Note: Any news conferences from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot or other officials will be streamed in the video player above.
Chicago's top health official said Thursday that it has been "not a good week for COVID," with cases up 30% compared to the same point one week prior.
Her warning came as sources said the city is expected to announce a plan for the second quarter of the school year, bringing some students back but keeping most remote.
Meanwhile, the state of Illinois set a new one-day record for new coronavirus cases on Thursday, reporting more than 4,000 new cases.
Here are the latest updates from across Illinois on the coronavirus pandemic today (Oct. 16):
Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin Each Broke Coronavirus Case Records Friday
Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin each broke their own records Friday for the most new coronavirus cases reported statewide in a single day since the pandemic began.
It marks the second day in a row each of the three states have set records in the category as the virus continues to grip the Midwest.
Illinois' daily case total topped 4,000 for the second straight day as the state also reported its highest single-day testing total of the pandemic so far.
The 4,554 new cases mark an increase of 13% over the previous one-day high, which was reported on Thursday.
Illinois also broke its record for the most cases reported in the past seven days, with 22,656 new cases added. That’s the third-highest in the nation, behind only Texas at 28,014 cases and California at 23,601.
While the state saw a record 87,759 tests in the previous 24 hours, the increasing number of cases can't be entirely attributed to the large amount of tests conducted. That's because the 7-day rolling statewide positivity rate also jumped from 4.9% to 5.1% on Friday, continuing a gradual rise and crossing 5% for the first time in several weeks.
At the same time, health officials in Indiana reported 2,328 new cases of coronavirus, the state's first-ever daily total above 2,000.
While the state has also seen an increase in testing over the last few days, the positivity rate there spiked on Friday, jumping from 5.4% to 5.8% on all tests over the last seven days and from 9.9% to 10.4% on individuals tested.
Indiana is now averaging more new coronavirus cases, per day, than the state ever has before.
Meanwhile, in Wisconsin broke its daily case record for the third time in a week as a surge that began in early September shows no signs of abating.
The state also hit record highs for daily deaths and hospitalizations this week as a third lawsuit was filed arguing that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers had overstepped his authority by issuing public health emergencies and implementing a statewide mask mandate and capacity limits for bars and restaurants.
There were 3,861 new coronavirus cases reported in Wisconsin on Friday by the state Department of Health Services, breaking the previous record set just a day earlier of 3,747.
Wisconsin is now reporting so many daily cases, that it ranks fourth in the country for its seven-day tally of new cases, behind Illinois, which has more than twice its population.
The state’s positivity rate did decrease by one tenth of a percentage point Friday, dropping from 20.8% to 20.7%.
As a result of these two days’ worth of record-breaking numbers in the three states surrounding the Chicago area, more than 20,000 [20,467] have become sick with coronavirus in the past 48 hours.
And in that same 48 hours, in these three states, 174 people have died.
Across the Midwest, similar trends are being reported.
Minnesota health officials reported nearly 2,300 new coronavirus cases Friday, the first time the state has surpassed the 2,000 mark since the pandemic began.
Friday’s case count was 50% higher than the state's last daily record of 1,516 cases set last Saturday. The results came on record-high testing.
North Dakota leads the country with 978 cases per 100,000 residents as of Thursday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, followed by South Dakota at 893 cases per 100,000 residents. Wisconsin ranked fourth at 639, while Iowa was ninth at 432.
Missouri has reached record hospitalization levels several times over the past few weeks, with the latest record of 1,443 being set Wednesday. Data has not yet been released for Thursday or Friday.
34 Illinois Counties Now at 'Warning Level' for Coronavirus, Health Officials Say
Thirty-four counties in Illinois are now at a "warning level" for coronavirus, the state's health department said Friday
The warning means each of the counties saw increases in two or more COVID-19 "risk indicators," the health department said.
The counties now under a warning include: Adams, Alexander, Boone, Cass, Christian, Clay, Clinton, Crawford, DeKalb, DeWitt, Jasper, Jefferson, Jo Daviess, Johnson, Kane, Lee, Macon, McDonough, McHenry Mercer, Monroe, Pike, Pulaski, Randolph, Saline, Stephenson, Union, Vermilion, Warren, Washington, Wayne, Whiteside, Will, Winnebago.
Last week, 26 counties were at a "warning level." The week before that it was 28.
