Coronavirus In Illinois: Millennium Park Reopens, But Restrictions In Place

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: Millennium Park Reopens, But Restrictions In Place

Editor’s note: This live blog is no longer being updated. Find the latest statewide COVID-19 case counts here.

Illinois officials reported over 132,543 cases of COVID-19, including 6,308 deaths, as of Sunday afternoon. Worldwide, there were more than 8 million cases and more than 434,300 deaths as of Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Read below for details on latest developments: Millennium Park reopens; Illinois reports 672 new cases; Chicago Public Schools to require masks; Chicago Riverwalk reopens; state fairs canceled; new eviction protections; Chicago patient receives double lung transplant.

June 15

12 p.m. Millennium Park reopens with restrictions on access, group size

Chicago Millennium Park reopened today after being closed for months because of stay-at-home orders and other coronavirus restrictions. The city announced the reopening in a news release this morning.

The park is now open every day from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. for individuals and groups of up to 10 people. Everyone is required to wear a face mask and to practice social distancing. Nearby Maggie Daley Park also reopened today.

That’s not to say Millennium Park is returning to normal. The Cloud Gate sculpture, known as “The Bean,” is only viewable from a distance within Chase Promenade Central. Crown Fountain and Wrigley Square are open but the water is turned off. The Great Lawn, the Welcome Center, the McDonald’s Cycle Center and the BP Bridge between Millennium Park and Maggie Daley Park all remain closed for now.

The Chase Promenades, the Boeing Galleries and Lurie Garden are open, and the Park Grill is open for takeout service.

Access to Millennium Park is limited to Michigan Avenue and Madison Street, and the exit is at Michigan and Washington Street. If the park hits capacity, the entrance will temporarily close and visitors will have to wait in socially distanced lines to get in.

— WBEZ staff


June 14

2:52 p.m. State reports 672 new cases, 19 more fatalities

Illinois public health officials reported 672 new cases of coronavirus disease during the past 24 hours, raising the state’s total to 132,543 cases since the pandemic began. Health officials today also reported 19 more deaths from the disease, for a statewide total of 6,308.

There were 22,040 tests for COVID-19 since yesterday, the state also reported, bringing Illinois’ total number of tests to 1,190,985. From June 7 to June 13, the preliminary positivity for new cases as a percent of total tests was 3%.

— WBEZ staff

2:45 p.m. Chicago’s Riverwalk back in business after three-month shutdown

Robert Gomez stands on the Riverwalk. He is wearing a mask.
Robert Gomez, owner of Beat Kitchen on the Chicago Riverwalk, says he’s happy just to be open. Michael Puente / WBEZ

The Chicago Riverwalk reopened with some restrictions this weekend after being closed in March due to coronavirus precautions. That was welcome news for food vendors such as Beat Kitchen, which had planned to hold its grand opening on the Riverwalk weeks ago.

Beat Kitchen owner Robert Gomez said today that business at the restaurant under the Michigan Avenue bridge has been good this weekend, and he’s just glad to be up and running despite the later-than-planned opening.

“This is still great. It’s going well,” Gomez said.

He added that there’s been a little confusion along the Riverwalk, since some restrictions still are in place. Runners, walkers and bikers may only use the path between Lake Shore Drive and Lake Street from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m., according to the city. Then restaurants and other vendors can open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. There are limited access points to the Riverwalk on Lake Street.

The cautious reopening of the Riverwalk may be a test case for the city to reopen portions of the lakefront, which still is shut down because of coronavirus safety steps.

— Michael Puente

10:41 a.m. CPS to require masks, temperature checks when classes resume

When in-person instruction in Chicago public schools resumes, students and staff will be required to wear face masks and daily temperature checks will be the norm. That’s according to an email sent to parents by schools CEO Janice Jackson.

She said plans are still being developed for next school year, with the goal of reopening in the fall. But the final decision and what in-person instruction will look like is contingent on state reopening guidelines.

She also said summer school will be remote this summer as planned, despite new guidance from the state allowing limited in-person summer school.

— Kate Grossman


June 13

4:06 p.m. State reports 673 new cases and 29 more fatalities

Illinois had 673 new confirmed cases of coronavirus disease during the past 24 hours, bringing the state’s total to 131,871 cases since the beginning of the pandemic. State health officials today also reported another 29 deaths from the disease, for a total of 6,289.

Since yesterday, laboratories have reported 21,844 tests for COVID-19 in Illinois, for a total of 1,168,945 tests. During the period from June 6 to June 12, the preliminary positivity for new cases as a percent of total tests was 3%.

