when and how lakefront concessions can open safely given public health guidance," the park district said in a statement.
Restaurant vendors were notified this week that they could reopen even though beaches must remain closed. Vendors can open as early as this week provided they have the proper health and safety precautions in place, the city said.
"With the exception of the harbors, golf courses, and trail, the lakefront, including beaches, remain closed," the park district's statement reads. "Lakefront restaurants with patios can accommodate seated dining service; grab and go concessions will require patrons to make their purchase and keep it moving."
Lightfoot to Launch Campaign Supporting Care Workers
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is expected to launch a new campaign supporting care workers, according to her public schedule.
She'll announce the campaign, called "Your Home Is Someone's Workplace," at a news conference beginning at around 3:30 p.m. at City Hall, her office says.
The event can be watched live in the video player above.
Crystal Lake Restaurant Closed After Multiple Customers, Staff Test Positive
A popular restaurant in suburban Crystal Lake is closed for deep cleaning after multiple customers and staff members were diagnosed with coronavirus.
The Texas Roadhouse location on Cog Circle is closed after the McHenry County Department of Health announced “multiple” confirmed cases.
According to a company spokesperson, three employees tested positive for the virus, while at least one customer said they were sickened with coronavirus after dining at the eatery.
Contact tracing is underway for customers and employees at the restaurant. Anyone who has worked at or visited the business between July 19 and Aug. 4 and is showing symptoms of the virus is encouraged to speak to a doctor and get tested for coronavirus, according to the health department.
A spokesperson from Texas Roadhouse says that the new coronavirus cases are causing the restaurant to be “unfairly targeted” by the McHenry County Department of Health.
“The restaurant is being unfairly targeted by the McHenry Health Department,” the spokesperson said. “It’s reckless and alarmist for the department to say they have an outbreak.”
According to the company, the department is requiring all employees to be tested for coronavirus before the restaurant can reopen.
Rep. Rodney Davis Tests Positive for Coronavirus
Taylorville Rep. Rodney Davis has tested positive for coronavirus, according to a press release from his office.
Davis, who represents Illinois’ 13th Congressional District, said in a statement that he has been taking his temperature twice daily, and that he noticed his temperature had risen to 99 degrees Fahrenheit, a higher than normal number.
“Because of the high temperature, my wife and I received a test this morning. While my test came back positive, my wife’s came back negative,” he said in the statement. “My staff who I’ve worked with in-person this week have received negative tests as well.”
The congressman says that other than his elevated body temperature he is experiencing no other symptoms related to the virus. All individuals Davis has met with within the last 48 hours are being contacted by his office, in accordance with CDC guidelines.
“During these challenging times, protecting the public health is my highest priority,” Davis said. “If you’re out in public, use social distancing, and when you can’t social distance, please wear a mask. All of us must do our part. That’s what it will take to get through this pandemic.”
Davis is the first member of Congress to test positive for the virus this month after a series of positive tests were reported in late July.
Private Schools in Chicago Fielding Wave of Calls After CPS Goes With Remote Learning Plan
Phones are seemingly ringing off the hook at private schools across Chicago after officials announced that all Chicago Public Schools will begin the 2020-21 school year with remote instruction.
“We’ve had calls from people wanting their children to be engaged in in-class instruction,” Mahdi Dadrass, Director of the South Loop Montessori School, said.
That school is just one of many that are seeing an uptick in interest, as they’ll offer in-person instruction in the fall. Dadrass says they are willing to take on new students that are craving a return to the classroom.
“Success profiles are quite different in terms of general engagement. Children really have that social, emotional need to be around their peers,” Dadrass said.
The Archdiocese of Chicago is fielding more phone calls than usual too.
“I think parents are faced with a really tough choice, and they are looking at all their options and weighing them,” Justin Lombaro, Chief Human Resource and Staff Development Officer for the Archdiocese, said.
Catholic schools in Chicago are offering e-learning options for students, but also believes that bringing students back to class is in their best interests.
“Part of who we are as a Catholic school system is development of the whole person,” Lombardo said.
