Note: Press conferences from Gov. J.B. Pritzker or Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot will be streamed live in the video player above.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Thursday that coronavirus metrics are rising in "most" of the 11 regions that divide the state to allow for a more targeted response and potential mitigations.
His dire warning came as some parents in Illinois say they will be sending their children to other states to allow them to continue to participate in athletic programs after Pritzker and state health officials announced new guidelines restricting recreational sports, including at schools.
Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around Illinois today, July 31:
11 Illinois Counties Reach 'Warning Level' for Coronavirus, Health Dept. Says
Eleven counties in Illinois are now at a "warning level" for coronavirus, the state's health department said Friday.
The warning means each of the counties saw increases in two or more COVID-19 "risk indicators," the health department said.
The counties now under a warning include: Cass, Gallatin, Jackson, Jo Daviess, Johnson, Perry, Randolph, Saline, Sangamon, St. Clair, and White.
Last week, only four counties were at a "warning level." Of those four, only one, Randolph County, remained on the list Friday.
The counties each "saw outbreaks associated with business operations and activities posing higher risk for disease spread, including school graduation ceremonies, a rise in cases among late teens and 20s, parties and social gatherings, people going to bars, long-term care outbreaks, clusters of cases associated with restaurants and churches, and big sports events including soccer, golf, and softball tournaments," the health department stated.
"Residents of many communities are not wearing face coverings that have been proven to reduce the spread of COVID-19," IDPH said in a release. "Public health officials are finding that most contacts to cases are testing positive as well."
Illinois Reports More Than 1,900 New Coronavirus Cases as State Sets Testing Record, Positivity Rate Rises
Illinois reported more than 1,900 new cases of coronavirus on Friday, ending July with the highest daily increase of the month as the state simultaneously set a testing record.
With 1,941 new cases in the last 24 hours, the state's total number of cases since the pandemic began rose to 178,837, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. An 21 additional deaths also lift the total number of fatalities to 7,495.
"We're at a danger point, everybody," Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Thursday morning while speaking in Peoria County, which reached "warning level" for coronavirus last week. "Pay attention. Now is the time to wear your mask properly."
At the same time, officials reported nearly 50,000 new coronavirus test specimens turned into state labs over the last 24 hours, bringing the statewide total to more than 2.6 million during the ongoing pandemic. The 49,782 new tests mark the highest single-day test results since the state started reporting such numbers.
Still, the state’s seven-day positivity rate climbed slightly to 3.9% after holding steady at 3.8% throughout the week.
As of Thursday evening, 1,369 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Illinois, health officials said. Of those, 346 were in intensive care units and 148 were on ventilators.
Suburban Health Officials Say Multiple Attendees of Private Prom Held in Indiana Tested Positive for Coronavirus
Will County health officials say multiple people who attended a privately held prom with hundreds of students and chaperones in northwest Indiana last week have tested positive for COVID-19 - issuing a stern warning against holding similar events in the future as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
In speaking to multiple residents of the Frankfort area who tested positive for coronavirus, the Will County Health Department said in a statement Thursday that contact tracers "discovered a similar story."
"They had attended a party at an orchard in Hobart, Indiana, perhaps designed as a substitute for missed proms at area high schools," the statement reads.
Officials said up to 270 people, both high school students and chaperones, attended the event. Illinois' current phase of its reopening plan allows for gatherings of up to 50 people, while Indiana's size limit on gatherings sits at 250 people.
Organizers said it was for students at Lincoln Way East High School, and that masks were provided to everyone who attended, with proceeds generated from an online campaign and ticket sales.
“We spaced out tables, we cut down on the number of people who could sit at tables, and we cut down on the number of people we could have at the event,” Caeelin Flaherty, a student organizer, said.
The Will County Health Department did not specify how many people had tested positive, or how many people contact tracers had spoken with after the event - but epidemiologist Alpesh Patel urged anyone who attended the event to first do "the right thing."
“If you are symptomatic (such as with the commonly recognized fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, sore throat), you need to isolate yourself immediately and get tested," Patel said. "If you are not symptomatic but attended this event, it is absolutely necessary to quarantine yourself for 14 days, and self-monitor for the symptoms, including taking your temperature at least three times daily.”
Patel also warned that the event must be taken as a "serious lesson" to follow guidance from health experts.
