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 is set to deliver an update on the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday.
The news conference comes as a fifth county in the state surpasses the 10,000 mark for number of cases, and as NBC 5 Investigates finds rising rates of the deadly virus near Illinois' public universities.
Here are the latest coronavirus headlines from around the state today, Aug. 19:
Saliva-Based Coronavirus Test Developed by U of I Puts Illinois on ‘Cutting Edge,' Officials Say
For the first time, Illinois health officials are beginning to utilize a new saliva-based coronavirus test developed at the University of Illinois’ Urbana-Champaign campus, and as a result the state was able to conduct more than 50,000 new COVID-19 tests over the last 24 hours.
“This development by the University of Illinois is truly going to have the effect of helping us (with) fast testing, fast results, isolating people faster and contact tracing,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said. “All of those things have an enormously positive effect.”
According to Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the saliva tests, recently given a green light by the Food and Drug Administration under the administration’s emergency use authorization powers, were included in Wednesday’s testing totals for the first time, allowing the state to set a new record for coronavirus tests within a 24-hour period.
“Today’s news puts the University of Illinois and the entire state of Illinois on the cutting edge of testing innovation on a national level,” Ezike said. “And let me just say to (University of Illinois) President Dr. Tim Killeen, the state of Illinois looks forward to being your biggest customer.”
According to Ezike and other health officials, the saliva-based tests are a major breakthrough in coronavirus testing for multiple reasons, including their cheaper costs, faster results and relative ease of accessing the materials needed to conduct and screen the tests.
“Even among the very few saliva tests available globally, it’s one of the least expensive and potentially most effective now on the market,” Ezike said.
According to Dr. Killeen, the test is very inexpensive compared to other testing kits, with a cost of just $10 per kit. Those students who take the test can have test results sent directly to their phones with their test results, which will likely be available within just 24 hours instead of the several days that nose swab tests take to process.
The swab test is already being used at the university, with more than 10,000 faculty and staff members taking tests on Monday alone. That number, according to Killeen, accounted for 1.3% of the testing in the entire United States on Monday.
State officials are working to deploy the tests to more public universities across the state in coming weeks and months, and will work to make the testing available for students in K-12 schools and for residents of long-term care facilities as well.
According to Pritzker and other state officials, the tests will require several weeks to roll out to other entities, but the production process should be much faster than other more material-intensive tests, thereby helping to expedite that process.
Other schools and businesses have also begun to achieve good results with saliva-based tests, with one such test funded by the National Basketball Association gaining FDA emergency approval earlier this week. Yale University also has developed a saliva-test for COVID-19.
Pritzker Says State Closely Monitoring 2 Regions for 'Troubling Trends'
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday that most of Illinois' 11 regions are seeing increases in positivity rates, but two in particular are reporting "troubling trends" as the state continues to see a rise in coronavirus metrics.
Already, the state's Region 4, the Metro East region, is under stricter mitigation requirements implemented by the state after the area rose above an 8 percent positivity rate for three days in a row. As of Tuesday, the region had a positivity rate of 9.4 percent and Pritzker warned additional restrictions like the full closure of indoor dining and drinking could soon be put in place.
In addition to Region 4, Pritzker said Regions 2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 10 and 11 have also seen an increase in their seven-day rolling average positivity rate. Only three regions - Regions 1, 5 and 6 - have seen slight decreases.
"Across the state, our 11 Restore Illinois regions are trending in different directions, the majority of which are negative," Pritzker said.
Of those seeing increases in positivity rates, Pritzker said officials are "closely monitoring" what he called "troubling trends" in Region 7, which includes Kankakee and Will counties, as well as Region 5 in southern Illinois.
"I want to emphasize again that local elected officials and health 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," Pritzker said. "Otherwise, it may only be a matter of time before the state will be forced to step in on a regional basis in other areas and impose resurgence mitigations like closing bars, indoor dining, limiting all indoor gatherings to even smaller capacity and more to reduce the spread of the virus."
Illinois Reports Nearly 2,300 New Cases of Coronavirus as State Sets Daily Testing Record
Health officials in Illinois confirmed nearly 2,300 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday as the state reported a daily testing record along with a slight rise in positivity.
According to new data from the Illinois Department of Health, the state’s 2,295 new cases bring the total number of coronavirus cases during the pandemic up to 211,889. Wednesday's 25 additional deaths bring the state’s death toll from the virus to 7,806 total fatalities.
According to officials, a total of 50,299 new tests were performed over the last 24 hours, marking a daily record and bringing the statewide total to 3,489,571.
