Note: Any news conferences from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot or other officials will be streamed in the video player above.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker is set to deliver a COVID-19 update from home on Wednesday as he continues to self-isolate after a staffer tested positive for coronavirus.
His update comes as one of Illinois’ 11 healthcare regions will see enhanced coronavirus restrictions put in place Saturday after it saw a positivity rate above 8% for more than three consecutive days.
Those mitigations efforts were triggered as health officials investigate outbreaks at suburban businesses, including adult volleyball leagues and an Orangetheory fitness studio.
Here are the latest updates from across Illinois on the coronavirus pandemic today (Sept. 30):
Pritzker to Give COVID-19 Update
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is set to give a virtual COVID-19 update on Wednesday, according to his public schedule.
The update will be at 12 p.m., delivered from his home as he self-isolates after a staffer tested positive earlier this week.
The update can be watched live in the video player above.
Illinois’ Region 1 to See Enhanced Coronavirus Restrictions as Positivity Rate Increases
Health officials in Illinois announced Tuesday that enhanced coronavirus mitigation rules will be 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 will be 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 must be suspended on Saturday. All outside bar service can continue, but service will be required to close at 11 p.m. Reservations will be required for parties looking to visit bars and restaurants.
Social events will also be limited to 25 or fewer guests, or 25% of overall room capacity. Party buses are also banned under provisions of the rules.
Health Officials Investigate Multiple Reports of Coronavirus Cases at Elmhurst Orangetheory
The DuPage County Health Department reported multiple cases of coronavirus linked to an Orangetheory Fitness studio in Elmhurst.
In a statement, the health department said officials received “multiple reports” of COVID-19 cases at the Orangetheory since last week.
“In our communication with Orange Theory, we have provided public health guidance and resources, and we are conducting case and contact investigations to help determine if exposure may have occurred onsite as well as the extent of that exposure. We have also provided risk mitigation recommendations to prevent ongoing COVID-19 spread in the community,” the statement read.
The DuPage County Health Department said it received multiple reports of coronavirus cases linked to an Orangetheory Fitness studio in Elmhurst. NBC 5’s Chris Coffey reports.
The Orangetheory reported 18 positive cases of the coronavirus, the gym confirmed in a statement Tuesday.
“We are concerned about all involved and are hopeful that everyone will quickly return to health. We are working with local health authorities in the contact tracing process to identify any additional cases as soon as possible. We are constantly examining and evolving our internal policies and processes to ensure the safety of our staff and members, and are committed to ongoing vigilance in all of our studios,” the statement read.
The fitness studio, located at 135 N. Addison Ave. in Elmhurst, closed from Thursday to Sunday to investigate the outbreak and do a deep cleaning.
Multiple Coronavirus Cases Linked to North Suburban Adult Volleyball Leagues, Nearly 200 People May Have Been Exposed
Multiple cases of COVID-19 in Chicago’s north suburbs have been linked to adult volleyball leagues where nearly 200 people may have been exposed to the coronavirus, health officials said Tuesday.
At least 14 people who played or watched volleyball at Jesse Oaks Food & Drink in Gages Lake in September have tested positive for coronavirus, the Lake County Health Department said in a statement.
Of the confirmed cases, multiple people reported to health officials that they had also played volleyball at other bar and restaurant locations, which health officials said could contribute to further spread of the virus. The health department said nearly 200 volleyball players and spectators may have been exposed.
““We are currently working diligently to speak with infected individuals and notify close contacts who have been identified,” Dr. Sana Ahmed, Lake County Health Department epidemiologist, said in a statement. “This could potentially be a large outbreak, and we need the public’s help to contain the spread of this virus.”
Health officials asked anyone who played volleyball at Jesse Oaks in September, or visited the establishment without a mask or social distancing, to quarantine at home for 14 days from their last game or visit, get a COVID-19 test at least five days after the most recent game or sooner if symptoms develop.
Multiple suburban communities are dealing with coronavirus outbreaks, as health officials warn residents to continue being vigilant as fall gets underway in earnest. NBC 5’s Natalie Martinez has the story.
They also asked anyone who played at Jesse Oaks to call the Communicable Disease program at (847) 377-8130 if they have not already been contacted by the Lake County Health Department.
Jesse Oaks has suspended all volleyball activities for 14 days, officials said, and will resume once “in compliance with state guidelines after that time.”
“Under the current phase of the state’s plan, volleyball is considered a medium risk sport, and no competitive matches between teams are permitted,” Lake County Health Department’s Director of Environmental Health Larry Mackey said.
“Failing to abide by these guidelines puts the public’s health at risk, prolongs the pandemic, and has the potential to force additional restrictions on local businesses that are working so hard to protect their employees and customers,” Mackey added. “We continue to address any complaints of facilities not following these guidelines and are working closely with business owners to help them operate safely. When businesses don’t cooperate, however, we have no choice but to pursue enforcement measures.”
Lake County has reported a total of 16,690 confirmed coronavirus cases and 464 deaths since the pandemic began, officials said Tuesday.