"Although the reasons for counties reaching a warning level varies, some of the common factors for an increase in cases and outbreaks are associated with university and college parties as well as college sports teams, large gatherings and events, bars and clubs, weddings and funerals, family gatherings, long-term care facilities, correctional centers, schools, and cases among the community at large, especially people in their 20s," the Illinois Department of Public Health said in a statement.
IDPH said officials observed businesses "blatantly disregarding mitigation measures, people not social distancing, gathering in large groups and not using face coverings."
"Mayors, local law enforcement, state’s attorneys and other community leaders can be influential in ensuring citizens and businesses follow best practices," IDPH added.
Illinois Reports Records for Daily Cases and Tests as Positivity Rate Rises Above 5%
For the second day in a row, Illinois set a record for daily new coronavirus cases, topping 4,000 again as the state reported its highest single-day testing total since the pandemic began.
Illinois health officials on Friday reported 4,554 new coronavirus cases, a record high one-day total, as well as 38 additional deaths.
The Illinois Department of Public Health said the new cases bring the statewide totals to 336,174 cases and 9,165 deaths since the pandemic began.
A total of 87,759 tests were performed in the previous 24 hours, officials said, marking another record, barring totals reported on Sept. 4 when officials processed a backlog of tests due to a data processing delay.
State health officials on Thursday began including both molecular and antigen tests in its number of statewide tests performed. IDPH said that antigen tests previously comprised less than 1% of tests performed and were not included before due to a "limited number of antigen tests and limited information about antigen test accuracy."
But Illinois health officials said Thursday that antigen tests were becoming more readily available, and would therefore be included in the daily counts.
The record high number of cases can't be entirely attributed to the large amount of tests conducted, however, because although a high number of tests were reported, the 7-day rolling statewide positivity rate also jumped from 4.9% to 5.1% on Friday, continuing a gradual rise and crossing 5% for the first time in several weeks.
As of Thursday night, 2,016 people in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 410 patients were in the ICU and 151 patients were on ventilators.
Quarantine Requirement Begins for Anyone Coming to Chicago From Indiana
A quarantine requirement for anyone traveling to Chicago from Indiana began Friday as the state was officially added to the city's emergency travel order.
Officials announced Tuesday that Indiana and three other states would be added to Chicago's travel order, effective Friday, with few exceptions to the quarantine requirement.
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.
The city's travel order is evaluated every Tuesday, with any additions taking effect the following Friday.
Students and people who usually travel to Indiana for work are exempt from the quarantine restrictions, but only if they travel for school and work purposes. People needing medical care or those traveling for parental shared custody are also exempt.
CPS Announces Plan for Second Quarter, With Aim to Bring Some Students Back in Schools
Chicago Public Schools on Friday announced its plan for the second quarter of the school year as the coronavirus pandemic continues, with all students beginning with remote learning as the district says it aims to bring back some in a phased reopening.
CPS said in a statement that it plans to begin its phased reopening with the "most vulnerable students in pre-k and intensive and moderate cluster programs who encounter significant challenges participating in remote learning without the support of a guardian, which further exacerbates inequities."
The students returning to classrooms would be brought back as early as January, with time needed to prepare the "significant new operational processes needed to open schools," CPS said. The district plans to reach out to parents of students in other grades later this year to gauge their interest in their students returning to the classroom.
“We have a moral imperative to do everything in our power to safely open our schools for our youngest and most vulnerable learners who cannot be served well enough by any form of remote learning,” CPS CEO Dr. Janice Jackson said in a statement. “The availability of safe, in-person instruction is an issue of equity and if public health officials continue to support in-person instruction and parents choose to participate, we will be eager to open our doors as soon as possible.”
CPS said it will send all parents and guardians of pre-K and cluster program students an intent form on Oct. 21 to indicate if they will feel comfortable sending their children to school, asking them to return it by Oct. 28. The district noted that parents will have the option to opt out at any time and that each school will hold a meeting to answer any questions before a potential reopening.
CPS said a final decision on in-person learning would be made in conjunction with the Chicago Department of Public Health closer to the beginning of the second quarter, which falls on Nov. 9.
"Though remote learning has allowed a great number of our students to safely continue learning in light of COVID-19, the fact of the matter is that it has also exacerbated social and economic inequities—preventing our youngest students, cluster program students and students of color from getting the high-quality education they deserve," Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement. "We are working on a thoughtful and strategic plan that lays a strong foundation for a return to in-person learning. With the collaboration of CPS and CDPH, we will ensure that this next phase is engaging, equitable and above all, safe—especially for our most vulnerable students."
