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 was scheduled to discuss the COVID-19 response in two counties - Peoria and LaSalle - that state health officials have said are at a "warning level" for increased spread of the coronavirus.
His events come one day after officials announced new guidelines restricting recreational sports, including at schools, and the Illinois High School Association announced its plan to move some fall sports to the spring, among other changes.
The new regulations were put in place as coronavirus cases across the state continue to rise. In fact, the state's increase in new cases over the past week has ranked 11th in the country, behind just 10 other states that are all considered "hot spots."
Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around Illinois today, July 30:
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.
"We're at a danger point, everybody," Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said earlier 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."
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."
"We do not want the state or any region in the state moving backward so I'm imploring people to follow the guidelines," he said. "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."
Man Returns Home After 10-Week Battle With COVID-19
After spending more than 10 weeks in various hospitals while struggling against coronavirus, a Vietnam War veteran is counting his blessings and reflecting on what he lost.
Friends and family lined Matt Thomas’ street in suburban Aurora on Wednesday as he arrived home after spending 74 days in hospitals while battling COVID-19. He’s grateful for the doctors and nurses who helped him overcome the virus.
“Without them, I would have been dead,” Thomas said.
He also knows that there is still a long road ahead, and was emphatic that the road to recovery isn’t a simple one.
“You’re not just going to be sick. You’re going to go through some serious rehabilitation, including learning how to breathe again,” he said.
Thomas and his wife Lori both got coronavirus from their 34-year-old son Chris.
“This whole thing’s been horrible,” Lori Thomas said. “It’s just like one nightmare after another. It’s the worst thing you’ve ever gone through.”
While Lori had a mild case, Matt Thomas ended up intubated in an intensive care unit, as did the couple’s son. While Matt ultimately recovered from the illness, his son didn’t, passing away while his father was in the ICU.
“The last words he said to me, because he was going to be intubated, were ‘mom, this is going to kill me,’” Lori said. “That’s all I can hear in my head still. There was this nurse named Matt, and when they pulled my son’s tube out, he sat there and held his hand and stroked his hair while he was dying, because we couldn’t be anywhere near him.”
“I was still intubated in the ICU when they had to bury my son,” Matt said. “He had his whole life ahead of him.”
Thomas says that his son left behind two young children.
“Now I have to be grandpa and I have to be dad,” he said. “He left behind a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old. They’re just now learning the meaning that dad’s not coming home anymore.”
The couple thinks that Chris Thomas contracted the coronavirus after going out with friends while not wearing a face mask.
“My son didn’t wear a mask until he got sick,” Matt Thomas said.
They are pleading with others to wear masks and to take proper precautions, saying that even though Chris Thomas was 34 years old and that he didn’t have any pre-existing conditions, the virus still struck him down.
“They need to do it (wear masks) all the time,” Matt Thomas said. “I don’t want to see anybody go through it and if I save one life, this was worth it.”
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:
Pritzker Again Warns Downstate Region Nearing More Restrictions
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued another warning Wednesday to one of the state's 11 healthcare regions that additional restrictions may be automatically imposed should the area's coronavirus metrics continue to rise.
That region is Region 4, the Metro East region downstate that includes Bond, Clinton, Madison, Monroe, Randolph, St. Clair and Washington counties and borders St. Louis, Missouri.
"Last week, I mentioned that while we were seeing a concerning rolling 7-day average positivity rate of 7.1% in the Metro East, the rest of our 11 regions all fell below 5%," Pritzker said, referring to his coronavirus briefing the previous Wednesday.
"As of Tuesday’s data update, the Metro East was hitting a 7.8% rate, and with the Metro East included, we now have six regions with a positivity rate above 5%," he continued.
Additional mitigations are automatically imposed on the individual regions based on the following metrics, officials said:
- Sustained increase in 7-day rolling average (7 out of 10 days) in the positivity rate AND one of the following:
- Sustained 7-day increase in hospital admissions for a COVID-19 like illness
- Reduction in hospital capacity threatening surge capabilities (ICU capacity or medical/surgical beds < 20%)
- Three consecutive days averaging ≥ 8% positivity rate
Any new restrictions imposed stem from a three-tiered plan, ranging from reducing capacity at businesses in various industries to shutting down operations in some of the spaces that pose a higher risk of transmission, like indoor dining and bars or salons and personal care services.
Pritzker had previously warned that Region 4 was "dangerously close" to seeing more restrictions. He repeated that warning again Wednesday, speaking directly to residents of that area.
"I’ll also remind the residents of Metro East... that three consecutive days of that positivity rate sitting at or above 8% brings with it additional mitigations for the entire region: that could mean the closure of bars, the reduction of service at restaurants, and smaller capacity caps on other activities. Should that region continue in this direction, I’ll be making additional announcements related to the specifics of the reversal," he said.