— WBEZ staff

9:32 a.m. Pritzker cancels state fairs over coronavirus concerns

The Illinois State Fair in Springfield and the Du Quoin State Fair have been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. JB Pritzker says canceling the fairs is the right choice, based on the guidance of the Illinois Department of Public Health and other experts. The Illinois State Fair, held annually in August, was last canceled from 1942 to 1945 during World War II. This year is the first time the Du Quoin State Fair has been canceled since the state took over the fairgrounds in 1986. A spokesman says Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady of Bloomington is disappointed by Pritzker’s unilateral action.

— Associated Press


June 12

7:23 p.m. City officials to propose eviction protections for struggling renters

Housing officials are looking to fast-track a proposed ordinance in the Chicago City Council next week that could head off a wave of evictions once the state’s eviction moratorium lifts. The proposed Eviction Protection Ordinance would implement a seven-day “cooling off” period that would require landlords to negotiate with tenants who’ve fallen behind on rent due to impacts from the pandemic. If passed, the ordinance would remain in effect for 60 days.

“We know that there’s an incredible need, and we don’t entirely know what that will translate to when the eviction moratorium is lifted,” said Marisa Novara, commissioner of Chicago’s Department of Housing. “What our hope is that this measure provides an added incentive to landlords to work out a proactive plan for the tenant to stay in their units.”

To trigger the negotiation period, a tenant would have to file a Notice of COVID-19 Impact within five days of getting an eviction notice, attesting that she or he fell behind on rent because of a pandemic-related loss of income. If the tenant and landlord fail to reach an agreement, the landlord would have to provide evidence of good-faith negotiations in eviction court.

Novara also said that the city has received $20 million in federal funds for a second round of housing assistance grants through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act. She said her department is still working through the details of how it will distribute the relief.

— Odette Yousef

3:35 p.m. State officials announce 595 new cases, 77 new deaths

Illinois’rate of COVID-19 infections appears to continue easing. Officials today announced 77 new deaths, putting the state’s total number of fatalities at 6,260. Another 595 cases were reported after 24,774 tests were conducted in the last 24 hours. Illinois has seen more than 131,000 cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

— Hunter Clauss

June 11

7:42 p.m. Advocates want Chicago to provide more temporary housing units for the homeless

A collaborative of public health and homeless service providers on Chicago’s West Side say the city isn’t fully leveraging federal grant money to protect homeless people from COVID-19. The city on Tuesday announced plans to allocate $1.1 billion in federal grant funding under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act. Those funds will help pay for 1,250 rapid rehousing units for homeless people, but the advocates say 500 more units are needed.

“We have a great need to get people out of a congregate settings immediately,” said Dr. David Ansell, chief equity officer at Rush University Medical Center and a member of the Chicago Homelessness and Health Response Group for Equity (CHHRGE), which is putting out the call for more housing units.

A new report from CHHRGE finds that temporary housing has been effective in shielding high-risk homeless individuals from COVID-19. Hundreds of people have stayed at Hotel One Sixty-Six, formerly the Hotel Cambria.

“It would make no sense if those that we shielded at the hotel would have to return to large shelters or the streets,” said Dr. Thomas Huggett, medical director of mobile health at Lawndale Christian Health Center. ”We have seen what a difference supportive, permanent housing can make for our patients.”

The office of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot did not respond to questions about the call for additional rapid rehousing units.

— Odette Yousef

2:45 p.m. State reports 766 new cases and 91 more deaths

Illinois public health officials today announced 766 new cases of COVID-19 across the state, including 91 deaths.

That brings the statewide total to 130,603 confirmed cases, including 6,185 deaths, since the pandemic began. The state’s rolling average positivity rate — that is, the percentage of people who tested positive over the last seven days — held steady at 4%.

— WBEZ staff

1:02 p.m. Cook County gets a $41 million boost to its contact tracing program

The Cook County Public Health Department is set to receive nearly $41 million to build a contact tracing program to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the suburbs.

The county plans to focus on communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Contact tracers interview people who have the virus to find others who may have been exposed to it. In a statement, the county said it plans to rapidly scale up over the next three to six months. The public health department now has about 25 tracers, and it plans to expand the program to include up to 400 tracers.

“Expanding our workforce … will enable CCDPH to reach up to 90% of case contacts within 24 hours,” Dr. Rachel Rubin, who co-runs the county’s public health department, said in the statement.

The Illinois Department of Public Health is providing the funding.

