(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.)
As Illinois sits nearly two weeks away from the end of the stay-at-home order, will the state be allowed to enter its next phase of reopening?
The metrics so far indicate so, but the numbers are dependent on what happens in the coming days.
Already some counties have started defying the order and area police departments said they won't enforce it. Still, many remain under the statewide guidelines.
Here are the latest developments on the coronavirus crisis today (May 15):
Pritzker Says Positivity Rate in Illinois is 'Coming Down'
Illinois' coronavirus cases and deaths continue to climb, but Gov. J.B. Pritzker says a key metric is now trending downward.
Pritzker said Friday the state's positivity rate "is coming down," a sign that the number of people getting sick from the virus is declining.
"Positivity rate is one of the metrics we're using to determine whether regions are eligible to move into phase three of the Restore Illinois plan in the weeks ahead," Pritzker said. "Right now, on a rolling 14-day basis, every region is meeting our positivity rate standard to move to phase three."
Friday's positivity rate sat at 9.2 percent while the state's seven-day average sat at 12 percent. Overall since February, the number has dropped to 16.8 percent, continuing a decline after the number peaked on April 4 at 23.6 percent.
"I would urge caution in reading too far into this decline, as there is a strong inverse correlation between the number of tests taken per day and the associated positivity rate, meaning that part of the reason for the lower positivity rate can be attributed to our increased testing," Pritzker said.
Pritzker said the good news to take from the numbers is that the average positivity rate for the last 14 days has dropped under 14% "and that's likely becoming a better indicator of the true infection rate in the general public than it was when testing was more limited."
Antibody Tests Bring More Questions Than Answers, Top Illinois Health Expert Says
Getting an antibody test may not bring the answers many are hoping for, one of Illinois' top health experts warned.
There are plenty of questions still surrounding the tests and what information can be used from them, according to Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.
"I think the [World Health Organization] has said this publicly as well, but even if we do know that people develop antibodies, it's not clear how long that protection would last," Ezike said Friday. "It's not clear the level of antibodies that would be protective. So there's a I think there's more questions than answers at this point."
Ezike said Illinois has a team of experts working to determine what guidance will be given about such results and how they might be used in the state's reopening plan going forward.
"I do know we have some people in the state that have been doing a lot of antibody testing and so we'd like to see what we can garner. Maybe there is some useful information, maybe it's not specific as to 'Okay, you're good to go and you'll be immune for the next 10 years,' but maybe there's some helpful information that can be garnered," she said. "So we have a very esteemed group that's convening to gather some information and see what our official guidance will be."
2,432 New Coronavirus Cases Reported in Illinois as Total Inches Closer to 100,000
With Illinois nearly two weeks away from the end of its stay-at-home order, the state reported another increase in cases and deaths.
According to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, the state saw another 2,432 cases confirmed in the last 24 hours. There were also an additional 130 deaths.
That brings the statewide totals to 90,369 cases and 4,058 deaths.
According to officials, Illinois returned 26,565 test results in the last day. That lifts the state's total number of tests performed to 538,602 as of Friday. That also brings Illinois' positivity rate to 16%, marking another decline for the state.
At the same time, 4,367 people remained hospitalized. Of those, 1,129 people were in intensive care units and 675 were on ventilators.
7 Illinois Secretary of State Facilities to Reopen for Drive-Through Sticker Renewal
Beginning Tuesday, seven Illinois Secretary of State facilities, including three in Chicago, will reopen to offer drive-through vehicle registration sticker renewals, Secretary of State Jesse White said Friday.
The facilities will only offer sticker renewals and only via drive-through, according to White's office. Currently all expiration dates for Illinois driver’s licenses, ID cards and vehicle registrations have been extended "at least 90 days" after all drivers services locations reopen.
White indicated the drive-through service is the first step "in a comprehensive reopening plan that will be announced shortly" to include protections for customers and employees.
“My commitment is to do everything we can to help protect the health and safety of our residents, while providing services to the people of Illinois,” said White in a statement. “This first step in a reopening plan adheres to this commitment.”
