Chicago's new mask mandate begins Friday, requiring everyone age 2 and older to wear masks in all indoor settings, regardless of vaccination status.
Meanwhile, a battle appears to be brewing between Chicago Public Schools and the teachers union over the district's reopening plan.
Here's what you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic across Illinois today:
Coronavirus in Illinois: 24,682 New COVID Cases, 126 Deaths, 235K Vaccinations in the Past Week
Illinois health officials on Friday reported 24,682 new COVID-19 cases in the past week, along with 126 additional deaths and nearly 235,000 new vaccine doses administered - increases in all metrics as the state continues to see a surge fueled by the delta variant.
In all, 1,482,369 cases of coronavirus have been reported in the state since the pandemic began, according to the latest data from the Illinois Department of Public Health. The additional deaths reported this week bring the state to 23,717 confirmed COVID fatalities.
The state has administered 462,916 tests since last Friday, officials said, bringing the total to more than 28 million tests conducted during the pandemic.
The state’s seven-day positivity rate on all tests rose to 6.1% from 5.9% last week, which was up from 5.2% the week before, officials said. The rolling average seven-day positivity rate for cases as a percentage of total tests was up to 5.3% from 5.1% the week before and 4.6% two weeks prior.
IDPH noted that test positivity rates ranged across the state's 11 regions from 4.2% to as high as 10.4% in the southernmost portion of the state.
Over the past seven days, a total of 234,949 doses of the coronavirus vaccine have been administered to Illinois residents - up from around 215,000 the week before and 176,000 two weeks prior. The latest figures brought the state’s average up slightly to 33,564 daily vaccination doses over the last week, per IDPH data.
More than 13.7 million vaccine doses have been administered in Illinois since vaccinations began in December. More than 60% of adult residents in the state are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with more than 77% receiving at least one dose.
As of midnight Thursday, 2,000 patients were hospitalized due to COVID in the state - up roughly 21% from the week before. Of those patients, 468 are in ICU beds, and 234 are on ventilators. All metrics are a reported increase since last Friday.
Pritzker Won't Say What Metric Could Trigger New Mask Mandate in Illinois
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday declined to give a specific metric at which the state might impose another indoor masking mandate, leaving the door open for further mitigations but deferring to local authorities to take action, even as he called the current COVID-19 surge fueled by the delta variant a "very dangerous moment."
Earlier this month, Pritzker unveiled a new mask mandate specifically for schools, requiring - rather than recommending - that all students, teachers and staff in K-12 schools wear masks while indoors, effective immediately.
The Illinois State Board of Education later placed several schools and districts across the state on probation or changed their status with the state to "nonrecognized" for not adhering to the mandate.
When asked about that action at an unrelated news conference Friday, Pritzker said schools not following the requirement are endangering students and their communities at "a very dangerous moment."
"What I can tell you is that those schools that are not following the mask requirements for their children are, of course, endangering their children, they're also endangering the people who work in the school, the parents and grandparents who pick up and drop off their children at school," Pritzker said.
"We are living in a very dangerous moment of coronavirus, an upswing of the delta variant across the nation and here in Illinois," he continued. "I am deeply concerned especially that the delta variant is having an increasingly serious medical impact on younger people, not just young children who attend school, but older kids in high school and the young teachers who come to work at schools every day and so we're trying simply to ask people to make sure that people are following a mitigation that we know works."
But when he was asked about his stance on another statewide mask mandate, on the same day a new Chicago order requiring masks in all public indoor spaces took effect, Pritzker demurred.
"Well as you know, I've not been reticent to act when I think it's appropriate to do so on mitigations. And we're always considering every day what next we need to do," he said.
"I applaud the city of Chicago in taking proactive efforts here. I encourage other local governments, whether they be cities or townships or counties to also take proactive steps and we will look at the state level, whether that's an appropriate thing at some moment," he continued, adding that he looks at the state's metrics and talks to the state's top health official every day.
