Coronavirus Information Center

Illinois: Woman Dies From Coronavirus; Cases Grow To 585

March 20 6:15 p.m. – The Illinois Dept of Public Health announced 163 new cases of the coronavirus in our state. A woman in Cook county in her 70s is the latest person to die. She’s also the fifth person to die. Right now, the state says there are a total of 585 COVID-19 cases in 25 counties in Illinois. Those affected range from ages 3 to 99. Additionally the state is working with the US Department of Health and Human Services, Wal-Mart and Walgreens to set up drive-thru testing in the hardest hit areas of the state. – Reginald Hardwick/Illinois Newsroom

Officials Place Limitations On Who Can Get Tested

March 20 4:56 p.m. – With testing kits in short supply, Champaign County health officials are limiting who meets the criteria to get tested for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Now, the priority will be given to hospitalized patients with severe acute lower respiratory illness, such as pneumonia, as well as people in vulnerable populations who live in settings such as assisted living facilities where there has been a cluster of confirmed cases. Tests will not be available to people who are exhibiting symptoms but are under 60 years old and do not have underlying health conditions. Tests are also not available for those who are mildly ill or asymptomatic. So far, only 150 tests have been administered in Champaign County, and just one has come back positive. Click here for more information. – Dana Cronin, Illinois Newsroom

Illinois Governor Orders Residents To Stay At Home

March 20 3:12 p.m. — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has ordered the state’s residents to remain in their homes except for essential needs, joining similar efforts in California and New York to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Pritzker’s order announced Friday will still allow the state’s 12.6 million residents to seek essentials including groceries and medicine. The order will take effect Saturday. Pritzker had previously ordered all schools statewide to shut down and limited gatherings to 50 people to limit the spread of the coronavirus in the state. He also closed dine-in service at bars and restaurants. – Associated Press

Netflix Establishes $100 Million Virus Relief Fund

March 20 2:01 p.m. — Netflix says it’s establishing a $100 million relief fund for workers affected by the corona-virus caused halt of most film and TV production. The streaming service says Friday the majority of the fund will support the hardest-hit workers on Netflix’s own productions around the world. In an effort to support the broader film and TV industry, Netflix says $15 million of the fund will be distributed to organizations providing emergency relief to out-of-work crew and cast in the countries where it has a large production base, including three nonprofits in the United States. – Associated Press

US Virus Testing Faces New Headwind: Lab Supply Shortages

March 20 1:41 p.m. — The long-delayed effort to ramp up screening for the coronavirus in the U.S. is facing a new challenge: critical shortages of laboratory supplies. Public health officials warn of dwindling levels of testing chemicals, swabs and other testing needs. Some labs have had to cut back or halt testing due to lack of supplies. Wide scale testing is a critical part of containing infectious diseases. But a series of stumbles have left the U.S. weeks trailing behind most other developed countries. Now laboratory workers worry the introduction of drive-thru testing and mass screening will further pressure supplies.- Associated Press

Trump Moves On Invoking Powers To Spur Virus Supplies

March 20 1:34 p.m. — President Donald Trump is tapping stepped-up powers to marshal the private sector in the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this week he said he’d invoke the rarely used Defense Production Act as needed to get vital medical supplies on the front lines of the outbreak. Now he says he’s put that “in gear.” He also announced an effective closure of the U.S. border with Mexico, prohibiting most travel except for trade. That brings it in line with the restriction on the Canadian border earlier this week. The government is suspending interest on federally owned student loans as well. – Associated Press

Health & Hospitals Asking For Equipment Donations

March 19 11:08 p.m. – The Illinois Health and Hospital Association is asking for donations of face masks, respirators, and other personal protective equipment for hospital workers tackling COVID-19 cases. Peoria City/County Health Department Administrator Monica Hendrickson says the requests are coming in “full-force.” She says local emergency management agencies are working with federal and state agencies to procure supplies, but that might not be enough. “It is getting to the point where we are asking as much as we can around community partners that are closing down shops, such as dentists or someplace where they do elective procedures, to bring in the supplies to our first responders,” said Hendrickson. She says maintaining a stash of equipment is one of the reasons why it’s important to control who’s visiting the ER. Medical personnel are now wearing extra gear when seeing people with flu-like symptoms. – Tim Shelley, Peoria Public Radio

Illinois Officials: 3 More Dead, 422 Now Positive For Virus

March 19 7:02 p.m. — Illinois public health officials say three more people have died after contracting the coronavirus and 422 people statewide have now tested positive for the disease caused by the virus. A total of four people have died in the state as a result of COVID-19. Earlier Thursday, Chicago officials ordered all people with confirmed cases of COVID-19 or showing symptoms of the disease caused by it to stay indoors. The order formalized previous advice seeking to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Mayor Lori Lightfoot also announced extended school closures by several weeks, saying the nation’s third-largest school district would remain closed through April 20.  – Associated Press

County Treasurer’s Office Now Off Limits To The Public

March 19 – The Champaign County Treasurer’s office is now closed to walk-in visits by the public. And it’s just the latest Champaign County office to bar public visits during the coronavirus outbreak. County Executive Darlene Kloeppel she and other county officials are working out ways to keep county government running while avoiding potential infection. “The goal is to be able to operate county business as much as possible, without exposing both the public and the staff to group meetings, or over-the-counter services, things like that, that would be transferring virus germs,” said Kloeppel. She says the Champaign county clerk, circuit clerk and assessor have already ended walk-in visits. For the county treasurer, the change comes at a time when property tax bills are coming due. Interim treasurer Marisol Hughes says people can pay taxes or check for refunds at her office’s website, make credit card payments over the phone, or use the drop box outside the Brookens Administrative Center, near the flagpole. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Suspect Test Kits Seized At O’Hare International Airport

March 19 7:56 p.m. — Illegal coronavirus test kits were seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers working at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. The officers intercepted packages containing the questionable drug kits Thursday after they arrived from the United Kingdom. Authorities say some of the “test kits” were marked as coronavirus tests, while others were labeled as tests for meningitis, MRSA, salmonella and other diseases. Chief Supervisory Officer Lesley Lukens is warning the public that testing for coronavirus is conducted only in verified state and local public health laboratories located around the nation. – Associated Press

