Chicago Stay-at-Home Advisory, Doctor’s Warning – NBC Chicago

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

Chicago issued a stay-at-home advisory as the city reaches a “critical point” in the second surge of its coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Thursday.

The new guidelines and restrictions come as Illinois set a new record in daily cases for the third consecutive day and Gov. J.B. Pritzker warned a “mandatory” statewide stay-at-home order is possible “if things don’t take a turn in the coming days.”

Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic across the state of Illinois today (Nov. 12):

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

Ninety-six 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: Adams, Alexander, Bond, Boone, Brown, Bureau, Calhoun, Carroll, Cass, Christian, Clark, Clay, Clinton, Coles, Cook, Crawford, Cumberland, DeKalb, DeWitt, Douglas, DuPage, Edgar, Edwards, Effingham, Fayette, Ford, Franklin, Fulton, Gallatin, Greene, Grundy, Hamilton, Hancock, Hardin, Henderson, Henry, Iroquois, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Jersey, Jo Daviess, Johnson, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Knox, Lake, LaSalle, Lawrence, Lee, Livingston, Logan, Macon, Macoupin, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Massac, Mason, McDonough, McHenry, McLean, Mercer, Monroe, Morgan, Moultrie,  Ogle, Peoria, Perry, Piatt, Pike,  Pulaski, Putnam, Randolph, Richland, Rock Island, Saline, Sangamon, Schuyler, Scott, Shelby, St. Clair, Stephenson, Tazewell, Vermilion, Wabash, Warren, Washington, Wayne, White, Whiteside, Will, Williamson, Winnebago, Woodford. The city of Chicago is also on the list.

Last week, 75 counties were at a “warning level.” The week before that it was 49.

Illinois Reports More Than 15K New Coronavirus Cases, Setting Record for Fourth Day in a Row, and 27 Deaths

Illinois health officials reported more than 15,000 new confirmed and probable coronavirus cases on Friday, setting a record for the highest single-day report of new cases for the fourth consecutive day.

The state reported 15,415 new cases and 27 additional deaths Friday, according to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health. That marked the fourth day in a row Illinois has reported a record high one-day case count and the eighth consecutive day in which the state has seen more than 10,000 new coronavirus cases.

Those figures brought the total number of cases in the state to 551,957 since the pandemic began and lifted the death toll to 10,504, IDPH said.

A total of 106,540 new tests were performed over the last 24 hours, which marked a new one-day record, according to state health officials. In all, 8,871,640 tests have been performed during the pandemic.

The state’s seven-day positivity rate continued to climb, reaching 13.2% on Friday. That marks a more than 2-point increase in five days, rising from 12.6% on Thursday, 12.4% on Wednesday, 12% on Tuesday, 11.4% on Monday and 10.6% on Sunday.

The state also saw its hospitalization numbers continue to increase on Friday, with 5,362 residents currently in hospitals due to coronavirus-like illnesses. Of those patients, 990 are currently in intensive care units, and 488 are on ventilators.

All three statistics are the highest metrics the state has seen in their respective categories since the first peak in COVID-19 cases earlier this year.

Illinois to Increase Capacity at 3 COVID Testing Sites This Weekend

With some coronavirus testing sites closing just minutes after opening as long lines form, Illinois has announced plans to increase capacity at three locations this weekend.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Thursday that the state plans to increase capacity at the “most-visited sites” – Aurora, Arlington Heights and Harwood Heights.

“Even as the third best testing state in the nation, we are now at a place where our state-run community-based testing sites are hitting capacity before the end of their normal operating hours,” Pritzker said during his daily briefing.

“We continue to build on our testing capability, but as always, we are limited by the speed at which existing public and private lab capacity can grow and by the physical layouts of these drive through locations,” Pritzker added. “Still, we intend to remain among the best in the nation in testing.”

Pritzker noted that testing will be in increasing demand ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

“Testing is also critical for those gathering, and it should come as no surprise given our current rates of spread that we are now seeing a soaring demand for tests across the state,” he said.

Long lines have been reported at several testing sites in the states.

On Thursday, a drive-thru coronavirus testing site in DuPage County reached its 600-test limit within minutes.

Suburban Cook County Issues Stay-at-Home Advisory to Slow Spread of Coronavirus

Cook County issued a stay-at-home advisory Friday, urging residents to only leave home for essential activities to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

The guidelines for residents of suburban Cook County are in alignment with the city of Chicago’s advisory that was issued the day before. Both take effect at 6 a.m. Monday and will last at least 30 days, officials said.

The advisory reads as follows:

  • STAY HOME. As much as possible, please refrain from any non-essential activities and stay home. If you must go out for essential activities, such as work, to attend school, get tested for COVID-19, get a flu shot, or to shop for groceries:
    • Wear a mask consistently and correctly over your nose and mouth.
    • Avoid close contact with others and maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from others who do not live with you.  
    • Wash hands often with soap and warm water.
  • LIMIT GATHERINGS. As much as possible, please refrain from attending or hosting gatherings with people who do not live in your household. This includes recommendations to postpone holiday gatherings or host virtual celebrations to limit the spread of COVID-19.  
  • LIMIT TRAVEL. As much as possible, do not engage in any non-essential travel, including vacations or trips to visit relatives or friends.  
  • WORK FROM HOME. As much as possible, CCDPH is calling on employers in suburban Cook County to re-establish telework protocols for staff who are able to work from home.  

“Now more than ever, we must come together to stay apart,” the Cook County Department of Public Health’s Senior Medical Office Dr. Rachel Rubin said in a statement. “We know limiting gatherings with friends and family can be hard, but we also know that virtual celebrations will save lives.”

As Hospitalizations Surge, Health Services Are ‘Extremely Strained,’ Chicago Doctor Says

As the number of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations surge in Chicago and Illinois, one doctor on the frontlines is pleading for more centralized communication to combat the virus, as opposed to each state coming up with its own messaging.

“I really hope that this was a cautionary tale for our next few months and that people start reacting when they recognize that our health services are extremely strained right now,” said Dr. Marina Del Rios with the University of Illinois College of Medicine.

Del Rios talked to NBC 5 Thursday after coming off an overnight shift, in which she said there were no beds to send her patients to, resulting in many people being placed in the waiting room.

As the number of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations surge in Chicago and Illinois, one doctor on the frontlines is pleading for more centralized communication to combat the virus, opposed to each state coming up with its own messaging. NBC 5’s Natalie Martinez reports.

Compared to October in Chicago, this month three times as many people are hospitalized, in the intensive care unit and on ventilators.

“… Much worse than anything I can remember from… April and March,” the doctor said.

Del Rios said the reality is that “we’ve failed at large scale testing in contact tracing,” and providing resources to those who need to isolate, but may not be able to because of the environment they live in.

“It’s been extremely frustrating as a medical provider seeing how disjointing the messaging has been for COVID,” Del Rios said. “More than anything that I can recall in my lifetime as a person and as a physician.”

The Chicago doctor said she believes in the next few weeks, infections will likely turn more serious.

“We’re approaching the point where we’re gonna have to start making very difficult decisions,” she stated.

Gov. Pritzker on Thanksgiving: ‘We All Need to Celebrate a Bit Differently This Year’

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker urged residents to take extra precautions when celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday this year.

In addition to previous guidance surrounding the holidays released by the state’s health department, Pritzker said the state has launched a new awareness campaign to highlight ways of celebrating the holiday safely.

“Keeping gatherings small and virtual, maintaining 6 feet of distance from others and wearing a mask, whether you’re indoors or out,” Pritzker said. “We want to show people some of the best ways to reduce risk, as determined by epidemiologists, researchers, and modelers. At the end of the day, traditions are so important to all of us – but this year we all need to celebrate a bit differently.”

Pritzker warned Thursday a “mandatory” stay-at-home order is possible “if things don’t take a turn in the coming days.”

Gov. Pritzker Warns of Stay-at-Home Order in Coming Days ‘If Things Don’t Take a Turn’

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker warned Thursday a “mandatory” stay-at-home order is possible “if things don’t take a turn in the coming days.”

Speaking for the first time since the state’s health department released new guidance urging residents to stay home and work from home where possible, Pritzker said “we are running out of time, and we are running out of options.”

“The numbers don’t lie,” Pritzker said. “If things don’t take a turn in the coming days, we will quickly reach the point when some form of a mandatory stay-at-home order is all that will be left. With every fiber of my being, I do not want us to get there, but right now that seems to be where we are heading.”

