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Coronavirus In Illinois: Day Care Centers Won’t Lose Public Funding If They Close

This blog has been archived. Read today's updates.


March 16

6:48 p.m. Day care centers won’t lose public funding if they close

Illinois Day Care
Christian K. Lee/Associated Press
Some childcare providers say government officials should have been as proactive with child care centers as they were with all K-12 schools.

The governor mandated that all private and public schools close their doors starting Tuesday to prevent the spread of COVID-19 — but the order does not apply to child care centers.

Officials with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services said they are not directing early childhood centers to close. This includes child care centers and preschools that operate outside Chicago Public Schools. Despite that, many centers have been unsure what to do. Some said they want to shut down, but worry if they stay closed too long, they might lose needed government funding.

The city of Chicago offered reassurance this evening, stating the Department of Family & Support Services (DFSS) was told by federal and state funders that financial support will remain available for all early learning and child care agencies while operations are temporarily interrupted.

3:40 p.m. Illinois now has more than 100 COVID-19 cases, Indiana reports first death 

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced 12 new cases of COVID-19 had been identified in Illinois, bringing the total to 105 in 15 counties. The previous number of reported cases in Illinois, announced Sunday, was 93.

Gov. JB Pritzker said the state would follow the CDC’s Sunday guidelines in ordering all events with more than 50 people to be canceled, while also acknowledging that President Trump had moments earlier suggested that groupings of not more than 10 people occur.

Pritzker also continued to defend going forward with Illinois’ election Tuesday, saying he believed enough precautions have been taken to protect voters and poll workers, and that early mail-in voting had been successful.

“This is the right thing to do. … If you canceled these elections, when would you have them?” he said. “I feel good about the decision to have the election go on tomorrow. ... We do believe it is safe.”

Meanwhile, Indiana announced the state’s first death from COVID-19. The state’s Department of Health says the patient, a man over the age of 60, was from Marion County, which includes Indianapolis. The patient died Monday morning. He had been hospitalized and also suffered from underlying medical conditions. As of Monday, Indiana has reported 24 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

“A family today is suffering the ultimate loss due to COVID-19, and this sadly underscores how severe the virus can be — especially for some high-risk Hoosiers,” Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said in a statement.  

— Angela Rozas O'Toole and Michael Puente

3:38 p.m. Chefs call on Pritzker to support the food industry during two-week dine-in ban

Chicago area chefs and restaurateurs are appealing to Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker for concrete measures to help support the food industry during the two-week dine-in ban, a ban that is effectively closing many restaurants and bars.

Chefs, including Jason Hammel of Lula Cafe, Rick Bayless of Frontera, Paul Kahan of Blackbird have posted videos on Instagram urging the governor to grant emergency unemployment benefits for their employees, an elimination of payroll taxes and rent and loan abatement. 

— Monica Eng

1:05 p.m. Cook County desperate for election judges after 800 drop out

Illinois Early Primary Voters
Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press
Chicago residents line up for early voting at the Roden Library on March 16 in Chicago.

Cook County election authorities are desperate to find election judges ahead of tomorrow’s primaries, following more cancellations and shutdowns in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Cook County clerk has seen more than 800 judges drop out. On Election Day, judges sit at polling sites and hand out ballots, according to a spokesman. Now, election authorities are trying to fill those empty positions, particularly in Cook County’s northern and northwestern suburbs.

Suburban residents — regardless of where they live within Cook County — can go here to apply to be a judge in tomorrow’s elections.

Several local polling sites have also changed. Here are links for folks who live in the City of Chicagosuburban Cook CountyDuPage CountyKane CountyWill CountyLake County and McHenry County. Check your local county clerk or election authority’s website for the latest information about where you should go to vote. 

— Tony Arnold and Becky Vevea

11:42 a.m. State treasurer shuts offices after virus case

Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs is closing his offices in Springfield and Chicago to the public today through the end of March after an employee tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

The employee worked in the treasurer’s Springfield office and has not been present in the office since March 6, according to a memo from Frerichs’ chief of staff, G. Allen Mayer, to the treasurer’s workforce.

Frerichs’ spokesman, Greg Rivara, said the treasurer’s office would continue to process state tax receipts and issue vendor payments and would stay open — with employees working from their homes — so long as financial markets remain open.

Rivara said Frerichs himself was not exposed to the state employee.

11:28 a.m. Indiana's governor shuts down bars and restaurants

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb is following the lead of neighboring governors in Illinois and Ohio by ordering the closing of all bars and restaurants starting this afternoon.

“Bars, nightclubs and restaurants are required to close to in-person patrons and may provide take-out and delivery services through the end of March,” Holcomb said in a statement released this morning.

Also in Indiana, the Gaming and Horse Racing Commission ordered all casinos closed today for the next two weeks. Although not ordered to close, most school districts are not in session for the next month and will do e-learning instead. Most colleges and universities in Indiana are also suspending in-person classes.

—Michael Puente

11:04 a.m. State parks and facilities shut down

Girl plays in a river in an Illinois state park
Seth Perlman/Associated Press
A young girl plays on the rock formations at Ferne Clyffe State Park in Goreville, Ill. All state parks are closed until further notice.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has announced the closing of all state parks, fish and wildlife areas, and recreational areas until further notice. The Illinois State Museum in Springfield also is closing.

The agency says it will consult with the governor’s office and the Illinois Department of Public Health on when to safely reopen its properties. The action angered some people on social media, who questioned why open areas should be closed to the public.

“Please explain why you are closing access to trails, fishing, biking, and other outdoor pursuits. Close the buildings, yes, but not the parks,” tweeted one person.

7:01 a.m. United cutting flights by 50%

Chicago-based United Airlines has told employees it’s making more cuts to its flight schedules due to the coronavirus outbreak. A memo from CEO Oscar Munoz and President Scott Kirby released Sunday night says the airline will slash its flying in half in April and May, and more cuts could be coming.

“The bad news is that it's getting worse. We expect both the number of customers and revenue to decline sharply in the days and weeks ahead,” the memo states.

United is projecting that its revenue this month will be $1.5 billion lower than in March 2019. Munoz and Kirby expect the flight reductions to extend into the summer travel period. 

7:00 a.m. Tollway not taking cash

The Illinois Tollway is temporarily switching to all-electronic tolls as a precaution against coronavirus. That means motorists won’t be able to hand coins or bills to toll booth workers, or drop currency into toll payment machines. Instead, those motorists will be required to use I-PASS and E-Z-PASS lanes and then pay their tolls online. Nothing will change for people who have I-PASSes and E-Z-PASSes.


March 15

Pritzker orders bars and restaurants closed for dine-in customers

Illinois Bar Neon Light Sign
Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Sunday ordered all bars and restaurants in the state to close starting March 16.

Gov. JB Pritzker says all bars and restaurants will close to the public at the end of day Monday through March 30, an order that stunned chefs and owners. Restaurants can still be open for take-out and drive-through.

"Every choice we face now is hard and comes with real consequences for our residents," Pritzker said at a news conference this afternoon.

Pritzker said the primary election will still go forward.

The governor also addressed his angry tweet to President Donald Trump about long lines at O'Hare on Saturday night for travelers from returning from out of the country.

Pritzker said "when I saw hundreds crammed together in exactly the conditions I have been warning about for days, I was furious."

He said federal authorities were doubling staff at the airport today. And Mayor Lori Lightfoot added that city EMTs have been deputized as screeners to work with existing screeners to reduce wait times for travelers. Also passengers are now starting to remain on planes rather than waiting in the terminal to avoid congestion, Lightfoot said.

Pritzker urged people to donate blood and reminded families that two meals are available for children at schools statewide. In Chicago, any family can go to any school between 9 am and 1 pm starting Tuesday to pick up food.  

Pence calls Pritzker about O’Hare mess

Gov. JB Pritzker received a phone call this morning from Vice President Mike Pence, hours after Pritzker tweeted that the “federal government needs to get its s@#t together” with screening passengers at airports for the coronavirus.

A statement from Pritzker’s office says Pence assured the governor that the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol is increasing its staffing at O’Hare to deal with screening that caused hours-long delays.

Pritzker vented at the White House late last night after thousands of people returning to O’Hare airport were stuck in lines lasting four hours or longer. The delays also meant that people were crammed together, putting themselves and others at greater risk for exposure to the virus. Similar delays occurred at other U.S. airports last night.

Pritzker said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” this morning that after he tweeted criticisms at Pence and President Donald Trump, a White House official called the governor and “yelled” at him. Pritzker has not identified the official.

This morning, in addition to the call from Pence, Pritzker also got a call from acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf telling him of the beefed-up Border Patrol staffing at O’Hare.

At O’Hare, Lightfoot urges better communication before “federal directives”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaking at O'Hare International Airport
Marc Monaghan/WBEZ
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaking at O'Hare International Airport with Jamie Rhee, commissioner of the city's Department of Aviation, on March 15, 2020.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot went to O’Hare International Airport today less than 24 hours after chaos was caused by coronavirus screening of returning passengers.

Thousands of people waited four hours or longer in long lines winding through the airport Saturday night. As Lightfoot and Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker learned of delays they each made angry tweets blaming the White House and federal government, which has jurisdiction over airports.

The mayor tweeted at President Donald Trump and the U.S. Customs and Border patrol, “no one has time for your incompetence.”

At O’Hare today, Lightfoot had a calmer tone, urging federal officials to communicate better with state and local officials before taking big steps in the fight against the coronavirus outbreak.

“Bring us along on the journey before you make directives and then we are forced to implement in a way that doesn’t serve in the interest of the public,” she said.

— Michael Puente

City cracking down on bars

Today, the City of Chicago clamped down on bars because of concerns around St. Patrick’s Day festivities. Businesses that sell liquor must cut their maximum capacity by half and must stop lining up customers waiting outside. Also, any place that sells liquor will have a capacity of 100 people. The Department of Business Affairs and the Chicago Police Department are enforcing these new measures. The city said citations will be given to business owners if they don’t comply.

This comes after Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker said earlier today he is looking at possibly shutting down restaurants and bars in the state.

“Nowhere in the United States has there been a lock down on bars and restaurants, but it’s something we’re seriously looking at,” Pritzker said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

The governor expressed displeasure at the crowded bars on Saturday as revelers celebrated St. Patrick’s Day despite his recommendation to limit gatherings.

“Yesterday what we saw was many young people who think they’re impervious to this,” he said.

Officials name nursing home with a patient

Illinois has its first confirmed COVID-19 case at a long-term care facility. And today, public officials named the facility.

The woman is a patient at the Chateau Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Willowbrook in DuPage County. That’s according to DuPage County health officials. They said the woman, who is in her 60s, is hospitalized in stable condition.

Health officials say they are reaching out to people who had contact with the woman. They don’t yet have a total number of people.

— Adriana Cardona-Maguigad

Pritzker: Election day is still on

Early Voting Primary Election
/Associated Press
Voters cast their ballots during early voting in Chicago while wearing protective gloves.

The governor vowed that Illinois’ primary election will proceed as planned on Tuesday, even as Chicago election authorities encouraged residents to vote early Sunday and Monday because of worries over the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re gonna go ahead with it,” Pritzker said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday morning, when asked about whether Illinois would cancel the upcoming primary, as states like Louisiana and Georgia have due to the pandemic.

Navy Pier closing Monday

Navy Pier, Illinois’ top tourism destination, announced this morning that it’s closing Monday, March 16 Thursday, April 2. It plans to reopen Friday, April 3, but will evaluate the coronavirus situation as that reopening date approaches.

Pritzker may close bars, restaurants

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker said today he is looking at possibly shutting down restaurants and bars in the state.

“Nowhere in the United States has there been a lockdown on bars and restaurants, but it’s something we’re seriously looking at,” Pritzker said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

The governor expressed displeasure at the crowded bars on Saturday as revelers celebrated St. Patrick’s Day despite his recommendation to limit gatherings.

“Yesterday what we saw was many young people who think they’re impervious to this,” he said.

On Saturday night Pritzker tweeted barbs at President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence about the long lines at O’Hare airport due to coronavirus screening for returning passengers.

“I got a call about 11 last night from a White House staffer who yelled at me about the tweet. That’s what I got,” Pritzker said.

He said today is going to be worse and there’s no leadership from the federal government as travelers in Europe return to Chicago.

Voters urged to cast ballots today or Monday

The Chicago Board of Elections is urging voters to cast their ballots today or Monday at an early voting site from 10 am to 5 pm. Monday hours are 9 am to 5 pm.

Spokesman Jim Allen says more than 160 polling sites have pulled out because of COVID-19 fears. They are working to replace them. The election board is also worried about election judges not showing up and are asking people to volunteer to replace them.

“If you are healthy and able-bodied and you have not traveled recently and you find your polling place needs help, you may offer to be sworn in to be a judge to help make this election work,” Allen said in a statement.

The board is urging Chicagoans to the board of elections website to volunteer and to check if your polling place has moved.

