Coronavirus In Illinois: Chicago Is On Track To Begin Reopening By June 3

Graphic of the coronavirus wiht the worlds 'what to know today' overlaid
Centers for Disease Control, Prevention, Photo illustration: Paula Friedrich/WBEZ
Graphic of the coronavirus wiht the worlds 'what to know today' overlaid
Centers for Disease Control, Prevention, Photo illustration: Paula Friedrich/WBEZ

Coronavirus In Illinois: Chicago Is On Track To Begin Reopening By June 3

Illinois officials reported 114,306 cases of COVID-19, including 5,083 deaths, as of Wednesday afternoon. Worldwide, there were more than 5.7 million cases and more than 356,00 deaths as of Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Read below for details on latest developments: Chicago to reopen many business and amenities by June 3; Illinois has holes in COVID-19 data; death toll surpasses 5,000; Boeing cutting 12,000 jobs; Pritzker to extend moratorium on evictions.

May 28

1:37 p.m. Chicago to reopen many businesses and amenities June 3

Chicago is on track to begin reopening more businesses and amenities by June 3, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced today.

That means starting Wednesday, Chicagoans will be able to eat outdoors at cafes and restaurants, shop at nonessential retailers, get haircuts and even head back into the office — all with safety guidelines and capacity limits in place to lower the risk of spreading COVID-19.

But Lightfoot also issued a warning as the city begins to emerge from its pandemic-imposed hiatus.

“COVID-19 is still very much part of our present,” the mayor said. “I can’t emphasize this enough. And as we reopen, please understand that we’re doing so with the full knowledge that we can not eliminate risk of this virus.”

Until then, Mayor Lori Lightfoot will keep in place her citywide restrictions aimed at stemming the spread of COVID-19. That's even as Gov. JB Pritzker is set to ease portions of his stay-at-home order for the rest of the state starting this weekend. Lightfoot's next phase rules also include some tougher restrictions than what the state will have, such as smaller capacity for many businesses.

— Alex Keefe

8:21 a.m. Illinois has holes in its COVID-19 data

As Illinois’ economy inches open, public health officials across the state are anxiously monitoring the continued spread of COVID-19, hoping there isn’t a resurgence in cases as people start to venture out for a haircut or a meal on a restaurant patio.

But they’re strategizing somewhat in the dark.

In Chicago, health and government officials do not know the types of jobs those with COVID-19 have in about 90% of the cases the state has tracked. Across Illinois, it’s unknown in almost 80% of cases, according to data WBEZ obtained from the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Experts say tracking where people who’ve gotten COVID-19 live and work — and presumably where they may have come into contact with the virus — is vital to preventing and identifying potential future outbreaks.

Read the full story.

— Kristen Schorsch


May 27

2:55 p.m. Illinois’ death toll surpasses 5,000

Gov. JB Pritzker announced that 160 more people have died from COVID-19 and 1,111 more cases have been identified, bringing the state’s tally of fatalities so far to 5,083. The state’s total number of cases has reached 114,306.

Pritzker gave the sobering tallies at a press conference in East St. Louis, where he highlighted the expansion of the state’s contact tracing programs.

— Angela Rozas O’Toole

1:27 p.m. Boeing slashes 12,000 jobs as pandemic hits travel industry

a photo of a boeing plane
In this April 10, 2019, file photo a Boeing 737 MAX 8 airplane lands following a test flight. Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

Chicago-based Boeing is cutting more than 12,000 jobs through layoffs and buyouts as the coronavirus pandemic seizes the travel industry. And the aircraft maker says more cuts are coming.

Boeing said today it will lay off 6,770 U.S. employees this week, and another 5,520 workers are taking buyout offers to leave voluntarily in the coming weeks. The layoffs are expected to be concentrated in the Seattle area, home to Boeing’s commercial-airplanes business.

The company said additional job cuts will be made in international locations, but it did not provide numbers. A company spokesperson said today’s actions represent the largest number of job cuts, but several thousand additional jobs will be eliminated in the next few months.

Air travel within the U.S. tumbled 96% by mid-April, to fewer than 100,000 people on some days. It has recovered slightly. The Transportation Security Administration said it screened 264,843 people at airports yesterday, a drop of 89% compared with the same day a year ago.

— Associated Press

12:36 p.m. Pritzker plans to extend moratorium on evictions during the pandemic

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker signaled today he intends to extend a moratorium on evictions statewide as part of a new pandemic disaster proclamation he intends to issue later this week when his stay-at-home order expires.

“We’re going to extend the moratorium on evictions a little while longer,” Pritzker said during a morning appearance in Meredosia, a west-central Illinois town along the Illinois River that is experiencing major flooding.

“We want to make sure that we’re protecting renters — who, honestly, it’s not been their fault. It’s, it’s not anyone’s fault here that we’ve had these enormous COVID[-19] challenges, the economic damage that it’s done that we’re trying to recover from,” the governor said.

Pritzker first barred evictions on March 20 then extended that order on April 23 as part of the series of COVID-19 executive orders he has issued.

On average, between 2010 and 2017, there were more than 23,000 eviction filings annually in Cook County alone, according to data compiled by the Chicago-based Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing, a not-for-profit legal advocate for renters.

— Dave McKinney

12:21 p.m. Cook County medical examiner’s office has investigated more deaths in 2020 than all of 2019

Cook County has reached a grim milestone. The county medical examiner’s office today said it has investigated more deaths so far this year than all of 2019.

Just over half of the deaths are due to COVID-19.

“If it wasn’t for each and every dedicated person working diligently in this building, we would not have been able to handle this crushing workload and the emotional toll that it brings,” Dr. Ponni Arunkumar, the county’s chief medical examiner, said during a news conference.

On average, the office investigates around 6,300 of the roughly 40,000 people who die in Cook County a year. The county has now surpassed its typical caseload — with nearly 6,600 hundred deaths just five months into 2020. Some of the new cases could be from people who are dying at home because they’re scared of getting the new coronavirus at hospitals, according to a WBEZ investigation.

— Kristen Schorsch

9:20 a.m. Museum of Science and Industry cutting 84 jobs

photo of the exterior of the museum of science and industry
The Museum of Science and Industry, pictured above, has laid off 84 of its 358 permanent employees. Bill Healy / WBEZ

Some of Chicago’s cultural institutions are making moves to weather the financial storm caused by closures during the pandemic. The Museum of Science and Industry in the city’s Hyde Park neighborhood has laid off 84 of its 358 permanent employees, and remaining staff will be required to take 10 furlough days. 

“We made these decisions to protect the museum’s long-term future, so that we can continue to inspire the inventive genius in everyone,” a museum statement said. A spokesperson added that the museum has a projected $20 million revenue shortfall due to decreased attendance from the mandatory closure because of the pandemic.

Financial reports from 2019 show that the museum had more than $64 million in revenue, and about 1.4 million visitors that year. Chicago-based hedge fund manager Ken Griffin donated $125 million to the museum last year, and it will be renamed the Kenneth C. Griffin Museum of Science and Industry. A spokesperson didn’t respond to how the renaming might be affected by the museum’s current financial status.

— Carrie Shepherd


May 26

5:04 p.m. Chicago announces its own Phase 3 rules

Chicago now has its own set of reopening rules that differ slightly from those put out by state officials over the weekend.