Class-Action Lawsuit Filed Against IHSA to Allow Fall Sports to Begin
A group of student-athletes and parents filed a class action lawsuit Tuesday against the Illinois High School Association, pushing to allow fall sports to resume amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The suit was filed in DuPage County, according to a press release, and lists the IHSA as the primary defendant.
A total of 20 students are listed as plaintiffs in the suit, which will seek a temporary restraining order ordering the state to allow fall sports, including football, soccer and volleyball, to get underway.
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.
Illinois Reports 1,362 New Coronavirus Cases, 23 Additional Deaths Tuesday
Illinois health officials reported 1,362 new cases of coronavirus in the last 24 hours, along with 23 additional deaths statewide related to the virus.
Tuesday’s metrics bring the state’s total number of coronavirus cases to 291,001 and the total number of fatalities to 8,637.
Health officials reported slightly higher testing numbers Monday with 45,624 specimens collected by labs throughout the state. In all, 5,566,276 tests have been performed in the state since the pandemic began.
Since declining below 3.5% last week, the state’s seven-day positivity rate has been trending upward, now at 3.6% Tuesday.
As of midnight, 1,535 individuals are currently hospitalized due to COVID-19 in Illinois, with 363 patients currently in intensive care unit beds. A total of 151 patients are currently on ventilators in the state.
Pritzker Self-Isolating Again After Staffer Tests Positive for Coronavirus
Gov. J.B. Pritzker is self-isolating for 14 days for the second time since the coronavirus pandemic began after a member of his staff tested positive for COVID-19, his office said Tuesday.
The staff member tested negative last Wednesday during weekly testing for the office, Pritzker’s office said in a statement. After experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, the staffer was tested again Monday and the results were positive.
Pritkzer’s office said the staffer attended events with the governor on Wednesday in Chicago, Thursday in Marion and Sunday in Marseilles, noting that the governor and the staffer were wearing masks during the entirety of their interactions.
“The staffer has been interviewed and a contact tracing effort is underway to ensure all close contacts are notified,” Pritzker’s office said. “Event organizers at each impacted event have also been contacted and made aware of the staff member’s positive results as well as appropriate next steps.”
Pritzker and all close contacts will self-isolate for 14 days, his office said, and all staff who report to the office and must test negative before returning.
Pritzker and employees previously self-isolated for two weeks in May after a member of his senior staff tested positive.
In that case, the staff member was asymptomatic, the governor’s office said at the time, and was in close contact with Pritzker as well as other employees.
“Staff members reporting to the office have followed all public health safety protocols including weekly testing, daily temperature checks, wearing face coverings, social distancing and strict hygiene procedures,” Pritzker’s office said Tuesday. “The office undergoes a weekly deep cleaning and an additional deep cleaning was conducted Monday night.”
As he did in his earlier period of self-isolation, Pritzker will continue to give regular coronavirus briefings, his office said, but will conduct them from home until he is cleared to return.
Chicago Adds 4 States to Coronavirus Travel Order Requiring 14-Day Quarantine
The city of Chicago on Tuesday added four states to its emergency travel order requiring a 14-day quarantine.
Chicago health officials added Kentucky, Wyoming, Texas, and Nevada to the list and did not remove any that were included in the previous week’s update, bringing the total number of states and territories to 23.
The full list now includes: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
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.
Chicago’s travel order, which began on July 6, is evaluated every Tuesday, with any additions taking effect the following Friday.
Chicago health officials said Georgia is now seeing a daily case average below 15 cases per 100,000 people and will be taken off the list next week if it remains below that threshold.
Authorities said North Carolina remains below the threshold but saw a spike the week before due to a “data anomaly” and excluding that anomaly, is averaging 12.9 cases daily (adjusted for 100,000 population) for the past three weeks, leaving it off the list.
Wisconsin was one of several locations added to the order last week, along with Montana, Idaho, Minnesota and Puerto Rico. Kentucky and Louisiana were removed, though Kentucky was re-added on Tuesday.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said last week that Wisconsin was “currently in very poor control when it comes to COVID,” adding that the state had more than double the 15 average daily cases per 100,000 residents that is the threshold to be named on Chicago’s travel order.
That number has continued to climb, standing at 37 new cases for every 100,000 residents as of Monday, more than twice Chicago’s threshold and nearly three times the maximum allowed by many states before a quarantine is required.
The state’s positivity rate also continues to soar. On Friday it was an already-high of 16.5%, and as of Monday, the rate was 18.2%.
Throughout September, Wisconsin has seen a soaring number of cases as well. This past Friday, Wisconsin reported its highest new-case record ever, with 2,504 cases.
Under the Chicago travel order guidelines, those traveling to or from Wisconsin for work and those traveling through the state for travel will not need to quarantine, Arwady said. Those traveling to the state for leisure, however, even for less than 24 hours, will need to quarantine, she said.
Arwady said travelers entering or returning to Chicago from “states experiencing a surge in new COVID-19 cases” will need to quarantine “for a 14-day period from the time of last contact within the identified state.” Essential workers could be exempt from the quarantine requirement, however, as long as their employer certifies their work in writing.