Unemployed, Business Owners File Suit Against Pritzker and Illinois, Seek Compensation
Multiple unemployed Illinois residents and business owners have filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Illinois and Gov. J.B. Pritzker claiming they've suffered "adverse economic consequences" caused by the governor's stay-at-home order.
Those who filed the lawsuit also demand compensation, saying their "livelihoods and income were taken for a public purpose, namely to battle a public health emergency," according to a news release from Bruggeman, Hurst and Associates, the law firm representing the plaintiffs.
George Pearson, Will County Republican committee chairman, Steve Balich, a Will County board member, Samantha Palya, the owner of Absolutely Pawfect Pet Styling, Amanda Hamerman, the owner of Color Envy and Michael Judge, the owner of Judge Automotive, were all named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
Illinois Sheriffs’ Association Calls Pritzker’s Warning ‘Insulting’
The Illinois Sheriffs' Association on Thursday pushed back on Gov. J.B. Pritzker's warning that counties could face consequences if they disobey the state's stay-at-home order during the coronavirus pandemic, calling the governor's message "outrageous" and "insulting."
"Illinois Sheriffs have been elected by their local citizens to keep their communities safe, a trust that every sheriff and sworn law enforcement officer holds dear," the organization said in a statement. "It is outrageous that the Governor is threatening retaliation against these leaders and the men and women of their offices. He is insulting heroic police officers, corrections officers and local voters.”
Multiple counties in the state have sought permission to move into the next phase of Illinois' region-by-region reopening plan early. The Kendall County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday that it will no longer enforce the stay-at-home order, while downstate Madison County's Board of Health voted earlier in the week to allow businesses and places of worship to reopen in defiance of the statewide order.
Pritzker said Wednesday that several enforcement actions remain available to him to get counties to comply, including the option of withholding federal funding.
Ezike Says Testing Played Role as Cook County Surpasses Queens for Most Cases in US
As Cook County's total number of reported coronavirus cases nears 60,000, the county marked an unsettling new milestone.
Data showed the northern Illinois county surpassed Queens County in New York for the most infections in the U.S. this week.
As of Thursday, Cook County sat at 58,457 confirmed cases. At the same time, Queens reported 58,084 cases. According to data from Johns Hopkins University that puts Cook County at the highest in the U.S.
Queens' numbers rose Friday by 432 infections, lifting them to a total of 58,516, but Cook County's data for the last 24 hours has not yet been released.
Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike chalked up Cook County's new title to increased testing in Illinois, and noted that many remain untested.
As of Thursday, Cook County, which includes Chicago and many surrounding suburbs, reported a total of 263,831 tests conducted. As of Friday afternoon, Queens County reported only 176,715.
Cook County has nearly half the rate per capita as Queens, however, with a population of roughly 5.2 million compared to Queens' nearly 2.3 million, according to the Johns Hopkins University data.
Illinois GOP Agitates for Chance to Negotiate COVID-19 Reopening
Rep. Mike Murphy said during a conference call with reporters that Gov. J.B. Pritzker must move away from a “one-size-fits-all approach that has been devastating to families and small businesses." He was referring to the Democratic governor's executive orders that have closed businesses and kept people in their homes, as well as his five-stage plan for reopening, called “Restore Illinois."
Lawmakers have been absent from Springfield since early March to keep from creating a COVID-19 cluster in the Capitol. Democrats who control the House and Senate on Wednesday called for the General Assembly to be convened May 20-22.
Illinois Doctors Work to Understand Coronavirus-Related ‘Mystery Illness’ Linked to Children
A team of Illinois doctors are working on understanding a rare but potentially deadly condition linked to COVID-19 in children and are collecting data to develop a formal report on the illness in the coming days.
The condition, which the CDC calls "multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children," or MIS-C, has been reported in at least 19 states including Illinois.
During Thursday’s coronavirus update press briefing, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said a team of Illinois doctors along with specialists in Kawasaki disease met to discuss the condition and strategize an effort to better track cases.
“The goals of the meeting were to identify the specific features of the spectrum of disorders and to be looking out for a constellation of symptoms so that they can in fact, start reporting new cases going forward and also turn back and look at cases that might fit this description that they've seen in the past,” Ezike said. “We'll put that guidance out next week and then we'll be collecting the data to get a formal report.”