Pressure Grows On Trump As Hospitals Sound Virus Alarms

March 19 6:13 p.m. — President Donald Trump is calling on states to do more to secure their own critically needed masks, ventilators and testing supplies as the pressure mounts on hospitals coping with a rising number of coronavirus patients. He asserted Thursday that the federal government is not a “shipping clerk.” This, as governors complained that they’re running short of needed supplies in some states and need more federal help. Trump and his administration took additional, once-unthinkable steps to try to contain the pandemic. The State Department issued a new alert urging Americans not to travel abroad under any circumstances. Lawmakers worked urgently toward a $1 trillion aid package. – Associated Press

Three Deaths And 134 New Coronavirus Cases Announced In Illinois

March 19 – Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced the death of three people in Illinois with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, bringing the total to four deaths in the state. The individuals include a Will County man in his 50s, a Cook County woman in her 80s, and a Florida woman in her 70s who died in a Sangamon County hospital.

There are 134 new cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) across Illinois.  Five additional counties are now reporting cases: Jackson, Kankakee, LaSalle, Washington, and Williamson counties. Currently, IDPH is reporting a total of 422 cases in 22 counties in Illinois. Those infected range in age from 9 to 99 years old. Testing, however, is not available to those who are not showing symptoms. – Reginald Hardwick, Illinois Newsroom

COVID-19 Concerns Causing Severe Blood Shortage

March 19 1:05 a.m. – Blood drives are being canceled at unprecedented rates across the country.  Here in Illinois, officials are worried the blood supply could fall to a dangerous level. Jim Watts, with the Central Illinois Community Blood Center, says giving blood remains safe and that precautions are being taken.  “We are asking only healthy people to come out and we are screening those individuals to make sure they are healthy before they go on to the blood donation process,” said Watts. He says if a business or organization can still host a blood drive, it’s important to do so.  Donors can also go to a local blood center. – Sean Crawford, NPR Illinois

Illinois State Police Preparing To Launch Support

March 19 1:05 a.m. – The Illinois State Police is preparing for further action related to the coronavirus outbreak in the coming days and weeks. This includes the transport of patients needing medical care, carrying medical supplies from the national stockpile, and coordination with the national guard. In a Wednesday press conference, ISP Director Brendan Kelly urged residents to abide by the restrictions on bars, restaurants, and public gatherings.  – Chase Cavanaugh, WNIJ News

 Occupancy Drops At Illinois Hotels

March 19 1:00 a.m. – As conventions cancel and travel slows, hotels in Illinois have seen a dramatic drop in bookings. Michael Jacobson is the president of the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association. He says some hotels in downtown Chicago are seeing occupancy rates in the single digits this week. “And anytime you fall below 35 or 30 percent in occupancy, it’s hard for a hotel to justify keeping their lights on and keeping their doors open,” said Jacobson. Jacobson says nationwide, the industry is on pace to lay off one million workers in the next week. He also expects more hotel closures in the coming days. – Lauren Frost, WBEZ News

Visitation Restricted at Veterans Health Care Hospitals & Clinics

March 19 1:00 a.m – To help limit the spread of the coronavirus, the VA Illiana Health Care System announced “no visitors of any age will be allowed to enter the medical center or CBOC facilities.” The policy includes the main facility in Danville and outpatient clinics in  Bloomington, Decatur, Mattoon, Peoria and Springfield. Exceptions will be made if the visitor is essential for supporting patient care activities or visiting a patient with grave illness or imminent death of a family member under care in the facility. Those visitors will be subjected to pre-screening prior to admission. Veterans who have flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath are encouraged to call the nurse triage line at 1-888-598-7793, before visiting their provider at the VA medical center or local VA clinic. – Reginald Hardwick, Illinois Newsroom

Central Illinois Cities Declare States of Emergency

March 19 12:30 a.m. – The list of cities declaring states of emergency in the wake of growing Coronavirus cases in Illinois continues to grow. On Wednesday, Danville joined Champaign, and Sangamon County in the action which will make it easier for city governments to make decisions and move resources. Some cities are moving to virtual council meetings and mandating some city workers telecommute to increase physical distancing. – Reginald Hardwick, Illinois Newsroom

Champaign & Urbana Suspend Inspections

March 19 12:24 a.m. – To limit spreading of COVID-19, the city of Champaign said it is suspending inspections by Code Compliance Division (Neighborhood Services) unless there’s a life threatening situation. If you need more information on inspections, contact Neighborhood Services at neighborhoodservices@champaignil.gov or 217-403-7070. Additionally, the city of Urbana suspended all non-essential inspections and gave property owners and managers a one month extension to correct maintenance violations. – Reginald Hardwick, Illinois Newsroom

Local Health Providers Launch COVID-19 Hotlines, Digital Screenings, Drive-Thru Sample Collection

March 18 4:30 p.m. – Hospitals and clinics across east-central Illinois are seeing an uptick in calls from people concerned about the coronavirus. In response, many are developing tools to help answer questions and determine whether people need to seek medical care. Carle Health System has created new coronavirus screening tools for people experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19, such as fever, dry cough and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Tools include an online survey to assess a patient’s risk and a dedicated COVID-19 hotline. OSF Healthcare has launched a virtual assistant chatbot on its website and has created a free text messaging tool. Christie Clinic now has a drive-thru for collecting samples from patients who may have the illness. Click here for more information. – Christine Herman and Dana Cronin, Illinois Newsroom