The district said it has committed to several measures to keep anyone inside school buildings safe. Those efforts include:
- Face Coverings: Cloth face coverings will be provided to all staff and students and required at all times.
- Pods: Students and educators will be grouped into stable pods or small class sizes to minimize exposure to other students, allow for social distancing in classrooms, and support contact tracing
- Daily Screenings: Temperature checks, hand washing, and daily symptom screenings are required before students enter the classroom.
- Testing: To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the district will ensure that any student or staff member who is symptomatic or a close contact of someone who tested positive has access to a free COVID-19 test.
- Contact Tracing: To help reduce the transmission of COVID-19, CPS has hired dedicated staff to support the intake of cases and provide proper notification. CPS will work in coordination with CDPH to ensure that those identified as close contacts have rapid contact tracing and are connected to city resources such as monitoring and testing.
- Additional Custodians: To ensure comprehensive cleaning protocols are completed every day, the district is hiring 400 additional custodians.
- Sanitizer and Soap: The district invested over $3.5 million to secure over 50,000 hand sanitizer dispensers in all high-traffic areas and soap dispensers to support regular hand washing and sanitizing.
- Disinfectant Wipes: The district allocated over $2 million to purchase 86,000 containers of EPA approved disinfectant wipes for classrooms, offices and other high-touch areas.
- Hospital-Grade Disinfectant Sprayers: Every CPS school has a hospital-grade mister spray unit that will evenly apply EPA-approved disinfectant for maximum disinfection.
- Community Notifications: CPS adopted consistent procedures and community notification protocols developed by CDPH to respond to any confirmed cases of COVID-19. To ensure public awareness, the district is tracking confirmed COVID cases at cps.edu/school-reopening-2020.
- Sneeze Guards and Signage: All schools installed sneeze guards and other physical barriers to protect staff when visitors arrive, and posted signage throughout school facilities to emphasize new policies and procedures.
The Chicago Teachers Union said in a statement Thursday, in anticipation of a the plan's release, that an effort to bring students and teachers back to schools "defies the science and puts thousands of students, family members and educators at risk from the deadly pandemic."
"The mayor's move to in-person learning also defies the standards that CPS itself set this summer, when the district said that the city should be showing fewer than 400 new cases daily based on a seven-day rolling average, or fewer than 200 new cases daily if those numbers come with concerning epidemiological factors like rapid increase of cases and inadequate hospital capacity," the union said in a statement.
‘This is Not a Good Week for COVID,' Chicago's Top Doctor Says
Coronavirus cases in the city of Chicago were up 30% Thursday afternoon compared to the same point one week earlier, according to Dr. Allison Arwady, the commissioner of Chicago's Department of Public Health.
During a news conference with members of the city's Latinx Coronavirus Prevention Task Force on the Near West Side, Arwady said cases have increased among all race and ethnicity groups, almost all age groups and all parts of the city.
Not only Chicago, but Illinois and the Midwest have also reported surges in COVID-19 cases.
Dr. Arwady said while she knows people are tired of COVID-19, residents need to continue to employ mitigation strategies like wearing masks in public, practicing social distancing and washing hands regularly.
"Right now we need people more than ever to do things that we know work," she said.
Overall in the city of Chicago, the positivity rate was at 4.5% Thursday. In some of the city's Latino communities on the Southwest and Northwest sides, positivity rates were as high as 8-9% and even 13-14% percent, Arwady said.
The city continues to see approximately 400 to 500 new daily cases, compared to its peak in May, when more than 1,000 cases were reported daily.
The majority of the cases in early May, Arwady added, were the result of spread in congregate facilities such as longterm care facilities, jails and homeless shelters.
"We actually have made, I think, very significant progress in a lot of those areas that were part of the initial surge," she said.
Currently, more than 90 percent of cases of COVID-19 are associated with spread among family members, close friends and neighbors, Arwady said, citing specific examples of transmission like a group sitting down for dinner, playing a board game or having a conversation.
"It's very natural to let your guard down among people who you love and who you feel comfortable with," she stated. "But COVID is just looking for any opportunity to spread."
Illinois Reports New 1-Day Record of More Than 4,000 New Coronavirus Cases
Illinois health officials on Thursday reported more than 4,000 new coronavirus cases, a record high one-day total, as well as 53 additional deaths.
The Illinois Department of Public Health announced 4,015 additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 Thursday, setting a new record and bringing statewide totals to 331,620 cases. The 53 additional deaths brought the total number of fatalities to 9,127 deaths since the pandemic began.
