(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.)
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced all regions in the state are ready to move to the next stage of reopening Friday, marking a major transition as several U.S. states continue to see a rise in cases.
Pritzker's announcement comes just one day before Chicago and the state begin to lift additional restrictions and allowing industries to continue to reopen.
Here are the latest developments on the coronavirus crisis today (June 25):
Illinois Launches New County Map to Show If You're in a 'Warning' Area
Illinois health officials have launched a new map aimed at telling people if their county is more at-risk of COVID-19 as the state prepares to reopen further.
The color-coded county map launched Thursday and offers a look at how each county fares based on "indicators" such as percentage of positive cases, amount of testing and other metrics used be the state.
Counties listed in blue are "on the right track." Those in orange are urged to use caution.
"If your county is colored orange, that's a caution or a warning that something is going on," Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said. "And our goal is that with that caution, you will think twice about your own personal habits and activities."
The maps are aimed at giving residents and others in the state a look at which areas may require more caution.
As of Thursday evening, the only county in Illinois appearing orange was Cass County.
"These county-level risk indicators do not necessarily mean that a county moves back," Ezike said. "What it means is that if the numbers don't improve, we could be headed in the wrong direction. But of course, as you have seen, individual actions are so powerful. And so that is your signal to take action."
Illinois Could Move Back a Phase If Numbers Surge, Pritzker Says
If Illinois sees a surge in cases as it continues to gradually reopen, the state could move back to previous phases if necessary, health officials said Thursday.
Illinois is currently set to enter phase four of its reopening plan Friday, allowing several businesses and industries to either reopen or expand capacity. The state has been in phase three of its five-phased plan since May 29.
"As more aspects of the economy open and more person to person interactions take place, there are many more opportunities for the spread of COVID-19," Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Thursday. "The virus hasn't gone away. And when people aren't wearing face coverings and gathering in large groups and not practicing physical distancing, they're getting sick, and some are dying. And I mean people of all ages - senior citizens, those who are in their 40s and 50s and 60s with pre-existing conditions, and yes, even young and perfectly healthy people have lost their lives to this terrible new disease that we still know so little about. That's why I'm not afraid to protect the people of Illinois by moving a region back to an earlier phase. If we see a surge ours will not be one of the states that takes no action in response to a return to the peak."
Health officials in the state and in Chicago have expressed concern as several U.S. states have started seeing a rise in cases while reopening.
Illinois Gaming Board Says In-Person Gaming Can Resume on July 1
Casinos can reopen for in-person gambling next month, the Illinois Gaming Board announced Thursday.
As the state prepares to enter phase four of its reopening plan, the board revealed its own plans for reopening.
Under those rules, in-person video and casino gaming can resume at 9 a.m. on July 1.
“The Gaming Board worked with the Governor’s Office, the Illinois Department of Public Health, and the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to develop a gaming resumption process that protects the public health of patrons and employees, while restarting gaming activities in meaningful way,” Gaming Board Administrator Marcus Fruchter said in a statement.
The reopening comes with plenty of changes for casinos in the state. There will be occupancy limits, social distancing guidelines, and more. Each facility was required to send an individual plan in order to reopen.
Illinois Reopening Plan: All Regions Can Move to Phase 4 Friday, Pritzker Announces
All of Illinois' four health regions have met the required metrics and can move to phase four of the state's reopening plan Friday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Thursday.
The state has been in phase three of its five-phased plan since May 29.
Phase four of "Restore Illinois" allows for the reopening or expansion of several industries, including indoor dining at restaurants, health and fitness, movies and theaters, museums and zoos and more. This next phase also increases the size of gatherings that are allowed from 10 people to a maximum of 50 people.
“We’ve seen what’s happened in other states that have allowed politics or short-term thinking to drive decision-making. Many other states are now seeing significant increases in cases, hospitalizations, and intensive care bed usage and they’re being forced to move backward and stay at home – that’s not the story in Illinois,”Pritzker said in a statement.“Here, we have been gradually restoring business and leisure activities in a highly deliberate manner, guided by doctors’ advice. Illinoisans are following the mitigations that we can each do ourselves, like wearing face coverings, keeping 6 feet distance between us, and washing our hands frequently. It’s because of the people of Illinois that we’re seeing a trajectory of relative success where other parts of the country are not.”
