Note: Any news conferences from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot or other officials will be streamed in the video player above.
A veteran Chicago Public Schools teacher died from COVID-19 after a three-week battle with the illness, according to the Chicago Teachers Union.
That death came just before the state surpassed the grim milestone of 300,000 coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.
Meanwhile, Cook County Health is seeking individuals to take part in a clinical trial evaluating an experimental treatment called Regeneron, which officials say President Donald Trump took following his diagnosis.
Here are the latest updates from across Illinois on the coronavirus pandemic today (Oct. 5):
Veteran Chicago Public Schools Teacher Dies From COVID-19
A veteran Chicago Public Schools teacher died Thursday from COVID-19 after a three-week battle with the illness, according to the Chicago Teachers Union.
Olga Quiroga, who most recently taught first grade at Funston Elementary in Logan Square, worked at the school district for 30 years, the Chicago Sun Times reported.
According to the CTU, Quiroga had been working in her school "on and off for weeks."
Starting Monday, CPS plans to have resources available for students in wake of the veteran teacher's death.
Illinois Reports 1,453 New Coronavirus Cases, 17 Additional Deaths Sunday
Illinois’ seven-day positivity rate on coronavirus cases took another dip on Sunday, as the state reported 1,453 new coronavirus cases and 17 additional deaths over the last 24 hours.
According to new data published by the Illinois Department of Public Health, Sunday’s new coronavirus cases bring the state’s total to 301,541 since the pandemic began. The state eclipsed the 300,000 confirmed cases mark on Saturday, marking another big milestone in the state’s battle against the disease.
Sunday’s 17 additional deaths puts the statewide number of COVID-19 fatalities at 8,791.
According to Sunday’s data, 51,656 new tests were returned to state laboratories over the last 24 hours. Those tests put the state’s rolling seven-day positivity rate at 3.3%, its lowest level since July 22.
The state’s current reported recovery rate, defined as the percentage of patients reporting no symptoms six or more weeks after their first positive test, remains at 96%, according to the IDPH.
Hospitalizations in the state ticked up slightly on Sunday, with 1,521 patients currently hospitalized statewide. Of those patients, 361 are in intensive care units, and 140 are on ventilators.
Regal Cinemas Temporarily Closes U.S. Theaters, Including 8 in Chicago Area
Regal Cinemas is temporarily suspending operations at all 536 of its theaters in the United States due to continued revenue losses from the coronavirus pandemic, its parent company Cineworld announced Monday.
"This is not a decision we made lightly, and we did everything in our power to support safe and sustainable reopenings in all of our markets – including meeting, and often exceeding, local health and safety guidelines in our theatres and working constructively with regulators and industry bodies to restore public confidence in our industry," Mooky Greidinger, CEO of Cineworld, said in a statement early Monday morning.
The theaters will close on Thursday, and the company will continue to monitor the market and adjust their plans accordingly, the announcement said. Regal is the second-largest theater chain in the U.S. after AMC.
The company operates a total of eight theaters in the Chicagoland area, and 11 more in Indiana. In Illinois, the theaters are located in Bolingbrook, Chicago, Crystal Lake, Lake Zurich, Lincolnshire, Round Lake Beach and Warrenville.
The news comes after MGM revealed that it would delay the release of the latest James Bond film, “No Time to Die,” until April 2021.
The chain had reopened some theaters in the United States, but business has continued to be sluggish as moviegoers turn to other options to see movies, including streaming services like Disney Plus and Netflix and direct-to-cable releases, with some films like “Trolls: World Tour” available to rent on their theatrical release date.
Some states, including Illinois, have instituted occupancy limits for theaters amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, leading some companies to keep their theaters shut to avoid operating facilities at an ongoing loss.
Cook County Health Seeks Participants for COVID-19 Experimental Drug Clinical Trial
Cook County Health is seeking individuals to take part in a clinical trial evaluating a coronavirus treatment called Regeneron, a cocktail of antibodies which has been called one of the most promising approaches to preventing serious illness from a COVID-19 infection.
Following his coronavirus diagnosis, President Trump received a single dose of the experimental drug through an IV Friday. The president was taken to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center as a precaution in the evening.
Regeneron is in late-stage testing and its safety and effectiveness are not yet known. No treatment has yet proved able to prevent serious illness after a coronavirus infection.
The drug cocktail, which is also being used in Cook County, is showing "promising early results in terms of reducing the viral load," according to Sybil Hosek, a clinical psychologist with Stroger Hospital at Cook County Health.
