News Around Illinois – Aug. 4, 2020

Crews Rescue Ostrich Injured In Fall Into Illinois Ravine

O’FALLON, Ill. (AP) — An ostrich that escaped from a southwestern Illinois farm was rescued after the 300-pound (136-kilogram) bird fell into a ravine and was injured, fire officials said. A veterinarian tranquilized the ostrich before four members of a fire rescue crew entered the ravine near O’Fallon and strapped the bird to a board before it was hauled from the ravine Monday evening using a pulley system. O’Fallon Fire Chief Brad White said the ostrich had fallen about 15 feet (4.6 meters) into the ravine and suffered a long neck laceration that caused it to lose “a good amount” of blood. After its rescue, the ostrich was treated by the veterinarian and returned to its owners at a nearby farm, White told the Belleville News-Democrat. The bird’s owners have about a dozen ostriches that they raise as meat for people who have Lyme disease and cannot consume red meat, he said. – Associated Press

Utility Costs To Soon Catch Up With Consumers Due To COVID-19

The looming end to a statewide rent moratorium is not the only thing sparking financial fear. A ban on utility shutoffs can’t last forever—and a lot of renters and homeowners are behind on their bills. When pandemic fears ramped up in mid-March and Gov. JB Pritzker implemented his first shelter-in-place executive order, the state told utility companies they couldn’t turn off someone’s water or electricity, nor could they charge late penalties. That doesn’t mean utility bills went away. Town of Normal Water Director John Burkhart said unpaid or partially-paid bills are stacking up. “At some point in time, that balance will need to be paid in full, or it will incur costs from the late fees and penalties again, and it could be subject to a shutoff,” he said. When the moratorium ends, it will affect a lot of people. Burkhart said a recent snapshot of delinquent accounts showed nearly 1,000 Normal households are behind on their payments. He said that number is usually closer to 400 or 500. – Dana Vollmer, WGLT

Winnebago County State’s Attorney Says Rep. John Cabello’s Comment Unacceptable

Over the weekend, State Representative John Cabello replied to a Facebook user who asked him if, “now is it time to lock and load? Asking for a friend.” Cabello replied to the comment by saying, “not yet but be ready.” Winnebago State’s Attorney Marilyn Hite-Ross said in a press release that the representative’s rhetoric is unacceptable. She said that, “In my office, if anyone made comments of that nature, they would no longer be employed by my office.” Cabello released a statement on Facebook saying that his comment had been misconstrued. Cabello has served as a police officer and detective. – Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco, WNIJ

Asian Carp Could Play A Role In Tackling Food Insecurity

Food insecurity and the invasive Asian carp are two familiar, longstanding issues for Peoria. But a new stakeholder group believes they’ve discovered a way to use one problem to solve another. The idea of serving Asian carp from the Illinois River at the dinner table isn’t a new one, but previous efforts to convince people to chow down on the fish have floundered. A group of community stakeholders is trying a new approach. They see an opportunity to partner up the new Midwest Fishing Co-op targeting the invasive fish with groups combating food insecurity. “We want to provide them with a fresh, good-tasting product which is very healthy, very high in the Omegas. It has high in protein, and it has a very high iron content,” said East Peoria businessman Roy Sorce, whose facility on the Illinois River’s banks forms a central component of the new Co-op’s supply chain. Sorce recently received approval to quickly freeze harvested fish from the river for shipment to processing facilities. The minced, still-frozen fish are then returned to his business for storage and sale. The co-op is expected to harvest up to 15 tons of Asian carp from the Illinois River each year, stretching from Starved Rock State Park in the north to Peoria in the south. – Tim Shelley, WCBU

East Peoria’s Annual ‘White Trash Bash’ Garners National Headlines Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and record single-day counts of new cases, hundreds of people gathered along the East Peoria riverfront last Saturday for the annual “White Trash Bash.” Photos of the gathering, as well as local media reporting from the scene, show an absence of face coverings or social distancing that public health officials emphasize are the best ways to prevent spread of the coronavirus. Just last week, Gov. JB Pritzker came to Peoria to warn the region was potentially just days away from renewed restrictions as positive case counts and hospitalizations spike. The Fon du Lac Park District Police Department, which operates one of the only maritime police agencies in the region, asked those gathering to use “common sense and social distancing” ahead of the event. On Monday, park district Director Mike Johnson issued a statement saying the police agency doesn’t have authority to enforce Pritzker’s restrictions on crowd sizes and protective measures designed to limit the virus’ spread. “Our maritime duties during this event were to deter crime as outlined in the Illinois Compiled Statutes and respond to water-related emergencies, i.e. boating incidents, injuries, etc.,” said Johnson. – Tim Shelley, WCBU

Proposal to Name New Middle School After C.T. Vivian

A couple elected leaders in Macomb say the community’s new middle school should be named after the Reverend C-T Vivian. The civil rights activist grew up in Macomb. He died July 17 at the age of 95. Board of Education member Jim LaPrad read a statement during the most recent school board meeting to voice his support for naming the building after Dr. Vivian. He later elaborated on his statement during an interview with Tri States Public Radio. He pointed out Vivian was a leader in the non-violent American Civil Rights movement and that President Obama awarded Vivian the Medal of Freedom, which is the nation’s highest civilian honor. – Rich Egger, WIUM

