Note: Press conferences from Gov. J.B. Pritzker or Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot will be streamed live in the video player above.
As school districts across Illinois begin to create plans to potentially return to classrooms and in-person instruction in the fall, the Chicago Teachers Union is pushing to stay in a remote learning format, saying there is "no way to guarantee safety" from the coronavirus.
Their push comes as officials warn of spikes in cases in young people, now at the highest levels they've been since the pandemic began.
Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around Illinois today, July 16:
Illinois Reports More Than 1,200 New Coronavirus Cases, State Sets Daily Testing Record
Health officials in Illinois confirmed more than 1,200 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday, along with 25 additional deaths.
According to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, a total of 1,257 new cases were reported over the last 24 hours, bringing the statewide total of cases during the pandemic to 157,950.
Thursday's death toll brings the number of fatalities related to COVID-19 to 7,251, according to health officials.
In all, 43,006 new specimens were returned to laboratories in the state, marking a new daily testing record for the state, which has now reported 2,122,607 test results since the pandemic began.
The rolling seven-day positivity rate remains at just over three percent, according to health officials.
Hospitalization numbers dropped slightly, with 1,434 hospitalizations for COVID-19. Of those patients, 311 were in intensive care units, and 127 patients were on ventilators as of Wednesday evening.
Chicago Teachers Union Pushes for Remote Learning in the Fall
As Chicago Public Schools officials contemplate how to go about instruction in the fall amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Chicago Teachers Union is pushing for remote learning to continue and for in-person learning to be paused this fall.
“We stand for a safe and equitable reopening of the schools, but today COVID-19 cases are soaring instead of dissipating,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said in a statement. “There is simply no way to guarantee safety for in-school learning during an out-of-control pandemic, and that means we must revert to remote learning until the spread of this virus is contained.”
School districts in Illinois must develop their own plans for the fall under state guidelines, with social distancing procedures in place and new protocols like mask requirements and limitations on group size. Many districts have announced a hybrid approach to schooling, with students splitting time between the classroom and their homes.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot has indicated that a decision on schooling in Chicago could come in the near future, but the CTU is now pushing publicly for a return to remote learning before any announcement takes place.
Pritzker to Discuss 2020 U.S. Census
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expected to discuss the 2020 U.S. Census and "the importance of being counted" with various mayors in Rockford, according to his public schedule. The conversation will take place at 11:15 a.m. and can be watched live in the video player above.
CDC Credits Cook County Sheriff's Department With Quick Action
Early in the coronavirus pandemic, the virus rapidly moved through Cook County Jail, but according to a new study released this week, quick and decisive action helped to stem the tide and bring the contagion under control.
The study, authored by doctors in the Cook County Health System and officials from Cermak Health Services and the Centers for Disease Control, pointed to multiple strategies that paid off in a big way in stemming the flow of new cases at the facility.
“We stuck with science from day one,” Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said. “As a result of that, while all around the jail the number of positives were going up on a straight trajectory, we not only bent our curve, we killed off the curve.”
The study found that the outbreak was reversed due to numerous key factors, including quarantine and isolation, limited movement of detainees and staff, the creation of an off-site isolation and quarantine facility, and aggressive testing protocols by Cermak Health Services, according to a press release.
As things stand now, just 11 of the nearly 5,000 detainees in custody at the jail are positive for the virus. At one point, the jail had over 400 active cases of the virus in April.
More details can be found here.
Coronavirus Cases Spike Among Residents Between Ages of 10 and 19 in Illinois
With Illinois seeing an uptick in coronavirus cases, health officials across the state say that cases among younger residents are largely driving that increase.
According to Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, cases among residents between the ages of 10 and 19 are rising to rates that haven’t been seen thus far in the pandemic.
“You’ve never seen this high rate for the 10-to-19 (demographic),” she said during a Wednesday press conference. “That is new in terms of the numbers climbing over time. They’re now at the highest rate they’ve ever had from the beginning of this pandemic.”
According to numbers provided by the governor's press office, there have been at least 100 cases reported among Illinois residents between the ages of 10 and 19 on seven of the last eight days, including 158 new cases in that demographic on July 11.
Prior to that run of new cases, there had been just one day since June 1 that had seen at least 100 cases in that age group.
Chicago Zip Code Seeing Highest Increase in COVID-19 Cases in Young People
Chicago health officials repeated their warnings that younger populations are now testing positive for coronavirus at an accelerated rate, but one city zip code was cited as having the biggest increase in recent days.
According to Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady, the city saw new cases in virtually every zip code within the last week. She noted as well, that a majority of those cases were in the 18-to-29-year-old cohort.
The zip code seeing the highest amount of new cases in that age group in the last week was 60614 in the Lincoln Park area, Arwady said.
"The bottom line is we're seeing these cases throughout the city," Arwady said. "Where we're seeing changes in COVID cases is again in that 18 to 29. For the most recent week, we see the increase again, in that Lincoln Park area as well as in New City in the south."
Since June 15, nearly 30% of Chicago's new coronavirus cases have come from that age group, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.
"If you are in the 18-to-29-year-old cohort, you are catching COVID-19, you are getting sick," Lightfoot said, "And you're not only putting yourself at risk, you're putting every single person that you come into contact with at risk as well."
