Note: Any news conferences from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot or other officials will be streamed in the video player above.
The city of Chicago eased some of its coronavirus restrictions beginning Thursday, allowing indoor bar service again and raising capacity limits on businesses like restaurants and fitness classes.
Those changes came one day after Illinois health officials released guidance for safely celebrating Halloween this year - reminding parents that costume masks aren't sufficient protection, haunted houses are still prohibited and giving tips on trick-or-treating.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot was expected to detail the city's Halloween plan on Thursday afternoon.
Here are the latest updates from across Illinois on the coronavirus pandemic today (Oct. 1):
Lightfoot, Arwady to Detail Chicago Halloween Plans
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady were expected to announce the city's "plan for a safe and healthy Halloween" Thursday afternoon, according to Lightfoot's public schedule.
They will appear together at a news conference beginning at 1:30 p.m. at City Hall, Lightfoot's office says.
The news conference can be watched live in the video player above.
Chicago Eases Coronavirus Restrictions: These Are All the Changes, New Guidelines
The city of Chicago eased some of its coronavirus restrictions on Thursday, allowing indoor bar service again and raising capacity limits on businesses, including restaurants, among other major changes.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot and city health and business officials announced the plan Monday, citing Chicago's progress in fighting the pandemic.
Here's a look at the changes to those restrictions, which will take effect at 5 a.m. on Thursday:
- Increased Indoor Capacity: Restaurants, health and fitness centers, personal services, non-essential retail and all other establishments that have been limited to 25% indoor capacity will now be able to increase their maximum indoor capacity to 40%. The limit of 50 total customers within one room or space at restaurants, venues and other establishments will remain in place, as will the limit of no more than six people per table.
- Reopening of Bars: Breweries, taverns, bars and other establishments that serve alcohol without a food license may reopen with indoor seating, at 25% capacity or 50 people, whichever is fewer. Service remains limited to no more than two hours per party, and customers must be seated when eating, drinking or ordering – patrons cannot walk up to the bar to order.
- Extended Hours for Bars and Restaurants: Bars, restaurants and other establishments that serve alcohol will now be able to sell alcohol for on-site or offsite consumption until 1:00 am and may remain open until 1:30 am. Liquor stores, grocery stores and other establishments that sell alcohol to-go through a Packaged Goods license must continue to cease alcohol sales at 9:00 p.m.
- Increased Group Size: Maximum group size for health and fitness classes and afterschool programming will increase from 10 to 15 people.
- Expanded Personal Services: Facials, shaves and other personal services that require the removal of face coverings will be allowed.
Chicago officials said that in order to maintain progress made in battling the pandemic, some additional guidelines would be implemented, taking effect at the same time. They include:
- When dining out at a food service establishment or bar, customers must always wear face coverings while seated, except when actively eating or drinking. This protects employees that may interact closely with patrons.
- Patrons at indoor bars, taverns and breweries must order from their seats – they cannot walk up to the bar to order.
- Bars, taverns and breweries that are reopening indoors must partner with a food establishment so that food is available to patrons at all times (e.g., making menus available and allowing delivery, allowing patrons to order from third-party delivery services).
- When taking reservations and seating walk-in customers, restaurants and bars should retain an email and/or phone number for possible contact tracing.
- Personal services that require the removal of face coverings are recommended to be kept under 15 minutes, and the employee conducting the service must always wear a face covering.
- All places of business should provide hand sanitizer for patrons and employees to use upon entry.
“Over the past six months, we have asked so much of our business community. But each time, our businesses have stepped up to the plate," Lightfoot said in a statement.
"Thanks to this cooperation, we have met this challenging moment with grace, commitment and resilience, and the sacrifices made by our businesses, workers and residents have saved countless lives," she continued. "This next step in our reopening is good news for business owners as well as the communities they serve and the thousands of residents that work for them.”
The city has been in phase four of its reopening plan since June 26, when some of the earlier restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus were gradually lifted.