A total of 67,086 tests were performed in the previous 24 hours, officials said, a significant increase from the day before.
State health officials said that beginning Thursday, IDPH was including both molecular and antigen tests in its number of statewide tests performed. IDPH said that antigen tests previously comprised less than 1% of tests performed and were not included before due to a "limited number of antigen tests and limited information about antigen test accuracy."
But Illinois health officials said Thursday that antigen tests were becoming more readily available, and would therefore be included in the daily counts.
The record high number of cases can't be entirely attributed to the large amount of tests conducted, however, because although a high number of tests were reported, the 7-day rolling statewide positivity rate also jumped from 4.6% to 4.9% on Thursday, continuing to rise once again.
As of Wednesday night, 1,932 people in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 388 patients were in the ICU and 147 patients were on ventilators.
The latest figures came one day after Gov. J.B. Pritzker warned Illinois was heading in a "concerning direction" as all of the state's 11 health care regions have seen an increase in testing positivity rates.
"Unfortunately, all 11 regions have seen an increase in positivity compared to where we were at last week’s update. Statewide, our positivity rate has grown by more than one full percentage point in the last week alone. And in most regions, COVID-like hospital admissions have increased in the same time period," he said during a news conference Wednesday.
"To date, Illinois has had relative success in keeping this virus at bay, and we’re still doing better than many of our neighbors, but we can’t let up – and these numbers are indicating a concerning direction," he continued.
University of Chicago's Booth School of Business Switches to E-Learning After COVID-19 Cases
Officials at the University of Chicago announced Wednesday that all classes in its Booth School of Business will transition to remote learning for at least the next two weeks after multiple students tested positive for coronavirus after attending an off-campus gathering.
According to an email sent out by the school, a large group of full-time MBA students at the business school gathered off-campus on Chicago’s North Side. Many in attendance did not wear masks, and in the time since the gathering, multiple students have tested positive for COVID-19.
As a result, all business school classes at the school’s Hyde Park and downtown Chicago Booth campuses will be conducted remotely for two weeks.
All students involved in the gathering will be required to quarantine and to get tested for coronavirus. In all, more than 100 MBA students are affected, and will need to quarantine for a period of two weeks.
“We ask everyone on campus to once again review the terms of the UChicago Health Pact and to uphold its principles,” officials said in an email to students and faculty. “It takes only one incident like this to put many others at risk.”
Coronavirus Positivity Rate Has Increased in All of Illinois' 11 Regions, Pritzker Warns
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday that the coronavirus testing positivity rate has risen in all 11 of the state's health care regions, warning that the state is moving in a "concerning direction."
As of Wednesday, the statewide positivity rate in testing was up to 4.6%, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Pritzker said that marked an increase of more than a full percentage point in the last week alone. He also noted that in the same time period, hospital admissions for COVID-like symptoms have also increased.
Both indicators are metrics the state uses in determining each region's response to the pandemic - if a region sees a sustained increase in its rolling average positivity rate as well as a 7-day increase in hospital admissions or a reduction in hospital capacity, or simply three days averaging higher than an 8% positivity rate, the region automatically triggers new restrictions like closing of indoor bars and restaurants, limits on group sizes and more.
"To date, Illinois has had relative success in keeping this virus at bay, and we’re still doing better than many of our neighbors, but we can’t let up – and these numbers are indicating a concerning direction," Pritzker said Wednesday.
"I want to reiterate the call that IDPH and I have repeatedly made to local health departments and local officials: pay close attention to your community and have the courage to take action when the local data indicate a problem," he added. "I have one simple message for everyone in areas with rising positivity: Mask Up! Just do that one simple thing, and it will make a tremendous difference in keeping infections down."
Pritzker noted that Region 5, encompassing parts of southern Illinois, has surpassed an 8% positivity rate, up from 5.8% on Sept. 30. As of Wednesday, Pritzker said the region's rolling average was at 7.7% but that if it surpassed 8% again and stayed there, it would face stricter mitigations.
One region is currently under the stricter mitigations: Region 1, home top Rockford, Dixon and Galena, which saw the restrictions tighten on Oct. 3 after surpassing the 8% threshold. Pritzker said Wednesday that the positivity rate has continued to climb and sits at 10.1%, though hospital admissions have stabilized in the area.
Regions 4 and 7 had previously seen tighter restrictions automatically triggered, but those mitigations were removed after the regions' metrics fell below the state's threshold.
