Note: Any news conferences from Gov. J.B. Pritzker or Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot will be streamed in the video player above.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is scheduled to deliver an update on the state's coronavirus response Wednesday, according to his office.
That update comes as stricter mitigations go into effect for Region 4 in the Metro East area, including the closing of indoor bar and restaurant service.
Here are the latest updates from around the state on the fight against coronavirus today (Sept. 2):
IDES Employees Receiving Threats, Pritzker Says
Employees at the Illinois Department of Employment Security have been receiving threats as the state continues to battle record unemployment levels during the coronavirus pandemic.
"The people who work at IDES have been receiving literally threats," Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday, adding that the threats have made opening some offices challenging.
Pritzker did not specify the nature of the threats.
Several Illinois residents have reported issues with receiving unemployment in the state.
Pritzker has attributed the issues to an older system not equipped to handle the influx of applications the coronavirus pandemic brought on. He added Wednesday there has been "enormous effort by the new director to get in touch with everyone who has issues about their unemployment."
"There's a lot of work being done and I do think we need to work on the security of the people in these offices," Pritzker said.
Why Illinois Health Officials Say Reported Daily Testing Numbers Have Dropped
After several days of daily testing numbers ranging between 40,000 and 50,000, Illinois suddenly saw a sharp drop this week.
With Tuesday's report dropping below 30,000 and Wednesday rising only slightly higher, state health officials cited a "slowdown in data processing within [Illinois Department of Public Health] systems."
According to IDPH, the slowdown affected the number of tests reported "due to the large volume of testing occurring in Illinois."
"All available resources are being deployed to improve our data systems throughput and we anticipate improvement in data processing as the week proceeds," a release from the department stated. "Although the slowdown has delayed the reporting of some additional aggregate numbers, this has not affected the reporting of positive or negative results to individuals in any way."
Labs in Illinois on Wednesday reported 32,751 tests performed in the past 24 hours, with 2,128 positive cases, lifting the state's positivity rate once again this week.
Illinois Reports 2,128 New Coronavirus Cases, 27 Additional Deaths
Illinois health officials reported 2,128 new coronavirus cases and 27 additional deaths on Wednesday, lifting the state's positivity rate once again this week.
Those figures brought the statewide totals to 238,643 confirmed cases since the pandemic began, according to new data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, with at least 8,091 deaths in all 102 counties attributed to the virus.
Labs in Illinois on Wednesday reported 32,751 tests performed in the past 24 hours, well below the 40,000 to 50,000 the state had been conducted on average per day over the past week. The health department attributed the lower test results to "a slowdown in data processing within IDPH systems."
With Wednesday's increase in cases, the state’s rolling 7-day positivity rate increased to 4.5% from 4.3% the day before.
Hospitalizations ticked up slightly on Tuesday, health officials said. In all, 1,596 patients are currently hospitalized due to COVID-19 in the state of Illinois, with 347 of those patients in intensive care units. The number of patients on ventilators dropped, however, from 146 to 142.
Pritzker to Deliver COVID-19 Update
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expected to give a COVID-19 update beginning at 12 p.m. Wednesday from the Thompson Center in Chicago, according to his public schedule.
The news conference can be watched live in the video player above.
Illinois to Impose Stricter Coronavirus Mitigation Rules in Region 4, Officials Say
Two weeks after it became the first healthcare region in the state to have additional coronavirus mitigation strategies implemented, Region 4 in southwestern Illinois will see even more restrictions put in place as its positivity rate continues to remain over the state’s acceptable limits.
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, the new restrictions will officially go into effect on Wednesday in the region, which includes Bond, Clinton, Madison, Monroe, Randolph, St. Clair and Washington counties.
The new restrictions will include a suspension of indoor service at restaurants and bars for at least two weeks. Outdoor service will still be allowed, but must be stopped at 11 p.m. each night, according to the new guidelines.
Party buses will remain banned in the region, with gatherings also restricted to 25 or fewer people, according to a press release.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration faced backlash last week after restrictions were put in place in Region 7, which includes Will and Kankakee counties. Those restrictions match the restrictions now being put into effect in Region 4, but were harsher than the initial mitigation strategies put in place by the state.