— Kristen Schorsch

10:19 a.m. Coronavirus survivor in Chicago receives double lung transplant

Surgeons in Chicago have given a new set of lungs to a young woman with severe lung damage from the coronavirus.

Only a few other COVID-19 survivors, in China and Europe, have received lung transplants.

The patient, who is in her 20s, was on a ventilator and heart-lung machine for almost two months before her operation last Friday at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Read the full story.

— Associated Press


June 10

5:05 p.m. Aldermen debate CARES Act money as Lightfoot launches city relief plan

photo of Chicago City Hall
View of City Hall and the County Building in May, 2019. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

Chicago households left out of the COVID-19 federal stimulus package may now be eligible for $1,000 from a new private fund Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced today.

The news came on the same day City Council members debated how to distribute more than $1.1 billion from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, known as the CARES Act. Chicago is also now grappling with a $700 million budget shortfall for 2020, according to the mayor’s office.

Applications to the $5 million “Chicago Resiliency Fund” will open on June 22. The program is being funded by private donations and will be administered by The Resurrection Project and Open Society Foundations.

As Lightfoot announced the new initiative, aldermen on the City Council Committee on Budget and Government Operations peppered the mayor’s financial team and department heads with questions about how they plan to distribute the $1.1 billion Chicago is getting from the CARES Act. A few aldermen wanted to know how much money would be going to the Police Department. Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Transit Authority and the Chicago Housing Authority also got separate allocations from the federal stimulus package.

Read the full story.

— Becky Vevea

4:04 p.m. State reports 625 new cases and 78 more deaths

Illinois public health officials today announced 625 new COVID-19 cases across the state, including 78 additional deaths.

That brings the statewide total to 129,837 confirmed cases, including 6,095 deaths, since the pandemic began.

The state’s rolling average positivity rate — that is, the percentage of people who tested positive over the last seven days — is 4%, and has been dropping steadily.

— Libby Berry

2:32 p.m. Investigation reveals Cook County infant died of COVID-19

Cook County public health officials confirmed today that a 9-month-old baby whose March death garnered the nation’s attention as possibly the youngest novel coronavirus victim did, in fact, die from complications related to COVID-19.

The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office reported that Joseph Myles died March 23 due to viral pneumonia that was caused by COVID-19 and another strain of coronavirus known as NL-63, which primarily affects children or people with underlying conditions, according to a study published by the National Institutes of Health.

Read the full story.

— Mariah Woelfel

11:21 a.m. Chicago City Council committee to vote on how to distribute $1.1 billion in federal stimulus money

Today, the Chicago City Council’s Budget Committee is scheduled to vote on how to distribute the more than $1.1 billion in federal stimulus from the CARES Act.

The hearing comes after Mayor Lori Lightfoot revealed yesterday that the city faces a projected $700 million budget gap to close out this calendar year, as the city’s tax revenues have tanked while most of Illinois’ economy has been shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Budget Director Susie Park and Chief Financial Officer Jennie Huang Bennett outlined where the money would go during a conference call with reporters this week. Chicago’s two airports will get the most, at $376.7 million, followed by the public health department’s $189.3 million. Housing related relief efforts are in line for roughly $57 million and small businesses are in line to get $35 million.

But Lightfoot emphasized that federal stimulus money will not offset the sobering shortfalls expected for 2020 and 2021.

— Becky Vevea


June 9

2:53 p.m. State reports 95 more deaths from COVID-19

Illinois public health officials say today that 95 more people have died of COVID-19 in the last day, as part of 797 newly identified cases.

That brings the total deaths connected to the novel coronavirus in Illinois to 6,018 since the pandemic began. The state reports more than 129,000 confirmed cases here in 101 of Illinois’ 102 counties.

Meanwhile, the state’s rolling average positivity rate — that is, the percentage of people who tested positive over the last seven days — dropped to 4% for tests between June 2 and yesterday.

— Alex Keefe

12:10 p.m. One of Chicago’s largest trade shows canceled

Another trade show that would have brought tens of thousands of visitors to Chicago has been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The International Manufacturing Technology Show that was scheduled to be held at McCormick Place in September is the latest trade show to be scrapped because of the pandemic. More than 129,000 people had signed up to attend the show, one of the largest in the city.

This show is the latest of nearly 100 trade shows to scrap this year’s plans — adding up to a $1.4 billion loss for Chicago considering the loss of spending for hotels, entertainment and transportation.

Under Gov. JB Pritzker’s five-phase reopening plan, gatherings of more than 50 people can’t be held until there’s a vaccine or an effective treatment. Organizers of the International Manufacturing Technology Show didn’t see that happening by September, when the show was scheduled.