Illinois Reports 128 New COVID-19 Cases; Total Now 288

March 18 3:35 p.m. – Illinois health officials announced a surge of new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday. The state’s Department of Public Health has confirmed 128 new cases across 17 counties. Among those new cases are an additional 20 in a nursing home in DuPage county, where an outbreak has sickened 43 residents in all. Governor J.B. Pritzker says the new cases underscore how severe the pandemic has become. “Look at the news coverage of other countries that have seen this virus spread,” said Pritzker. “Look at the degree of lockdown in countries like Italy. Make no mistake: no place, and no person, is immune from COVID-19.” Public health experts expect the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths to increase in the coming days. Officials continue to encourage social distancing and personal hygiene, as well as self-isolation if a person believes they have come in contact with someone with the disease. Click here for the governor’s new website with information on  the state’s response. – Sam Dunklau, NPR Illinois

Trump Taps Powers To Boost Virus Response; Senate OKs Bill

March 18 3:30 p.m. — The Senate has overwhelming passed a second coronavirus response bill, and is sending it to President Donald Trump to enact with his signature. The vote was a lopsided 90-8 despite misgivings among many Republicans over a temporary new employer mandate to provide sick leave to workers who contract COVID-19. The measure is also aimed at making diagnostic tests for the virus free. Trump announced he’ll invoke emergency powers to marshal critical medical supplies against a pandemic threatening to overwhelm hospitals and other treatment centers. Trump took a series of extraordinary steps to steady a shaken country. Congress is considering his broad economic rescue package. – Associated Press

US Census Bureau Suspends Field Operations On Virus Concerns

March 18 3:21 p.m. — The U.S. Census Bureau has suspended field operations for two weeks, citing the health and safety of its workers and the U.S. public from the novel coronavirus. The Census Bureau made the announcement Wednesday, a week after the start of the 2020 census count. Bureau officials said they were continuing to monitor all operations related to the 2020 census in the wake of the virus spread. As of Wednesday, 11 million households had answered the census questions. Most census workers won’t head into the field until May, when they’ll knock on the doors of homes that haven’t turned in their questionnaires. – Associated Press

Funeral Association Recommends Smaller Services

March 18 – The Illinois Funeral Directors Association is recommending no more than 10 people attend funerals, visitations, and graveside services for the foreseeable future. This is in accordance with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Greg Henderson is president of the funeral directors association. He says all services of more than 10 people should be canceled. He says viewings will only be held for embalmed bodies. – Tim Shelley, Peoria Public Radio

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The clinic at 2950 S. Sixth St. in Springfield, outfitted with protective tents. SAM DUNKLAU / NPR ILLINOIS

Springfield Hospital Opens Drive-Through Clinic For COVID-19 Screening

March 18 – Memorial Health System opened a drive through respiratory screening clinic in Springfield Monday. It’s part of an effort to reduce any COVID-19-related stress on local emergency rooms. The clinic, at 2950 S. Sixth St. in Springfield, expands Memorial’s capacity for examining people who believe they have coronavirus disease. Anyone can request a screening, but officials said the clinic will provide COVID-19 testing only for those who meet the Illinois’ Department of Public Health’s criteria. Click here for the entire story from NPR Illinois’ Sam Dunklau.

US, Canada Working On Mutual Ban On Non-Essential Travel

March 17 11:28 p.m —  A Canadian official has that Canada and the United States are working out the details of a mutual ban on non-essential travel between the two countries amid the new coronavirus pandemic. The official was not authorized to discuss details ahead of an announcement and spoke Tuesday to The Associated Press on condition anonymity. Both countries are eager to choke off the spread of the virus but also eager to continue the critical economic relationship. Canada relies on the U.S. for 75 percent of its exports. Truck drivers are among those expected to get an exemption. Completely closing the border would cause severe economic damage to both the U.S. and Canada. – Associated Press

Trump Pushes For Massive Aid From Congress, Checks To Public

March 17 10:26 p.m. — President Donald Trump is asking Congress to unleash a torrent of emergency economic aid to help people through the financial pain of the coronavirus crisis. Sizable checks directly to Americans are part of the deal he wants. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says Trump wants the money sent to the public within two weeks. But the president has to deal with skepticism in Congress over the broad economic rescue package for businesses and taxpayers. The amount of the proposed checks hasn’t been disclosed but Mnuchin says it’s vital to get significant cash out to people quickly. – Associated Press

Fed Launches 2 Emergency Programs Last Seen In 2008 Crisis

March 17 6:30 p.m. — The Federal Reserve has put in motion two emergency lending programs that were last deployed in response to the 2008 financial crisis, aiming to ease the flow of credit to businesses and households struggling amid the viral outbreak. Both are intended to ensure banks and large companies can access the cash they need. This, even as financial markets seize up because Wall Street is growing increasingly convinced the economy is entering a recession. That gloomy outlook leads financial institutions to pull back on lending, pushing up short-term interest rates. Funds borrowed from the Fed can then be used to lend more widely to households and businesses.  – Associated Press

Illinois Records First Death From The Coronavirus Outbreak

March 17 3:07 p.m. — Gov. J.B. Pritzker has announced the first coronavirus death in Illinois, a Chicago woman in her 60s who had an underlying health condition. The only additional information Pritzker released about the woman on Tuesday was that she was not a nursing home patient. The Illinois Department of Public Health is reporting 160 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state, among them are 18 residents of a nursing home and four members of the facility’s staff. Coronavirus infections across the country reached approximately 5,200, and the death toll climbed to at least 97, with more than half of the dead from Washington state. Worldwide, more than 7,300 have died. – Associated Press

University of Illinois Urbana Champaign
University of Illinois Urbana Champaign Reginald Hardwick/Illinois Newsroom

University of Illinois Cancels May Commencement Ceremonies

March 17 3:00 p.m. – University of Illinois System President Tim Killeen announced Tuesday that May commencement ceremonies in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield will not take place as scheduled. In a statement to students, parents, faculty and staff, the university said diplomas will be mailed. The university system is also exploring ways to hold virtual events to honor the graduating class. – Reginald Hardwick, Illinois Newsroom

What Caregivers Can Do With Kids Home From School Due To Coronavirus Closings

March 16 8:07 p.m. – Elementary and secondary schools in Illinois are closed through at least March 30 to slow the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. The Illinois State Board of Education says those days won’t count toward student instruction. Caregivers and parents can still provide educational instruction to children at home, however. Numerous online resources are available for free to families with internet access, and many school districts are sending home both digital and paper packets of educational activities. Read the entire story here. – Lee Gaines, Illinois Newsroom