Wednesday's new test results also bring the state’s 7-day rolling positivity rate up by one-tenth of a percent, from 4.3% to 4.4%, according to newly available data.
Hospitalization numbers were up slightly on Wednesday, with 1,519 coronavirus patients currently hospitalized in the state. Of those patients, 334 are currently housed in intensive care units, while 144 patients are currently on ventilators.
Pritzker to Deliver COVID-19 Update
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expected to deliver a COVID-19 update on Wednesday, according to his public schedule.
The briefing is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. CST at the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago, his office says. The event was originally scheduled for 12 p.m. until Pritzker's office announced Wednesday morning that it would be shifted later.
The news conference can be watched live in the video player above.
CPS Releases ‘Final Reopening Framework,' With Plans for Each Grade
Chicago Public Schools on Tuesday released its "final reopening framework," offering specifics on a remote learning plan the district announced earlier this month.
The final framework details expectations for remote learning, instruction time by grade, emotional and social supports for students, plans to assist "English and diverse learners" and a plan to distribute devices for students who need them.
“As we prepare for an unprecedented start to the upcoming school year, we’ve set clear expectations for students and staff to improve remote instruction and ensure that our students are supported and their unique needs are met,” CPS CEO Dr. Janice K. Jackson said in a statement. “Parent feedback was crucial in determining our priorities for the first quarter, and we will continue to work with our families throughout the school year to ensure our plans best meet their needs while putting health and safety first.”
According to the framework, instruction time will vary by grade:
- Pre-K: 60 minutes of real-time instruction and 90 minutes of "learning activities."
- K-2: 180 minutes of real-time instructions, 180 minutes of "learning activities."
- 3-5: 205 minutes of real-time instruction, 155 minutes of "learning activities."
- 6-8: 230 minutes of real-time instruction, 130 minutes of "learning activities."
- 9-12: 80 percent of the day will be for real-time instructions, 20 percent of the day will be for "learning activities."
Teachers will use Google education tools to track engagement for each students and will be expected to do a daily "homeroom-style check-in," the district said. Student attendance will be taken each day and grading will return to regular practices, according to CPS.
Special education teachers will provide "live, real-time instruction" as do individual check-ins and independent learning activities with students, according to the district. Bilingual teachers will also continue to give instruction to "support students' language development."
The district also plans to offer mental health interventions for students, grief curriculum, small group trauma interventions and virtual classroom activities to "help manage stress and anxiety."
CPS will be fully remote through early November. At that time, the district will decide if it will move to a hybrid model.
NBC 5 Investigates Finds Rising Coronavirus Rates Near Some Illinois Public Universities
Colleges and universities in the Chicago area continue to scrap and rewrite their return-to-campus plans, struggling with coronavirus numbers that refuse to stabilize.
Late Tuesday, the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana became the latest school to table plans for in-person learning. The school's president, Rev. John Jenkins, said instruction will take place exclusively online for at least the next two weeks.
For weeks, NBC 5 Investigates has been looking at the positivity rates for the area's top university communities. They certainly show that Notre Dame is not alone in facing a spike in positive tests.
The state can apply a "warning" status to places with positivity rates of 8.0% or above, while the World Health Organization expresses concern for positivity rates of 5.0% or above. Recent daily cases, per 100,000 people, can indicate an emerging "hot spot" if they exceed 10-15 daily average cases over the previous 7 days.
Here are the latest numbers for the public colleges and universities in Illinois as of Tuesday.
Southern Illinois University -- Edwardsville (SIUE)
7.9% positivity rate; 27.5 recent daily cases, per 100,000 over the past week. Students at SIUE are moving in this week, and classes start next Monday, Aug. 24.
Eastern Illinois University -- Charleston (EIU)
7.5% positivity rate; 45.2 recent average daily cases per 100,000. The school's website says it is offering free testing to new students beginning Wednesday; and then for returning students starting next Monday, Aug. 24 – the day that students begin classes.
Governor's State University -- University Park (GSU)
8.2% positivity rate; 17.4 recent average daily cases per 100,000 over the past week.
Southern Illinois University - Carbondale (SIUC)
6.9% positivity rate; 13.1 recent average daily cases per 100,000.
University of Illinois - Springfield’s (UIS)
3.5% positivity rate; 11.6 average daily cases per 100,000 over the past week.
Illinois State University - Normal (ISU)
3.3% positivity rate; 11.4 recent average daily cases per 100,000 over the past week.
Chicago State University
3.9% positivity rate; 9.0 recent average daily new cases per 100,000 over the past week.
