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 delivered a warning to regions seeing increases in positivity rates Wednesday.
The warning comes just one day after a legislative committee approved his administration's new rules on enforcement of coronavirus-related regulations like the statewide mandate requiring face coverings.
Those new rules take effect as the daily average number of cases in Illinois continue to steadily increase, returning to levels that are more than halfway back up to where the state's metrics were when the virus appeared to peak in the state in early May.
Here are the latest coronavirus headlines from around the state today, Aug. 12:
Illinois Health Department Releases New Coronavirus Guidance for Schools
The Illinois State Board of Education and the state's public health department on Wednesday released new guidance for schools as they prepare for the start of the new school year during the coronavirus pandemic.
The new guidance offers a more detailed look at how schools should handle various situations, such as if a student gets sick, or when to close down a building.
Here's a look at some of the frequently asked questions and the latest answers, which officials note are "subject to change based on new information and updates to existing CDC guidance."
Click here to see more.
5 Illinois Regions Seeing Increases in Positivity Rate, Pritzker Says
Several Illinois regions are reporting increases in their positivity rates, prompting a warning from Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
"Across the state, our 11 Restore Illinois regions are trending in different directions, the majority of which are negative," Pritzker said Wednesday.
The regions seeing increases in positivity rates as of Tuesday were 2, 3, 4, 7, and 9 - three of which include multiple Chicago-area counties. Meanwhile, regions 1, 5, 10 and 11, which includes Chicago, held steady with the same average as one week ago and regions 6 and 8, which include some western Chicago suburbs, saw slight declines.
"I want to emphasize again that local officials should pay close attention to the data for their communities and where necessary step up and impose greater mitigations on a targeted basis to bring down the number of infections and the positivity rate. Otherwise, it will only be a matter of time before the state will be forced to step in and roll things back on a regional basis – something none of us wants."
Pritzker Says Mask Mandate Applies Even While 'Outside and Walking Around'
Illinois' mask mandate applies "even outside," Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday, noting that residents should still be wearing masks even if they're just walking down the street.
"Even outside, if you're outside and walking around and can't maintain social distance - which by the way, on a typical busy street in the city of Chicago, you can't maintain social distance without a mask, you just can't," Pritzker said. "People walking by each other that you're coming in close proximity to, someone who, by the way, is facing you and people in front of you who might be aspirating or they might be coughing or, you know, sneezing or whatever - those particles remain in the air. And if you don't wear a mask, and if they're not wearing a mask, then there is a much easier ability to transmit the virus."
Pritkzer noted that the statewide mask mandate doesn't only apply to public spaces indoors. He added that the outdoor concerns still matter in rural parts of the state, as well.
"It's very important even in rural areas of Illinois. If you're going to another area, town, you know, like a business or gathering spot for people in your area and (if) you're going to be in close proximity with people, then wear a face cover," he said.
Chicago, Illinois Facing a ‘Make or Break' Moment to Avoid New Coronavirus Outbreaks: Pritzker
Calling it a “make or break moment” for Chicago, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said that recent increases in coronavirus numbers illustrate the need to take concerted action to keep the city from returning to a place where it is once again a hotspot for the coronavirus.
Pritzker, hosting a coronavirus press briefing on Wednesday, was asked about a recent report that indicated that Chicago was one of several major cities that could see a spike in coronavirus cases in coming months if mitigation efforts aren’t undertaken quickly.
“You’ve seen me and heard me say that this is a make or break moment for Illinois and the city of Chicago. We’re doing everything we can in this process,” he said.
The governor was specifically asked about models published by PolicyLab, a think tank at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Those models, whose findings were published in the Daily Beast, predicted that Chicago, Baltimore and Boston all could potentially become coronavirus hotspots as the country moves into autumn.
According to models published by PolicyLab, residents of the Chicago metro area are not “social distancing at anything near the rate needed to curb the spread” of coronavirus, and also cited modest, but not sufficient, reductions in visits to non-essential businesses, as the basis for their theory that Chicago could see a spike in cases.
While Chicago isn’t seeing the type of positivity rate increases that other areas of the state are, increasing from 4.8% to 5% over the last two weeks, Pritzker says that keeping ahead of the curve in terms of a spike in cases is a key to avoid fresh outbreaks in an area.
“We’re encouraging local efforts at mitigations, because that can have an enormous impact,” he said. “That’s why the rule we got passed is so important. That’s one more step in a series of steps along a path to make sure we don’t become a hotspot.”