The board says these early voting sites are less crowded:

Gage Park, 2411 W 55th S; Eckhart Park, 1330 W Chicago; NEIU-ElCentro, 3390 N Avondale; Toman Library, 2708 S Pulaski; St Agatha, 3147 W Douglas Blvd; NW Retail Space, 321 N Clark; Kilbourn Park, 3501 N Kilbourn; Chinatown Library, 2100 S Wentworth; Portage Cragin Library, 5108 W Belmont; Lindblom Park, 6054 S Damen

Allen says both early voting and vote-by-mail, which must be postmarked by March 17, are up over four years ago. Voting by mail has more than tripled.

Pritzker, Lightfoot rip White House “incompetence” for long waits at O’Hare

People wait in line at O'Hare
Elizabeth Pulvermacher via Associated Press
Travelers returning from Madrid wait in a coronavirus screening line at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot are blasting the White House for chaos at O'Hare International Airport Saturday night due to coronavirus screening. Posts on social media indicated passengers waited upward of four hours in winding lines. The governor and mayor vented on Twitter, noting that airports are under federal jurisdiction.

In a tweet at 9:50 p.m., Pritzker took a jab at President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence: “@realDonaldTrump @VP since this is the only communication medium you pay attention to—you need to do something NOW.”

The crowds & lines O’Hare are unacceptable & need to be addressed immediately.@realDonaldTrump @VP since this is the only communication medium you pay attention to—you need to do something NOW.

These crowds are waiting to get through customs which is under federal jurisdiction

— Governor JB Pritzker (@GovPritzker) March 15, 2020

In a separate tweet, the governor added, “The federal government needs to get its s@#t together. NOW.”

Lightfoot joined the fray a short time later, tweeting at the president and U.S. Customs and Border Protection:

@realdonaldtrump and @CBP: no one has time for your incompetence. Fully staff our airport right now, and stop putting Americans in danger.

This is unacceptable. The reactionary, poorly planned travel ban has left thousands of travelers at ORD forced into even greater health risk. @realdonaldtrump and @CBP: no one has time for your incompetence. Fully staff our airport right now, and stop putting Americans in danger. https://t.co/gswIaHwelx

— Mayor Lori Lightfoot (@chicagosmayor) March 15, 2020

Similar scenes of huge crowds and long lines played out at other airports around the country.

While U.S. citizens, green card holders and some others are allowed to return home, travelers from Europe are being funneled to one of 13 U.S. airports where they are subject to health screenings and quarantine orders.

Acknowledging the long lines at those airports in tweets posted just after midnight, the Department of Homeland Security's acting secretary said the screenings take about a minute per passenger.

“Right now we are working to add additional screening capacity and working with the airlines to expedite the process,” Chad Wolf tweeted. “I understand this is very stressful. In these unprecedented times, we ask for your patience.”

The dense crowds at the selected airports — among the busiest across the country — formed even as public health officials call for “social distancing” to stem the spread of the virus.


March 14

St. Patrick's Day celebrations carry on, despite COVID-19

Bars and restaurants in Chicago's Wrigleyville neighborhood had lines out the door Saturday as Chicagoans celebrated an early St. Patrick's Day. The crowds came despite warnings to practice social distancing and pleas to avoid large gatherings.

bars
Manuel Martinez/WBEZ
People wait in line to get into a bar in Wrigleyville on Saturday, despite warnings by public health officials to avoid crowds.

This drew the ire of Gov. JB Pritzker who Saturday afternoon said, "We saw a lot of crowds out today. ... If you are young and healthy, listen up: Follow social distancing guidelines."

bars 2
Manuel Martinez/WBEZ
COVID-19 fears didn't stop some Chicagoans from wading into crowds Saturday night.

Pritzker has asked people to stay home and keep gatherings small. But he says not everyone is listening,

"I think that there are young people who hear 'well it’s not as impactful on young people' and they think it’s ok to just go about their business as they did before. That’s just not true. You could be a carrier. You are potentially giving somebody else COVID 19."

— Adriana Cardona-Maguigad

COVID-19 cases have doubled since Thursday

Illinois now has 64 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including a woman in a long-term care facility in DuPage County as well as the first cases in central and southern Illinois, Gov. Pritzker announced Saturday afternoon.

The total number of cases has doubled since Thursday. The current 64 confirmed cases is up 18 cases since Friday. Eight Illinois counties now have cases.

The governor and public officials focused on the woman in the long-term care facility, as outbreaks in other states, most notably Washington, have led to fatalities.

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said the long-term care facility has been locked down to outside visitors and we are “monitoring every resident with heightened vigilance.” Health officials are reaching out to all people who have been in contact with the long-term facility patient.

Pritzker also said he was glad to see some people following social distancing guidelines. But he had this message for others on this St. Patrick's Day weekend: “We saw a lot of crowds out today,” he said. “If you are young and healthy, listen up: follow social distancing guidelines.”

He also said Illinois had applied for a federal waiver to be able to expand the state’s Medicaid program to get more people tested and expand services.

Pritzker and health officials also urged people to find a way to vote, either early or on Tuesday.

— Kate Grossman

Bulls, Blackhawks to pay workers through end of season

The Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks say they will pay day-of-game employees through the remainder of their originally scheduled seasons. NBA and NHL play has been suspended. Owners Jerry Reinsdorf and Rocky Wirtz released a statement saying, “Our employees, whether they be front office staff, or our approximately 1,200 day-of-game staff, are family, and we will navigate this unprecedented situation together.”

— Natalie Moore

Evictions, jail visits suspended

All evictions in Cook County have been suspended, as have visits to Cook County jails.

Court-ordered evictions will stop for 30 days. This comes after the sheriff’s office said deputies earlier this week encountered someone during an eviction who showed symptoms of the novel coronavirus. The man was taken to a hospital for an evaluation and the eviction was canceled. The suspension is in response to an order from the Office of the Chief Judge issued late Friday evening.

As for the jails, visits will be suspended beginning Sunday with no end date set. There are no known cases of COVID-19 among detainees, but Sheriff Thomas Dart’s office said the decision was based on recommendations from federal, state and local health officials. Attorneys and clergy members will still be able to visit but will be screened for symptoms of the virus.

— Natalie Moore

Lightfoot urges virtual get-out-the-vote efforts

Mayor Lori Lightfoot is urging all candidates in Tuesday's primary election to stop in-person get-out-the-vote efforts out of coronavirus concerns.

"While I am fully aware that this is not an ideal situation for campaigns as I understand the type of in-person and close contact campaigning that is traditionally done within the final days of an election, everyone must now take responsibility for keeping our communities safe," Lightfoot said in statement Saturday. "This is a time to put safety over politics.”

Lightfoot encouraged candidates to instead rely on phone banking, texting and other virtual communication to get out the vote. 

