New Mitigation Efforts to Take Effect in Region 7 Tomorrow

Read a press release from Governor J.B. Pritzker’s office:

Governor Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) are announcing new COVID-19 mitigation efforts will be implemented in Region 7, the greater Will and Kankakee County areas, beginning Wednesday, August 26 after the region reached 8 percent positivity for three days. Region 4, the Metro East region, which is already operating under additional mitigations, continues to report increasing COVID-19 positivity rates and will have until September 2nd at their current mitigation level before the state must move to impose further mitigation in the region.  

For Region 7, mitigation measures taking effect August 26, 2020 include the following:  

Bars 

  • No indoor service 
  • All outside bar service closes at 11:00pm 
  • 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  

Restaurants 

  • No indoor dining or bar service 
  • All outdoor dining closes at 11:00pm 
  • Outside dining 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 
  • 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

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Bureau, Grundy, And Will Counties On The State’s COVID Warning List

News release from the State of Illinois, August 21, 2020.

Note: an earlier version of this news release included Whiteside County, which is incorrect. It has been corrected to “White County.”

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) today reported 20 counties in Illinois are considered to be at a warning level for novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).  A county enters a warning level when two or more COVID-19 risk indicators that measure the amount of COVID-19 increase.

Twenty counties are currently reported at a warning level – Bureau, Cass, Clay, Clinton, Franklin, Greene, Grundy, Hancock, Henderson, Jefferson, Logan, Madison, Monroe, Moultrie, Randolph, St. Clair, Union, White, Will, and Williamson.

These counties saw cases or outbreaks associated with weddings, businesses, neighborhood gatherings, parties, long-term care facilities and other congregate settings, travel to neighboring states, bars, sports camps, and spread among members of the same household who are not isolating at home.  Cases connected to schools are also beginning to be reported. 

Public health officials are observing people not social distancing or using face coverings.  Additionally, there are reports of individuals who are ill attributing their symptoms to allergies or other illnesses, or not being forthcoming about their symptoms or close contacts.    

Several counties are taking swift action and implementing mitigation measures to help slow spread of the virus, including working to increase testing in their communities and launching mask campaigns such as “Masks on Faces Keeps Places Open.”

IDPH uses numerous indicators when determining if a county is experiencing stable COVID-19 activity, or if there are warning signs of increased COVID-19 risk in the county.

• New cases per 100,000 people.  If there are more than 50 new cases per 100,000 people in the county, this triggers a warning.
• Number of deaths.  This metric indicates a warning when the weekly number of deaths increases more than 20% for two consecutive weeks.
• Weekly test positivity.  This metric indicates a warning when the 7-day test positivity rate rises above 8%.
• ICU availability.  If there are fewer than 20% of intensive care units available in the region, this triggers a warning.
• Weekly emergency department visits.   This metric indicates a warning when the weekly percent of COVID-19-like-illness emergency department visits increase by more than 20% for two consecutive weeks.
• Weekly hospital admissions.  A warning is triggered when the weekly number of hospital admissions for COVID-19-like-illness increases by more than 20% for two consecutive weeks.
• Tests perform.  This metric is used to provide context and indicate if more testing is needed in the county.
• Clusters. This metric looks at the percent of COVID-19 cases associated with clusters or outbreaks and is used to understand large increase in cases.

These metrics are intended to be used for local level awareness to help local leaders, businesses, local health departments, and the public make informed decisions about personal and family gatherings, as well as what activities they choose to do.  The metrics are updated weekly, from the Sunday-Saturday of the prior week.  

A map and information of each county’s status can be found on the IDPH website at https://www.dph.illinois.gov/countymetrics

U of I COVID-19 Test Authorized By FDA

A saliva-based test developed by University of Illinois researchers has gotten approval from the FDA for emergency use.

CREDIT BOARD OF TRUSTEES – UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS

Christine Herman reports:

The FDA emergency use authorization was granted to the U of I’s test on the basis that it performs at least as well as a recently approved saliva-testing protocol developed at Yale University, setting a precedent that could allow other labs to follow suit.

The announcement was made at a press conference held by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in Chicago Wednesday.

As tens of thousands of students return this week for the start of the fall semester, labs on the Urbana campus have been operating around-the-clock, now running upwards of 10,000 tests per day, says U of I chemist Paul Hergenrother, who led the team that developed the saliva test.