That new rule will allow local law enforcement and health departments to give warnings to businesses violating state coronavirus orders, including mask mandates and social distancing guidelines. The rule was upheld by a group of Illinois legislators this week, paving the way for businesses to be assessed fines if they fail to comply with the restrictions.
Illinois Reports 1,645 New Coronavirus Cases and 16 Deaths Wednesday
The state of Illinois reported 1,645 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, along with 16 additional deaths attributed to the virus.
According to new data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, the state has now recorded a total of 198,593 cases of the virus since the pandemic began, with 7,672 fatalities reported.
Over the last 24 hours, the state has reported 42,098 new tests, an increase from a day earlier. That brings the total number of tests performed in the state to 3,189,801.
Those new test results keep the state's seven-day positivity rate steady at 4.1%.
In terms of hospitalizations, Illinois saw numbers in all metrics increase from Tuesday, with 129 patients currently on ventilators. A total of 357 patients are currently in intensive care units with 1,525 hospitalized with coronavirus in the state.
Pritzker to Deliver COVID-19 Update
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is set to deliver a coronavirus update Wednesday afternoon.
The governor is scheduled to a hold a news conference at 2:30 p.m. CST from the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago, according to his public schedule. The event can be watched live in the video player above.
Illinois Supreme Court Consolidates Lawsuits on Pritzker Orders
The Illinois Supreme Court declined to take on a downstate legal battle over Gov. J.B. Pritzker's coronavirus-related orders on Tuesday, moving the case to Sangamon County and consolidating it with a similar challenge.
The decision comes as the first-term Democrat was expected in a Clay County courtroom this week after a judge rule d Pritzker exceeded his authority in issuing orders aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19.
Pritzker’s orders have faced several legal challenges, which courts have mostly upheld. But in Clay County, Republican Rep. Darren Bailey of Xenia sued over the restrictions, claiming Pritzker exceeded his authority under state statutes. Judge Michael McHaney ruled in his favor last month.
Pritzker had dismissed the ruling as “ridiculous,” noting others in his favor. However, Bailey’s attorney Tom DeVore accused Pritzker of breaching the ruling. Haney set a Friday hearing for Pritzker to explain.
On Monday, the Illinois attorney general’s office requested the state Supreme Court intervene on both the hearing and “the underlying legal question raised by the case.”
“From the outset, the circuit court has departed from ordinary procedures and shown an open hostility to the governor, his emergency actions, and the existence of the COVID-19 pandemic itself,” the motion said.
On Tuesday, the court issued a stay, pausing the Clay County proceedings, including Friday's hearing. Later in the day it denied the request to take up the case. In the Sangamon County lawsuit, also filed by DeVore, business owners challenged an extension of a stay-at-home order.
“There is no legal basis for the governor to be held in contempt for his efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Annie Thompson, a spokeswoman for the attorney general's office. “We are pleased the Supreme Court granted our request to stay that issue so that it does not continue to serve as an unnecessary distraction from the important matter at hand.”
JCAR Upholds Pritzker Rules on Enforcement of Mask Mandates
The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules voted to uphold new enforcement rules proposed by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the state’s Department of Public Health, which will give local health departments and law enforcement agencies additional tools to enforce mask mandates and other protocols implemented during the coronavirus pandemic.
The decision, reached after a hearing Tuesday, will allow those agencies and departments to issue warnings, rather than citations, for violations of state mandates regarding the coronavirus, and also empowers those enforcement agencies to issue fines of up to $2,500 for businesses that repeatedly violate state rules.
“I have always put the health and safety of Illinoisans first, and I’m gratified that local governments now have an additional way to keep their communities safe,” Pritzker said in a statement. “I want to thank the broad coalition of Illinoisans from around the state for their input and advocacy in support of science.”
Pritzker cited numerous state groups as supporters of the enforcement measures, such as the Illinois Education Association, the Illinois AFL-CIO, and the National Nurses United Organizing Committee as among those who supported the plan.
“These rules will provide multiple opportunities for compliance before any penalty is issued, and will help ensure that the minority of people who refuse to act responsibility won’t take our state backward,” he said.
Some business groups opposed the new rules, including the Illinois Retail Merchants Association and the Illinois Fuel and Retail Association, which said that while they support the wearing of masks, they also are opposed to mandates and enforcement options that could potentially hold them liable for customers refusing to wear the coverings.
Illinois Has Lost More Than Half the Progress Made Since the Coronavirus Pandemic's Peak in May, Data Shows
Illinois' average number of new coronavirus cases in recent weeks has climbed steadily enough to reverse more than half the progress made after the pandemic appeared to peak in the state in early May, public health data shows.
When the coronavirus pandemic reached an apparent peak in Illinois in early May, the state saw a record high daily average of cases of 2,565 cases on both May 4 and May 7.
That average is calculated as a seven-day moving average, which is the average of the number of cases on a given day, plus the previous six. Public health experts say that figure is considered the norm to calculate and examine any trendline.
After a few ups and downs with the average numbers through mid-May, that daily average began to drop steadily starting on May 24, signaling that the pandemic's peak in the state was coming to an end.
The daily average number of cases on May 24 was 2,299, before it fell quickly and steeply in just 25 days to reach 596 average daily cases on June 18. That 596 figure was 1,969 fewer daily average cases than the record high seen on May 4 and May 7.
But in the days since reaching that low on June 18, Illinois has seen a steady rise in new cases, to the point where, as of Tuesday, the state was back up to an average of 1,748 new cases each day. That marks an increase in the average of 1,152 cases from that low of just 596 average daily cases in June.
That increase of 1,152 cases is more than 58% of the 1,969-case drop in the daily average that Illinois saw from its record high through mid-June, meaning the state has lost more than half of the overall downward progress made after the virus peaked in early May.
Illinois Reports 1,549 New Cases of Coronavirus, 20 Deaths Tuesday
The state of Illinois has reported 1,549 new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, along with 20 additional deaths attributed to the virus, a jump from the single death reported on Monday.
According to new data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, the state has now recorded a total of 196,948 cases of the virus since the pandemic began, with 7,657 fatalities reported.
Over the last 24 hours, the state has reported 41,362 new tests, an increase from a day earlier. That brings the total number of tests performed in the state to 3,147,703.
Those new test results keep the state's seven-day positivity rate steady at 4.1%.
In terms of hospitalizations, Illinois saw numbers in all metrics slightly decrease from Monday, with 127 patients currently on ventilators. A total of 336 patients are currently in intensive care units with 1,459 hospitalized with coronavirus in the state.
Chicago Travel Order: 3 States Removed From Quarantine List, Others Near Threshold
Chicago's travel order was updated once again Tuesday with three states being dropped from the list of places of the city requires a quarantine from.
Iowa, Kansas and Utah all fell off the quarantine list after multiple weeks of case numbers below the city's threshold. Wisconsin and Nebraska were also noted for having numbers below the threshold, but will need to continue that streak for another week before they will be officially off the city's order.
The city's travel order is evaluated every Tuesday, with any additions taking effect the following Friday.
States are added to the list if they have "a case rate greater than 15 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 resident population, per day, over a 7-day rolling average." If they fall below that threshold, they could be removed as well.
Chicago's travel order first began on July 6.
Crowds at Illinois Beaches Make it Hard to Social Distance, Officials Say
Social distancing is becoming a problem at Illinois beaches as large crowds flock there during the pandemic, officials said.
Visitation guidelines have been changed at some Lake County beaches to accommodate visitors, some of whom are from Chicago, where beaches remain closed.
Bob Feffer, who has been a site manager at Illinois Beach State Park for 32 years, said he has not seen crowds like the ones during the weekends in July. The state park had about 15,000 visitors on July 25 and 26, the Lake County News-Sun reported.
“There were just too many people for social distancing to take place,” Feffer said. “Most of the people came from Chicago. Their beaches aren’t open, so they came here.”
The beach is no longer open on the weekends but only during the weekdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
David Motley, Waukegan’s director of marketing and public relations, said larger crowds were expected because people have been staying mostly indoors since March.
“There was a lot of pent-up demand for people looking to get out and do something in the area,” Motley said. “We already knew we could accommodate a large number.”
The beach was usually open from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., but hours are now 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Waukegan residents can access the beach for free, but visitors must buy a car pass for $10 a day. Mayor Sam Cunningham said between 600 and 700 day passes were being sold on the weekends, noting it's been the beach's "busiest year."
Sally Swarthout, director of parks, recreation and forestry in Lake Forest, said in an email that crowds have been larger than usual this summer. The beach is free to residents, but visitors must purchase a $25 day pass or a $910 season pass, according to the city website.
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