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Suspends Face To Face Courses; Asks Students To Move Home

March 16 6:00 p.m. – In the latest effort to avoid the spread of the COVID-19 disease, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign says it will suspend face-to-face instruction for the rest of the spring 2020 semester. Also, students in residence halls and Greek housing are being asked to begin to move out. The university wants students to return to their permanent home address to take the rest of their classes online. The details were spelled out in an email to students, faculty and staff on Monday afternoon from Robert J. Jones, Chancellor of U of I Urbana-Champaign. – Reginald Hardwick, Illinois Newsroom

All Driver Services Facilities Closed Through March 31

March 16 5:15 p.m. – All drivers services facilities closed March 17-31. According to Secretary of State Jesse White, all expiration dates for driver’s licenses, ID cards, vehicle registrations will be extended 30 days through emergency rule. – Reginald Hardwick, Illinois Newsroom

Some Local Grocery Stores Struggle To Keep Up With Demand

March 16 5:00 p.m. – Since the outbreak of COVID-19, local grocery stores have seen an increase in demand for products like hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and bulk goods. “Panic buying is pretty well set in,” said Gary Taylor, the General Manager at Common Ground Food Co-op in Urbana. “Our sales are through the roof on anything that anybody would consider to be a necessity.” He says supplier deliveries are arriving as scheduled, but with less quantities of those necessities. According to a representative from Schnucks grocery, demand there has been really high, but so far, their suppliers have been able to keep up. – Dana Cronin, Illinois Newsroom

US Tells Older People To Stay Home, All Ages To Avoid Crowds

March 16 4:13 p.m. — The White House on Monday urged all older Americans to stay home and everyone to avoid crowds and eating out at restaurants as part of sweeping guidelines meant to combat an expected surge of coronavirus cases. President Donald Trump and the coronavirus task force released the guidelines as the U.S. government moved to try to blunt the impact of the virus.  Among new guidelines: Over the next 15 days, Americans should not gather in groups of more than 10 people, schooling should be at home and discretionary travel and social visits should be avoided. If anyone in a household tests positive for the virus, everyone who lives there should stay home. – Associated Press

Illinois Cases Climb To 105

March 16 4:00 p.m. – The Illinois Department of Public Health announced the number of Illinoisians diagnosed with coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has increased to 105 cases in 15 counties. Peoria and Will counties reported their first cases in the past 24 hours. They join Champaign, Clinton, Cook, Cumberland, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, Sangamon, St. Clair, Whiteside, Winnebago, and Woodford counties with cases. 

Pritzker Orders Cancellation Of Events With 50+ People

March 16 3:48 p.m. – Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker is ordering the cancellation of any event with more than 50 people. It’s the latest mandate in the ongoing effort to slow the spread of coronavirus disease. Pritzker’s recommendation follows new guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And they  come after his order to close all bars and restaurants in Illinois effective 9:00 p.m. Monday night. “This was a difficult decision, but it’s what the medical experts and the scientists tell us that we must do to safeguard the health of the people of Illinois,” said Pritzker. Local schools are closed for at least two weeks, as are state parks and all video gambling machines.  – Brian Mackey, Illinois Public Radio

Champaign Mass Transit Offering Free Rides

March 16 3:45 p.m. – Starting March 17, the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District (MTD) will offer free rides. The change in policy eliminates the need for bus drivers and passengers to exchange cash, coin and transfers that may have the virus on it. – Reginald Hardwick, Illinois Newsroom

Danville City Buildings Shut Down For Two Weeks

March 15 – Danville city buildings will be closed to the public for the next two weeks, to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The closure affects Danville’s city hall, police and fire, public works and mass transit administration buildings. Mayor Rickey Williams, Jr. says city employees will report to work as usual, but public contact will be limited to phone and email. “So we feel like this is a moderate measure, where we’re making sure that we do something to protect the city employees. So that we can then continue to provide all the services that the citizens of Danville not only expect, but need,” said Williams. And since many businesses and vendors make payments and submit reports in person at Danville city buildings, any impending deadlines have been extended by 14 days. One exception to the public closure will be Tuesday night’s Danville City Council meeting. Mayor Williams says that meeting will include discussion of additional actions the city might take to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Pritzker Orders Bars And Restaurants To Close

March 15 3:47 p.m.  — Illinois Gov. J.B. is ordering all bars and restaurants in the state to close to dine-in patrons starting Monday night, March 16 through March 30 as part of an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Pritzker’s action Sunday came in reaction to crowds that filled restaurants and bars Saturday to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Pritzker said young people could be carriers of coronavirus, even though they have no symptoms. Noting every decision being made is hard because of their impact on the public and businesses, he added the time for persuasion and public appeals is over.  – Associated Press

Champaign County Confirms First Virus Case

March 15 2:30 p.m. – On Sunday afternoon, the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District announced the first case of COVID-19 in Champaign County. Health officials said the patient is a woman in her 50’s. She is in home isolation and recovering.  – Reginald Hardwick, Illinois Newsroom

Danville City Buildings Shut Down For Two Weeks

DANVILLE – Danville city buildings will be closed to the public for the next two weeks, to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The closure affects Danville’s city hall, police and fire, public works and mass transit administration buildings. Mayor Rickey Williams, Jr. says city employees will report to work as usual, but public contact will be limited to phone and email. And since many businesses and vendors make payments and submit reports in person at Danville city buildings, any impending deadlines have been extended by 14 days. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

New Jersey City Will Begin Daily Curfew On Monday

March 15 – Just across the Hudson River from New York City, a New Jersey city is imposing a curfew on residents amid the virus outbreak. Hoboken residents must stay in their homes from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. beginning Monday, a daily curfew that’s among the first and most far-reaching such measures taken in the U.S. Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla announced Saturday night that exceptions will be made for emergencies and people required to work. He also said bars and restaurants can only offer takeout and delivery services. Bars that don’t serve food will shut down altogether Sunday. New Jersey has seen 69 virus cases statewide and two virus-related deaths. – Associated Press