News Around Illinois – Aug. 3, 2020

Illinois Plans A New Vision For Juvenile Justice System

Critics have said the system has been too punitive and too ineffective. More than half of youth who are released end up getting in trouble again. Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton said change is needed. She added the state is shifting from a focus on punishment to one of equity and opportunity. For example, those in custody of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice are placed in one of five youth prisons hundreds of miles from family. Since they often come from poorer backgrounds, it can be more difficult for family members to travel for visits, especially if child care is necessary. The new plan will focus on placing youth in smaller dormitory-like facilities closer to where they are from. These centers will be brighter, with better lighting, which Stratton said will be suitable for rehabilitation. The larger youth detention facilities will be transitioned to the Department of Corrections to house adults and reduce overcrowding. The plan also calls for investing in wraparound support for youth being held in the system and victim support in communities beset by violent crime. – Sean Crawford, WUIS

Illinois Wesleyan To House Some Students In Hotels To Prevent COVID Outbreak

Illinois Wesleyan University plans to house up to 140 students in hotels this fall to reduce the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak on campus. The university is offering a mix of in-person and online instruction this fall. Students who return to campus can room with someone, or have their own room for better social distancing. That limits the number of available beds to about 1,000. Karla Carney-Hall, IWU vice president of student affairs and dean of students, chairs the university’s fall contingency planning review committee. She said the university will randomly select up to 140 students to live in a hotel while factoring in the amount of time each student needs to be on campus. The university isn’t ready to announce the hotels yet. Negotiations are ongoing with two of them. – Eric Stock, WGLT

Couri Thomas Announces Second Run for Peoria Mayor

Couri Thomas is once again making a run for Peoria mayor. The Peoria Area Food Bank warehouse manager ran head-to-head against incumbent Mayor Jim Ardis in 2017, taking 45 percent of the vote. On Saturday, Thomas announced he’s running again in 2021, saying he will secure public safety throughout Peoria by enhancing education and information, with an eye toward encouraging public services and community activism. He calls for Peoria to become a “beacon of social justice and political change” by laying down political partisanship and working together to improve the quality of life for every citizen. – Tim Shelley, WCBU

UIC Wraps Up Oral History Project On Former Chicago Mayor

CHICAGO (AP) — University of Illinois at Chicago officials have wrapped up a two-year oral history project chronicling the leadership of former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. The project includes 45 videotaped interviews with political advisors, chiefs of staff, family and former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush. The interviews took place from 2017 and 2019 after the university was chosen to house Daley’s papers and artifacts from his 22 years in office. In a news release, university officials said a website with the information will be ready in the fall as the library isn’t open to researchers during the coronavirus pandemic. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – July 31, 2020

Homeland Security Has Seized $200 Million From Travelers At O’Hare Airport Since 2000, Report Finds

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has seized more than $203 million in cash from travelers at O’Hare International Airport since 2000 – more than any other airport in the country, according to a report released Thursday. And more than $270,000 was seized at Midway Airport during that time, according to the report. The seizures were done under laws meant to curb drug trafficking and other criminal enterprises, but in most cases there were no charges filed. Around the country, federal agencies seized more than $2 billion at the nation’s airports between 2000 and 2016, according to the report from the Institute for Justice, a non-profit law firm. The government can seize cash amounts greater than $10,000 if not properly documented, but around the country no arrests were made 70% of the time, according to the report. – Elliott Ramos, WBEZ

Rockford Police Internal Investigation Justifies Officer Use Of Force During May 30 Protest

The Rockford Police Department announced that the use of force at a police protest in May was lawful and justified. After reviewing 120 hours of video footage and 90 police reports, the Rockford Police Department concluded that its use of pepper spray, tear gas and less lethal munitions during the May 30th protest were within proper procedure. Mayor Tom McNamara said the decision was unanimous. “Both the Response to Resistance Review Board and the Winnebago County State’s Attorney Marilyn Hite Ross agreed that all actions they’ve reviewed were legally justified,” he said. “This does not stop us from learning from our experiences and working to improve.” Hite Ross announced that her office has pressed charges on 10 individuals, which she estimated was just 3% of the approximately 300 protestors present at the protest. – Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco, WNIJ

Rally Calls For Sharper Focus On Black Contributions, History In Public Schools

A call for change echoed through the streets of Normal on Wednesday night. For parents, students, and teachers, that change should begin in schools. Demanding an increase of Black education and better representation in curricula overall, the Normal West Black Student Union and Next Gen Initiative gathered for a rally at Martin Luther King Park. Speaking to a crowd of about 50, Bloomington High School teacher Brandon Thornton said it’s time for local schools to back up their foundational words with action. – Tiffani Jackson, WGLT

Census Workers Starting to Canvas in Peoria

U.S. Census Bureau workers have started going door-to-door in the Peoria area to boost participation in the nationwide population count. The city has been identified as one of 35 areas in the nation with a high non-response rate, and Peoria City Council member Sid Ruckriegel is encouraging residents to get counted as soon as possible. According to Ruckriegel, estimates indicate every individual yields around $1,900 per year in federal dollars coming back to the community. Ruckriegel said the census also helps to define the diversity among Peoria’s population. – Joe Deacon, WCBU

SIU Carbondale Recognized Again For Outstanding Green Campus.

