(NOTE: Daily press conferences from Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot will be streamed live in the player above. Check back for updates.)
Illinois entered phase four of its reopening plan Friday, bringing back several businesses and increasing capacity for others.
Meanwhile, families who’ve lost loved ones in nursing homes during the coronavirus pandemic are blasting an executive order by Gov. JB Pritzker that they said protect an industry with a long history of issues.
Here are the latest developments on the coronavirus crisis today (June 26):
Illinois Reports 857 New Coronavirus Cases, 39 Additional Deaths Friday
Illinois reported 857 new cases of the coronavirus Friday as the state entered a fourth phase of reopening.
According to state health officials, the positivity rate on Friday sat at 3 percent. Earlier this week, that rate had been at 2 percent, but with a slight increase in positive tests over the last few days, the number moved back up.
In all, 140,291 confirmed cases of coronavirus have been reported in Illinois, along with 6,847 deaths.
Illinois laboratories reported 30,425 test specimens were received Friday, marking the second straight day of more than 30,000 tests. A total of 1,490,952 tests have been conducted statewide since the pandemic began.
The numbers come as the state enters phase four of its reopening plan, bringing back several businesses and industries and increasing capacity restrictions for others.
Chicago Mayor Announces Summer Youth Programming Initiative
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced new initiatives for summer youth programming Friday afternoon.
Under the new initiative, One Summer Chicago will include paid job and life-skills training to up to 2,000 youths. The program will run from July 6 to Aug. 14.
“One Summer Chicago is among our city’s great youth programs, supporting tens of thousands of our young people every year through transformative and life-affirming jobs and internships,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “We remain committed to youth development and employment and applaud our partners who have adapted and preserved these opportunities for our youth. We are excited to add a Youth Service Corps this year in response to our belief that youth have much to contribute to the city’s response to COVID-19. CYSC will leverage and lift up youth talent and voices and respond to their desires to lead at this time.”
Illinois Enters Phase 4 of Reopening Plan
All four regions of Illinois enter phase four of the "Restore Illinois" plan on Friday.
This next phase allows for the reopening or expansion of several industries, including indoor dining at restaurants, health and fitness, movies and theaters, museums and zoos and more. It also increases the size of gatherings that are allowed from 10 people to a maximum of 50 people.
The following safety guidelines and regulations were in place Friday, according to Gov. J.B. Pritzker's office:
- Meetings and events: Venues and meeting spaces can resume with the lesser of up to 50 people OR 50% of overall room capacity. Multiple groups are permitted given facilities have space to appropriately social distance and can limit interaction between groups. This includes activities such as conferences and weddings.
- Indoor and Outdoor recreation: Revised guidelines to allow select indoor recreation facilities (e.g., bowling alleys, skating rinks), as well as clubhouses to reopen. Indoor recreation to operate at lesser of 50 customers OR 50% of facility capacity with outdoor recreation allowing group sizes of up to 50, and permitting multiple groups given facilities have space to appropriately social distance and can limit interaction between groups; concessions permitted with restrictions.
- Indoor Dining: Indoor dining can reopen with groups of 10 or less, with tables spaced 6-feet apart in seated areas and with standing areas at no more than 25% of capacity.
- Museums: Can reopen with no more than 25% occupancy, and with interactive exhibits and rides closed; guided tours should be limited to 50 people or fewer per group; museums should have a plan to limit congregation via advance ticket sales and timed ticketing; concessions permitted with restrictions.
- Zoos: Can reopen with no more than 25% occupancy, and with interactive exhibits, indoor exhibits, and rides closed; guided tours should be limited to 50 people or fewer per group; zoos should have a plan to limit congregation via advance ticket sales and timed ticketing; concessions permitted with restrictions.
- Cinema and Theatre: Indoor seated theaters, cinemas, and performing arts centers to allow admission of the lesser of up to 50 guests OR 50% of overall theater or performance space capacity (applies to each screening room); outdoor capacity limited to 20% of overall theater or performance space capacity; concessions permitted with restrictions.
- Outdoor seated spectator events: Outdoor spectator sports can resume with no more than 20% of seating capacity; concessions permitted with restrictions.
- Film production: Allow no more than 50% of sound stage or filming location capacity; crowd scenes should be limited to 50 people or fewer.
- Youth and Recreational Sports: Revised guidelines allow competitive gameplay and tournaments; youth and recreational sports venues can operate at 50% of facility capacity, 20% seating capacity for spectators, and group sizes up to 50 with multiple groups permitted during practice and competitive games given venues have space to appropriately social distance and can limit interaction between groups; concessions permitted with restrictions.
- Health and fitness centers: Revised guidelines allow gyms to open at 50% capacity and allow group fitness classes of up to 50 people with new safety guidelines for indoors, with multiple groups permitted given facilities have space to appropriately social distance and can limit interaction between groups.
- Day camps: Water-based activities permitted in accordance with IDPH guidelines; no more than 50% of facility capacity with group size of no more than 15 participants in a group, unless participants changing weekly.
Families Say Nursing Home Liability Order Strips Justice
Families who’ve lost loved ones in nursing homes during the coronavirus pandemic, patient advocates and attorneys are blasting an executive order issued by Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker that they said protect an industry with a long history of issues.
“Families deserve answers. Families deserve to know what happened with their loved ones,” said Steve Levin, an attorney with Levin & Perconti.