He called out state leaders not enforcing state guidance and “anti-maskers” who refuse to follow the guidelines.

“What will it take to make this real for you?” he asked. “Do we have to reach a positivity rate of 50 percent like we’re seeing in Iowa today? Are you waiting for your health care workers to get sick to a point where you don’t have enough staff in the local hospital to cover the next shift? What about if your hospitals become so overrun that your sick and your dying have nowhere left to turn? Because I promise you, while you fail to take responsibility in your city and your county, that day is coming closer – and it will be on you.”

Nov. 12: Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker warned Thursday a “mandatory” stay-at-home order is possible “if things don’t take a turn in the coming days.”

Chicago’s Top Doctor ‘More Worried About COVID Right Now’ Than Ever Before

Chicago’s top health official said Thursday that she’s “more worried” about coronavirus than ever before as the city announced a stay-at-home advisory and new restrictions to slow the pandemic’s spread amid a dangerous surge.

“I’ve been up here sharing data for weeks, for months, almost a whole year at this point,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said during a news conference. “And before I get into the data, I want you to hear that I am more worried about COVID right now than I have been at any point since March.”

“In March, I was worried because we didn’t have perhaps enough ventilators, because we needed to work very quickly to not meet the fate of what we were seeing in New York City,” she continued. “But in March, I knew that we were taking this seriously as a city. And we were doing that largely out of fear.”

Chicago’s top health official said Thursday that she’s “more worried” about coronavirus than ever before as the city announced a stay-at-home advisory and new restrictions to slow the pandemic’s spread amid a dangerous surge.

“At this point, we all know somebody who’s had COVID. And in fact, in Chicago, given what our numbers look like, a lot of us know someone who’s had COVID just in the last few weeks. And it is true, thank goodness, most people who get COVID recover,” Arwady said. “But when you’re talking about the kinds of numbers that we are seeing now and the growth that we are seeing now, those numbers start to impact. People who are older who have underlying conditions, we start seeing and are seeing rises in hospitalizations, ICU, ventilators, and deaths.”

Chicago is on track to see 1,000 additional coronavirus deaths, possibly more, by the end of the year if changes aren’t made to slow the spread of the deadly virus, city officials said Thursday in announcing the new restrictions and imploring residents to limit gatherings and only leave the house for essential activities.

“We’ve seen no sign of slowing here. And we’re in uncharted territory,” Arwady added. “We are the largest city in the part of the country that is having the most uncontrolled outbreak.”

“Every opportunity that COVID has to spread here is an exponential opportunity,” she continued. “It takes very little time for these numbers to get to a point where we do again start to overwhelm hospitals, where we do again start to talk about deaths in ways that I hope to never have to talk about.

Arwady said “a vaccine is coming,” calling news on that front good but noting that it would not come within in the next few months.

“And the next few months, winter, the flu and COVID fatigue have the potential to truly create a catastrophe that could be avoided here,” she said.

Stay-at-Home Advisory, New Restrictions Issued for Chicago as City Reaches ‘Critical Point’

Chicago has issued a stay-at-home advisory as the city reaches a “critical point” in the second surge of its coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Thursday.

The advisory, which was issued among other restrictions, “calls on all Chicagoans to follow clear measures to protect their community and help us flatten the curve.”

It is scheduled to take effect at 6 a.m. Monday.

“Chicago has reached a critical point in the second surge of COVID-19, demanding that we undertake this multi-faceted and comprehensive effort to stop the virus in its tracks,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “The gains we have made this past year have been the result of our willingness to work together. Even in this difficult moment, we will continue to unite as we always have for our city in order to halt the rise we’re seeing, shake out of the fatigue we’ve been experiencing, and make the crucial difference in what our future is going to look like.”

Chicago has issued a stay-at-home advisory as the city reaches a “critical point” in the second surge of its coronavirus pandemic. Watch Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s full announcement here.

Here’s what is included in the new advisory:

• Only leave home to go to work or school, or for essential needs such as seeking medical care, going to the grocery store or pharmacy, picking up take-out food,
or receiving deliveries. If you do leave home, practice social distancing by staying 6 feet away from others and wearing a face covering at all times. 

• Do not have gatherings in your home with anybody outside of your household (except for essential staff such as home health care workers or educators), even with trusted family or friends. 

• Avoid all non-essential, out-of-state travel; if travel is essential, quarantining or testing negative prior to travel is required, depending on which state a traveler is originating from.  

• Comply with city and state orders, including wearing face coverings, limiting gatherings, and mandating early closure of non-essential businesses at 11 p.m. 

• Practice social distancing and avoid touching surfaces frequently touched by others if you go outside to get fresh air. 

• Use remote modes of communication like phone or video chat instead of visiting friends or family, especially on holidays such as Thanksgiving.

According to the city, “residents are strongly advised to adhere to the advisory.”

In addition to the advisory, the city will also impose new restrictions for meetings and social events, limiting both to no more than 10 people, inside or outside. The capacity limits, which also begin at 6 a.m. Monday, apply to events like weddings, birthday parties, business dinners, social events and funerals, the city said. They do not apply to industries that already have restrictions, such as fitness facilities, retails stores, personal services and movie theaters, however.

Chicago’s Mayor: ‘You Must Cancel the Normal Thanksgiving Plans’

As Chicago issued a stay-at-home “advisory” and implements new gathering limitations, the city warned residents to avoid large family gatherings this Thanksgiving.

“You must cancel the normal Thanksgiving plans,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Thursday. “Particularly if they include guests that do not live in your immediate household.”

City officials warned that at their current rate, cases are doubling every 12 days. With the current average of 2,000 cases per day, that would mean that by Thanksgiving, the city could see 4,000 new cases coming in each day.

“We’re not set up for this level of outbreak,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said. “And if you look at that curve, there’s been no sign yet of it slowing down.”

Chicago on Track to See 1,000 More Coronavirus Deaths by End of Year If No Changes Are Made, City Says

Chicago is on track to see 1,000 additional coronavirus deaths, possibly more, by the end of the year if changes aren’t made to slow the spread of the deadly virus, city officials said Thursday.

“Chicago has reached a critical point in the second surge of COVID-19, demanding that we undertake this multi-faceted and comprehensive effort to stop the virus in its tracks,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement announcing a new strategy called “Protect Chicago” that includes a stay-at-home advisory and new restrictions on gatherings as the city and the world faces what experts are warning could be the deadliest surge of the pandemic yet.

Chicago is “deep into a second surge of COVID-19,” city officials said, noting the city has experienced “several weeks of steeply rising new daily cases” as well as an increasing positivity rate in testing.

The positivity rate was above 14% as of Thursday, officials said, with a rolling seven-day average of more than 1,900 new coronavirus cases reported daily. That figure is the highest it’s been since the pandemic began.

Data from the Illinois Department of Public Health showed Thursday that Chicago reported its highest one-day total cases ever at 2,699, as well as seven new deaths. That brings Chicago’s rolling average of daily new cases as of Thursday to a record of 2,264 new cases reported on average each day.

In the last week alone, Chicago added 15,330 new coronavirus cases – more than some entire states like Arizona, Massachusetts, Georgia or Virginia.

“The data are troubling, and I’m very concerned we could be looking at tens of thousands of more cases, which would overwhelm the healthcare system and lead to hundreds more deaths,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady said in a statement, adding, “But we know what works and what we need to do to bend the curve. We did it once and I know we can do it again.”

“The gains we have made this past year have been the result of our willingness to work together. Even in this difficult moment, we will continue to unite as we always have for our city in order to halt the rise we’re seeing, shake out of the fatigue we’ve been experiencing, and make the crucial difference in what our future is going to look like,” Lightfoot added.

Suburban Woman Warns of Lingering Effects Even After Beating Coronavirus

A suburban woman who recovered from the coronavirus said she suffered lingering effects for months and she is urging people to take masks and social distancing more seriously.

Pam Bachman of St. Charles said she spent a week in the hospital in June battling the virus. But she said a week after returning home, she noticed her hair falling out.

“Even the texture of my hair changed. It continued until from June till maybe two weeks ago,” Bachman said.

Bachman said she also suffered arm pain and an altered thyroid.

“It’s been a journey just to get stronger every day,” Bachman said. “Just to start walking again and eating and there is some, I don’t want to say memory loss, but just fog, memory fog, which is also improving now.”

A suburban woman who recovered from the coronavirus said she suffered lingering effects for months and she is urging people to take masks and social distancing more seriously. NBC 5’s Chris Coffey reports.