For the fifth year in a row, SIU Carbondale has earned national recognition for its tree friendly campus. David Tippy, Superintendent of Grounds say getting the community involved is required to win the designation. “In the spring we do a volunteer tree-planting, we’ll plant you know 10 to 25 trees with the help of anybody that wants to volunteer.” – Kevin Boucher, WSIU

News Around Illinois – July 30, 2020

Senators Seek EPA Help To Fix Metro East Public Health Issue

CENTREVILLE, Ill. (AP) — Residents in Illinois’ Metro East region are facing a major public health crisis because of persistent flooding and sewage problems, the state’s two U.S. senators said in a letter sent Wednesday to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Democrats Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin asked the federal agency to enforce environmental laws, conduct water testing and identify solutions to the problems that plague Centreville and nearby communities east of St. Louis. In parts of Centreville, dirt trenches — that haven’t been maintained — instead of storm drains line the streets and drain runoff. Standing water and trash cause overflows into yards and homes. Some streets with storm drains are quickly overwhelmed in a downpour, flooding streets and trapping residents. In the letter to Region 5 of the EPA, the senators noted Centreville, which neighbors East St. Louis, is a low income, African American community of about 5,000 that faces chronic stormwater flooding and sewage issue that have destroyed homes. – Associated Press

Hospital Announces Closure After Operating Nearly 170 Years

CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago’s oldest hospital announced Wednesday it will close next year after the state of Illinois failed to finance its merger with three other money-losing hospitals. Mercy Hospital & Medical Center on the city’s South Side has been struggling for years due to decreasing reimbursements, a decline in the largely African American population in the surrounding neighborhood, and increased capital needs. Administrators say Mercy’s monthly operating losses of $4 million can no longer be sustained. An outpatient facility is in the works that will be able to care for up to 50,000 patients. Although details about timing and location are still being determined, administrators say it will offer everything from diagnostics to urgent care. – Associated Press

ComEd CEO: ‘I Wanted To Apologize On Behalf Of The Entire Company.’

In his first public comments since Commonwealth Edison admitted a Springfield bribery scheme, CEO Joe Dominguez said Wednesday he was sorry for the power company’s conduct – but quickly added that he did not think the public suffered as a result of the scandal. “I wanted to apologize on behalf of the entire company,” Dominguez told officials at a meeting of the Illinois Commerce Commission, which regulates ComEd and other public utilities in the state. Dominguez quickly pivoted from that mea culpa to show the limits of his contrition. He focused largely on defending the company’s overall performance as excellent – and protecting the legislative gains ComEd achieved during the eight-year-long bribery scheme. – Dan Mihalopoulos, WBEZ

State Senate Resolution Urges ComEd Fine Be Redirected Back To Illinois

Republican State Senator Dave Syverson is co-sponsoring a resolution that encourages the Illinois Congressional Delegation to direct a ComEd federal fine back to the state. ComEd has to pay $200 million to settle allegations it engaged in long-term bribery in Springfield. Syverson said normally the money would go directly to the federal government. “There are some allowances that can be made which either Congress or the U.S. Attorney General could step in and direct those payments back to those who were damaged, in this case the ratepayers.” Syverson argues that homeowners and businesses had to pay higher rates on their bills as a result of ComEd’s actions. So returning this money back would be a form of restitution. – Chase Cavanaugh, WNIJ

ISU To Change Watterson Towers House Names Over Slavery History

Illinois State University said Thursday it will rename floors in the Watterson Towers residence hall in the wake of nationwide upheaval and a renewed dialogue on race and history. Watterson Towers opened in 1968 and every five floors in both towers are called a “house.” The university named those houses for the nation’s first 10 secretaries of state.: Van Buren, Clay, Marshall, Madison, Adams, Pickering, Monroe, Randolph, Smith, and Jefferson. Eight out of the 10 were involved in slavery. Several would be elected president after serving as secretary of state.  Opponents of removing such commemorative names and statues have frequently argued the historical artifacts should not be erased because the contributions of those (mostly) men were and remain valid historical markers, symbols of the national culture, and icons of American identity. – Charlie Schlenker, WGTL

Summer Travelers Can Bring Back COVID To Central Illinois, But No Quarantine Required

Thousands of people are traveling this summer to COVID-19 hotspots and coming back to the Bloomington-Normal and the Tri-County areas — and none of them are being told to quarantine when they return.
Other cities and states, like Chicago and New York, have required a two-week quarantine period for those returning from hotspots, such as Florida and Arizona. But no such requirement exists in downstate Illinois, even as county health officials warn about the risk of out-of-state travel. Peoria County just slipped into a warning level for COVID-19, putting it at risk for new restrictions if left unchecked. Many new cases in Peoria are linked to recent travel to Wisconsin, Iowa, Texas, or Florida — all states with fewer protective measures than Illinois. Chicago requires people traveling to the city from 22 states, including Wisconsin and Missouri, to quarantine for two weeks. Illinoisans going to New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut must do the same. But that’s not required if you take a road trip from Bloomington-Normal to Wisconsin Dells, or fly from Peoria to Florida or Arizona. And plenty of people are taking those trips. – Ryan Denham and Daniel Musisi, WGLT and WCBU