Pool Party Resulted in at Least 19 Cases of Coronavirus
Chicago's top health official is encouraging residents to continue to use precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus, and she used a recent story of a COVID-19 cluster to illustrate how quickly the virus can spread.
Dr. Allison Arwady, the director of the Chicago Department of Health, cited an example of a recent pool party that ultimately resulted in 19 individuals contracting the coronavirus.
According to Arwady, the cluster has been linked to a social gathering that took place at a pool party. Beginning four days after the pool party and running through the next week, a total of 13 people who had attended the party ended up testing positive for the virus, with another six individuals testing positive after coming into contact with those who attended the event.
Even though the size of the cluster is noteworthy, Arwady insists that this type of spread of the virus is not uncommon.
“This is not a dramatic example,” she said. “This is the sort of thing that we are regularly seeing.”
To help combat these COVID clusters, Arwady says the department is continuing to work with its pediatrics team to help identify clusters among younger Chicago residents, particularly as some schools in the city and surrounding areas begin to hold in-person instruction.
Arwady Addresses 'Misinformation' on How Coronavirus Deaths Are Reported
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady on Tuesday addressed questions surrounding what she called misinformation on how coronavirus deaths are being reported.
"There was some misinformation out on social media over the weekend that was pointing to some CDC data," Arwady said. "The CDC data was showing that only 7% of the people who have died of COVID-19 have only had COVID-19. And not any comorbidities, meaning they didn't have diabetes, they didn't have underlying heart disease, lung disease, etc."
According to Arwady, while many people who have died from coronavirus had underlying conditions, she says those conditions are not the cause of their deaths.
"Let's say we take someone who has diabetes and they have heart failure at baseline. So they have a number of these underlying conditions, they get COVID-19, they get admitted to the hospital because they are sick with COVID-19. COVID-19 can go on to make their heart failure worse, maybe it pushes them into having lung problems and respiratory failure, maybe they develop kidney failure while they're in the hospital... all of this is because they've gotten COVID-19," Arwady said. "If unfortunately, this person dies while they're in the hospital, the doctor has to fill out the death certificate, and you list the things that this person had, as well as what is the ultimate cause of death. And so if I was filling out the death certificate for this person, I would say this person had heart failure and diabetes and lung disease. I might include the kidney failure they developed in the hospital due to COVID-19 and that is me making an assessment that that virus itself was why that person died. Now, we're all going to die at some point. But somebody who has diabetes or has heart disease would not have died right now, if not for having been infected with COVID-19."
Arwady's comments come as reports on social media claimed the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “backpedaled” on the number of deaths caused by COVID-19, reducing the figure from nearly 154,000 to just over 9,000, as social media posts claimed.
The term “Only 6%” trended widely on Twitter over the weekend as supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory promoted tweets that falsely suggested the CDC had updated its records to show that only 6% of U.S. deaths tied to COVID-19 were legitimate. President Donald Trump was among those who tweeted the information, which was later taken down by Twitter for violating platform rules.
The posts, which received hundreds of thousands of shares online, were based on a regularly updated CDC data table showing underlying conditions for those who died of COVID-19. The conditions included high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity, as well as problems that are caused by COVID-19 itself, such as respiratory failure and pneumonia.
The CDC data table is based on an analysis of death certificates that mention COVID-19 as a cause. For 6% of the deaths, COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned, the CDC notes.
The other 94% list COVID-19 and other conditions together. Among those deaths, there were, on average, 2.6 additional conditions or causes per death, the public health agency said.
As of Aug. 26, the CDC said, there were 161,332 deaths where COVID-19 was listed on the death certificate. Social media users over the weekend posted an older screenshot of the data that showed 153,504 deaths. The posts used the 6% figure to claim the U.S. death toll was much lower — 9,210.
“CDC just backpedaled (quietly) and adjusted the U.S. COVID deaths from 153,504 to 9,210. Admitting that their numbers are so (expletive) that they are off by a whopping 94%,” said a post being shared on Facebook Monday.
But such claims misrepresent the data, experts say. A death isn’t excluded from the COVID-19 tally just because the person was obese or had diabetes or dementia. Someone with heart problems can still be killed by COVID-19, and the death certificate could mention both as contributing.