Dr. Phillip Cozzi of Elmhurst Memorial Hospital said some patients who beat the virus may experience lingering effects such as shortness of breath, chronic fatigue, cough, brain fog or depressive states.

“Most people can expect full recovery without any long-term sequela. The more ill patients who have more impressive syndrome are usually those who suffer from the long-term side effect, although, even people with mild symptoms can experience a lingering cough and fatigue state,” Cozzi said.

Cozzi said no matter the size of the gathering, there still has to be marked vigilance with social distancing, and large groups should be avoided altogether.

Bachman said she is pleading with people to realize the virus is “not a joke.”

“Maybe for some people the symptoms aren’t so bad, but for myself that I never thought it would be that bad, it’s horrible,” Bachman said.

Illinois Reports 12,702 New Coronavirus Cases, Setting Record for Third Day in a Row, and 43 Deaths

Illinois health officials again reported more than 12,000 new confirmed and probable coronavirus cases on Thursday, setting a record for the highest single-day report of new cases for the third consecutive day.

The state reported 12,702 new cases and 43 additional deaths Thursday, according to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health. That marked the third day in a row Illinois has reported a record high one-day case count and the seventh consecutive day in which the state has seen more than 10,000 new coronavirus cases.

Those figures brought the total number of cases in the state to 536,542 since the pandemic began and lifted the death toll to 10,477, IDPH said.

A total of 100,617 new tests were performed over the last 24 hours, according to state health officials. In all, 8,765,100 tests have been performed during the pandemic.

The state’s seven-day positivity rate continued to climb, reaching 12.6% on Thursday. That marks a full 2-point increase in four days, rising from 12.4% on Wednesday, which was up from 12% on Tuesday, 11.4% on Monday and 10.6% on Sunday.

The state also saw its hospitalization numbers continue to increase on Thursday, with 5,258 residents currently in hospitals due to coronavirus-like illnesses. Of those patients, 956 are currently in intensive care units, and 438 are on ventilators.

All three statistics are the highest metrics the state has seen in their respective categories since the first peak in COVID-19 cases earlier this year.

Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana Reporting a New Coronavirus Case Every 4 Seconds on Average

Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin reported nearly 25,000 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, which equates to roughly 1,000 new cases each hour – or a new case every four seconds – in those three states alone over the previous 24 hours.

Each of the three states has set new records in their coronavirus metrics in recent days as the Midwest and the U.S. as a whole face what officials are warning could be the worst wave of the pandemic yet this winter.

Illinois reported 12,657 new confirmed and probable coronavirus cases on Wednesday, setting a record for the highest single-day report of new cases for the second consecutive day and lifting the statewide total number of cases to 523,840 since the pandemic began. Wednesday marked the sixth day in a row that Illinois has seen more than 10,000 new coronavirus cases each day.

The state also reported 145 additional deaths Wednesday, the highest-one day loss since May 27, bringing the death toll to 10,434.

The record case report brought Illinois’ rolling average daily new case count to its highest ever at 12,326, and the state’s seven-day total new case count to its highest ever as well, with 86,284 new coronavirus cases reported in the last week alone. That figure keeps Illinois at the highest in the nation in terms of new weekly coronavirus diagnoses.

The state’s positivity rate continues to climb as well, sitting at 13.6% after climbing half a percentage point overnight. One week prior, the statewide positivity rate was 10.1% and two weeks ago, the rate was 8.2%.

It previously took Illinois 86 days to go from 100,000 to 200,000 cases, 51 days to see another 100,000 cases, 27 days to go from 300,000 to 400,000 cases and 11 days to go from 400,000 to surpassing half a million cases.

Indiana also posted its highest ever one-day case count on Wednesday, reporting 5,156 new cases to set a new record for the second time in five days. With an additional 31 deaths, Wednesday also marked the first day that the state has surpassed its previous highest average daily death toll reached when the pandemic was at its initial peak. Months ago, Indiana reached an average high of 40 deaths per day but as of Wednesday, the state is now seeing an average of 41 deaths per day due to coronavirus-related illnesses.

Indiana also continues to break its records every day for average new cases and weekly caseload. The state is now averaging 4,731 new cases each day and has added a new high of 33,120 new cases over the past seven days.

The positivity rate in Indiana also continues to rise, both statewide and in Indiana’s northwest region, which consists of the five counties closest to the Chicago area (Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Newton and Jasper). Statewide, the positivity rate is up to 19.9% as of Wednesday, meaning nearly one out of every five people who’ve been tested for the coronavirus in the past week has tested positive. In the northwest region, the rate is up to 21.9% – as high as 39% in Jasper County alone.

In all, Indiana has reported 224,374 coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, with a death toll of 4,512 lives lost in the state.

Wisconsin on Tuesday set six records: highest one-day new case count, highest one-day new death county, highest weekly total new cases, highest positivity rate ever as well as the highest rolling averages of new cases and daily deaths.

On Wednesday, Wisconsin reported 7,048 new coronavirus cases, which marked the third time in five days that the state has seen more than 7,000 cases in a single day, though that figure was just short of a new record for daily cases.

The cases reported Wednesday did extend the state’s average daily new case count to a new record, reaching 5,984 new cases each day, and set a new record number of cases reported in a week at 41,889 in the last seven days.

Wisconsin also reported 62 deaths Wednesday, short of the record of 66 set on Tuesday, but continuing the state’s record number of average fatalities at 43 each day. That’s an increase from one month ago, when the state averaged 13 deaths per day and two months ago when the state averaged six deaths per day.

The state’s positivity rate ticked down Wednesday by one-tenth of a percent, from a record 36% to 35.9%, marking the first time the rate has gone down in more than a month.

Wednesday’s metrics lifted the state’s total number of coronavirus cases to 285,891 and the death toll to 2,457 since the pandemic began.

Illinois Officials Ask Companies to Let Employees Work From Home Unless Necessary

Illinois health officials on Wednesday issued a call to all companies to allow employees to work from home unless necessary as coronavirus metrics continue to surge across the state.

The Illinois Department of Public Health released new guidance asking everyone in the state to “stay home as much as possible” for the next three weeks and leave only for essential activities like grocery shopping and coronavirus testing, among other necessary tasks.

Illinois health officials on Wednesday issued a call to all companies to allow employees to work from home unless necessary as coronavirus metrics continue to surge across the state. NBC 5’s Lexi Sutter has more details.

As part of that guidance, IDPH said residents should also work with employers to “plan to work from home unless it is necessary for you to be in the workplace.”

“We ask employers to make accommodation for this,” IDPH said. “Our goal is to reduce transmission as we head into the holidays so businesses and schools can remain open.”

IDPH Issues New Guidance Urging Residents to Stay Home and Leave Only for ‘Essential Activities’

Illinois’ health department issued new guidance Wednesday urging residents to stay home and only leave for “essential activities.”

The guidelines, which come just before the the Thanksgiving holiday, recommend that for the next three weeks, residents “stay home as much as possible, leaving only for necessary and essential activities, such as work that must be performed outside the home, COVID-19 testing, visiting the pharmacy, and buying groceries.”

In addition, health officials suggest limiting travel and gatherings.

“In our current situation, with a rising prevalence of the virus, attending even small gatherings that mix households, or traveling to areas that are experiencing high rates of positivity, is not advised and is potentially dangerous,” the release states, “Please, travel only if necessary.”

Illinois Reports Record 12,657 New Coronavirus Cases and 145 Deaths in Deadliest Day Since May

Illinois health officials again reported more than 12,000 new confirmed and probable coronavirus cases on Wednesday, setting a record for the highest single-day report of new cases for the second consecutive day as the state also marked the deadliest day of the pandemic since May.

The state reported 12,657 new cases and 145 additional deaths Wednesday, according to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health. That marked the second day in a row Illinois has reported a record high one-day case count and the sixth consecutive day in which the state has seen more than 10,000 new coronavirus cases.

Those figures brought the total number of cases in the state to 523,840 since the pandemic began and lifted the death toll to 10,434, IDPH said. The 145 deaths reported Wednesday marked Illinois’ highest single-day death toll since May 27, when the state reported 160 deaths.

A total of 93,464 new tests were performed over the last 24 hours, according to state health officials. In all, 8,664,483 tests have been performed during the pandemic.

The state’s seven-day positivity rate continued to climb, reaching 12.4% on Wednesday. That marks a nearly 2-point increase in three days, rising from 12% on Tuesday, which was up from 11.4% on Monday and 10.6% on Sunday.