News Around Illinois – July 29, 2020

Illinois Professors Disagree With School’s Fall Proposals

CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois’ college and university professors are pushing back against their school’s proposals for reopening schools amid the pandemic, prompting officials to adopt new norms to accommodate faculty recommendations. Faculty concerns are becoming more urgent after reports say that students returning to college towns are spreading the coronavirus, the Chicago Tribune reported. But despite the risks, some students want to return to campus and get their money’s worth since most schools are not discounting tuition. Illinois State University’s “Redbirds Return” plan that was rolled out in June received immediate push back from faculty members. A proposal, signed by more than 500 employees, students, parents and community members, called for more precautions when students return in the fall. After more than 200 Loyola University faculty members and students signed a petition calling on administrators to make online teaching the default option for everyone, officials announced this month that they would limit face-to-face classes. They previously had plans to offer on-campus and virtual instruction. Most schools have shifted gears to address faculty and student concerns. But Columbia College Chicago is not one of them. Officials still intend to operate on a hybrid schedule in the fall despite faculty opposition. – Associated Press

Wisconsin Among 4 States Added To Chicago Quarantine Order

CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago added Missouri, Wisconsin, Nebraska and North Dakota to the list of states where people who are traveling to the city must quarantine for two weeks as Illinois learned that its own residents must do the same when they travel to New York, New Jersey or Connecticut. Chicago officials said that beginning Friday, anyone from those states who doesn’t comply with the requirement could face possible fines. They issued the quarantine order in early July. Initially, it applied to travelers from 15 states, but it has been updated weekly based on increasing numbers of confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The expansion announced Tuesday brought the total number of affected states to 22. – Associated Press

Lawsuit Seeks $150M In ComEd Refunds After Bribery Scheme

CHICAGO (AP) — A class-action lawsuit seeks $150 million in refunds from ComEd for customer rate increases and other benefits the utility received from Illinois as part of an alleged bribery scheme. The lawsuit was filed Monday in Cook County by three individuals and a Chicago-based company that have been ComEd customers since 2011. “Through rampant and widespread corruption in the form of bribery of Illinois elected officials, ComEd and its parent company, Exelon Corporation, deprived ratepayers of vast sums of money, totaling in the hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars,” the lawsuit alleged. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – July 28, 2020

County Board Candidate Drops Out After Controversial Tweet

WHEATON, Ill. (AP) — A candidate for the DuPage County board in northern Illinois withdrew from the race after being criticized for a tweet in which she said she laughed while watching a video of a police officer getting hit in the face by a projectile during a protest. Democrat Hadiya Afzal narrowly won nomination in the March primary to run in DuPage County’s 4th District. Afzal, 20, announced her withdrawal from the race late Sunday, saying her post was in poor taste and didn’t represent the values with which she was raised. Afzal, who says she is Muslim and wears a hijab, said she was targeted by a “harassment campaign” after Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz posted on Twitter that her comment was “hateful and sick.” Afzal told the Chicago Tribune on Monday she dropped out of the race on the recommendation of the local Democratic Party. She said she did not want to be a distraction in the fall election. – Associated Press

Mayor Lori Lightfoot Is ‘Deeply Disturbed’ By The ComEd Scandal, And Takes Its CEO To Task For An ‘Inadequate’ Response

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday told the CEO of Commonwealth Edison she’s “deeply disturbed” by the utility giant’s role in an ongoing federal bribery scandal, and that company’s response so far has been “inadequate.” In a letter, sent to ComEd CEO Joseph Dominguez and obtained by WBEZ, Lightfoot said in order to enter into another franchise agreement with ComEd, the company needs to implement a comprehensive ethics reform plan. “ComEd’s breach of public trust is far from over as far as the City of Chicago is concerned,” Lightfoot wrote. “We expect a significant commitment from the company to right historic wrongs through its own internal ethics reforms[.]” She also asks ComEd to align with her administration’s priorities “around energy and sustainability, equitable economic development, utility affordability and transparency.” – Becky Vevea – WBEZ

Pritzker Visits Adams County, Now On COVID-19 Warning List

Governor J.B. Pritzker’s Monday stop in the county seat of Quincy was no social call. Appearing at the Adams County Department of Public Health, he pointed out the numbers there are going in the wrong direction. “What’s happening here is alarming,” he said. “And if these trends continue in a negative direction, the state will need to take immediate action to impose additional mitigations to slow the spread and keep more people from getting sick.” Pritzker said his visit to western Illinois was to provide support and urge everyone to follow guidelines such as wearing a mask in public, frequent hand washing and social distancing. Adams is among four counties in Illinois deemed to be a warning list, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Peoria, LaSalle and Randolph are also included. – Sean Crawford – WUIS

Sports On Hold At IWU As CCIW Suspends Fall Competition

Illinois Wesleyan University has learned its fall sports season will be suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic. University presidents in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW) announced Monday the league has suspended seasons for men’s and women’s cross country, football, women’s golf, men’s and women’s soccer, women’s tennis, and women’s volleyball. League officials said they would explore the possibility of creating opportunities for them to compete in the spring. – Eric Stock – WGLT