City officials are imposing stricter capacity limits in places like offices, salons and retail stores — 25% in many places compared to 50% by the state’s rules — and will keep playgrounds and the Lakefront closed during Phase 3 of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s five-phase reopening plan. The city is also explicitly requiring people wear masks in most places.

Lightfoot is expected to keep the current stay-at-home order in place for another week or two, even though the rest of Illinois is expected to move into the next phase of reopening at the end of this week.

Today, Lightfoot and Chicago’s Commissioner of Public Health Dr. Allison Arwady also announced plans to ramp up contact tracing as the stay-at-home order begins to loosen. Contact tracing is the process of notifying people who may have come in contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19.

The city will award a $56 million contract to an entity that will then sub-contract with community organizations to hire 600 people at $20 to $24 per hour to help the public health department to contain the spread of COVID-19 as the stay-at-home order lifts.

— Becky Vevea

2:51 p.m. Illinois officials announce 39 more deaths and more than 1,100 new COVID-19 cases

Illinois public health officials announced 39 more people have died of COVID-19 and 1,178 new cases, bringing to a total 4,923 deaths and 113,195 identified cases of the virus statewide.

State Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike noted that today’s tallies are likely smaller than they may be later this week because medical providers, labs and health departments don’t always provide information on cases over the weekend. Gov. JB Pritzker said all regions of the state are still on track to move on to the next phase of reopening by the end of the week, based on health metrics the state is tracking. (The city of Chicago has its own metrics, guidelines and plan for reopening.)

Ezike also noted that in the week that ended May 16, there were 780 deaths, the first week there were fewer deaths than the previous week since the pandemic began. This brings hope for a “downward trend,” Ezike said.

She also noted hospitals have been getting more shipments of medicine used to treat the virus.

— Angela Rozas O’Toole

11:49 p.m. Northwestern, DePaul inch toward reopening

photo of northwestern sign
Northwestern University unveiled a six-step plan for how it will reopen campus. Marc Monaghan / WBEZ

Northwestern University has unveiled a six-step plan to reopen campus throughout this summer and fall, providing one of the most detailed plans among higher education institutions in the Chicago area as schools determine how to safely operate amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plan, which is contingent on local and state orders and the level of containment of the virus, starts with bringing back faculty and students who are conducting research in laboratories next month, while continuing remote learning for the summer.

Phases four, five and six would eventually allow for all faculty and students to return to campus. However, the current plan is less detailed about those stages as planning continues, and there is no firm timetable for the return of students. Social distancing is expected to continue and masks must be worn in all common spaces. Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 must report it to the university.

DePaul University said in a letter to the campus community they also plan to reopen in person in the fall and will release its plan soon. University of Illinois leadership also has said they expect to release their plan for the fall semester next month.

— Kate McGee

10:08 a.m. Preckwinkle vetoes measure to identify addresses of COVID-19 patients for first responders

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has vetoed a resolution the board narrowly approved last week that recommended county public health officials give 911 dispatchers the addresses of suburban residents who have tested positive for COVID-19.

In a statement, Preckwinkle said this is the first time she has vetoed a measure during her decade leading county government. She cited privacy concerns for people who could be stigmatized, emphasizing that COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting people who are African American and Latino.

State and county public health officials have been against identifying people who have the new coronavirus, since so many who have COVID-19 either don’t show symptoms or haven’t been tested — including first responders themselves. Public health officials say police officers and firefighters should assume everyone has COVID-19 and wear protective gear to each call.

First responders, though, say that’s unrealistic considering the global shortage of masks, gloves and other protective gear. They say knowing who has COVID-19 would make them safer when they respond to 911 calls.

— Kristen Schorsch

9:38 a.m. Chicago sees violent weekend despite stay-at-home order

Ten people were killed and another 39 were wounded in weekend shootings in Chicago despite the statewide stay-at-home order. It was the deadliest Memorial Day weekend in the city since 2015.

Police Superintendent David Brown is scheduled to talk today about weekend enforcement efforts that included breaking up large gatherings that are prohibited under the stay-at-home order. The police department said two officers suffered minor injuries while trying to disperse one large gathering on Sunday night.

The vast majority of the shootings occurred in neighborhoods plagued by violence on the city’s West and South Sides. The youngest known victim was a 16-year-old boy who was shot and killed in the South Side’s Washington Park neighborhood on Saturday.

— Associated Press


May 25

4:08 p.m. “Re-Open Illinois” rally in downtown Chicago broken up

A rally billed as “Re-Open Illinois” held this afternoon at Buckingham Fountain in downtown Chicago was broken up by police who said attendees were not practicing social distancing or following public health guidelines in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

“While we will work to ensure the First Amendment rights of those participating in today’s march, there are protocols that govern events held on Chicago Park District Property, including obtaining the proper permits to do so,” said a Chicago Police spokesperson in a statement. “As such, the organizers were directed to dismantle the audio equipment, and they peacefully complied.”

They also had not obtained a permit.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot also posted a comment about the rally on Twitter: “While we respect First Amendment rights, this gathering posed an unacceptable health risk and was dispersed. No matter where in the city you live, no one is exempt from @GovPritzker’s stay-at-home order.”

Swathed in flags and carrying patriotic signs, participants cited many of the same complaints against state and city rules voiced at a May 1 rally in downtown Chicago, namely that stay-at-home orders have decimated the state’s economy and are unconstitutional.

Video taken at the rally and posted on Twitter showed Rep. Darren Bailey (R-Xenia) speaking to the crowd. Bailey was kicked out of last week’s legislative session for refusing to wear a mask. He had also gained notoriety for fighting Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker’s executive stay-at-home orders in state court.

— Kate McGee

2:46 p.m. 1,713 new COVID-19 cases, 31 more deaths

The Illinois Department of Public Health today reported 1,713 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, raising the state’s total to 112,017 since the beginning of the pandemic. 

There were 31 more fatalities from the disease reported since May 24, raising the death toll to 4,884 deaths, in 100 counties in Illinois. The female and male victims ranged in age from their 30s to 90s, with 22 deaths in Cook County.

Officials also reported that 25,674 tests for coronavirus were done during the past 24 hours, for a total of 747,921. The current, statewide, seven-day rolling positivity rate — the average percentage of tests that came back positive for COVID-19 during the period of May 16 to May 22 — is 12%. 

— Mary Hall

1:02 p.m. Memorial Day celebrations go virtual in Chicagoland

Thomas Pavur sits near the grave stone on Memorial Day
Thomas Pavur sits near the grave stone of his uncle, U.S. Navy World War II veteran Chester A. Shereiv, at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery on Memorial Day 2020 in Elwood, Ill. Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press

Annual Memorial Day celebrations continued virtually across the Chicago area today as residents remembered those who died serving in the U.S. military.

In Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood, the Wellington-Oakdale Old Glory Marching Society changed its motto this year from “Everybody Marches, Nobody (Just) Watches” to “Everybody Marches and Everybody Watches.” The group held its 57th annual Memorial Day parade on Facebook Live, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and playing archival footage from previous parades.

“Even though we can’t be together in person, we’re not going to let the virus get in the way of a good parade,” said participant Mike Lufrano as he introduced a prerecorded video message from Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker and Secretary of State Jesse White also spoke virtually.

Farther north, near the Andersonville neighborhood, members of American Legion Tattler Post 973 held their annual Rose Hill Cemetery Memorial Day Parade outside the home of one of their members and broadcast it on Facebook Live. This year’s celebration featured a flag salute and a bugler played taps. Members were invited to drive by to pay their respects.

— Kate McGee

12:30 p.m. New state grant program provides communities with money to improve digital access

A new state grant program will provide communities with money and expertise to expand broadband capacity and improve digital access as more people work, shop and go to school online during the coronavirus pandemic.

The $150,000 Illinois Connected Communities grant program will provide grants of up to $15,000, on a competitive basis.

“Without a question, there’s never been a more important time to improve digital access in our state,” said Erin Guthrie, director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, which is administering the program. Guthrie said expanded digital access will improve people’s lives and “play a major role in jump starting our economy.”

The program is part of a partnership between the Illinois Office of Broadband and the Evanston-based Benton Institute for Broadband and Society. The money may be used for community planning and capacity building, and experts from the Benton Institute will provide consultations and best practices for grantees.

The application deadline is June 12.

— Associated Press

May 24

3:36 p.m. State reports 2,508 new cases, 67 more deaths

The Illinois Department of Public Health today reported 2,508 new cases of coronavirus disease during the past 24 hours, raising the state’s total to 110,304 since the beginning of the pandemic. It’s the fifth day in a row that new cases exceeded 2,000.

The IDPH also reported 67 more fatalities from the disease since yesterday, raising the death toll to 4,856. As is the case every day, the majority of additional deaths occurred in Cook County. The female and male victims ranged in age from their 20s to their 90s.

Officials also reported that 25,674 tests for coronavir us disease were done during the past 24 hours, for a total of 747,921. The latest seven-day positivity rate, covering May 15 to May 21, is 12%. The positivity rate is the average percentage of tests that came back positive for COVID-19 during the period.

— WBEZ staff

12:06 p.m. Lawmakers act on virus-related issues during special session

Illinois State Rep. Camille Y. Lilly, D-Chicago, top, delivers her remarks during an extended session of the Illinois House of Representatives
Illinois State Rep. Camille Y. Lilly, D-Chicago, top, debates the state budget for the new fiscal year starting in July, during an extended session of the Illinois House of Representatives on May 23. Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register/Associated Press

Face masks. Social distancing. Meeting inside the Bank of Springfield Center instead of the Illinois State Capitol building. Lawmakers held an historic special session in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, wrapping up their five days of work in the wee hours today.

They passed a $40 billion budget and took other important actions, including giving Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker money for a series of COVID-19 initiatives. One thing they didn’t give him: an approval of fines for businesses that violate his pandemic orders, which have shut down most of Illinois’ economy.

Read the full story.

— WBEZ staff

9:18 a.m. COVID-19 impacts end of Ramadan 

The COVID-19 pandemic altered Easter and Passover last month, and now it’s changing how Chicago-area Muslims are observing Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Because of the coronavirus, Muslims here have canceled big gatherings that were planned for this weekend.

Ahmadi Muslims will hold services at home instead of at their mosques in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood and in Glen Ellyn and Zion. “All of us will still have an Eid service in our homes with our families,” says community spokesman Iftekhar Ahmad. “It still gives us a time for members to reflect on what we learned during Ramadan.”

Ahmad says Ahmadi Muslims still organized food drives and blood drives during Ramadan, despite the mosque closures. The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago says giving was way down during Ramadan this year, because so many in-person fundraisers were cancelled.

— Dan Mihalopoulos

9:10 a.m. Cook County Forest Preserves is discouraging weekend crowds

Wide open spaces typically turn the Cook County Forest Preserves into Memorial Day weekend hot spots. But this year officials are saying, Don’t go. Picnicking, cookouts and big gatherings are prohibited. And eight popular preserves, including Dan Ryan Woods and Schiller Park, have closed their parking lots through May 25 to keep down crowds.

Preserves spokesman Carl Vogel says holiday crowds pose too much risk during the coronavirus pandemic. “We can find a way to have a good weekend, a good holiday weekend, and maybe this year skip the trip to the forest preserves,” he says. Preserves will remain open to people who bike or walk to them, but those activities are not encouraged.

— Vivian McCall


May 23

3:02 p.m. State reports 2,352 new cases, 75 more deaths

The Illinois Department of Public Health today reported 2,352 new cases of coronavirus disease during the past 24 hours, raising the state’s total to 107,796 since the beginning of the pandemic. It’s the fourth day in a row that new cases exceeded 2,000.

The IDPH also reported 75 more fatalities from the disease since yesterday, raising the death toll to 4,790. As is the case every day, the majority of additional deaths occurred in Cook County. The female and male victims ranged in age from their 20s to their 90s.

Officials also reported that 25,114 tests for coronavirus disease were done during the past 24 hours, for a total of 722,247. The latest seven-day positivity rate, covering May 14 to May 20, is 13%. The positivity rate is the average percentage of tests that came back positive for COVID-19 during the period.

— WBEZ staff

2:18 p.m. Virus gets convicted Chicago cop an early prison release 

A federal judge has ordered that an ex-Chicago police officer convicted of conspiring with a gang member in the kidnappings and robberies of drug dealers be released from prison more than six years early due to the threat of the coronavirus. The Chicago Tribune reported today that U.S. District Judge Joan Gottschall said Glenn Lewellen’s extreme obesity, hypertension and a heart condition put him at elevated risk of contracting COVID-19.

Over the objections of prosecutors, the judge said there was evidence that the U.S. Bureau of Prisons has struggled to contain the virus within its facilities and that she believed Lewellen has been rehabilitated. The 64-year-old Lewellen was sentenced to 18 years in prison in 2013 after a trial in which prosecutors presented evidence that he conspired with a gang member who was his paid informant in eight robberies and kidnappings between 1998 and 2006.

— Associated Press

9:52 a.m. State changes the way it reports nursing home virus cases

Illinois is no longer giving the total numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths at long-term care facilities. Instead, the state will disclose information about recent outbreaks.

The Illinois Department of Public Health yesterday began to provide information only on nursing homes and other facilities that have at least one new coronavirus case in the last four weeks. The department has stopped publishing information about facilities that had cases earlier in the pandemic but have not had any cases in the past 28 days.

AARP Illinois says it’s troubled by the change because it prevents people from seeing historical data about the virus at individual facilities. Of the more than 4,710 people in Illinois who have died of the virus, more than 2,000 of them were residents of long-term facilities.

— Associated Press

8:03 a.m. Air traffic is picking up

A passenger walks at O'Hare Airport, in Chicago
A passenger walks at O'Hare Airport, in Chicago. Paul Beaty / Associated Press

There are signs of life in the air travel industry after months of steep declines due to the coronavirus pandemic. Chicago-based United Airlines and American Airlines, which have big operations at O’Hare International Airport, have reported increases in customers booking flights and fewer cancellations. Southwest Airlines, which has operations at Midway Airport, reported this week that after a torrent of customers canceling travel plans in March and April, new bookings have outpaced cancellations in May.

Read the full story.

— NPR


May 22

2:59 p.m. Pritzker offers new guidance for day cares as state prepares for Phase 3 of reopening plan

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker is offering new guidance for day cares today as the state braces to reopen more of its economy next week.

Pritzker is mandating day care providers not to serve more than 10 children in one classroom for the first month that they’re open. After that, they can expand. This comes as each region of the state is on track to move to Phase 3 of Pritzker’s five-phase plan to reopen the state, which will include the reopening of some offices.

Also today, the Illinois Department of Public Health announced another 2,758 new cases of COVID-19, including 110 deaths. Illinois has seen more than 105,000 cases of the novel coronavirus since the pandemic began. More than 4,700 people here have died.

— Tony Arnold

2:52 p.m. State will notify 32,000 people about mistaken private data release

The state office that doles out unemployment benefits said today that more than 32,000 Illinoisans may have had their names, addresses and Social Security numbers briefly exposed online to a single person due to a “system access issue” last week.

WBEZ first broke the news that a person had reported they were able to view what appeared to be confidential information of people seeking jobless benefits on the public-facing Illinois Department of Employment Security website. The mistake — which IDES initially characterized as a “glitch” — allowed that information to be viewed briefly by just a single person, the agency said today.

“Based on the department’s investigation, it is believed that the claimant unintentionally viewed the information of a handful of other claimants and there is no indication that any personal information was, or will be, improperly used,” reads a statement released by IDES this afternoon. “Out of an abundance of caution, the Department will notify 32,483 claimants whose information could have been possibly viewed to ensure full transparency.”

The claimants in question had applied to the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program — or PUA — which is the federally funded program for gig workers and independent contractors hit hard by the pandemic. Those workers weren’t eligible for unemployment benefits previously until Washington approved funding for them in March and the state launched its website on May 11, after weeks of delays.

The state’s unemployment agency says people who were affected by the problem will be notified, and will have the option to enroll in one year of free credit monitoring and identity theft protection.

— Alex Keefe

9:00 a.m. Cubs institute pay cuts

The Chicago Cubs are trimming payroll while they await word on the fate of the Major League Baseball season.

The Cubs are instituting pay cuts because of the coronavirus pandemic, but there will be no furloughs through the end of June.

Chicago’s cuts were based on compensation, a person with direct knowledge of the situation said. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein and president of business operations Crane Kenney took the highest reductions.

— Associated Press


May 21

5:09 p.m. Cook County will release the addresses of COVID-19 patients to first responders

Ambulance driving on the highway
First responders will now receive the addresses of suburban residents who have tested positive for COVID-19. Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press

The Cook County Public Health Department plans to give first responders the addresses of suburban residents who have tested positive for COVID-19.

The department’s reversal came after the Cook County Board, in a closely divided vote, approved a resolution today that recommended the disclosure. Nine commissioners voted yes, seven voted no, and one commissioner voted present.

Board President Toni Preckwinkle called the approval “profoundly disappointing,” and said it was “discouraging and dismaying that we wouldn’t listen to our own scientists.” State and local public health officials have been against identifying people who have COVID-19, saying the move would give first responders a false sense of security, since so many people who are infected do not show symptoms or haven’t been tested. That includes responders themselves.

In recently siding with the county against identifying coronavirus patients to a northwest suburban dispatch group, a county judge disclosed in her opinion that county public health officials indicated they would comply with the board’s resolution if commissioners approved it.

— Kristen Schorsch

3:14 p.m. Illinois health officials announce 87 more deaths from COVID-19

Illinois’ public health department today announced 2,268 more confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 87 additional deaths.

That brings the total number of deaths in Illinois to 4,607 since the pandemic began.

The state has now seen 102,686 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus. Meanwhile, the state’s average positive testing rate over the last week is at 14%, meaning some regions are still on track to begin reopening more of their economies by the end of the month.

— Alex Keefe

2:14 p.m. Illinois’ unemployment rate is now the highest it’s been since 1976

A man looks at signs of a closed store due to COVID-19
A man looks at signs of a closed store due to COVID-19 in Niles, Ill. Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press

Illinois’ unemployment rate now stands at a staggering 16.4% — the highest it has been since the state began its current jobless measurements more than four decades ago.

Nearly 73,000 more people in Illinois filed first-time claims for unemployment benefits last week, according to preliminary data released today by the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES). That’s roughly the same number of jobless claims filed the week prior, as the state continues to see the COVID-19 pandemic take a devastating toll on its economy.

Meanwhile, the state reported for the first time today that more than 74,500 people filed for jobless claims in the first week it enacted the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program — or PUA — which is the federally funded program for gig workers and independent contractors hit hard by the pandemic. Those workers weren’t eligible for unemployment benefits previously until Washington approved funding for them in March and the state launched its website on May 11.

But Illinois’ implementation of that program has been plagued by problems, including an unspecified “glitch” last week that caused PUA applicants’ private data — such as Social Security numbers — to be published on the state’s website.

— Alex Keefe

1:27 p.m. University of Chicago and Illinois Institute of Technology students sue for tuition refunds

Students at the University of Chicago and Illinois Institute of Technology have filed separate class action lawsuits against their respective universities demanding partial tuition reimbursements due to the COVID-19 shutdown. The lawsuits were both filed in U.S. District Court yesterday.

Student Arica Kincheloe filed the lawsuit against UChicago and graduate student Omar Hernandez filed the lawsuit against IIT. Both complaints argue students could not access facilities, services and opportunities they paid for and claim the universities have been “unjustly enriched.” Therefore, they believe they are entitled to a partial refund.

Two students at DePaul University filed a similar lawsuit last week. Students and parents at universities across the country also have filed lawsuits demanding tuition refunds.

The University of Chicago and Illinois Tech both did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Both schools moved online in March to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

— Kate McGee

9:37 a.m. Community groups have plans to provide water to some Chicago residents during the pandemic

photo of water truck in Pilsen
A Chicago Department of Water Management worker and vehicle are pictured here in the city’s Pilsen neighborhood. Water rights activists want the city to restore water service to residents without it during the COVID-19 pandemic. Maria Ines Zamudio / WBEZ

Some community organizations and water rights activists have called on city officials to restore water to residents who don’t currently have service. They’ve argued for reconnecting service as a matter of public health. Running water is a necessity during the COVID-19 pandemic, they say.

The city has not disconnected water service to any households since Mayor Lori Lightfoot issued a moratorium on water shutoffs last year. But the city has not created a plan to restore water services to the estimated thousands of households that had their water shut off before the moratorium.

City officials told activists that they can’t identify which customers are currently without water.

And now the community organizations say they can’t wait any longer for the city to reconnect water services to these families.

Read the full story.

— María Inés Zamudio


May 20

3:15 p.m. Illinois surpasses 100,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, but officials remain optimistic

Illinois public health officials announced today that the state has surpassed the 100,000 mark of confirmed COVID-19 cases.

The Illinois Public Health Department’s data show the state has identified 100,418 cases since the start of the pandemic. That includes 4,525 deaths, 147 of which were announced today. But, health officials said the state still appears to be heading in the right direction, as hospitalization, ICU bed and ventilator use for patients with COVID-19 continue to decline.

