Note: Any news conferences from Gov. J.B. Pritzker or Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot will be streamed in the video player above.
New restrictions took effect Wednesday in two suburban counties seeing a sustained increase in their coronavirus testing positivity rate - with restaurant owners bracing for the impact on their businesses.
At the same time, the state of Illinois reported more than 2,100 new cases and 37 additional death, lifting the statewide total to more than 225,000 cases.
Here are the latest updates from around the state on the fight against coronavirus today (Aug. 27):
Drivers Reminded Not to Hang Face Masks from Rear View Mirror, May Result in Fine
AAA Auto group and the Illinois State Police are reminding drivers not to use their rear view mirror to store face masks amid the pandemic.
As the coronavirus crisis continues, many people have been found oftentimes hanging several face masks on their rear view mirror.
And while doing do could lead to a citation, hanging any object from the mirror is considered illegal.
“We and the Illinois State Police both want to remind all drivers to not hang anything on the rearview mirrors,” said AAA Auto group spokesperson Molly Hart.
“It is against the law, and depending on the circumstances, either the size or the swinging movement of such items can interfere with a driver’s view of a pedestrian, a motorcyclist, bicyclist or even a full-sized vehicle. Drivers can receive a warning or citation.”
A citation for hanging an object on a rear view mirror can cost up to $164.
Illinois Reports 1,707 New Coronavirus Cases, 24 Additional Deaths
The state of Illinois reported more than 1,700 new cases of coronavirus and 24 additional fatalities in the last 24 hours, public health officials announced on Thursday.
According to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, the 1,707 new cases reported Thursday bring the total to 227,334 cases throughout Illinois since the pandemic began earlier this year.
The 24 additional fatalities bring the state’s total number of deaths related to the virus to 7,977, data shows.
Marking a slight drop from one day earlier, the state reported 44,510 new test results Thursday. Those test results bring the state’s total to 3,875,922 tests during the pandemic.
The statewide seven-day positivity rate increased from 4.0% to 4.1% on Thursday, reversing the slight drop seen in that metric the day before.
Hospitalization metrics increased on Thursday as well, health officials said. A total of 1,631 people were hospitalized with coronavirus as of Thursday, health officials said. Of those, 390 were in intensive care units and 151 were on ventilators.
These Are the New Coronavirus Restrictions Taking Effect in Kankakee, Will Counties
New coronavirus restrictions took effect Wednesday in one of Illinois' 11 healthcare regions that includes south suburban Kankakee and Will counties, which continue to see increases in their testing positivity rates.
Under the new rules, indoor service at both bars and restaurants will be suspended until further notice, according to Gov. J.B. Pritzker. The full list of restrictions is as follows, per the governor's office:
- No indoor service
- All outside bar service closes at 11 p.m.
- All bar patrons should be seated at tables outside
- No ordering, seating, or congregating at bar (bar stools should be removed)
- Tables should be 6 feet apart
- No standing or congregating indoors or outdoors while waiting for a table or exiting
- No dancing or standing indoors
- Reservations required for each party
- No seating of multiple parties at one table
- No indoor dining or bar service
- All outdoor dining closes at 11 p.m.
- Outside dining tables should be 6 feet apart
- No standing or congregating indoors or outdoors while waiting for a table or exiting
- Reservations required for each party
- No seating of multiple parties at one table
Meetings, Social Events, Gatherings
- Limit to lesser of 25 guests or 25% of overall room capacity
- No party buses
- Gaming and casinos close at 11 p.m., are limited to 25 percent capacity, and follow mitigations for bars and restaurants, if applicable
Region 7, the area in question, reached the level requiring these new COVID-19 mitigation efforts 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, saw 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.
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.
Will County Restaurant Owners Brace for Return to Outdoor-Only Dining
The lunch rush at Paris Bistro in Naperville Wednesday looked more like an afternoon in May, when dining establishments across Illinois were only allowed to serve customers outdoors in an effort to fight the spread of coronavirus.
“Oh, no. Not again. It’s going to be very tough,” said co-owner Jonathan Santos.
The Illinois Department of Public Health placed indoor dining at bars and restaurants on hold in Will and Kankakee Counties for at least 14 days starting Wednesday, due to rising positivity rates in coronavirus testing.
Santos and other restaurateurs in Will County are fearful of the impact on their sales.
“I don’t even know if we’re going to be able to survive,” Santos said.
Restaurants in nearby DuPage County are allowed to continue to serve customers indoors.
“Their numbers are better than our county and I would do whatever I have to do to get those numbers down,” said Corey Knowles, owner of Chop’d in Plainfield, also located in Will County. “I want to see everyone safe and go home safe, but no one is going to come in here and pay my rent.”
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.
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."
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.
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.
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