Note: Any news conferences from Gov. J.B. Pritzker or Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot will be streamed in the video player above.
Students and teachers at Chicago Public Schools begin remote learning Tuesday but are expecting some major changes to how the classroom will look.
Meanwhile, cases continue to spike at colleges and universities as students return to campuses for the fall semester. NBC 5 Investigates has been tracking the outbreaks, putting all the info you need to know into a searchable tool to see how the pandemic is spreading.
Here are the latest updates from around the state on the fight against coronavirus today (Sept. 7):
At Least 35K Coronavirus Cases Reported at Colleges as Students Return
At least 35,000 cases of coronavirus have been reported at 176 colleges and universities in recent weeks as students return to campuses while the pandemic rages on.
NBC 5 Investigates is tracking cases at more than 200 colleges and universities – all of the schools in Illinois, more than 50 out-of-state schools most attended by Illinois students, more than 50 of the largest universities in the U.S. and more than 30 of the country’s largest historically black colleges and universities.
Those schools include many that don’t appear to report their cases online – meaning the true total number of cases may be higher – and many where classes haven’t started or began barely one week ago.
At colleges and universities within the state of Illinois, more than 3,270 cases have been reported as of Friday – though that total is likely higher because some of those schools don’t reveal information on their cases online.
At the 14 schools in the Big Ten conference, more than 8,121 cases of coronavirus have been reported, even though some of those schools haven’t started classes yet.
Track the schools here.
Chicago Residents Could See Indiana On Travel Order By Tuesday
With Indiana’s recent surge in coronavirus metrics, Chicago residents could see the state on the city’s travel order by Tuesday, according to Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady.
“Indiana very well may be added to Chicago’s travel order next week,” Arwady said last week.
The state has already crossed the average of 15 cases per 100,000 residents, sitting at 15.8 as of last week, Arwady said, but the city chose to keep it off the list.
“We made a decision not to add it this week for a few reasons,” Arwady said.
Indiana reached the threshold to be added to Chicago’s quarantine list on its emergency travel order, but the city chose not to add it, health officials said.
Among those reasons were the fact that the state had recently changed the way it reports its coronavirus data and that state colleges have marked a large spike in cases.
“If we don’t see improvement across the state then we will add them next week,” Arwady said last week.
As of Monday, more than 100,000 individuals in Indiana tested positive for coronavirus since the pandemic began, according to state health officials, adding 596 new cases and four additional deaths.
The rolling seven-day positivity rate for all tests maintained steady at 5.4 % on Monday, and among unique individuals tested, that figure also stayed consistent at 7.4%, health officials said.
For more on the city’s and state’s travel orders, click here.
Illinois Surpasses 250K Total Coronavirus Cases, Reports 1,381 New Cases Monday
More than 250,000 individuals in Illinois have tested positive for the coronavirus since the pandemic began, state health officials confirmed, noting an additional 1,381 cases Monday, along with eight additional deaths attributed to the virus.
Monday’s figures brought statewide totals to 250,961 confirmed cases since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, according to new data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, with at least 8,179 deaths in all 102 counties attributed to the virus.
The new cases were the result of 28,975 tests administered over the last 24 hours, bringing statewide totals to 4,447,347.
The state’s rolling 7-day positivity rate was reported Monday at 4.2%.
In all, 1,484 patients are currently hospitalized due to COVID-19 in the state of Illinois, with 352 of those patients in intensive care units and the number of patients on ventilators at 137.
Students See Big Changes As Classes Begin Tuesday For CPS
With the coronavirus moving classes online for Chicago Public Schools, students are likely to see some big changes starting Tuesday.
CPS begins remote learning this week with a new approach to the virtual classroom, which has caused mixed reactions from students and parents.
Sharon Brown, parent of a senior at Morgan Park High School said that structure is key for her family.
“Despite the fact that they are not in class, the expectation for my son is still the same,” Brown said. “He still has to go to bed on time, get up on time and he has to study.”