Illinois Virus Cases Climb To 66

March 14 9:59 p.m. — The number of Illinois coronavirus cases rose to 66 from 48 as residents with the illness emerged in central and southern regions of the state. The director of the state health department says the number of Illinois cases should “increase dramatically” as results come in from private labs. The new cases include people in Woodford, Cumberland, Sangamon and St. Clair counties. Just a few days before the election, DuPage County relocated 17 polling places to the county fairgrounds in Wheaton in response to COVID-19. The Illinois Tollway says drivers must pay electronically and stop using cash in order to protect themselves and workers at toll booths. – Associated Press

Illinois Virus Cases Climb To 64; More Regions Affected

March 14 5:13 p.m. — The number of Illinois coronavirus cases rose to 64 from 46 as residents with the illness emerged in central and southern regions of the state. The director of the state health department says the number of Illinois cases should “increase dramatically” as results come in from private labs. The new cases include people in Woodford, Cumberland and St. Clair counties. Just a few days before the election, DuPage County relocated 17 polling places to the county fairgrounds in Wheaton in response to COVID-19. The Illinois Tollway says drivers must pay electronically and stop using cash in order to protect themselves and workers at toll booths. – Associated Press

Woodford County Man Is Peoria Area’s First Positive COVID-19 Case

March 14 6:00 p.m. – A Woodford County man in his 70s is the first positive COVID-19 case in Central Illinois. The man recently checked into an area UnityPoint clinic, and positive test results came back Friday. He is currently in isolation at home. Click here for the rest of the story. – Tim Shelley, Peoria Public Radio

Coronavirus Disease Confirmed In Central Illinois

March 14 2:00 p.m. – A patient has tested positive for COVID-19 in central Illinois, with at least one other case reported but not yet confirmed by state officials. Sarah Bush Lincoln Health System in Mattoon is confirming a positive test of an individual who came to the emergency room. Peterson says the patient was brought in through an ambulance bay, “so that other patients weren’t exposed during the testing.” After the test, the patient was sent home to self-quarantine. The Illinois Department of Public Health notified the patient of the positive result on Friday. Click here for the rest of the story.Brian Mackey, Illinois Public Radio

US Travel Ban Extends To UK, Ireland; Trump Eyes US Limits

March 14 1:02 p.m. — President Donald Trump has announced that the United States will broaden its European travel ban, adding Britain and Ireland to its list. And he says he’s considering imposing restrictions on travel within the U.S. to areas hit hard by the coronavirus spread. Under the restrictions on European travel, American citizens, green card holders and others are still allowed to return home to the U.S., but will be funneled to 13 airports and be subjected to health screenings and quarantine orders. Trump is urging people not to travel unless they have to. – Associated Press

U.S. Internet Well-Equipped To Handle Work From Home Surge

March 14 12:31 p.m. — Tech experts say the U.S. internet won’t have any trouble handling spikes in traffic from the millions of Americans who are now working from home to discourage the spread of the new coronavirus. But they say connectivity could stumble for some remote home workers if everyone in their family tries to videoconference at once. With kids home from school and colleges offering online classes, families who get their internet over cable services could have to ration the videoconferencing and settle for audio. The core of the U.S. network is more than capable of handling the virus-related surge because it has evolved to handle Netflix, YouTube and other streaming services. – Associated Press

 

Gov. J.B. Pritzker Orders All Illinois K-12 Schools Closed Starting Tuesday Through March 30 Amid Coronavirus Concerns

March 13 4:17 p.m. — Gov. J.B. Pritzker orders all Illinois K-12 schools closed starting Tuesday through March 30 amid coronavirus concerns. – Associated Press

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Illinois Prisons Bans Visitations Amid Coronavirus Fears, No Inmates Being Tested For Virus

The Illinois Department of Corrections announced Friday that visitors will be temporarily barred from the state’s correctional facilities in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Prison officials say they haven’t identified any positive cases of coronavirus among staff or incarcerated people. 

IDOC Spokesperson Lindsey Hess says there are more than 50 men quarantined for the flu at Menard Correctional Center in southern Illinois. But they’re not currently testing anyone for COVID-19. Read the entire story here.Lee Gaines, Illinois Newsroom

Amid Flu Outbreak In Illinois Prison, Inmates Not Being Tested For COVID-19

A group of educators who work inside Illinois’ prison system are urging Gov. J.B. Pritzker to release elderly and sick inmates from the state’s correctional facilities in a bid to protect them from COVID-19, otherwise known as the coronavirus. A spokesperson for Illinois Department of Corrections, Lindsey Hess, wrote in an email that, as of Wednesday, there are no known cases of COVID-19 among inmates and prison staff. 

There is a flu outbreak at Menard Correctional Center in southern Illinois, according to Hess. She wrote that about 55 men at the prison are under quarantine, and visits to the facility are temporarily suspended. In total, 10 state prisons have inmates under quarantine due to the flu, according to Hess. Aside from Menard, visitors are still allowed inside state prisons, however they cannot visit those under quarantine, Hess wrote. Individuals in IDOC facilities are not currently being tested for COVID-19, Hess wrote. She wrote that the agency is working closely with the Illinois Department of Public Health to monitor individuals for respiratory illness. Read the entire story here.Lee Gaines, Illinois Newsroom

Emergency Coronavirus Powers Approved For Champaign Mayor, City Manager

March 13 – The Champaign City Council voted at a special meeting Friday morning to give the mayor and city manager emergency powers in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.  The council action gives Mayor Deb Frank Feinen and City Manager Dorothy David the authority to take actions without checking with the city council first. For instance, David said, if the coronavirus keeps several police or fire employees from working, she might act on her own to quickly negotiate a new shift schedule with union leaders for those that remain, “because the time involved in scheduling the city council meeting could be very precious time that inhibits our ability to maintain the critical frontline services.”  Other emergency powers include the ability to suspend city permits for special events, spend money for emergency-related purposes and hold city council meetings electronically instead of in person. Another emergency power was exercised by Champaign officials just hours after the city council vote — Champaign’s City Building, fire and police stations and Public Works building were temporarily closed to public access. Champaign officials emphasized that the emergency powers were limited, and in social media messages sent out after the council meeting, denied rumors that they could be used to ban firearms, restrict sales of alcohol or motor fuel or limit the ability to enter or leave the city. Champaign council members approved the special powers unanimously, but could vote to lift or amend the powers at any time. The Urbana City Council is scheduled to consider a similar emergency ordinance on Monday. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom; revised 3/13/20 6:10 PM.

