Illinois Newsroom is working to find answers to questions we’ve received from listeners about the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some of those questions.
Stay-at-home order updates
Q: When will quarantine be over?
Governor J.B. Pritzker extended the stay-at-home order through May 30.
However, with the new order, some restrictions have been lifted. As of May 1, outdoor recreation, such as state parks and local lakes, are re-opening for individuals or groups of two.
Certain businesses, including greenhouses, garden centers and nurseries, are allowed to reopen.
Retail stores may also reopen to fill telephone and online orders for curbside pickup or delivery.
Certain non-emergency medical procedures will be allowed to resume beginning May 11.
Face coverings are now required in public places, including at grocery stores, pharmacies, medical facilities and in outdoor spaces where a distance of 6 feet cannot be maintained between people at all times.
Q: When will we know if the Chicago Marathon will be postponed or cancelled?
There doesn’t appear to be any hard and fast deadline for the Chicago Marathon to decide the fate of this year’s race, scheduled for October 11.
The Chicago Marathon website states: “Based on the information available to us today, we are continuing our preparations for the event. It is our commitment to keep all participants informed. We will continue to provide updates as we get closer to the race.” That information was last updated on March 20.
There was one new development in the last week. Runner’s World reports that the Chicago Marathon has slightly changed its cancellation policy for this year’s race.
Starting May 5, runners have the option to cancel their entry for this year’s race and defer to 2021. There are several caveats to the cancellation policy:
- Registration fees and ancillary purchases are nonrefundable.
- Your 2020 registration fee and ancillary purchases will not be refunded.
- Your 2020 registration fee and ancillary purchases will not be applied toward your 2021 application.
- You will be required to claim your 2021 guaranteed entry during the 2021 event application window.
- You will not be assigned a bib number for the 2020 event.
- You will not receive a participant packet, bag or running shirt for the 2020 event.
- You cannot cancel your entry two years in a row.
- Cancellation is not an option for those who received an entry through the 2020 cancelled entry, charity, or tour group applications.
- Once an entry is cancelled it cannot be undone.
For context, the Boston and London Marathons, two other major marathons scheduled for this spring, have been postponed until this fall. Closer to Chicago, the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon scheduled for late April has also been postponed until the fall, but the exact date has yet to be announced. The Des Moines Marathon, also scheduled for October, is still planning to hold its event as scheduled, as is the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in early November.
Resources for immigrants
Q: Where can those left out of the stimulus help receive some financial assistance? Mainly immigrant/mixed citizen family homes.
The stimulus bills passed by Congress, including the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act have both included and excluded immigrants from COVID-19 related relief measures.
How immigrants, both documented and undocumented, are included in these relief efforts:
The CARES Act has provided funding to community health centers, which treat patients regardless of immigration status; the same law also provides loans to businesses with fewer than 500 employees to keep workers on the payroll and cover costs of healthcare plants, rent, mortgage interest and utility bills. Meanwhile, the FFCRA requires employers with fewer than 500 employees provide workers with 10 days paid sick leave if they fall ill with COVID-19 or need to care for someone who is sick — regardless of immigration status. The same law also expanded the Family and Medical Leave Act to allow both documented and undocumented employees to take leave to care for children whose schools or childcare services have closed because of the pandemic.
How undocumented immigrants are excluded from these relief efforts:
While the FFCRA and the CARES Act have expanded unemployment insurance for workers, that benefit is unavailable to undocumented workers regardless of whether they pay taxes. Meanwhile, the CARES Act provides direct payments of up to $1,200 to individuals and $2,400 to couples, as well as an additional $500 per child claimed on their fiscal 2019 tax returns. But only households where every member has a valid social security number are eligible for this benefit. That means that even if someone has a valid social security number, but their spouse is undocumented, and they file taxes jointly, neither is eligible to receive a direct stimulus payment. They also wouldn’t be able to receive any benefits for their dependent children — even if those children are U.S. citizens. The Center for American Progress estimates that roughly 5.1 million children — most of whom are citizens — are excluded from this benefit in the CARES Act.