"What people misinterpreted in this was that somehow because these people also had diabetes, or also had heart disease, they somehow didn't die of COVID as opposed to having the this comorbidity and dying from COVID," Arwady said. "And so this went around and it said, you know, only 7% of the people actually died from COVID."
It's not just the recent CDC report sparking questions on social media, however, Arwady said.
"So a corollary question I sometimes get is, 'What if somebody you know, gets shot and they die, and then you test them and you found out they had COVID-19?'" Arwady said. "Their cause of death is getting shot. It is not COVID-19. If they're getting tested, they could get counted as cases of COVID-19 but not as the death being caused by COVID-19. So there is a process where in reporting somebody's death, you include any of the things that may have contributed to their death. And you name an underlying cause that is the primary cause and the reports of people who die of COVID-19 or people who died because of being infected with with COVID. So I hope that sort of helped clears helps clear it up. I wish that we had only had 9,000 people die of COVID-19. But that is unfortunately not true."
Indiana Could Be Added to Chicago's Travel Order Next Week, Arwady Says
Indiana has officially reached the coronavirus metrics that would put it on Chicago's travel order and could be added as early as next week, according to Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady.
"Indiana very well may be added to Chicago's travel order next week," Arwady said Tuesday.
The state has already crossed the average of 15 cases per 100,000 residents, sitting at 15.8 as of Tuesday, Arwady said, but the city chose to keep it off the list.
"We made a decision not to add it this week for a few reasons," Arwady said.
Among those reasons were the fact that the state had recently changed the way it reports its coronavirus data and that state colleges have marked a large spike in cases.
"If we don't see improvement across the state then we will add them next week," Arwady said Tuesday.
Chicago Adds 3 States to Quarantine List as Travel Order Updated
Chicago's travel order was updated once again Tuesday adding three states to its quarantine list, including some that were recently removed.
The states added to the list include Hawaii, Nebraska and North Carolina.
Last week, North Carolina had been removed from the quarantine list and Nebraska had previously also been removed.
The emergency order now requires anyone visiting or returning to the city from one of 22 locations to self-quarantine for 14 days.
As of last week, the list stood at 19 U.S. states and territories.
Florida, California and Puerto Rico may soon be removed from the list as their numbers dropped below the threshold, according to the order, but will need to stay under the required metrics for another week to be officially removed.
Illinois Reports 1,492 New Coronavirus Cases as Number of Daily Tests Sharply Drops
Illinois health officials reported 1,492 new coronavirus cases and 39 additional deaths on Tuesday as the number of tests conducted over the previous 24 hours dropped by roughly half, data shows.
Those figures brought the statewide totals to 236,515 confirmed cases since the pandemic began, according to new data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, with at least 8,064 deaths in all 102 counties attributed to the virus.
Labs in Illinois on Tuesday reported 22,961 tests performed in the past 24 hours, a sharp decline from the roughly 40,000 to 50,000 the state had been conducted on average per day over the past week. Tuesday's tests brought statewide totals to more 4,087,122 tests performed since the pandemic began
With Tuesday's increase in cases, the state’s rolling 7-day positivity rate increased to 4.3% from 4.1% the day before.
Hospitalizations ticked up slightly on Monday, health officials said. In all, 1,513 patients are currently hospitalized due to COVID-19 in the state of Illinois, with 362 of those patients in intensive care units. The number of patients on ventilators dropped, however, from 157 to 146.
Chicago Mayor: Pandemic Has Caused $1.2B Hole in 2021 Budget
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot predicted a $1.2 billion hole in the 2021 budget on Monday, calling the coronavirus pandemic the “single largest driver” of the city's economic challenges.
In her budget forecast, the first-term mayor said tourism, transportation and the hospitality industry have been hit hardest amid closures due to COVID-19.
“Make no mistake, this will be our pandemic budget," she said. “COVID-19 is the single largest driver of economic challenges and our city's budget gap.”
Lightfoot didn't offer many details on how Chicago officials would close the gap, noting city worker layoffs as one possibility. Lightfoot didn't mention a property tax hike as a solution.
She said federal help will be needed as cities nationwide are struggling to fight the virus and address economic fallout.
