Note: Any news conferences from Gov. J.B. Pritzker or Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot will be streamed in the video player above.
Coronavirus cases continue to spike at colleges and universities as students return to campuses for the fall semester - with at least two universities now requiring students to quarantine.
NBC 5 Investigates has been tracking the outbreaks, finding nearly 50,000 cases reported in recent weeks, and putting all the info you need to know into a searchable tool to see how the pandemic is spreading.
Meanwhile, Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expected to deliver an update on the state's response to the pandemic Thursday afternoon.
Here are the latest updates from around Illinois on the coronavirus pandemic today (Sept. 10):
ISU Says Video Showing Huge Party Being Investigated, Students Could Face Discipline
Students who attended a massive party near the Illinois State University campus despite coronavirus restrictions could face discipline, the university said, after video of the large gathering was posted to social media.
Videos surfaced this week with the location tagged as ISU, appearing to show a large crowd of young people packed closely together, many without masks, screaming and drinking.
The video appeared to have originated from YouTube stars NELK Boys, a group known for posting pranks on social media that generate millions of views. The group had posted on Twitter that they planned to be in Chicago Tuesday, but reports later surfaced that they were at the ISU campus.
The university tweeted a response to someone who tagged the school's account to notify them of the video, saying, "This was an off-campus party that was eventually dispersed by local police."
"The University does not condone the behavior," the tweet read. "The administration is investigating the incident and looking into disciplinary action against students who attended the party."
Illinois State University reported more than 1,300 coronavirus cases as of Thursday, representing about 6.5% of the university's student body.
At colleges and universities within Illinois, more than 4,101 cases have been reported as of Thursday - though that total is likely higher. When adjusted for population - dividing the number of new cases reported by each institution's enrollment - Illinois State University in Normal has the highest proportion of infections of all schools in the state.
While ISU's president announced last month that many courses would be held in online formats, some remain face-to-face or hybrid instruction.
According to the university, a majority of cases are off-campus and infected students are quarantining or isolating. The school is also offering a "limited number of rooms" to those who live on-campus and cannot return home.
The university noted that is currently testing symptomatic students through its Student Health Services but said it is working with the University of Illinois to use their saliva-based test, with hopes of having the test on-campus in the coming weeks.
Illinois Reports 1,953 New Coronavirus Cases, 28 Deaths Thursday
Illinois reported 1,953 new coronavirus cases Thursday as the state's positivity rate rose slightly, but remained below 4%.
The new cases lift the statewide total since the pandemic began to 255,643, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. On Monday, Illinois crossed 250,000 cases for the first time.
Thursday's figures also noted an additional 28 deaths, bringing the state's death toll to 8,242 in all 102 counties attributed to the virus.
The new cases were the result of 48,982 tests administered over the last 24 hours, bringing statewide totals to 4,575,721.
The state’s rolling 7-day positivity rate was reported Thursday at 3.8%, making a rise from the 3.7% reported a day earlier.
In all, 1,609 patients are currently hospitalized due to COVID-19 in the state of Illinois, with 346 of those patients in intensive care units and the number of patients on ventilators at 141.
Nearly 50K Coronavirus Cases Reported at More Than 250 Colleges and Universities
Nearly 50,000 cases of coronavirus have been reported at more than 250 colleges and universities in recent weeks as students return to campuses while the pandemic rages on.
NBC 5 Investigates is tracking cases at more than 250 colleges, universities and historically black colleges and universities most attended by Illinois students, including all schools within the state.
Those schools include many that don't appear to report their cases online - meaning the true total number of cases may be higher - and many where classes haven't started or began barely one week ago.
At colleges and universities within the state of Illinois, more than 4,101 cases have been reported as of Thursday - though that total is likely higher because some of those schools don't reveal information on their cases online.
At the 14 schools in the Big Ten conference, more than 9,445 cases of coronavirus have been reported. That includes 1,070 students and staff members at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which switched to fully remote learning Wednesday, closing all academic buildings and ordering residents at two different dorms to quarantine for two weeks.
Bradley University in Peoria did the same on Tuesday, implementing a two-week quarantine for all students and moving to remote learning through at least Sept. 23. At least 27 new coronavirus cases have been reported on campus since the fall session began.
But data shows that 13 Illinois colleges have already reported more coronavirus cases than Bradley but have not moved to quarantine students or shifted to remote learning. That includes Illinois State University, where 1,331 cases have been reported, just over two weeks after classes began.
NBC 5 Investigates is only looking at cases that have arisen during the fall, purposely excluding cases that occurred on campuses in the spring and summer, in order to concentrate solely on how the pandemic spreads as students return for this semester.