— Kate Grossman

Cook County Courts suspending trials

The Cook County Courts will be postponing jury trials in criminal and civil matters and many hearings for 30 days starting Tuesday, according to a statement from Chief Judge Timothy Evans. It’s the latest effort to contain the spread of the new coronavirus. 

Many non-emergency matters like marriage ceremonies, foreclosures and traffic matters also will be pushed back. JJudges will continue to hold bail hearings, arraignments and other hearings that initiate new criminal cases. They’ll also hold hearings to ensure safety for victims in domestic violence matters and cases of child abuse. Court officials will reach out to victims and witnesses of crime to inform them of the status of their case and next court date. Questions may be directed to 773-674-7200.

— Robert Wildeboer

First case in Northwest Indiana

Northwest Indiana records its first confirmed COVID-19 case. The case is in LaPorte County. Indiana State Health Department official count stands at 15 confirmed cases statewide, with 89 people tested.

You can eat out if you're not sick

Many Chicago area restaurants have lost business in the wake of COVID-19 concerns. But city leaders say dining out is still safe for most people. 

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady said healthy people eating in uncrowded restaurants with access to handwashing are still not at great risk. “I honestly personally have not had time to go out to dinner in recent days,” she said at a press conference with Mayor Lori Lightfoot to announce support for Chicago restaurants, “But certainly I'm not encouraging my friends or family who are well and not in that increased risk category to not be doing these sorts of activities in a safe way.” 

Arwady did not rule out restaurant restrictions in the future. 

Lightfoot noted that “My family and I plan to make sure we’re patronizing restaurants, obviously because we like to, but also to signal that restaurants are safe.” However, both Lightfoot and Arwady stressed that no one should go out if they’re feeling sick.

— Monica Eng


March 13

Nursing homes are suspending visitations

Nursing homes throughout the Chicago area are suspending visitations and taking other precautions, especially after the coronavirus outbreak claimed more than 20 lives in a facility in Washington state. Still, Matt Hartman, the executive director of the Illinois Health Care Association, which represents hundreds of long-term care facilities in the state, said he has not heard of any cases in an Illinois facility. 

"With the viral nature of COVID-19, we’re doing everything we can to prevent it happening," Hartman said. "We’re trying to work with regulators on how we approach it, if and when it does happen."

Two nursing home networks, Alden Network and Symphony Care Network, are implementing safety measures, including restricting visitors and focusing on good hygiene. Symphony says it is also exploring alternate ways for residents to stay in touch with their loved ones. 

Meanwhile, the City of Chicago announced today it will allow its employees to work from home with approval of a supervisor and will be granting additional paid time off to any worker who gets COVID-19 or is ordered to self quarantine.

— Esther Yoon-Ji Kang with Becky Vevea

Governor closes all Illinois schools

Gov JB Pritzker
Amr Alfiky/Associated Press
Gov. Pritzker's announcement means this will be the second prolonged closing for most CPS students this year, who also were out for 11 days this fall due to a teacher’s strike.

Gov. JB Pritzker closed all schools in Illinois for two weeks, joining other states across the country that have already moved to shutter schools amid coronavirus fears. The decision comes after the Chicago Teachers Union and some CPS district parents put pressure on the district to close. 

This renders moot the controversial decision made locally to keep Chicago Public Schools open. Some 355,000 students who attend the school district’s 642 traditional and charter schools will be at home for the foreseeable future. It’s the second prolonged closing for most of the students who also were out for 11 days this fall due to a teacher’s strike.

The statewide closure will take place from March 17 to March 30. Already in Illinois, 105 school districts and 63 individual schools, affecting 287,000 public and private school students, had announced plans to shut down, according to the Illinois State Board of Education. The closure announcements mostly began on Thursday and multiplied exponentially all day Friday.

Still, the majority of schools had yet to announce a shut down. There are nearly 2 million public school students in Illinois.

— Sarah Karp

Suburban hospital launches testing drive-through

Northwest suburban Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital launched a drive-through COVID-19 testing program this week to reduce the spread of the virus among hospital staff and others.

The pilot started Monday at the Barrington hospital and it allows patients to get their testing done in their cars in one of the ambulance bays. But the testing is only for patients with mild symptoms who don’t need to go into the hospital.

To qualify, patients also need to consult their doctors and get a testing authorization from their local health department. Even after they schedule and take the test, doctors say, patients need to take precautions.

“This drive-up test is not an errand you do on your way to the bank or the grocery store,” says Good Shepherd Chief Medical Officer Shoeb Sitafalwalla. “You do have to go back to your home and self-quarantine to not infect other members of the community.”

Despite these requirements, Sitafalwalla says several people have already been through the process and gotten their results back, typically within three days of testing.

— Monica Eng

Grubhub gives restaurants financial relief amid drop in sales

Local restaurants facing massive drops in sales because of the COVID-19 outbreak are getting financial relief from a Chicago-based tech company that specializes in food delivery apps.

Starting tomorrow, Grubhub, which also owns Seamless, LevelUp, AllMenus and MenuPages, is suspending up to $100 million in commission payments it usually collects from restaurants who use their platforms.

“We’re just going to just send them the entire proceeds of their sales,” said Grubhub CEO Matt Maloney. “The system is in place to get this done. It’s immediate cash flow relief.”

The temporary change will apply to independent restaurants nationwide. Sam Toia, head of the Illinois Restaurant Association, said the move will be particularly helpful in Chicago, where more than 90% of restaurants are independently owned.

Toia estimated local businesses have seen a 40% to 70% drop in sales in the last week or so since COVID-19 cases started appearing in Illinois.

Grubhub is also creating a fund to support drivers and restaurants impacted by the COVID-19 health crisis. Diners can contribute directly to that fund by rounding up the change from their orders.

— Becky Vevea

Archdiocese of Chicago closes its Catholic schools

After a slew of school closing announcements across Chicagoland today and Thursday, the Archdiocese of Chicago today said it's closing all its schools starting March 16. This affects all schools in Cook and Lake counties operated by the archdiocese. Catholic schools governed by other religious orders will make their own decision. The mass closing comes after a Catholic School on Chicago's South Side said it had been informed Thursday night by city officials that a student had tested positive for COVID-19. The archdiocese hasn’t set a date for its schools to reopen. This comes after Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker announced the first case of COVID-19 in a child in the state on Thursday.

March 12

Officials say they will continue moratoriums on water and heat shutoffs

Water Shutoffs
Manuel Martinez/WBEZ
People's Gas and the Chicago Water Department are vowing to keep water and heat on for every Chicagoan during the coronavirus outbreak.

