coronavirus illinois

Illinois Coronavirus Updates: Chicago Not Ready for Outdoor Dining, State’s Testing Record

Here are the latest developments on the coronavirus crisis today

(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.)

Big changes were made to phase three of Illinois' reopening plan, but how will they work?

As of Thursday, much of the state is on track to enter its next phase of reopening in less than 10 days.

Here are the latest developments on the coronavirus crisis today (May 21):

Chicago Mayor: City Won't Be Ready for Outdoor Dining on May 29

Despite Illinois allowing restaurants to reopen for outdoor seating in phase three of its reopening plan, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said city residents shouldn't expect that to happen this month.

That's because Chicago likely won't be entering its next phase of reopening with much of the state.

"I don't think we're going to be ready by May 29 but my hope is soon in June we're going to be ready," Lightfoot said during a press briefing.

Chicago sits within a region that is, along with all of Illinois' other health regions, on track to reopen as early as May 29 under state standards, but Lightfoot had previously unveiled her own reopening plan for city residents.

"May 29 is the expiration date of the stay-at-home order," Lightfoot said. "As everyone surely knows, the city of Chicago has its own responsibilities and obligations to craft policies, public health policies, that are specific to the city of Chicago and we are hard at work on looking at ways in which we can get our restaurant industry back up."

Lightfoot acknowledged that she is working with local aldermen on plans to allow street closures to accommodate for additional outdoor seating at eateries, but did not offer a specific timeline.

"Like everything, we've got to do it safely. I need to understand and be certain that restaurants across the city have a means to protect their employees and members of the public that will patronize them," she said. "That's why we've been talking openly about well, what do we think about creating some closed streets, open spaces for restaurants to be able to open up and use the open spaces, but the reality is the other piece of it."

Illinois Sets Single-Day Testing Record as 2,268 New Coronavirus Cases Reported

Illinois marked a single-day record for coronavirus testing Thursday as an additional 2,268 coronavirus cases were reported statewide, bringing the state's total number of cases to 102,686.

Health officials also confirmed 87 additional deaths in the last 24 hours. The state's death toll is now at 4,607, according to data released by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

One day earlier, Illinois surpassed the threshold of 100,000 cases as state health officials reported an additional 2,388 individuals who contracted the virus.

Over the last 24 hours, 29,307 test results have been returned, setting a single-day testing record, IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said. The total number of tests conducted since the pandemic began sits at 672,020 as of Thursday.

The statewide 7-day rolling positivity rate from May 12-18 stands at 14%.

Health officials also announced a total of 4,107 patients remained hospitalized with the coronavirus with 1,088 of those individuals in intensive care units and 609 on ventilators.

Chicago Expands Mental Health Supports During COVID-19 Crisis

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced plans Thursday to increase funding and access to mental health services as the city continues to battle the coronavirus crisis.

Lightfoot announced the Chicago Department of Public Health will partner with four leading community mental health organizations and give $1.2 million in funding to expand access for people living with serious illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or co-occurring disorders. Those organizations include Friend Health, Healthcare Alternative Systems, Thresholds, and Trilogy Behavioral Healthcare.

“These teams will provide services to persons who may benefit from a higher level of support and will increase community-based mental health services in communities of highest need across Chicago,” CDPH Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a statement. “This is so important right now because COVID-19 can exacerbate pre-existing vulnerabilities in those with mental health conditions.”

The city's health department also purchased doxy.me, a telemedicine platform, to bring digital behavioral health services to centers in the Bronzeville, Englewood, West Elsdon, Lawndale and North River neighborhoods.

A microsite was also launched to bring talks, guided mindfulness activities and sleep supports from wellness experts to residents.

Illinois Supreme Court Says Circuit Courts Can Return to Normal June 1

The Illinois Supreme Court on Wednesday issued an order allowing circuit courts to return to normal operations beginning June 1, as state officials reported the number of coronavirus deaths rose to 4,525.

