WBEZ’s Rundown Of Today’s Top News: Can Illinois Avoid A New Stay-At-Home Order?

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker answers questions from the media during his daily press briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic from his office at the Illinois State Capitol, Friday, May 22, 2020, in Springfield, Ill. Justin L. Fowler / The State Journal-Register via AP, Pool
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker answers questions from the media during his daily press briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic from his office at the Illinois State Capitol, Friday, May 22, 2020, in Springfield, Ill. Justin L. Fowler / The State Journal-Register via AP, Pool

WBEZ’s Rundown Of Today’s Top News: Can Illinois Avoid A New Stay-At-Home Order?

Good afternoon! It’s Tuesday, one of the worst days of the week. But don’t worry, we got this. Here’s what you need to know today. (PS: You can have this delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.)

1. Can Illinois avoid another stay-at-home order?

Gov. JB Pritzker has said he does not have plans for another sweeping stay-at-home order as new coronavirus cases continue to climb throughout Illinois. But, at the same time, the governor is bringing back tougher restrictions to parts of Illinois that are seeing outbreaks grow significantly.

Pritzker today announced that indoor service will be banned at restaurants and bars in Chicago beginning on Friday, reports WBEZ’s Tony Arnold and Mariah Woelfel. [WBEZ]

The tougher restrictions come as the state reported more than 32,000 new coronavirus cases in the past seven days, the second highest number of infections in all U.S. states and territories, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Pritzker’s administration has adopted a more surgical approach to reviving restrictions by dividing the state into 11 regions. But even under that more targeted plan, many parts of the state could once again face tighter restrictions that are reminiscent of the stay-at-home order, Dr. Ron Hershow, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told me today.

“The trend is upward, and my best estimate is that given that we are seemingly in the onset of a slow wave, and the weather is only going to get colder, I am concerned that we will have to push back our reopening to earlier phases,” Hershow said.

The two big numbers to watch are a region’s positivity rate and hospital capacity levels, Hershow said. Under Pritzker’s plan, a region could move backwards if it hits an 8% positivity rate and the percentage of available ICU hospital beds sinks below 20%.

State officials today reported 4,000 new cases and 46 additional deaths. Illinois faces a weekly average of 4,662 cases per day, a 78% increase compared to the average two weeks ago. [WBEZ]

Nationwide, an average of 70,000 cases are being reported each day, far more than the number of new cases reported during the summer peak. [NPR]

Meanwhile, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, warned today that having a large family get together for Thanksgiving could result in a funeral around Christmas. [Chicago Tribune]

2. This year’s election is already on track to see record turnout

More than 66 million voters have cast their ballots with just a week to go in the 2020 election. Compared to the 2016 election, that’s about 19 million more preelection votes.

University of Florida professor Michael McDonald, who runs the turnout tracking database known as the U.S. Elections Project, had previously estimated that 150 million Americans will vote this year, which would be the highest turnout since 1908. But McDonald recently told NPR that he believes his initial estimate may be a “lowball.” [NPR]

Meanwhile, Democratic nominee Joe Biden is today campaigning in Georgia, where his campaign sees an opportunity to turn the state blue for the first time since 1992. President Donald Trump is focusing on the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. [AP]

And in the Chicago area, Republicans are hoping to reclaim two congressional districts that elected Democrats in 2018. [WBEZ]

3. Illinois companies linked to the rich and corrupt received federal loans intended for small businesses

Loopholes in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) allowed millions of dollars to be doled out to “Chicago-area companies tied to notoriously corrupt suburban contractors, the richest member of President Donald Trump’s cabinet and a wealthy Republican congressional candidate in next month’s election,” reports WBEZ’s Dan Mihalopoulos.

Among those who benefited from the federal aid was the ice cream shop chain owned by the family of Republican congressional candidate Jim Oberweis, a free-market conservative who has previously spoken out against sending Americans more COVID-19 stimulus checks. Oberweis’ family business received about $6 million from a PPP loan.

Another recipient was the Palumbo family, which was banned from bidding for federally-funded contracts due to corruption convictions in 1999. [WBEZ]

4. Justice Amy Coney Barrett is on the bench

Now that Justice Amy Coney Barrett has been confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court, she could help decide two issues affecting the man who appointed her: President Trump.

One issue is an attempt by Trump to prevent the Manhattan district attorney from obtaining the president’s tax returns. The nation’s high court is also considering an appeal that could stifle voting results in two battleground states: North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Trump and Republicans want to shorten the deadline for election authorities in those states to process absentee ballots. [AP]

Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court could also threaten abortion rights. Here’s a look at how some activists envision a “post-Roe v. Wade” nation. [NPR]

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court last night declined to reinstate a court ruling that would have extended Wisconsin’s deadline for counting absentee ballots to six days after the election. [Politico]

5. Lightfoot’s proposed budget gets grilling from City Council members

Aldermen have begun hearings into Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s plan to close a $1.2 billion budget shortfall that includes a $94 million property tax hike, potentially laying off hundreds of city workers and refinancing the city’s debt.

Several aldermen have criticized Lightfoot’s proposed property tax increases, saying they will hurt city residents who are struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, WBEZ’s Becky Vevea reports that part of the mayor’s budget plan includes installing 750 new parking meters in spaces that are currently free. The move is aimed at covering a payment that the city owes to Chicago Parking Meters LLC for revenue lost when meters are temporarily shut down for city events and parades. [WBEZ]

Here’s what else is happening

  • Protests in Philadelphia over a fatal police shooting of a Black man resulted in more than a dozen people arrested and 30 officers injured. [AP]
  • A federal judge rejected the Justice Department’s attempt to shield Trump from a defamation lawsuit. [Politico]
  • Employers are cutting back on office space in Chicago’s downtown. [Chicago Sun-Times]
  • The tourism board for the country of Kazakhstan is embracing Borat’s famous catchphrase “very nice!” as its new slogan. [NPR]

Oh, and one more thing …

One time, as I walked my dog, Princess Leia, I saw a rat the size of a cat and yelled “Not today!” when Leia tried running after it.

If you think rats are all over the place, you’re not alone. For six years now, Chicago has been the No. 1 “rattiest” city in the country, according to pest control company Orkin. WBEZ’s Curious City looked at how city officials handle rat complaints, and what residents can do to keep rats away from their homes. [WBEZ]

Tell me something good …

I saw the new movie adaptation of The Witches on HBO Max this weekend. Anne Hathaway plays the Grand High Witch, and that got me thinking: Who is one of your favorite fictional villains?

Katie tweets:

“I love the villain #Yzma from #TheEmperorsNewGroove. She’s ‘scary beyond all reason.’ Happy Halloween!”

And Renuka writes:

“A fictional villain that comes to mind is Gargamel. He was the scariest wizard of all time who wanted to capture and turn the Smurfs into gold. Wouldn’t it be nice if he just came around and turned so many things to gold now?”

Who is one of your favorite fictional villains? Feel free to email at therundown@wbez.org or tweet to @whuntah.

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