The state also saw its hospitalization numbers continue to increase on Wednesday, with 5,042 residents currently in hospitals due to coronavirus-like illnesses. Of those patients, 951 are currently in intensive care units, and 404 are on ventilators.

All three statistics are the highest metrics the state has seen in their respective categories since the first peak in COVID-19 cases earlier this year.

Coronavirus Surge Forces Illinois Legislature to Postpone Veto Session

Leaders of the Illinois General Assembly announced Tuesday the postponement of the Legislature’s veto session due to the surge of COVID-19 in the state.

Senate President Don Harmon said the surge of the pandemic is no time to bring together hundreds of people from around the state. The veto session was scheduled for Nov. 17 through 19 and Dec. 1 through 3.

“It’s not safe or responsible to have a legislative session under these circumstances,” Harmon said.

House Speaker Michael Madigan said the health and safety of the people who work for and serve in the General Assembly and their families is paramount.

It was noted the Springfield area’s positivity rate for confirmed COVID infections had skyrocketed to 14.4 percent in recent days, prompting concerns about hospital capacity in the city.

“We will continue to monitor the situation, consult medical experts and do intend to schedule additional session days so we can finish our important work,” Madigan said.

The 101st General Assembly wraps up business in January when the members of the 102nd General Assembly will be sworn in.

Tier 2 Mitigations Begin in 3 Illinois Regions

Several Illinois regions have now seen even tighter coronavirus mitigations take effect on Wednesday as metrics continue rising statewide.

Regions 5, 7 and 8, which include Will, Kankakee, Kane and DuPage counties in Illinois, as well as the southern part of the state, entered Tier 2 mitigations as announced by Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday.

Tier 2 adds further gathering size limitations and reduces table sizes for restaurants and bars to a maximum of six, among other restrictions for sports and recreational events.

“The situation has worsened considerably in certain areas of the state, with massive increases in the rates of community transmission specifically in three regions,” Pritzker said.

Already all of Illinois is under increased mitigations imposed by the state on a region-by-region basis. The restrictions follow a three-tiered plan, the first of which eliminated indoor dining at restaurants, reduced gathering sizes and more.

Region 1 has been under Tier 2 mitigations since late last month.

Pritzker warned last week that the Illinois Department of Public Health is “looking at proposing further regional and statewide restrictions because the rise in cases and hospitalizations is unsustainable.”

As of Monday, Region 5 was seeing an average positivity rate of 11.5%, well above the 8% threshold the state requires for heightened mitigations to be issued and nearly double the 6.5% required for mitigations to be lifted. In mid-June, Region 5 had a positivity rate of just 1.3%.

“On average, today, more than twice as many COVID-19 patients enter a hospital each day in Region 5 than in late August – the summer peak,” Pritzker said.

In addition, Regions 7 and 8 have a positivity rate above 13%, with one in every seven tests in those areas coming back positive, Pritzker said.

“Mitigations are only effective if they are followed,” he added. “Too many local officials across the state are ignoring their local public health departments and doing nearly nothing to assist their residents in following even the most basic guidelines. Some elected leaders are allowing this continued rise in positivity to balloon out of control while taking no action. These mayors and city councils and county boards need to take some responsibility for keeping their constituents safe. I promise them: that responsibility pales in comparison to what could come when the hospitals in your area are filling up and there aren’t enough nurses or doctors to save their constituents’ lives.”

Here’s a look at the full Tier 2 mitigations now in effect:

Bars and Restaurants

  • Reduce party size from 10 to six individuals

Meetings, Social Events and Gatherings

  • Maximum indoor/outdoor gathering size of 10 individuals
  • Applicable to professional, cultural and social group gatherings
  • This does not reduce the overall facility capacity dictated by general business guidance, such as office, retail, etc.
  • Not applicable to students participating in-person classroom learning
  • Not applicable to sports, see sports guidance

Organized Group Recreational Activities

  • Limit to lesser of 25 guests or 25 percent of overall room capacity both indoors and outdoors
  • Groups limited to 10 individuals or fewer
  • Does not apply to fitness centers

(These mitigations do not apply to schools.)

Under the state’s guidelines, if a region’s positivity rate averages greater than or equal to 8 percent after another 14 days, more stringent mitigations could be ordered.

Should a region reach Tier 3, elective surgeries will be suspended, gathering sizes will be restricted again, recreational spaces like gyms could be forced to close, salon and personal care services will be suspended, and nonessential retailers may be forced to shut their doors once again.

Pritzker added Friday that he currently has no plans of shutting down outdoor dining.

Group of Physicians Warns Illinois Could Reach ICU Bed Capacity by Thanksgiving

A coalition of physicians and health care professionals say analysis of Illinois’ coronavirus data shows the state could “surpass its ICU bed capacity by Thanksgiving” and deaths per day could peak by mid-December.

The Illinois Medical Professionals Action Collaborative Team, a group of more than 30 doctors and health care workers in the state, wrote a letter directed at Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker urging “immediate action” to flatten the curve and help slow what the group said is a “dangerous trend” statewide.

“We are better at identifying and treating this disease, and survival rates are improving slightly in COVID-19 patients since the start of this pandemic. This is good news, but has not changed the overall trajectory and danger of the pandemic,” the group wrote. “COVID-19 hospitalizations in Illinois have doubled over the last three weeks, a very dangerous trend.”

Though the group did not offer insight into the analysis, data from the Illinois Department of Public Health shows COVID patients were occupying 911 of the state’s 3,777 staffed ICU beds as of Tuesday.

According to IDPH, 4,742 residents are currently in hospitals due to coronavirus-like illnesses. Of those patients, 911 are currently in intensive care units, and 399 are on ventilators.

Those numbers represent a steady increase that the state has seen since the beginning of October, and are beginning to near the record highs that the state saw in late April and early May.

The 4,742 current hospitalizations are the most the state has seen since mid-May, according to IDPH data. The high watermark for hospitalizations during the pandemic came on April 28, when 5,037 patients were in hospitals due to the virus.

The physicians group warned that overwhelming hospitals will force care to suffer for those with other “unforeseen emergent conditions, such as heart attacks, appendicitis, cancer diagnoses, and motor vehicle accidents.”

“When hospitals hit capacity, if doctors and healthcare professionals lack hospital beds to treat people mortality will increase amongst all seriously-ill patients,” the group wrote.

Pritzker warned Tuesday that some healthcare regions in the state have seen more than triple the number of coronavirus hospitalizations than they did during the first wave of the virus earlier this spring.

According to data provided by Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health, Region 3, located in west and central Illinois and including Springfield, is seeing 3.2 times as many hospitalizations as it did during its previous peak in early April. Region 6, which includes Champaign, is seeing a staggering 3.5 times as many hospitalizations as it did during its spring peak.

Doctors in Illinois have expressed cautious optimism after early analysis of a coronavirus vaccine developed in part by Pfizer showed a more than 90% efficacy rate in preventing infection. But the coalition wrote there is still concerns over timing.

“While the news regarding the efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine is encouraging, its approval and widespread distribution could still take months, and in the meantime thousands of Illinoisans will get sick and need hospitalization,” the letter read.

Health officials are growing increasingly concerned as Illinois nears six-month highs in coronavirus hospitalizations.

“We are definitely seeing increased hospitalizations both on the floor and in the ICU from COVID patients, which has us very concerned, as we are seeing numbers similar to what we were seeing back in March,” said Dr. Khalilah Gates, a critical care physician at Northwestern Medicine.

Northwestern Medicine put a surge plan in place, along with visitor restrictions. Mount Sinai Hospital in Chicago has reinstated its COVID rounds and its incident command center.

Both Amita Health System and Advocate Aurora are re-implementing strict no visitor policies as they grapple with a combined 1,000 cases throughout their systems.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the director of the IDPH, called the increasing hospitalization rate a “significant problem,” and warned that the state could be forced to engage in some drastic action to ensure access to hospital beds for all those patients that need them.

“We’re going to have to come up with some creative solutions to make sure that everyone has a bed, whether it’s for COVID, or whether it’s for a flu-like illness or a car accident, or for a heart attack. It’s a very imminent issue,” she said.

Ezike said it’s critical for state residents to continue to wear masks, wash their hands and to socially distance, saying that those mitigation measures are the most effective for residents as a vaccine likely remains months away from widespread distribution.

“We still need to work on the front end to try to limit the number of people who get sick and who get infected in the first place so that we can slow down that need for hospitalization,” she said.

The coalition agreed, urging officials to enforce mask guidelines and gathering limitations, even inside homes, and promote working from home where possible.