4-H Shows Moo-ve Online During The Pandemic

A lot of events and activities have been canceled the last few months because of COVID-19. But Illinois 4-H is keeping kids busy. Their shows are still happening this year even though judges can’t see the livestock, taste the pies or watch the presentations in person. A typical 4-H livestock show happens at the county fair, where the kids are able to present their animals live in front of judges. But this year is anything but typical. Like every organization, 4-H has had to adjust how they do things. Margaret Larson said, “So we’re hoping to not miss a beat in terms of 4-H.” Larson is the county director the University of Illinois Extension for Jo Daviess, Stephenson and Winnebago Counties. She also oversees their 4-H programs. She said the shows are an important part of 4-H, because they give kids an opportunity to present the projects they’ve been working on in front of an audience and get feedback from judges. – Claire Buchanan – WNIJ

Car Parade In Rockford Against Schools Reopening

In Rockford, a parade of cars filled the streets for a demonstration against schools reopening during the pandemic. Quetzia Ramirez is a parent liaison at Jefferson High School and her sign read, “25+ Students In One Classroom Cannot Social Distance.” The car parade began at 10:00 a.m. at Rock Valley College and included upwards of 50 cars. The cars were covered in signs and writing that expressed concern with schools reopening in the fall. Ramirez said that’s why she joined the car parade in the first place. – Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco – WNIJ

A Fond Farewell to a Civil Rights Champion

Macomb paid its final respects to the Reverend C.T. Vivian, the civil rights leader who grew up in the community. Dr. Vivian died July 17 at the age of 95. More than 100 people attended an outdoor service in honor of Vivian. It took place on a hot and muggy July afternoon. Dr. J.Q. Adams was the featured speaker. He spent 25 years at Western Illinois University, where he is credited with creating and teaching undergraduate and graduate multicultural courses. He also conducted several lengthy interviews with Vivian through the years. He said during one of their conversations, Vivian called the American Civil Rights movement a confrontation for the moral and ethical soul of America. – Rich Egger – WIUM

Bradley: COVID-19 Outbreak Stems From Small, Maskless Off-Campus Gathering

Bradley University said a COVID-19 outbreak among 12 students was traced back to a small, off-campus gathering where no mask-wearing or social distancing happened. The testing and quarantining regimen included not only students attending the party, but those who were in close contact with participants, said university President Stephen Standifird. “It’s difficult to make any conclusive statements about the current situation given the evolving nature of the pandemic. However, in this case, our process for testing, contact tracing and self quarantining appears to have helped limit the spread of the virus,” he said in an email to the campus community on Monday. One staff member also recently tested positive for the virus in an unrelated case. That staff member hasn’t previously been in physical contact with other Bradley employees. Standifird said Bradley University still plans to hold in-person classes this fall, with a remote learning option offered. Staff at high risk, living with someone at high risk, or those covered under the Americans With Disabilities Act also have other work options. – Tim Shelley – WCBU

News Around Illinois – July 27, 2020

Gov. Pritzker Replaces Officials Who Oversaw COVID-19 Response In Nursing Homes

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker’s administration is replacing two top Illinois Department of Public Health officials in charge of the state’s efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 through nursing homes. Nursing home residents account for more than half of deaths in Illinois tied to the coronavirus, according to state data. The personnel moves come as the state’s daily COVID case numbers begin to shoot up again as the state opens up. Debra Bryars, the IDPH deputy director who headed the Office of Health Care Regulation, left last Monday and has been replaced by Daniel Levad, a long-time IDPH staff member, department spokeswoman Melaney Arnold confirmed. Levad, named the office’s acting deputy director, until recently was chief of an IDPH section focused on intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities. In his new position, he reports directly to Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the IDPH director. As deputy director, Levad will oversee more than 400 staffers — nearly a third of IDPH’s workforce, including dozens of surveyors who inspect long-term care facilities and assisted-living establishments to see if they are protecting residents and staff members from infectious diseases and other threats. – Chip Mitchell – WBEZ

Illinois State Museum Reopens With Safety Measures In Place

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The Illinois State Museum is reopening with safety precautions in place after closing for four months because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The system’s flagship site in Springfield will open to the public Saturday. The Dickson Mounds site in Lewiston opened earlier in the week. So did the Illinois State Museum’s Research and Collections Center in Springfield, where visitors must make an appointment. The ISM Lockport Gallery will remain closed until further notice. – Associated Press

Bloomington To Review Facility, Supply Needs In $170M Water Master Plan

The City of Bloomington plans to explore additional water supplies to meet an anticipated rise in demand over the next two decades. That’s included in the city’s proposed 20-year water master plan. The city council will consider the plan at its meeting at 6 p.m. Monday at Bloomington City Hall. Massachusetts-based CDM Smith produced the report after a three-year study of the city’s water infrastructure and supply needs. – Eric Stock – WGLT

Unionized Faculty And Staff Want Illinois Colleges, Universities To Start Remotely

Unionized faculty and staff at Illinois’ universities and colleges want their institutions to start almost entirely online this fall.
Employees and professors represented by 40 unions around the state, including seven of the 12 public universities, released a joint statement Thursday laying out concerns with returning to campus amid rising numbers of COVID-19 cases. The call comes days after the Illinois Federation of Teachers, which represents some of the faculty and staff, made a similar demand that all elementary and high schools begin online. – Mary Hansen – WUIS