Illinois Divided Into 11 Separate Regions for Coronavirus Response, Pritzker Announces
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Wednesday that the state will be further divided from four into 11 separate regions to allow health officials to apply a more focused approach to each area's coronavirus response as the pandemic continues.
The 11 new regions, and the counties they include, are as follows:
- NORTH: Boone, Carroll, DeKalb, Jo Daviess, Lee, Ogle, Stephenson, Whiteside, Winnebago
- NORTH-CENTRAL: Bureau, Fulton, Grundy, Henderson, Henry, Kendall, Knox, La Salle, Livingston, Marshall, McDonough, McLean, Mercer, Peoria, Putnam, Rock Island, Stark, Tazewell, Warren, Woodford
- WEST-CENTRAL: Adams, Brown, Calhoun, Cass, Christian, Greene, Hancock, Jersey, Logan, Macoupin, Mason, Mason, Menard, Montgomery, Morgan, Pike, Sangamon, Schuyler, Scott
- METRO EAST: Bond, Clinton, Madison, Monroe, Randolph, St. Clair, Washington
- SOUTHERN: Alexander, Edwards, Franklin, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Marion, Massac, Perry, Pope, Pulaski, Saline, Union, Wabash, Wayne, White, Williamson
- EAST-CENTRAL: Champaign, Clark, Clay, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, De Witt, Douglas, Edgar, Effingham, Fayette, Ford, Iroquois, Jasper, Lawrence, Macon, Moultrie, Piatt, Richland, Shelby, Vermillion
- SOUTH SUBURBAN: Kankakee, Will
- WEST SUBURBAN: DuPage, Kane
- NORTH SUBURBAN: Lake, McHenry
- SUBURBAN COOK: Suburban Cook
- CHICAGO: City of Chicago
Any restrictions imposed or mitigation efforts applied to slow the spread of the coronavirus will be done so in each of these specific regions individually moving forward, Pritzker says.
These Are the Metrics Illinois Will Use to Determine if a Region Must Roll Back
Illinois has a new plan aimed at guarding the state's progress in the fight against coronavirus, with officials threatening to roll back reopening plans for regions that reach a certain set of metrics.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday revealed new health boundaries and criteria that could force a region to implement restrictions "to prevent a renewed spread of COVID-19."
The new plan features three tiers of "general and industry-specific mitigations that can be acted upon." It also features a restructuring of the health regions the state has been using since the state started its reopening plan.
“This plan ensures we are looking at all available data to make timely decisions to protect the health of our communities,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement. “By assessing key metrics that indicate both the disease burden and the capacity of each COVID-19 region to respond, we can then take targeted actions within specific regions to help mitigate the spread of this deadly disease while keeping as much of our state open as possible.”
According to the governor's office, the following metrics will be used to determine "when the spread of the virus in a region requires additional mitigations":
- Sustained increase in 7-day rolling average (7 out of 10 days) in the positivity rate and one of the following severity indicators:
- Sustained 7-day increase in hospital admissions for a COVID-19 like illness
- Reduction in hospital capacity threatening surge capabilities (ICU capacity or medical/surgical beds < 20%)
- OR three consecutive days averaging ≥ 8% positivity rate
Some of the so-called mitigation strategies may include restrictions for indoor bars and restaurants, which would be "automatically applied in a region that meets resurgence criteria."
"A larger list of mitigation strategies relating to settings like retail, fitness, and salons and personal care will be available if testing and contact tracing data at the local level indicate those mitigations to be prudent," the governor's office stated.
Illinois Reports Nearly 1,200 New Coronavirus Cases, 8 Additional Deaths Wednesday
Health officials in Illinois confirmed more than 1,100 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, along with eight additional deaths.
According to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, a total of 1,187 new cases were reported over the last 24 hours, bringing the statewide total of cases during the pandemic to 156,693.
Wednesday's death toll brings the number of fatalities related to COVID-19 to 7,226, according to health officials.
In all, 38,161 new specimens were returned to laboratories in the state, bringing the total to 2,079,601 since the pandemic began.
The rolling seven-day positivity rate sits at just over three percent, according to health officials.
Hospitalization numbers did inch up slightly, with 1,454 hospitalizations for COVID-19. Of those patients, 324 were in intensive care units, and 130 patients were on ventilators as of Tuesday evening.
Lightfoot Says Chicago Is ‘Dangerously Close to Going Back'
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Wednesday that the city is "dangerously close" to reversing course on some of the progress made in battling the coronavirus pandemic.
"Right now we are on the precipice. We are dangerously close to going back to a dangerous state of conditions," Lightfoot said during a news conference alongside Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady.
Lightfoot has said in recent days that she will not hesitate to reimpose some of the restrictions put in place in the earlier months of the pandemic should coronavirus cases and metrics continue to rise - a point she reiterated on Wednesday with a strong warning.
"Some of you have joked that I'm like the mom who will turn the car around when you're acting up. No friends, it's actually worse," Lightfoot said. "I won't just turn the car around. I'm gonna shut it off, kick you out and I'm gonna make you walk home. That's who I am. That's who I must be for you and everyone else in this city to make sure that we continue to be safe."
"I don't want to be that person if I don't have to - but I will if you make me," she continued.
More details can be found here.