Resources available to undocumented immigrants:
Dagmara Avelar, director of programs for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, says undocumented people and their families may be able to benefit from state and local level resources. For example, those living in the Chicagoland area may benefit from the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund, which has donated millions to nonprofits in that area of the state to provide rental, utility and food assistance to families. The Illinois COVID-19 Response Fund was also established to serve nonprofits across the state.
Avelar says her organization recently received $250,000 from the Illinois COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund, and distributed that money to 13 nonprofits providing direct assistance to individuals across the state.
“I do have to say it has been quite challenging,” Avelar says. “Some of the organizations have reported that the funds we gave them have already run out in a matter of a week.”
She also suggests individuals look to the Refugee Center, which assists immigrants and is based in Champaign, Ill.
The New American Welcome Center at the University YMCA in Champaign-Urbana has created an online guide resource guide for immigrants seeking assistance during the pandemic. The center also has an Immigrant Relief Fund, which provides immigrants in Champaign County with financial assistance regardless of their citizenship status. Gloria Yen, director of the New American Welcome Center, says the organization had distributed more than $29,000 to families struggling with financial and food insecurity as of mid-April.
Avelar, with ICIRR, says families with children who qualify for free and reduced school lunch may also qualify for the Pandemic Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Pandemic SNAP).
On the national level, individuals can apply for the NationalUndocuFund, which provides direct assistance to immigrants. Applications are currently closed because the fund has run out of money, but it may be reopened if more money is raised.
Q: Is consideration being made to send nurses and aides to assist in long-term care facilities?
Prizker says the state is providing staff to nursing homes when they need extra support, due to staff having to quarantine after being exposed to colleagues or nursing home residents with COVID-19. “We are providing help wherever we can for these facilities,” Pritzker said in his press briefing on May 5.
Q: When will the state begin testing all residents and staff at senior living centers?
Gov. Pritzker has said during his daily news briefings that the state is working on getting all residents of nursing homes tested as well, but he has not said when that statewide effort will begin.
In Champaign County, Public Health Administrator Julie Pryde says her agency is working on sending COVID-19 test kits to all nursing homes in the county, regardless of whether they have any confirmed cases.
Health and testing
Q: Up until recently, it was advised that people who are ill, but not seriously so, should just stay home and not go to be tested. Is that still the case, or are we trying to get as many tested as possible?
Anyone who has been exposed to someone confirmed to have COVID-19 is eligible for testing, even if they aren’t showing symptoms, according to the expanded testing criteria set by the state of Illinois.
Anyone with symptoms is eligible to get tested, but no one is required to, according to Dr. Ngoze Ezike, who directs the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Ezike says anyone experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should call their health care provider to discuss whether to get tested. She says they should also notify people they’ve been in touch with to let them know they’re experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, so they can be aware that they may have been exposed.
Q: Are positive antibody tests for COVID-19 counted in the number of COVID-19 cases? Or are the tests too unreliable to count?
In his daily press briefing on May 3, Gov. Pritzker said the results of antibody tests are not being included in the state’s count of confirmed COVID-19 tests. He cites the unreliability of the tests as the primary reason for this.
“Antibody tests are very unproven,” Pritzker said. “Lots of them have a false positive or false negative rate that is unacceptable. It wouldn’t be useful for us to use those numbers.”
Pritzker says once antibody tests are shown to be more accurate, the state will begin initiating antibody testing across the state and reporting the results.
Q: How can we find out how many people are affected with this virus in our town?
On the IDPH website, you can search by county or by zip code to see how many people have been tested for COVID-19, how many of those are positive cases and how many people have died from COVID-19.
Q: Why can’t the governor give daily statistics for new cases as a percent of tests performed? The percentage of positive tests is going down, but news channels are reporting cases are going up.
Gov. Pritzker addressed this in his news briefing on May 2 when the state reported 2,450 new COVID-19 cases. He said the recent rise in new cases is a reflection of the state increasing its COVID-19 testing capacity, which he says is “a very good thing” because it means the state is able to test more people who may have been exposed to COVID-19 and prevent them from infecting others.
The percentage of people who receive a positive COVID-19 test has dropped from about 22% last week to less than 20%, Pritzker said.
The White House coronavirus task force and the World Health Organization have both recommended a positive rate of 10% as a benchmark to suggest testing levels are sufficient, as countries that have done extensive testing have positive rates of about 1 in 10, according to NPR.