News Around Illinois – July 24, 2020

Man Guilty of Repeated Rape of Child Gets 20-Year Sentence

URBANA — A central Illinois man has been sentenced to 20 years in prison after admitting to repeatedly raping a child a decade ago. In sentencing Gregory Reed of Mahomet on Thursday, Champaign County Judge Tom Difanis called him “sexually dangerous” man who should never be around children again. The News-Gazette in Champaign reports the 43-year-old Reed pleaded guilty last month to predatory criminal sexual assault of a child between January 2006 and July 2011. Champaign County sheriff’s investigators became aware of the allegations in 2018 when the victim, now an adult, came forward. At the time, Reed was serving a 10-year prison sentence for aggravated child pornography for taking photographs of the girl and her friend as they changed clothing after swimming. – Associated Press

Six Downstate Illinois Counties Sue Over COVID-19 Restrictions

SPRINGFIELD — Residents in six central and southern Illinois counties filed lawsuits Thursday against state-ordered restrictions on social interaction prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.The actions taken in Bond, Clay, Clinton, Edgar, Richland and Sangamon counties seek court orders declaring there is no public health emergency as defined by Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Public Health Department. Springfield, the state capital, is in Sangamon County.Plaintiffs in each case seek injunctions against Pritzker’s disaster declaration which restricts public interaction to slow transmission of the virus. The state has reported 7,367 deaths among 167,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases _ mostly in Chicago and Cook County. Pritzker’s general counsel said no one should question basic safeguards during a pandemic. – Associated Press

Restraining Order Barring Nursing Home Closing Extended

CAIRO — A southern Illinois judge has extended a temporary restraining order barring a nursing home from executing its closure plan until it has fulfilled all its obligations to residents. When Aperion Care Cairo announced its intention to close last week, families complained to Alexander County officials they felt rushed to select alternative placement for loved ones. Illinois law requires private nursing homes planning to close to first submit a transition plan to the Illinois Department of Public Health for approval. The nursing home then must provide notices to residents and their representatives outlining their rights. In a filing last week, States Attorney Zach Gowin accused Aperion Care of attempting to circumvent the law. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – July 23, 2020

Illinois Reports July’s Highest One-Day Total Of Virus Cases

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — As parts of the nation struggle with a worse coronavirus outbreak than during its high points last spring in other states, Illinois, where officials continue to congratulate residents for keeping the new virus in check, announced Wednesday an increasing number of newly confirmed infections. Gov. J.B. Pritzker and his state public health director, Dr. Ngoze Ezike, made public pleas to wear masks when outside the home and continue physical distancing and conscientious hygiene to stem the spread of the highly contagious and potentially deadly coronavirus. The state on Wednesday reported July’s highest one-day total at nearly 1,600 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, prompting a warning from the Democratic governor. – John O’Connor – Associated Press

Slaveholder Stephen Douglas’ Name Removed From Chicago Park

CHICAGO (AP) — A park on Chicago’s West Side will be stripped of the name of slave owner Stephen Douglas and may be renamed for abolitionist Frederick Douglass, a city’s parks commission decided Wednesday. The Chicago Park District voted Wednesday to rename the park in the largely black neighborhood, which has held Stephen Douglas’ name since 1869. Proponents have pushed the name change for years. Stephen Douglas was a U.S. senator from Illinois who lost the presidential election to Abraham Lincoln in 1860. He died in 1861. Commissioners know the park will be renamed for Frederick Douglass. However, there will be a 45-day public comment period to ensure the new name has support from residents, organizations and public officials. – Associated Press

Pritzker Extends Eviction Moratorium Another Month

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker is giving more time to those behind on rent or mortgage payments. He’s extending a ban on evictions through August 22. A moratorium was set to expire at the end of this month. Such action includes a new program designed to get as much as 300-million dollars to renters and home owners who need help. Applications will be accepted starting next month. Eligibility will be based on income and having missed housing payments. “Starting August 10, applications will open for renters and then the week of August 28 for homeowners,” Pritzker said. – Sean Crawford – WUIS

IDES Reports National Fraud Scheme on PUA Program

The Illinois Department of Employment Security has uncovered a nationwide fraud scheme impacting every state’s federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. During a COVID-19 update briefing Wednesday, Governor JB Pritzker said anyone who has not filed an unemployment claim, but has received a debit card or an unemployment insurance letter in the mail has likely been a target of the fraud. “Federal authorities have informed states that your personal identifying information may likely have been obtained in prior breaches of corporate or other databases like the massive Equifax breach.” Pritzker urges anyone who mistakenly received a debit card, don’t activate it. He said anyone who may have been targeted by the fraud scheme, should contact IDES at 800-814-0513. – Brad Palmer – WSIU

10 Normal Firefighters Return To Work; 5 Others Still Recovering From COVID-19

Ten Town of Normal firefighters have returned to work following two weeks under quarantine, while five others remain sidelined as they recover from COVID-19. Fire Chief Mick Humer said it appears one firefighter who contracted the coronavirus had traveled out of state. He said all five who tested positive showed symptoms, but it took time for those symptoms to develop. He said they are all in various stages of recovery. Humer said since the outbreak, all firefighters have been tested twice; all came back negative. – Eric Stock – WGLT

30 Peoria County Jail Detainees Now COVID-19 Positive

Peoria County Sheriff Brian Asbell said an additional eight detainees at the county jail tested positive for COVID-19 overnight, for a grand total of 30 so far. Asbell said he believes all detainee tests will be completed today, leaving the sheriff’s office waiting for results back to determine the overall impact at the jail. Asbell confirmed the initial COVID-19 outbreak on Saturday. On Wednesday, an additional 14 detainees tested positive. Thirteen employees are also off work after testing positive for the coronavirus, while they await results, or quarantine due to potential exposure. The outbreak is also impacting the court system and jail intake procedures. – Tim Shelley – WCBU