University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC)
2.8% positivity rate; 9.7 recent average daily new cases per 100,000 over the past week.
Northeastern Illinois University - Chicago (NEIU)
2.7% positivity rate; 7.4 recent average daily cases per 100,000 over the past week.
Northern Illinois University - DeKalb (NIU)
2.8% positivity rate; 6.6 recent average daily cases per 100,000 over the past week.
Western Illinois University - Macomb (WIU)
2.2% positivity rate; 5.9 recent average daily cases per 100,000 over the past week.
University of Illinois - Champaign (U of I)
0.4% positivity rate and 8.7 recent average daily new cases per 100,000 over the past week.
5 Illinois Counties Have Surpassed 10K Coronavirus Cases, Data Shows
Will County surpassed 10,000 cases of coronavirus on Monday, becoming the fifth county in Illinois to reach that grim milestone since the pandemic began.
With 139 new cases of COVID-19 reported Monday, Will County's total reached 10,013 confirmed cases. No new deaths reported in the past 24 hours in the county keeps the county's death toll at 351, public health data shows.
The county reported a 6.8% positivity rate as of Aug. 8 and state data shows the area is reporting 93 new cases per 100,000 residents each week.
Will County follows Cook, Lake, DuPage and Kane counties in that order in hitting that five-figure mark in coronavirus cases. Kane County reached 10,000 cases just last Thursday, now standing at 10,314 cases total.
Cook County has the most cases of Illinois' 102 counties, reporting 50,189 in total as of Monday. Lake County has reported 13,375 cases and DuPage has reported 13,032 cases, data shows.
Kane and Will counties were among 14 Illinois counties at a "warning level" for coronavirus, state health officials announced Friday. The warning means the counties have seen increases in two or more COVID-19 "risk indicators," Illinois' public health department said.
Archdiocese of Chicago Asks Parents to Sign Waiver Before Sending Child to School
The Archdiocese of Chicago is asking parents to sign a waiver before sending their child to school during the coronavirus pandemic.
Parents reported receiving an "acknowledgement form" stating they understand the risks, will adhere to coronavirus protocols and waive the right to sue the school and the Catholic Bishop of Chicago for "any claims of negligent exposure."
The archdiocese said the document requires parents to "agree to review protocols" put in place to limit the spread of coronavirus, but also acknowledges the risks of sending a child to school as "there was no foolproof measure to prevent the introduction of the virus in our school environment."
As for the waiver of liability, the Archdiocese said it chose to include it "as a way to impress upon parents the importance of our partnership in implementing these protocols to limiting the introduction and spread of disease in our school communities."
"To be very clear, the Office of Catholic Schools informed its school principals that if a family refused to sign the waiver portion of the document that it would not recommend the family not be permitted to return for that reason, provided they accepted the protocols and assumption of risk," the archdiocese said in a statement. "Our schools will work with our families."
Some parents still expressed concern after receiving the letter.
"I understand why they did it, but I would not have felt comfortable signing it," Kelly said.
Attorney Paul Lannon, who specializes in education, said it's unclear if such waivers will hold up in court.
"There is typically some limitations on it," he told NBC 5. "They don't cover intentional or gross negligence, just ordinary negligence."
Despite plans from other area districts, including Chicago Public Schools, to start the year remotely, the Archdiocese of Chicago has continued on its plan to keep children in classrooms.
Watch: Dr. Arwady Breaks Down Chicago's Latest COVID-19 Data
How Chicago is Preparing for Cold and Flu Season as Pandemic Rages on
Chicago's top health official is urging people not to forget their flu shots during the coronavirus pandemic, but getting the shot might not look the same.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Tuesday the city has been preparing for flu season.
"We are using our flu vaccine campaigns to practice, prepare and test some of what we're thinking about for COVID vaccines," she said. "For example, historically, the Chicago Department of Public Health would say come one, come all for flu clinics, open up in aldermen's offices, open up in our van, etc. We are moving to, instead, more controlled settings."
Other examples include having people register in advance and moving to paperless as much as possible.
"It is really important. Flu shots are just becoming available and we need people to get a flu shot," Arwady said. "The last thing we want to see this fall and winter is any amount of COVID, even the amount we have now, on top of our predictable pandemic, which is our flu season every year. Our hospitals get full every winter largely because of flu."
But there could be some good news in store. Arwady said data from the Southern Hemisphere shows we could see a more milder flu season thanks to precautions people are taking with coronavirus.
Still, Arwady stressed that flu and coronavirus are very different and should both be taken seriously.