As confirmed cases of coronavirus mount, the City of Chicago and a public utility are vowing to keep water and heat on, respectively, for every Chicagoan. People’s Gas said this week it would extend its moratorium on sending disconnection notices to Chicagoans with overdue heating bills. Typically, the utility does not send such notices during the winter through March 31. The Chicago Water Department said the moratorium on water shutoffs has continued since last year when Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced it.

This is especially important because during the outbreak experts say everyone should wash their hands with hot water often to avoid getting sick or spreading the virus. Neither the city nor the utility indicated for how long the moratoriums would last.

Water shutoffs came to light last year following a joint investigation by WBEZ and American Public Media. That report found that water shutoffs were concentrated in poor, mostly black and Latino neighborhoods.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Housing Authority and Housing Authority of Cook County are canceling community events and gatherings, such as bingo, in their buildings, while increasing cleanings in common areas. The Chicago Department of Family and Support Services has also started providing CHA seniors with to-go box meals.

All gatherings in Illinois over 1,000 people are canceled

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker mandated gatherings of more than 1,000 people and major sports events be canceled, urged the cancellation of events with more than 250 people, and closed the Thompson Center Monday for non-essential business amid the spread of COVID-19, with seven new cases reported in the state. 

Pritzker made the announcement alongside Chicago Mayor Lori Lighfoot and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, both of whom echoed support for canceling large events for the next 30 days. Illinois public health officials also announced seven new cases of the coronavirus.

“I wish I could tell you that going about your everyday lives with no adjustments was the best course of action right now. It is not. And I owe you honesty,” the governor said.

Pritzker said public schools would remain open, delaying at least for now any statewide closure of schools — as Ohio recommended today for three weeks — or churches or the suspension of public transit services that would have the potential to turn the Loop into a veritable ghost town on weekdays.

However, a string of other Chicago-area school districts announced today that they will close their doors and go to e-learning, for at least a few weeks, including New Trier High School in Winnetka, Winnetka Public Schools, Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Evanston Township High School, Oak Park and River Forest High School, Francis W. Parker School, U of C Lab Schools and Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School in Chicago. New Trier, Stevenson and Evanston are among the state’s largest high schools. 

Food pantries brace for ballooning demand

Food Pantries
M. Spencer Green/Associated Press
Food depository workers say they do not expect the rush on grocery stores to affect the amount of food donated — but are more concerned about additional demand if people can’t go to work or school.

While grocery stores are seeing a run on canned goods and other products, local food pantries are bracing for a greater demand on their services as well.

A spokesman for the Greater Chicago Food Depository, Greg Trotter, said the food depository does not expect the rush on grocery stores to affect the amount of food donated — but more concerned about additional demand if people can’t go to work or school.

“We are very concerned that there will be an increased need because of this outbreak,” Trotter said. “It makes sense that if schools are closing, kids and families might have a harder time getting the meals that they need. Or, if there are stoppages in work, that could disproportionately affect hourly workers [and] lower-income workers."

Trotter says earlier this week the food depository delivered 500 boxes of food to a Chicago Public Schools warehouse to help Vaughn Occupational High School families, the only CPS school. 

NHL pauses season 

The National Hockey League is the most recent of professional sports leagues to cancel games. Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement today that the 2019-2020 season will be paused beginning with tonight's games, citing the NBA player who tested positive for COVID-19.

"Given that our leagues share so many facilities and locker rooms and it now seems likely that some member of the NHL community would test positive at some point — it is no longer appropriate to try to continue to play games at this time," Bettman said. 

He added that the league will try to complete the season and award the Stanley Cup when it is "appropriate and prudent." The Chicago Blackhawks were scheduled to play the Ottawa Senators tomorrow night. 

Big Ten cancels men’s basketball tournament

The Big Ten has pulled the plug on remaining tournament games effective immediately, citing the coronavirus outbreak. The ACC and SEC have also canceled their tournaments, and the NCAA announced today that all remaining winter and spring NCAA championships are canceled as well. 

“The Big Ten Conference will use this time to work with the appropriate medical experts and institutional leadership to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the conference said on its website.

The announcement came barely 20 minutes before the Michigan vs. Rutgers game today at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, the Chicago Tribune reported. Illinois, a No. 4 seed in the tournament, is in Indianapolis and was getting ready to play Friday. 

The Big Ten announced earlier this week that the men's and women's basketball tournaments would be played without fans attending, apart from limited family members.

Crowd limit set for boys basketball state playoff games

The Illinois High School Association announced on its website this morning that it will significantly limit attendance at the remaining games in the 2020 IHSA Boys Basketball State Series in Peoria because of coronavirus concerns.

The group says it will allow no more than 60 spectators per school in the arena for each game at this weekend’s Class 1A and Class 2A finals. The IHSA says it made the decision after consulting state and Peoria health officials.

“This was a difficult decision shaped by thoughtful deliberation set against a truly unprecedented backdrop,” IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said. “It is important that our member schools and fans understand that events outside any of our control could lead to further changes over the coming hours and days.”

Full refunds will be available for any tickets already purchased for the remaining games.

CME Group to close trading floor indefinitely

Today is the next-to-last day for floor trading at Chicago-based futures exchange CME Group. The exchange is shutting down its trading floor at the end of business Friday “as a precaution to reduce large gatherings that can contribute to the spread of coronavirus.”

CME says the reopening of floor trading will be evaluated pending more “medical guidance.” The exchange will continue to trade products electronically on the CME Globex platform.

K-12 private school will use remote learning

A Chicago private school is one of first in the area to move to online classes only. The University of Chicago Lab Schools announced today that all students, which include preschool through high school, will be moving to remote learning on March 30th. No information was provided by the school about when regular classes will resume.

U of C announces remote learning for spring quarter

The University of Chicago this morning joined the growing list of local colleges or universities that have decided to use online learning for their upcoming spring quarter or semester. The U of C says it will use remote learning for undergraduate and graduate classes beginning on Monday, March 30, the first day of the spring quarter. The university says “extensive preparations are in process” and it will have more information soon.


March 11

Multiple Illinois universities shift to online courses

A long list of Illinois universities announced this evening that they are canceling in-person classes.

The University of Illinois system is moving all courses online by March 23. That includes students in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield. Residence halls will remain open for students.

DePaul University cancelled winter quarter finals and will shift spring quarter classes online. Students who live on campus have been told to prepare not to return after spring break.

Northwestern University and Southern Illinois University-Carbondale have extended their spring breaks for a week. They will shift students to online upon return.

Meanwhile, Illinois State University says it's extending its current spring break an additional week and shifting to all online courses afterwards — at least through April 12. University housing has been shut down, and students are instructed to return home until further notice.

