Illinois Coronavirus Updates: Suburban Students to Rally for In-Person Learning, Business Owners Seek Stimulus Aid

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Note: Any news conferences from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot or other officials will be streamed in the video player above.

Students and parents in one suburban school district are expected to gather Monday to push for in-person learning as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

At the same time, the city of Aurora will be holding a pop-up food pantry for more than 1,200 families in need.

Meanwhile, Chicago-area small business owners want lawmakers to understand their struggle as negotiations continue over a potential stimulus package.

Here are the latest updates from across Illinois on the coronavirus pandemic today (Oct. 12):

Students, Parents to Rally for In-Person Classes at Stevenson High School

Students and parents are expected to gather Monday to push for in-person learning at Stevenson High School following months of remote learning.

According to a release, Stevenson High School students, parents, medical experts and supporters will gather at the school in Lot B in support of in-person learning.

The group said they plan to walk the sidewalk to the “grassy area” west of Marquee on Route 22.

A hybrid learning option was presented to students and parents in July following prior months of closure, the release said, but was withdrawn before there was an option to choose.

“Our children’s education and mental health are suffering,” the group said in a release. “It is time for school leaders to act decisively and present a plan to safely return to school and for the Board of Education to hold these leaders accountable to plans, timeline and expectations. Our students deserve more and the communities that are served by Stevenson are ready and willing to step up to provide support.”

Since closing the school in March, Stevenson High School has reportedly not announced any further plans to return to in-person learning.

Other schools such as Glenbook North, Glenbrook South, Vermon Hills, Libertyville, New Trier, Wheeling, Palatine, Barrington, Lake Forest, Lake Zurich and Crystal Lake have announced hybrid learning plans for October, the release said.

The group said High School District 125 serves over 4,300 students at Stevenson High School from Lincolnshire, Long Grove, Prairie View, Buffalo Grove, Deerfield, Hawthorn Woods, Indian Creek, Kildeer, Lake Forest, Lake Zurich, Mettawa, Mundelein, Palatine, Riverwoods, Vernon Hills and Wheeling.

Aurora to Provide Free Groceries to Over 1,200 Families

The City of Aurora will host a community-wide pop-up food pantry Monday for over 1,200 families as the pandemic brings financial burdens.

The food pantry will open at 9 a.m. at Phillips Park in Aurora and will allow for no-contact drive-thru food distribution.

According to a release, the groceries will include boxes of “fresh and quality” meat, dairy and produce provided by the federal Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.

“Our pop up pantries are a mixed blessing,” Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin said. “While we are happy to provide this much-needed service for our community, it is disheartening to see the need continue to grow during this pandemic. Thankfully, through our partnerships, we have the ability and opportunity to help.”

Nearly 100 volunteers and staff members will be at the pantry to work the distribution, the release said.

Illinois Reports 2,727 New Coronavirus Cases, 9 Additional Deaths Sunday

Illinois health officials on Sunday reported 2,727 new coronavirus cases and nine additional deaths over the last 24 hours.

According to the latest data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, Sunday’s figures bring the state’s total to 319,150 cases and 8,984 deaths since the pandemic began.

As of Sunday, state officials reported 388 coronavirus patients were occupying intensive care unit beds in Illinois, with 1,377 available.

Of COVID-19 patients, 159 were on ventilators with 4,476 remaining available, state health officials reported.

Illinois’ recovery rate remains at 96%, which is calculated as the recorded cases divided by the sum of recovered cases and deceased cases.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said last week that while many of the state’s healthcare regions were seeing “promising declines,” “that progress has cooled.”

“We are seeing changes in positivity averages around the state level off, with three regions that were decreasing last week now sitting at a stable level,” he said during a virtual update last Wednesday.

Still, on Friday state health officials loosened the stricter mitigations that had been in place for weeks in Region 4, allowing the area to return to phase four guidelines Friday afternoon as positivity rates declined there.

Chicago-Area Small Business Owners Seeking Stimulus Aid

Chicago-area small business owners want Washington D.C. to take notice of their struggles as the government debates a new round of relief aid for businesses hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We don’t want to be another empty building on the street of our great downtown,” said Heidi Vance, owner of Team Blonde, a boutique in Forest Park.

Vance said her business is experiencing lower revenue and higher expenses due to the pandemic.

“A stimulus package would absolutely help us, a hundred percent,” Vance said.

As the debate over another stimulus package continued in Washington D.C. Friday, local business owners said they’re running out of time. NBC 5’s Chris Coffey reports.

While nice weather in recent weeks has helped with outdoor dining, restaurant owners like Patrick O’Brien of Scratch Restaurant Group said they are concerned about how colder temperatures will impact their business.

“Without a stimulus going into the winter, I don’t know if all four of my locations will see the spring,” O’Brien said.

Jonathan Biag said he was expecting a big year at his escape room business, Escape Factor.  But the pandemic changed everything.

“Now we only have our employees coming in when we have customers coming in because we just can’t afford to have people here non-stop,” Biag said.

Biag said customers who visit his business can safely enjoy the activities in self-contained rooms.  He also said he is hopeful for stimulus aid because “every little bit will help.”

On Twitter Friday, President Trump said “Covid Relief Negotiations are moving along. Go Big!”

Rep. Bost of Illinois Tests Positive for COVID-19

U.S. Rep. Mike Bost of Illinois has tested positive for COVID-19, the latest lawmaker now confirmed to have the virus.

The Republican whose district covers most of deep southern Illinois tested positive late Thursday, according to a statement from his office Friday. He had experienced “a mild cough and a rapid loss of both taste and smell,” prompting him to take the test.

“We are taking this situation seriously and will continue to serve the people of Southern Illinois while doing our best to ensure their health and safety,” he said in a statement. “I will provide additional updates in the days ahead and am anxious to get back to work as soon as I make a full recovery.”

In recent days, White House staff and a growing number of lawmakers have tested positive, including Democratic Rep. Salud Carbajal of California and Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican.

Bost said he’ll quarantine and postpone his public schedule as he isolates and that the staff members he’s been in contact with will do the same. His office was also reaching out to constituents he had met with in recent days. Bost said he has consulted with the Capitol’s attending physician.

Bost, a former state legislator, was first elected to the U.S. House in 2014. He is now seeking a fourth term.

26 Illinois Counties Now at ‘Warning Level’ for Coronavirus, Health Officials Say

Twenty-six counties in Illinois are now at a “warning level” for coronavirus, the state’s health department said Friday

The warning means each of the counties saw increases in two or more COVID-19 “risk indicators,” the health department said.

The counties now under a warning include: Case, Christian, Clay, Clinton, Coles, Crawford, Effingham, Fayette, Henderson, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Knox, Lake, Lee, Mason, Massac, Pulaski, Richland, Saline, Shelby, Union, Vermilion, Whiteside, Winnebago, Warren.

Last week, 28 counties were at a “warning level.” The week before that it was 17.

“Although the reasons for counties reaching a warning level varies, some of the common factors for an increase in cases and outbreaks are associated with university and college parties as well as college sports teams, large gatherings and events, bars and clubs, weddings and funerals, family gatherings, long-term care facilities, correctional centers, schools, and cases among the community at large, especially people in their 20s,” the Illinois Department of Public Health said in a statement.

IDPH said officials observed businesses “blatantly disregarding mitigation measures, people not social distancing, gathering in large groups and not using face coverings.” 

“Mayors, local law enforcement, state’s attorneys and other community leaders can be influential in ensuring citizens and businesses follow best practices,” IDPH added.

After Weeks of Heightened Restrictions, Region 4 Returning to Phase 4, Officials Announce

After weeks of heightened coronavirus restrictions, Illinois’ Region 4 can finally return to phase four guidelines alongside the majority of the state.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health announced the area, also known as the Metro East region, could return to phase four beginning at 5 p.m. Friday.

The region – which includes Bond, Clinton, Madison, Monroe, Randolph, St. Clair and Washington counties – had been under increased restrictions since Aug. 18, when the area had three consecutive days of rolling positivity rates at or above 8%. On Sept. 2, even more restrictions were put in place as the positivity rate climbed.

As of Friday, the area had a positivity rate of 5.8%.

“We are excited to see that after weeks of mitigation measures and sacrifice, Region 4 has reduced its positivity rate and can return to Phase 4,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement. “It takes communities working together to reduce the spread of the virus and lower the positivity rate. I want to thank Region 4 for its hard work to decrease the risk for all of Illinois.”

Pritzker had hinted earlier this week that the restrictions may soon be lifted as positivity rates continued to decline in the area.

“After falling from a peak seven-day average positivity of over 10%, Metro East then leveled off between an average of 7% and 8% positivity for several weeks, and has recently dropped to a new low of 6.3%,” Pritzker said Wednesday. “As of this morning, that’s enormous progress. And if the region sustains an average below the 6.5% threshold, Region 4 could see a return to the looser mitigations enacted in most of the state as soon as Friday.”

Currently, only one other Illinois region is under heightened mitigations. Region 1, which holds Rockford, Dixon and Galena, saw increased restrictions begin on Saturday.

Winners of Chicago’s Winter Dining Challenge Announced

The winners of Chicago’s “Winter Dining Challenge” were announced Thursday as city officials prepare to launch a pilot program featuring the various ideas for dining outside during the colder months in the city.