Gov. JB Pritzker also announced today that he’s easing some restrictions on things like golf, outdoor activities and restaurants as the state prepares to head into the next phase of his reopening plan. In Phase 3 of the plan, Pritzker said restaurants will be allowed to serve customers outdoors, in addition to continuing deliveries and curb-side pickup. Illinois is currently in Phase 2 of the plan, but the Democratic governor expressed optimism that the state could advance to the next step in nine days.

— Alex Keefe

12:22 p.m. Road deaths in Illinois, U.S. spiked despite virus restrictions

A mask hangs in the rearview mirror of a car
The rate of fatal vehicle crashes in Illinois and the rest of the country jumped dramatically in March. Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press

The rate of fatal vehicle crashes in Illinois and the rest of the country jumped dramatically in March, even though the number of miles driven plunged due to coronavirus stay-at-home orders. The National Safety Council says today that based on preliminary figures from states, the number of fatal crashes per 100 million miles driven rose an “alarming” 14% compared with March of 2019.

Deaths varied widely by states, but Illinois was among those with double-digit increases. NSC estimates the number of deaths rose 11% in Illinois through the first three months of 2020 compared to the same period last year.

Why the increase? NSC points to anecdotal reports from states of an increase in reckless driving and speeding due to nearly traffic-free highways during shutdowns that were in effect in March, the latest month for which statistics are available.

“Per mile traveled, our roads are less safe than they were prior to COVID-19,” says Ken Kolosh, the safety council’s manager of statistics.

— Associated Press

12:05 p.m. CTU sues DeVos, CPS over special ed during pandemic

The Chicago Teachers Union says it’s suing U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Chicago Public Schools, saying its policies interfere with the education of students with special needs during the coronavirus pandemic. DeVos and CPS have failed “to provide resources and guidance for special education students” during the public health crisis, the union said in a news release announcing the federal lawsuit.

A spokeswoman for DeVos characterized the lawsuit as a political stunt designed to cover for the union’s own failures. The district suggested the lawsuit, rather than the policies that prompted it, is detrimental to the education of special needs students.

“Make no mistake: this lawsuit against the district is not about helping students — it’s about avoiding the necessary steps to ensure our most vulnerable students are supported during this unprecedented crisis,” CPS said in a statement.

The lawsuit contends that between the education department’s failure to provide adequate resources and guidance for special education, and the “ill-conceived CPS remote learning policies for special education” during the pandemic, the education of thousands of special needs students has been undermined.

The lawsuit seeks an emergency injunction to prevent the U.S. Department of Education “from enforcing regulations that place impossible administrative burdens on students, parents and educators,” according to the news release.

— Associated Press

10:45 a.m. COVID-19 self testing is on the rise

Photo of nasal swab being inserted into a man’s nose
A man braces for a nasal swab at a drive-thu COVID-19 testing facility. Rogelio V. Solis / Associated Press

As COVID-19 testing becomes more available — crucial to reopening society — many sites in Illinois are starting to offer tests where patients collect the sample themselves. Recently, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced six new sites in the city where patients will administer an oral swab sample themselves.

It’s a method that may become more common as federal guidelines expand to eventually allow at-home tests. But it’s raising questions for people who worry about whether they did they tests correctly and if the rush to expand testing has pushed through methods that might not be entirely sound.

Read the full story.

— Kate McGee


May 19

2:51 p.m. Illinois tallies 146 more deaths and 1,545 more COVID-19 cases

Illinois public health officials today reported that another 146 people have died from COVID-19, with 1,545 additional cases identified in the state. That brings the state to a total of 4,379 fatalities since the pandemic began, with 98,030 total cases identified.

The state has conducted more than nearly 622,000 tests, according to the public health department. And the number of cases that continue to be reported are a reflection of the state’s daily large number of tests, which on May 18 was more than 18,000, said Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.

Pritzker also said all four regions of the state are still on track to move into the next phase of his reopening plan by the end of the month, which would allow more businesses and other aspects of the economy to open.

— Angela Rozas O’Toole

Correction, May 19, 2020: Documents from the governor’s office now indicate Illinois is third in per capita testing in the past seven days, behind Rhode Island and New Mexico. It’s first among the most populous states.

11:11 a.m. Virus outbreak sacks Ditka’s Chicago restaurant

The coronavirus pandemic has contributed to the closing of Mike Ditka’s namesake restaurant on the Gold Coast. Ditka’s Restaurant Group says it will permanently close the location because of the economic downturn and the impending end of the eatery’s lease.

The memorabilia-filled eatery, which opened in 1997, was frequently visited by Da Coach and other celebrities. The company says Ditka’s locations in suburban Oakbrook Terrace and Pittsburgh (Ditka played at Pitt) will remain open.

— Associated Press

8:04 a.m. Restaurant owners want relief at General Assembly session

photo of sign outside of Tuman’s Tap and Grill
Like other food and drink businesses across the state, Tuman’s Tap and Grill in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village neighborhood has offered takeout only during the pandemic and stay-at-home order. Paula Friedrich / WBEZ


As Illinois lawmakers head to Springfield this week to discuss, among other things, the state’s reopening plan, restaurateurs want their voices heard.

Many were caught off guard earlier this month when Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Gov. JB Pritzker released five-stage plans that either leave restaurant opening dates unclear or delay them to the end of June — well behind businesses like nail and hair salons.

Lobby groups like the Illinois Restaurant Association have been calling up lawmakers before the General Assembly reconvenes this week. They want some protection for an industry that brings in about $20 billion and employs half a million workers across the state.

Read the full story.

— Monica Eng


May 18

4:57 p.m. Chicago will penalize churches and religious groups that defy mass gathering ban

Churches and religious groups that defy Chicago’s ban on gatherings of more than 10 people will be fined. That’s the message from Mayor Lori Lightfoot today. 

The mayor said her office had people outside houses of worship yesterday to educate the public about compliance and to keep the peace.

“We had folks that were out there because there was some concern about counter protests. Luckily none of that materialized,” the mayor explained at an unrelated press conference about the city’s ongoing COVID-19 testing expansion. “But certainly there were some churches that congregated in excess of the allowable number, and we will be taking action as to those individuals and those churches.”

The mayor’s office did not provide a list of congregations that defied her order or say how much they would be fined. She also didn’t clarify her comments about “individuals” being fined.

— Claudia Morell

2:55 p.m. Illinois reports 59 deaths and more than 2,200 new COVID-19 cases

Contact Tracing
A woman points to a visual representation of contact tracing. Illinois plans to build out a system in which people would be contacted if they have been exposed to the coronavirus in an effort to stem the spread. Rick Bowmer / Associated Press

Illinois public health officials reported 59 deaths and 2,294 new cases of COVID-19 today, bringing to a total 4,234 deaths and 96,485 confirmed cases across Illinois.

This tally was released as Gov. JB Pritzker focused his daily press briefing on his plan to build out “contact tracing” in Illinois, in which people would be contacted if they have been exposed to the virus in an effort to stem the spread.

Only 29% of the state’s known cases are involved in contact tracing right now, Pritzker said, far from the industry standard of 60% tracing. Pritzker said the state can’t get to that number on its existing infrastructure and is building out a statewide tech platform to improve tracking.

Illinois is working with Partners in Health, which helped build the contact tracing system in Massachusetts, to build out the tracing program. Pritzker said the state would be working with local health departments to expand the contact tracing program, with hires and pay determined locally. IDPH is launching a pilot initiative on those programs in St. Clair County in the Metro East region and Lake County in the Northeast region, he said.

— Angela Rozas O’Toole

8:23 a.m. Nursing home “sitting ducks”

COVID-19 has spread inside Chicago nursing homes, and some residents say they’re getting scant information about the people getting sick and dying in their midst. A woman who lives in one facility says she’s getting updates about COVID-19 cases in her nursing home through the Illinois Department of Public Health website, news reports and conversations with people outside of the facility.

“We’re completely alone in this,” she says. “We’re like sitting ducks.”

Read the full story.

— Esther Yoon-Ji Kang

6:47 a.m. Defiant businesses could face misdemeanor

Businesses that defy Gov. JB Pritzker’s stay-at-home order could face a misdemeanor under emergency rules his administration has filed. The change took effect May 15 when the rules were filed, but legislators on a bipartisan committee have the chance to review it on May 13.

If they don’t reject it, it’ll remain in effect for 150 days. Class A misdemeanors are punished by a fine between $75 and $2,500. The Pritzker’s administration’s general counsel Ann Spillane likens it to a traffic ticket. However, some Republicans called it an overreach of Pritzker’s powers.

— Associated Press


May 17

4:37 p.m. COVID-19 now more than half of Cook County deaths this year

Cook County hit a grim milestone this week as the number of deaths related to the coronavirus accounted for 51% of all deaths recorded by the Medical Examiner’s Office so far this year.

As of today, the county had lost more than 2,953 people to virus-related causes. There were 5,773 total deaths so far in 2020 recorded by the medical examiner.

For context, Cook County’s 237 homicides so far this year account for only 4% of deaths, and 871 accidental deaths — including overdoses — are 15%.

— Elliott Ramos

2:52 p.m. State reports 1,734 new cases, 51 more deaths

Health officials today reported an additional 1,734 cases of COVID-19 in Illinois since yesterday, for a total of 94,191 since the beginning of the pandemic. They also reported 51 deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of fatalities to 4,177.

Cook County accounted for most of the latest deaths, with the male and female victims ranging from their 30s to more than 100 years old. The state also reported 20,295 tests for COVID-19 since yesterday, for a total of 581,944 tests.

10:11 a.m. Why some faith leaders aren’t defying stay-at-home limits

photo of Pastor L. Bernard Jakes preparing for Sunday service
L. Bernard Jakes, pastor of West Point Baptist Church in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood, is seen here on May 16 preparing for Sunday service. Courtesy of L. Bernard Jakes


A lot of media attention has been given to some churches in Illinois — and across the country — that are defying stay-at-home orders and even suing for their right to gather in large groups. But many houses of worship in the Chicago area are following restrictions, even citing their faith as a reason to be cautious.

“We have to worship in a different way, in a different location, but we have not stopped worshiping,” says one Chicago minister.

And a local imam who’s not reopening his mosque yet says “the last thing you want is to stand in front of God, and the judgment is that you were the reason for someone to get sick and die because of your service.”

Read the full story.

— Esther Yoon-Ji Kang

8:04 a.m. “Glitch” makes personal data of gig workers public

The state of Illinois’ highly touted new system for processing unemployment benefits claims for gig workers during the pandemic mistakenly “made some private information publicly available,” according to a spokeswoman for Gov. JB Pritzker.

The acknowledgement from the governor’s office came late yesterday, after WBEZ reviewed a screenshot from the website of the Illinois Department of Employment Security showing the names of claimants, their Social Security numbers and other information about their cases for benefits from the state.

Read the full story.

— Dan Mihalopoulos and Tony Arnold


May 16

3:00 p.m. State reports more than 2,000 new cases, 74 additional deaths

Health officials today announced 2,088 new cases of COVID-19 in Illinois during the past 24 hours. The state has seen a total of 92,457 cases of the disease. Officials also reported 74 more fatalities since yesterday, bringing Illinois’ death toll to 4,129.

The vast majority of the latest deaths were in Cook County, and were men and women ranging in age from their 30s to more than 100 years old.

The Illinois Department of Public Health also announced today that laboratories reported 23,047 COVID-19 tests during the last 24 hours, for a total of 561,649 in the state.

10:23 a.m. Avoiding health care is a risky side effect of the pandemic

Emergency Room Sign
An emergency room sign at Cook County Hospital, one of Chicago's safety net hospitals. Paul Beaty / Associated Press

The coronavirus outbreak is making many people in Cook County fearful of going to hospitals or clinics for problems like chest pains. That’s a dangerous trend that may be adding to deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read the full story.

— Kristen Schorsch and Elliott Ramos

10:19 a.m. COVID-19 has spread into nearly one-third of Illinois’ nursing homes

The novel coronavirus has sickened people in nearly a third of Illinois nursing homes, a WBEZ analysis of state data shows. The Illinois Department of Public Health has new data showing laboratory-confirmed cases in 460 — more than 31% — of the state’s 1,470 long-term-care facilities and assisted-living establishments. Nursing homes accounted for 1,975 — nearly 49% — of the state’s 4,058 coronavirus deaths.

Read the full story.

— Chip Mitchell

8:23 a.m. Illinois nurse sorry for going to Wisconsin bar

A northern Illinois nurse is expressing regret for not taking better precautions while visiting her sister’s Wisconsin bar. Katie Koutsky, a nurse with Advocate Aurora Health system, says she was helping her sister reopen her suburban Milwaukee bar May 13 when she was interviewed by a local television station.

She told WTMJ-TV being in the bar was no greater risk than being in a grocery. Koutsky says in a statement released by Advocate Aurora Health it was a “lapse in judgment” to not wear a mask and maintain social distancing. She will self-quarantine and be tested before returning to work.

— Associated Press


May 15

4:11 p.m. As COVID-19 tests increase, the state’s positivity rate drops

With a drastic increase in the amount of testing in Illinois, the state’s public health department reported today that it received results from the last 24 hours showing just 9% of tests were positive for COVID-19. It’s the lowest statewide positivity rate in Illinois this month.

The lower the rate of positive test results, the sooner the four regions of the state might begin to reopen sectors of their economies under the metrics set by Gov. JB Pritzker’s plan. The plan says a region’s test results must be below 20% for 14 days before it could move to the next phase of his reopening scheme.

Meanwhile, the Illinois Public Health Department reported 2,432 more COVID-19 cases today, including 130 deaths.

— Tony Arnold

2:42 p.m. Chicago Public Library workers told to prepare for possible reopening

Chicago Public Library employees were told via email yesterday that they are to return to work next week. In an email, Commissioner Andrea Telli wrote, “We are at the starting gate of a marathon and will take our first steps together on May 20.” Telli said coming back that day will allow workers to prepare branches for a targeted June 1 reopening. That’s the start of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s “Protecting Chicago” plan, when certain businesses and services can reopen under strict conditions.

But today, Lightfoot said in a statement: “Absolutely no date has been set to open libraries to the public, and any reopening decision would be consistent with public health guidance and dependent on where our data is at that time.”

John Rayburn, president of AFSCME’s Local 1215 representing library workers, said some employees are eager to get back to work, but others are nervous about the potential of catching COVID-19 if a coworker is sick. Rayburn said the union is still working with library management on the full list of protections available to workers, but employees will be equipped with masks, gloves and additional hand sanitizers, according to Telli’s email.

The email also reminded workers they may be entitled to leave under Chicago’s Families First Coronavirus Response Act if they are “experiencing COVID-19 like symptoms, have been told to self-quarantine, have an underlying medical condition, or have childcare issues due to COVID-19 (school or daycare is closed).”

— Carrie Shepherd

8:27 a.m. Illinois threatens to revoke liquor and gambling licenses for ignoring the stay-at-home order

photo of Poopy’s Pub & Grub
The owner of Poopy’s Pub & Grub in Savanna, Ill., is suing the state to let him reopen his biker bar during the pandemic, saying the stay-at-home order is devastating his business. Courtesy of Kevin Promenschenkel


At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. JB Pritzker appealed to Illinoisans’ common sense instead of forcing them to comply with his stay-at-home order.

But as the public health crisis drags on, some Illinois businesses and political leaders are defying the Democratic governor’s order. Pritzker’s administration is taking a harder line on enforcement, saying that his order is crucial to saving lives as it issues dozens of warnings to business owners across the state.

Read the full story.

— Tony Arnold


May 14

2:58 p.m. More than 1 million people in Illinois have filed for unemployment during the pandemic

Illinoisans filed more than 72,000 first-time claims for regular unemployment benefits last week, the state Department of Employment Security announced today. The state has processed more than 1 million claims for regular unemployment benefits since March 1 — more than 11 times the number of claims processed in the same period last year.

This week, the state began processing claims for gig workers not previously covered by unemployment through the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. More than 50,000 PUA claims were filed in the first three days of operation this week, but those numbers will be included in the next tally to come next week.

Gov. JB Pritzker has been repeatedly criticized for not acting fast enough to bolster the state’s aged system for filing for unemployment, as out-of-work Illinoisans have had trouble accessing the state’s website. In the case of PUA applications, they had to wait for a platform to come online to even apply. The state paid millions to an outside agency in the past month to hire more people to deal with the problem as well as build a new platform to take the PUA applications.

Meanwhile, Illinois public health officials today announced 138 new deaths reported from COVID-19, among 3,239 newly identified cases. That makes for a total of 3,928 deaths and 87,937 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

— Angela Rozas O’Toole

12:50 p.m. Adler Planetarium cuts 120 staffers amid pandemic

Chicago’s Adler Planetarium had an eventful week, in both good and bad ways. Yesterday, the United States’ first planetarium celebrated 90 years with a series of online events. The next day, it cut 120 staffers, including full-time, part-time and leadership positions, according to a statement.

“Based on the recovery plans set forth by the Illinois Governor and Chicago Mayor’s offices, which responsibly recognize the serious nature of this pandemic, it is clear we will not be in a position to reopen our physical facility for quite some time,” Adler spokesperson Jennifer Howell said in the statement. It goes on to say the museum will continue to focus on virtual events and engagements.

The Adler Planetarium is about a $20 million not-for-profit cultural institution. In their most recent public tax forms, there were 308 employees.

— Carrie Shepherd

8:57 a.m. DePaul students sue for tuition refund after COVID-19 shutdown

Two DePaul University students filed a class action lawsuit demanding tuition reimbursements due to the COVID-19 shutdown.

The lawsuit, filed yesterday in U.S. District Court, follows a national trend of students and parents suing for partial refunds after classes shifted online and campuses were shut down to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

DePaul announced it would shift classes online for the spring quarter on March 11, and students were required to pay full tuition for that quarter. The complaint argues students are not getting the same educational experience they expected when they enrolled and cannot access the facilities and services they paid for. Therefore, they argue, the university has been “unjustly enriched” and students should receive a partial refund for those tuition and fees.

Read the full story.

— Kate McGee


May 13

3:10 p.m. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot throws cold water on Lakefront reopening soon

photo of people walking on Chicago’s lakefront
Chicago’s Lakefront pictured on March 24, 2020. Mayor Lori Lightfoot said today that the city’s beaches won’t be open anytime soon. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ


Scratch any early summer plans that include going to Chicago beaches. Mayor Lori Lightfoot just threw some cold Lake Michigan water on the possibility of reopening the city’s Lakefront anytime soon.

Speaking to the Economic Club of Chicago today, Lightfoot said the next phase of her COVID-19 reopening plan unfortunately will not include opening the Lakefront. Other parks and libraries may open with strict health guidelines, however, she said.

Chicago is Phase 2 of a five-phase reopening plan laid out by Lightfoot’s administration. The mayor said she will release more detailed guidance for businesses in the coming weeks about reopening.

She did give a few clues about what life might look like in the next phase, which she calls “cautious reopening.” Retail stores will likely need to require people to wear masks, add protective barriers between workers and customers, encourage contactless payments and have dedicated hours for at-risk customers, such as seniors. Offices may need to offer hand sanitizer, put up barriers between desks and have employees come in on alternating days.

— Becky Vevea

3:00 p.m. Illinois reports deadliest day of the COVID-19 pandemic

Illinois public health officials today announced 192 more people have died from COVID-19, among 1,677 new cases of the disease.

The state has seen a total of 3,792 deaths and 84,698 cases since the start of the pandemic. That was the largest one-day increase in reported deaths from the virus thus far, said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, public health director.

Testing capacity continues to increase statewide, with a total of 17,668 collected in the past 24 hours, for a total of 489,359 tests so far, Ezike said. The state’s 7-day positivity rate — that’s the percentage of cases that tested positive among all tests given — stands at 17%, Ezike said. Regions of the state need to remain below 20% positivity for a 14-day period to move to the next phase of the state’s reopening plan, officials have said.

— Angela Rozas O’Toole

Correction, May 14, 2020: A region’s positivity rate must stay below 20% for 14 days before it can to move to the next phase of the state’s reopening plan, not 28 days as previously reported.

11:49 a.m. Illinois lawmakers to return to work next week, with health restrictions

The Illinois House has scheduled an abbreviated special session next week to “conduct the critical work of state government in this unprecedented pandemic,” according to a statement from House Speaker Michael Madigan’s office out this morning.

The legislative chamber will meet between May 20 and 22 at the Bank of Springfield Center, a cavernous civic center a few blocks from the state Capitol where gubernatorial inaugurations, concerts and trade shows take place. The Illinois Senate will also be in session those days in their usual chamber at the state Capitol.

In a letter to House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, Madigan laid out a series of public health guidelines that all House members will have to adhere to during the special legislative session, including wearing facial coverings and having their temperatures checked upon entering the civic center. The speaker indicated that the safety of all 118 House lawmakers and their staff is a priority and noted that the House is nowhere close to returning to a “semblance of normalcy” in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A pandemic is not swayed by our speeches, by our desire for normalcy or by political expediency,” Madigan wrote to Durkin, who previously had called for lawmakers to reconvene.

Madigan did not lay out specific pieces of legislation he would like to see addressed, though Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker has laid out a series of immediate legislative needs, including passing a state budget and a COVID-19 economic relief package.

