Note: Any news conferences from Gov. J.B. Pritzker or Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot will be streamed in the video player above.
The state of Illinois will now require restaurant and bar patrons statewide to wear masks while interacting with wait staff and other employees under new regulations that Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Tuesday.
Those new regulations take effect at the same time as new restrictions in two suburban counties seeing a sustained increase in their coronavirus testing positivity rate.
At the same time, the state of Illinois has reached the threshold at which it would theoretically be included in the city of Chicago's emergency travel order requiring a 14-day quarantine.
But the city's top health official says the city won't require quarantine for people coming from other parts of the state - and detailed how the deadly virus is spreading most commonly in Chicago.
Here are the latest updates from around the state on the fight against coronavirus today (Aug. 26):
Chicago's Top Health Official Details How COVID-19 Spreads Most in the City
The city's coronavirus surge can likely be attributed to both traveling and gathering in large groups, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady warned Tuesday.
Arwady said Chicago officials continue to hear that people traveling from outside Illinois to places such as Wisconsin, Texas, Puerto Rico and Mexico are most commonly bringing back the coronavirus.
Chicago officials have also received reports of family and informal gatherings being a "major source of spread," according to Arwady. She added that out-of-state weddings, birthday parties and funerals have all contributed to Chicago's coronavirus spread.
"We hear about people playing basketball together in the pool or soccer together in the park. We hear about spread between boyfriends and girlfriends. We hear about family barbecues in the backyard. We hear about people sharing e-cigarettes or sharing drinks and teenagers just hanging out with their friends," Arwady said.
She explained that though these may not seem like major events, officials overwhelmingly contribute them to the recent spread of COVID-19.
Even after receiving a coronavirus test, Arwady said many people are not quarantining while waiting for results to return.
"So, if you've gotten a test, even if you think you've had a mild cold or you're just overworked, you must stay home and you must try to limit contact even within the household," Arwady said. "That could mean wearing masks at home, while you're waiting for some of those test results, especially if you've got someone who's older or is more vulnerable."
Ultimately, Arwady advised Chicago to avoid unnecessary gatherings of any kind and to limit travel if possible during this time, while updating the city's travel order.
NBC 5 Responds: What Does a Homeowner Do When Appliances Break During a Pandemic?
With the coronavirus pandemic still ongoing and businesses continuing to adapt to the limitations the virus is putting on society, homeowners are struggling with an all-too common problem: what to do if an appliance breaks.
One such homeowner is Jolie Jimenez of Chicago, who says she was thrilled with her new Frigidaire refrigerator, which set her back around $2,200. That happiness was short-lived however, because after just three weeks, a mysterious noise began.
“It was just making this really loud noise and I opened it and it just sounded like, I don't know how to explain it. Like a loud motorcycle in my home,” she told NBC 5 Responds.
Jolie says the noise frequently awoke both her and her husband in the middle of the night, as well as their dog, Bambina. She first reached out to Home Depot, where she made the purchase. There, she says, customer service told her the retailer could not help; she would have to work with the refrigerator maker to get the loud noise fixed.
Jolie then says she allowed four repair techs sent by manufacturer Electrolux (parent company of Frigidaire) to visit her home in February and early March, but that was before the coronavirus and stay-at-home recommendations hit Chicago.
"They want to keep sending techs to my home, and I said I'm very sorry but at this moment, I myself, I don't I don't know what to expect. I'm scared to bring someone into my home we don't know who these techs are… so I'm just going to hold off for now," Jolie said.
Jolie says she asked both Home Depot and Electrolux to swap out the troubled appliance for a new one, but both refused. That’s when she reached to NBC 5 Responds to inquire about her rights as a customer saddled with an expensive- and troubled— new appliance.
In response to our questions, Home Depot said the repair questions were best directed to the appliance maker, and then offered Jolie and her husband a gift card for “customer goodwill” and to acknowledge the inconvenience they had endured.
A spokesperson for Electrolux said the company was willing to send another repair tech, but that offer further taxed Jolie Jimenez’ patience, and her comfort level. How many tech visits are too many- especially during a pandemic? We asked non-profit Consumers’ Checkbook, which recently took on this issue in a new report.