Then on July 24, city officials changed course to shut down indoor bar service, reduce capacity limits at fitness classes and heighten other restrictions as the city continued to see an increase in its average number of daily new cases.
Lightfoot and Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Monday that the city was seeing an average of roughly 300 new cases of coronavirus per day, as compared to more than 350 in late August.
The positivity rate in testing has also fallen to 4.5%, officials said, adding that hospitalizations from COVID-19 as of Monday were lower than they've been since March. The city sees roughly two to three deaths per day, according to Lightfoot's office, as compared to about 50 a day at the peak of the pandemic.
“Overall, we are heading in the right direction, and this affords us an opportunity to further re-open the city and to do so gradually and safely,” Arwady said in a statement. “But I can’t emphasize this enough: Chicagoans need to continue to follow the public health guidance – wearing masks, social distancing, frequent hand washing and staying home when sick – or we risk falling back and experiencing another rise in cases.”
Prior to closing indoor bar service and implementing further restrictions in late July, Arwady had long warned that roll backs were possible if the city reached an average daily case rate above 200, which it did days before the new guidance was issued. She had previously said that daily number of new cases was the "best reflection of the burden of our disease."
"This, if I had one number, is the number that I follow," she said at the time, noting that "we've come a long way" as the Chicago was average about 1,000 cases per day in early May.
Chicago health officials have warned that if the city reaches an average of 400 new cases per day, it would mark a return to phase three of its reopening framework.
"If we get to a point where we are up to 400 cases per day, that's the equivalent of where the states are that we are requiring quarantine for our visitors," Arwady said, referring to the city's emergency travel order requiring a 14-day quarantine for people coming to Chicago from multiple states. "It's the equivalent of needing to go back to a phase three, really pulling back on major activities."
Haunted Houses Prohibited Under Illinois' New Halloween Guidance; State Offers Alternative Ideas
Haunted houses are a big part of Halloween fun in many places across the state of Illinois, but according to new guidance issued by the Illinois Department of Public Health, they are still prohibited under the rules of Phase Four of the “Restore Illinois” plan.
According to those new guidelines, haunted houses are prohibited because of the danger of the virus spreading in enclosed spaces, but the state did make other suggestions for those still wanting to capture the thrills and frights of a haunted house in a more socially-distanced setting.
“Instead consider open-air, one-way haunted forests or haunted walks where social distancing of 6 feet or greater and appropriate masking is enforced,” the state guidance read, in part. “If screaming is anticipated, even greater social distancing is advised to lower the risk of spreading respiratory viruses.”
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike were both asked about haunted houses during their press availability on Wednesday, with Pritzker saying that the decision not to allow haunted houses to open was made due to recommendations made by infectious disease experts.
“Haunted houses tend to be very enclosed, with not a lot of open space,” Pritzker said. “As a result, the viral load can get high very quickly in a space like that. So that’s why doctors chose to act as they did with regard to haunted houses.”
Some communities already are using new techniques to allow residents to get a good scare this Halloween. In suburban Elgin, an attraction called “Terror in the Timbers” will allow residents to experience a drive-through haunted ride.
“Guests can expect the unexpected,” organizer Dan Barrie said. “They’ll experience the same type of scare they’d get with any other big-time haunted house – but within the confines and safety of their vehicle.”
Ezike: Children's Halloween Costumes No Substitute for Facial Coverings
The state of Illinois released new health guidelines for those looking to celebrate Halloween in a safe manner this fall, but there is one very important thing to keep in mind if your little ones are getting ready to trick-or-treat.
During an availability Wednesday, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, cautioned residents that if their children are going to wear costumes and go trick-or-treating this fall, they have to be aware that their costume mask will not protect them in the same way that other facial coverings will.
“Whether a child or an adult, a costume mask is not a substitute for a face covering,” she said. “If face coverings are worn under the costume mask, please ensure that this does not create any breathing problems.”
