Note: Any news conferences from Gov. J.B. Pritzker or Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot will be streamed in the video player above.
Chicago's emergency travel order was revised once again Tuesday, with the city's top health official delivering the update and share the latest information on the city's battle against COVID-19.
That update comes one day after Mayor Lori Lightfoot delivered a budget update in which she predicted a $1.2 billion shortfall attributed in large part to the coronavirus pandemic.
Lightfoot delivered her address the same day Illinois health officials reported 1,668 new coronavirus cases and seven additional deaths on Monday, lifting the statewide total number of cases to more than 235,000.
Here are the latest updates from around the state on the fight against coronavirus today (Sept. 1):
Illinois to Impose Stricter Coronavirus Mitigation Rules in Region 4, Officials Say
Two weeks after it became the first healthcare region in the state to have additional coronavirus mitigation strategies implemented, Region 4 in southwestern Illinois will see even more restrictions put in place as its positivity rate continues to remain over the state’s acceptable limits.
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, the new restrictions will officially go into effect on Wednesday in the region, which includes Bond, Clinton, Madison, Monroe, Randolph, St. Clair and Washington counties.
The new restrictions will include a suspension of indoor service at restaurants and bars for at least two weeks. Outdoor service will still be allowed, but must be stopped at 11 p.m. each night, according to the new guidelines.
Party buses will remain banned in the region, with gatherings also restricted to 25 or fewer people, according to a press release.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration faced backlash last week after restrictions were put in place in Region 7, which includes Will and Kankakee counties. Those restrictions match the restrictions now being put into effect in Region 4, but were harsher than the initial mitigation strategies put in place by the state.
Arwady Addresses 'Misinformation' on How Coronavirus Deaths Are Reported
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady on Tuesday addressed questions surrounding what she called misinformation on how coronavirus deaths are being reported.
"There was some misinformation out on social media over the weekend that was pointing to some CDC data," Arwady said. "The CDC data was showing that only 7% of the people who have died of COVID-19 have only had COVID-19. And not any comorbidities, meaning they didn't have diabetes, they didn't have underlying heart disease, lung disease, etc."
According to Arwady, while many people who have died from coronavirus had underlying conditions, she says those conditions are not the cause of their deaths.
"Let's say we take someone who has diabetes and they have heart failure at baseline. So they have a number of these underlying conditions, they get COVID-19, they get admitted to the hospital because they are sick with COVID-19. COVID-19 can go on to make their heart failure worse, maybe it pushes them into having lung problems and respiratory failure, maybe they develop kidney failure while they're in the hospital... all of this is because they've gotten COVID-19," Arwady said. "If unfortunately, this person dies while they're in the hospital, the doctor has to fill out the death certificate, and you list the things that this person had, as well as what is the ultimate cause of death. And so if I was filling out the death certificate for this person, I would say this person had heart failure and diabetes and lung disease. I might include the kidney failure they developed in the hospital due to COVID-19 and that is me making an assessment that that virus itself was why that person died. Now, we're all going to die at some point. But somebody who has diabetes or has heart disease would not have died right now, if not for having been infected with COVID-19."
Arwady's comments come as reports on social media claimed the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “backpedaled” on the number of deaths caused by COVID-19, reducing the figure from nearly 154,000 to just over 9,000, as social media posts claimed.
The term “Only 6%” trended widely on Twitter over the weekend as supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory promoted tweets that falsely suggested the CDC had updated its records to show that only 6% of U.S. deaths tied to COVID-19 were legitimate. President Donald Trump was among those who tweeted the information, which was later taken down by Twitter for violating platform rules.
The posts, which received hundreds of thousands of shares online, were based on a regularly updated CDC data table showing underlying conditions for those who died of COVID-19. The conditions included high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity, as well as problems that are caused by COVID-19 itself, such as respiratory failure and pneumonia.
The CDC data table is based on an analysis of death certificates that mention COVID-19 as a cause. For 6% of the deaths, COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned, the CDC notes.
The other 94% list COVID-19 and other conditions together. Among those deaths, there were, on average, 2.6 additional conditions or causes per death, the public health agency said.
As of Aug. 26, the CDC said, there were 161,332 deaths where COVID-19 was listed on the death certificate. Social media users over the weekend posted an older screenshot of the data that showed 153,504 deaths. The posts used the 6% figure to claim the U.S. death toll was much lower — 9,210.
“CDC just backpedaled (quietly) and adjusted the U.S. COVID deaths from 153,504 to 9,210. Admitting that their numbers are so (expletive) that they are off by a whopping 94%,” said a post being shared on Facebook Monday.