Illinois Reports 894 New Coronavirus Cases as Single-Day Tests Rise Above 30K for 1st Time
Illinois saw a jump in new coronavirus cases Thursday, reporting nearly 900 new infections and more than 40 additional fatalities as the state set a testing record one day before entering phase four of its reopening plan.
According to state health officials, the positivity rate on Thursday sat at 3 percent. Earlier this week, that rate had been at 2 percent, but with a slight increase in positive tests over the last two days, the number moved back up.
In the last 24 hours, the state saw 894 new cases and 41 deaths related to COVID-19.
In all, 139,434 confirmed cases of coronavirus have been reported in Illinois, along with 6,810 deaths.
Illinois laboratories reported 31,686 test specimens were received Thursday, setting a new record for single-day test results. A total of 1,460,527 tests have been conducted statewide since the pandemic began.
Chicago Mayor Announces New Initiative to Give Free High-Speed Internet to More Than 100,000 CPS Students
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday announced a new program that aims to give free high-speed internet service to roughly 100,000 Chicago Public Schools students as e-learning continues to play an increased role in education during the coronavirus pandemic.
The program, touted as the first of its kind, will continue over four years "to dramatically increase internet accessibility for students and help build a permanent public support system for families in Chicago."
“Reliable, high-speed internet is one of the most powerful equalizers when it comes to accessing information,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “It allows families to access digital remote learning and stay connected to family near and far, especially during COVID-19. It allows families to build career skills, apply for jobs, register to vote and stay up-to-date on current events. This program is a critical component of our STEP agenda and the efforts to end poverty and a part of our mission to drive improved academic outcomes at CPS.”
Illinois Set to Enter Phase 4 Friday
All four regions of Illinois are set to enter phase four of the "Restore Illinois" plan on Friday.
This next phase allows for the reopening or expansion of several industries, including indoor dining at restaurants, health and fitness, movies and theaters, museums and zoos and more. It also increases the size of gatherings that are allowed from 10 people to a maximum of 50 people.
The following safety guidelines and regulations will be put in place Friday, according to Gov. J.B. Pritzker's office:
- Meetings and events: Venues and meeting spaces can resume with the lesser of up to 50 people OR 50% of overall room capacity. Multiple groups are permitted given facilities have space to appropriately social distance and can limit interaction between groups. This includes activities such as conferences and weddings.
- Indoor and Outdoor recreation: Revised guidelines to allow select indoor recreation facilities (e.g., bowling alleys, skating rinks), as well as clubhouses to reopen. Indoor recreation to operate at lesser of 50 customers OR 50% of facility capacity with outdoor recreation allowing group sizes of up to 50, and permitting multiple groups given facilities have space to appropriately social distance and can limit interaction between groups; concessions permitted with restrictions.
- Indoor Dining: Indoor dining can reopen with groups of 10 or less, with tables spaced 6-feet apart in seated areas and with standing areas at no more than 25% of capacity.
- Museums: Can reopen with no more than 25% occupancy, and with interactive exhibits and rides closed; guided tours should be limited to 50 people or fewer per group; museums should have a plan to limit congregation via advance ticket sales and timed ticketing; concessions permitted with restrictions.
- Zoos: Can reopen with no more than 25% occupancy, and with interactive exhibits, indoor exhibits, and rides closed; guided tours should be limited to 50 people or fewer per group; zoos should have a plan to limit congregation via advance ticket sales and timed ticketing; concessions permitted with restrictions.
- Cinema and Theatre: Indoor seated theaters, cinemas, and performing arts centers to allow admission of the lesser of up to 50 guests OR 50% of overall theater or performance space capacity (applies to each screening room); outdoor capacity limited to 20% of overall theater or performance space capacity; concessions permitted with restrictions.
- Outdoor seated spectator events: Outdoor spectator sports can resume with no more than 20% of seating capacity; concessions permitted with restrictions.