The order is set to remain in effect until further notice.
Fury and Frustration: Dealing With Illinois’ Department of Employment Security
Little live help is available, no promised callbacks despite months of waiting, and still IDES field offices statewide remain closed. These are just a few items on the long list of complaints NBC5 Responds viewers report about the state’s Department of Employment Security, the only lifeline to life-saving benefits for many Illinois residents impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
“No, I don’t think that is acceptable,” State Rep. Anne Stava-Murray tells NBC 5’s Lisa Parker. “People are frustrated, angry, at the end of their rope—and I don’t blame them.”
Stava-Murray started speaking out this past summer, after constituents bombarded their representatives’ offices with complaints about IDES and the inability to talk to anyone at the agency.
“Sometimes it feels like reaching out to IDES is a little like throwing a bottle into the ocean. You write this note and you hope someone reads it,” Stava-Murray says.
Several viewers have reached out to NBC 5 about the state’s Department of Employment Security, the only lifeline to life-saving benefits for many Illinois residents impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. NBC 5’s Lisa Parker shares their stories.
Among those hoping: rideshare driver John Stemmelin.
“I’ve been waiting two months. A dropped call made me lose my place in line,” John tells NBC 5 Responds. “The dropped call is not their fault. But the fact they are not trying to call us back is their fault.”
That is an anecdote NBC 5 has heard over and over: claimants say they waited for weeks for a callback, then got precious few seconds on the line once that call came in. A dropped call, followed by…nothing.
Even a dropped call is more than Barb Schultz says she got, 11 weeks into her wait for a callback from IDES.
“You sit on the phone for hours,” the Tinley Park mom of six says. ”There’s a list of all these phone numbers…I called all of them. No callbacks.”
Schultz’s case should have been a simple one, she says. IDES’ website says she was paid for two weeks of unemployment, but she says she never received those benefits, and now faces paying taxes on them.
For answers about these questions and other complaints facing the agency, we made multiple requests to speak to IDES Acting Director Kristin Richards. Our requests were not only denied: they were flat-out ignored. Four separate requests to IDES media spokesperson Rebecca Cisco were never answered.
IDES’ Freedom of Information officer did answer two of our questions. We asked how many callback requests the agency received in July and August. IDES says it received just over 532,000 requests, and completed more than 421,000. No word on how many of those calls were dropped.
As for how many employees the agency has added since the pandemic began? Despite public pledges by Gov. J.B. Pritzker to beef up the agency’s helplines, IDES says it has added just 24 staff employees since March. The agency says that does not account for contractors, but did not specify how many of those are on the job.
Stava-Murray tells NBC 5 Responds she has seen incremental improvement in how IDES is handling unemployment claimants’ requests in recent weeks, but says that could also be accounted for by the fact layoffs have slowed down.
In the meantime for Schultz, it is Day 84 and counting, as she awaits the one promised callback she asked for back on July 6.
“All I keep thinking is, what if I was dependent on that money, how would I be feeding my family?” she says. “That’s why I decided, I’m calling (NBC 5) and I’m saying something.”
Stemmelin agrees, saying he sought help when it became clear that reaching out to IDES was a fruitless exercise.
“Every single one of us that’s an IDES claimant is also a voter. They need to know from a real person, the system is broke. Broke!,” he says.
Chicago to Reopen Indoor Bar Service, Increase Capacity Limits in Easing Coronavirus Restrictions
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Monday plans to ease some of the restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus, allowing indoor bar service again and raising capacity limits on businesses, including restaurants, among other major changes.
The changes include increasing indoor capacity at restaurants, health and fitness centers, personal services, non-essential retail and all other establishments from 25% to 40%, according to Lightfoot’s office.
Bars, breweries, taverns and other businesses that serve alcohol without a food license can reopen indoor seating – shut down since late July – at 25% capacity up to 50 people, officials said.
Bars and restaurants can also serve alcohol until 1 a.m. and stay open through 1:30 a.m., fitness classes can include up to 15 people and personal or salon services like facials that require removal of masks will again be allowed.
Those new changes will take effect at 5 a.m. on Thursday, officials said.
“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.
Now, the newly eased restrictions, according to the city, are as follows:
- 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, some other changes and 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.
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 Driver’s License Renewal Deadline Extended Another 3 Months
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White has extended expiration dates for driver’s licenses another three months.
White announced this week that expired licenses need be renewed by Feb. 1, 2021. The previous extension was until Nov. 1. White extended the deadline to prevent the need for visiting a driver’s license facility during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Those 75 and older need only ensure to renew driver’s licenses by their birthday in 2021.
The extension for renewing driver’s license plate stickers remains Nov. 1. They can be renewed online.
White continues to encourage motorists to conduct business on the secretary of state’s website to the extent possible.
Other business that can be conducted online includes obtaining a duplicate driver’s license or ID card, obtaining a driving record abstract or renewing a standard driver’s license through the Safe Driver renewal program.
When a visit to a facility is necessary, White urges customers to be patient because of a heavy volume of traffic, to wear face masks and be prepared to wait outside because of social-distance requirements.