But such claims misrepresent the data, experts say. A death isn’t excluded from the COVID-19 tally just because the person was obese or had diabetes or dementia. Someone with heart problems can still be killed by COVID-19, and the death certificate could mention both as contributing.
"What people misinterpreted in this was that somehow because these people also had diabetes, or also had heart disease, they somehow didn't die of COVID as opposed to having the this comorbidity and dying from COVID," Arwady said. "And so this went around and it said, you know, only 7% of the people actually died from COVID."
It's not just the recent CDC report sparking questions on social media, however, Arwady said.
"So a corollary question I sometimes get is, 'What if somebody you know, gets shot and they die, and then you test them and you found out they had COVID-19?'" Arwady said. "Their cause of death is getting shot. It is not COVID-19. If they're getting tested, they could get counted as cases of COVID-19 but not as the death being caused by COVID-19. So there is a process where in reporting somebody's death, you include any of the things that may have contributed to their death. And you name an underlying cause that is the primary cause and the reports of people who die of COVID-19 or people who died because of being infected with with COVID. So I hope that sort of helped clears helps clear it up. I wish that we had only had 9,000 people die of COVID-19. But that is unfortunately not true."
Indiana Could Be Added to Chicago's Travel Order Next Week, Arwady Says
Indiana has officially reached the coronavirus metrics that would put it on Chicago's travel order and could be added as early as next week, according to Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady.
"Indiana very well may be added to Chicago's travel order next week," Arwady said Tuesday.
The state has already crossed the average of 15 cases per 100,000 residents, sitting at 15.8 as of Tuesday, Arwady said, but the city chose to keep it off the list.
"We made a decision not to add it this week for a few reasons," Arwady said.
Among those reasons were the fact that the state had recently changed the way it reports its coronavirus data and that state colleges have marked a large spike in cases.
"If we don't see improvement across the state then we will add them next week," Arwady said Tuesday.
Chicago Adds 3 States to Quarantine List as Travel Order Updated
Chicago's travel order was updated once again Tuesday adding three states to its quarantine list, including some that were recently removed.
The states added to the list include Hawaii, Nebraska and North Carolina.
Last week, North Carolina had been removed from the quarantine list and Nebraska had previously also been removed.
The emergency order now requires anyone visiting or returning to the city from one of 22 locations to self-quarantine for 14 days.
As of last week, the list stood at 19 U.S. states and territories.
Florida, California and Puerto Rico may soon be removed from the list as their numbers dropped below the threshold, according to the order, but will need to stay under the required metrics for another week to be officially removed.
Illinois Reports 1,492 New Coronavirus Cases as Number of Daily Tests Sharply Drops
Illinois health officials reported 1,492 new coronavirus cases and 39 additional deaths on Tuesday as the number of tests conducted over the previous 24 hours dropped by roughly half, data shows.
Those figures brought the statewide totals to 236,515 confirmed cases since the pandemic began, according to new data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, with at least 8,064 deaths in all 102 counties attributed to the virus.
Labs in Illinois on Tuesday reported 22,961 tests performed in the past 24 hours, a sharp decline from the roughly 40,000 to 50,000 the state had been conducted on average per day over the past week. Tuesday's tests brought statewide totals to more 4,087,122 tests performed since the pandemic began
With Tuesday's increase in cases, the state’s rolling 7-day positivity rate increased to 4.3% from 4.1% the day before.
Hospitalizations ticked up slightly on Monday, health officials said. In all, 1,513 patients are currently hospitalized due to COVID-19 in the state of Illinois, with 362 of those patients in intensive care units. The number of patients on ventilators dropped, however, from 157 to 146.
Chicago Travel Order to Be Updated Tuesday
Chicago's travel order will be updated once again Tuesday following last week's removal of two states on the city's quarantine list and the addition of one other.
Last week, Arizona and North Carolina were both removed from the quarantine list, but South Dakota was added.
The emergency order requires anyone visiting or returning to the city from one of 19 locations to self-quarantine for 14 days.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady is expected to deliver an update on the order, along with the city's latest coronavirus data, at 1 p.m. at City Hall.
As of last week, the list stood at 19 U.S. states and territories.
The states currently included are: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas, as well as Puerto Rico.
The city's travel order is evaluated every Tuesday, with any changes taking effect the following Friday. It first began on July 6.
States are added to the list if they have "a case rate greater than 15 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 resident population, per day, over a 7-day rolling average." If they fall below that threshold, they could be removed as well.
Arwady said travelers entering or returning to Chicago from "states experiencing a surge in new COVID-19 cases" will need to quarantine "for a 14-day period from the time of last contact within the identified state." Essential workers could be exempt from the quarantine requirement, however, as long as their employer certifies their work in writing.