Nia Wright, second grader at Skinner West Elementary, said she didn’t expect to be going to school at home, but students shouldn’t be scared.
“If any kids are nervous, don’t be. I get it, so much,” Wright said. “I mean, it’s the same exact school year but in a different location, so don’t be afraid.”
Chicago Public Schools on Tuesday released its “final reopening framework,” offering specifics on a remote learning plan the district announced earlier this month.
The final framework details expectations for remote learning, instruction time by grade, emotional and social supports for students, plans to assist “English and diverse learners” and a plan to distribute devices for students who need them.
For more on CPS’ remote learning plan, click here.
Prominent Chicago Restaurant Group Announces Mass Layoffs During Coronavirus Pandemic
One of Chicago’s most recognized restaurant groups has announced plans for mass layoffs as the restaurant industry continues to be hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and questions rise over how many will survive as temperatures cool.
Boka Restaurant Group filed a notice with the state showing its intent to let go of 516 workers at several of its 23 highly-acclaimed eateries.
The layoffs include employees at chef Stephanie Izard’s famed Girl & the Goat, Little Goat, Duck Duck Goat and Cabra restaurants, as well as Momotaro, Swift & Sons, GT Prime Steakhouse and more.
One of Chicago’s most recognized restaurant groups has announced plans for mass layoffs as the restaurant industry continues to be hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. NBC 5’s Trina Orlando reports
Boka Restaurant Group did not immediately respond to NBC Chicago’s requests for comment on the planned layoffs.
According to the notice, which is required for companies with 75 or more full-time workers under the Illinois Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, more than a dozen of Boka’s 23 restaurants will be affected. The layoffs are set to take effect beginning Sept. 20, according to the notice, which cites COVID-19 as the reason.
Restaurants across the city have been adjusting to delivery, take-out and outdoor dining as the coronavirus pandemic forced a citywide shutdown of indoor dining and has now left many at limited capacity inside.
According to Illinois Restaurant Association President Sam Toia, restaurant sales are down 50 to 70 percent from last year, and it’s predicted that 86 percent of restaurants won’t make a profit.
In the West Loop, where many of Boka’s restaurants are located, streets have been shut down to make room for more outdoor dining.
Still, restaurants across the city have been operating on different levels as they look to survive and brace for what will happen as colder weather looms. Others have been forced to close their doors for good.
Last month, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot launched a winter design challenge in an attempt to “reimagine the winter outdoor dining experience.”
As it stands, Chicago restaurants can only operate at 25 percent capacity indoors, and Toia says increasing that number to 50% in the coming months, will be key.
“Our restaurants and bars are the heart and soul of the city, and we must do everything possible to keep them operational during the harsh winter months,” Toia said. “We need out-of-the-box thinking to address the hardship facing our industry.”
Lightfoot ‘Deeply Concerned’ About CDC Request to Prepare for Vaccine by Election Day
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she is “deeply” concerned over the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recent request to government officials to prepare for a coronavirus vaccine by election day.
The CDC asked states to expedite the approval process for McKesson, a medical supply company, so it can begin setting up vaccination sites by Nov. 1, CNBC reported on Thursday.
“I’m very concerned about the fact that the CDC is now talking about vaccines in connection with elections,” Lightfoot said during a press conference on Thursday. “That should not be happening. We should always be focused, particularly when it comes to response to COVID-19, on what the science tells us.”
The CDC specifically recommended states to waive licensing and permit requirements that may result in slowing down the process, according to a letter the CDC wrote on Aug. 27 to state governors that was obtained by CNBC.
In the letter, CDC Director Robert Redfield said waiving licenses “will not compromise the safety or integrity of the products being distributed.”
Lightfoot joins other leaders whose skepticism grows amid concerns that health officials may be feeling pressure to rush a vaccine ahead of the upcoming U.S. presidential election.
