Note: Press conferences from Gov. J.B. Pritzker or Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot will be streamed live in the video player above.
Teachers and parents learned new details about Chicago Public Schools' plan for the upcoming school year as the district announced plans to start entirely remote in the fall.
Plus, Gov. J.B. Pritzker will deliver a COVID-19 update from the city in the afternoon.
Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around Illinois today, August 5:
I Can't Imagine That:' Pritzker Not Sold on Mandatory COVID-19 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.
Pritzker to Deliver Live COVID-19 Update in Chicago
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is set to deliver a COVID-19 update in Chicago Wednesday.
The update is slated to take place at 2:30 p.m. in the city's Thompson Center. (Watch live in the player above)
It's not clear what exactly Pritzker plans to say, though the governor has been delivering his most recent updates from Illinois counties at a "warning level" for coronavirus. Chicago and Cook County have not been under a warning, though city health officials have noted that cases are gradually increasing.
Across Illinois, health officials reported more than 1,400 new cases of coronavirus Tuesday, along with 19 additional deaths attributed to the virus.
According to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, the 1,471 new cases bring the total number of coronavirus cases since the pandemic began to 184,712. The 19 additional fatalities bring the state’s death toll to 7,545, according to IDPH.
The state’s seven-day positivity rate dropped slightly Tuesday to 3.9% after reaching 4% Monday.
Health Officials Remind of the Importance of Vaccinations Amid COVID-19
Though some students could start learning remotely due to the coronavirus, the Illinois Department of Public Health issued a reminder Tuesday of the importance of receiving vaccinations for a variety of diseases.
IDPH reminded that vaccines help protect children from diseases such as chickenpox and pertussis, which remain common in the U.S.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of IDPH, said the state's main focus continues to be on the coronavirus, but other health issues must be addressed.
“Vaccines are one of the safest and most effective methods to protect children from more than a dozen vaccine-preventable diseases," Ezike said. "Make sure your children are fully vaccinated so they can be as healthy as possible while facing the ongoing risk of COVID-19.”
IDPH announced the department is teaming up with the Illinois Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics to promote a social media campaign aimed at raising awareness of the importance of vaccines and doctor's visits.
“Missing well-visits and vaccines place children at higher risk for more problems in the future," Mariana Glusman, previous president of Illinois APP, said. "Especially during the onset of COVID-19, vaccines are the best way to keep children protected and healthy."
IDPH reminded that immunization requirements for the upcoming school year remain the same as last year, as found on the department's website.
Social Gatherings Are Major Source of Recent Spike in Chicago Coronavirus Cases, City's Top Health Official Says
Much of the recent spread of the coronavirus in Chicago has been through social gatherings, the city's top health official said Tuesday, sharing anecdotes of residents who tested positive for COVID-19 after events like birthday parties or dinners with "trusted" family members and friends.
"Where we are seeing COVID spread in Chicago is in households and in social gatherings," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said at a news conference to announce updates to the city's emergency order requiring anyone entering the city from 22 other states to quarantine for 14 days.
Arwady noted that early on in the pandemic, transmission was driven largely by congregate settings like long-term care facilities, factory-style workplaces and other areas that have since implemented new protocols and regulations to slow the spread of the virus.
But as those outbreaks have slowed, the virus has spread more rapidly in social settings that the city is unable to regulate, she said, sharing stories of some Chicago residents who tested positive after various outings with family and friends over the past week as examples.
Arwady implored residents to continue to follow public health guidelines and limit close contact - at times even within the home.
"I know that you feel safe at home, I feel safe at home. I know that you feel safe when you're among friends that, you know, it's easy to let your guard down to not wear masks to not social distance," she said. "But the problem is, as we're seeing cases increase, their risk is significantly higher. And as people are letting down their guard, they're out potentially contracting COVID and then bringing it back into households."
The number one risk factor for COVID-19 is exposure within the household, which is 10 times the risk of contracting it in any other manner, Arwady said.
"Recognize that when you are out and not being careful, even among your trusted friends and family, you do run the risk of bringing COVID back into your home and into your friends group," she added.
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