Note: Any news conferences from Gov. J.B. Pritzker or Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot will be streamed in the video player above.
Several students at a suburban high school contracted coronavirus after attending a large gathering at a home, the school district's superintendent said in a letter to the community on Thursday.
Meanwhile, coronavirus cases continue to spike at colleges and universities as students return to campuses for the fall semester - with at least two universities now requiring students to quarantine.
NBC 5 Investigates has been tracking the outbreaks, finding at least 55,000 cases reported in recent weeks, and putting all the info you need to know into a searchable tool to see how the pandemic is spreading.
Here are the latest updates from around Illinois on the coronavirus pandemic today (Sept. 11):
NIU Moves All Undergraduate Classes Online After 120 Students Test Positive
Northern Illinois University announced Friday that it plans to temporarily move all undergraduate courses online as the school faces an uptick in coronavirus cases driven largely by off-campus gatherings, the university's president said.
In a letter to both students and staff, President Lisa Freeman wrote that more than 120 students have tested positive for COVID-19 "and more are currently quarantining due to exposure and/or pending results."
"Through contact tracing, we have determined that the vast majority of student cases involve those who live off-campus or who attended off-campus gatherings where masks were not worn and physical distancing was not respected," Freeman wrote. "We are also aware that some students are not fully cooperating with health officials and following guidelines on reporting symptoms and potential exposure."
Effective immediately, she said, the school will temporarily move all undergraduate courses online and urged all students living on-campus or in DeKalb County to "limit in-person activities and interactions" until Sept. 28. All planned in-person events have also been canceled.
"These careless and unacceptable activities have led to a substantial increase in the overall positivity rate for DeKalb County and put our entire community at risk," she wrote. "We continue to work closely with our partners at the DeKalb County Health Department, and together determined that we need to take immediate and significant action to reduce opportunities for further spread."
As part of the changes, the school said students must "strictly limit" all interactions to only essential activities like getting groceries, seeking medical care or going to work.
Under the guidelines, students living on-campus can only leave their resident halls to do the following:
- Pick up meals from dining facilities or the Holmes Student Center
- Pick up to-go meals from local establishments
- Pick up deliveries (grocery and restaurant deliveries)
- Spend time outdoors doing individual activities while masked
- Use university Wi-Fi, computer labs or the Founders Memorial Library
- Utilize the Student Health Center and Counseling and Consultation Services
- Take care of essential errands (grocery store, medical appointments, getting a flu shot)
- Attend work (both on- and off-campus) after getting approval from supervisors
- Participate in off-campus internships or clinicals organized by a student’s college
- Manage child care responsibilities
The school also asked students living off-campus to follow similar guidelines.
"It also means absolutely avoiding gatherings or parties, indoors or out," Freeman said. "I know this is very frustrating, especially for those students who have been diligently following the rules and prioritizing the health of fellow Huskies. By taking bold measures and limiting exposure now, however, we have the best opportunity to stop these trends."
30 Illinois Counties Now at 'Warning Level' for Coronavirus, Health Officials Say
Thirty counties in Illinois 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: Bond, Bureau, Cass, Clinton, Coles, Crawford, DeKalb, DuPage, Effingham, Greene, Grundy, Hancock, Henderson, Jackson, Jasper, Jersey, Lawrence, Madison, McLean, Monroe, Morgan, Pulaski, Schuyler, Shelby, Stark, St. Clair, Tazewell, Vermilion, Washington, Williamson.
Last week, 29 counties were at a "warning level."
Illinois Reports 1,953 New Coronavirus Cases, 28 Deaths Thursday
Illinois reported 2,145 new coronavirus cases Friday as the state's positivity rate rose slightly, but remained below 4%.
The new cases lift the statewide total since the pandemic began to 257,788, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. On Monday, Illinois crossed 250,000 cases for the first time.
Friday's figures also noted an additional 32 deaths, bringing the state's death toll to 8,273 in all 102 counties attributed to the virus.
The new cases were the result of 56,661 tests administered over the last 24 hours, bringing statewide totals to 4,632,382.
The state’s rolling 7-day positivity rate was reported Friday at 3.9%, a slight increase from Thursday's 3.8%.
In all, 1,619 patients were currently hospitalized due to COVID-19 in the state of Illinois, with 359 of those patients in intensive care units and the number of patients on ventilators at 155.
Pritzker to Announce Investments to Expand Job Opportunities in Chicago
Illinois Gov. Pritzker is scheduled to speak on the coronavirus pandemic Friday, according to his public schedule.
Pritzker will join local leaders in Chicago to "announce investments to expand job opportunities for Illinoisans who have become unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic," his office says.
That event begins at 11 a.m. at Cara Chicago, located at 237 South Desplaines Street and can be watched live in the video player above.
Several Coronavirus Cases at Oak Park and River Forest High School Linked to Large Gathering
Several students at Oak Park and River Forest High School have contracted the coronavirus after attending a large gathering at a home where mask-wearing and social distancing weren't observed, the district superintendent said in a letter to the school community Thursday.