"We have people finding their ways to events, out of town or out of state, where the important precautions are not being observed. You need to avoid any gatherings where social distancing cannot be practiced because it is simply impossible, and proper protection, such as the wearing of masks, is being ignored," Patel said.
Pritzker to Make Announcement on Juvenile Justice, Tour Food Drive
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton are expected to make an announcement on juvenile justice in Chicago Friday morning, according to Pritzker's public schedule.
The announcement will be made at 11 a.m. at the New Life Community Church in Chicago, his office says.
Pritzker will then tour a local food drive in suburban Downers Grove at 1 p.m., according to his schedule.
Both events can be viewed live in the video player above.
Illinois Parents Send Kids Across State Lines for Sports Programs
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s new restrictions on youth sports amid the coronavirus pandemic have many parents choosing to send their kids to Indiana so they can continue to play.
On Wednesday, Pritzker added new restrictions for recreational sports for both youths and adults beginning next month and within hours of the announcement, parents began reaching out across state lines.
“They were inquiring about the club and just asking if we had spots available and if our seasons were still on as planned,” said Van Gel of Millennium Soccer Association in Crown Point, Indiana. “If things shut down in Illinois then we’re able to take players out here."
Under the new guidance, each sport will be categorized into three "risk levels" - high, medium and low - determined by "the amount of contact between athletes and their proximity during play."
"This isn't news that anyone wants to hear, but this virus remains dangerous," Pritzker said during his press conference Wednesday.
In Illinois, soccer is among the sports the state categorizes as medium risk which limits practices to non-contact only and allows scrimmages, but not games.
However, in Indiana, games are allowed and teams practice social distancing when able and coaches and athletes wear masks while not actively competing on the pitch.
Meanwhile, football in Illinois is considered high-risk and only non-contact practices are allowed.
“I think the biggest concern was having an opportunity for their child to play football,” said Derek Vantichelt with Bulldogs Football in Crown Point. “We had three communities ask if they could bring their entire teams over to play with us.”
But despite communities showing interest in competing against the Bulldogs, the team made the decision not to take the field this year due to the pandemic.
“It really wasn’t worth the risk for the younger kids and in our families,” Vantichelt said. “But there’s always next year.”
12 Bradley Students Test Positive After Event
A dozen Bradley University students, including some who attended a social gathering after leading freshmen orientation programs this month, have tested positive for COVID-19, the school said.
After the Peoria school learned of the new cases on July 23, it determined after testing and contact tracing that the outbreak apparently stemmed from a small off-campus gathering in which attendees didn't wear masks or practice social distancing, Bradley spokeswoman Renee Charles said. Officials said they don't believe it was connected to the orientation sessions that preceded the party.
"This event highlights the importance of remaining vigilant about engaging in behaviors proven to slow the spread of the virus,” Bradley's president, Stephen Standifird said in a message Monday. “Face masks, physical distancing and frequent hand washing matter. This case also highlights the importance of an aggressive testing and contact tracing routine.”
Some of the Bradley students became infected after attending outdoor and indoor orientation activities on July 20 and July 21 at the 5,000-student campus. Attendees who were determined to have spent more than 15 minutes with one of the infected students were notified by a phone call or text message, but school officials said they don't think the risk of transmission was high during the sessions because attendees had to wear masks and adhere to social distancing.
The school said it plans to resume in-person classes in late August, but that it is monitoring a recent increase in the number of cases and emergency room visits for COVID-19 symptoms in the Peoria area.
“Our fall plans, we continue to say, are subject to change,” Charles told the Chicago Tribune, noting that administrators have been meeting regularly to go over various scenarios and the school's policies and procedures.
Coronavirus ‘Not a Once-In-A-Lifetime Kind of Thing,” Infectious Disease Expert Says
An infectious disease expert at University of Chicago Medicine said Thursday that the coronavirus pandemic isn't "a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing" and preparations should be made for future pandemics.
"I'm really worried that five years after this pandemic people are going to be like, 'Well, that's over and we're probably not going to have one for another 100 years,'" Dr. Emily Landon said during a podcast called "COVID 2025: Our World in the Next 5 Years."
Landon, whose speech to residents at the start of the coronavirus pandemic went viral on social media, said zoonoses, or viruses that come from animals and can be transmitted to humans, "are actually increasing in prevalence as we have climate change, and as more and more humans populate the Earth and move into these parts of the planet that we didn't live in before."