Those private schools choosing to implement in-person instruction must follow CDC, state and city guidelines, including those involving social distancing and mandatory face coverings.
The South Loop Montessori School is testing its teachers on a bi-weekly basis, and the Archdiocese says its hired its own infectious disease doctors to help guide them through reopening.
“We know to maintain our promise to kids and our staff, we have to watch this every day from every angle,” Lombardo said.
'I Can't Imagine That': Pritzker Not Sold on Mandatory Vaccine for School Attendance
While Illinois will require a widely-available vaccine or coronavirus treatment to move into Phase Five of the “Restore Illinois” plan, Gov. J.B. Pritzker doesn’t believe that the theoretical vaccine would be mandatory for children to get in order to return to the classroom after it becomes available.
During comments made Wednesday during a coronavirus press briefing, Pritzker said that he believes many residents will want to get the vaccine when it comes out, but he doesn’t believe that children will be required to receive the treatment to enter state classrooms.
“I can’t imagine that,” he said. “What I do think is that once a vaccine is available, I think many, many people will want to get vaccinated. We obviously want to get to herd immunity.”
Chicago Could Limit Gathering Sizes Further If Numbers Continue to Rise
Chicago could see the return of more restrictions if the city's coronavirus numbers continue to climb, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Wednesday.
Though the city hasn't reached the threshold yet, Arwady said once data shows an average of 400 new coronavirus cases per day, rollbacks will be possible.
"We're in that 200 to 400 range," Arwady said. "Again, that's sort of our yellow zone where we're thinking about the need to potentially make additional changes."
As of Friday, the city saw a rolling average of 277 cases per day. And the number has been steadily increasing. One month earlier, that number, which Arwady said "is the best reflection of the burden of our disease," was consistently below 200.
"The fact that over the last four to five weeks we've added between 80 and 100 cases and not seen signs of that turning around makes us concerned," Arwady said Wednesday.
The current daily average puts Chicago in a "high incidence" state.
The larger concern comes if the city reaches an average of 400 new cases per day, which "really marks a line in the sand," Arwady said. According to CDPH, 400 cases per day is the number the state uses to determine if states should be added to the city's travel order, requiring a quarantine.
"It's the equivalent of needing to go back to a phase three, really pulling back on major activities," Arwady said last month. And it may not be as far away as it seems.
"Regularly, we are having days with more than 300 cases," Arwady said Wednesday. "And particularly in the last two weeks, we've had a number of individual days already pushing 400 cases. And so where we're thinking about planning, needing to give a month of time, I think it is entirely possible that we would be at or very near that 400 case mark."
Arwady said the city hasn't yet determined which restrictions would be added first should metrics continue to rise. Though she indicated group gathering sizes could be on the list.
"We could be looking at things like gathering sizes, for example," Arwady said, echoing comments she made a day earlier. "You know that yesterday I made the point that where we are seeing most spread is in households and in these social gatherings. And so that might be an example, if we are not able to turn things around that we might be looking at."
Illinois Health Expert Warns: ‘Don't Overlook Allergy-Like Symptoms'
Illinois' top public health official warned Wednesday that people should take notice of any potential coronavirus symptoms as they could be confused with seasonal allergies.
"I keep hearing from my contact tracers at the local health departments that they're hearing the same story over and over: 'I had no idea that I was positive. The symptoms I had I thought were allergy symptoms. I never would have thought it was COVID,'" Dr. Ngozi Ezike said Wednesday.
Similar symptoms can have seasonal allergy suffers questioning whether it's just pollen or something more. Many garden-variety hay fever sufferers, of whom there are about 19 million adults in the U.S., are also on heightened alert.
Seasonal allergies can often bring with them a cough and runny nose - both of which can be associated with some coronavirus cases - but they also bring itchy or watery eyes and sneezing, symptoms that are uncommon in coronavirus patients.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple weeks. For others, it may cause no symptoms at all. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
"So please don't overlook those allergy-like symptoms," Ezike said. "COVID can look like so many things."
Pritzker Expresses Concern Over New Coronavirus Infection Trends in Illinois
During his coronavirus press briefing Wednesday, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued warnings about a pair of worrying trends developing in the state as coronavirus cases continue to rise.