Pritzker says he wants to see the test expanded across the state.

“We’re already working to deploy this to more public universities across the state over the next weeks and months, and exploring rolling this out to do testing potentially for K-12 schools and even more testing at our long term care facilities as well,” Pritzker said at the press briefing.

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Deadline To Apply For Rental Assistance

WNIJ’s Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco reports:

[edited to reflect deadline extension]

This week, Governor Pritzker and the IDHA announced that the deadline to apply for rental assistance has been extended by one week to August 28th.

The decision comes after an inland hurricane swept through much of northern Illinois and left some 750,000 Illinoisans without power. Kristin Faust, IHDA Executive Director says ,”it’s important we provide additional time to file and complete application for assistance.” She continued, “I am pleased to extend the deadline as there were many renters and landlords without power for nearly a week, which negatively impacted their ability to apply to the Emergency Rental Assistance program.”

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From Illinois Housing Development Authority

Apply online at era.ihda.org

Statewide Numbers Update

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) today announced 1,773 new confirmed cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Illinois, including 12 additional confirmed deaths.

– Cook County: 1 male 60s, 1 male 80s
– Jefferson County: 1 female 70s, 1 female 80s
– Jo Daviess County: 1 male 80s
– LaSalle County: 2 female 90s, 1 male 90s
– McLean County: 1 female 60s
– Rock Island County: 1 female 100+
– Wabash County: 1 female 60s
– Winnebago County: 1 female 90s

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14 Illinois Counties at Warning Level for Coronavirus Disease

Read a press release from the state Department of Public Health:

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) today reported 14 counties in Illinois are considered to be at a warning level for novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).  A county enters a warning level when two or more COVID-19 risk indicators that measure the amount of COVID-19 increase.

Fourteen counties are currently reported at a warning level – Bureau, Cass, Clinton, Franklin, Greene, Grundy, Hancock, Jefferson, Kane, LaSalle, Moultrie, Perry, Union, Will.

These counties saw cases or outbreaks associated with weddings, businesses, birthday parties, long-term care facilities and other congregate settings, bars, sports camps, and spread among members of the same household.  Public health officials are seeing people in some communities are not wearing masks, or if they are, they are being worn incorrectly.  Local health departments are finding it challenging to obtain the information necessary to halt local transmission, by quickly identifying exposures from contacts of cases and businesses.  Inconsistent messaging from local elected leaders are contributing to on-going transmission in some communities where there is little public concern for consequences or enforcement of social distancing, banning large gatherings, or quarantine/isolation orders.      

Several counties are taking swift action and implementing mitigation measures to help slow spread of the virus.  Examples include increasing the availability in testing in their community and working with local businesses to educate and spot check mask wearing and guideline adherence.  

IDPH uses numerous indicators when determining if a county is experiencing stable COVID-19 activity, or if there are warning signs of increased COVID-19 risk in the county.

• New cases per 100,000 people.  If there are more than 50 new cases per 100,000 people in the county, this triggers a warning.
• Number of deaths.  This metric indicates a warning when the weekly number of deaths increases more than 20% for two consecutive weeks.
• Weekly test positivity.  This metric indicates a warning when the 7-day test positivity rate rises above 8%.
• ICU availability.  If there are fewer than 20% of intensive care units available in the region, this triggers a warning.
• Weekly emergency department visits.   This metric indicates a warning when the weekly percent of COVID-19-like-illness emergency department visits increase by more than 20% for two consecutive weeks.
• Weekly hospital admissions.  A warning is triggered when the weekly number of hospital admissions for COVID-19-like-illness increases by more than 20% for two consecutive weeks.
• Tests perform.  This metric is used to provide context and indicate if more testing is needed in the county.
• Clusters. This metric looks at the percent of COVID-19 cases associated with clusters or outbreaks and is used to understand large increase in cases.

These metrics are intended to be used for local level awareness to help local leaders, businesses, local health departments, and the public make informed decisions about personal and family gatherings, as well as what activities they choose to do.  The metrics are updated weekly, from the Sunday-Saturday of the prior week.  

A map and information of each county’s status can be found on the IDPH website at https://www.dph.illinois.gov/countymetrics

Officials Investigating COVID-19 Cases At Belvidere Fiat Chrysler Plant

WNIJ’s Vani Subramony reports:

Health officials are investigating cases of COVID-19 associated with the Fiat Chrysler plant in Belvidere. Several local health departments are involved, including Boone and Winnebago counties. While there are a number of cases associated with the plant, health officials have not confirmed if exposure to the virus occurred there.