Winners include “cabins” that will fit in a parking space, heated blocks that can be joined together or separated to create seating outside and a modified Japanese Kotatsu, or heated table.

The winners – Amy Young, Neil Reindel and Ellie Henderson- were selected from more than 600 submissions.

“As we approach the winter months and adapt our COVID-19 response accordingly, we owe it to our restaurants to make sure they have what they need to continue keeping their doors open and serving their communities,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement. “Thanks to IRA and the outstanding creativity of our Winter Dining Challenge winners, we will be able to not only make this a reality, but do so in a way that is safe and showcases our city’s innovative spirit. I extend a huge congratulations to each of our Winter Dining Challenge winners.”

The city launched the challenge in August, asking residents to propose solutions for outdoor dining during the colder months.

“From architects to designers, restaurateurs, servers and dining enthusiasts, the city has received 643 innovative and exciting ideas for cold-weather outdoor dining in the first-ever Chicago Winter Design Challenge,” the mayor’s office said in a release last month.

Among the ideas were dining tents with sliding walls, inflatable igloos and even closing a multi-level parking garage to transform it into a food hall for several restaurants. Some suggested greenhouses or pneumatic pods or an outdoor event with rotating restaurants for those that don’t already have outdoor space available.

The winners were selected by a panel of local restauranteurs, servers, designers, architects and chefs based on the following categories:

  • Outdoor, standalone structures
  • Indoor-adjacent spaces
  • Cultural shifts making winter dining more appealing

Each winner will receive $5,000 and opportunities to start their idea at restaurants and bars around the city, the office said.

“We are excited to have had the chance to reimagine our public spaces and provide Chicagoans an opportunity to experience the city in a fun and unique way. Chicago has always been a resilient city when faced with difficult times,” Reindel, whose submission included a “block party” that he described as “adaptable and easy to implement for many different sites and street configurations,” said in a statement. “With Block Party we wanted to provide a warm place for people to reconnect as we move forward through the winter and into 2021.” 

 “We are honored that our concept was chosen for the Chicago Winter Dining Challenge. Our Cozy Cabins idea focused on creating a warm, welcoming experience to encourage Chicago residents to safely dine in rather than take out,” Amy Young, who submitted the idea for “small modular, adjoining cabins that can fit into a standard parking space,” said in a statement. “We wanted to create an outdoor destination centered around new experiences, neighborhood connections, and a sense of community—elements lost while dining at home. We hope this idea helps support small businesses and safely bring people together during this difficult year.”

“I want to thank the City of Chicago, IDEO and the Illinois Restaurant Association for choosing my winter dining idea,” Ellie Henderson, who submitted the idea for heated tables and blankets, said in a statement. “My hope is that my proposal for using heated tables will help restaurants adapt, providing a novel open-air dining experience for their patrons that is safe and comfortably warm through colder months in 2020 and beyond.”

Earlier this month, the city of Chicago eased some of its coronavirus restrictions, allowing indoor bar service again and raising capacity limits on businesses, including restaurants, among other major changes.

Restaurants that had been limited to 25% indoor capacity were able to increase their maximum indoor capacity to 40%. The limit of 50 total customers within one room or space at restaurants, venues and other establishments will remain in place, as will the limit of no more than six people per table.

Chicago officials also recently released fall and winter dining guidelines for area restaurants, revealing establishments with sidewalk cafe permits or outdoor patio licenses can use tents, domes or other temporary structures that allow “adequate ventilation” for circulation. Some heating devices will also be allowed, but they have to meet a required set of safety regulations.

For places using domes or other enclosed spaces, placards must be posted “advising about increased risk of transmission within an enclosed space.”

Restaurants will need to submit their fall and winter plans in writing.

According to the city, the pilot program for the winning designs will need to adhere to the guidelines.

As of last month, more than 50 restaurants in the Chicago area had permanently closed their doors because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition to the winning designs, the city also announced Thursday that DoorDash plans to announce a financial support program for Chicago restaurants to “help cover the costs of winterizing their outdoor dining areas.” The program will give $500,000 in grants to help local eateries with the costs of heating equipment, safety materials for indoor dining, air filtration system upgrades, blankets and more.

Applications open on Oct. 16 and funds will be distributed through the end of November, the city said. Restaurants must be located in Chicago and have no more than three locations operating currently with 50 employees or fewer and no more than $3 million in revenue from 2019 to apply.

Midwestern Coronavirus Positivity Rates Over the Past 2 Weeks

How States Compare on Where Coronavirus Is Most Easily Spread

Region: Chicago,Local,City: Chicago

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October 12, 2020 at 07:14AM

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