"The vaccine is so important, especially for younger people and older people," Arwady said. "Different from COVID, flu hits young people very hard."
Here's When Chicago Will Consider Loosening Coronavirus Restrictions
Chicago's top health official said Tuesday that the city won't consider loosening any of its coronavirus restrictions until one metric in particular drops.
That number is the daily average number of new cases, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said at a news conference, pointing to a metric she has repeatedly referenced throughout the pandemic as the figure that has largely guided health officials in their decision-making process.
As of Tuesday, the city was seeing a rolling average of 307 new cases per day, Arwady said. That number is lower than the roughly 1,000 new cases the city was seeing each day on average at the peak of the pandemic in early May, she said - but still not as low as officials want it to be.
"That's really been fairly consistent over the last week or two," Arwady said. "We've seen that flatten but we've not yet seen the decline that we'd like to see."
Arwady said last month that that number "is the best reflection of the burden of our disease" and that the current daily average puts Chicago in a "high incidence state."
Health officials want that number to drop below 200 to get out of the "high incidence state" and before they will consider loosening any restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the virus, Arwady said.
The city dropped below 200 in June, Arwady said, but surpassed that figure again in July, prompting Chicago officials to shut down indoor service at bars and other establishments that serve alcohol without a food license and to cut the size of parties allowed at restaurants from 10 to six people, among other changes.
When asked about potentially lifting those restrictions, specifically the size of parties at restaurants, Arwady said health officials won't consider it until the city is back under 200 average new cases per day.
"When we think of the number of people who are gathering at an event, particularly if they are gathering in a setting like a restaurant, where you can't wear a mask at least while you're eating and drinking, we really think about what is the risk that someone will have COVID in a group of a given size," Arwady said.
"Even when we were at 200 cases per day on average, there was still, given the number of active cases that means we have in Chicago, about a 15% chance that in a group of 50 people, for example, you would have someone with active COVID who may not know that," she continued.
"We will not be thinking about loosening those restrictions until we get back down under 200 cases," Arwady said. "We get under 200 cases, we move out of a high incidence state, we can then start thinking again about, 'Are there safe ways to further reopen?'"
Arwady added that as long as Chicago continues to see between 200 and 400 new cases per day on average, the city will remain in a "holding pattern."
"I want to able to move ahead as much as everybody else does but until we see some progress there we will not be looking to further expand," she added.
Illinois Reports 1,740 New Cases of Coronavirus, 27 Additional Deaths Tuesday
Health officials in Illinois confirmed 1,740 new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, along with 27 additional deaths related to the virus.
According to new data from the Illinois Department of Health, the state’s total number of coronavirus cases during the pandemic has now risen to 209,594.
Tuesday's 27 additional deaths bring the state’s death toll from the virus to 7,782 total fatalities.
According to officials, a total of 34,175 new tests were performed over the last 24 hours, bringing the statewide total to 3,439,272.
Tuesday's new test results bring the state’s 7-day rolling positivity rate up by one-tenth of a percent, from 4.2% to 4.3%, according to newly available data.
Hospitalization numbers were down slightly on Tuesday, with 1,510 coronavirus patients currently hospitalized in the state. Of those patients, 335 are currently housed in intensive care units, while 128 patients are currently on ventilators.
5 Chicago Restaurants, Bars Temporarily Closed for Weekend Coronavirus Violations
Five Chicago restaurants were temporarily closed for violating the city's phase four guidelines during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.
The department said it "conducted research into advertised parties" and used a task force with the Department of Buildings, Chicago Fire Department and Chicago police officers to investigate.
According to BACP, the task force conducted 38 investigations over the weekend, eight of which were at residential locations while another five resulted in the temporary closure of five city restaurants.
Barba Yianni in Chicago's Lincoln Square neighborhood was closed and given two citations for operating over capacity indoors, with more than 80 people reported, operating after midnight, social distancing violations and a lack of face coverings, BACP said. The citations could lead to fines of up to $20,000, but the exact amount will be determined when the case is tried at the Department of Administrative Hearings, according to Isaac Reichman with BACP.
The restaurant's owner, Anas Ihmoud, said he is unsure if he will be able to pay the fines, noting that he behind on other payments due to the pandemic. He also said his staff wears masks but declined to comment on the crowd Saturday.
Retro Cafe in the 3200 block of North Central Avenue was cited for operating after midnight, social distancing violations and a lack of face coverings.