Illinois Legislature suspends work next week

Springfield State Capitol
Seth Perlman/Associated Press
Democratic Senate President Don Harmon canceled his chamber’s planned session days next week. A representative for the Illinois House told WBEZ that the chamber is also shutting down next week.

The Illinois General Assembly is suspending its work next week amid fears of coronavirus, legislative leaders said today.

Democratic Senate President Don Harmon canceled his chamber’s planned session days next week. A representative for the Illinois House told WBEZ that chamber is also shutting down next week.

“When the state association for emergency doctors cancels its Capitol visit citing public health concerns, it should give us all reason to reexamine our schedules and priorities,” Harmon said in a statement. “Given the recommendations for social distancing as a safeguard to slow the spread of this virus, the Illinois Senate is going to do its part.”

Both chambers had been scheduled to be in session Wednesday through Friday of next week. Legislative days for the following week are currently on the books, though Harmon said his office is monitoring the coronavirus outbreak in Illinois and will “make future decisions” based on public health experts’ recommendations.

Meanwhile, an Illinois rally for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden scheduled for March 13 was canceled, citing safety concerns.

Illinois election officials encourage vote-by-mail ballots

In response to coronavirus concerns, Illinois’ top elected officials are encouraging the public to cast their ballot for the March 17 primary election by mail instead of showing up to their local polling location. Illinois voters have until Thursday to apply for their vote-by-mail ballot.

But Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said today that they have asked election authorities to extend that deadline to March 16 given the COVID-19 outbreak.

“That’s a decision they have to make at the board levels, but we want everybody to have the opportunity to vote,” Pritzker said.

Election authorities in Chicago immediately cast doubt on whether the deadline could be postponed through the weekend however.

“There are a lot of things we can extend,” said Jim Allen, a spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. “But trying to get people to vote-by-mail ballots by mailing them out Monday — and hoping that they would miraculously get them on Tuesday — I think there are some serious questions about that.”

Allen said as of today, Chicago election authorities had received about 90,000 requests for mail-in ballots. About 14,000 ballots have been turned in by mail, which is triple the amount from the 2016 presidential primary election, according to Allen.

As of now, voters who do vote-by-mail must have their ballot postmarked by March 17 and returned to election authorities within 14 days of election day.

City puts hold on St. Patrick's parades, river dyeing

St. Patrick's Day
Paul Beaty/Associated Press
The city’s annual Saint Patrick’s Day parades tend to draw millions of people to Chicago’s downtown and other celebrations.

Chicago has postponed this weekend's St. Patrick’s Day parades and the dyeing of the Chicago River due to coronavirus concerns. The action affects the parades that were scheduled downtown and on the South and Northwest Sides.

City Hall released a statement that Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Gov. JB Pritzker and health officials were taking the action "as a precautionary measure to prevent further spread" of the COVID-19 virus. The statement said the city will work with organizers of the three parades and river dyeing to reschedule them.

The city’s annual Saint Patrick’s Day parades tend to draw millions of people to Chicago’s downtown and other celebrations.

The coronavirus outbreak prompted the cancellation of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Boston and Dublin, Ireland. Officials in Savannah, Georgia, will decide soon whether to allow that city’s parade to go ahead Tuesday. New York City’s annual parade is still on for Tuesday.

Suburban district closing eight schools

Meanwhile, eight public schools in suburban Lombard in DuPage County will be closed today for a deep cleaning amid coronavirus concerns. School District 44 said a person who tested positive for COVID-19 attended a volleyball game at one school last week. As a result, the school district decided to clean all eight of its schools. They plan to reopen Thursday.

A Chicago public school where a parent tested positive for COVID-19 is NOT closing. In a letter to the Ogden East school community, Chicago Public Schools and public health officials said a parent contracted COVID-19. But that parent had not visited Ogden or any CPS facility. The letter said city public health officials did not recommend closure and that some relatives of the parent were under quarantine.

Two area schools closed due to concerns about coronavirus are reopening. Loyola Academy in Wilmette is scheduled to resume today after shutting for two days. That school said it closed because a student and a student’s family had contact with someone that tested positive for COVID-19. The Bernard Zell Jewish day school in Chicago is also scheduled to re-open today after a one-day shut down. The school said a parent of a student there was diagnosed with COVID-19.


March 10

Workers have the right to take paid sick leave

Restaurant Worker
/Associated Press
More than 70% of restaurant workers lack access to paid sick days, according to the National Health Interview Survey.

Labor activists are reminding workers and employers that ordinances passed in Chicago and Cook County guarantee low-wage workers have the ability to earn up to five sick days per year.

“Those are applicable if they are sick, caring for a sick family member or in case of a public health emergency," said Shelly Ruzicka, spokesperson for Arise Chicago. She added that workers should report employers who aren’t complying with the ordinance. Chicago has created a new Office of Labor Standards, set up to investigate labor violations, including paid sick leave.

Meanwhile, Darden Restaurants, Inc. announced today that the company would offer its hourly workers up to seven paid sick days. The company owns chain restaurants across the country including Olive Garden.

“The lack of paid sick days could make it almost impossible to mitigate the coronavirus outbreak, said Sekou Siby, executive director of the labor rights organization Restaurant Opportunities Center United. "Restaurant workers can barely afford to feed their families, so they can’t afford to take time off from work due to an illness."

Meanwhile President Donald Trump said on March 9 that top administration officials will be meeting with members of the House and Senate to discuss the possibility of payroll tax cuts and help for hourly workers. More than 70% of restaurant workers lack access to paid sick days, according to the National Health Interview Survey.

Eight new cases in Illinois

Among the eight are a Kane County woman in her 60s and a McHenry County teen — the first Illinois cases outside of Cook County. Neither had been traveling or had contact with a known COVID-19 case.

The other six cases include two Chicago men in their 40s, Cook County men in their 40s and 70s, and Cook County women in their 40s and 60s. Health officials are still investigating their travel history.

University of Chicago cancels events with more than 100 people

The University of Chicago is canceling all events with over 100 attendees and all domestic university travel until April 15th amid concerns of the spreading coronavirus. They’re also advising students leaving for spring break in less than two weeks to bring items they may need in case their return to campus is delayed. The U of C says it has no current plans to shift classes online, although other colleges and universities across Chicagoland are preparing for that possibility.

The University of Chicago announced it's taking some preventative measures including:

Suspending university-sponsored events and any gatherings of more than 100 people through April 15.

Suspending all faculty-led study abroad programs for the spring quarter.

Suspending all nonessential domestic and international university travel through April 15.

While CPS has no plans for more closings, some private schools cancel classes

The head of Chicago Public Schools says there are no plans to close any more schools at this time. Schools CEO Janice Jackson says this is per guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She says testing of students from Vaughn Occupational High School for COVID-19 so far have all come back negative. A teacher's aide tested positive for the disease last week. The school is closed and all staff, students and visitors to the school are now under quarantine.