— Associated Press

12:04 p.m. City cancels Lollapalooza, Taste of Chicago, other summer festivals

photo of festival goers at Lollapalooza
Festival goers attend day four of Lollapalooza in Grant Park on Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019, in Chicago. This year’s festival has been canceled due to the coronavirus. Amy Harris / Invision/AP

Many of Chicago’s blockbuster summer events, including Lollapalooza and Taste of Chicago, are being canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, the city announced today. The cancellations also include the Chicago Air and Water Show, Chicago SummerDance and the Chicago Jazz Festival.

The city announced in an alert today that it was canceling all permitted special events through Labor Day, Sept. 7. The city also said Millennium Park will reopen this month with “limited in-person programming.”

Read the full story.

— Mark LeBien

9:12 a.m. Archdiocese of Chicago intends to open Catholic schools this fall

Cardinal Blase Cupich says the Archdiocese of Chicago is planning to reopen its schools this fall for its 78,000 students in the city and suburbs. This is among the first local school systems to announce plans to reopen.

“We have every intention of having our students return to their classrooms when school begins in the fall,” Cupich said in a message posted on YouTube on Monday. “Our decision to aggressively plan for reopening our schools this year is based on the value we place on face-to-face instruction.”

He said the archdiocese will do “whatever is needed” to resume in-person instruction, noting that safety will be a priority. This includes enhanced cleaning, use of plexiglass barriers, extra sanitizers, personal protective equipment and temperature checks for people showing symptoms.

School openings are allowed under Phase 4 of Illinois’ reopening plan. The Chicago region is currently in Phase 3. For students that need or prefer to stay at home, Cupich said remote learning will be available.

— Kate Grossman

8:07 a.m. Most Indiana casinos can reopen next week under safety plans

Most of Indiana’s casinos can reopen their doors as soon as next week under coronavirus safety plans they have submitted to state officials. The 13 state-regulated casinos have been closed since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Michigan-based Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians announced yesterday that it plans to reopen its South Bend, Indiana, casino and three in southwestern Michigan on June 15. Several tribal casinos in Michigan have welcomed back gamblers but reopening dates haven’t been set yet for the three Detroit casinos overseen by state officials.

— Associated Press


June 8

5:02 p.m. Chicago has received more than $1.1 billion from the CARES Act

Since the federal government passed the CARES Act, a stimulus bill to help workers and businesses during the coronavirus pandemic, Chicago has received more than $1.13 billion, City Hall budget officials said today.

The mayor’s finance team detailed the overall CARES Act funding in a conference call this afternoon, ahead of a Budget Committee meeting scheduled for later this week. Unless Congress releases a second round of CARES Act funding, this grant amendment is the only time the city will be amending its spending plan this fiscal year, the city’s finance team told reporters. The city must spend the federal money by Dec. 31.

A majority of the funds are restricted with specific grant amounts, such as to the city’s two airports ($376.7 million), public health response for testing and contact tracing ($189 million), homeless services ($39.6 million), small business assistance ($35 million), housing assistance for renters and homeowners ($16.5 million), community healthcare infrastructure ($11 million), and workforce and job training assistance ($10 million). The city is also receiving grants for violence prevention, mental health services, senior assistance, broadband connection and food assistance, among others.

Any new grant dollars received by the city of Chicago must be approved by the Council’s Budget Committee, chaired by Ald. Pat Dowell, 3rd Ward. This package of grant dollars is expected to go before her committee Wednesday. The city’s finance team told reporters its cash flow is strong. However, the budget is facing a $500 million shortfall for this year and another $500 million deficit for the next fiscal year.

— Claudia Morell

4:55 p.m. Illinois provides economic relief for immigrants hurt by the pandemic

Two months after federal lawmakers excluded households with undocumented immigrants from a $2 trillion stimulus package, the state of Illinois is launching a limited immigrant emergency relief fund. The Illinois Department of Human Services has allocated $2 million to the COVID-19 Immigrant Family Support Project, to be distributed to families by the end of the month.

“Obviously, this is welcome, and certainly we thank the governor as well as the Illinois Department of Human Services. But this really is just a drop in the bucket,” said Breandán Magee, senior director of programs at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), which will administer the program.

Magee said ICIRR will rely on 55 partner agencies across Illinois to identify and screen applicants for eligibility. Applicants must reside in Illinois, be ineligible for a federal stimulus check and other public assistance, have suffered a severe loss of income due to the pandemic and earn less than 200% of the federal poverty level. Qualifying households would receive a one-time sum of $1,000 cash assistance to use for rent, utilities, food or medical assistance.