Trick-or-treating will be allowed in the state, but health officials are adamant that social distancing guidelines will need to be observed to do so safely. Officials recommend that residents put individually-wrapped candies on tables outside their homes, allowing children to retrieve the candy without coming in direct contact with those passing out the treats.
While this year’s Halloween will be significantly different, health officials are encouraging residents to use this season as an opportunity to use creativity to ensure having a good time.
“These are unprecedented and difficult times, but I encourage people to accept the situation and to try to be creative this holiday season,” Ezike said. “Challenge yourself and your kids on how you can celebrate these holidays as safely as possible.”
Illinois Health Officials Issue Guidance on Halloween During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Illinois officials on Wednesday released new public health guidance on several Halloween festivities like trick-or-treating, costume parties, pumpkin patches and more as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
“We are still in a pandemic, and unfortunately, this year, that means the safest way to celebrate is to stay home and plan virtual gatherings," Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement. "That said, IDPH recognizes that some who will choose to gather together anyway, and instead of denying that reality, we are issuing guidance and recommendations for safer ways to celebrate together in person."
"Remember, we know what our best tools are: wearing our masks, keeping our distance, limiting event sizes, washing your hands, and looking out for public health and each other," she continued.
Anyone who thinks they could have COVID-19, or has been exposed to someone who has COVID-19, should not participate in any Halloween activities, officials said.
IDPH's guidance reads as follows:
- Anyone participating in trick-or-treating, including those passing out candy, should maintain 6-feet of social distance and wear proper face coverings.
- Consider leaving individually wrapped candy (spaced apart) on a table in driveways or in front of walkways, sidewalks, or any outdoor space where 6-feet of distance can be maintained.
- A Halloween costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth mask. Ensure that breathing is not impaired if a cloth mask is worn under a costume mask. If so, discard the costume mask.
- Trick-or-treat in groups with household members only.
- Candy collected during trick-or-treating should not be eaten until after handwashing.
An alternative to traditional trick-or-treating is to set up in a large parking lot or other outdoor setting with tables with individually wrapped candy (spaced apart) where participants with a parent/guardian can parade past while still keeping 6-feet of distance and wearing a face covering. It’s suggested to offer reserved time slots to limit everyone showing up at once.
- Halloween haunted houses currently are not allowed in Restore Illinois Phase 4 Guidelines.
- Consider open-air, one-way haunted forests or haunted walks where 6-feet of distance can be maintained and face coverings are used.
Adult costume parties, social gatherings, Halloween parties at bars
- Gatherings of more than 50 people or 50% or more of a building’s maximum occupancy are prohibited. (Lower limits may apply for regions in additional mitigation.)
- The more time you spend at a gathering, the closer the contact, the more people, the higher your risk of exposure to COVID-19.
- Follow small social gathering safety tips from IDPH.
Pumpkin patches and orchards
- Cloth face coverings and social distancing should be enforced.
- Use hand sanitizer before handling pumpkins, apples, and other produce.
- Hayrides should not exceed 50% capacity with parties spaced at least six feet apart.
- Wear face coverings at all times when around people not from your household.
After participating in any of these activities, anyone who thinks they may have been exposed should take extra precautions for at least 14 days after the event, staying home, avoiding people at increased risk for severe illness with COVID-19 and getting tested, experts say.
Illinois ‘Closely Monitoring' Region 6 Metrics, Skewed by Major Coronavirus Testing Hub of Champaign County
Illinois health officials on Wednesday said they are "closely monitoring" coronavirus data in the state's Region 6, now presenting its metrics both with and without the major testing hub of Champaign County, where the University of Illinois is potentially skewing the metrics with its robust testing program.
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has been performing repeated saliva testing of staff and students since the school developed the test in August. That test enables the school, and thus, Champaign County, to report thousands of tests each day.
Illinois health officials said Wednesday that the tests performed at that U of I campus can average up to 20% of all tests done in the state in some weeks.