However, some Chicago-area private schools and universities are temporarily shutting their doors. Resurrection College Prep High School in the city's Norwood Park neighborhood dismissed students early today and canceled classes after learning that "a member of our school community" came into contact with a person diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus, according to the school's website. The school plans to do cleaning Wednesday while students and staff are out.

A private Jewish school on the North Side canceled classes today because it says a parent of one of its students has tested positive for the virus. Bernard Zell Anshe Emet School in Lakeview says it learned Monday night that a parent has tested positive. A spokesman for the Chicago Department of Public Health could not confirm the case connected to the school this morning. The Illinois Department of Public Health could not be reached for comment.


March 9

Four more cases in Illinois

Gov. JB Pritzker has announced four new coronavirus cases in Chicago, bringing the total number of cases in Illinois to 11 and the most in a single day in Illinois since the outbreak began.

The governor on Monday also declared a disaster proclamation, which grants the state access to federal resources, including medical assistance. Pritzker said his administration will now provide daily updates.

The new cases include a woman in her 50s and a woman in her 70s, both of whom are relatives of a COVID-19 patient who works at Vaughn Occupational High School, authorities said.

The other new cases are a Californian woman in her 50s and a woman in her 70s who was on an Egyptian cruise that had COVID-19 cases, health officials said.

“Although these most recent cases are close contacts to a confirmed case or have a history of travel, we want people to prepare for the virus to spread in the community,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “The virus is not circulating widely in Illinois at this time, but we must prepare now to reduce the impact to our communities if it becomes widespread.”

Coronavirus leads to new polling places

Early Voting
Claudia Morell/WBEZ
Seven Chicago nursing homes will no longer be polling places for the March 17 primary.

As of Monday afternoon, seven Chicago nursing homes will no longer be polling places for the March 17 primary. Officials are still working to notify voters in those precincts of the new voting locations, said a spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

The effected nursing homes are:

Symphony Residences of Lincoln Park, 2437 N. Southport Ave.

Wentworth Rehabilitation & Health Care Center, 201 W. 69th St.

Symphony of Chicago West, 5130 W. Jackson Blvd.

St. Joseph Village of Chicago, 4021 W. Belmont Ave.

Fairmont Care Center, 5061 N. Pulaski Road

Alden Lincoln Park Nursing Home, 504 W. Wellington Ave.

Alden Village North, 7464 N. Sheridan Road

In downstate Quincy, voters will no longer be going to the Illinois Veterans’ Home to cast their ballots. Election officials there are still figuring out where to set up polling machines. The veterans’ home in Quincy was the scene of multiple deadly Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks between 2015 and 2018.

Pat Comstock, executive director of the Health Care Council of Illinois, said her organization is working with nursing homes across the state to ensure nursing home residents still have the opportunity to cast their ballot even if their home doesn’t want to host voters on primary day.

“We’re leaving no stone unturned in terms of making plans and preparations to keep our residents safe,” Comstock said.

North Shore private school cancels classes

Loyola Academy in Wilmette canceled classes Monday and Tuesday after learning that a current student and the student’s family had contact with a person who has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. A statement on Loyola's website says the infected person has not been on the school's campus.

The student was in class through Friday, March 6. The student and the student’s family are under a 14-day quarantine and, so far, no one is showing symptoms of the virus.

The school remains closed while they seek additional information from state and Cook County officials, and Loyola students will have an e-learning day on Tuesday. The school stressed that no student or staff member has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

This follows the closure of Vaughn Occupational High School in Chicago, where a teaching assistant had been on a cruise ship and later tested positive for COVID-19.

New case may be from community transmission, not travel

State and local health officials today announced a new and 7th case of COVID-19 in Illinois, a Chicago man in his 60s. Importantly, the man's infection has not been linked to any travel or contact with a confirmed case. He's being considered a potential case of community transmission of the virus.

The man is hospitalized in serious condition, Chicago health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady and Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said at a news briefing this afternoon. Arwady said she's taking this new case "very seriously," but stressed that it "does not mean there is widespread transmission of COVID-19 occurring in Chicago."


March 6

CPS teacher's assistant is 6th case in Illinois, school closing

Vaughn Occupational High School
Manuel Martinez/WBEZ
The special education school, which has 212 students, will be closed next week.

A Chicago Public Schools teacher’s assistant who worked in the classroom at Vaughn Occupational High School on the Northwest Side is the 6th case of COVID-19 in Illinois.

The special education school — which has 212 students, including some that CPS CEO Janice Jackson called “medically fragile” — will be closed next week. CPS will contact people who were potentially exposed to the virus.

The woman, in her 50s, disembarked from the Grand Princess cruise ship on Feb. 21. She returned home a few days later and is currently hospitalized in “stable” condition. On March 4, the cruise ship announced that there had been initial cases associated with the ship, said Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady.

'We know viruses fly'

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and Illinois Department of Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike talked Friday about preventing a COVID-19 outbreak.

“We know that viruses fly, they can come from wherever they are to new locations,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike. “They don’t have to stop at customs.”

In addition to hand washing and limiting physical contact with others, Ezike said it’s important to get a flu shot to help keep resources focused on COVID-19.


March 5

Man who traveled to Italy is 5th case in Illinois

Gov. JB Pritzker and Illinois officials today announced there's a fifth case of a resident who has tested positive for COVID-19. The unidentified person lives in Cook County and acquired the virus while traveling in Italy. The individual, a male in his 20s, is being treated at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

Pritzker and health officials say the state is working to identify and contact close contacts of the patient. They say the man traveled to O'Hare International Airport "earlier this month" after being in Italy.

Two Illinois universities recently called back students studying in Italy, but both Loyola University Chicago and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign tell WBEZ they have no reason to believe this young man is their student. Loyola and UIUC have recently canceled their Italian study programs, and students have been returning to the U.S. Italy is the epicenter of Europe's coronavirus outbreak, with more than 3,000 infections and more than 100 deaths.

The patient tested positive at an IDPH laboratory, and his specimens have been sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for confirmatory testing.

3rd Case Has Been Confirmed By CDC

Illinois health officials also said today that a man in his 70s who was the third person to test positive for COVID-19 has been confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That makes him the third case in Illinois confirmed by the CDC. The man was treated at a suburban hospital and is now home and in good condition, officials said.

Illinois, Chicago would get more than $20M to fight virus

Illinois and Chicago health agencies would receive $23.4 million from a nearly $8 billion emergency spending bill to deal with COVID-19 that passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday and now goes to the Senate. The Illinois Department of Public Health would get about $14.7 million and the Chicago Department of Public Health would receive $8.7 million.