News Around Illinois – July 22, 2020

Police: 15 People Were Injured In A Shooting Outside A South Side Funeral

Fifteen people were injured, one person was being questioned and multiple suspects were being sought after gunfire erupted outside a funeral home on Chicago’s South Side where at least one squad car was present, police said. First Deputy Superintendent Eric Carter said mourners outside a funeral home in the 1000 block of West 79th Street were fired upon from a passing black SUV about 6:30 p.m. Carter said several targets of the shooting returned fire. The SUV later crashed and the occupants fled in several directions. One “person of interest” has been taken into custody. Carter said all the victims were adults. The shooting comes as the Department of Homeland Security is planning to deploy federal agents to Chicago to deal with an uptick in violent crime in the city. – Associated Press

Speaker Madigan: The Sparkplug For Republican Ethics Calls

As the minority party at the Illinois State Capitol, Republicans only have a bully pulpit. But when House Speaker Mike Madigan was implicated last week in a utility bribery case, they got more of a megaphone to go with it. Illinois Republicans say Madigan should resign after Commonwealth Edison last week admitted to bribing the speaker through hiring lobbyists and staff he recommended. Madigan has not been charged with any wrongdoing. Members of the Illinois House GOP say that scandal is reason enough for Governor J.B. Pritzker to bring lawmakers back for a special session dealing with ethics legislation. – Bill Wheelhouse – WUIS

Illinois Likely Faces Surge Of Evictions If Moratorium Is Not Extended

Housing advocates fear a massive number of evictions in Illinois after the state’s moratorium expires on July 26. “We have an impending housing crisis in our region,” said Jenny Connelly-Bowen, executive director of the Community Builders Network of Metro St. Louis. The moratorium by Gov. J.B. Pritzker bars landlords from filing eviction suits in court and the police from enforcing suits. It doesn’t mean that tenants are off the hook for rent, they just won’t be evicted if they cannot pay. “The moratorium doesn’t not affect your obligation to pay rent,” said Paul Matalonis, a staff attorney with Land of Lincoln Legal Aid. “You still owe the money, you just can’t file the eviction and eviction orders cannot be enforced while the moratorium is going.” For many Illinoisans, it’s the only protection they have from being forced out of their homes in the middle of a global pandemic. – Eric Schmid – KWMU

LaHood Calls For PPP Retooling, Cost Considerations In Next COVID-19 Relief Bill

Congress returned to Washington this week to hash out a new COVID-19 stimulus bill. Among the issues they’re considering are how to proceed with jobless benefits, liability protections for businesses, and financial support to local governments. U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, a Peoria Republican, said the Paycheck Protection Program will likely get a boost, as the first round of funding runs dry for some businesses. But he said the program may look different this time. “The biggest thing will be making sure that we are not letting in companies or businesses that don’t need the money,” he said. LaHood said the money should be prioritized for disproportionately impacted industries, like hotels, banquet halls, and restaurants that lack outdoor seating. He said he’d like to develop a formula to assess a businesses losses and financial need. Another priority for the next round of stimulus is money for businesses to cover the cost of personal protective equipment and additional cleaning protocols during the pandemic, he said. – Dana Vollmer – WCBU

News Around Illinois – July 21, 2020

House Progressive Caucus Weighs In On Madigan, ComEd

CHICAGO (AP) — Members of the Illinois House of Representatives’ progressive caucus said Monday longtime House Speaker Michael Madigan must resign if allegations of a bribery scheme involving utility ComEd are true. The 12 caucus members said the allegations disclosed Friday by federal prosecutors in Chicago are “an unacceptable breach of public trust.” They called on Madigan, a Chicago Democrat, and any other elected officials involved in the scheme to step down “if these allegations are true.” – Associated Press

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot Asks Trump Not To Send Federal Agents, Saying It Would ‘Spell Disaster’

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is asking President Donald Trump not to send federal agents to the city, instead imploring him to help the city address violent crime by cracking down on the proliferation of illegal guns across the country, according to a letter obtained by WBEZ late Monday. The four-page letter addressed to Trump Monday and signed by Lightfoot urges the Republican president to provide meaningful support — instead of playing “games.” “What we do not need, and what will certainly make our community less safe is secret, federal agents deployed to Chicago. Any other form of militarized assistance within our borders that would not be within our control or within the direct command of the Chicago Police Department would spell disaster,” the mayor writes. Lightfoot writes that she was responding to a letter he sent in June, but also to recent “statements from you and members of your Administration regarding offers of federal assistance.” – Claudia Morell – WBEZ

Illinois Teachers’ Union Wants Remote Learning To Start School Year

With just a few weeks to go before some schools are set to begin their fall semester, the Illinois Federation of Teachers issued a recommendation on Monday that called for students to begin the academic year learning remotely. It is part of a larger union statement on the new school year. IFT President Dan Montgomery said the rising number of coronavirus cases is a a cause for concern. Montgomery said some schools may be able to maintain safety measures like social distancing. “If that can happen, that’s a good thing,” said Montgomery. “That is an extremely rare occurrence in our experience.” – Sean Crawford – WUIS