According to estimates by ICIRR, there are roughly 97,000 households in Illinois that meet the requirements. The funds will only go to 2,000 of them.

“We went live this morning and, as of one hour after the opening, we already had close to 10 agencies that ran out of the allocated funds that they had been given,” Magee said. “I would almost envision that we would be out of funds within the week.”

— Odette Yousef

3:04 p.m. State officials announce 23 more deaths and 658 new cases

Illinois public health officials today announced 23 more people have died of COVID-19, even as the statewide positivity rate for the deadly virus continues to drop. The Illinois Department Of Public Health reports those deaths are part of 658 new cases the state has identified in the last 24 hours.

Illinois has now seen nearly 6,000 deaths and more than 128,000 cases since the pandemic began. But the state’s rolling average positivity rate — which it uses to determine whether to ease COVID-19 restrictions — is now at 5%. That’s the percentage of people who tested positive for the respiratory illness between June 1 and June 7.

— WBEZ staff

12:58 p.m. Chicago Park District announces modified summer camp schedule

Chicago kids will be able to attend a modified version of summer day camp this summer, from July 6 to Aug. 14 at 148 parks across the city. The Chicago Park District announced the plan today as the city incrementally reopens during the coronavirus pandemic. There also will be a two-week extended camp from Aug. 17-28.

The district says online registration starts June 11 for parks west of California Avenue and June 12 for parks east of California Avenue. Swimming pools and the lakefront are still closed, the district says. Park playgrounds also remain closed and equipment is not being sanitized, so the district is urging families to steer clear of playgrounds.

More details on summer programs are available on the Chicago Park District website.

— WBEZ staff

7:23 a.m. Chicago reopening libraries, some lakefront parks

photo of Harold Washington Library
In this May 1, 2014 photo, visitors pass through the lobby of the Harold Washington Library in Chicago. The center and many neighborhood library branches are reopening, although with social distancing and other safety guidelines in place. Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press

Today the city is reopening many parks and libraries that were closed due to coronavirus precautions. The Chicago Park District says people can return to lakefront parks west of Lake Shore Drive, including Lincoln Park, Grant Park, Burnham Park, Harold Washington Park and Jackson Park. All park fieldhouses will be reopened from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. for washrooms and shelter. The park district also says the Jackson Park Golf Course and Diversey Driving Range will reopen today.

Also today, the Harold Washington Library Center and many neighborhood library branches are reopening, although with social distancing and other safety guidelines in place. Those include restricted capacity, guided paths through aisles and safe spacing of computers and furniture. Staff and patrons will be required to wear face masks.

— WBEZ staff


June 7

2:54 p.m. 867 new cases, 43 additional deaths

Illinois public health officials announced 867 new confirmed cases of coronavirus, including 43 additional deaths, bringing the state’s total to 127,757 confirmed cases, including 5,904 deaths.

The state’s 7-day rolling positivity rate — the rate of positive tests among all tests — is 5%, officials said.

— WBEZ staff

9:36 a.m. Chicago announces new guidelines for religious services

Places of worship can resume in-person services with up to 50 people per room or 25% of the room capacity, under new guidance released by Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and the Chicago Department of Public Health. Six-feet social distancing must be maintained, the new restrictions say.

The city says the latest guidance is part of Chicago’s move into Phase 3 of reopening during the coronavirus pandemic. Lightfoot says in a statement released yesterday that “we can cautiously return to in-person services to bring our communities back together and begin to heal from the past few months.”

In recent weeks, the city worked with faith leaders to draft guidelines to bring people back to services while also keeping them safe. Prior to the new rules, places of worship were not allowed to hold in-person services with more than 10 people. But a small number of churches ignored those guidelines, arguing they violate constitutional protections for freedom of worship. The city has levied fines against some violators.

— WBEZ staff


June 6

6:59 p.m. 975 new cases, 72 additional deaths

Health officials today reported 975 new confirmed cases of coronavirus disease since yesterday, raising the state’s total to 126,890 cases since the beginning of the pandemic. Officials also reported 72 more fatalities, bringing the total death toll to 5,864. During the past 24 hours, laboratories reported 21,155 COVID-19 tests, for a total of 1,022,074 statewide.

— WBEZ staff

11:45 a.m. New babies, and more on the way at closed Shedd

photo of shedd aquarium
Shedd Aquarium on May 30, 2005. Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press

Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium has been closed since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, but that hasn’t kept some animals from growing their families. The Magellanic penguin colony has added four chicks, two caiman lizards hatched and six bonnethead shark pups came into the world, according to a Shedd news release.