On Wednesday, Illinois reported more than 1,700 new coronavirus cases, and Pritzker says that the new cases aren’t coming in the same demographics, or in the same region of the state, as they were previously.
“The largest increases in cases are occurring among young people, especially between the ages of 20 and 29,” Pritzker said. “Second, the percentage of the population contracting COVID-19 outside of the Chicago region has dramatically increased.”
The virus, which originally had disproportionately hit older populations and those individuals who lived in congregate settings like prisons and assisted living centers, is now hitting young people hard. According to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, the 20-29 demographic now has reported the most coronavirus cases of any age group, with 34,473 cases reported during the pandemic.
Chicago was the epicenter of the virus during the early stages of the pandemic, as it was one of the biggest hotspots in the United States. While cases are currently on the rise in Chicago, the area’s positivity rate isn’t climbing as much as some other regions of the state, including Region 3, where Springfield is located, and Region 2, where Peoria is still seeing spikes in cases.
Despite those trends, Pritzker is warning all state residents to remain vigilant, saying that the virus still poses a threat to individuals in all areas.
“This does not in any way suggest that those are the only two categories of people in danger,” he said. “This virus continues to ravage people of all ages and across the entire state.”
Illinois Reports 1,759 New Coronavirus Cases, 30 Deaths Wednesday
Health officials in Illinois reported more than 1,700 new cases of coronavirus Wednesday, along with 30 additional deaths attributed to the virus.
According to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, the 1,759 new cases bring the total number of coronavirus cases since the pandemic began to 186,471.
Wednesday's 30 additional fatalities bring the state’s death toll to 7,573, according to IDPH.
The number of coronavirus tests increased significantly from a day earlier, with 46,668 test samples returned to state laboratories over the last 24 hours. That's compared to the 28,475 reported Monday. In all, 2,896,063 tests have been conducted during the pandemic.
The state’s seven-day positivity rate stayed steady at 3.9% after reaching 4% Monday. The last time the state went above 4 percent in that category was on June 11, according to data compiled by the NBC 5 Investigates team.
Hospitalizations ticked up slightly, with 1,552 coronavirus patients in Illinois hospitals as of Tuesday evening. Of those patients, 368 have been admitted to intensive care units, while 129 are currently on ventilators.
The state’s recovery rate, defined as the percentage of patients who aren’t reporting coronavirus symptoms six or more weeks after their first positive test, still stands at 95 percent.
Chicago Public Schools to Begin School Year With Full Remote Learning
Chicago Public Schools will begin the school year in the fall with fully remote learning as the coronavirus pandemic continues, the district announced Wednesday.
CPS CEO Janice Jackson and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot made the announcement at a news conference Wednesday morning, hours after reports surfaced the night before that the district would be moving away from its previously announced framework that called for a hybrid model.
“The decision to begin the 2020-2021 CPS school year remotely during the first quarter is rooted in public health data and the invaluable feedback we've received from parents and families,” Lightfoot said in a statement announcing the decision.
“As we build out this remote learning model and seek to establish a hybrid learning model in the second quarter, we will continue to support and collaborate with parents and school leaders to create safe, sustainable learning environments for our students," Lightfoot continued.
Under the newly announced plan, every K-12 student and teacher will be expected to be engaged for the entirety of the school day, which will have live instruction every day, the district said.
Schools will use Google education tools to allow the district to track work - with teachers and students expected to log on daily for a check-in and for live video instruction.
CPS will be transitioning back to its previous grading system giving students letter grades for their work, the district said. When schools moved to fully remote learning at the beginning of the pandemic in March, the district employed a policy that would prevent students from being penalized under the new format, given the extenuating circumstance.
But the grading system will return in the fall to align with state guidance and to help foster an environment that will "more closely align with a typical school year," CPS said.
That shift means schools will return to taking attendance to engage with students, the district said - adding that schools will "enact intervention systems to support students who do not participate in remote learning to help address underlying concerns and ensure students are being supported."
CPS said the district would release its plan in full, with specific details on instruction and requirements, in the coming days.