The order is set to remain in effect until further notice.
Chicago Mayor: Pandemic Has Caused $1.2B Hole in 2021 Budget
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot predicted a $1.2 billion hole in the 2021 budget on Monday, calling the coronavirus pandemic the “single largest driver” of the city's economic challenges.
In her budget forecast, the first-term mayor said tourism, transportation and the hospitality industry have been hit hardest amid closures due to COVID-19.
“Make no mistake, this will be our pandemic budget," she said. “COVID-19 is the single largest driver of economic challenges and our city's budget gap.”
Lightfoot didn't offer many details on how Chicago officials would close the gap, noting city worker layoffs as one possibility. Lightfoot didn't mention a property tax hike as a solution.
She said federal help will be needed as cities nationwide are struggling to fight the virus and address economic fallout.
Roughly $400 million of the shortfall is related to Chicago's underfunded pension system.
Chicago will close the 2020 budget year with a nearly $800 million shortfall as the city suffers from soaring unemployment. Since the pandemic's start, roughly 900,000 people have filed for unemployment, Lightfoot said.
She said this year's shortfall would largely be addressed with federal aid and debt refinancing, among other things.
Illinois Reports 1,668 New Coronavirus Cases, 7 Additional Deaths Monday
Illinois health officials reported 1,668 new coronavirus cases and seven additional deaths on Monday.
Those figures brought the statewide totals to 235,025 confirmed cases since the pandemic began, according to new data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, with at least 8,026 deaths attributed to the virus.
Labs in Illinois on Monday reported 47,379 tests performed in the past 24 hours, bringing statewide totals to more 4,064,161 tests performed.
The state surpassed the milestone of 4 million tests conducted on Sunday. It took Illinois just 22 days to perform the most recent 1 million tests, as the state had hit the 3 million mark earlier this month.
With Monday's increase in cases, the state’s rolling 7-day positivity rate dropped to 4.1% from 4.2% the day before, reversing the increase seen in that number on Sunday.
Hospitalizations ticked up slightly across the board on Monday, health officials said. In all, 1,492 patients are currently hospitalized due to COVID-19 in the state of Illinois, with 347 of those patients in intensive care units. A total of 157 COVID-19 patients are currently on ventilators.
These Are the Metrics That Will Bring Back Restrictions to Illinois Regions
Illinois regions that meet a particular set of metrics could see the return of several restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.
Multiple regions have already experienced some rollbacks, including two suburban Chicago counties: Kankakee and Will counties in Region 7.
The restrictions included halting indoor dining and service at bars, with all outdoor service at bars and restaurants required to close at 11 p.m. Gatherings are also limited to the lesser of either 25 guests or 25% of a room's overall capacity, and party buses are shut down.
Similar restrictions were already put in place in earlier this month in Region 4, the Metro East region, based on its high positivity rate in testing.
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 dining at bars and restaurants, which would be "automatically applied in a region that meets resurgence criteria."
In the first tier, restaurants would have to lower capacity for indoor dining and indoor bar service would be suspended. Elective surgeries would be limited, maximum gathering sizes would be lowered, businesses would return to remote work for vulnerable employees where possible and other industries could see added capacity limitations.
In a second tier, indoor dining and elective surgeries would be suspended and additional gathering and capacity limitations would be imposed. Organized indoor recreational activities and in-person non-essential retail could also be suspended and salons could be shut down if tied to an outbreak.
By the third tier, all in-person dining would be suspended, there would be strict limitations on gatherings and all non-essential workers would return to remote work.
Illinois' Top Health Official Refutes CDC's New Coronavirus Testing Guidance
Illinois' top health official has issued a statement highlighting the importance of getting tested for coronavirus, even for those who don't have any symptoms, contradicting new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"In the face of increasing infections, we need to promote more testing, not less, to identify new cases and interrupt further transmission,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement on Thursday.
The CDC quietly tweaked its guidance on COVID-19 testing early last week, now stating that healthy people who have been exposed to COVID-19 "do not necessarily need a test," as long as they don't have symptoms. That's a reversal from previous advice that clearly recommended testing for all close contacts of infected individuals, regardless of whether they had symptoms.
That change that could result in fewer people being tested and hinder contact tracing efforts, NBC News reports.
President Donald Trump has been outspoken about his belief that the United States has the most COVID-19 cases in the world because of the number of tests it carries out.
Public health experts, including Ezike, have slammed both that belief and the CDC's change in guidance.
“Given that asymptomatic individuals have been linked to virus spread, we will maintain our more stringent guidance to support testing of any Illinois resident who thinks they may have been exposed, as well as asymptomatic close contacts of confirmed cases 5-7 days post exposure," Ezike's statement reads.
IDPH said Gov. J.B. Pritzker's strategy to combat the pandemic across the state "has always relied on increased testing," noting that Ilinois' state labs were the first outside of the CDC to successfully test for COVID-19 early in the pandemic.
The state crossed the threshold of more than 4 million tests conducted on Sunday and now averages roughly 50,000 tests per day, health officials say.
"Many individuals who test positive for COVID-19 have not reported having symptoms. However, scientific studies have proven that those individuals are still able to spread the disease to family, friends, and members of their community who may become sick and require medical attention and even hospitalization, especially for those with underlying health conditions," IDPH's statement reads. "Illinois will continue advising anyone who comes into close contact with a confirmed case be tested."
There are nearly 300 testing sites in Illinois, IDPH noted last week, including 11 state operated community-based testing sites and 12 mobile testing teams that collect specimens at facilities experiencing outbreaks like nursing homes and correctional centers.
More information on testing can be found on IDPH's website here.
No Action From Pritzker's COVID-19 Price-Gouging Pursuit
The coronavirus pandemic had steamrolled Illinois, and amid the helter-skelter of counting hospital beds, keeping pace with ever-changing federal health guidance and maneuvering a market-turned-minefield of protective-gear prices, Gov. J.B. Pritzker made a pledge.
“Price-gouging will not be tolerated,” the Democrat declared in March, later promising that instances of unfair pricing would be brought to the attention of Attorney General Kwame Raoul.
During the chaotic spring, Illinois, like most states, was forced to pay sometimes eye-popping markups for lifesaving gear: $6 face masks previously costing $1 or less; ventilators listing for $25,000 selling for $40,000 or more.
Through Aug. 23 the state’s total outlay is $1.2 billion. But Pritzker has flagged no instances of price-gouging. An Associated Press public-records request disclosed one complaint, submitted by a consumer, forwarded to the attorney general.
Meanwhile, angry shoppers were pummeling Raoul’s consumer protection division with 1,800 price-complaints on everything from toilet tissue to whiskey. As for how they've been handled and whether they're resolves, officials say they’ve been unable to compile statistics because the pandemic has forced staff to work remotely. When asked for information about any price-gouging court action which Raoul's attorneys have initiated, Raoul spokeswoman Annie Thompson did not respond.
That perplexes experts in antitrust law, which encompasses price-gouging.
“Where the state is spending a lot of money, I would expect that there would be specific instances in which there would be a serious complaint or concern or an episode that would warrant more detailed examination,” said Bill Kovacic, a George Washington University Law School professor and former Federal Trade Commission chairman.
Before the pandemic, Illinois law prohibited only petroleum-product price-gouging. Asked for the new language, a spokeswoman for Pritzker’s COVID-19 response pointed to the governor’s March 9 disaster declaration, which prohibits “increases in the selling price of goods or services.” Nikhil Mehta, whose work for the Chicago law firm SmithAmundson includes antitrust action, said the rule doesn’t nix all increases. It piggybacks on the existing motor-fuel rules, which bar “unconscionably high” prices.
Other states have touted their action. King & Spalding, a multinational law firm with a Chicago office, reported in late spring on litigation by the federal government and in at least nine states, covering private as well as government action, such as lawsuits by Minnesota-based 3M and the nonprofit advocacy group Alliance for a Better Utah. As early as March 26, the Texas attorney general filed a lawsuit against an online auction of high-demand N95 masks for $11 a pop.
For Pritzker, speedy procurement was paramount, spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said — holding out for pre-pandemic prices would have been disastrous. But when it was pointed out that’s not what Pritzker promised and there’s no prohibition on post-purchase investigations, Abudayyeh then said that when the ordeal ends, the administration will act on “instances of price-gouging that warrant our referral to authorities.”
Chicago’s office of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection reported 747 complaints of price-gouging compared to two in 2019. Investigations uncovered few instances of unreasonable price-hikes, spokesman Isaac Reichman said. But the office issued four citations for price-gouging, ongoing cases that could result in fines, he said.
Shortly after Pritzker’s executive order, Raoul promised to “ put people before profits.” More than 1,100 complaints flew in during the first three weeks. But Raoul spokeswoman Thompson said the Democrat, who regularly issues news releases documenting his activities, has not decided whether he will publicly release outcomes.
According to copies of about 200 complaints the attorney general disclosed in response to an AP records request, complaints were varied: A Chicago corner grocer selling arrachera for $9 a pound when it’s usually $4. Lysol online for $9.99 — plus $12.99 shipping.
“I need to feed my children,” one store owner says when asked why disinfectant spray cost $25. Toilet tissue from multi-roll packets is wrapped individually for $5.49 each.
So quickly did they come in that Susan Ellis, chief of consumer protection, said her staff conducted “triage” on the “more egregious ones.” Ultimately, many were resolved informally, Ellis said. Lowered prices often result from contact from the state’s top law enforcer and his authority to assess $50,000 fines.
Mehta, the Chicago lawyer, said unfamiliarity with a new area of enforcement and pandemic-shuttered courts might have hampered the office. But he noted that the attorney general can seek emergency court action on serious consumer issues and finds it surprising “if there hasn’t been a single case filed.”
“I would have expected to have seen an injunction here or there,” Mehta said. “But if they’re getting people to comply, based on direct communication outside of the court, then it sounds like it’s been effective.”
Michael Volkov, whose Washington, D.C.-based law firm’s specialties include corporate compliance, said he expected more aggressive gouger pursuit by all levels of government. But he noted the late-summer resurgence of the illness affecting dozens of states and said another economic shakeup — and attempts to exploit it — could follow.
“It seems like the supply chains have gotten pretty much straightened out and you go to the grocery store and pretty much everything’s there,” Volkov said. “But that’s not to say that something couldn’t happen.”
Illinois' High Court Says Face Masks Must be Worn in Courts
Anyone entering a Illinois courthouse should be wearing a face mask to prevent the spread of coronavirus, according to an Illinois Supreme Court order.
The state’s highest court issued an order Thursday including face masks in its rules governing who is admitted into courthouses “in the interests of the health and safety of all court users, staff, and judicial officers during these extraordinary circumstances.”
The order also says people with flu-like symptoms, those directed to quarantine by a medical professional or people who have close contact with someone subject to a quarantine should not enter courthouses.
Chicago's ‘Tamale Guy' Hospitalized With COVID-19
Velez had a sore throat earlier in the week, and while waiting for the results of his COVID-19 test, his health rapidly declined in just a couple of days, the post added.
Velez was admitted to the intensive care unit and spent time on a ventilator. But as of Saturday, his condition was improving.
The prominent chef opened a standalone restaurant bearing his nickname, "The Tamale Guy," in Ukrainian Village earlier this month. As a precaution, the restaurant has been closed until further notice.
Suburban Cook County Reaches ‘Warning Level' for Coronavirus: Health Officials
Suburban Cook County is now at a "warning level" for transmission of the coronavirus, according to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health.
As of Friday, suburban Cook County was at 112 positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people, well above the state-established target rate of 50 cases per 100,000, officials with the Cook County Department of Public Health stated.
Additionally, there were 25 deaths in suburban Cook County last week, an increase of 15 from the week before.
Along with Cook County, 29 other Illinois counties have also reached the "warning level," meaning they saw increases in two or more COVID-19 "risk indicators," according to IDPH.
While the city of Chicago is located in Cook County, the city is listed as its own health care region as defined by IDPH and hasn't reached the "warning level."
In suburban Cook County, the following mitigation practices, which were issued on Aug. 3, remain in effect:
- Bar service outdoors only
- Restaurant and bar maximum party size of 6 people per table
- Indoor fitness class maximum class size of 10
- No personal services that require removal of face coverings (e.g. facials and shaves)
- Residential property managers should limit guest entry to 6 people per unit
- Remote work for high-risk individuals and continued support for telework for as many workers as possible
- Self-quarantine based on travel guidance to states with high rates of community transmission
Additionally, as announced earlier this week by Gov. Pritzker, patrons at Illinois restaurants must wear face coverings during interactions with wait staff and other employees.
“We need people to follow the current guidance," Dr. Rachel Rubin, senior medical with the Cook County Department of Public Health, pleaded in a press release. "If the numbers stay ‘orange’ or continue to worsen, we may need to implement additional restrictions, and we really don’t want to go there... We can beat this thing if we all work together."
30 Illinois Counties Now at ‘Warning Level' for Coronavirus, Health Officials Say
Thirty counties in Illinois, including Cook County, are now at a "warning level" for coronavirus, the state's health department said Friday.
The warning means each of the counties saw increases in two or more COVID-19 "risk indicators," the health department said.
The counties now under a warning include: Bureau, Carroll, Cass, Clinton, Cook, Cumberland, Effingham, Fayette, Greene, Grundy, Henderson, Henry, Jasper, Jersey, Jo Daviess, Johnson, Madison, Monroe, Morgan, Perry, Pike, Randolph, Sangamon, Shelby, St. Clair, Union, Warren, White, Will and Williamson.
Last week, 20 counties were at a "warning level," 14 of which remained on the list Friday.