No Known COVID-19 Cases In Champaign County; 11 Tests Pending

March 13 – There are currently no known cases of COVID-19 in Champaign County, but tests are pending for 11 people, according to Julie Pryde, Administrator for the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District. She says the district is awaiting results on those 11 cases, plus nearly 30 others from the area who’ve been tested as part of a statewide coronavirus surveillance program aimed at figuring out whether community transmission is occurring. Pryde says since January, fewer than 30 people in Champaign County have been under isolation or in quarantine for possible exposure. Read the entire story here. – Christine Herman, Illinois Newsroom

Carle Chief Nursing Officer Shares Advice On Travel, Staying Healthy

The chief nursing officer of the Carle Health System says Carle is receiving many questions about the novel coronavirus. People want to know how to protect themselves from COVID-19 and whether it’s wise to cancel travel plans. Elizabeth Angelo says in addition to the CDC guidance to avoid high-risk areas, she recommends people consider avoiding international travel altogether or making adjustments to decrease chances of exposure. “If you have a trip that you feel is necessary, think about modifying the risk of that trip,” Angelo says. “If you can, think about staying in a personal residence or a smaller venue as opposed to a large hotel (and) consider driving instead of flying.” Angelo says it’s also wise to avoid large gatherings, take steps to “maintain social distancing,” and keep an eye on updates from the CDC. Read the entire story here. – Christine Herman, Illinois Newsroom

Danville Dans Suspends Season Due To Coronavirus Concerns

March 13 – The Danville Dashers minor league hockey team is suspending operations, along with other teams in the Federal Prospects Hockey League. Team officials said in a Thursday news release they support the league’s decision to suspend games due to coronavirus concerns. The decision means the Dashers three games against the Columbus River Dragons, scheduled for this weekend at the David S. Palmer Arena, will not be played.  “While highly unlikely, it’s possible we can resume play next week if the situation drastically improves,” said FPHL Commissioner Don Kirnan.  The 47-24 Danville Dashers had 11 games remaining on their regular season schedule, between now and April 5. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom 

Illinois Marathon Postponed For ‘Several Months’ Due To COVID-19

March 12 – Downstate’s largest running event has been postponed until later this year because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Organizers of the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon announced Thursday that they’re postponing their events scheduled for April 23-25. Read the entire story here. – Brian Moline, Illinois Newsroom

Champaign Mayor Declares Emergency, Ebert Fest And Parade Canceled

March 12 – On Thursday, Champaign mayor Deborah Frank Feinen issued an Executive Order related to the COVID-19 virus. The action will give the city increased flexibility to operate during emergency operations. On Friday, the city council will hold a special emergency meeting to consider passing an ordinance related to the order.  Meanwhile, the 22nd Annual Roger Ebert’s Film Festival set to take place April 15-18  has been canceled as a result of concerns about the new coronavirus. The festival was co-founded by Chaz Ebert. It was scheduled to take place at the Virginia Theatre in downtown Champaign. As of now, there are no coronavirus cases reported in Champaign County. Also, the Urbana Business Association postponed the World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The event was scheduled March 17 at 5:00 p.m. – Reginald Hardwick, Illinois Newsroom

IHSA Cancels March Madness Tournament Due To COVID-19 Concerns

March 12 – Peoria Convention and Visitor’s Bureau CEO JD Dalfonso says it’s too soon assess the economic blow of spectator restrictions at this weekend’s IHSA Boys Basketball Tournament will have. He says the CVB estimated $4.4 million in local economic impact from the tournament over the next two weekends. But Dalfonso says those potential losses are secondary to public health. The IHSA implemented 60-person spectator restrictions at 1A and 2A basketball games at this weekend’s Peoria Civic Center tournament at the recommendation of the health department which is seeking to protect the community from COVID-19 exposure. – Tim Shelley, Peoria Public Radio

Senior Centers Closed To Stem Coronavirus

March 12 – The Illinois Department on Aging is closing senior centers across the state. Elderly people are more vulnerable to the coronavirus disease. Tessa French is with Senior Services of Central Illinois. She says loneliness and “social isolation” a big problems among older people but are secondary concerns to the COVID-19 pandemic. “We need to make sure that we keep our seniors safe so that they can continue to come back once we get this coronavirus under control and can open back up to the public,” said French. The state says there are 399 centers where senior citizens gather to eat lunch, see friends, and pursue hobbies. For now clients can still get boxed lunches. The state also wants meals-on-wheels programs to pick up some of the slack. – Brian Mackey, Illinois Public Radio

State Farm Workers Told To Work From Home

March 12 – State Farm has told about 15,000 employees in Bloomington Normal to work from home if they can. That extends to nearly 60,000 workers across the country. If they can’t work from home, the company urges them to talk to supervisors about paid administrative leave. State Farm is also closing its operations center in Dupont, Washington for two weeks. The company says it is not aware of any COVID-19 cases among its workers. State Farm also asks customers to be patient. – Charlie Schlenker, WGLT News

When Should Schools Close For Coronavirus?

March 12 – The spread of coronavirus has compelled hundreds of K-12 schools in the U.S. to close, affecting more than 850,000 students, according to an analysis by Education Week. And those numbers are certain to increase in the coming days, as concerned parents call for more school closures. Public officials understandably don’t want to close schools unless they absolutely have to, and many closures so far have been triggered by a known case of infection or exposure among staff or students. Yet research suggests the best time to close schools is before that happens. Read the entire story here.

