Coronavirus : Pritzker to Discuss Testing, Positivity Rate Continues to Decrease – NBC Chicago

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Note: Any news conferences from Gov. J.B. Pritzker or Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot will be streamed in the video player above.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expected to deliver two updates related to the coronavirus pandemic on Monday: one on testing and a second on childcare grants.

He’s scheduled to speak after the state over the weekend surpassed the milestone of 5 million tests conducted since the pandemic began, health officials say.

Here are the latest updates from around Illinois on the coronavirus pandemic today (Sept. 21):

Chicago Releases Fall and Winter Outdoor Dining Guidance for Restaurants

While it remains unclear what winter dining will look in Chicago as restaurants work to find creative solutions for eating outside in the cold, Chicago officials have released new guidelines that bring some clarity to what’s ahead.

Under the guidance quietly released by the city over the weekend, restaurants with sidewalk cafe permits or outdoor patio licenses can use tents, domes or other temporary structures that allow « adequate ventilation » for circulation. Some heating devices will also be allowed, but they have to meet a required set of safety regulations.

For places using domes or other enclosed spaces, placards must be posted « advising about increased risk of transmission within an enclosed space. »

Restaurants will need to submit their fall and winter plans in writing.

More than 50 restaurants in the Chicago area have permanently closed their doors because of the coronavirus pandemic. Restaurant owners have said they’re particularly concerned about the winter months if things don’t change and restrictions on indoor dining remain in place.

Chicago officials launched a competition last month for creative outdoor dining ideas for the winter months and have received over 600 submissions so far. They include tents, heated tables and domes. The winners get a $5,000 cash prize and the chance to try out the idea at restaurants and bars in Chicago.

« From architects to designers, restaurateurs, servers and dining enthusiasts, the city has received 643 innovative and exciting ideas for cold-weather outdoor dining in the first-ever Chicago Winter Design Challenge, » the mayor’s office said in a release.

Illinois Reports 1,477 New Cases of Coronavirus, 7 Additional Deaths

Health officials in Illinois reported 1,477 new cases of coronavirus in the last 24 hours, along with seven additional deaths attributed to the virus.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, Monday’s new cases of the virus brings the statewide total to 275,735 cases since the pandemic began earlier this year.

The seven additional deaths bring the statewide death toll to 8,457 fatalities related to the virus.

A day after Illinois surged past the five million tests plateau, officials reported more than 38,000 tests returned to state laboratories.

The statewide seven-day positivity rate was not released Monday, but on Sunday, that number fell to 3.49%, marking a continued decline for a number that saw worrying increases in the month of August.

Currently, 1,436 patients remain hospitalized statewide.

Pritzker to Give Testing Update, Discuss Childcare

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expected to speak about the coronavirus pandemic at two separate events on Monday, the first a testing update and the second a discussion on childcare, according to his public schedule.

The testing update will be at 10:30 a.m. CST at the Memorial Center for Learning and Innovation in Springfield, his office says.

Then at 12 p.m., Pritzker and local leaders will discuss childcare grants through the Child Care Assistance Program in Lincoln, according to his schedule.

Both events can be watched live in the video player above.

Illinois Reports 1,402 New Cases of Coronavirus, 14 Additional Deaths Sunday

Health officials in Illinois on Sunday reported 1,402 new cases of coronavirus in the last 24 hours, along with 14 additional deaths attributed to the virus.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, Sunday’s new cases of the virus brings the statewide total to 274,258 cases since the pandemic began earlier this year.

The 14 additional deaths bring the statewide death toll to 8,450 fatalities related to the virus.

A day after Illinois surged past the five million tests plateau, officials reported an additional 48,011 tests returned to state laboratories. That puts the state at 5,105,153 tests conducted during the pandemic, according to health officials.

The statewide seven-day positivity rate has dropped slightly once again, falling to 3.49% on Sunday. That marks a continued decline in that number, which had seen worrying increases in the month of August.

The state’s recovery rate for the virus, defined as patients reporting no symptoms six or more weeks after testing positive for coronavirus, remains at 96%.