Pritzker used those regions as an example to encourage the rest of the state.
"To the residents of Region 1: We’re rooting for you – each of you have a direct role in making a change to bring your numbers down. Region 4 and Region 7 have demonstrated that it is possible to bring down that positivity rate with the tools we know to work: wear a mask, keep some physical distance, and encourage those who flout public health guidance to act with consideration for the whole community," he said.
Illinois To Calculate Region 6 Metrics Without UIUC Saliva Test, Responding to ‘Skewed Results'
Illinois health officials Wednesday said that the state's Region 6 will have a new way of calculating coronavirus metrics after a university's saliva test has potentially skewed calculations.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that Region 6 will now report metrics separate from those at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, as the school's mass saliva testing could give an inaccurate representation of the region.
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has been performing repeated saliva testing of staff and students twice a week since the school developed the test in August. That test enables the school, and thus, Champaign County, to report thousands of tests each day.
"The (Illinois Department of Public Health) determined that it would be better to measure the region by taking those and putting them aside as we're measuring whether mitigations will be necessary in the totality of that region, putting apart just the campus of UIUC," Pritzker said.
Pritzker explained that he agrees with the health department that this new way of measuring will be more accurate.
Illinois health officials said last month that the tests performed at that U of I campus can average up to 20% of all tests done in the state in some weeks.
"We think that's a terrific thing, by the way, what they're doing, and so more power to them," Pritzker said. "We do want to spread it across the state as much as we can."
Pritzker said the University of Illinois is working to expand its saliva testing statewide and to other colleges, but needs to ensure there are enough available resources.
Ezike Defends Illinois Coronavirus Death Statistics, Says Data Constantly Scrutinized
While the accuracy of the number of coronavirus-related fatalities in Illinois has been a source of discussion and debate since the pandemic began, health officials say that they are constantly auditing the number of fatalities to ensure as accurate of a count as possible.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, says that in her department’s accounting of COVID-19 related fatalities, they have found that less than 0.6% of the deaths classified as COVID fatalities involved another primary cause of death that wasn’t related to the virus itself.
“When we have looked at all the deaths that have occurred, and unfortunately there have been over 9,074 at this point, we have looked at those that were related to an accident or obviously not proximate to the COVID-19 virus,” she said during a press conference Wednesday. “It was less than 0.6% of those deaths were in that category where it was an accident, or homicide, or something where the COVID diagnosis was not the proximate cause of death.”
There have been multiple reports of deaths that were classified as COVID-19 related that turned out to have another “proximate” cause, with Ezike citing cases involving auto accidents, homicides or suicides that were erroneously included in the number of coronavirus deaths in the state.
Even with those numbers in mind, Ezike says that 2020 has seen uptick in the number of total deaths when compared to other years, and while not all of those additional fatalities can be attributed to the virus, she says that many can be either indirectly or directly tied to the ongoing pandemic that has cost over 9,000 Illinois residents their lives.
Ezike cited an increase in accidental overdoses as another factor in the increased number of fatalities in the state this year, along with individuals not seeking prompt medical care out of fear that they could be infected with the coronavirus when going to a doctor’s office or a hospital.
“It’s a conglomeration of all of those things that have caused the deaths to be much higher than they were in previous years,” she said.
Arwady Warns of Indoor Gatherings Ahead of Winter Months
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Alison Arwady warned Tuesday of the risks associated with indoor gatherings before colder temperatures hit.
Arwady said for an indoor space to be considered "safe," people should be wearing a mask, keeping six feet of distance and avoiding large crowds.
Increased ventilation can slow the spread of COVID-19, according to Arwady citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and can be done by opening windows to bring in outdoor air.
Arwady recommended focusing on the flow of outdoor air circulating indoors as opposed to turning on fans, which could bring airflow downward toward individuals.
Health officials said that ultra violet lights that individuals can "just buy" are not recommended to clean surfaces from the coronavirus, unless they are used at a "very high" level.
Arwady said that though air filtration and open windows can aid in decreasing the spread of the virus, it cannot other replace important precautions.
For people visiting another home, Arwady said that person should be "in the same bubble." The top health official suggested that people not within the social distancing bubble, should meet outdoors.
"Generally speaking, always fewer interactions are safer from a COVID perspective," Arwady said. "If you have to the think twice, safer activities broadly are ones that avoid crowds, where everybody can wear a mask, everybody can keep a six foot distance and they're outdoors. As outdoors is less of an option, you got to double down on those other things."