In early April, Pritzker issued an order that provides immunity to hospitals, nursing homes and other health care facilities from civil liability for any injury or death, except in cases of gross negligence or willful misconduct, occurring at a time when the home or facility was “rendering assistance to the State” in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
A governor’s spokeswoman defined “rendering assistance” as conducting widespread coronavirus testing of residents and staff, accepting transfer of COVID-19 patients, preserving personal protective equipment, among other requirements.
“The Executive Orders do not prevent lawsuits against nursing homes,” said a governor’s spokeswoman. “If it is determined that the nursing home was not taking steps to render assistance to the State, such as instituting appropriate infection control measures, the Executive Orders would not provide protection from liability.”
But plaintiffs’ attorneys said the orders are too broad and seeks to immunize facilities that have been rife with abuse.
Read more here.
Patient Hit With Large Hospital Bill Due to Coding Issue
After contracting the coronavirus, a Chicago-based flight attendant was left with a more than $800 hospital bill due to an apparent hospital coding issue.
In April, Troy Muenzer, said he was feeling short of breath, so he decided to go to Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
"I explained that I was an essential worker," he said. "I had been around a lot of people traveling. They had someone in a hazmat suit walk me around [a] building into a tent to assess my symptoms. I assumed I was going to get tested."
Muenzer wasn't tested, but was diagnosed with the coronavirus, given a notice for work and told to self-quarantine.
"The doctor said I believe you are COVID positive, but you are not 65 and do not have underlying conditions, so we are not able to test you," he recounted.
The flight attendant recovered from the virus, but then came another battle - a hospital bill of almost $1,000. While Muenzer's health insurance company covers virus screenings 100%, in this case, it was refusing to pay.
Read more here.
Illinois Launches New County Map to Show If You're in a 'Warning' Area
Illinois health officials have launched a new map aimed at telling people if their county is more at-risk of COVID-19 as the state prepares to reopen further.
The color-coded county map launched Thursday and offers a look at how each county fares based on "indicators" such as percentage of positive cases, amount of testing and other metrics used be the state.
Counties listed in blue are "on the right track." Those in orange are urged to use caution.
"If your county is colored orange, that's a caution or a warning that something is going on," Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said. "And our goal is that with that caution, you will think twice about your own personal habits and activities."
The maps are aimed at giving residents and others in the state a look at which areas may require more caution.
As of Thursday evening, the only county in Illinois appearing orange was Cass County.
"These county-level risk indicators do not necessarily mean that a county moves back," Ezike said. "What it means is that if the numbers don't improve, we could be headed in the wrong direction. But of course, as you have seen, individual actions are so powerful. And so that is your signal to take action."
Illinois Could Move Back a Phase If Numbers Surge, Pritzker Says
If Illinois sees a surge in cases as it continues to gradually reopen, the state could move back to previous phases if necessary, health officials said Thursday.
Illinois is currently set to enter phase four of its reopening plan Friday, allowing several businesses and industries to either reopen or expand capacity. The state has been in phase three of its five-phased plan since May 29.
"As more aspects of the economy open and more person to person interactions take place, there are many more opportunities for the spread of COVID-19," Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Thursday. "The virus hasn't gone away. And when people aren't wearing face coverings and gathering in large groups and not practicing physical distancing, they're getting sick, and some are dying. And I mean people of all ages - senior citizens, those who are in their 40s and 50s and 60s with pre-existing conditions, and yes, even young and perfectly healthy people have lost their lives to this terrible new disease that we still know so little about. That's why I'm not afraid to protect the people of Illinois by moving a region back to an earlier phase. If we see a surge ours will not be one of the states that takes no action in response to a return to the peak."
Health officials in the state and in Chicago have expressed concern as several U.S. states have started seeing a rise in cases while reopening.
Illinois Gaming Board Says In-Person Gaming Can Resume on July 1
Casinos can reopen for in-person gambling next month, the Illinois Gaming Board announced Thursday.
As the state prepares to enter phase four of its reopening plan, the board revealed its own plans for reopening.
Under those rules, in-person video and casino gaming can resume at 9 a.m. on July 1.
“The Gaming Board worked with the Governor’s Office, the Illinois Department of Public Health, and the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to develop a gaming resumption process that protects the public health of patrons and employees, while restarting gaming activities in meaningful way,” Gaming Board Administrator Marcus Fruchter said in a statement.
The reopening comes with plenty of changes for casinos in the state. There will be occupancy limits, social distancing guidelines, and more. Each facility was required to send an individual plan in order to reopen.
Illinois Reports 894 New Coronavirus Cases as Single-Day Tests Rise Above 30K for 1st Time
Illinois saw a jump in new coronavirus cases Thursday, reporting nearly 900 new infections and more than 40 additional fatalities as the state set a testing record one day before entering phase four of its reopening plan.
According to state health officials, the positivity rate on Thursday sat at 3 percent. Earlier this week, that rate had been at 2 percent, but with a slight increase in positive tests over the last two days, the number moved back up.
In the last 24 hours, the state saw 894 new cases and 41 deaths related to COVID-19.
In all, 139,434 confirmed cases of coronavirus have been reported in Illinois, along with 6,810 deaths.
Illinois laboratories reported 31,686 test specimens were received Thursday, setting a new record for single-day test results. A total of 1,460,527 tests have been conducted statewide since the pandemic began.