Currently, 1,417 patients remain hospitalized statewide, with 357 of those patients in intensive care units. A total of 151 patients remain on ventilators at this time.

‘Let Us Play!’: Illinois Prep Players Rally for Fall Sports

Parents and players protested Saturday outside a state building in Chicago, pleading with Gov. J.B. Pritzker to lift his fall ban on some popular high school sports.

Players in jerseys and varsity jackets chanted, “Let us play!” outside the Thompson Center.

Student-athletes and their supporters gathered in downtown Chicago and Springfield Saturday, asking for state leaders to resume fall sports. NBC 5’s Chris Hush reports.

“It’s our way of escape,” said Myles Mooyoung, a senior football player at Kenwood Academy High School in Chicago. “It’s how we get scholarships.”

A rally was also held in Springfield.

In response to the coronavirus, Pritzker won’t allow games in football, hockey, lacrosse, rugby, wrestling, competitive cheer and dance. The Illinois High School Association moved football and a few other sports to spring, although the group might be having second thoughts after seeing other states play fall sports.

Illinois Passes 5 Million Coronavirus Tests

Illinois passed another coronavirus testing milestone on Saturday, as more than five million coronavirus tests have been performed during the pandemic.

According to health officials, that milestone comes as the state reported 74,286 new tests over the last 24 hours. In all, 5,057,142 total tests have been conducted during the pandemic.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, the state has conducted more than one million tests in the last three weeks, marking a continued acceleration in the number of tests performed and analyzed at labs during that time.

Illinois District 211 May Shift to Hybrid In-Person Learning by Late October

Township High School District 211, one of the largest school districts in Illinois, could shift to a hybrid learning scenario, in which students would receive partial in-person instruction, as early as the week of Oct. 26, according to the district superintendent.

The district, which includes Conant, Fremd, Hoffman Estates, Palatine and Schaumburg high schools, began the 2020-2021 school year with remote learning on Aug. 13.

According to a letter from the district superintendent Dr. Lisa Small, under a hybrid scenario, a percentage of students would physically attend school each day, while the remainder of students would receive remote instruction.

Even under the hybrid scenario, students would have the option to remain fully remote, Dr. Small said in the letter to the district community. The number of students in classrooms would be limited in order to achieve social distancing of six-feet, according to guidance from health officials.

At the end of next week, parents and guardians will receive information about how to declare if their child will remain remotely connected to school or if their student will receive partial in-person instruction, the district said.

The plan to potentially implement a hybrid scenario is based on guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois State Board of Education.

Race in Chicago: COVID-19 Exposes a Digital Divide

When Chicago Public School (CPS) students were shifted to online learning in the spring of 2020, it was a reality check for the district, for parents, and for students.

During the immediate aftermath of the decision, CPS scrambled to hand out more than 128,000 devices. Another 39,000 were distributed when it was announced students would continue remote learning in the fall.

But another issue reared its ugly head when the pandemic hit. Not only were many students without the devices they needed, a large portion also couldn’t use them because they don’t have access to the Internet.

According to US Census data, 110,000 Chicago children under age 18 don’t have access to broadband. The issue disproportionately affects Chicago’s low income families and people of color.

In Englewood, 46% of kids under 18 don’t have access to the Internet. In Austin, one in three households aren’t connected. Claiborne Wade is raising his four children in the west side neighborhood.

« Some parents have to figure out whether or not they’re going to pay for prescription drugs or whether or not they’re going to put food on the table, » said Wade. « Some folks saying it’s only $10 for the monthly, for Internet. Some parents I talk to that’s a struggle. They can’t afford that. »

Wade feels fortunate he can. Their household is supported by grandparents who supplied tablets and laptops, but he knows all too well most families in his neighborhood aren’t as lucky.

« It’s like we have to fight twice as hard to get the resources we need, » he said.

When Chicago Public School (CPS) students were shifted to online learning in the spring of 2020, it was a reality check for the district, for parents, and for students. NBC 5’s Kate Chappell has the story.