Kanye West, Leonard Peltier And Others File For The Fall Ballot In Illinois

Rapper Kanye West was among those submitting petitions for the fall ballot Illinois on the final day for independent and third party candidates to file. West said he is running for president. But he has missed the deadline to file in several states. While he was on time in Illinois, filing does not guarantee a spot on the ballot. Pettitions can be challenged for the number of signatures and their validity. West did not have a vice presidential candidate file with him. Another well known name among those filing is imprisoned political activist Leonard Peltier. He is a vice-presidential candidate on a third party ticket. Peltier is serving a life sentence for the killings of two FBI agents on an Indian reservation in 1975. The Illinois Libertarian Party and other third parties are fielding more candidates in legislative races this year. – Bill Wheelhouse – WUIS

Tammy Duckworth’s Stock Rises As A Possible VP Choice After High-Profile Weeks

In combat and in Congress, Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth has seen a lot of firsts. She was the first female soldier to lose both her legs in the Iraq War. She was the first Thai American woman elected to Congress. And she was the first U.S. senator to give birth while in office. Now she may become the first Asian American woman nominated to be vice president for a major party in the United States. But she remains diplomatic when asked about the pressure Joe Biden is facing to pick an African American woman. “I think that even just choosing a woman is a powerful signal that Joe Biden has made,” Duckworth told NPR’s All Things Considered earlier this month. As Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, nears the announcement of his running mate, Duckworth’s political stock has risen. – Claudia Grisales – NPR

Planning Continues for C.T. Vivian Center in Macomb

Local leaders held a brief wreath laying ceremony over the weekend at the property where the Reverend C.T. Vivian grew up in Macomb. The lot in the 700 block of East Adams Street is currently empty but there are still plans to use that space to honor the late civil rights leader. The idea of building a center of civic and social engagement was announced nearly two years ago, and Byron Oden-Shabazz, President of the McDonough County Branch of the NAACP, said that’s still the plan. – Rich Egger – WIUM

News Around Illinois – July 20, 2020

UIC Gets $22M In Federal Money For Health Research Programs

CHICAGO (AP) — The University of Illinois at Chicago will receive $22 million in federal funding for health research programs over the next five years. The money comes from the National Institutes of Health and goes to the university’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science. The idea is to benefit research that directly benefits patients and communities, according to university officials who announced the funding this month. The center is one of the few in the country that includes research programs from seven health science colleges, including dentistry, pharmacy and social work. – Associated Press

Illinois County Sheriff Tests Positive For COVID-19

CHICAGO (AP) — A county sheriff in southwestern Illinois has tested positive for COVID-19, according to officials. The Monroe County Sheriff’s Department said Sheriff Neal Rohlfing has been in quarantine since he had symptoms earlier this month. He received a positive test on Wednesday, according to a department statement. Officials said department operations have not been affected because of his limited contact with employees. – Associated Press

State Increases Apprenticeship Funding Amid Tough Job Market

CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois is expanding an apprenticeship program that officials hope will help people in underserved communities learn skills and connect with employers amid a difficult job market. Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity announced a $4.7 million investment in the Illinois Apprenticeship Program, through grants to 25 organizations statewide. They say it’ll allow an additional 568 people to participate in training programs over the next two years. That will bring the total state investment in the program to a record level of $20 million, serving 17,000 participants this year. Pritzker said the program will bring together employers, community colleges and local workforce partners as COVID-19 puts “an enormous economic burden” on communities. – Associated Press

Illinois Programs To Get $7M In COVID-19 Relief

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — More than $7 million in federal funding will be going to organizations to help Illinois communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, state officials said. The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority said it will distribute $7.1 million in U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance money made available through federal stimulus legislation last spring. Groups interested in participating should apply to ICJIA by July 24. Money is available for groups for a variety of purposes, including housing and rental assistance for people involved in the criminal justice system or those who have experienced violence. Funding will also go toward supporting services such as advocacy, case management, legal services and mental health. – Associated Press

Rockford Has Its First-Ever Official City Bird

It’s official: For the first time ever, Rockford has its own city bird. Mayor Tom McNamara announced Friday that the peregrine falcon shall represent the city. The initiative itself was led by 15-year-old Jackie Kuroda. She is a youth board member for Sinnissippi Audubon Society and a member of Illinois Young Birders. A little more than a year ago, she wrote a letter to the mayor and started a petition. She said she led the efforts to designate the bird because of its ability to adapt and overcome. – Connie Kuntz – WNIJ

News Around Illinois – July 17, 2020

ComEd To Pay $200M Over Bribery, Illinois Speaker Implicated

CHICAGO (AP) — Electric utility ComEd has agreed to pay $200 million to resolve a federal criminal investigation into a long-running bribery scheme that implicates Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, federal prosecutors announced Friday. The company has admitted that it arranged jobs, subcontracted work and monetary payments related to those jobs “for various associates of a high-level elected official for the state of Illinois,” the U.S. Attorney’s office said in a news release. That elected official is identified as “Public Official A” in the release. A deferred prosecution agreement for ComEd filed in federal court states that “Public Official A” is the Illinois House Speaker, but Madigan — the the longest-serving state House speaker in modern American history — is not mentioned by name. