(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.)
With just two days until a modified stay-at-home order takes effect in Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker says the order is still "very much in effect," despite a recent court ruling.
And now, he's facing even more challenges.
Here are the latest developments on the coronavirus crisis today (April 29):
Illinois' Coronavirus Count Tops 50,000 After 2,253 New Cases Reported
Illinois reported 2,253 new cases of coronavirus Wednesday, bringing the statewide number of infections over 50,000.
"Today, we are reporting that we have reached an unfortunate milestone of over 50,000 cases here in Illinois," Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said.
The total number of cases as of Wednesday, sat at 50,355.
The state also reported an additional 92 fatalities, lifting the total number of deaths associated with the virus to 2,215. The number is a decrease since Tuesday, which saw the highest amount of deaths in a single day since the coronavirus pandemic began. On that day, 144 deaths were reported in 24 hours.
As of Wednesday, more than 5,000 remained hospitalized for coronavirus, Ezike said, adding that "the majority of individuals do recover." Of the 5,036 in hospitals, 1,290 were in the intensive care unit and 777 were on ventilators.
Pritzker Announces Opening of Waukegan Facility Dedicated to Cleaning N95 Masks
To help healthcare facilities maintain their stock of personal protective equipment, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker announced Wednesday that the state has purchased a decontamination system that can safely clean N95 masks.
According to the governor, the purchase was made possible by a partnership with the federal government.
The system, currently deployed in Waukegan, is an entirely free service for medical facilities to take advantage of, and can decontaminate masks within 24 hours of arrival. The masks can be decontaminated up to 20 times without experiencing any degradation in their effectiveness, according to the governor.
Second Illinois Lawmaker Sues Pritzker Over Stay-at-Home Order
A second Illinois lawmaker has filed a lawsuit against Gov. J.B. Pritzker over his stay-at-home order issued to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
Rep. John Cabello, a Republican from the Rockford area, filed the suit Wednesday in Winnebago County Circuit Court, records show.
The lawsuit alleges Cabello and "all citizens similarly situated are being irreparably harmed each and every day they continue to be restricted to their home and limited in their activities" under the order.
Cabello is seeking an injunction stopping Pritzker and any other state officials from enforcing the stay-at-home order or issuing any new orders, the suit says.
Cabello's lawsuit was filed days after a judge granted a temporary restraining order to another Illinois lawmaker, who filed a lawsuit against Pritzker.
Costco to Soon Require All Shoppers Wear Masks
Costco shoppers will soon be required to wear a mask or face covering in order to enter stores, the company announced Wednesday.
Beginning May 4, all employees and shoppers will need to cover their mouths and noses "at all times while at Costco," their website reads.
Children under the age of 2 or those with medical conditions that prevent them from being able to wear a mask will be exempt from the restriction, however.
"The use of a mask or face covering should not be seen as a substitute for social distancing," the company said. "Please continue to observe rules regarding appropriate distancing while on Costco premises. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation."
The rules is among several precautions being taken at Costco warehouses during the coronavirus pandemic. Click here for more.
7 More Chicago Police Department Employees Test Positive for COVID-19
Chicago police announced Tuesday seven more cases of COVID-19, bringing the number of cases in the department to 421.
Of the confirmed cases, 401 are officers and 20 are civilian employees, police said.
A total of 424 employees have reported positive cases but the department’s medical section has yet to confirm three of those cases, police said.
The department announced April 17 the death of a third officer from complications of the coronavirus.
Chicago Housing Pledge to Aid Residents With Rent, Mortgage During Coronavirus
Chicago officials announced a new pledge Wednesday aimed at aiding city residents with rent and mortgage payments as they stay inside, many unable to work, during the coronavirus pandemic.
Chicago landlords who take the pledge will give eligible renters "who demonstrate significant financial impact resulting from COVID-19" the potential for grace periods on rent payments, a written repayment plan or no late fees on missed payments.
For homeowners, housing lenders pledge to give eligible mortgage holders a grace period on payment, neutral reporting to credit agencies or no late fees on missed payments. They will also suspend any foreclosures filings until May 31.
Among the groups joining in the pledge were:
• Bank of America
• BMO Harris Bank
• Byline Bank
• Fifth Third Bank
• First Eagle Bank
• First Midwest Bank
• Northern Trust Bank
• US Bank
• Wintrust Bank
• Second Federal Credit Union
• Seaway Credit Union
• Lawyers Committee for Better Housing (LCBH)
• Chicagoland Apartment Association (CAA)
• Neighborhood Building Owners Alliance (NBOA)
• Chicago Association of REALTORS (CAR)
Find out more here.
Southern Illinois Police Chief Questions Pritzker’s Powers, Stay-Home Orders
A southern Illinois village police chief is expressing skepticism about Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s power to issue stay-at-home orders to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter to residents of the village of Energy, Police Chief Shawn Ladd says he and his department have no interest in enforcing any rules, declarations or proclamations that morally or technically violate provisions of the federal or state constitutions. Ladd told The Southern Illinoisan in Carbondale nothing requires him or his officers to enforce the executive orders, first issued in March and extended through May.
"He can make suggestions,’’ Ladd said of his understanding of the governor’s powers in an emergency.
Northwestern University Rejecting $8.5M in Relief Aid
Northwestern University is rejecting the $8.5 million in federal assistance it was allotted earlier this month to help those adversely affected financially by the coronavirus pandemic, school officials said Tuesday.
The $2.2 trillion CARES Act, the economic rescue package passed by Congress earlier this month, offers $14 billion to the nation’s colleges and universities. Schools were allotted varying sums based on their size and the number of students they teach from poorer backgrounds.
The higher education funding was meant to help colleges and students facing financial losses triggered by the pandemic. If colleges accept the funding, they’re required to spend at least half on direct grants for students.
In a statement released by spokesman Jon Yates, Northwestern decided not to apply for or receive the funds allocated in the CARES Act after determining it couldn’t accept the act’s requirements and "evolving guidance.”
The university’s announcement follows similar decisions made by officials at Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Yale, Duke universities and the University of Pennsylvania.
Chicago-Area Markets React to Trump’s Order Mandating Meat Processing Plants Reopen
First it was toilet paper and cleaning supplies, but now President Donald Trump has taken action to prevent potential food shortages, and it could have an impact on Chicago-area businesses.
Reports of that shortage, spurred on by the closure of several meat packaging facilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, caused lines to form around the block at some local markets.
More than a dozen processing plants across the country have gone dark, including Smithfield Foods’ plant in St. Charles. On Tuesday, Hormel’s Fontinini Foods facility in McCook said it was furloughing 150 employees.
The president is hoping to change that with his new order, which declares meat processing plants as “critical infrastructure” in the midst of the pandemic.
The order includes mechanisms for the federal government to send masks and gloves to workers inside of meat processing plants, according to multiple reports.
Todd Churchill, co-founder of Blue Nest Beef, fears that there might still be a supply shortage despite the president’s order.
“I think meat supplies are going to be less available in two weeks than they are today,” he said.
Until all production facilities resume operations, small family-owned meat shops are left struggling to keep up, and trying not to pass rising costs onto their customers.