Kids First Chicago is working to change that, giving parents like Claiborne Wade a voice.

« One in five families in Chicago are disconnected, » said Daniel Anello, the CEO of Kids First. « When you actually look at that by community area, it’s incredibly polar. »

Working with the city of Chicago and CPS, Anello and his team compiled data to shape a new program – Chicago Connected. Over four years, the $50 million project, funded through private donors and CPS, provides free high-speed Internet to 100,000 qualified households with no restrictive barriers.

« We always knew that the reality was there was a digital divide. What I think the COVID crisis brought home, was that maybe the numbers were larger than we thought they were, » said Phillip DiBartolo, the Chief Information Officer for Chicago Public Schools.

Depending where they live, families will receive hot spots or wired access to their home, free of charge, as part of Chicago Connected. As it stands, 32,500 families are signed up, of the 100,000 who are eligible.

24 Illinois Counties Now at ‘Warning Level’ for Coronavirus, Health Officials Say

Twenty-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: Bond, Bureau, Cass, Clinton, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, DeWitt, Edwards, Effingham, Greene, Jasper, Jo Daviess, Lawrence, Madison, Marion, Rock Island, St. Clair, Shelby, Washington, Wayne, Williamson, Wabash, and Union.

Last week, 30 counties were at a « warning level. »

« Public health officials are observing people not social distancing, gathering in large groups, and not using face coverings, » the Illinois Department of Public Health said in a statement. « In some counties, local law enforcement and states’ attorneys are not enforcing important mitigation measures like social distancing and the wearing of face coverings. »

« Additionally, some people refuse to participate in contact tracing and are not providing information on close contacts or answering the phone.  Individuals are also waiting to get tested believing their symptoms are allergies or some other cause, » IDPH continued.

Some of the common factors for increases in cases, health officials said, were « college parties, weddings, large gatherings, bars and clubs, long-term care facilities and other congregate settings, travel to neighboring states, and spread among members of the same household who are not isolating at home. » Some cases were also connected to schools and officials said « general transmission of the virus » was also increasing.

Restaurants in Will and Kankakee Counties Back to Serving Indoors

Restaurant and bar owners in Will and Kankakee Counties may serve customers indoors as of Friday evening after the region endured more than two weeks of strict mitigations to lower its rolling Coronavirus positivity rate.

Lynette Greco Mertens, owner of Sorriso Ristorante in Frankfort, said business has been “like a roller coaster in recent weeks.

“Thank God for our patrons and our carryout and our catering and the people who joined us outside,” Greco Mertens said.

As a result of declining positivity rates, indoor dining and bar service were allowed to resume Friday in some suburban communities. NBC 5’s Chris Coffey reports.

“As we move forward, our local businesses cannot afford another setback,” said Illinois Sen. Michael Hastings. “We must remain vigilant for the sake of economic recovery and public health.”

Annette Riza, who owns JBD White Horse Inn in New Lenox, said she is excited because her business gets to stay open later.

“We have a lounge area inside and that’s a big part of our business,” Riza said.

Hastings said he encourages struggling businesses to apply for the state’s Business Interruption Grant Program, which is set aside to help those businesses impacted by closures due to the pandemic and civil unrest.

Increased Coronavirus Restrictions in 1 Illinois Region Lifted Friday

One of Illinois’ healthcare regions saw some of its added coronavirus mitigations lifted Friday as the area’s positivity rate continues to decline, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said.

Region 7, which includes south suburban Kankakee and Will counties, returned to the phase four guidelines most of Illinois is currently under at 5 p.m. Friday.

“Today, Region 7 – Will and Kankakee Counties – will return to the standard Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan because residents chose to be all in for each other, for their small businesses, for their bars and restaurants, for their kids, for their neighbors,” Pritzker said in a statement.

“Let that be a testament to the power of a community that embraces doctor-recommended mitigations proven to reduce risk and slow the spread. We can’t outrun this virus, but with the tools we know to work – masks, distancing, handwashing, and respect for public health and each other – we can beat it back enough to keep our businesses open and our neighborhoods safer all at once. Don’t let up now, Region 7 – let’s keep this success going.”