"Because of this high volume, the positivity rate for Region 6 could be overshadowed by what is happening at UIUC," officials said, announcing that it would present data for Region 6 with and without Champaign County included.
Region 6 includes: Champaign, Clark, Clay, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, De Witt, Douglas, Edgar, Effingham, Fayette, Ford, Iroquois, Jasper, Lawrence, Macon, Moultrie, Piatt, Richland, Shelby and Vermillion counties.
It's one of 11 regions the state is divided into the allow for a more focused response to the coronavirus pandemic, with regions automatically triggering enhanced mitigations based on certain metrics, like a sustained increase in testing positivity rate as well as a reduction in hospital capacity or three days of positivity rates above 8%.
Regions 1 and 4 - in northwest Illinois and the Metro East, respectively - are both under enhanced restrictions after seeing an 8% positivity rate for several consecutive days.
If Region 6 does trigger enhanced mitigations - which include restrictions to higher risk settings like indoor bars and restaurants as well as changes in retail, fitness, salon, personal care settings and more - with or without Champaign County, the entire region will see those guidelines go into place, including Champaign County, health officials said Wednesday.
State health officials have found that Region 6 with Champaign County included was seeing a 7-day rolling positivity rate of 2% as of Wednesday, officials said. When calculated excluding Champaign County, that figure increases to 7.2% - putting the region much closer to automatically triggering additional restrictions.
"IDPH is encouraging local leaders and communities in Region 6 to begin taking action now to reduce the test positivity rate, which includes making sure people are wearing masks in public, maintaining social distance, and not gathering in large groups," health officials said.
Illinois Reports 2,273 New Coronavirus Cases, 35 Additional Deaths Wednesday
Illinois health officials on Wednesday reported 2,273 new cases of coronavirus in the last 24 hours, along with 35 additional deaths.
Wednesday's metrics bring the state’s total number of coronavirus cases to 293,274 cases and the total number of fatalities to 8,672.
Health officials reported higher testing numbers Wednesday, with 58,546 specimens processed by labs throughout the state. In all, 5,624,822 tests have been performed in the state since the pandemic began, officials said.
Since declining below 3.5% last week, the state’s seven-day positivity rate has been trending upward, standing at 3.6% Wednesday.
Hospitalization numbers also ticked up Wednesday. As of midnight, 1,632 individuals were hospitalized due to COVID-19 in Illinois, with 378 patients in intensive care unit beds. A total of 152 patients were on ventilators in the state, officials said.
Illinois' Region 1 to See Enhanced Coronavirus Restrictions as Positivity Rate Increases
Health officials in Illinois announced Tuesday that enhanced coronavirus mitigation rules will be put into place in Region 1 beginning on Saturday.
According to a press release from Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office, the new mitigation rules will be put into place after the region, located in northwest Illinois, saw its seven-day rolling positivity rate exceed 8% for more than three consecutive days.
Region 1 includes Boone, Carroll, DeKalb, Jo Daviess, Lee, Ogle, Stephenson, Whiteside and Winnebago counties.
“The concerning uptick in Region 1’s positivity rate – jumping more than two percentage points in two weeks even as the majority of Illinois continues to see downward trends – demands increased efforts to stop the spread in our northwestern counties,” Pritzker said in a statement.
Region 1 has also reported some increased hospital admission for illnesses directly related to COVID-19, as well as illnesses that could potentially be linked to the virus.
As part of the new enhanced mitigation strategies, indoor service at bars and restaurants must be suspended on Saturday. All outside bar service can continue, but service will be required to close at 11 p.m. Reservations will be required for parties looking to visit bars and restaurants.
Social events will also be limited to 25 or fewer guests, or 25% of overall room capacity. Party buses are also banned under provisions of the rules.
Health Officials Investigate Multiple Reports of Coronavirus Cases at Elmhurst Orangetheory
The DuPage County Health Department reported multiple cases of coronavirus linked to an Orangetheory Fitness studio in Elmhurst.