The company is working to isolate employees and help identify potential close contacts who may have been exposed. Fiat Chrysler will continue to work with health departments to prevent future spread of the virus.

Illinois Teacher Shortage And COVID-19

WNIJ’s Peter Medlin reports:

Spencer Tritt

It’s feared COVID-19 will make the current lack of teachers in Illinois even worse. That’s because some older and at-risk teachers are hesitant to come back to school during the pandemic.

The new Golden Apple Accelerators was created to speed up the process of getting aspiring educators into the classroom.

Josh Greve is just about to start his training to become a special education teacher at a middle school in Sterling. Like many “accelerators,” he didn’t go to school to become a teacher.

“But I had all these TA [teaching assistant] jobs throughout college. And what I learned is that I really liked helping people and really like teaching people things,” he said.

He’ll spend a year training hands on in the classroom while taking online licensing courses. After that, “accelerators” get hired to teach full time in those districts for four years.

Because of the pandemic, he still hasn’t met his mentor in person, even though school starts in less than a week.

Sterling has a blended online and in-person schedule this year. But, like many schools, they’re prioritizing hands-on work for students with special needs, so he won’t do much online teaching.

“I’m excited to get back into school and work one-on-one with students or with groups of students, rather than just sending out emails or doing video calls,” said Greve. “Because I think we can all agree it’s getting a bit old, even though it’s all we have right now.”

He will do online learning. As part of the program, he’s been taking online classes so he can get his teaching license by next year and start working full time.

The program is focusing on high-need positions like special education, bilingual-ed or STEM.

This year, there are around 4,800 unfilled education positions including nearly 2,000 teaching jobs.

Application Deadline Extended For Nutrition Benefits

Read a press release from the Illinois Department of Human Services:

Today, Governor Pritzker announced that the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) has extended the deadline for Illinoisans to apply for nutrition benefits to August 31. Eligible Illinois residents can receive food benefits totaling $342 per eligible student. Approximately 390,000 eligible students across the State of Illinois have not yet applied for Illinois Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) benefits for the 2020-2021 school year.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) authorized and will fund the P-EBT program, which will bring food benefits to all school-aged children who are eligible for free or reduced meals at schools through the National School Lunch Program. The benefit is issued to all SNAP households with school-aged children.”We are pleased to see the deadline extended so that every eligible Illinois family can take advantage of this additional support,” said IDHS Secretary Grace B. Hou. “IDHS has and will continue to apply for waivers that provide additional food assistance for children and families in our state. This extension is a benefit for families who need support.”

The P-EBT program has already provided more than 730,000 children in Illinois with more than $246 million in additional nutrition benefits. Benefits are calculated using a $5.70 per day and per student calculation.Eligible Benefit Amounts are as follows:
• $182.40= March & April 2020
• $119.70= May 2020
• $39.90= June 2020

These benefits apply to households with school-aged children who were eligible for free or reduced meals from March 2020 through June 2020 when Illinois schools were operating remotely due to COVID-19.  Those who did not receive SNAP benefits last spring are able to submit a simplified application for P-EBT benefits using the ABE.Illinois.gov online portal or by completing a paper application which is available at the IDHS website at dhs.state.il.us.”We know the pandemic has impacted many families financially,” said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala. “The Pandemic EBT ensures that students eligible for free and reduced-price meals at school have access to the food they need at home as well. ISBE encourages every eligible family to apply and we are taking every opportunity to communicate about this program to schools and encourage schools to share this information with families.”

From coronavirus.illinois.gov

State Distributes Emergency Funding For Small Businesses

Sean Crawford reports:

Illinois has awarded the first round of emergency funding to small businesses to help them during the pandemic.  

FLICKR/CHRISCAMPBELL HTTPS://CREATIVECOMMONS.ORG/LICENSES/BY-NC/2.0/LEGALCODE

Known as Business Interruption Grants, they range from $10-thousand to $20-thousand.  They are earmarked for helping businesses make payroll, pay rent, utilities and unexpected costs like PPE.  More than 26-hundred businesses in 78 counties are benefitting.  More than half are minority-owned. So far, $46-million has been awarded.

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