“No one wants to go through a shut down again,” the group wrote. “What we need is to ensure that people understand we will have no choice but to restrict indoor, non-essential business if cases and hospitalizations continue to rise. It is important to incentivize businesses to move to alternative models of commerce that avoid indoor transactions.”

Hospitalization numbers regularly lag behind increasing case numbers, and Illinois is seeing that take place. Case numbers began to spike in mid-October, along with a drastic increase in positivity rates, and hospitalizations weren’t far behind, as the number of residents who have been hospitalized because of the virus has nearly tripled since Oct. 1.

Multiple Illinois Regions Have Tripled Previous Records for Coronavirus Hospitalizations

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a warning to state residents on Tuesday, saying that some healthcare regions in the state have seen more than triple the number of coronavirus hospitalizations than they did during the first wave of the virus earlier this spring.

According to data provided by Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health, Region 3, located in west and central Illinois and including Springfield, is seeing 3.2 times as many hospitalizations as it did during its previous peak in early April. Region 6, which includes Champaign, is seeing a staggering 3.5 times as many hospitalizations as it did during its spring peak.

The surging hospitalization numbers, along with a surge in intensive care unit usage, comes as health officials scramble to contain the rapid spread of the virus, as the state reported its new single-day high in new coronavirus cases on Tuesday.

Read more here.

Chicago Changes Requirements for Travel Order as Nearly All of US Now on List

Chicago has changed the way it reports states being added to its travel order, now requiring a 14-day quarantine, or in some cases, a negative test result depending on a state’s coronavirus outbreak.

The city announced the changes Tuesday, categorizing states in a color-coded map to determine which requirements are in effect for travelers.

In total, 44 states and territories are listed on the emergency travel order, either declared “orange” or “red” states. Only a small number are listed as “yellow,” meaning they do not require a quarantine.

Here’s a look at the new guidelines:

Yellow: States with a rolling 7-day average less than 15 cases/day/100k residents.

  • No quarantine or pre-arrival test required. Maintain strict masking, social distancing and avoidance of in-person gatherings

Orange: States have a rolling 7-day average between 15 cases/day/100k residents and the Chicago rolling 7-day average (currently 60) 

  • 14-day quarantine OR pre-arrival negative test no more than 72 hours before arrival in Chicago with strict masking, social distancing and avoidance of in-person gatherings

Red: States have a higher 7-day rolling average of positive cases/day/100k Chicago residents. 

Based on current data, only six states are listed as “yellow” states, including New York, California, New Hampshire, Maine, Hawaii and Vermont.

Thirty-one others and Puerto Rico are declared “orange states,” which require either a 14-day quarantine or a “pre-arrival negative test.” That includes the newly-added Michigan, Connecticut, Arizona, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Georgia, Maryland, Oregon, Washington and Louisiana.

Another 12 states are listed as “red” states.

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said no matter a state’s color under the order, she would not recommend any unnecessary travel.

“First and foremost, I would like people to avoid travel at this time if at all possible,” Arwady said in a statement. “But by creating a tiered system and using Chicago’s case rate as a category threshold, it allows us to be responsive to the changing dynamics of the pandemic. This measure is a response to increased rates of COVID-19 transmission in Chicago and across the nation, and it sets up measures to mitigate transmission in our city.”

Chicago to See Additional COVID-19 Restrictions in Near Future: Mayor’s Office

With several Illinois regions slated to see enhanced mitigations under the state’s coronavirus plan, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office said Monday the city itself could implement additional restrictions in the near future.

City officials didn’t provide a specific timeline, but said restrictions wouldn’t be added this week. At a news conference earlier in the day, Lightfoot hinted that restrictions may only focus on the areas experiencing the biggest challenges.

“We want to be very smart and strategic and data driven,” the mayor explained. “Because as I said, while we feel like the the surge that we’re experiencing now is the same or worse than the spring, we’ve learned a tremendous amount since then.”

Last week, Chicago’s top doctor said the city was experiencing an outbreak worse than the one in the spring, and there were “no signs of slowing down.”

On Thursday, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said the city was reporting an average of 1,395 cases per day, a number the city said it had tried to keep below 200, where it was at one point during the summer months.

On Thursday alone, Chicago officials reported a record high of 2,182 cases, topping the previous record of 1,888 cases.

Data showed Chicago was reporting 59.7 new cases each day for every 100,000 residents, nearly four times the limit the city has set for states to be added to its emergency order requiring a quarantine for travelers.

Chicago, along with the rest of Illinois, remain under heightened coronavirus mitigations imposed by state, despite opposition from Mayor Lightfoot, which has led to the closure of indoor dining and bar service citywide.

At Monday’s news briefing, Lightfoot stressed that the city will focus on mitigation efforts down to the city block.

“We’ve got to be very strategic about he way in which we deploy intervention,” she stated. “We have to surgeons knife and not a blunt axe. In thinking about the next steps, that is really the mindset we are taking.”

With hospitalizations, positivity rates and case numbers rising across the city and state, it remains unclear when such mitigations might be lifted.

2 Weeks after NBC 5 Revealed Illinois’ Secret List, the State Still Won’t Release Outbreak Details

On Monday, after promising NBC 5 for weeks that it would release its data on thousands of coronavirus outbreaks, it posted some information on its website. But the “data” turns out to be just some pie charts and general numbers; no details at all about the thousands of outbreaks it has been tracking.

However, you can see the state’s entire secret list, because NBC 5 and Telemundo Chicago posted it as part of our original investigation.

See the original report below:

NBC 5 Investigates and Telemundo Chicago Investiga have found thousands of little-known outbreaks of coronavirus in Illinois — in restaurants, bars, retail stores, preschools, workplaces, gyms, clubs, churches and parties — all kinds of parties — across the state. Yet for months the state has concealed these outbreaks from the public, despite the fact that these are the very cases that could directly support officials’ continued pleas for people to avoid large groups of people.

The confidential list — maintained by the Illinois Department of Public Health — was obtained by the “Documenting Covid-19 project” at Columbia University’s  Brown Institute for Media Innovation, working with the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. The group received the list, apparently by mistake, in response to a public records request to a county health department.  

“The email we received says ‘confidential – do not share,’” said Sky Chadde, the Midwest Center’s Gannett Agricultural Data Fellow. “[It was] pretty much of an accident in terms of getting these records.”

Those records contain 2,553 confirmed outbreaks of coronavirus cases across the state — outbreaks which resulted in the infections of 43,780 people.

The state defines an “outbreak” as a case of coronavirus that spreads to other people. The outbreaks on the state’s secret list range from infections of two or three people — to hundreds.

The list, in spreadsheet form, appears to include outbreaks from the beginning of the pandemic, through the summer months, and on into September. Beyond the “confirmed” outbreaks, there are also hundreds of additional “probable” and “suspected” outbreaks, bringing the total number of cases on the confidential list to 3,013 cases.

“As soon as we got this data, we thought we need to get this out there, because it does provide good health information,” Chadde says. “It can help people decide what actions they should take to protect themselves during the pandemic.”

For two weeks, NBC 5 and Telemundo Chicago have been asking IDPH officials about the list and why it remains secret. The department did confirm the list’s authenticity, but still declined to make it public, and won’t talk about it either. A health department spokeswoman says “IDPH does not comment on confidential information.” She added that the department is concerned that individual people could be identified, if the data were released. The state’s outbreak list does not list any personal identifying information about individuals — no names, for example, and no dates of birth.

However, in apparent change in policy this week, that IDPH spokeswoman now tells NBC 5 that the department is considering releasing some of this data. And Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker — for the first time on Wednesday — mentioned a potential release of just the type of information which is on this confidential spreadsheet.

“You’ll see that data as we come forward with it,” Gov. Pritzker said in a Wednesday press conference. “It’ll be in the next few days or early next week.”

In the meantime, NBC 5 Investigates and Telemundo Chicago Investiga have now analyzed the list, as it appears through September.As expected, we found that many  — nearly one-third — of the confirmed outbreaks occurred at 988 nursing homes and long-term care centers across the state — resulting in the sicknesses — and, in many cases, deaths — of more than 27,293staff and residents. And, in fact — after much public pressure last spring — the state did make those particular cases public, and they are now posted — and updated weekly — on the IDPH’s website.

But we also found that the state has been tracking hundreds of confirmed coronavirus outbreaks in places that hit all of us close to home: 58 preschools (resulting in the spread of 235 cases), 69 grade schools (resulting in 226 cases), 28 colleges (resulting in 226 cases), and 42 churches (spreading 414 cases).