The federal money is for funding patient monitoring, lab testing, buying test kits and protective equipment, and research into vaccines.

"It was critical that this funding bill reimburse state and local governments — including Illinois and Chicago — for costs incurred while assisting the federal response to the coronavirus outbreak, which this final agreement does," Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin said in a news release.

The Senate is expected to vote on the bill by the end of this week and send it to President Donald Trump


March 4

Public health director goes to Washington to ask for aid

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike today asked lawmakers in D.C. for money and resources for states to deal with COVID-19, saying broad testing should be at the forefront.

“We can’t know what the rates of infection are if we don’t diagnose the infection,” she said. “That is so critical.”

Currently, Cook County Department of Public Health COO Terry Mason said people are only being tested after a screening that identifies potential contact with the virus.

2nd McCormick Place event canceled due to coronavirus

For the second time this week, an upcoming conference at Chicago's McCormick Place has been canceled due to concerns about COVID-19. Software company Oracle announced it's dropping the Modern Business Experience conference it was planning for March 22 to 24. Several days ago, the International Housewares Association canceled its Inspired Home Show that was set for March 14 to 17. Both cancellations mean that thousands of people won't be coming to Chicago spend money on hotels, meals and events.

Universities canceling travel or bringing students home

Chicago-area universities are taking further steps to restrict students' international travel due to coronavirus concerns. Northwestern University informed its community this morning that it's canceling all university-sponsored spring break trips to overseas destinations involving undergraduate and graduate school students.

"This was a difficult decision made in consultation with numerous campus stakeholders," Northwestern President Morton Schapiro said in the email obtained by WBEZ. "Students will receive specific guidance on next steps from their trip leader or their unit or department sponsor."

Northwestern's spring break runs from March 21 to 30. The email also said Northwestern prefers that faculty and staff "defer any nonessential international travel."

Other universities such as Loyola University Chicago and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, are canceling their Italian study programs. Dozens of students studying in Italy are returning home this week because of the global COVID-19 outbreak.

The Chicago State University men's basketball team will not travel for two regularly scheduled Western Athletic Conference games this week, and its women's team will not host two games, the school said late Tuesday, citing the spread of the coronavirus. The school said in a statement that it was making the move with the "health and well-being of the campus community in mind." The cancellations are believed to be the first by a major sport in the U.S. due to the virus.


March 3

Archdiocese makes changes to Mass

In an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Archdiocese of Chicago issued new guidelines for priests, deacons and altar servers -- including refraining from using the chalice during communion.

The church says all cups and plates should be washed after communion with hot, soapy water. Catholics were also advised not to make physical contact during mass, including shaking hands during the Sign of Peace and holding hands during the Lord’s Prayer.

Do Chicago schools have enough soap?

Chicago Public Schools officials say they are taking several steps to deal with the threat of COVID-19.

With the virus spreading, some teachers are highlighting long-standing problems in school bathrooms and calling for the school district to make sure they are clean and stocked with hand soap.

CPS officials responded by saying they are providing extra cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer to schools. They are also telling custodians to prioritize ensuring that bathrooms have soap. But officials note the virus is spread mainly from person to person — so they are telling parents to keep sick kids home. On the question of potentially closing schools, the school district said it will take direction from the Chicago Department of Public Health.

McCormick Place convention canceled

Coronavirus fears prompted the International Housewares Association to cancel its annual convention at McCormick Place. It would have brought about 60,000 to the city next weekend, 40% of whom are international.

“Bringing together people from 130 different countries and conveneing them in one place really did not feel like the right move for our industry right now,” said spokeswoman Leana Salamah.

Nine more conventions are scheduled at McCormick Place in the next three months. A spokesperson for The American College of Cardiology said it has no plans to cancel the Scientific Session & Expo at the end of March.


March 2

A fourth case in Illinois

A fourth person in the Chicago area has tested positive for COVID-19, and health officials are now monitoring 286 people around the state for possible exposure to the virus.

The latest case in Illinois is a woman in her 70s. She is being quarantined at her home, according to a statement from the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Cook County Department of Public Health. She is the wife of a man in his 70s, who officials said was the third case in Illinois. He was taken to Northwest Community Healthcare, a hospital in suburban Arlington Heights.

Pence tells governors money for coronavirus costs is coming

The Trump administration has reassured state governors that they will be reimbursed for at least part of what they spend as they attempt to contain the coronavirus. Federal spending is being fast-tracked in Congress, where bipartisan negotiations are nearly complete on $7 billion to $8 billion in emergency funding.

State officials say they need the money for a wide array of expenses, including protective gear, housing and transporting people under quarantine, overtime for medical workers performing lab tests and public information campaigns.

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker on Monday stressed that the risk to the general public remains low. “As public officials charged with the safety and welfare of the people of Illinois, we take that risk seriously,” he said.

Days earlier, Pritzker asked hospitals across Illinois to implement additional testing to improve surveillance for coronavirus. He also said two more Illinois Department of Public Health labs in central and southern Illinois would begin testing specimens.


March 1

Coronavirus prompts schools to bring students home from Italy

Italy Study Abroad
Francisco Seco/Associated Press
Loyola, Northwestern and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have asked students studying abroad in Italy to return home as fears grow about the coronavirus spreading throughout Europe.

Loyola, Northwestern and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have asked students studying abroad in Italy to return home as fears grow about the coronavirus spreading throughout Europe, according to the Chicago Tribune. The University of Chicago previously closed its campus in Hong Kong and its center in Beijing.


Feb. 29

A third case in Illinois

The patient was hospitalized in isolation as health officials await confirmation from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to a joint press release Saturday night from the Illinois and Cook County Departments of Public Health.

While the number of suspected COVID-19 cases has increased around the country, this is the first case in Illinois in nearly a month.


Jan. 30

A second case reported in Chicago

For the first time in the U.S., the coronavirus has spread from one person to another. The latest case is the husband of a Chicago woman who got sick from the virus after she returned from the epicenter of the outbreak in China.

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike said the man reported symptoms and was hospitalized in an isolation room. The man doesn't use public transportation, and he had not attended any large gatherings. Public health officials are investigating locations where the man visited in the past two weeks for any close contacts that could have led to exposure.


Jan. 24

Chicago woman is second U.S. case

The woman in her 60s returned from China on Jan. 13 without showing any signs of illness, but three or four days later she called her doctor to report feeling sick. Earlier that week, a man in his 30s in Washington state became the first U.S. patient, also diagnosed after returning from a trip to the outbreak's epicenter in central China.

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