In a statement, the health department said officials received "multiple reports" of COVID-19 cases at the Orangetheory since last week.
"In our communication with Orange Theory, we have provided public health guidance and resources, and we are conducting case and contact investigations to help determine if exposure may have occurred onsite as well as the extent of that exposure. We have also provided risk mitigation recommendations to prevent ongoing COVID-19 spread in the community," the statement read.
The Orangetheory reported 18 positive cases of the coronavirus, the gym confirmed in a statement Tuesday.
"We are concerned about all involved and are hopeful that everyone will quickly return to health. We are working with local health authorities in the contact tracing process to identify any additional cases as soon as possible. We are constantly examining and evolving our internal policies and processes to ensure the safety of our staff and members, and are committed to ongoing vigilance in all of our studios," the statement read.
The fitness studio, located at 135 N. Addison Ave. in Elmhurst, closed from Thursday to Sunday to investigate the outbreak and do a deep cleaning.
Multiple Coronavirus Cases Linked to North Suburban Adult Volleyball Leagues, Nearly 200 People May Have Been Exposed
Multiple cases of COVID-19 in Chicago's north suburbs have been linked to adult volleyball leagues where nearly 200 people may have been exposed to the coronavirus, health officials said Tuesday.
At least 14 people who played or watched volleyball at Jesse Oaks Food & Drink in Gages Lake in September have tested positive for coronavirus, the Lake County Health Department said in a statement.
Of the confirmed cases, multiple people reported to health officials that they had also played volleyball at other bar and restaurant locations, which health officials said could contribute to further spread of the virus. The health department said nearly 200 volleyball players and spectators may have been exposed.
"“We are currently working diligently to speak with infected individuals and notify close contacts who have been identified," Dr. Sana Ahmed, Lake County Health Department epidemiologist, said in a statement. "This could potentially be a large outbreak, and we need the public’s help to contain the spread of this virus."
Health officials asked anyone who played volleyball at Jesse Oaks in September, or visited the establishment without a mask or social distancing, to quarantine at home for 14 days from their last game or visit, get a COVID-19 test at least five days after the most recent game or sooner if symptoms develop.
They also asked anyone who played at Jesse Oaks to call the Communicable Disease program at (847) 377-8130 if they have not already been contacted by the Lake County Health Department.
Jesse Oaks has suspended all volleyball activities for 14 days, officials said, and will resume once "in compliance with state guidelines after that time."
"Under the current phase of the state’s plan, volleyball is considered a medium risk sport, and no competitive matches between teams are permitted," Lake County Health Department's Director of Environmental Health Larry Mackey said.
“Failing to abide by these guidelines puts the public’s health at risk, prolongs the pandemic, and has the potential to force additional restrictions on local businesses that are working so hard to protect their employees and customers,” Mackey added. “We continue to address any complaints of facilities not following these guidelines and are working closely with business owners to help them operate safely. When businesses don't cooperate, however, we have no choice but to pursue enforcement measures."
Lake County has reported a total of 16,690 confirmed coronavirus cases and 464 deaths since the pandemic began, officials said Tuesday.
Class-Action Lawsuit Filed Against IHSA to Allow Fall Sports to Begin
A group of student-athletes and parents filed a class action lawsuit Tuesday against the Illinois High School Association, pushing to allow fall sports to resume amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The suit was filed in DuPage County, according to a press release, and lists the IHSA as the primary defendant.
A total of 20 students are listed as plaintiffs in the suit, which will seek a temporary restraining order ordering the state to allow fall sports, including football, soccer and volleyball, to get underway.
The suit alleges that prohibitions on some fall sports, including football and volleyball, violates the IHSA’s constitution and bylaws, and has “caused mental health issues and financial hardships” for athletes and their families, according to the press release.
Specifically, the suit alleges that the decision to postpone fall sports will have negative financial impacts on both students and parents, as they will fall behind in their ability to compete for athletic scholarships to make college more affordable.