Pelosi Says Agreement Near With White House On Virus Aid

March 12 9:26 p.m. — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she and the Trump administration are close to agreement on a coronavirus aid package, as negotiators struggle to hammer out a deal to provide funding and resources for American workers, families and businesses reeling with health and financial problems amid the crisis. Final details are being worked out but Pelosi expects an announcement Friday. The House could swiftly vote. The sudden announcement came at the end of an otherwise tumultuous day, as Washington strained for a comprehensive response to the coronavirus outbreak that is testing the nation’s political, financial and health care systems. – Associated Press

Pritzker Asks Sports Teams To Cancel Games Or Bar Fans

March 12 7:52 p.m. — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is asking the owners of all the state’s major sports teams’ owners to cancel games or play without fans until May 1 in another move to combat the spread of the coronavirus, which affects 32 people in the state. Pritzker said during a news conference that he also is mandating events of 1,000 or more people be canceled or postponed immediately and requested that events of 250 people be canceled or postponed as well. Pritzker said he is not ordering schools to close. The governor is asking private businesses that can allow employees to work remotely. – Associated Press

NBA Says Virus Hiatus Will Likely Last “At Least” A Month

March 12 7:30 p.m. — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Thursday that the league’s hiatus because of the coronavirus pandemic will likely last at least a month, or roughly what would have been the remainder of an uninterrupted regular season. It was Silver’s first public comments since the league suspended play Wednesday after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus, or COVID-19. A second Jazz player, Donovan Mitchell, said Thursday that he has also tested positive. The 30-day minimum hiatus would mean no games until at least April 10. The regular season was to end April 15. – Associated Press

March Madness: NCAA Tournaments Canceled Due To Coronavirus

March 12 6:28 p.m. – The NCAA has canceled its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments because of the spread of coronavirus. The unprecedented move puts an abrupt end to the season less than a month before champions were to be crowned. The decision comes a day after the NCAA announced the games that were scheduled to start next week would go on but played in mostly empty arenas. That plan was scrapped as every major American sports league from the NBA to MLB put the brakes on its season due to concerns about the pandemic. The NCAA canceled all of its spring championships in every sport, which include hockey, baseball and lacrosse. – Associated Press

 

Illinois Colleges Suspend In-Person Classes Due To COVID-19

University of Illinois Urbana Champaign
University of Illinois Urbana Champaign Reginald Hardwick/Illinois Newsroom

March 11 9:00 p.m.  — Illinois, DePaul, Northwestern and Illinois State universities have decided to suspend in-person classes due to coronavirus fears. The schools on Wednesday joined colleges and universities around the U.S. that have announced a halt to face-to-face instruction. None of the universities are reporting cases of COVID-19 on their campuses. In an e-mail to about 90,000 students at its campuses in Chicago, Champaign and Springfield, University of Illinois officials said there were no confirmed cases of coronavirus among faculty or students. However, in-person instruction was being halted to help curb its spread. Northwestern’s spring break will be extended one week until April 4 and then classes will be conducted remotely for at least three weeks. – Associated Press

 

Trump Suspends Travel Between US And Europe For 30 Days

March 11 8:20 p.m. – President Donald Trump says he is suspending all travel between the U.S. and Europe for 30 days beginning Friday as he seeks to combat a viral pandemic. Trump made the announcement Wednesday in an Oval Office address to the nation, blaming the European Union for not acting quickly enough to address the novel coronavirus and saying U.S. clusters were “seeded” by European travelers. Trump says the restrictions won’t apply to the United Kingdom and the U.S. will monitor the situation to determine if travel can be reopened earlier. Trump says “we are marshalling the full power” of the government and private sector to protect the American people. – Associated Press

University of Illinois Shifts To Online Courses In Effort To Stop Virus Spread

March 11 7:20 p.m. – The University of Illinois System said on Wednesday night that courses will “immediately” migrate from in-person to online to help limit transmission of the coronavirus. In a memo to all students, faculty and staff, U of I said the policy is in effect at its universities in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield. The university said there are no confirmed cases among faculty, staff and students. Click here to read the entire story. – Reginald Hardwick, Illinois Newsroom

Big Events Banned, NCAA Tells Fans To Stay Home Over Virus

March 11 6:17 p.m. — Authorities have banned large gatherings in the hard-hit Seattle area and San Francisco and closed Seattle schools. Those steps are the most sweeping efforts yet to contain the nation’s coronavirus outbreak. Also, the NCAA has announced it will hold March Madness basketball games in near-empty arenas, off limits to most fans. The death toll in the U.S. has climbed to 37, with at least 22 victims from the same suburban Seattle nursing home. Dr. Anthony Fauci is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He said on Capitol Hill that the outbreak would get worse. – Associated Press

Lawmakers Cancel Session, Pritzker Seeks Sick-Time Relief

March 11 5:37 p.m. — The Illinois General Assembly has canceled scheduled legislative sessions next week to limit the possibility of spreading COVID-19 among large groups. Gov. J.B. Pritzker confirmed the canceled Springfield meeting days in a Chicago news conference Wednesday during which he announced a plan to expand unemployment benefits to employees without paid sick time who must miss work because of the virus. Earlier Tuesday, Chicago officials and organizers announced that this weekend’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration has been canceled. Pritzker indicated he’s also begun discussions with Major League Baseball, whose March 26 opening day is the earliest ever. – Associated Press

Next Steps Unclear For University Of Illinois Students Dealing With Coronavirus Cancellations

March 11 4:44 p.m. – The coronavirus has prompted many colleges and universities across the country to cancel study abroad programs — including the U of I. University officials announced via email on March 2 that students and staff had to leave Italy and the Daegu region of South Korea as soon as possible. The decision affected 137 students in Italy, and another 15 in South Korea. Students and staff are also barred from traveling to China, Iran, Italy and the Daegu region of South Korea on university business or using university resources. But many students have more questions than answers about their academic futures because of the changes. Click here to read the entire story. – Lee V. Gaines, Illinois Newsroom