While it's not known exactly how many students attended the gathering, Oak Park and River Forest Supt. Dr. Joylynn Pruitt-Adams said a total of 24 current students tested positive for the virus from Aug. 15 to Sept. 9.
In her message to the school community, Dr. Pruitt-Adams pleaded with students to stop engaging in risky behaviors.
"They put not just you and your families, but our entire community at risk," she said.
The superintendent also reminded the community that anyone who has been in close contact with a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19 should self-quarantine for 14 days and asked individuals to cooperate with contact-tracing efforts.
"I understand that sharing information about unsafe behavior may be uncomfortable and embarrassing," she said. "But providing details about whom an exposed person has been with, for how long, where they were, etc., is essential to stopping the spread of COVID-19."
Oak Park and River Forest High School started the school year with remote learning on Aug. 19.
Expired Illinois Driver's Licenses Extended to November
Illinois drivers with expired licenses are being given a one-month extension by Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White.
All Illinois driver’s licenses, ID cards, vehicle registration, restricted driving permits and monitoring devices that are currently expired or set to expire by Sept. 30 have been extended until Nov. 1, according to White’s office.
Seniors age 75 and older are also being given a one-year extension on expiration dates amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“I am mindful of the heightened risks associated with seniors contracting COVID-19, and that is why I have authorized this important change during this challenging and unique time,” said White.
Illinois drivers with suspended or revoked licenses do not qualify for the one-year extension.
Pritzker: State ‘Will Be Fighting to Save the Titanic With a Plastic Bucket' If Virus Not Under Control
ISU Says Video Showing Huge Party Being Investigated, Students Could Face Discipline
Students who attended a massive party near the Illinois State University campus despite coronavirus restrictions could face discipline, the university said, after video of the large gathering was posted to social media.
Videos surfaced this week with the location tagged as ISU, appearing to show a large crowd of young people packed closely together, many without masks, screaming and drinking.
The video appeared to have originated from YouTube stars NELK Boys, a group known for posting pranks on social media that generate millions of views. The group had posted on Twitter that they planned to be in Chicago Tuesday, but reports later surfaced that they were at the ISU campus.
The university tweeted a response to someone who tagged the school's account to notify them of the video, saying, "This was an off-campus party that was eventually dispersed by local police."
"The University does not condone the behavior," the tweet read. "The administration is investigating the incident and looking into disciplinary action against students who attended the party."
Illinois State University reported more than 1,300 coronavirus cases as of Thursday, representing about 6.5% of the university's student body.
At colleges and universities within Illinois, more than 4,101 cases have been reported as of Thursday - though that total is likely higher. When adjusted for population - dividing the number of new cases reported by each institution's enrollment - Illinois State University in Normal has the highest proportion of infections of all schools in the state.
While ISU's president announced last month that many courses would be held in online formats, some remain face-to-face or hybrid instruction.
According to the university, a majority of cases are off-campus and infected students are quarantining or isolating. The school is also offering a "limited number of rooms" to those who live on-campus and cannot return home.
The university noted that is currently testing symptomatic students through its Student Health Services but said it is working with the University of Illinois to use their saliva-based test, with hopes of having the test on-campus in the coming weeks.
More Than 55K Coronavirus Cases Reported at Hundreds of Colleges and Universities
More than 55,000 cases of coronavirus have been reported at hundreds of colleges and universities in recent weeks as students return to campuses while the pandemic rages on.
NBC 5 Investigates is tracking cases at more than 250 colleges, universities and historically black colleges and universities most attended by Illinois students, including all schools within the state.
Those schools include many that don't appear to report their cases online - meaning the true total number of cases may be higher - and many where classes haven't started or began barely one week ago.
At colleges and universities within the state of Illinois, at least 4,246 cases have been reported as of Friday - though that total is likely higher because some of those schools don't reveal information on their cases online.
At the 14 schools in the Big Ten conference, more than 9,936 cases of coronavirus have been reported. That includes 1,460 students and staff members at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which switched to fully remote learning Wednesday, closing all academic buildings and ordering residents at two different dorms to quarantine for two weeks.
Bradley University in Peoria did the same on Tuesday, implementing a two-week quarantine for all students and moving to remote learning through at least Sept. 23. At least 27 new coronavirus cases have been reported on campus since the fall session began.
But data shows that 16 Illinois colleges have already reported more coronavirus cases than Bradley but have not moved to quarantine students or shifted to entirely remote learning. That includes Illinois State University, where 1,331 cases have been reported, just over two weeks after classes began.
NBC 5 Investigates is only looking at cases that have arisen during the fall, purposely excluding cases that occurred on campuses in the spring and summer, in order to concentrate solely on how the pandemic spreads as students return for this semester.
You can use the tool below to see the number of coronavirus cases each school has reported, sorting by school, cases and more, or searching for a particular term (like Illinois or Indiana) to narrow down specific schools. This tool will be updated each evening.