Also on Thursday, the CDC issued a report to physicians on the mystery illness and provided guidance for diagnosis of MIS-C.
The CDC diagnostic criteria include a fever of at least 100.4 degrees for at least 24 hours, evidence of inflammation in the body and hospitalization with problems in at least two organs (such as the heart, the kidneys or the lungs).
Other reported symptoms include vomiting, upset stomach, red eyes, diarrhea, swollen lymph nodes and a rash. In more severe cases, children have even gone into cardiac arrest.
Coronavirus Illinois: Scenes From the Pandemic
Rap Group Criticized for Ignoring Social Distancing During Filming
Neighbors in Chicago's West Town have neighborhood expressed concern over the apparent lack of social distancing during the filming of a rap music video at an Airbnb rental home.
Footage shared with NBC 5 showed several people dancing at a crowded rental property Tuesday night in the 700 block of North Milwaukee Avenue.
The man who recorded the footage said the group was celebrating a birthday and creating a music video — fully aware of the risks of not social distancing.
The unidentified man said the group is named "CWBAS," and its members need to make music and create visuals to make money.
"People still have lives, people still have families to feed," he said.
Jamal Green, a Chicago community activist who teamed up with Mayor Lori Lightfoot to encourage young people to abide by the stay-at-home order, believes that people don't know what they're getting themselves into.
"Still there are those who defy orders and be rebellious and not understand that they can take this back to a family member that may have an underlying health condition," he said.
Green said the city plans to hire ambassadors to educate residents on social distancing, and on Monday, will announce more details of a plan to help keep young people engaged during the pandemic.
Ticketmaster Accused of Unfairly Sitting on Millions of Dollars in Refunds
Music fans may not be seeing their favorite bands, or the money they spent on tickets, anytime soon.
That’s because the coronavirus forced thousands of live events to be postponed. And just when they need cash most, customers who bought tickets from Ticketmaster say the company is making it difficult to get a refund.
The Beverly Hills-based online ticket seller is getting heat for its murky refund policy where it tells ticket holders of postponed events that refunds are not its call. Instead, the company says event organizers must first make a decision about re-scheduling.
The National Consumers League is among those telling Ticketmaster its policy to punt on refunds is doing actual harm.
“We think that that's wrong,” John Breyault said. “We think that time, and millions of consumers are trying to do things like pay the rent keep the lights on, that it's unconscionable for a company like Ticketmaster to hold on to that money.
Refunds are also at the center of a proposed class action lawsuit filed in California. The suit alleges Ticketmaster used to allow refunds if an event is postponed, rescheduled or canceled. But once the virus took hold, the company is accused of quietly changing its policy to cover only canceled events.
Ticketmaster told NBC 5 Responds it doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
Will Illinois Enter Phase 3 at the End of May? Numbers So Far Indicate Yes
With just over two weeks left in Illinois' stay-at-home order, all regions across the state are now on track to meet the metrics needed to move into the next phase of reopening, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Thursday.
But it's not necessarily a guarantee.
"Every region is so far meeting all the metrics," Pritzker said, noting, however, that to truly meet the mark for entering a third phase, a region must average below a certain threshold for several weeks.
Earlier this week, the Northeast region was not hitting the numbers required to enter phase three of the state's five-phased reopening plan. That region includes Cook, McHenry, Lake, Kane, DuPage, Kendall, Grundy, Will and Kankakee counties.
As of Thursday, however, the region's positivity rate fell just below the threshold needed - one of multiple factors required.
In order to enter phase three, a region "will be required to have a positivity rate of 20% or less and an increase of no more than 10% over a 14-day period."
According to data provided by the governor, the Northeast region reported a positivity rate of 19.9% as of Thursday.
At the same time, the North Central region sat at 8 percent, while the Central region reached 5.7 percent and the Southern region is at 7.5 percent.
Other factors include hospitalization rates, bed availability and ventilator availability.
No region can officially move forward until May 29, under the parameters of the governor's plan.
Pritzker said it is "highly likely" every region will be eligible to move on at that time.
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