Illinois Reports Nearly 1,400 New Coronavirus Cases, 18 Additional Deaths Wednesday
Illinois reported nearly 1,400 new cases of the virus on Wednesday, along with 18 additional deaths. The new cases bring the state’s total number of COVID-19 cases to 175,124 since the pandemic began, according to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health.
With Wednesday's additional 18 fatalities, Illinois is now at 7,462 COVID-19 related deaths during the pandemic.
Officials reported 38,187 new coronavirus test specimens turned into state labs over the last 24 hours, bringing the statewide total to more than 2.5 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.
While Illinois’ hospitalization and ventilator usage numbers have both been either stagnant or declining in recent weeks, ICU usage by COVID-19 patients has crept up in recent days, although it still remains fairly close to the state’s low watermark in that metric. As of midnight, 355 COVID-19 patients are in intensive care units statewide.
IHSA Announces Decision on Sports After State Releases New Guidance
The Illinois High School Association announced its plan for the 2020-21 school year Wednesday, moving some fall sports to the spring and allowing others to continue as planned with restrictions.
Under the current plan, boys and girls golf, girls tennis, cross country and girls swimming and diving will remain as fall sports and will begin on Aug. 10, as scheduled. Football, boys soccer and girls volleyball will be moved from the fall to the spring, officials said.
The association announced a "condensed" schedule which includes:
Fall: Aug. 10 to Oct. 24
Winter: Nov. 16 to Feb. 13
Spring: Feb. 15 to May 1
Summer: May 3 to June 26
- See the full schedule by sport here
“This plan, like nearly every aspect of our current lives, remains fluid,” IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said in a statement Wednesday. “Changes may come, and if they do, we will be agile while putting safety and students first. It was important that we provide a framework today for our student-athletes, coaches, administrators, and officials to begin preparing for the 2020-21 school year.”
Pritzker Announces New Restrictions for Recreational Sports, Including at Schools
Fall sports in schools will be forced to face added restrictions under new guidance from Illinois' health department, the state's governor announced Wednesday.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the state will be "restricting youth and adult recreational organized sports," including school-based sports, beginning Aug. 15. The restrictions do not include professional or collegiate sports.
Pritzker said each sport will be categorized under three "risk levels" - high, medium and low - determined by "the amount of contact between athletes and their proximity during play." Still, certain sports may be able to move forward with their seasons in the fall under the new restrictions.
- See a full breakdown by sport here
"This isn't news that anyone wants to hear, but this virus remains dangerous," Pritzker said during his press conference Wednesday.
Parents Express Concerns After Private Prom Held Across Border in Indiana
The Will County Health Department is collecting information to see if a private prom attended by teens from a suburban high school might be linked to any potential coronavirus cases.
In recent days, officials have seen an increase in coronavirus cases in the Frankfort area after a private prom was held just across the Indiana border last week.
The private event was held in Hobart, Indiana for approximately 250 kids and chaperones from Lincoln Way East High School last week.
Organizers for the event say that masks were provided to everyone who attended, with proceeds generated from an online campaign and from 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.
Even with those precautions, some parents say they are concerned, saying that they are seeing an unusual amount of COVID-19 cases and sick teens in the days following the event.
“When you bring that many people together, even if you’re social distancing, you are taking a risk,” Kristin Eaton, a mother of a teen who attends Lincoln Way East, said.
Eaton says that her son was called into work this week because four fellow teens, coworkers of his, had to call off because they were being forced to quarantine. Others have tested positive, affecting businesses who rely on the teens to work at the locations during the summer.
“A number of her employees were kids at school that weren’t able to come to work because they had to quarantine for two weeks,” Eaton said.
Eaton says that photos on social media showed kids at the prom not wearing masks and not social distancing, but organizers say they were adamant that attendees follow the rules.
“We tried to do everything correctly for CDC guidelines and Indiana state guidelines,” Flaherty said.
Dr. Sital Bhargava says that any kids who potentially were exposed to COVID-19 could now be exposing others to the virus as well, and says that allowing kids to attend an event in another state, which has different coronavirus restrictions in place, isn’t helpful in terms of stopping the spread of the virus.
“I don’t think they could have had that many kids and done it safely,” Dr. Bhargava said. “I think it had to be smaller groups.”
As of Tuesday, NBC 5 Investigates data shows that Frankfort has reported 242 cases of coronavirus, and while that data does show a climb in cases, it’s been more gradual, rather than a rapid spike.
“We’re inching up every day,” Bhargava said. “Our main goal should be flattening the curve, and we’re going in the opposite direction. So I’m sure it plays a part in the numbers.”
The Will County Health Department confirmed Tuesday that it is collecting information and is looking into the prom, to see whether or not students attending the event are indeed potentially spreading the virus.