And we found 118 confirmed outbreaks at restaurants and bars around the state — from fast-food establishments and pizza joints to hotel bars and steakhouses.  In all, those outbreaks infected 448 people, according to the state’s confidential list.

We discovered that the state has confirmed another 72 outbreaks at retail stores and businesses, ranging from local big-box stores and grocery chains to Ma-and-Pa markets and drug stores; from suburban salons and spas to car washes and jewelry stores — all places where the public is welcome — but has likely not been informed of these cases. In all, those outbreaks infected a total of 322 people, according to the secret state records.

And then there are the parties. 

Health officials are now warning that as the weather gets colder there’s an increased danger of more “super-spreader” events at small family gatherings, as much as large, crowded events.

But NBC 5 and Telemundo Chicago discovered that for months state officials have kept hidden scores of parties they have already documented — cases they could be using, to directly drive home their current warnings: outbreaks at private parties, pool parties, prom parties, gender-reveal parties, bachelor parties, showers, weddings and receptions — each of which infected multiple people, like a baby shower in Oak Lawn; a wedding at a venue in LaSalle County; a private party in Winnetka; two other parties — both in the western suburbs; another party at a hotel in Chicago; another at a city park, and yet another in a nearby casino.

And more:

  • A private party in late July in the north suburban Deerfield/Riverwoods area was linked to at least 18 cases of coronavirus. According to a spokesperson with the Lake County Department of Health, approximately 33 people may have been exposed, and — in fact, she adds — that may be an underestimate.  
  • Another party in Lake Zurich resulted in an outbreak affecting ten guests.
  • A memorial service in southwest suburban Mendota was linked to at least five infections.
  • An outbreak of six infections was traced to a basketball tournament in north suburban Waukegan.
  • A late-summer village event in a northwest suburban community was linked to at least 18 confirmed cases of coronavirus. However, the LCHD spokesperson says the department identified as many as 75 people who may have been exposed.
  • A weight-loss camp event in Chicago was linked to 31 infections.
  • And an upscale restaurant in north suburban Lincolnshire was confirmed as the site of an outbreak in late August. The LCHD spokesperson says 18 or more people were potentially exposed, and nine confirmed or probable cases were identified.

It’s not just in the Chicago area. The state’s confidential list also details downstate outbreaks:

  • A celebration on a rented a party bus resulted in at least 11 passengers later testing positive for coronavirus.
  • A college party at an apartment complex was linked to 21 cases.
  • Five people who attended a gender-reveal party then got coronavirus.
  • A gathering at a bar in Macomb was linked to 13 cases.
  • A recital held by a downstate dance academy saw 12 attendees fall ill.
  • An “unofficial prom party” in two homes in Champaign was linked to 17 coronavirus cases.
  • And at least 14 people at a golf outing at a downstate country club later got sick — and one died.

NBC 5 and Telemundo Chicago also counted 364 confirmed outbreaks which involve concentrated communities of people, other than the long-term care centers already made public. Many of these facilities house vulnerable populations, but most of these cases have not been made public. We found those outbreaks resulted in 4,109 cases of coronavirus spread through homes for the developmentally-disabled, mental-health treatment centers, group homes, prisons, hospitals and medical facilities, and military bases.

In particular, the state’s list reveals that — from the early days of the coronavirus pandemic — it has been tracking an outbreak at Naval Base Great Lakes north of Chicago, which — according to the confidential records — has so far sickened 409 people.  Yet there has been very little public information about this outbreak — either from the state or the U.S. Navy. Two spokespeople for Great Lakes say the U.S. Department of Defense adopted a policy, last spring, not to publicly release information about coronavirus cases on its bases.

In addition, NBC 5 and Telemundo Chicago found the state has tracked 153 outbreaks in food production and meat-packing companies, resulting in 2,967 coronavirus infections in places that handle food. They include a facility in Rock Island, with 202 confirmed coronavirus cases, and a facility in Monmouth, where 188 cases spread throughout the plant.

Sky Chadde at The Midwest Center points out that other states — such as Colorado and Kansas — make this type of information public. So does Los Angeles County.

“This is information that other states have deemed good for people to have in the public interest,” Chadde says. “[It’s] not a privacy threat to any individual person.”

“I think we’re acting in the public interest,” he adds. “And that’s our goal.”

Pritzker Again Hints at Possibility of Another Stay-at-Home Order

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker once again hinted that another stay-at-home order could be possible if Illinois’ coronavirus metrics continue to rise.

Addressing residents in his daily coronavirus briefing Monday, the governor said he’s “looking at really all the possibilities” for curbing the spread of the virus.

“I’m very concerned as we approach Thanksgiving,” Pritzker said. “I’m very concerned as these numbers rise. And as a result, as I’ve told you, for days, you know, we are looking at really all the possibilities – the possibility that we would have to go back a phase, the possibility that we would have to ultimately have a stay-at-home order – those are not things that I prefer to do. But those are things that these numbers are not sustainable.”

It remains unclear when exactly the governor might make such a decision on another stay-at-home order, but he did note which metrics he’s watching.

“I guess I one thing I look at every day is are we are we bending the curve as we, back in the spring, we were doing – are we bending the curve?” he said. “And that doesn’t mean that the numbers go down from one day to the next, but it does mean that the rate of increase is subsiding. And that’s the beginning of flattening it and heading down.”

This marks the second time the governor has hinted at the possibility of a stay-at-home order in recent weeks. Previously, Pritzker said such a move was not on the table.

“I’m not looking at the broader mitigation of stay-at-home as something I would do in the coming days or week, but I can’t guarantee you what it looks like two weeks from now or three weeks from now – I just don’t know,” Pritzker said last week. “None of us, frankly, expected that the entire country would be swept with an increase in COVID-19.”

A Look at Illinois’ Phases and Tiers as Coronavirus Mitigations Increase For Some

Illinois is currently in the fourth phase of the Restore Illinois plan, but as coronavirus metrics continue to spike across the state, many are under heightened mitigations and the governor has warned that the state could see restrictions from previous phases brought back.

Last week, Gov. J.B. Pritzker warned restrictions from as far back as Phase 2 could return.

Illinois began Phase Two of its reopening plan on May 1, when a modified stay-at-home order took effect allowing some businesses to reopen. Phase Three began a few weeks later.

The governor has declined to give specifics on what restrictions could be ahead and though he has previously said another stay-at-home order was not on the table, on Friday, he said he can’t guarantee what might happen in the coming weeks.

In addition to the phased plan, Illinois has also implemented a tiered mitigation plan that would impose stronger restrictions to specific regions seeing increasing metrics.

Currently, all of Illinois is experiencing increased mitigations under that plan. Here’s a look at the five-phased Restore Illinois plan and the full mitigation plan:

Phase 1: 

What it means: This phase takes place when the rate of infection among those tested and the number of patients admitted to the hospital is high or rapidly increasing.

What is allowed: Only essential businesses remain open.

Restrictions: Strict stay-at-home and social distancing guidelines are put in place.

Phase 2: 

What it means: The rate of infection among those tested and the number of patients admitted to the hospital beds and ICU beds increases at a slower rate than Phase 1, moving toward a flat and even a downward trajectory.

What is allowed: Non-essential retail stores reopen for curb-side pickup and delivery. Residents can begin enjoying additional outdoor activities like golf, boating and fishing while practicing social distancing.

Restrictions: Illinoisans are directed to wear a face covering when outside the home.

Phase 3: 

What it means: The rate of infection among those tested, the number of patients admitted to the hospital, and the number of patients needing ICU beds is stable or declining from those seen in Phase 1 and Phase 2.

What is allowed: Manufacturing, offices, retail, barbershops and salons are open to the public with capacity and other limits and safety precautions. All gatherings limited to 10 or fewer people are allowed.

Restrictions: Face coverings and social distancing are the norm.

Phase 4:

What it means: The rate of infection among those tested and the number of patients admitted to the hospital continues to decline.

What is allowed: All gatherings of up to 50 people are allowed, restaurants and bars open with restrictions and child care and schools can reopen under guidance from the IDPH.

Restrictions: Face coverings and social distancing are the norm.

Phase 5: 

What it means: With a vaccine or highly effective treatment widely available or the elimination of any new cases over a sustained period, the economy fully reopens with safety precautions continuing.

What’s allowed: Conventions, festivals and large events are permitted, and all businesses, schools, and places of recreation can open.