Roughly $400 million of the shortfall is related to Chicago's underfunded pension system.
Chicago will close the 2020 budget year with a nearly $800 million shortfall as the city suffers from soaring unemployment. Since the pandemic's start, roughly 900,000 people have filed for unemployment, Lightfoot said.
She said this year's shortfall would largely be addressed with federal aid and debt refinancing, among other things.
These Are the Metrics That Will Bring Back Restrictions to Illinois Regions
Illinois regions that meet a particular set of metrics could see the return of several restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.
Multiple regions have already experienced some rollbacks, including two suburban Chicago counties: Kankakee and Will counties in Region 7.
The restrictions included halting indoor dining and service at bars, with all outdoor service at bars and restaurants required to close at 11 p.m. Gatherings are also limited to the lesser of either 25 guests or 25% of a room's overall capacity, and party buses are shut down.
Similar restrictions were already put in place in earlier this month in Region 4, the Metro East region, based on its high positivity rate in testing.
According to the governor's office, the following metrics will be used to determine "when the spread of the virus in a region requires additional mitigations":
- Sustained increase in 7-day rolling average (7 out of 10 days) in the positivity rate and one of the following severity indicators:
- 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%)
- OR three consecutive days averaging ≥ 8% positivity rate
Some of the so-called mitigation strategies may include restrictions for indoor dining at bars and restaurants, which would be "automatically applied in a region that meets resurgence criteria."
In the first tier, restaurants would have to lower capacity for indoor dining and indoor bar service would be suspended. Elective surgeries would be limited, maximum gathering sizes would be lowered, businesses would return to remote work for vulnerable employees where possible and other industries could see added capacity limitations.
In a second tier, indoor dining and elective surgeries would be suspended and additional gathering and capacity limitations would be imposed. Organized indoor recreational activities and in-person non-essential retail could also be suspended and salons could be shut down if tied to an outbreak.
By the third tier, all in-person dining would be suspended, there would be strict limitations on gatherings and all non-essential workers would return to remote work.
Illinois' Top Health Official Refutes CDC's New Coronavirus Testing Guidance
Illinois' top health official has issued a statement highlighting the importance of getting tested for coronavirus, even for those who don't have any symptoms, contradicting new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"In the face of increasing infections, we need to promote more testing, not less, to identify new cases and interrupt further transmission,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement on Thursday.
The CDC quietly tweaked its guidance on COVID-19 testing early last week, now stating that healthy people who have been exposed to COVID-19 "do not necessarily need a test," as long as they don't have symptoms. That's a reversal from previous advice that clearly recommended testing for all close contacts of infected individuals, regardless of whether they had symptoms.
That change that could result in fewer people being tested and hinder contact tracing efforts, NBC News reports.
President Donald Trump has been outspoken about his belief that the United States has the most COVID-19 cases in the world because of the number of tests it carries out.
Public health experts, including Ezike, have slammed both that belief and the CDC's change in guidance.
“Given that asymptomatic individuals have been linked to virus spread, we will maintain our more stringent guidance to support testing of any Illinois resident who thinks they may have been exposed, as well as asymptomatic close contacts of confirmed cases 5-7 days post exposure," Ezike's statement reads.
IDPH said Gov. J.B. Pritzker's strategy to combat the pandemic across the state "has always relied on increased testing," noting that Ilinois' state labs were the first outside of the CDC to successfully test for COVID-19 early in the pandemic.
The state crossed the threshold of more than 4 million tests conducted on Sunday and now averages roughly 50,000 tests per day, health officials say.
"Many individuals who test positive for COVID-19 have not reported having symptoms. However, scientific studies have proven that those individuals are still able to spread the disease to family, friends, and members of their community who may become sick and require medical attention and even hospitalization, especially for those with underlying health conditions," IDPH's statement reads. "Illinois will continue advising anyone who comes into close contact with a confirmed case be tested."
There are nearly 300 testing sites in Illinois, IDPH noted last week, including 11 state operated community-based testing sites and 12 mobile testing teams that collect specimens at facilities experiencing outbreaks like nursing homes and correctional centers.
More information on testing can be found on IDPH's website here.