(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 is wading into another battle as a large swath of the state deals with both flooding disasters and an ongoing stay-at-home order.
But with the state less than two weeks away from potentially entering a third phase of reopening, many are preparing for what's next. Meanwhile, many locations have entered their own version of a reopening, prompting both praise and protests.
Here are the latest developments on the coronavirus crisis today (May 18):
Want to Become a Contact Tracer in Illinois? Here's How to Apply
Illinois will soon be hiring contact tracers across the state to interview coronavirus patients and identify and notify people they may have exposed.
The process is crucial to the state's ability to move forward during coronavirus, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Monday.
"Contact tracing is a long-standing disease control measure, and one that’s been part of our COVID-19 response since its beginning – but as cases reached a massive scale of spread in Illinois and nationally, our existing public health management infrastructure simply could not keep pace with the tens of thousands of contacts resulting from the thousands of positive cases we’ve discovered each week because of our growing testing capability," Pritzker said.
According to state health officials, hiring will be done locally, not through IDPH, and salaries will be determined by local health departments "in accordance with salary rates in the region."
But those interested in becoming a contact tracer can fill out an interest form with IDPH, "which will deliver names and resumes to local health departments."
Chicago to Fine Churches That Held Services in Violation of Stay-at-Home Order
The city of Chicago will fine churches that violated Illinois' stay-at-home order by holding services with a higher number of people than allowed under social distancing gudelines, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday.
A list of the churches that will face fines is expected to be released Monday afternoon, city officials said.
Pritzker Defends Rule Allowing for Businesses to Face Misdemeanor Charges for Violating State Orders
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is aggressively defending a new rule implemented by his administration that would allow for businesses to face Class A misdemeanor charges if they open in violation of the state’s ongoing stay-at-home order.
Under the new rule, put into place by executive action on Friday, businesses could face misdemeanor charges if they do not comply with orders to remain closed. If convicted on the charges, businesses would face fines between $75 and $2,500.
Despite the order being blasted as an executive overreach by some Republican lawmakers, Pritzker insists that it’s actually less punitive than other measures that could be used as an enforcement tool.
Illinois Coronavirus Cases Surpass 95,000 With 2,294 New Cases Reported
Illinois health officials reported 2,294 new cases of coronavirus Monday, with 59 additional deaths related to the virus.
That lifts the state's total number of confirmed infections so far to 96,485. The state's death toll is now at 4,234, according to data released by the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Monday marks the third day in a row with fewer than 100 fatalities reported.
Over the last 24 hours, 21,297 test results have been returned, with 10.8 percent of tests coming back positive. The total number of tests conducted since the pandemic began topped 600,000 Monday, with 603,241 reported.
Hospitalization numbers have remained largely constant in the state, with 4,120 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, 1,096 using ICU beds as of Monday. Of the state's 5,469 staffed ventilators, 636 are currently being used by coronavirus patients.
CPS CEO Says Lightfoot’s Goal of Reopening Schools in Fall is ‘Aspirational’
Chicago Public Schools CEO Dr. Janice Jackson said Monday that schools won't reopen until health professionals determine students can safely return, noting that Mayor Lori Lightfoot's goal of reopening schools in the fall is "aspirational."
In an interview Monday morning on MSNBC, Jackson said CPS leaders are doing everything in their power to make sure schools are safe and ready to reopen whenever the "go ahead" is given from health professionals and elected officials.
"No one wants to see children back in school faster than I do, but we also understand that it's critically important that we are inviting our students and our teachers back to safe environments," she said.
More Cook County Forest Preserve Parking Lots to Close for Memorial Day Weekend
Additional parking lots at popular Cook County forest preserves will be closed over Memorial Day weekend to prevent overcrowding and violations of Illinois' stay-at-home order during the coronavirus pandemic, the county announced Monday.