In the order, the high court leaves to the chief judges of each of Illinois' 24 judicial circuits to implement plans for reopening based on specific factors. The justices urge social distancing measures remain in place and a way found to reduce the number of people physically present in court facilities.

The Supreme Court on March 17 ordered state judges to limit in-person proceedings to essential cases and delay other matters. The court also ordered the shift of a sizable share of the courts’ business to videoconferencing platforms.

Coronavirus Illinois: Scenes From the Pandemic

Suburban Restaurants to Get Boost From Towns After Pritzker’s Rule Changes

Restaurants and bars hoping to move up their reopening timetable got some welcome news on Wednesday as Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that businesses would be able to reopen with outdoor seating, and several communities already have plans in place to maximize the opportunity to bring in more customers.

According to the governor, restaurants and bars will be allowed to open outdoor seating areas beginning at the start of Phase Three of the “Restore Illinois” plan. Numerous restrictions will be enforced, including keeping tables six feet apart and requiring servers to wear masks, but the change is welcome news to many owners.

Now, plans in communities like Burr Ridge and Arlington Heights could become the new standard as businesses hope to open up outdoor seating areas in order to welcome their customers back.

Burr Ridge Mayor Gary Grasso already had a plan in the works to allow for outdoor seating before Pritzker’s announcement, but is pleased about the new rule changes.

Restaurants will be allowed to open seating areas in parking lots. Tables will be placed six feet apart, as per the Illinois Department of Public Health Requirements, but there will be no servers.

Meanwhile, Arlington Heights’ new program, dubbed “Arlington Alfresco,” will also look to take advantage of the new policies.

Under the plan, some streets would be closed to allow for expanded outdoor seating areas for restaurants, according to city officials. Tables could also be placed on sidewalks, and will also be placed six feet apart in accordance with state guidelines.

Pastors Upset After Chicago Police Issue Citations for Violating State Restrictions

Pastors at a pair of Chicago churches are upset after they were issued citations for continuing to hold services in violation of Illinois’ ongoing stay-at-home order.

The pastors were issued the citations by Chicago police after they held religious services with more than 10 people in attendance.

Under Illinois’ “Restore Illinois” plan, religious services with 10 or fewer people are currently allowed, but gatherings of 50 or fewer people will not be allowed until Phase Four of the plan.  

Despite the citations, both pastors have said they will have church services again on Sunday.

Should You Be Told Where Coronavirus Outbreaks Are Happening?

For weeks now, Los Angeles County has been posting locations online which have seen five cases or more of coronavirus -- everything from a Domino's Pizza with four cases, to a Ralph's grocery with 22 and a sheriff's station where 13 people have tested positive for the virus.

Wyandotte County in Kansas, which includes Kansas City, has been doing the same. On an interactive map on that county's website, you learn that one El Torito supermarket has 22 cases, a National Beef Packaging facility has seen 42 and Kellogg's Bakery has had another 21.

You won't find data like that here.

"We have to rely upon employers to inform us when they have employees that have tested positive for COVID," said Dr. Rachel Rubin, the senior medical officer of the Cook County Department of Public Health. "They are required to do that. Many do not know that."

That said, Dr. Rubin indicated there are a number of reasons Cook County is not publicizing outbreak locations. First and foremost, she notes that with 400 to 700 new cases a day, the agency has had to prioritize which individuals are getting case investigations and contact tracing.

But a larger reason may be that right now, in the opinion of many in the health community, with the virus so widespread, telling the public where outbreaks have happened doesn't really serve a larger public health purpose.

As far as public notifications, the Illinois Department of Public Health told NBC 5 they hope to start publishing information about outbreaks by week's end. But a spokesman said they would not identify specific locations.

IDPH is currently tracking more than 900 outbreaks statewide.

Chicago Police Report 530 Total Coronavirus Cases

Chicago police announced one new COVID-19 case Wednesday, bringing the number of cases in the department to 530.

Of the confirmed cases, 503 are officers and 27 are civilian employees, police said. All of the cases have been confirmed by the department’s medical section.

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