Landon said she believes society needs to prepare in advance and not "wait for things to look like they did in Italy or even in New York City" during the coronavirus pandemic.
Among her suggestions were reserve epidemiologists who would assist with contact tracing during the start of an outbreak, better methods for contact tracing and technology for PPE.
"What would be the worst-case scenario?" she said. "If we decided that the real lesson that we were supposed to learn here was that we didn't really need to do any of that stay-at-home stuff because nothing bad happened anyway. And the CDC, we didn't need all those tests, we didn't need all those instructions, and contact tracing. We got along fine without it, so let's just you know, defund these things and not spend so much time on them, then we'll be even less prepared when there's a problem again in the future."
Chicago Election Board Office Closes After Employee Tests Positive
The Chicago Board of Elections was closed Thursday afternoon after an employee tested positive for COVID-19, a spokesman for the Board said.
The office is located at 69 W. Washington St. in the city's Loop.
"We will update on the re-opening as soon as possible," Board spokesman Jim Allen said in a statement, adding, "Limited phone, email and online voter assistance will continue to be provided remotely."
Illinois Reports More Than 1,700 New Coronavirus Cases, Highest Daily Total for July So Far
Illinois reported more than 1,700 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday, the highest daily total the state has reported so far this month.
With 1,772 new cases in the last 24 hours, the state's total number of cases since the pandemic began rose to 176,896, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. An 18 additional deaths also lift the total number of fatalities to 7,478.
Officials reported more than 41,000 new coronavirus test specimens turned into state labs over the last 24 hours, bringing the statewide total to more than 2.6 million during the ongoing pandemic. That marks a jump of nearly 10,000 tests from one day earlier.
The state’s seven-day positivity rate stayed flat at 3.8% after rising from the 3.6% reported Sunday.
As of Wednesday evening, 1,452 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Illinois, health officials said. Of those, 353 were in intensive care units and 149 were on ventilators.
'Danger Point': Coronavirus Metrics Rising in Most of Illinois' 11 Regions, Pritzker Says
Most of Illinois' 11 healthcare regions are seeing increases in coronavirus metrics as the state reaches what Gov. J.B. Pritzker called "a danger point."
Speaking from a county now at a "warning level," Pritzker said "things are not heading in the right direction."
"As updated recently, we have 11 regions in our 'Restore Illinois' plan, most of which are inching up on several metrics," Pritzker said.
"We do not want the state or any region in the state moving backward so I'm imploring people to follow the guidelines," he continued. "We're at a danger point, everybody. Pay attention. Now is the time to wear your mask properly."
Pritzker's first remarks came during a speech in Peoria County, one of four Illinois counties now at a "warning level" for coronavirus risks. He spoke again Thursday afternoon in LaSalle County, which also reached a "warning level."
"I'll be frank: we need to see some change here in the Peoria area when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic," Pritzker said, adding that restrictions could be increased in the area if numbers don't drop. "As much as I'd like to, this virus isn't something that we can wish away. So we have to act responsibly and collectively to protect the people that we love."
But it's not just Peoria and LaSalle counties. According to Pritzker, most of Illinois' 11 healthcare regions "are inching up on several metrics."
"Peoria is one of just four counties out of 102 that is now on the warning level by the state Department of Public Health because you have an increasing level of emergency department visits related to COVID-19 and increasing numbers of new cases," Pritzker said. "Much of the increase in cases has been tied to the 29 and under population, large social gatherings and also household spread from family member to family member."
Illinois' Increase in Cases Ranks Behind Just 10 Other States, All Considered Hot Spots
Illinois' increase in coronavirus cases over the past week has ranked 11th in the country, behind just 10 other states that are all considered "hot spots" for the spread of the deadly virus and have earned a place on the city of Chicago's emergency order requiring anyone traveling from those areas to quarantine for 14 days.
The raw number of cases reported in Illinois over the past week puts the state at 11th in the U.S. for new cases in that timeframe, with 10,095 new cases reported in the last seven days, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
All 10 states ahead of Illinois in that ranking are now considered hot spots for coronavirus spread. All 10 of those states - as well as 12 that reported fewer cases in the past week - are listed on Chicago's emergency travel order requiring anyone returning from or entering the city from those states to self-quarantine for 14 days.
Here's a look at how the total number of cases, number of cases in the last week, total deaths and more compare in Illinois, Indiana and across all 50 states: