Coronavirus In Illinois: New cases are lowest in nearly three weeks

Graphic of the coronavirus with the worlds ‘what to know today’ overlaid
Centers for Disease Control, Prevention/Graphic by Paula Friedrich/WBEZ
Graphic of the coronavirus with the worlds ‘what to know today’ overlaid
Centers for Disease Control, Prevention/Graphic by Paula Friedrich/WBEZ

Coronavirus In Illinois: New cases are lowest in nearly three weeks

WBEZ brings you fact-based news and information. Sign up for our newsletters to stay up to date on the stories that matter.

This blog has been archived.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

May 10

2:59 p.m. New cases are lowest in nearly three weeks

Health officials today announced 1,656 new cases of coronavirus disease in Illinois compared with yesterday, the lowest number since April 21. As of today, the state has recorded 77,741 cases of the disease.

Although new cases were down during the past 24 hours, so were tests. The state said labs processed 13,653 specimens since May 9, when 16,617 tests were reported.

Illinois has seen at least 2,000 new coronavirus cases every day since April 22, with several exceptions. Today was the fewest number of new cases since April 21, when 1,551 were reported.

Officials today also reported 57 more fatalities, bringing Illinois’ death toll to 3,406 since the start of the pandemic. The vast majority of the new deaths were in Cook County, where the victims were men and women ranging from their 20s to 100 years old.

11:48 a.m. Pritzker on CNN: No reopening until benchmarks are met

Gov. JB Pritzker defended his go-slow approach to reopening Illinois during an appearance on CNN this morning. Pritzker said he’s watching the trending of new positive cases of COVID-19, hospitalizations and the availability of hospital beds as he considers steps to loosen restrictions.

“And we will not reopen unless we meet all of the standards that I have set for doing so,” the governor said during an interview with Jake Tapper on State of the Union.

Until there’s a vaccine or other effective treatment for the coronavirus, Pritzker said, “We’re still going to have to socially distance. The truth is that coronavirus is still out there. It hasn’t gone anywhere. And so we all are going to have to change the way we do things until we’re able to eradicate it.”

On May 5, Pritzker revealed a five-step reopening plan for Illinois’ economy that’s based on how well regions of the state are doing at keeping down hospitalizations and cases of COVID-19.

May 9

2:53 p.m. State reports more than 2,300 new cases

Health officials today reported 2,325 new cases of coronavirus disease during the past 24 hours, bringing Illinois’ total to 76,085 since the start of the pandemic. There were 111 additional deaths, for a total of 3,349.

Officials also reported that, since May 8, laboratories have processed 16,617 specimens for a total of 416,331 tests in the state.

Gov. JB Pritzker did not hold his daily news conference updating Illinois’ response to the pandemic, and he is not planning a news update tomorrow.

12:24 p.m. City Hall says four companies will make one million masks

The city of Chicago today announced a deal with four local businesses to produce one million reusable cloth masks to be distributed to residents, especially populations most at risk to the coronavirus. The city will pay the vendors a total of up to $2.2 million to start production immediately, creating masks that will add to Chicago’s current stockpile, according to a City Hall news release today.

The vendors are: Barbara Bates Designs, GAIAU Product Design and Development, Silk Screen Express and The Will Group. They’ll produce 250,000 reusable cloth masks that will be sent to aldermanic offices, and another 750,000 masks to be distributed through the city’s Racial Equity Rapid Response Team.

The Chicago Department of Public Health vetted the businesses’ masks to ensure they meet national safety standards, the release said.

9:56 a.m. Delta suspending flights at Midway

a photo of a Delta airplane
Delta Airlines is suspending its flight operations at 10 U.S. airports due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

Delta Airlines is suspending its flight operations at 10 airports around the country, including Chicago’s Midway, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The airline says the flight suspensions will begin on May 13 and will last “at least” until September.

Delta says it’s taking the action due to a drop in air travel and to “allow more of our frontline employees to minimize their COVID-19 exposure risk.” Delta will continue to offer flights at O’Hare International Airport. The 10 airports where it’s temporarily halting service are all close to other airports where it will still offer flights, Delta says.

Delta had previously announced an 85% cut in its service schedule as demand for air travel has fallen during the pandemic.

8:18 a.m. Nearly 50% of Illinois’ COVID-19 deaths are linked to nursing homes

Nursing homes now account for nearly half of Illinois deaths with a confirmed link to COVID-19, a WBEZ analysis of state data shows.

The Illinois Department of Public Health yesterday afternoon posted data showing that 1,553 — nearly 48% — of the state’s coronavirus deaths are tied to long-term-care facilities and assisted-living establishments.

Read the full story.

— Chip Mitchell

May 8

2:57 p.m. Illinois announces another 130 deaths as state exceeds 20,000 tests a day

Illinois public health officials announced today that 130 more people have died from COVID-19, and they’ve identified 2,887 more cases of the novel coronavirus.

That brings the state’s total to 3,241 total deaths and 73,760 cases identified since the pandemic began.

Gov. JB Pritzker also reported that for the first time, Illinois has exceeded 20,000 tests for COVID-19 administered in one day. Of those tests across the state, 14% of them were positive for the virus, said Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.

The state has been aiming for a positivity rate of less than 20% for 28 days for any region of the state in order to move toward a next phase of reopening.

Pritkzer said the state has more than 244 testing sites now open, and Illinois is fifth among all states in the number of tests it has completed since the beginning of the pandemic. But Pritzker said efforts to continue to expand the tests would continue, saying that 20,000 a day still is not enough.

— Angela Rozas O’Toole

1:30 p.m. Mayor Lori Lightfoot announces her plan to reopen Chicago

This afternoon Mayor Lori Ligthtfoot is unveiling her plan to reopen Chicago as the city looks ahead to recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lightfoot’s five-step plan, called “Protecting Chicago,” says Chicago is in Phase 2 of its reopening process. It follows Gov. JB Pritzker’s state-wide, reopening plan released earlier this week. Each phase of the city’s plan will be driven by economic and health data, the mayor’s office said. Stores and nonessential business wouldn’t open until Phase 3, which includes a tight restriction on social gatherings, limiting them to less than 10 people.

“While our goal is to get as many people back to work as quickly and safely as possible, we will keep data and science as the north stars of this work, as we have throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Allison Arwady, the city’s public health commissioner.

At this moment in time, Chicago is in Phase 2 of the plan, which allows only essential businesses to let employees come into work and requires face coverings when in public.

Nonessential workers won’t return to work until Phase 3. Chicago’s progress through the phases will depend on the availability of testing and the rate the disease is spreading. The city will also monitor hospital capacity to determine whether it’s safe to move to another phase.

Chicago still seems to be far off from the final stages of the plan, for which LIghtfoot’s administration has not yet released metrics. Have questions or comments about the plan? The mayor’s office is collecting feedback here

Read the full story

— Claudia Morell

10:08 a.m. Illinois is issuing marriage licenses via teleconference

photo of two hands wearing rings
Hundreds of couples have applied for emergency marriage licenses after losing insurance or immigration sponsorship from employers. Kim Siever / Flickr

Gov. JB Pritzker this month gave county governments across the state the authority to issue marriage licenses during the pandemic via teleconference.

The governor’s executive order lets county governments work around a provision in state law requiring couples to “appear before” the county clerk before completion of marriage licenses. That appearance was necessary for couples to provide proof of who they are. The executive order gives couples the ability to do that virtually.

Cook County has already been granting virtual licenses and conducting virtual marriage ceremonies since the first week of April, accommodating about 15 to 20 marriage licenses a day.

Read the full story.

— Claudia Morell

May 7

3:16 p.m. Group seeks support for Chicago street vendors struggling during the pandemic

A volunteer-led organization is trying to raise $15,000 to help Chicago street vendors who’ve lost their job because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Increase The Peace launched a GoFund me campaign a few days ago, and the group is already halfway to its goal.

“Street vendors are some of the most vulnerable and impacted folks in this pandemic. Most street vendors do not not receive a stimulus check,” said Berto Aguayo, who works with Increase The Peace. “Most of them do not qualify for business grants either from the city, state or the federal government, and a lot of them have seen their revenue cut dramatically because of the lack of foot traffic and the lack of overall business.”

— María Inés Zamudio

2:51 p.m. Illinois exceeds 3,000 COVID-19 deaths

Illinois public health officials announced 138 people have died in the past day from COVID-19, and 2,641 new cases have been identified in the state. That brings the total to 3,111 deaths and 70,873 identified cases in Illinois since the state began tracking cases.

Illinois’ overall so-called positivity rate — the percentage of total tests that came out positive for COVID-19 — was 15% for the past 24 hours. The state is aiming for a 28-day plateauing or reduction below 20% of positivity before it moves to the next phase of reopening for any region, state officials have said.

— Angela Rozas O’Toole

1:04 p.m. More than 1 in 5 inmates in Chicago federal jail have tested positive for COVID-19, court records show

Federal prosecutors, in a motion filed yesterday, contend that more than 130 inmates in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago have tested positive for the coronavirus.

That’s more than 20% of the total inmate population, based on information from the federal Bureau of Prisons, which runs the jail in Chicago.

Prosecutors filed the motion to oppose a request for release from a woman being held in the jail while awaiting sentencing. Prosecutors have given some other details about life inside the federal jail as they argue against release of other inmates at the facility.

In a motion filed earlier this week in the case of singer R. Kelly, prosecutors said that the MCC Chicago “recently received a rapid test machine and has started to perform mass testing.”

The motion says the vast majority of inmates who have tested positive are asymptomatic, and the “MCC Chicago has reported no deaths as a result of COVID-19 infections, and there is no evidence that the medical staff has been unable to adequately handle the medical needs of inmates who contract the virus.”

According to the Bureau of Prisons, more than 20 staff members at the Chicago jail have tested positive for COVID-19.

— Patrick Smith

12:18 p.m. Nursing home workers strike called off after union reaches tentative agreement

The union for 10,000 nursing home workers in Illinois has reached an agreement that averts a strike threatened to begin tomorrow morning as COVID-19 spreads to an increasing number of facilities.

The two-year tentative contract, which came together in talks late yesterday, improves base pay for all workers, hazard bonuses during the pandemic and sick-leave benefits during the crisis.

Read the full story.

— Chip Mitchell

9:33 a.m. Big Ten football season uncertain

Photo of Clayton Thorson throwing a pass during an NCAA college football game
Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson throws a pass during an NCAA college football game in Evanston in 2018. Jim Youn / Associated Press

Less than four months before the scheduled kickoff of the college football season, not one of the 14 schools in the Big Ten Conference can say for sure it will have students back on campus this fall — a crucial step for sports.

Uncertainty about how the coronavirus pandemic will unfold through the summer has kept universities from making a definitive decision about the fall semester, which typically begins in late August. The football season, for now, is due to begin Aug. 29, though Big Ten schools don’t begin play until the following week.

Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren told the Chicago Tribune the conference is at least six weeks away from making any determinations.

Read the full story.

— Associated Press

May 6

3:10 p.m. Illinois announces 136 more COVID-19 deaths

Illinois public health officials announced today that 136 more people have died from COVID-19, and 2,270 new cases of the virus have been identified.

That makes a total of 68,232 cases, including 2,974 deaths, the state reported.

Gov. JB Pritkzer today also addressed the disproportionate way the virus is hitting the Latino community. Pritzker said during his daily briefing that current state data show, of those who have filled in the form, the positivity rate for those tested has been 60% for Latino or Hispanic respondents, which is roughly three times the state average.

He said the state has been working to build testing sites within communities of color, and that a third of all public testing sites in the state have been developed in communities with a significant Latino population.

— Angela Rozas O’Toole

2:58 p.m. As cases climb, Chicago mayor launches new COVID-19 outreach program aimed at Latino communities

As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to grow in Chicago’s Latino community, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced today a new COVID-19 engagement strategy aimed at reaching the stricken community.

The city’s director of public health, Dr. Allison Arwady, said just a month ago Latinos accounted for 14% of the city’s COVID-19 cases and 9% of the deaths. Now, Latinos make up 37% of cases and 25% of the deaths, she said.

“As you can see, these numbers are quite profound and they call us to another moment of action and a sense of urgency,” Lightfoot said. “Equity and inclusion are not just feel-good expressions, they truly are, in the middle of this pandemic, the difference between life and death.”

Lightfoot launched racial rapid response teams last month following a WBEZ story that showed black Chicagoans were dying of COVID-19 at disproportionate rates. Today, she said these teams will be expanded among Latino neighborhoods with high infection rates.

The engagement strategy will include a multilingual campaign, including videos and door-to-door distribution of information. A series of virtual town hall meetings is scheduled to begin tomorrow with one focusing on the elderly community. The city is partnering with AARP and the Spanish broadcaster Univision.

— María Inés Zamudio

10:30 a.m. Pitchfork cancels this year’s festival

Broken Social Scene performs at Pitchfork Music Festival
Broken Social Scene performs at Pitchfork Music Festival in 2016. The annual festival held in Chicago’s Union Park has been canceled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Barry Brecheisen/Invision / AP

The annual Pitchfork Music Festival scheduled for July 17-19 in Chicago’s Union Park has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, the company announced today. Pitchfork made the announcement on its website, saying it was “heartbroken” by the decision and that ticket holders will get full refunds. They’ll be contacted by email to learn their refund options, the festival says.

“It can be pretty daunting to think about the future of live music right now, but know that we are fully committed to bringing Pitchfork Music Festival back in 2021, if the public health situation allows for it,” the company says.

Pitchfork says it’s planning livestreams and other ways to “use the full weight of Pitchfork to support musicians and the community around our festival.”

7:51 a.m. Virus testing lags in hard-hit Latino areas

In Cook County, the ZIP codes most affected by COVID-19 are not among those receiving the highest rates of testing, according to a WBEZ analysis of data from the Illinois Department of Public Health and the U.S. Census Bureau. And those ZIP codes are in Latino neighborhoods, which have the highest and fastest-growing rates of COVID-19 in Cook County.

Read the full story.

— María Inés Zamudio

May 5

3:03 p.m. Deaths spike as Gov. Pritzker announces regional plan for reopening

Illinois public health officials today announced the largest one-day count of COVID-19 fatalities, with 176 deaths.

That makes for a total of 2,838 deaths in Illinois associated with the novel coronavirus. The state announced 2,122 new cases today, for a total of 65,962 cases across the state. These tallies came as Gov. JB Pritzker announced the parameters of a plan to reopen Illinois with a five-phase program that divides the state into five regions, with each region being allowed to reopen when it meets certain criteria. Returning to normalcy is not an option, Pritzker said, until there is a COVID-19 vaccine, an effective treatment or enough widespread immunity.

“We have to figure out how to live with COVID-19 until it can be vanquished,” Pritzker said in announcing the framework of his plan.

Pritzker identified those phases as first, the rapid spread of the virus; second, a flattening of the case counts; third, a recovery, when the number of cases identified begins to decline and gatherings of more than 10 people would begin to be allowed; fourth, a revitalization phase, as cases continue to decline and gatherings of 50 people or fewer are allowed, and schools, travel and many other business would be allowed again; and the fifth and final phase, “Illinois Restored,” a phase in which a vaccine or good treatment is available and the state would fully reopen.

The state is currently in phase 2 of the plan, or “flattening,” in which the number of cases continues to grow but at a slower rate.

— Angela Rozas O’Toole

2:52 p.m. Illinois congresswoman seeks more resources and testing for nursing homes

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Evanston, announced a new bill today to address the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes across the state and country.

“We have seen many people … needlessly die, because they haven’t had what they needed,” Schakowsky said in a telephone news conference, in which she was joined by SEIU Healthcare Illinois president Greg Kelley and others who decried current working and living conditions in nursing homes.

The legislation calls for more resources to nursing homes hardest hit by the pandemic; more testing of residents and staff; greater transparency in reporting of COVID-19 cases and deaths; and better oversight from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the federal agency that oversees nursing homes.

In Illinois, nursing homes account for at least 44% of the state’s deaths due to COVID-19, a WBEZ analysis of state health data shows. Nursing home workers have also reported troubling conditions at their facilities.

— Esther Yoon-Ji Kang

1:43 p.m. Barack and Michelle Obama to celebrate the class of 2020

Barack and Michelle Obama appear at the Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago
In this Oct. 31, 2017, file photo, former President Barack Obama, right, and former first lady Michelle Obama appear at the Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago. Both will participate in virtual commencement activities for the Class of 2020. Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press

Barack and Michelle Obama announced today they plan to celebrate the nation’s 2020 graduating class at three virtual commencement events.

This comes as traditional in-person graduation ceremonies are going online because of the pandemic. For weeks, students and others have been using social media to call on the former president to speak to this year’s graduating class.

First up, the former president will deliver a televised prime-time commencement address on May 16. It will air on ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC as well as other broadcast and digital streaming partners. It will also feature LeBron James, Megan Rapinoe, the Jonas Brothers, Lena Waithe and others. In a separate virtual event earlier that day, the former president will address students of historically black colleges and universities.

On June 6, the former president and first lady will both speak at a ‘Dear Class of 2020’ virtual graduation on YouTube. They’ll be joined by Lady Gaga, Malala Yousafzai, former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Alicia Keys and Kerry Washington.

— Kate Grossman

10:19 a.m. April pot sales top previous two months 

Legal pot sales during Illinois’ first full month under the statewide stay-at-home order surpassed sales in two previous months, state officials announced yesterday.

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation reported that April adult-use cannabis sales totaled more than $37.2 million. Only the $39.2 million in January sales topped April.

Under Gov. JB Pritzker’s stay-at-home order, medical and adult-use cannabis dispensaries are allowed to remain open as essential businesses. Operators adapted to the new social situation by implementing online ordering systems, curbside pickup and social distancing in stores.

Read the full story.

— Associated Press

May 4

5:00 p.m. Four local TV stations will air educational programming

Chicago Public Schools is partnering with four television stations to offer educational programming while schools are closed for in-person classes.

WLS, WTTW, WCIU and Univision will run shows on their digital subchannels, such as 7.2 and 11.2. Here’s a schedule of the programming, which begins on WLS on May 6.

Most of the content will be provided through the school district’s Curriculum Equity Initiative — a $135 million, three-year effort to improve the quality of curriculum throughout the district. WTTW will offer up its own content geared toward middle school students and is not charging CPS.

Likewise, WCIU is hosting the content for free. Meanwhile, WLS and Univision reduced their air time fees. They are being paid by the Children’s First Fund, a philanthropic organization that supports CPS.

— Sarah Karp

2:56 p.m. Number of people in hospitals, on ventilators down since last week

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker announced 46 more people have died of COVID-19, and 2,341 new cases have been identified in the state.

That brings Illinois’ total to 2,662 known fatalities in the state and 63,840 total identified cases.

For the first time in a month, the number of cases of hospitalized people with COVID-19 dropped instead of increased week over week, with 4,493 people hospitalized as of midnight last night, down from 4,672 hospitalized people a week ago. There are still nearly 1,000 more people hospitalized with the virus than there were on April 6.

Additionally, the percentage of people on ventilators with the disease have also dropped, Pritzker said. But the governor cautioned the numbers still fluctuate day by day and hour by hour.

— Angela Rozas O’Toole

7:44 a.m. Arrests in Chicago take a dive

chicago police officers wearing masks
Chicago police, photographed downtown on Friday May 1, wear masks to provide protection from COVID-19. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Chicago Police officers have been instructed to minimize contacts with the public to slow the spread of the virus. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

Since Gov. JB Pritzker issued his stay-at-home order in March, arrests in Chicago have dropped by almost 75%, according to city data. It’s a sign of the difficult balance police are trying to strike between public health and public safety.

Arrests plunged as the CPD told officers to ease up on contact with the public to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Read the full story.

— Patrick Smith