The aquarium also welcomed some baby cownose stingrays and seahorses. In addition to the recent arrivals, the Shedd says two beluga whales and one Pacific white-sided dolphin are pregnant.

The Shedd closed to the public on March 13, but staff members deemed essential have been taking care of the animals. The aquarium has received international attention for viral social media videos showing some of its penguins waddling around inside, checking out other animal exhibits.

— WBEZ staff


June 5

3:26 p.m. Illinois announces 59 more deaths and more than 1,100 new COVID-19 cases

Illinois public health officials announced 59 more deaths tied to COVID-19 and 1,156 new confirmed cases across the state. That brings the state’s total of cases to 125,915, including 5,795 deaths.

The state also announced that more than 1 million tests for the new coronavirus have been taken in Illinois since the pandemic began. The state’s 7-day rolling positivity rate — the rate of positive tests among all tests — is 6%, officials said.

— Angela Rozas-O’Toole


June 4

8:25 p.m. Limited summer school now allowed in Illinois

Illinois schools can now offer limited in-person summer school. Gov. JB Pritzker signed an executive order today allowing summer classes as the state moves into Phase 3 of its reopening plan. But classes can’t include more than 10 people, social distancing must be practiced and face masks must be worn.

The decision whether to offer in-person summer school is up to local school districts and many have already announced that summer school will be held remotely this summer. This includes Chicago Public Schools.

— Kate Grossman

3:18 p.m. Illinois reports 116 more COVID-19 deaths

Illinois public health officials today announced 116 more deaths among 929 new confirmed cases of COVID-19.

That brings the state’s total to 124,759 cases, including 5,736 deaths since the pandemic began, officials said. The state’s rolling 7-day positivity rate — the rate of tests for COVID-19 that tested positive — was 6%.

— Angela Rozas-O’Toole

10:34 a.m. Child care providers say going to back to work is not that simple

photo of a child playing with toys
New rules for day cares come with a lot of challenges and uncertainty Courtesy Jenny LeFlore

Yesterday, Chicago moved into Phase 3 of its reopening plan. In this next phase nonessential businesses like retail stores, spas and salons can reopen — along with child care centers for all those nonessential workers.

But things will be far from business as usual at day cares because of strict new guidelines.

Read the full story.

— Monica Eng and Izii Carter


June 3

3:03 p.m. Illinois has 97 more deaths tied to COVID-19, and nearly 1,000 new cases

Illinois public health officials announced 97 more deaths related to COVID-19 today, among 982 new cases.

The state now has a total of 123,830 identified cases of the virus, and 5,621 deaths have been linked to it across Illinois since the pandemic began.

Testing for the virus continues to show a flattened rate of positivity, with 6% of tests coming back positive for the virus on a rolling 7-day average, according to a release from the Illinois Department of Public Health.

— Angela Rozas-O’Toole

12:39 p.m. Chicago businesses begin to reopen

Chicago restaurants, retailers and other businesses are beginning to reopen today as the city heads into the next phase of its COVID-19 recovery plan.

In Lincoln Square, on Chicago’s North Side, a worker at Jerry’s Sandwiches slid open windows to allow diners to sit inside, where they’ll eat on paper plates. In Bucktown, the owner of Definition Barbershop said he’s excited to provide a community gathering space again, and is already booked into next week.

But many businesses in Chicago won’t reopen today, some because they sustained looting damage, others because of the need to find and train staff. Still others won’t open at all after being unable to survive the financial blow of being closed for weeks.

Jeri’s Grill, also in Lincoln Square, announced with a sign on the door that it will not reopen its doors after 57 years in business.

“Jeri’s Grill was part of the past living in a modern world,” the sign reads. “Unfortunately the past can no longer survive in this post pandemic world. We will always cherish the memories, the laughs and the tears at Jeri’s.”

Read the full story.

— WBEZ staff

11:14 a.m. State reopens COVID-19 testing sites that had closed due to protests

Five Chicago-area COVID-19 testing sites have reopened today after being closed due to protests and civil unrest tied to the alleged police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The state-run operations that have resumed testing include those in Harwood Heights, Aurora, South Holland, Auburn/Gresham/Chatham and Rolling Meadows. They all had been closed May 31 as violence and looting escalated across the Chicago region.

A sixth site in Waukegan will reopen tomorrow in a new location at 102 W. Water Street. The previous location on Northwestern Avenue will reopen as a state-run vehicle emission testing center.