The cafe's owner, Matthew Gancarz, argued that he and some tenants who live above the restaurant were outside having drinks due to a power outage at the building, but said the restaurant was closed at the time of the citations.
"I'm very pissed off," Gancarz told NBC 5.
Similarly, Juanita's Restaurant on the Southwest Side was also cited for the same violations.
Estrella Blanca Nightclub in the Kelvin Park neighborhood was cited for allowing people to drink alcohol inside without a food license and a lack of face coverings.
Second Time Around, located in the 8300 block of West Irving Park, was cited for operating after midnight.
The restaurants could not immediately be reached for comment, but BACP reports the closures lasted for one night.
Wisconsin Falls Off Chicago's Quarantine List, But Some States Return
Chicago's travel order was updated once again Tuesday, with Wisconsin falling off the city's quarantine list, but another neighboring state returning.
Wisconsin and Nebraska were both removed from the quarantine list, effective Friday, but Iowa and Kansas have both returned. Arizona and North Carolina were also noted for dropping below the threshold to require a quarantine, but those states will need to stay below the mark for another week in order to be removed from the list.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady is expected to deliver an update on the order, along with the city's latest coronavirus data, at noon at City Hall.
As of last week, the list stood at 20 U.S. states and territories. Both Wisconsin and Nebraska were noted for dropping below the threshold required to remain on the list, but they needed a second week of numbers below the mark to be removed from the order.
Navy Pier to Close After Labor Day Due to Coronavirus Pandemic
Navy Pier will close after Labor Day as the iconic Chicago attraction faces restrictions and budget shortfalls during the coronavirus pandemic.
The pier is set to close its doors Sept. 8 and "anticipates reopening" in spring of 2021. The closure aims to "limit the financial burden and impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic on the organization."
“While this was a very difficult decision for the organization, it was a necessary one to proactively ensure the long-term success of one of Chicago’s most treasured and important civic institutions and the communities it serves,” Navy Pier President and CEO Marilynn Gardner said in a statement. “This decision will also help preserve the future of the many on-site businesses, which continue to face hardships of their own as a result of the pandemic. The temporary closure will allow the Pier and its partners to reduce its operational expenses and support efforts to limit COVID-19 cases as we move into the fall and winter seasons.”
The pier will continue to remain open through Labor Day, including free arts and cultural programs, restaurants, retail shops, tour boats and dining cruises. There will be "multiple layers of safety precautions in place," officials said.
Public access to the pier's outdoor spaces, including Polk Bros Park and the North and South Docks, will also be limited or prohibited during the closure.
Last week, officials said Navy Pier was exploring its options, including the potential for closure as the attraction faces a $20 million deficit in its budget due to the coronavirus pandemic, a spokesperson said.
In a statement, Navy Pier said the loss of earnings "has been devastating to the organization's budget," citing the ongoing closure of the pier's iconic Centennial Wheel and other attractions as well as decreased parking revenue, rent relief for tenants and the cancellations of all private events.
The pier was forced to close from March 17 through June 10 "to help curb the COVID-19 pandemic." Since then, it has implemented a phased reopening plan that has seen the return of 15-20% of its typically summer attendance.
"Our hope was that once we reopened, revenues would be restored at a more sustainable level. Unfortunately, that has not been realized," the statement read.
The pier has since implemented "financial adjustments" to help limit costs, including the firing of 20% of its employees. The pier's president and CEO has taken a 44% pay reduction and all executive leadership saw reductions of 33%, according to the statement. Several full-time administrative staff members were also furloughed, renovations postponed, hiring suspended and budgets cut.
See How Illinois' Coronavirus Regions and Counties Compare in 7 Key Metrics
How do each of Illinois' 11 regions and several counties across the Chicago area compare when it comes to key coronavirus metrics?
Dive into the most important data with this searchable tool that shows some of the numbers health experts examine when making decisions about potential restrictions and other efforts to slow the pandemic's spread.
Updated every evening, this chart shows the number of cases each county or region has reported in the last seven days and its total number of cases since the pandemic began.
The chart also shows each area's current positivity rate in testing, as well as two important figures adjusted for population: the total number of cases per 100,000 people, as well as the rolling average daily new case count per 100,000 people over the previous seven days.
Public health experts say that latter figure is considered the norm to examine any trendline and could signal a "hot spot" for spread of the virus. It's also the threshold that some local and state officials are using to determine which states should be placed on any list for which travelers are required to quarantine when entering their jurisdiction.
This chart also shows the metrics for three states overall - Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin - at the top to allow for easy analysis of how a particular region or county is faring in comparison with the rest of the state.