Additionally, Hosek is looking for individuals to commit to clinical trials, so she and other scientists will be able to better fight the pandemic.
"The idea is that for those folks who don’t mount a natural immune response against coronavirus, or delayed in mounting that response, this gets those antibodies into the system right away," she explained. "And [it] can decrease the amount of [the] virus in your body by preventing the activity. And also potentially making less infectious to other people as well."
Click here for more information about clinical trials in Cook County.
Illinois' Region 1 Sees Enhanced Coronavirus Restrictions as Positivity Rate Increases
Enhanced coronavirus mitigation rules were put into place in Region 1 beginning on Saturday.
According to a press release from Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office, the new mitigation rules were put into place after the region, located in northwest Illinois, saw its seven-day rolling positivity rate exceed 8% for more than three consecutive days.
Region 1 includes Boone, Carroll, DeKalb, Jo Daviess, Lee, Ogle, Stephenson, Whiteside and Winnebago counties.
“The concerning uptick in Region 1’s positivity rate – jumping more than two percentage points in two weeks even as the majority of Illinois continues to see downward trends – demands increased efforts to stop the spread in our northwestern counties,” Pritzker said in a statement.
Region 1 has also reported some increased hospital admission for illnesses directly related to COVID-19, as well as illnesses that could potentially be linked to the virus.
As part of the new enhanced mitigation strategies, indoor service at bars and restaurants were suspended on Saturday. All outside bar service can continue, but service is required to close at 11 p.m. Reservations are required for parties looking to visit bars and restaurants.
Social events are also limited to 25 or fewer guests, or 25% of overall room capacity. Party buses are also banned under provisions of the rules.
Judge Denies Temporary Restraining Order That Would Have Ordered IHSA to Allow Fall Sports
On Thursday, a DuPage County Judge denied a temporary restraining order against the Illinois High School Sports Association that pushed to allow fall sports to resume amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
A group of student-athletes and parents filed a class action lawsuit Tuesday against the IHSA in DuPage County, according to a press release, and lists the IHSA as the primary defendant.
A total of 20 students were listed as plaintiffs in the suit, which sought a temporary restraining order ordering the state to allow fall sports, including football, soccer and volleyball, to get underway.
However, on Thursday, DuPage County Judge Paul Fullerton denied the temporary restraining order.
“Here we have all the experts in the world apparently in this state. What we really have here in this state is a bunch of cowards who are in charge of things,” said David Ruggles, a lead plaintiff in the suit. “They’re not advocating for the kids and they ask ‘what difference does it make?’”
The suit alleges that prohibitions on some fall sports, including football and volleyball, violates the IHSA’s constitution and bylaws, and has “caused mental health issues and financial hardships” for athletes and their families, according to the press release.
Specifically, the suit alleges that the decision to postpone fall sports will have negative financial impacts on both students and parents, as they will fall behind in their ability to compete for athletic scholarships to make college more affordable.
The IHSA, along with Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, have remained adamant that contact sports like football and volleyball will be pushed to spring as a result of the pandemic.
"When the IHSA mandated that football be moved from fall to spring for example, they exceeded the scope of their authority," attorney Jeff Widman said of that decision. "That was not their call to make.”
Other states around Illinois have begun playing football, leaving the state as the only one in the Midwest not currently allowing high school football to take place.
Pritzker has said that he has remained in close contact with infectious disease experts, and says that the decision to push those sports back to the spring is based on their recommendations.
Chicago Releases 8 Guidelines for Halloween Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday released eight guidelines for celebrating Halloween safely this year, as well as plans for activities and programming surrounding the holiday, as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
Lightfoot and the city's top health official were expected to detail the guidelines and preview Chicago's plan during a news conference beginning at 1:30 p.m. at City Hall.
The guidelines, according to the city, read as follows:
- Masks aren’t just for trick-or-treaters this year! Everyone—including candy givers—should wear a face covering (multi-layered, covering the mouth and nose, without gaps around the face).
- Leave a light on or hang a Halloweek sign in your window to let others know your house is giving out candy safely.
- Handing out candy? Please socially distance and have hand sanitizer, too.
- Trick or treating? Stay on the move! Less congregating means more houses and more candy.
- Ensure there’s all treats and no tricks. Please don’t reach into candy bowls while trick or treating, and eat candy only at home after washing your hands.
- No Haunted Houses. They are truly spooky and dangerous this year.
- Keep your candy crew small. Trick-or-treating groups should be 6 people or less.
- No house parties large or small this year.