“I would be shocked if that happens before election day,” Lightfoot said. “That’s why I’m deeply concerned about the CDC talking at all about anything other than what the science is what the results are the phase three trials.”
Trick or Treat? Chicago Doctor on How Halloween Might Look Different During Pandemic
With the coronavirus showing few signs of slowing down as fall nears, many are questioning what the next few months will look like as the pandemic continues to decimate traditions and beloved events.
Will there be candy in store for kids? Costumes? Apple picking?
Dr. Mark Loafman, chair of family and community medicine at Cook County Health, said Halloween may not be gone entirely, but things will certainly look different.
Loafman, who said the holiday was already a tricky subject for doctors as they work to battle an obesity epidemic, said the coronavirus brings even more challenges to the table.
“That’s something we always struggle with regardless of COVID anyways, you know, encouraging families to find healthier ways to celebrate and to not sort of put candy and really empty calorie food up on such an altar to be celebrated. So that’s sort of a backdrop so I think from a public health point of view where we always want to help families address opportunities to find other ways to celebrate it and, you know, the risks associated with that,” Loafman said. “Now we have this COVID environment where people getting close together and in a celebratory way is one of our biggest challenges right now.”
Trick-or-treating brings with it its own set of obstacles, but maintaining small groups and proper hygiene can ensure families are still able to celebrate, Loafman said.
“What we recommend is you know families get together, so it’s safe houses where we know who’s going to be going where and we know people are following the protocols and is celebrating, dressing up and the other occasions that would be useful, and good family traditions and that sort of thing,” Loafman said. “We try to focus on healthy snacks, try to focus on teaching children safe ways to communicate and how to enforce public health principles. I think we anticipate living with this virus for quite a while and maybe indefinitely and we really have to learn how to retrain all occasions and all events to be able to do it in a safe way so this is an opportunity to do that.”
When it comes to proper ways to dish out candy, there are challenges that come with multiple options.
“It would be good to know that the people that are preparing the candy are doing it in a way that’s hygiene related and then safe for the kids so I think having a container out that we feel confident was prepared appropriately and then letting kids pick it up, but again, the issue then is that they’re all putting their hands in this bowl,” Loafman said. “So, you know, individual would be safer, individual handouts in some way so that there wasn’t a common bowl everybody’s reaching into- I think that’s probably a risky scenario.”
But fall doesn’t just mean trick-or-treating. It also means hay rides, pumpkin patches and other seasonal treats.
According to Loafman, it’s not necessarily what you do that you need to worry about, it’s how you do it.
“It’s small groups keeping distance, it’s wearing masks and these things can absolutely happen and getting outdoors is, you know, safe and able to do when it’s done in those constructs,” Loafman said. “We want to avoid people getting into a situation where they don’t have control of their surroundings and people that maybe are lax about their mask use and their hygiene are going to contaminate others. I think the best way to take care of our families is to not get ourselves in those situations where we lose control, and it becomes a spreading event.”
The biggest risk, according to Loafman, is such activities becoming “super spreading events.”
“Watch your distance, wash your hands and then wearing masks, those are the big three things for any kind of public activity, and you know whatever is done needs to be done in that way when those three things can be maintained,” Loafman said. “And when we do that, we have very good luck controlling the spread of this virus and when we don’t do those things we get spread and when it’s a congregate event where there’s a lot of people coming we get super spread. And that’s what’s really, really killing us right now is the fact that we don’t just have low level one-to-one transmission but we get events where one person infects five and they infect 20 and then you get 100 before you know it. That’s what we have to stop if we ever want to get get through this.”
Loafman predicts many things may need to be adjusted as the world continues to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
“This is no different than where we don’t let our kids go on a road trip with parents who don’t believe in seatbelts,” Loafman said. “And we don’t want to consider a secondhand smoke and, you know, we’ve relearned a lot of things about how to change the way we parent and just a constant evolution of that and I think this is just another phase of that.”