- Film production: Allow no more than 50% of sound stage or filming location capacity; crowd scenes should be limited to 50 people or fewer.
- Youth and Recreational Sports: Revised guidelines allow competitive gameplay and tournaments; youth and recreational sports venues can operate at 50% of facility capacity, 20% seating capacity for spectators, and group sizes up to 50 with multiple groups permitted during practice and competitive games given venues have space to appropriately social distance and can limit interaction between groups; concessions permitted with restrictions.
- Health and fitness centers: Revised guidelines allow gyms to open at 50% capacity and allow group fitness classes of up to 50 people with new safety guidelines for indoors, with multiple groups permitted given facilities have space to appropriately social distance and can limit interaction between groups.
- Day camps: Water-based activities permitted in accordance with IDPH guidelines; no more than 50% of facility capacity with group size of no more than 15 participants in a group, unless participants changing weekly.
Illinois Not Planning to Require Visitors From COVID Hotspots to Quarantine, Pritzker Says
With other states implementing a mandatory quarantine on visitors from viral hotspots, Gov. J.B. Pritzker says such a move isn't being planned for Illinois, but he didn't rule it out for the future.
The governor said guidance from health officials and scientists has not yet indicated such a move is necessary in Illinois, as cases have continued on a downward trend.
"That's not something that we are looking at implementing right now," he said. "Going forward, if we got the advice to do it we might."
The governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut said Wednesday they will implement a mandatory quarantine on visitors to their states from viral hotspots, part of a coordinated effort to sustain low local infection rates as coronavirus cases surge to two-month highs across nearly half of the country.
The quarantine applies to people coming from states with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents on a seven-day average, or with a 10% or higher positivity rate over seven days.
As of Wednesday, states over the threshold were Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington, Utah and Texas.
"New York and New Jersey and Connecticut have been through an awful lot," Pritzker said. "Really a tragic, tragic situation and I can understand why they might feel a need when they see other places on the rise and they're actually keeping the rates down."
DCEO Releases Applications for Grants for Illinois Businesses
Applications are now being accepted for a series of grants aimed at helping Illinois businesses hit hard by both the coronavirus pandemic and civil unrest that left many stores damaged.
The Business Interruption and Rebuild Distressed Communities grants, which total $85 million, will aim to bring relief to thousands of businesses affected by the ongoing pandemic, according to Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
The first round of the new business interruption grants program will include $60 million given to 3,500 businesses "that experienced losses or business interruption because they closed or severely restricted their operations as a result of COVID-19," according to DCEO. Businesses eligible for the grant include restaurants, bars, barbershops, salons, and health and fitness centers. Businesses which have had reports of recent property damage due to civil unrest can also apply.
For the first wave of funding, businesses that "experienced extreme hardship, demonstrated by losses in excess of the grant amount since March" will be prioritized. In order to be considered, businesses must also have been in operation for at least three months prior to March 2020.
The grants will range between $10,000 and $20,000, depending on business type and other eligibility criteria. Applications are due by July 7.
More information can be found here.
What is Phase 5 and When Might We Get There?
Plenty of changes are expected as Illinois enters phase four of its reopening plan at the end of the week, but what about the next and final phase?
The answer is, the state could remain in phase four for some time.
Under Illinois' reopening plan, the only way phase five will begin is with a vaccine, a widely available and highly effective treatment, or with the elimination of any new cases over a sustained period.
"When can everything go back to what it was like in January or December or October, November, October? The answer is that, you know, that's an answer that scientists would tell you, and that I'm listening to, which is it takes it either a very effective... what you're referring to is a therapeutic treatment that will keep people out of the hospital and make it more like just having the flu at home, or a vaccine and I think we're all desperately watching, hoping, praying that there will be something developed in the near future," Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said. "But you know, you talk about phase five, you could call it whatever you like, this is just a question about whether or not you know, can we get back to what we all knew as normal, you know, before this year, and I think the answer is what I just said. Call it what you like - phase five or back to normalcy - but that's what it would be."
Not until phase five will conventions, festivals and large events be permitted, and all businesses, schools, and places of recreation reopen.