“This year more than ever it is important to celebrate Halloween safely and responsibly,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “With these guidelines we are making sure that children and adults that want to enjoy Halloween can do so without putting themselves or their community at risk.”
The city will host "Halloweek" activities like safe trick-or-treating and Halloween-themed programs from the Chicago Park District, the Chicago Public Library and other departments and partners, Lightfoot's office said.
That programming includes "Halloweek on the Block" surprise pop-ups on residential streets in partnership with the Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks, Lightfoot's office said, as well virtual and in-person themed programs.
Blommer Chocolate Company will also be making 10,000 bags safely filled with candy and treats to be distributed throughout the week, some with a "golden ticket" hidden among them, with winners receiving a 10 lb. chocolate bar.
“This Halloween we’re asking that people use their creativity and imagination not just on their costumes and decorations, but in how they safely celebrate,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said. “Maintain social distancing, keep to small groups and consider celebrating throughout the week to minimize congregation. We’ve made some good progress in slowing the spread of COVID-19 in recent weeks but don’t want to see that reversed, especially with cold weather coming and people spending more time indoors.”
Beginning Oct. 18, Chicago residents can download a "Halloweek" toolkit with safety messaging and signage to let neighbors know they will be participating in the festivities, the city said, asking residents to hang a sign or leave a light on if they choose to pass out candy in accordance with the guidelines.
Additional details are expected to be announced at a later date, while businesses and organizations were also asked to visit the city's website here to register Halloween activities being held in accordance with the city's health guidelines.
Chicago Eases Coronavirus Restrictions: These Are All the Changes, New Guidelines
The city of Chicago eased some of its coronavirus restrictions on Thursday, allowing indoor bar service again and raising capacity limits on businesses, including restaurants, among other major changes.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot and city health and business officials announced the plan Monday, citing Chicago's progress in fighting the pandemic.
Here's a look at the changes to those restrictions, which will take effect at 5 a.m. on Thursday:
- Increased Indoor Capacity: Restaurants, health and fitness centers, personal services, non-essential retail and all other establishments that have been limited to 25% indoor capacity will now be able to increase their maximum indoor capacity to 40%. The limit of 50 total customers within one room or space at restaurants, venues and other establishments will remain in place, as will the limit of no more than six people per table.
- Reopening of Bars: Breweries, taverns, bars and other establishments that serve alcohol without a food license may reopen with indoor seating, at 25% capacity or 50 people, whichever is fewer. Service remains limited to no more than two hours per party, and customers must be seated when eating, drinking or ordering – patrons cannot walk up to the bar to order.
- Extended Hours for Bars and Restaurants: Bars, restaurants and other establishments that serve alcohol will now be able to sell alcohol for on-site or offsite consumption until 1:00 am and may remain open until 1:30 am. Liquor stores, grocery stores and other establishments that sell alcohol to-go through a Packaged Goods license must continue to cease alcohol sales at 9:00 p.m.
- Increased Group Size: Maximum group size for health and fitness classes and afterschool programming will increase from 10 to 15 people.
- Expanded Personal Services: Facials, shaves and other personal services that require the removal of face coverings will be allowed.
Chicago officials said that in order to maintain progress made in battling the pandemic, some additional guidelines would be implemented, taking effect at the same time. They include:
- When dining out at a food service establishment or bar, customers must always wear face coverings while seated, except when actively eating or drinking. This protects employees that may interact closely with patrons.
- Patrons at indoor bars, taverns and breweries must order from their seats – they cannot walk up to the bar to order.
- Bars, taverns and breweries that are reopening indoors must partner with a food establishment so that food is available to patrons at all times (e.g., making menus available and allowing delivery, allowing patrons to order from third-party delivery services).
- When taking reservations and seating walk-in customers, restaurants and bars should retain an email and/or phone number for possible contact tracing.
- Personal services that require the removal of face coverings are recommended to be kept under 15 minutes, and the employee conducting the service must always wear a face covering.
- All places of business should provide hand sanitizer for patrons and employees to use upon entry.
“Over the past six months, we have asked so much of our business community. But each time, our businesses have stepped up to the plate," Lightfoot said in a statement.
"Thanks to this cooperation, we have met this challenging moment with grace, commitment and resilience, and the sacrifices made by our businesses, workers and residents have saved countless lives," she continued. "This next step in our reopening is good news for business owners as well as the communities they serve and the thousands of residents that work for them.”
The city has been in phase four of its reopening plan since June 26, when some of the earlier restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus were gradually lifted.