— Dave McKinney


June 2

3:50 p.m. “Cocktails to go” bill becomes Illinois law

photo of cocktails being made
Illinoisans can now get mixed cocktails delivered to their homes. Charles Krupa / Associated Press

Illinois bars and restaurants can now deliver an Old Fashioned or Negroni to your house.

Gov. JB Pritzker today signed into law a measure that allows for the home delivery of mixed cocktails. It comes in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic that forced the closure of bars and restaurants. The state is now in Phase 3 of the governor’s Rebuild Illinois plan, allowing restaurants to serve customers outdoors. Chicago set its own standards for reopening its economy and is scheduled to allow outdoor dining tomorrow.

“COVID-19 has devastated our independent restaurants and bars who patiently and cooperatively closed since the outset of the pandemic back in March,” said Illinois State Sen. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, in a written statement. “This new law provides restaurants and bar owners with a survival tool as they wait to open safely and to their full capacity.”

The law forbids third party apps, such as GrubHub, from delivering mixed cocktails. The law goes into effect immediately and expires in a year.

— Tony Arnold

2:51 p.m. Illinois loses 113 more people to COVID-19

Illinois public health officials announced today that 113 more people have died because of COVID-19, among 1,614 new cases of the disease identified over the last day. That brings the state’s total number of cases to 122,848. The state has had 5,525 deaths since the pandemic began, officials said in a release.

The state’s 7-day rolling positivity rate — the rate of positive tests for COVID-19 among all tests given — as of June 1 stands at 7%, officials said.

— Angela Rozas-O’Toole

11:04 a.m. Chicago mayor says city will move to next phase, allowing more businesses to reopen tomorrow

Despite days of looting and civil unrest, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced this morning that the city will ease COVID-19 restrictions as planned starting June 3.

That means several types of businesses will be allowed to reopen starting tomorrow with public health restrictions and guidance — including retailers that may have had property damaged and stolen by looters over the weekend.

Phase 3 of Chicago’s five-phase reopening plan allows for restaurants to begin serving people outdoors, and for retailers to reopen with in-store capacity limits. But Lightfoot also reiterated that anyone who has been involved in protests should self-quarantine for 14 days, lest the city lose progress it has made against the deadly coronavirus.

Read the full story.

Alex Keefe


June 1

2:53 p.m. 23 more COVID-19 deaths, as Chicago violence mars reopening plans

Illinois public health officials say COVID-19 has claimed the lives of 23 more people in the state since yesterday, for a total of more than 5,400 deaths during the pandemic.

The state Department of Public Health announced this afternoon that the deaths are part of 974 newly identified cases. So far during the coronavirus pandemic, Illinois has logged more than 121,000 confirmed cases.

Most of Illinois is now in its third phase of reopening businesses as the state eases its restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the virus. Chicago — which has imposed stricter local reopening guidelines — had been set to move into the next phase of its plan on June 3. But Mayor Lori Lightfoot says it’s now unclear whether that will happen, given the weekend’s historic violence and looting in response to the death of George Floyd.

— Alex Keefe

12:50 p.m. Chicago public health commissioner urges protesters and other gatherers to self-quarantine

photo of Dr. Allison Arwady
Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of Chicago Department of Public Health, speaks at a news conference on Jan. 30, 2020, in Chicago. Today, she asked anybody who was in a large group over the weekend to self-quarantine for the next 14 days. Teresa Crawford / Associated Press

After large groups gathered this weekend to protest the death of George Floyd, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady expressed concern about the spread of COVID-19.

At a morning press conference, she asked anybody who was in a group — especially those in close contact or without a mask — to self-quarantine for the next 14 days.

— WBEZ staff


May 31

4:20 p.m. State reports 1,343 new cases and 60 additional deaths

Public health officials today announced 1,343 new cases of COVID-19, including 60 additional deaths. That brings the state’s total to 120,260 cases and 5,390 deaths since the pandemic began.

Illinois’ statewide positivity rate from May 24 through May 30 is 7%, according to state officials.

— WBEZ staff


May 30

2:49 p.m. State reports 1,462 new cases, 61 more deaths

Health officials today reported Illinois has added another 1,462 cases of coronavirus disease during the past 24 hours, for a total of 118,917 since the beginning of the pandemic. The state also saw an additional 61 fatalities, raising the total death toll to 5,330.

There have been 25,343 tests for the virus since yesterday, for a total of 877,105. From May 23 to May 29, an average of 7% of tests statewide came back positive, according to health officials.