The area on Wednesday marked its first day below the state’s 6.5% average positivity rate threshold since the increased restrictions began last month. In order to have its mitigations lifted, that trend had to hold for three days.

As of Friday, the positivity rate in the area was 5.6%, state health officials said.

More Than 50 Chicago-Area Restaurants Closed Due to COVID-19

More than 50 restaurants in the Chicago area have permanently closed their doors because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Chicago Tribune reported the figure as part of a snapshot of the city’s restaurant scene six months into a pandemic which has forced closures and caused widespread job loss.

Overall, Illinois has reported 268,207 confirmed cases, including 2,056 new cases reported Thursday. The state’s Department of Public Health said 8,392 people in Illinois have died since the beginning of the pandemic, including 25 reported Thursday.

The state’s unemployment rate was 11% in August, the Illinois Department of Employment Security reported Thursday in its latest figures. While the rate fell .5% from the previous month, the rate is almost triple August of last year when it was 3.8%.

Restaurant owner have said they’re particularly concerned about the winter months if things don’t change and restrictions on indoor dining remain in place.

Chicago officials launched a competition last month for creative outdoor dining ideas for the winter months and have received over 600 submissions so far. They include tents, heated tables and domes. The winners get a $5,000 cash prize and the chance to try out the idea at restaurants and bars in Chicago.

ZooLights Returns to Lincoln Park Zoo as Ticketed Event

Lincoln Park Zoo’s 26th annual ZooLights will return this year as a ticketed event, the Chicago zoo announced.

“Despite the loss of revenue this year brought on by the pandemic, we couldn’t fathom a Chicago winter without the joy of ZooLights,” said Zoo Director Megan Ross, Ph.D, in a statement.

ZooLights tickets are $5 per person and go on sale Sept. 24 for zoo members and 10 a.m. Oct. 1 for the general public. All ages must have a ticket to enter the event.

Free nights will occur on select nights — Nov. 24, and Dec. 9, 17, 21 and 29 — but will still require reservations. Reservations will be released at 4 p.m. on the Sunday prior to the event date, according to the zoo.

Ross said the coronavirus pandemic has left Lincoln Park Zoo « financially vulnerable, » and even with sponsor help, « unfortunately we are not in a position to staff and operate the extended hours with the limited capacity of visitors required based on state guidelines without some public investment. »

« We are charging a nominal admission in order to help us break even and still bring this beloved holiday tradition to the zoo, » she said.

ZooLights will run from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Nov. 21-23, 25, 27-30, Dec. 2, 4-8, 11-16, 18-20, 22-23, 26-28, 30-31, and Jan. 1-3, according to the zoo.

According to the zoo’s description, ZooLights encourages visitors to « enjoy a twinkling winter wonderland complete with festive activities, such as socially-distant visits with Santa, a holiday pop-up bar, an Enchanted Forest, Light Maze Presented by Invesco QQQ, sweet treats of all kinds, and much more. »

Historic Southport Lanes in Lakeview to Close Permanently After Nearly 100 Years

A 98-year-old bar, bowling alley and billiards hall in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood is set to close its doors for good this month, the bar announced.

Southport Lanes in Lakeview’s Southport Corridor plans to close its doors permanently on Sept. 27, according to a spokesperson.

« Southport Lanes enthusiastically welcomes guests to stop by in the next week and a half to enjoy some craft beer and bar fare on the sidewalk cafe, » a release stated. « There is also limited indoor seating, as well as carryout available. Due to COVID-19 safety concerns, bowling and billiards is not available. »

First named The Nook, Southport Lanes was built by the Schlitz Brewery around 1900, according to its website. The name was changed in 1922 and bowling lanes were added.

Southport Lanes is the latest Chicago establishment to close its doors permanently during the coronavirus pandemic. Most recently, Redmond’s Ale House, a popular sports bar in Chicago’s Wrigleyville neighborhood, closed for good Sunday.