(NOTE: Daily press conferences from Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot will be streamed live in the player above. Check back for updates.)
Major Chicago events are turning virtual as the coronavirus pandemic changes the way the city celebrates summer.
But as coronavirus cases surge in some parts of the country, Chicago and Illinois have managed to continue a downward trend as the city slowly reopens.
Here are the latest developments on the coronavirus crisis today (July 8):
Nearly 1,000 New Coronavirus Cases, 36 Additional Deaths Reported in Illinois Wednesday
After several days of declining positive test results, the state of Illinois reported nearly 1,000 new cases of coronavirus and 36 additional deaths on Wednesday.
In all, 980 new cases were confirmed by state health officials, bringing the statewide total of confirmed cases during the pandemic to 149,432.
According to the Department of Public Health, the 36 additional deaths Wednesday brings the state’s confirmed fatality count to 7,099 since the pandemic began.
The state has continued to aggressively expand testing availability, and reported 32,742 new tests on Wednesday, bumping up the statewide total to 1,842,576.
Even with the uptick in numbers, state health officials are confirming positive trends in cases and testing capabilities. According to Gov. J.B. Pritzker, the state’s positive test results are down more than 70 percent since hitting their peak earlier this year, and hospitalizations due to the virus are also down 70 percent statewide.
The seven-day positivity rate remains at 2.5 percent, according to Pritzker.
'It's Not Too Late': Pritzker Calls for National Mask Mandate
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker testified before the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security Wednesday, arguing for a national mask mandate and coordinated strategy.
"It's not too late for the federal government to make an impact," Pritzker said during his opening remarks.
During his comments, Pritzker criticized the federal government's coronavirus response, saying "there was no national plan to acquire PPE or testing supplies and as a result people died."
"When the same emergency is crashing down on every state at once that's a national emergency and it requires a national response," he said, adding that "states were forced to play some sort of sick hunger games game show to save the lives of our people."
He called for a coordinated effort across the country to increase testing and contact tracing and the implementation of a mask mandate.
"We need a national masking mandate," he said. "We instituted ours in Illinois on May 1, one of the first in the nation and it aligns with our most significant downward shifts in our infection rates."
Brookfield Zoo Reopens to Public With Reservations Required
Brookfield Zoo has reopened to the public after a months-long closure during the coronavirus pandemic.
The zoo, which has been closed to guests since March 19, reopened its doors for members only last week, and to the public Wednesday, but only in outdoor areas.
“Brookfield Zoo has been closed for nearly four months and we are eagerly looking forward to welcoming guests back to reconnect with animals and nature,” Stuart Strahl, president and CEO of the Chicago Zoological Society said in a statement last month. “We have been following guidelines set forth by local, state, and federal government and health agencies to ensure the well-being of our zoo guests, staff, volunteers, and the animals.”
In order to get in, visitors will need to make a reservation. There will also be a series of new "protocols and procedures" in place.
Pritzker to Visit Mobile Testing Site in Chicago
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expected to visit a mobile coronavirus testing site in Illinois Wednesday afternoon.
Pritzker will be at Coles Elementary School in Chicago at 2 p.m. Watch live in the player above.
Amid Coronavirus Pandemic, Taste of Chicago Goes Virtual
The virtual Taste of Chicago experience starts Wednesday with some major changes after years of feeding hungry visitors.
The new and reimagined “Taste of Chicago To-Go" features a slate of free programming including online cooking demonstrations, virtual music performances and dance events from Wednesday through Sunday.
This week, the kickoff will feature the Four Star Brass Band virtual performance, along with a food truck procession of neighborhood restaurants.
The traditional Taste of Chicago was called off this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but food festival leaders continue to keep the traditions alive.
University of Illinois Rolls Out Saliva Tests for Virus
Students and staff at the University of Illinois can be tested for the coronavirus with a saliva sample instead of an uncomfortable nasal swab.
“We think this is breakthrough technology,” said Tim Killeen, university president. “It’s low cost. It’s rapid. We’re going to be able to do this for many, many people coming in.”
A tent opened Tuesday near the Alice Campbell Alumni Center, the Chicago Tribune reported. Results from the free tests should be available within 24 hours. The university believes it can perform 10,000 tests a day at various sites at the Champaign-Urbana campus.
Illinois-Based Classic Cinemas to Temporarily Shutter All 14 Theaters Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
Illinois-based movie theater chain Classic Cinemas will temporarily close all of its locations on Thursday amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, officials announced Tuesday.
According to a Facebook post, the theater chain cited the lack of new movie releases and extra costs associated with protocols made necessary by the COVID-19 pandemic as reasons behind the decision.
The Downers Grove-based chain operates 14 theater locations, including 13 in Illinois. Theaters in Carpentersville, Downers Grove, Elk Grove Village, Elmhurst, Fox Lake, Freeport, Kankakee, North Riverside, Oak Park, Sandwich, St. Charles and Woodstock will be impacted by the closure announcement.
The chain reopened theaters when Illinois moved into Phase Four of the “Restore Illinois” plan, which allowed theaters to reopen under strict occupancy and safety guidelines. Despite that reopening, many movies that had been slated for summer release were pushed back due to the ongoing pandemic, leaving theaters scrambling to book older films instead.
Suburban Orland Park Set to Allow Outdoor Concerts to Resume in August
The show will go on in south suburban Orland Park, as the village is planning to resume its concert series at Centennial Park West on August 22.
The village's plan is set to move forward, even though the office of Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has cautioned towns and villages to avoid large gatherings and events as the state continues to fight the spread of the coronavirus.
Mayor Keith Pekau said he expects about 2,000 to 3,000 people will attend the concerts, which is about 20 percent of the capacity of Centennial Park West.
He said the area is large enough for people to stay socially-distanced.
Coronavirus Data: Illinois Ranks 12th Nationally in New COVID-19 Cases Over the Last 7 Days
As Illinois reported its lowest number of coronavirus cases in more than two weeks, several states are still seeing dramatic surges in cases as the pandemic continues.
According to the latest data compiled by NBC 5 Investigates, Illinois ranks 12th nationally in the number of new COVID-19 cases reported over the last week. In fact, Florida has reported more than 10 times as many cases in the last seven days as Illinois has racked up, with California not far behind.
According to the CDC, Florida, California, Texas, Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Louisiana, Alabama and Ohio have all reported more new COVID-19 cases in the last week than Illinois has.
While Illinois still ranks sixth nationally in total cases during the pandemic, it could still soon be caught by another state that’s seeing a dramatic growth in cases. Currently, Arizona is ranked eighth nationally in total cases reported during the pandemic, just crossing the 100,000 case threshold on Tuesday.