Restrictions: New safety guidance and procedures will be in place reflecting the lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here’s a look at the full mitigation plan:

Tier 1:

BARS

  • All bars and restaurants close at 11pm and may reopen no earlier than 6am the following day
  • No indoor service
  • All bar patrons should be seated at tables outside
  • No ordering, seating, or congregating at bar (bar stools should be removed)
  • Tables should be 6 feet apart
  • No standing or congregating indoors or outdoors while waiting for a table or exiting
  • No dancing or standing indoors
  • Reservations required for each party
  • No seating of multiple parties at one table outdoors

RESTAURANTS

  • All restaurants close at 11pm and may reopen no earlier than 6am the following day
  • No indoor dining or bar service
  • Tables should be 6 feet apart. No standing or congregating indoors or outdoors while waiting for a table or exiting
  • Reservations required for each party
  • No seating of multiple parties at one table

MEETINGS, SOCIAL EVENTS, GATHERINGS

  • Limit to lesser of 25 guests or 25% of overall room capacity both indoors and outdoors
  • No party buses
  • Gaming and Casinos close at 11:00pm, are limited to 25 percent capacity, and follow mitigations for bars and restaurants, if applicable

OFFICES

  • Continued emphasis on telework for as many workers as possible

ORGANIZED GROUP RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES & GYMS

  • All Sports Guidance effective August 15, 2020, remains in effect
  • Outdoor Activities (not included in the above exposure settings) continue per current DCEO guidance IDPH will continue to track the positivity rate in regions requiring additions

Tier 2:

BARS

  • Reduce party size from 10 to 6

RESTAURANTS

  • Reduce party size from 10 to 6

MEETINGS, SOCIAL EVENTS, GATHERINGS

  • Maximum indoor/outdoor gathering size = 10
    • Applicable to professional, cultural and social group gatherings
    • Not applicable to students participating in-person classroom learning
    • This does not reduce the overall facility capacity dictated by general business guidance such as office, retail, etc.
    • Not applicable to sports; see sports guidance here

OFFICES

  • Promote work from home when possible.

ORGANIZED GROUP RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES & GYMS

  • Maintain lesser of 25 people/25% of capacity for both indoors and outdoors
  • Groups limited to 10 or fewer
  • Does not apply to Fitness Centers

Tier 3:

HOSPITALS

  • Suspend elective surgeries and procedures; implement surge capacity; assess need to open Alternate Care Facility

MEETINGS, SOCIAL EVENTS, GATHERINGS

  • Strictest limit to gatherings and room capacity

OFFICES

  • Institute remote work for all non-essential workers

ORGANIZED GROUP RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES & GYMS

  • Suspend organized indoor and outdoor recreational activities

RETAIL

  • Suspend all non-essential retail; only essential retail open (i.e. grocery stores, pharmacies)

SALONS AND PERSONAL CARE

  • Suspend salon and personal care operations

According to the governor’s office, the following metrics will be used to determine “when the spread of the virus in a region requires additional mitigations”:

  • Sustained increase in 7-day rolling average (7 out of 10 days) in the positivity rate and one of the following severity indicators:
  • Sustained 7-day increase in hospital admissions for a COVID-19 like illness
  • Reduction in hospital capacity threatening surge capabilities (ICU capacity or medical/surgical beds < 20%)
  • OR three consecutive days averaging ≥ 8% positivity rate

Once a region enters the mitigation plan, the Illinois Department of Health will then track their metrics for two weeks.

If the positivity rate averages less than or equal to 6.5% over a 3-day period, that region can return to Phase 4 restrictions. If the positivity rate it between 6.5% and 8%, the department will continue monitoring. If the positivity rate is great than or equal to 8%, additional restrictions could be implemented.

‘The Virus is Winning Right Now,’ Gov. Pritzker Says

Nov. 9: Gov. J.B. Pritzker delivers daily coronavirus update for Illinois.

Illinois Doctors Express Cautious Optimism Over Pfizer Coronavirus Vaccine, but Concerns Remain

Doctors in Illinois are expressing cautious optimism after early analysis of a coronavirus vaccine developed in part by Pfizer showed a more than 90% efficacy rate in preventing infection.

The vaccine, developed by Pfizer and German-company Biontech, is more than 90% effective in preventing infection, a huge success considering that the target for efficacy was in the 50% range, according to physicians.

“I think all the vaccine trials were designed to measure at least 50% efficacy but one can only hope for something as good as a 90% efficacious vaccine,” Dr. Richard Novak, head of the Division of Infectious Diseases at UI Health, said. “I thought ‘wow, that’s incredible.’”

Of the nearly 44,000 individuals who took part in the Pfizer vaccine trial, just 94 developed coronavirus. An analysis by independent monitors overseeing the trial found “no serious safety concerns” with the vaccine.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, has long said that a safe and effective vaccine will be key to rolling back health restrictions in the state, and said that while some residents may be concerned with how quickly the vaccine was developed, she is confident that proper protocols have been followed.

“There are people who are hesitant for a new vaccine and feel the process has been rushed,” she said. “Every possible resource has been thrown at the creation of this new vaccine. The US government has doled out billions to move vaccines through phases in record time. The entire world is focused on a safe and effective vaccine. The process is still being followed.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Monday that the state would “not distribute a vaccine that isn’t safe,” and that state health officials are keeping a close watch on follow-up research and study of Pfizer’s findings.

In Illinois, it is the hope of epidemiologists, as well as Novak, that similar vaccines in the works will have similar results to the Pfizer drug. The University of Illinois-Chicago recently conducted its own trial for a vaccine from Moderna, and Novak says that the similarities to the Pfizer vaccine are promising.

“It means that the strategy works, and that probably means that all the vaccines are going to be very effective,” he said.

One concern voiced by some doctors, including Novak and Ezike, is the way the Pfizer vaccine is administered. The vaccine must be stored at extremely low temperatures, and will require two doses in a 21-day span, meaning that shipping and storage will have to be carefully monitored to ensure that the vaccine remains usable.

“It would be nice to have vaccines that are easier to distribute to all parts of the country and the world,” Novak said.

A bigger hurdle that doctors could face is the opposition to the vaccine that has developed during the pandemic. Some studies have suggested that support for the vaccine has declined in recent months, with an October poll by CNN finding that 45% of Americans say they do not intend to get the coronavirus vaccine.

It is unclear whether the news of the efficacy of the vaccine will have any impact on those numbers, but Ezike said that the vaccine is only as effective as the number of Americans willing to receive it will allow it to be.

“We can have hundreds of millions of doses of vaccine in the world, but if they don’t get into the arms of people then it’s not helpful,” she said.

The state intends to distribute available vaccines to local health departments, who will then begin to administer the vaccines to the public. Healthcare workers, first responders and those in vulnerable populations or congregant settings will be the first to be eligible to receive the vaccine, with more populations becoming eligible to receive it as more doses become available.

How Illinois Changed the Way It Reports COVID-19 Metrics

Illinois’ coronavirus data will look a little different going forward as health officials have changed the way they report new cases and deaths.

IDPH said beginning Friday, officials will “report confirmed cases and probable cases combined” under guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“A confirmed case is laboratory confirmed via molecular test. A probable case meets clinical criteria AND is epidemiologically linked, or has a positive antigen test,” IDPH said in announcing the new cases and change in reporting. “If a probable case is later confirmed, the case will be deduplicated and will only be counted once. Probable deaths and confirmed deaths will continue to be reported separately.”

Illinois began distributing rapid antigen tests from the federal government last month, and the state’s top doctor expects as more of those tests are conducted “we will get more probable cases.”

“Now that we have gotten hundreds of thousands of tests from the federal government, and we’ve been passing those out to local health departments in different places where we’re piloting its use, those are not considered when you get the positive test in that those are not considered confirmed cases, those are called probable cases,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said. “But we are treating – I mean, that is a positive. You have COVID if you come up with a positive test on that BinaxNOW test. So that is part of our caseload in terms of people who now have been diagnosed with COVID, and that we need to identify their contacts and that they need to isolate, etc. So total will now be the combination of confirmed cases, plus probable cases.”

“The antigen test, particularly the ones that the federal government has distributed to us and to many other states, are a little less sensitive than the PCR tests,” Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Friday. “So that’s why they’re, you know, slightly, I don’t want to say they’re less accurate – I mean, they have a different sensitivity level. And the result is that that’s why they’ve been labeled slightly differently. But if you get an antigen test done, and it tests you positive, it is very, very likely that you are a positive.”

In addition, the state has added all probable cases from the pandemic so far to its total number of cases, meaning the statewide total increased by 7,600.