You can use the tool below to see the number of coronavirus cases each school has reported, sorting by school, cases and more, or searching for a particular term (like Illinois or Indiana) to narrow down specific schools. This tool will be updated each evening.
Pritzker to Deliver COVID-19 Update
Illinois Gov. Pritzker is scheduled to make two public appearances Thursday, including an update on the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic.
First, Pritzker will join local leaders in Rockford to "announce investments to expand job opportunities for Illinoisans who have become unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic," according to his public schedule. That event begins at 10 a.m.
Then, at 1 p.m., Pritzker is scheduled to deliver an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in the state from the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago.
Both appearances can be watched live in the video player above.
University of Wisconsin-Madison Switches to Online Learning, Orders 2 Residence Halls to Quarantine
Due to a recent upward trend in positivity rates and coronavirus cases, students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison will switch to remote learning for at least two weeks, effective immediately, and residents at two different dormitories will be required to quarantine during that time.
According to a notice published Wednesday by the school, all in-person learning for undergraduate, graduate, and professional students will be moved to remote learning from Sept. 10 to the 25. Classes will be canceled between Thursday and Saturday, with learning resuming in an online format on Monday.
In addition, all residents at Sellery and Witte Residence Halls will be ordered to quarantine in place for the next two weeks, effective at 10 p.m. Wednesday night. All residents of those halls who have not been tested this week will be required to take coronavirus tests in the next two days.
All university libraries, the Wisconsin Union, and other academic buildings are all ordered closed.
The school is urging students who live in the area to remain in the Madison-area, as CDC guidance urges students not to travel home for remote learning purposes during COVID-19 outbreaks.
According to Chancellor Rebecca Blank, the positivity rate on coronavirus tests has exceeded 20% each of the last two days, and officials have seen a rapid increase in cases among students living off campus and on campus.
“We will not contain this spread without significant additional action,” Blank said in a statement.
The decision to move to online learning was reached in consultation with numerous agencies and officials, including Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers.
Learning Pods Growing in Popularity Amid Pandemic
As the coronavirus pandemic continues, learning pods are a popular option for working parents who need help with remote education, and in south suburban Olympia Fields, Kristal Davis has opened her doors to families for the first time.
Davis has been homeschooling her own children for years. She even transformed her basement into a classroom. Recently however, she noticed parents in her own community struggling to find childcare and is now extending her curriculum to others in what she's calling a home school co-op.
"We’re covering all the subjects in a day. They’re getting exercise. They’re getting outdoor time," said Davis. "Because of the pandemic, I decided there would be kids with no supervision. I have the space,. I’m here. I felt this was the right time to do it."
One of her new students, Drake, was supposed to start pre-school this year in the Matteson school district. The 3-year-old is immunocompromised, and his parents decided they couldn't take the risk of sending him to a traditional school.
"This was by far the very best option we had and also could afford," said Crystal Jamaeu, Drake's mom.
Jameau is 8-months pregnant and works from home. She says it would be "nearly impossible" to keep Drake occupied without help.
"We decided to put him here so he could still play with other children, have the experience of at least going to some form of school, but not necessarily in an environment that would expose him to the virus," said Jameau.
Learning pods are growing in popularity because of the small class sizes and in-person offerings. Socialization is also important to many parents.
Davis says safety is a priority. She expects her families to follow CDC guidelines and be honest about activities outside of the pod. If families go out of town, she also expects them to take a coronavirus test before returning.
Lightfoot Says Chicago is Working on Trick-or-Treat Plans, Doesn't ‘Expect Mass Crowds'
Halloween is a little more than a month away and already some in the U.S. have announced plans to cancel trick-or-treating during the coronavirus pandemic, but what will things look like for Chicago?
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Wednesday the city is working on plans but details will come at a later date.
"We are working on plans to recognize and celebrate Halloween, which I know is an important moment for many, including the kids in my neighborhood, but we're going to do it in a way that's consistent with the public health guidance," Lightfoot said.
Already, health officials in L.A. County have banned trick-or-treating, carnivals and haunted houses due to concerns over the spread of the coronavirus.
Lightfoot said while she doesn't know what the city's plans will be come October's end, she doesn't expect to see large groups of trick-or-treaters this year.
"Obviously it is a very different time and I don't expect to see mass crowds," Lightfoot said. "It's not safe for the children, it's not safe for the adults."
That's a sentiment that was echoed by area health experts, who said if holiday festivities aren't canceled entirely, they will certainly look different.