“If they have to come back more than once, that's too many times,” Consumers’ Checkbook Executive Editor Kevin Brasler told NBC 5. “They should be able to on during their first visit diagnose what the problem is and get it fixed."
Brasler questions why any major company is still requiring in-home diagnoses during this pandemic, and suggests working with a company that offers video chats before sending techs to your home.
“To make sure that they understand what the problem is, so that when they send workers out they are sending them out with the right parts,” Brasler said. “It's really important right now to choose companies wisely so you don't have this repeated visit after visit after visit to fix a problem that should have been fixed.”
Five visits in, Jolie Jimenez says she agreed to one more- and it paid off. This time, the tech agreed with the work Jolie had been using all along: defective. She has now been refunded the full purchase amount of the refrigerator.
A spokeswoman for Electrolux responded to all of NBC 5 Responds’ emails, but not our specific questions. Ultimately, she confirmed the appliance maker was working with the customer to resolve all concerns related to this matter.
Illinois Meets Threshold For Chicago's Travel Order, But City Not Requiring Quarantine
Illinois has reached the metric for which it would be included on Chicago's travel order, but the city won't be requiring a quarantine within the state, public health officials said Tuesday.
"Chicago has decided not to institute restrictions on Illinois," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said.
As of Tuesday, Chicago was seeing an average daily case rate of 12.6 cases per 100,000 residents, Arwady said. Illinois, meanwhile, was at 15.9.
While she noted the city considered county-by-county restrictions, "realistically we didn't feel it made sense to enforce any quarantine restriction in Illinois."
"None of us in Illinois are really in a place to brag at the moment," Arwady said, noting she would still avoid travel within the state as much as possible.
"We are not imposing any travel restrictions, but we want to highlight people who are traveling through Illinois to pay special attention to wearing masks," she said. "If there is not need to travel, the recommendation would be not to travel."
Pritzker Says State Erred With Less Restrictive COVID-19 Rules in Region 4
Facing questions about why his administration implemented more stringent restrictions in Will and Kankakee counties than it had in southwestern Illinois amid increasing numbers of coronavirus cases, Gov. J.B. Pritzker admitted that he had made a “mistake” in adopting the less restrictive regulations in Region 4.
Speaking in Joliet Tuesday, Pritzker said that his administration had tried to line up coronavirus mitigation standards in Region 4 with those in effect in St. Louis and parts of eastern Missouri, but admitted that the plan had failed to adequately address the issues the region is facing.
“Let me just say it was a mistake, in my view, to make that adjustment that we made in Region 4,” Pritzker said. “We were trying to understand the concept that the region they live in is slightly different. It’s next to another metro area that had different measures, and we wanted to be responsive to the local communities and county health departments.”
Under guidelines established by the state of Illinois, any region whose 7-day positivity rate rose above 8% for three consecutive days would be required to implement a series of coronavirus mitigation strategies. Region 4, a collection of seven counties located near St. Louis, was the first region in the state to hit that threshold, and saw restrictions put into place earlier this month.
Those restrictions did not include the suspension of indoor dining and bar service, but those restrictions will likely be put into place in early September, as the region’s positivity rate continues to rise.
“We wanted to listen to them and try to follow the suggestion that they had made. I will readily admit that that was not a good idea, and that it appears now that we want to put those mitigations exactly in place as we had originally intended,” Pritzker said.
“The challenge with bars is often they tend to be packed with people,” Pritzker said. “It is sometimes the case that even though we put capacity limits in that the owners either don’t have the ability to count the people coming in, or to prevent people from coming in the door.”
Chicago Travel Order: 2 States Removed from Quarantine List as South Dakota Added
Arizona and North Carolina are no longer on Chicago's quarantine list, but South Dakota has been added as the city's emergency travel order requires travelers visiting or returning to the city from one of 19 locations to self-quarantine for 14 days, officials announced Tuesday.
In addition, Kansas has dropped below the threshold to be on the city's quarantine list, but will need another week of declining numbers to be officially removed, health officials said.
Last week, Wisconsin and Nebraska were both removed from the quarantine list, but Iowa and Kansas returned.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady noted Tuesday that Illinois has also reached the threshold to be on the city's order.
"Chicago has decided not to institute restrictions on Illinois," Arwady said, adding that she would still avoid travel as much as possible.
As of last week, the list stood at 20 U.S. states and territories. On Tuesday, 19 remained.
Illinois Restaurant Patrons Must Wear Masks During Interactions With Staff Under New Guidelines
Patrons at restaurants and bars in Illinois must now wear masks when interacting with wait staff and other employees under new state health guidelines, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Tuesday.
The new guidelines require patrons at bars, restaurants and other establishments statewide to wear a face covering over their mouth and nose when interacting with staff, state officials said.
This includes when wait staff takes orders, delivers food and beverages or serves tables in general. It applies to indoor and outdoor dining as well as any other facilities with food services areas like indoor recreational facilities, museums and entertainment venues, officials said.
"Customers must follow this rule when food and beverages are brought to the table, when orders are placed, and when picking up carry out orders," Pritzker said at a news conference on Tuesday.
"Illinois has had a mask mandate since May 1, and in most establishments people are adhering to it. But it’s important that we treat hospitality employees just as you would in any retail store or establishment," he continued. "This new requirement asks a little bit more of our residents dining out in order to protect their health and safety and that of our frontline hospitality workers, as well."
"Restaurateurs and bar owners want to remain open for business, and this new requirement will help keep people safe while moving the economy forward – that’s a goal we all believe in," Pritzker added.
Already restaurants in the state require workers to wear a face covering while on the job, and had previously required patrons to wear masks while on the premises, except while eating and drinking at their own table or bar. Health officials said Tuesday that the new guidelines "ensure that while seated, interactions between business staff and patrons can happen safely to prevent possible spread of the virus."
Illinois Reports 1,680 New Coronavirus Cases, 29 Additional Deaths
The state of Illinois reported more than 1,600 new cases of coronavirus and 29 additional fatalities in the last 24 hours, public health officials announced Tuesday.
According to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, the state has now reported a total of 223,470 cases throughout Illinois since the pandemic began earlier this year.
The 29 additional fatalities bring the state’s total number of deaths related to the virus to 7,917.
Marking a slight increase from one day earlier, the state reported 40,859 new test results Tuesday, far below the more than 50,000 tests turned in to state labs in recent days. Those test results bring the state’s total to 3,781,050 tests during the pandemic.
After rising throughout last week, the statewide seven-day positivity rate dropped from 4.2% to 4.1% on Tuesday.
Lightfoot Creates Winter Outdoor Dining Challenge for Restaurants Across Chicago
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Tuesday that she plans to launch a winter design challenge in an attempt to reimagine the winter outdoor dining experience.
In partnership with IDEO, BMO Harris Bank and the Illinois Restaurant Association, the Winter Design Challenge asks Chicago residents to propose outdoor dining solutions that adhere to COVID-19 guidelines, the mayor's office said.
According to Lightfoot's Office, the challenge will run Aug. 25 to Sept. 7, with winners announced in mid-September. Each winner will receive $5,000 and opportunities to start their idea at restaurants and bars around the city, the office said.
“While we’ve had to implement restrictions and take hard measures to combat a recent rise in COVID-19 activity, we will continue to ensure our restaurants, bars and businesses have the supports they need to survive during these unprecedented times,” Lightfoot said. “We are asking our community members to come together and think creatively about how we can make outdoor dining feasible in the winter.”
The mayor's office said that all Chicago residents are invited to participate in the challenge with submissions accepted on IDEO's open innovation platform.
Bank of America Chicago Marathon Announces Free 2020 ‘Virtual Experience'
In lieu of this year's Bank of America Chicago Marathon, race organizers announced Tuesday the free 2020 Bank of America Chicago Marathon Virtual Experience to bring "the spirit and celebration of race week to you."
"We're inviting everyone to run with us in their own communities and celebrate their achievement virtually with the global running community," Chicago Marathon organizers said in a statement. "Shorter distances from the mile to the half marathon will be available for novice runners to veteran marathoners to take part in a new kind of running experience."
The Bank of America Chicago Marathon Virtual Experience starts on Monday, Oct. 5, and ends on Sunday, Oct. 11, the date that would have been the 43rd running of this year's race. The 2020 Chicago Marathon was canceled amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Will, Kankakee Counties to See New Coronavirus Mitigation Rules as Positivity Rate Rises
A second Illinois region will have new coronavirus mitigation rules put into effect, as south suburban Kankakee and Will counties continue to see increases in their rolling positivity rates.
Under the new rules, indoor service at both bars and restaurants will be suspended until further notice, according to a statement from the governor's office.
According to Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Region 7 will have new COVID-19 mitigation efforts implemented on Wednesday after the region saw its rolling positivity rate meet or exceed the 8% threshold for three consecutive days.
According to data provided by the Illinois Department of Health, the two counties, which comprise Region 7 in the state’s coronavirus mitigation strategy, have seen their combined positivity rate on coronavirus testing go up from 6.7% on Aug. 12 to 8.3% on Monday, with eight consecutive days of increases in that number.
Under the IDPH’s “Restore Illinois” plan, any region that has a rolling positivity rate of 8% or higher for three consecutive days would then have coronavirus mitigation measures enacted, and Region 7 is now in that category after remaining at or above 8% since Saturday.
Those new mitigation measures include requiring bars and restaurants to close by 11 p.m., with outdoor service suspended at both bars and restaurants as a result of the new restrictions.
The legally mandated-maximum allowed size of gatherings will also be reduced to 25 people. Party buses will also be banned under the restrictions, according to state health officials.
The measures are expected to remain in place for 14 days, and if the positivity rates don't decrease to below 8% during that time, the restrictions could be left in place, or perhaps even expanded.
Those measures have already been implemented in Region 4, which includes counties adjacent to St. Louis in southwestern Illinois. That region exceeded the 8% threshold on Aug. 12, and the number has continued to rise, topping out at 9.6% over the weekend.
The number did decline slightly on Monday, but still remains at 9.4%, according to figures from IDPH.
Region 4 Could See More Stringent COVID-19 Mitigation Rules if Positivity Rates Don't Drop
Numerous counties in southwestern Illinois could see even more coronavirus-related restrictions implemented next month if rolling positivity rates in the region continue increasing, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Monday.
Region 4, an area of the state located near St. Louis, already saw additional coronavirus mitigation rules put into place earlier this month, but if the region doesn’t begin to see a decline in rolling positivity rates, then additional restrictions would be put into place on Sept. 2.
The restrictions were put into place after the region, which includes Bond, Clinton, Madison, Monroe, Randolph, St. Clair and Washington counties, saw its rolling positivity rate exceed 8% for three consecutive days. Currently, that rate is sitting at 9.4%, as the number continued to increase after the new mitigations were implemented.
Those mitigations currently include a mandate that bars and restaurants close at 11 p.m., and mandates that table size should be limited to six or fewer people, with capacity limited to 25%.
Gatherings of 25 or more people are also prohibited under the new mandates. Party buses will also be banned while the new mitigation efforts remain in place.
Some Chicago Residents First to Participate in National Trial for Vaccine
Some Chicago residents will be among the first to participate in a national clinical trial starting Monday of a potential vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19.
The University of Illinois at Chicago announced the school will lead the study in the city, enrolling up to 1,000 people, with aims to understand if the vaccine gives immunity to protect against the novel coronavirus.
Dr. Richard Novak, head of infections diseases at UI Health and leader of the study, said they are looking for two things in particular.
“One, we want to see if people who get the vaccine have a lower chance of getting sick from the virus compared to others — this would be game-changing," Novak said. "Two, for those people who still get sick from COVID-19, we want to see if those who received the vaccine have better outcomes."
According to UIC, participants will be randomly assigned to two separate groups -- one that receives the vaccine and one that takes a placebo. Neither the researchers nor the participants will know who has the vaccine, the school said.
The study group, which receives the vaccine, will take two shots over the course of four weeks, UIC explained.
“We will have two UIC locations and a site at the University of Chicago,” Novak said. “We expect the study to enroll 1,000 people within the next month or so.”
The school said that trial volunteers are expected to have an initial appointment with their research team, six in-person follow up appointments, weekly check-ins by phone and to keep up with an electronic diary measuring symptoms.
Novak explained that researchers will follow the trial participants for two years, although early results may be available as early as December.