“If we go back, trying to remember the time where we didn’t have 100,000 tests a day, there was a time when we said, if you have the symptoms, you’re around somebody who has COVID, you have the fever, you have this, you have that – you have COVID. You don’t need to get a test, partly because we didn’t have access for everyone,” Ezike said. “So those individuals that were made known to the local health department also got listed as probable cases because they were linked to someone who was known to have it, but didn’t have a confirmatory test. So those probable cases had been counted, but we’ve never included them. Now, we’re bringing all of that data back for probable cases – the antigen forms, probable cases – and putting it with our confirmed cases from the molecular test.”

Several Free COVID-19 Testing Sites Open in Chicago Area

The Illinois Department of Public Health created several more free mobile testing sites throughout the Chicago area, officials announced Sunday.

IDPH and the City of Chicago have created community-based testing sites over the past several months, which are open to all regardless of symptoms, according to the website.

Residents in Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Grundy, Kankakee, Lake and McHenry counties can be tested for free throughout the month of November. Here are some of the mobile testing sites:

Belmont-Cragin neighborhood
Metropolitan Family Services
3249 N. Central
Nov. 13, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Blue Island
Affordable Recovery Home Campus
13636 S. Western
Nov. 14-15, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Elmhurst
Churchville Middle School
155 Victory Pkwy.
Nov. 9-10, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Glendale Heights
Glendale Heights Aquatic Center
240 Civic Center Plaza
Nov. 12, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Grayslake
College of Lake County
19351 W. Washington St.
Nov. 12, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Kirkland
Hiawatha High School
410 1st St.
Nov. 14-15, 9 a.m to 5 p.m.

McHenry
Peterson Park
4300 Peterson Park Rd.
Nov. 14-15, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Melrose Park
Village of Melrose Park
2701 W. Lake St.
Nov. 14-15, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

South Loop neighborhood
Ping Tom Park
300 W. 19th St.
Nov. 14, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

West Town neighborhood
Bennett Day
955 W. Grand Ave.
Nov. 11, 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Wheaton
Wheaton College – Edman Chapel
401 E. Franklin St.
Nov. 11, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Illinois health officials have set up several other COVID-19 testing sites across Chicago and surrounding areas to ensure constant data regarding the ongoing pandemic.

Here is where to receive a coronavirus test in the Chicago area:

Arlington Heights
IDPH Arlington Heights Drive-Through
2200 W. Euclid Ave.
8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Auburn Gresham neighborhood
Foreman Mills Shopping Center
112 W. 79th St.
8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Note: Walk-up testing not available at this testing location

Aurora
2450 N. Fansworth Ave.
8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Note: Walk-up testing not available at this testing location

Back of the Yards neighborhood
14000 W. 47th St.
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Burr Ridge
Pillars Burr Ridge Middle School
15W451 91st St.
Tuesdays, 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.; Fridays, 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.

East Side neighborhood
St. Francis de Sales High School
10155 S. Ewing Ave
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Englewood neighborhood
1316 W. 63rd St.
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Evanston
Erie Evanston/Skokie Health Center
1285 Hartrey
Hours differ, see link below
Note: Walk-up testing not available at this testing location

Gage Park neighborhood
St. Clare of Montefalco Catholic Church
5443 S. Washtenaw Ave.
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Garfield Park neighborhood
Our Lady of the Snows Parish
4810 S. Leamington Ave.
Noon to 6 p.m.

Harwood Heights neighborhood
6959 W. Forest Preserve Rd.
7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Note: Walk-up testing not available at this testing location

Hegewisch neighborhood
United Auto Workers
13550 S. Torrence Ave.
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Melrose Park
1101 23rd Ave.
Fridays, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Oak Lawn
5550 W. 111th St.
8 a.m. to 5 p.m., closes at 1 p.m. on Fridays
Note: Walk-up testing not available at this testing location

Orland Park
Physician’s Immediate Care
9570 W. 159th St., Suite A
8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Waukegan
102 W. Water St.
8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Westchester
Lurie Children’s Westchester Drive-Through
2301 Enterprise Dr.
8 a.m. to noon
Note: Walk-up testing not available at this testing location

West Lawn neighborhood
St. Nicholas of Tolentine School
3741 W. 62nd St.
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Wheaton
DuPage County COVID-19 Testing Site
DuPage County Complex, County Farm Road
7 a.m. to noon

The City of Chicago noted that people not insured or do not have a state identification card can still receive a free COVID-19 test.

IDPH provides a list of other testing site locations, some of which are by appointment only and serving solely symptomatic patients. For more information on the sites, click here.

For a list of static testing sites in Chicago, primarily for people with high risk exposure and experiencing symptoms, click here.

Many CVS locations offer COVID-19 testing seven days a week, following eligibility requirements from the state. For a list of CVS testing sites, click here.

10 Illinois Schools Reported Confirmed COVID-19 Outbreaks Since the Pandemic Began: Pritzker

Since the pandemic began, 10 Illinois schools have reported confirmed coronavirus outbreaks and 478 have reported exposures, according to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Through exposure data from contact tracing at local health departments, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the state has recorded 10 schools out of 5,478 with confirmed COVID-19 outbreaks.

Of the over 5,000 schools in Illinois, 478 have reported potential COVID-19 exposures, meaning the schools are locations where the coronavirus may have occurred, but are not definitive exposure or outbreak locations.

“Anyone who goes into a school building regularly would have likely reported school as a place they went before they were confirmed positive – that doesn’t at all mean that school is where they contracted the disease originally,” Pritzker said.

Pritzker noted that local health departments will likely provide more specific data that the Illinois Department of Public Health on each individual school’s outbreak or potential exposure.

The outbreaks do not include secondary cases where a member of a household contracts the coronavirus but has not been on school grounds, according to Pritzker. However, he said the data does include cases associated with before and after school programs, such a sports.

Pritzker Warned Restrictions From Phase 2 or 3 Could Return. Here’s What That Might Include

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said bringing back restrictions from Phase 3 or possibly even as far back as Phase 2 isn’t off the table as the state continues to see coronavirus metrics climb during a second surge of the virus.

But what would that mean?

“If the numbers keep going in the wrong direction, we will need to impose further mitigations. I think we all remember what Phase Three looked like, or Phase Two looked like,” Pritzker said. “Those are all things that are under consideration. Remember that it’s the exposure that people have to one another, the way they expose themselves, in other words, wearing a mask or not wearing a mask, whether they have distance, rather, those are all the things that affect whether the virus is going to be spread… whether you’re indoors in more greater numbers than you should be, and so on. And so all of the things that we looked at and did over the last six months, are things that are under consideration for what those new mitigations might look like.”

Here’s a look at what restrictions were in place during those phases

It remains unclear which, if any, of the restrictions from those phases could return and if so, where. Pritzker revealed on Thursday that the Illinois Department of Public Health is “looking at proposing further regional and statewide restrictions because the rise in cases and hospitalizations is unsustainable.”

“Across the country, we are already seeing states and cities affected by this growing crisis, and they’re responding by rolling back their reopenings. And over in Europe, France, England and Germany are rising so quickly that they’re resorting to much more significant restrictions on all non-essential activities as they, too, face case numbers and hospitalizations rising in at a tragic rate,” Pritzker said. “Remember that Europe fared much better than the United States over the last five months, so when they impose those severe mitigations, it’s an indication that the virus is raging out of control there, and we are heading in a similar direction.”

Already all of Illinois is under increased mitigations imposed by the state on a region-by-region basis. The restrictions follow a three-tiered plan.

Currently, all but one region in Illinois is under Tier 1 mitigations, which eliminated indoor dining at restaurants, reduced gathering sizes and more. One region in the state is under Tier 2 mitigations, which adds further gathering size limitations and reduces table sizes for restaurants to six.

If a region reaches Tier 3, elective surgeries will be suspended, gathering sizes will be restricted again, recreational spaces like gyms could be forced to close, salon and personal care services will be suspended, and nonessential retailers may be forced to shut their doors once again.

“It’s the last thing I want to do but I’m ready to do it,” Pritzker said Friday.

The governor has declined to give specifics on what restrictions could begin and though he has previously said another stay-at-home order was not on the table, on Friday, he said he can’t guarantee what might happen in the coming weeks.

“I’m not looking at the broader mitigation of stay-at-home as something I would do in the coming days or week, but I can’t guarantee you what it looks like two weeks from now or three weeks from now – I just don’t know. None of us, frankly, expected that the entire country would be swept with an increase in COVID-19.”

Pritzker added Friday that he currently has no plans of shutting down outdoor dining.





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