Dr. Mark Loafman, chair of family and community medicine at Cook County Health, said the holiday was already a tricky subject for doctors as they work to battle an obesity epidemic, but the coronavirus brings even more challenges to the table.
"That's something we always struggle with regardless of COVID anyways, you know, encouraging families to find healthier ways to celebrate and to not sort of put candy and really empty calorie food up on such an altar to be celebrated. So that's sort of a backdrop so I think from a public health point of view where we always want to help families address opportunities to find other ways to celebrate it and, you know, the risks associated with that," Loafman said. "Now we have this COVID environment where people getting close together and in a celebratory way is one of our biggest challenges right now."
Maintaining small groups and proper hygiene could be a way for families to still celebrate, Loafman said.
"What we recommend is you know families get together, so it's safe houses where we know who's going to be going where and we know people are following the protocols and is celebrating, dressing up and the other occasions that would be useful, and good family traditions and that sort of thing," Loafman said. "We try to focus on healthy snacks, try to focus on teaching children safe ways to communicate and how to enforce public health principles. I think we anticipate living with this virus for quite a while and maybe indefinitely and we really have to learn how to retrain all occasions and all events to be able to do it in a safe way so this is an opportunity to do that."
Some Illinois High School Athletes Head to Other States for Football
A large number of high school athletes who excel on Illinois football fields are now starting their seasons in states like Florida and Texas, as traditional fall sports are on hold in Illinois due to the fight against the pandemic.
Quarterback J. J. McCarthy led Nazareth Academy in LaGrange Park to an Illinois state football championship in 2018 and to another appearance in the state finals in 2019. With coronavirus moving the football season to the spring this year however, he chose to transfer to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida to play his senior year.
“It was one of those decisions we had to make and control what we can control and that’s definitely the best decision for my goals and what I want to achieve,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy, who is committed to play for the University of Michigan, recently played in his first game in the Florida humidity.
“I kind of miss the hometown feel that’s for sure. I miss my teammates. Miss my coaches, but it’s the next chapter,” McCarthy said.
Joe Trost, an advocate for high school athletes, said he estimates one hundred Illinois high school football players have transferred to other states to play this season.
“Not only are they looking for college scholarships, but they’re looking to graduate early because they want to start college early, whether it’s from an education standpoint or from a college football standpoint, which runs spring football,” Trost said.
The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) said it is talking with state leaders about the safe resumption of sports and that it intends to seek clarification on what, if any, impact the resumption of high school football in states like Michigan will have here in Illinois.
“We understand that there is a strong desire by many for high school sports to resume on an accelerated timeline, but we also remain respectful of the fact that our state’s conservative approach has helped Illinois achieve lower Covid-19 positivity rates,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson.
Football and soccer in Illinois are scheduled to pick up in the spring.
According to Trost, high school basketball players in Illinois are starting to transfer to out of state schools, but it's unclear how many have done so.
With Screen Time Creeping Up, Eye Exams Essential for Kids
Dinai Yelverton, a Chicago event planner and mom, wants to make sure all children get the vision screenings they need.
“I've been wearing glasses since I was in second grade. And it's important. I think sometimes people forget that. You can have a lot of developmental delays. It can cause other problems if you can't see correctly,” Yelverton said.
That’s why she created the 2020 Perfect Vision campaign.
“I decided to do something big and crazy and get a bus and tour it around to various neighborhoods in the city of Chicago,” Yelverton said.
The bus tour made two stops in August. Optometrist Dr. Stephanie Johnson conducted vision screenings for about 20 children at the first stop in the Gresham neighborhood.
“Over 75% of the children that I screened actually failed the screening, and even the ones that passed said that they hadn't had their eyes examined within a year,” Johnson said.
With kids on devices more than ever during remote learning, Dr. Johnson says parents need to apply the 20-20-20 rule.
“Every 20 minutes look at least 20 feet away, which means you are looking up at the ceiling or out the window, for at least 20 seconds, and then you can go back,” Johnson explained.
Many parents are also wondering if blue light glasses would help lessen eye strain, but Dr. Johnson said, “I think it should be prescribed. Too many parents are just going online and just buying it.” An optometrist can tell parents if they’re needed at an eye exam.
Kids in Illinois are required to get an eye exam when they enter Kindergarten. Dr. Johnson says kids should get their eyes checked every year after that, similar to a pediatrician conducting an annual physical exam.
That’s not happening in many homes in Chicago. “There is a huge gap in vision healthcare, specifically in African American and Hispanic communities,” Yelverton said.
With the 2020 Perfect Vision campaign, professional optometrists offer free screenings for kids at each stop.