Champaign Moving Some Polling Places Out of Caution

March 11 3:18 p.m. – Three primary election polling places set for long-term care facilities in Urbana, Rantoul and Mahomet will be moved elsewhere, due to concern about the coronavirus. Chief Deputy Angie Patton with the Champaign County Clerk’s Office says they made the decision after conferring with local public health officials. She says while there have been no cases of COVID-19 reported in the county, they decided to pull out of the facilities “out of an abundance of caution.” Click here to read the entire story. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

WHO Declares That Virus Crisis Is Now A Pandemic

March 11 11:39 a.m. — The World Health Organization is declaring that the global coronavirus crisis is now a pandemic. The assessment comes as Italy is weighing even tighter restrictions on daily life and has announced billions in financial relief to cushion economic shocks from the coronavirus. Premier Giuseppe Conte says he will consider requests to toughen an already extraordinary lockdown. The hardest-hit region of Lombardy is pushing for a shutdown of nonessential businesses and public transportation on top of travel and social restrictions. The death toll in Italy has risen to 631. In the U.S., more than 1,000 people have been infected. – Associated Press

Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parades Canceled Due To Coronavirus

March 11 9:43 a.m. — Chicago has joined the growing ranks of cities across the United States to cancel St. Patrick’s Day parades and other activities, amid concerns about the coronavirus. In a news release, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said that she, Governor JB Pritzker and Public Health and Emergency Management officials, had decided to postpone Chicago’s three St. Patrick’s Day parades, as well as the annual dyeing of the Chicago River. Officials said they would work with organizers of the events to reschedule them at a later date.  According to release, the decision followed guidance from public health experts, including the federal CDC and those in regions similarly affected by COVID-19. The announcement comes a day after Illinois officials announced that the number of Illinois patients with the disease had climbed by eight to a total of 19. -Associated Press & Jim Meadows/Illinois Newsroom

Speaker Pelosi To Unveil Coronavirus Aid Package For Workers

March 11 9:57 a.m. — Speaker Nancy Pelosi is moving swiftly toward House passage of a coronavirus aid package possibly this week. It comes as Congress rebuffs President Donald Trump’s proposed payroll tax break and focuses instead on sick pay and other resources to more immediately help workers hit by the crisis. Pelosi plans to unveil the measure Wednesday. Votes are possible Thursday. Pelosi is in talks with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Pressure is mounting on Trump’s administration and lawmakers to act to contain the virus and respond to the financial fallout. Democrats want low-cost virus testing, sick pay and other measures for workers struggling to keep paychecks coming as the outbreak disrupts workplaces. – Associated Press

Ask The Newsroom: Confusion Over Masks And Coronavirus Protection

March 10 – This week, The 21st show is answering listener questions about the coronavirus. We received a question at AskTheNewsroom.com from Kimberly, who wants to know why the general public is being told to not to use face masks while at the same time, we’re hearing health care workers need them. Click here for Kimberly’s question and answer.

Preparing For COVID-19: Illinois Does Not Require Paid Sick Leave

March 10 – The coronavirus has spread to 35 states. But most of them, including Illinois, don’t require employers to provide paid sick leave. Public health experts say lack of paid sick leave encourages people to work while sick, which can increase the spread of disease. Speaking on the 21st Show, Robert Bruno, professor of labor and employment relations at the University of Illinois and director of the Labor Education Program in Chicago, says roughly 70% of workers in the service industry do not have paid sick leave. Click here to listen to the entire segment

Airlines Slash Flights, Freeze Hiring As Virus Cuts Travel

March 10 5:45 p.m. – Airlines are slashing flights and freezing hiring as they experience a sharp drop in bookings and a rise in cancellations in the face of the spreading coronavirus. Delta said Tuesday that travel demand has fallen so sharply in the past week that it expects one-third of seats to be empty this month on flights within the U.S. The drop in travel demand is across the board — business travelers are grounded as meetings and conferences are being canceled, and leisure travelers are avoiding unnecessary trips. Delta says fear of travel is felt most sharply among people over 55, and it’s worse on the West Coast than the East Coast. – Associated Press

State: First Coronavirus Cases Outside Cook County; 19 Total In Illinois

March 10 2:40 p.m. – The Illinois Department of Public Health says for the first time, there are two people who have tested positive for COVID-19 outside of Cook County. Those patients are a woman in her 60s who is from Kane County and a teenager from McHenry County. Neither has traveled to an affected area. The state says 19 people in Illinois have tested positive for coronavirus and are expecting that number to grow. There are also six news cases in Cook County. Here’s the breakdown:

  • 70s – male
  • 60s – female
  • 40s – female
  • 40s – three males

Public health officials are investigating the travel histories and identifying and contacting close contacts of all of the new patients. As of March 10 there are 19 total cases in Illinois. – Reginald Hardwick, Illinois Newsroom.

Special Olympics Cancels State Basketball Tourney

March 10 2:10 p.m. – The Illinois Special Olympics has canceled its state basketball tournament this weekend in Bloomington-Normal and Peoria. Spokesperson Chris Winston says the reason is caution over the coronavirus because of the size of the event that involves several thousand people. Winston says the Special Olympics will not reschedule the games. Most of the games would have been in Bloomington-Normal. but the unified championship games were to take place alongside the IHSA boys basketball tourney in Peoria. The IHSA championships will go on as scheduled. – Charlie Schlenker, WGLT News

Western Illinois University Cancels Summer Study Abroad

MACOMB – Western Illinois University is taking action in response to concerns about COVID-19. Western has canceled its summer study abroad trips. The university also says it will not authorize international business travel for students, faculty, and staff through August 1. Western is also encouraging students, faculty, and staff to avoid visiting areas with high numbers of reported coronavirus cases within the U-S. – Richard Egger, Tri States Public Radio News

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WILL and the Illinois Newsroom are committed to bringing you in-depth, relevant coverage that keeps you informed and engages you with our community and our state. Join with thousands of others to keep this important public media-based resource available to all.