University of Wisconsin-Madison Switches to Online Learning, Orders 2 Residence Halls to Quarantine
Due to a recent upward trend in positivity rates and coronavirus cases, students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison will switch to remote learning for at least two weeks, effective immediately, and residents at two different dormitories will be required to quarantine during that time.
According to a notice published Wednesday by the school, all in-person learning for undergraduate, graduate, and professional students will be moved to remote learning from Sept. 10 to the 25. Classes will be canceled between Thursday and Saturday, with learning resuming in an online format on Monday.
In addition, all residents at Sellery and Witte Residence Halls will be ordered to quarantine in place for the next two weeks, effective at 10 p.m. Wednesday night. All residents of those halls who have not been tested this week will be required to take coronavirus tests in the next two days.
All university libraries, the Wisconsin Union, and other academic buildings are all ordered closed.
The school is urging students who live in the area to remain in the Madison-area, as CDC guidance urges students not to travel home for remote learning purposes during COVID-19 outbreaks.
According to Chancellor Rebecca Blank, the positivity rate on coronavirus tests has exceeded 20% each of the last two days, and officials have seen a rapid increase in cases among students living off campus and on campus.
“We will not contain this spread without significant additional action,” Blank said in a statement.
The decision to move to online learning was reached in consultation with numerous agencies and officials, including Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers.
Learning Pods Growing in Popularity Amid Pandemic
As the coronavirus pandemic continues, learning pods are a popular option for working parents who need help with remote education, and in south suburban Olympia Fields, Kristal Davis has opened her doors to families for the first time.
Davis has been homeschooling her own children for years. She even transformed her basement into a classroom. Recently however, she noticed parents in her own community struggling to find childcare and is now extending her curriculum to others in what she's calling a home school co-op.
"We’re covering all the subjects in a day. They’re getting exercise. They’re getting outdoor time," said Davis. "Because of the pandemic, I decided there would be kids with no supervision. I have the space,. I’m here. I felt this was the right time to do it."
One of her new students, Drake, was supposed to start pre-school this year in the Matteson school district. The 3-year-old is immunocompromised, and his parents decided they couldn't take the risk of sending him to a traditional school.
"This was by far the very best option we had and also could afford," said Crystal Jamaeu, Drake's mom.
Jameau is 8-months pregnant and works from home. She says it would be "nearly impossible" to keep Drake occupied without help.
"We decided to put him here so he could still play with other children, have the experience of at least going to some form of school, but not necessarily in an environment that would expose him to the virus," said Jameau.
Learning pods are growing in popularity because of the small class sizes and in-person offerings. Socialization is also important to many parents.
Davis says safety is a priority. She expects her families to follow CDC guidelines and be honest about activities outside of the pod. If families go out of town, she also expects them to take a coronavirus test before returning.
Lightfoot Says Chicago is Working on Trick-or-Treat Plans, Doesn't ‘Expect Mass Crowds'
Halloween is a little more than a month away and already some in the U.S. have announced plans to cancel trick-or-treating during the coronavirus pandemic, but what will things look like for Chicago?
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Wednesday the city is working on plans but details will come at a later date.
"We are working on plans to recognize and celebrate Halloween, which I know is an important moment for many, including the kids in my neighborhood, but we're going to do it in a way that's consistent with the public health guidance," Lightfoot said.
Already, health officials in L.A. County have banned trick-or-treating, carnivals and haunted houses due to concerns over the spread of the coronavirus.
Lightfoot said while she doesn't know what the city's plans will be come October's end, she doesn't expect to see large groups of trick-or-treaters this year.
"Obviously it is a very different time and I don't expect to see mass crowds," Lightfoot said. "It's not safe for the children, it's not safe for the adults."
That's a sentiment that was echoed by area health experts, who said if holiday festivities aren't canceled entirely, they will certainly look different.
Dr. Mark Loafman, chair of family and community medicine at Cook County Health, said the holiday was already a tricky subject for doctors as they work to battle an obesity epidemic, but the coronavirus brings even more challenges to the table.
"That's something we always struggle with regardless of COVID anyways, you know, encouraging families to find healthier ways to celebrate and to not sort of put candy and really empty calorie food up on such an altar to be celebrated. So that's sort of a backdrop so I think from a public health point of view where we always want to help families address opportunities to find other ways to celebrate it and, you know, the risks associated with that," Loafman said. "Now we have this COVID environment where people getting close together and in a celebratory way is one of our biggest challenges right now."
Maintaining small groups and proper hygiene could be a way for families to still celebrate, Loafman said.
"What we recommend is you know families get together, so it's safe houses where we know who's going to be going where and we know people are following the protocols and is celebrating, dressing up and the other occasions that would be useful, and good family traditions and that sort of thing," Loafman said. "We try to focus on healthy snacks, try to focus on teaching children safe ways to communicate and how to enforce public health principles. I think we anticipate living with this virus for quite a while and maybe indefinitely and we really have to learn how to retrain all occasions and all events to be able to do it in a safe way so this is an opportunity to do that."
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