“If they do fail, they will be notified that day. We have also partnered with VSP Eyes of Hope who has donated gift certificates. So, if there's any families that do fail the vision screening and need a comprehensive eye exam, they can go ahead and get that at no charge to them. They can also get glasses should they need them as well,” Yelverton said.
The next bus stop is Thursday, Sept. 10, at 332 E. 51st St. in the Bronzeville neighborhood from 3 p.m.-5 p.m. Appointments are encouraged, but not required. For more information, go to perfectvisioncampaign.com.
Illinois Reports 1,337 New Coronavirus Cases as Positivity Rate Falls Below 4%
Illinois reported 1,337 new coronavirus cases Wednesday as the state's positivity rate dropped below 4% for the first time in weeks.
The new cases lift the statewide total since the pandemic began to 253,690, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. On Monday, Illinois crossed 250,000 cases for the first time.
Wednesday's figures also noted an additional 30 deaths, bringing the state's death toll to 8,214 in all 102 counties attributed to the virus.
The new cases were the result of 48,029 tests administered over the last 24 hours, bringing statewide totals to 4,526,739.
The state’s rolling 7-day positivity rate was reported Wednesday at 3.7%, marking a drop from 4% a day earlier.
In all, 1,580 patients are currently hospitalized due to COVID-19 in the state of Illinois, with 357 of those patients in intensive care units and the number of patients on ventilators at 133.
Bradley University Enacts Student Quarantine Amid New COVID-19 Cases on Campus
Due to a recent uptick in the number of coronavirus cases on campus, officials at Bradley University have implemented a two-week quarantine for students and have switched the school to remote learning on a temporary basis.
According to an alert sent out by the school Tuesday, the move to remote learning will go into effect Tuesday evening, and will run through at least Sept. 23.
Students will be required to quarantine in their residence halls, off-campus residences or their Greek houses for the next two weeks, according to the school.
“We did not make this decision lightly,” Bradley University President Steve Standifird said. “We are enacting these measures now so as to increase the likelihood that we can remain on campus throughout the semester as planned.”
Standifird says that the school has seen approximately 50 cases of the virus, with 500 more students already in quarantine before the new rules were put in place, and that number is continuing to rise because of gatherings among students.
“We are seeing large and small gatherings where masks and physical distancing are not observed,” he said. “Many of our positive tests can be traced back to these gatherings.”
The decision was reached to help officials identify how much the virus has spread on campus, according to officials.
Some students at the school expressed disappointment that a quarantine was deemed necessary, but said that they understand the decision.
“It’s definitely upsetting,” Alivia Adkins, a junior at the school, said. “I sort of suspected that this would happen eventually. I feel like they did what was right and what they felt was right, and that’s all they can do.”
Adkins is all too familiar with coronavirus, saying that she had the virus over the summer. She hopes that the experience will help students learn about the risks of the virus, and encourage them to be more careful with their actions.
“Just try to be safe, so we can try to make everything (as) back to normal as possible and still enjoy this college life,” she said.
Students will be allowed some exceptions, like going to dining halls or going to work.
The decision will be re-evaluated in coming weeks, according to officials. Officials do say however that if numbers don’t begin to improve that the rest of the semester could be limited to online learning.
Chicago Watching Wisconsin ‘Closely' Again for Possible Addition to Travel Order
Chicago health officials are watching Wisconsin "closely" to potentially add the state to the city's travel order requiring a 14-day quarantine again, the city's top doctor said Tuesday.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a Facebook live video that the city was watching Wisconsin because they're "trending up" in the metrics the city considers when revising its travel order.
"We're watching Wisconsin closely because they're trending up a little bit again and we'll be keeping a close eye on that," Arwady said when discussing the city's travel order, which was updated again Tuesday.
Chicago's list dropped to 21 states as the city updated the order, adding Kentucky but removing California and Puerto Rico.
Wisconsin was removed from the quarantine list on Aug. 18. It was added to the list effective July 31, though the city noted exemptions for some people who worked over the border.
Lightfoot Says Goal is to Have In-Person Learning This Year
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said her goal is to have the city's public school district return to in-person learning this year, but that the decision to do so will ultimately be "guided by public health."
"We're starting to see some progress in our numbers but we are not there yet," Lightfoot said Tuesday as Chicago Public Schools began its school year remote. "And we're obviously we monitor them on a day by day basis and if we see that there is an opportunity, we're going to make sure that we engage the school community ahead of time."
CPS began its new school year Tuesday, but with some major changes as the coronavirus pandemic has forced the district to continue remote learning.
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