All Illinois Counties Are Seeing ‘High' COVID Transmission and Should Mask Indoors, CDC Says
All counties in Illinois are seeing "high" community transmission of COVID-19, placing the entire state in the category in which everyone over the age of 2 should resume wearing a mask indoors, regardless of vaccination status, federal health officials say.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance late last month to recommend that fully vaccinated people wear masks in indoor settings again in areas of the U.S. that are seeing "substantial" or "high" transmission of COVID-19.
The new guidance marked a reversal from earlier recommendations that said fully vaccinated people could remove masks in most settings.
So in which areas is the CDC advising people wear masks indoors? The agency points to its COVID-19 data tracker showing levels of community transmission, along with other data, for each county in the U.S.
As of Wednesday, all 102 counties in Illinois were experiencing “high” levels of community transmission, per the CDC.
That marked an increase from two days earlier, when 97 counties were seeing "high" transmission and five were still in the "substantial" transmission range: Putnam, Lee, Carroll, Jo Daviess and Stark, which was the last county to cross into "substantial" transmission levels after remaining in "moderate" transmission through Sunday.
All counties seeing "high" transmission means the recommendation to mask indoors, regardless of vaccination status, continues.
Chicago Mask Mandate Begins Friday: What You Need to Know
Chicago's new mask mandate begins Friday. What are the new rules and where will you need to wear one? Here's everything you need to know:
Who has to wear a mask?
- With the city of Chicago reporting more than 400 new cases of coronavirus per day, health officials have reinstituted a mask mandate for all residents age 2 and older, regardless of a person’s COVID vaccination status.
Where are masks mandated?
- In all indoor public settings, including in bars, restaurants, grocery stores, gyms, private clubs and in common areas of condo and multi-residential buildings.
- On public transportation
- In health care settings
- In schools
- In correctional and congregate settings
Are there exceptions?
- Masks may be removed while eating or drinking in bars, restaurants or other establishments
- Masks can also be removed during specific activities that require their removal, including while getting beard shaves or facials at salons.
- Masks can also be removed by employees in settings that are not open to the public. Employees in those settings must also be static, and must maintain social distancing of at least six feet from all other individuals.
CTU, CPS at ‘Impasse' Over School Reopening Plan, Union Says
As Chicago Public Schools teachers and students prepare to return to the classroom earlier than usual, another battle appears to be brewing between the district and the teachers union over the district's reopening plan.
The Chicago Teachers Union in a press conference on Wednesday called for added safety measures and expressed concerns over a potential surge as the school year begins with cases rising across the city and state.
CTU President Jesse Sharkey stated that the district has not released plans for metrics that could force schools to close again and send students back to remote learning.
A spokesperson for CPS said in a statement that the district is following guidance from federal health officials and state guidelines and in some cases has exceeded those precautions.
These Illinois Schools Are on Probation for Not Adhering to Statewide Mask Mandate
Several schools and districts statewide have been placed on probation by the Illinois State Board of Education for not adhering to Gov. J.B. Pritzker's mask mandate, an official confirmed Wednesday.
As Pritzker previously warned, schools who choose to flout the mask requirement for students and faculty to start the academic year could have their status revoked by the ISBE.
US Announces Plan to Offer COVID Booster Shots for All Americans
U.S. health authorities are recommending an extra dose of the COVID-19 vaccine for all Americans eight months after they received their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna shot in order to gain longer-lasting protection against the coronavirus as the delta variant spreads across the country.
The move is being driven by both the highly contagious variant and preliminary evidence that suggests the vaccine’s protection against serious illness dropped among those vaccinated in January.
In a joint statement, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Health and Human Services, the National Institute of Health and medical experts announced plans, pending formal FDA approval of a third dose, to begin administering booster shots widely.
"We are prepared to offer booster shots for all Americans beginning the week of September 20 and starting 8 months after an individual’s second dose," the statement said.
The expansion will be rolled out first to those who were fully vaccinated earliest, which includes health care workers, nursing home residents and other other older people before distributing booster shots to general public.
At-Home COVID Tests ‘Strongly Recommended' as Demand Rises: Chicago's Top Doc
With businesses, music festivals and places of work now requiring negative COVID tests in many cases, demand for testing has left some centers overwhelmed. But there's an at-home option health officials also recommend.
Chicago's top doctor on Tuesday said the antigen home COVID tests are both accurate and convenient.
"Especially if your child or you, you know, are having symptoms, it's a very, very good test," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said during a Facebook Live. "If you're not having symptoms, it's still a good test. And it's the one that you can just take it home and have a result of in 15 minutes. It's like a pregnancy test - you see it right off the bat."
Arwady was specifically referring to the over-the-counter BinaxNow tests, which can be purchased at major stores like Walmart, Walgreens, Target and more.
Teacher Waiting to Get Vaccine Now Fighting for Her Life After Contracting COVID: Family
A Homewood middle school teacher is fighting for her life after contracting COVID-19 in mid-July.
According to her family, Cherie Garza, 39, tested positive for the virus on July 11. A short time later, she went to the emergency room due to coughing and chest pains, and was sent home.
Several days later, her health rapidly declined, and she was rushed to a Munster hospital, according to her family. Garza was later airlifted to Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago where she is currently in critical but stable condition.
Doctors have told her family she could be in intensive care for months.
Garza’s family said she was unvaccinated when she contracted COVID-19, but planned to get the shot before the school year started. Her mom encouraged those who are unsure about getting the vaccine to talk to their doctor.
Chicago Travel Advisory: 8 States, DC Added to List as COVID Cases Continue to Rise
Chicago on Tuesday added eight states and the District of Columbia to its travel advisory, recommending that unvaccinated people entering the city from those areas test negative for COVID-19 or quarantine upon arrival.
The eight new states added include: Minnesota, New Jersey, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia.
The addition brings the total number of states on the advisory to 39, along with three territories.
Who Can Get COVID Booster Shots and When Can They Get Them? Here's What to Know
With COVID booster shots now approved for some people with compromised immune systems, who can get the shots and when?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory panel also recommended the extra shot Friday.
Eligible for a Third COVID-19 Shot? Here's Where to Get One in the Chicago Area
COVID-19 booster shots have been approved for millions of Americans who are especially vulnerable because of organ transplants, certain cancers and other disorders.
Immunocompromised patients make up roughly 2.7% of the U.S. adult population and 44% of hospitalized breakthrough infections, where someone gets infected even after they’ve been fully vaccinated. Small studies also suggest, according to the CDC, that immunocompromised people are more likely to transmit the virus to household contacts.
The CDC recommends people with moderately to severely compromised immune systems receive an additional vaccine dose at least 28 days after their second dose.
Following the announcement Friday, federal health officials said booster shots "could start being administered immediately." Since then, multiple retail chains have started offering third doses nationwide, including in the Chicago area.
Vaccine Mandates and Passports: Will They Come to Illinois?
With cities in parts of the U.S. implementing a COVID vaccine requirement for certain activities, could Chicago and Illinois follow suit?
New York City will begin requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccinations on Tuesday for anyone wanting to partake in much of public life — dining indoors at restaurants, working out at a gym, visiting a stadium or strolling through a museum. While the new requirement goes into effect Tuesday, enforcement won't begin until Sept. 13.
Other cities, including San Francisco, followed New York's move in taking more aggressive measures against the pandemic.
People who want to go into bars, restaurants, gyms, music halls or other indoor venues in New Orleans will also soon have to show proof of vaccination against the coronavirus or a recent negative test.
So what does that mean for Chicago and Illinois?
Delta, Lambda, Gamma: Here's a Breakdown of COVID Variants and What We Know So Far
As cases of the delta variant continue to raise concerns across the U.S., the latest variant to take hold in the country, many are wondering what other variants are out there and which should we be concerned about?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, variants of the coronavirus were expected. But some variants seem to spread more easily and quickly than others, according to the CDC, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19.
Variants are categorized as "variants of interest," "variants of concern" and "variants of high consequence."
So which variants are being tracked so far? In the U.S. and around the globe, there are currently four variants labeled "variants of concern" by the CDC and the World Health Organization.
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