Then on July 24, city officials changed course to shut down indoor bar service, reduce capacity limits at fitness classes and heighten other restrictions as the city continued to see an increase in its average number of daily new cases.
Lightfoot and Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Monday that the city was seeing an average of roughly 300 new cases of coronavirus per day, as compared to more than 350 in late August.
The positivity rate in testing has also fallen to 4.5%, officials said, adding that hospitalizations from COVID-19 as of Monday were lower than they've been since March. The city sees roughly two to three deaths per day, according to Lightfoot's office, as compared to about 50 a day at the peak of the pandemic.
“Overall, we are heading in the right direction, and this affords us an opportunity to further re-open the city and to do so gradually and safely,” Arwady said in a statement. “But I can’t emphasize this enough: Chicagoans need to continue to follow the public health guidance – wearing masks, social distancing, frequent hand washing and staying home when sick – or we risk falling back and experiencing another rise in cases.”
Prior to closing indoor bar service and implementing further restrictions in late July, Arwady had long warned that roll backs were possible if the city reached an average daily case rate above 200, which it did days before the new guidance was issued. She had previously said that daily number of new cases was the "best reflection of the burden of our disease."
"This, if I had one number, is the number that I follow," she said at the time, noting that "we've come a long way" as the Chicago was average about 1,000 cases per day in early May.
Chicago health officials have warned that if the city reaches an average of 400 new cases per day, it would mark a return to phase three of its reopening framework.
"If we get to a point where we are up to 400 cases per day, that's the equivalent of where the states are that we are requiring quarantine for our visitors," Arwady said, referring to the city's emergency travel order requiring a 14-day quarantine for people coming to Chicago from multiple states. "It's the equivalent of needing to go back to a phase three, really pulling back on major activities."
Illinois Health Officials Issue Guidance on Halloween During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Illinois officials on Wednesday released new public health guidance on several Halloween festivities like trick-or-treating, costume parties, pumpkin patches and more as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
“We are still in a pandemic, and unfortunately, this year, that means the safest way to celebrate is to stay home and plan virtual gatherings," Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement. "That said, IDPH recognizes that some who will choose to gather together anyway, and instead of denying that reality, we are issuing guidance and recommendations for safer ways to celebrate together in person."
"Remember, we know what our best tools are: wearing our masks, keeping our distance, limiting event sizes, washing your hands, and looking out for public health and each other," she continued.
Anyone who thinks they could have COVID-19, or has been exposed to someone who has COVID-19, should not participate in any Halloween activities, officials said.
IDPH's guidance reads as follows:
- Anyone participating in trick-or-treating, including those passing out candy, should maintain 6-feet of social distance and wear proper face coverings.
- Consider leaving individually wrapped candy (spaced apart) on a table in driveways or in front of walkways, sidewalks, or any outdoor space where 6-feet of distance can be maintained.
- A Halloween costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth mask. Ensure that breathing is not impaired if a cloth mask is worn under a costume mask. If so, discard the costume mask.
- Trick-or-treat in groups with household members only.
- Candy collected during trick-or-treating should not be eaten until after handwashing.
An alternative to traditional trick-or-treating is to set up in a large parking lot or other outdoor setting with tables with individually wrapped candy (spaced apart) where participants with a parent/guardian can parade past while still keeping 6-feet of distance and wearing a face covering. It’s suggested to offer reserved time slots to limit everyone showing up at once.
- Halloween haunted houses currently are not allowed in Restore Illinois Phase 4 Guidelines.
- Consider open-air, one-way haunted forests or haunted walks where 6-feet of distance can be maintained and face coverings are used.
Adult costume parties, social gatherings, Halloween parties at bars
- Gatherings of more than 50 people or 50% or more of a building’s maximum occupancy are prohibited. (Lower limits may apply for regions in additional mitigation.)
- The more time you spend at a gathering, the closer the contact, the more people, the higher your risk of exposure to COVID-19.
- Follow small social gathering safety tips from IDPH.
Pumpkin patches and orchards
- Cloth face coverings and social distancing should be enforced.
- Use hand sanitizer before handling pumpkins, apples, and other produce.
- Hayrides should not exceed 50% capacity with parties spaced at least six feet apart.
- Wear face coverings at all times when around people not from your household.
After participating in any of these activities, anyone who thinks they may have been exposed should take extra precautions for at least 14 days after the event, staying home, avoiding people at increased risk for severe illness with COVID-19 and getting tested, experts say.