— Dave McKinney

7:02 a.m. COVID-19 recovery can be a lonely journey

Patricia Rodriguez of Chicago has spent the last eight weeks battling COVID-19 alone. She’s had to rely on herself to do everything from changing her sheets after a night of feverish sweats to pushing herself to take a shower or just move around the house. Rodriguez says it’s not just living alone, but not having friends or family to talk with who understand what it’s like to live with the virus.

Read the full story.

— Kate McGee


May 12

4:45 p.m. Sheriff Tom Dart lashes out over COVID-19 lawsuit

photo of Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart
In this July 19, 2017 file photo, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart speaks at a news conference in Chicago. G-Jun Yam / Associated Press


Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart is accusing advocates for jail inmates of misusing the federal courts during the COVID-19 crisis to push for decarceration.

Last month a coalition of civil rights groups sued Dart for a mass release of inmates who are medically vulnerable to the virus. 

A federal judge refused to go along with the release but ordered the sheriff to take various steps against the virus’s spread in the jail. Those included stepping up testing, keeping inmates apart from each other and banning double-inmate cells. Now attorneys for Dart are appealing that order. And they’re blasting the inmate advocates.

“It has become apparent that plaintiffs’ counsel has been singularly focused on categorial release at all costs—arguably pursuing a political decarceration policy through misuse of the legal process in the middle of a pandemic,” attorneys for the sheriff’s office argued in a 28-page brief filed late on May 11.

As of yesterday, according to the office, the virus had sickened 534 detainees and killed seven.

— Chip Mitchell

2:58 p.m. Illinois announces 144 COVID-19 deaths and more than 4,000 new cases

Illinois public health officials today announced 4,014 new cases of COVID-19 and 144 deaths, for a total statewide of 83,021 cases and 3,601 deaths.

Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said that the state’s positivity rate — that’s the rate of tests that came out positive as a fraction of all tests given — now averages 18%. But those positivity rates lag by a few days, she said, as the state gathers information.

Gov. JB Pritzker announced the state would expedite $25 million in state grants to cities and towns across the state to help support capital projects that local governments need, an effort to jumpstart “shovel-ready” projects to spur economic growth. Pritzker also said the state’s legislature needs to return to work to pass a state budget and other legislation to help distribute funds to cities and towns that aren’t benefiting from federal grants.

— Angela Rozas O’Toole

6:45 a.m. The rising star of stay-at-home opposition

Republican state Rep. Darren Bailey, a Southern Illinois farmer and first-term lawmaker, has galvanized rural Illinoisans who have been hurt economically by Gov. JB Pritzker’s stay-at-home orders and believe the governor is impinging on their liberties.

And Bailey gained national attention last month when he won a ruling in a lawsuit against Pritzker in a state courtroom in Clay County, 240 miles south of Chicago. Bailey describes himself as a “typical, concerned American patriot.”

Read more about him.

— Dan Mihalopoulos 


May 11

3:07 p.m. Peak of cases not expected till mid-June, Gov. JB Pritzker says

Describing the news as “disheartening,” Gov. JB Pritzker — appearing from his home on a shared virtual call — announced new modeling projects Illinois has still not reached its peak number of cases of COVID-19, and has extended the length of time for the current plateauing of cases into mid-June. Pritzker again reiterated that the flattening of cases is a sign that the stay-at-home order has stopped the exponential growth of coronavirus cases in the state.

Pritzker also gave an update on how each of the four regions of the state are measuring up in order to move from Phase 2 to Phase 3 of reopening the economy. The northeast region of the state, which includes Cook County, the collar counties and Grundy and Kankakee counties, is not meeting all three metrics needed to move to Phase 3, though there’s time for that data to change. In particular, fewer people need to test positive for the region to move to Phase 3 by the end of the month.

Additionally, Illinois began distributing a possible treatment for COVID-19 to hospitals around the state over the weekend. Illinois Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike said today that the state distributed the antiviral medicine remdesivir for use on patients based on the number of patients in intensive care at hospitals, with the expectation that more would be coming.

Ezike also announced another 1,266 new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, including 54 deaths.

— Tony Arnold

1:13 p.m. Blue Angels release details on Chicago flyover tomorrow

The Navy’s Blue Angels will boom over the Chicago area for 15 minutes tomorrow to honor local health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The aerial demonstration scheduled from 11:45 a.m. to 12 p.m. is part of the Blue Angels’ ongoing nationwide tribute to workers at the front lines in fighting the coronavirus outbreak.

According to a Blue Angels tweet and map today, the bright blue F/A-18 Hornet aircraft will begin their flyover on Chicago’s South Side lakefront, then follow a twisting route that will take them as far south as Oak Lawn, as far west as Melrose Park, over downtown Chicago and the North Side, north almost all the way to Evanston, and down the lakefront.

If you’re familiar with the Blue Angels’ practice runs and performance during Chicago’s annual Air and Water Show, you know you can’t miss hearing them. Their roar can literally shake buildings as they pass overhead. You can see them in the sky, but they move up to 700 mph during a performance, according to their website.

The Blue Angels are urging people to follow stay-at-home and social-distancing guidelines during their flyover. They add that the flyover is subject to change.

— Mark LeBien

10:25 a.m. Senior Pritzker staffer tests positive for COVID-19, but governor remains virus-free

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker remains free of COVID-19 after a senior staffer who had close contact with the governor tested positive for the coronavirus late last week, his office confirmed today.

Pritzker’s aides would not identify the sickened member of the governor’s inner circle, who was asymptompatic. But a statement released today said the governor and a group of his senior-most staff members would no longer be reporting for work at the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago and instead would work from home for an undetermined period of time, his office said.

Since learning of the diagnosis, the governor has been tested twice, most recently on May 10, and results showed he is not carrying the virus. No one else on Pritzker’s leadership team has tested positive for COVID-19, the statement read.

This marks the second occasion in which an employee inside the governor’s office tested positive for COVID-19. An earlier staffer who became ill has recovered.

— Dave McKinney

9:30 a.m. U of C and AP poll shows most oppose anti-shutdown protests

a photo of protesters in Chicago speaking out against Illinois’ stay-at-home order
Protesters gather in downtown Chicago on Friday, May 1, to speak out against Illinois’ extended stay-at-home order. A new poll shows a majority of Americans disapprove of anti-shutdown protests. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ


A majority of Americans disapprove of protests against restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus, according to a new poll from the University of Chicago Divinity School and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

The survey finds that 55% of Americans disapprove of the protests that have popped up in some states, including Illinois, as some Americans begin chafing at public health measures that have decimated the economy. The poll shows 31% approve of the demonstrations.

Democrats are more likely than Republicans to disapprove of such protests, 67% to 51%. Thirty-two percent of Republicans and 25% of Democrats say they approve. Only 8% said public protests, marches and rallies should be unrestricted during the outbreak, while 41% think they should be allowed only with restrictions and 50% think they should not be allowed at all.

8:21 a.m. Cook County correction officer dies from COVID-19

A third Cook County correctional officer has died from coronavirus disease complications. The sheriff’s office says Officer Antoine Jones died yesterday at the age of 51. Jones was diagnosed with COVID-19 in late March. He had been with the department for 18 years. He’s survived by his wife and five adult children.