In addition to the six parking lots closed on a weekly basis, those at Dan Ryan Woods and Schiller Woods will also shut down to the public as forest preserve officials urge residents to "spend the upcoming Memorial Day at home."
“Memorial Day is a time when we pay tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. As an unofficial start to summer, the holiday is always one of our busiest weekends in the Forest Preserves. This year, that’s not a safe way to celebrate. We hope that with Memorial Day at Home, our patrons will find other creative ways to honor the fallen and to be with family,” Arnold Randall, the general superintendent of the Forest Preserves of Cook County, said in a statement.
The closures will be in place from May 22 through May 25, authorities said. Picnics, cookouts, group sports and gatherings with people outside your household are also prohibited, officials said.
The six parking lots already closed on weekends include Busse Woods in Elk Grove Village; Maple Lake and Saganashkee Slough in the Palos Preserves near Willow Springs; Catherine Chevalier Woods and LaBagh Woods in Chicago; and Bunker Hill in Niles.
Chicago Announces 6 New Coronavirus Testing Locations
The city of Chicago announced on Monday six new coronavirus testing sites, some located in areas disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, in partnership with actor Sean Penn's nonprofit organization.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot joined Penn Monday morning to announce the new testing locations at Dr. Jorge Prieto Math and Science Academy, one of the sites that opened Friday in the city's Belmont Cragin neighborhood.
Another site opened Wednesday at Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy, located in the city's Little Village neighborhood, officials said. Both Prieto and Saucedo are testing symptomatic residents in their respective communities, the city said, and have collectively conducted more than 800 tests since opening.
Four additional sites will be opened across the city, Lightfoot's office said, one of which will be located in the parking lot of Guaranteed Rate Field. That location will test asymptomatic people, focused specifically on first responders and healthcare workers on the frontlines of the pandemic.
State Rep. Threatens to File Recall Motion Against Pritzker for Unemployment Handling
Illinois Rep. Allen Skillicorn says a recall resolution is on the table if Gov. J.B. Pritzker fails to fix the state's unemployment claims website, the representative announced Sunday.
For the past two months the Illinois Department of Employment Security has had technical issues causing delays and frustration for thousands of residents trying to file unemployment benefits, Skillicorn said in a statement.
“Managing this site is the one job and the one responsibility the Governor has in all of this and he can’t even do that," he said. "The level of incompetence here is incredible."
The Illinois representative threatened to file a motion to recall the governor's election if Pritzker does not fix the website soon.
"Now the processing system is making private information publicly available," Skillicorn added.
Trump Calls Out Pritzker’s Handling of Coronavirus Response Efforts
President Donald Trump singled out Gov. J.B. Pritzker in an interview on Sunday for Illinois' coronavirus response.
Maria Bartiromo of Fox Business asked Trump how he would decide which states and cities will receive federal financial support, to which he called out local Democratic leaders.
Trump accused Pritzker of money being the motivating factor for the his response to the pandemic, the president claiming he "knows the family."
"He wants money because, you know, let's make up for the 25 years and some very bad current years," Trump said.
Both leaders have previously traded attacks on how their respective governments have reacted to the global pandemic.
Coronavirus Illinois: Scenes From the Pandemic
Protests Erupt as a Chicago Church Continues to Hold Services Amid Coronavirus
As some churches in Chicago reopen despite the governor's stay-at-home order, protesters on Sunday said in person services are causing high risk to neighbors.
The Metro Praise International church in Chicago's Belmont Cragin neighborhood has been holding in person services for the past two weeks.
Joseph Wyrostek, pastor at Metro Praise International, waved the church's flag at a protest Sunday saying they will continue to worship.
Mostly from vehicles, protesters said they do not feel this church should be able to worship in person.
"It's up to the city to come in and enforce their 10 and over rule, but I think we've done a good job in making sure our community is a little safer," protester Alonso Zaragoza said.
The Belmont Cragin neighborhood has a significant number of coronavirus cases, according to reports from officials.
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