— WBEZ staff


May 29

3:18 p.m. Illinois reports 86 more deaths as state stay-at-home order is lifted

As most of Illinois opens more of its economy today, including outdoor dining, child care centers and offices, the state reported another 86 deaths attributed to COVID-19.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the state’s public health director, also announced another 1,622 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus out of 25,513 tests processed in the past 24 hours. That means just 6% of those tested were positive.

Ezike also warned Illinois residents of a scam in which a caller pretends to be a contact tracer, asking for financial information or Social Security numbers.

Gov. JB Pritzker, meanwhile, praised the residents of the state for complying with his stay-at-home order that has now come to an end. “The people of Illinois have taken this seriously, and that has made all the difference,” Pritzker said.

Tony Arnold

3:12 p.m. Chicago mayor suggests expletive toward Trump, launches pilot outdoor dining program

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said “F” and “U” to President Donald Trump at a press conference today while launching a program to close residential streets for outside dining as part of her coronavirus reopening plan

Lightfoot, who has expressed unhappiness with the president in the past, said the two letters stood for what she really wanted to say toward Trump in reaction to his comments on Twitter about protests in Minneapolis after George Floyd died at the hands of a police officer.

The mayor defended her use of the near-expletive, saying she isn’t going to stay silent while the president uses “this painful moment” for “political gain.”

As Chicago gears up for reopening restaurants and retail next week, Lightfoot also announced a pilot program in six neighborhoods to close off residential streets for outside dining and recreation. The city is launching programs in Chatham, Lakeview, Little Village, Near West, the West Loop and the Rush Street area. Chicago officials say they’ll start taking applications for the expanded outdoor dining corridors beginning June 1.

— Claudia Morell

9:23 a.m. Asian American groups seek more services during the pandemic

photo of members of the Pan Asian Voter Empowerment coalition
In this May 2019 photo, members of the Pan Asian Voter Empowerment coalition demonstrate inside the rotunda at the Illinois state capitol for Asian American Action Day. Yesterday, the coalition held a virtual event on Facebook Live. Courtesy of Alliance of Filipinos for Immigrant Rights, Empowerment

In recent years, Asian Americans across Illinois have gathered at the state capitol in May, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, to bring attention to issues affecting their community.

This year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, groups gathered for a virtual Asian American Action Day event on Facebook Live that featured music, dance, and a Q&A with Gov. JB Pritzker.

Speakers talked about how the COVID-19 crisis is affecting the community, including racism toward Asians, a lack of government support for undocumented community members and a need for more language services to help immigrants access services.

Read the full story.

— Esther Yoon-Ji Kang


May 28

4:04 p.m. Arts funding preserved in state budget amid pandemic

Arts advocates in Illinois were preparing for cuts in this year’s state budget, but were surprised that much of the funding was preserved. The budget that passed the legislature last weekend includes $13.3 million for the Illinois Arts Council Agency, which distributes grants to arts organizations and individual artists across the state.

“We were braced for significant setback, and we instead saw preservation and commitment,” said Claire Rice, executive director of Arts Alliance Illinois.

The $13.3 million is preserved from last year’s budget, but is still about half of what was allotted before the 2009 recession, according to Rice. She said it has been declining overtime.

There is also $50 million set aside for capital infrastructure projects in the arts sector. That includes 36 projects across the state. Chicago organizations that are slated to benefit from those capital funds include the South Side Community Art Center, Steppenwolf Theatre and Sweet Water Foundation.

“[The budget] is the best circumstance we could have expected in the current environment,” Rice said. She said organizations could also still benefit from federal funds that will be needed to revive the sector that has been hit by COVID-19 because of closed venues and canceled performances.

— Carrie Shepherd

2:49 p.m. Nearly half of Illinois’ COVID-19 deaths were in long-term care facilities, state says

Illinois public health officials today announced that 104 more people in the state have died of the novel coronavirus in the last day, as part of 1,527 newly identified cases.

Since the start of the pandemic, nearly 5,200 people have died in 100 of Illinois’ 102 counties. The head of the state’s Department of Public Health, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, said 44% of those deaths took place in long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes.

Also today, Gov. JB Pritzker announced the state is set to enter Phase 3 of his five-phase reopening plan starting Friday. That means people in most regions of the state can dine outdoors at restaurants, return to work in offices and begin to send their children back to day care — albeit with strict safety guidelines and capacity limits. The city of Chicago — which has its own, stricter reopening metrics — will begin to reopen parts of its economy June 3.

— Alex Keefe

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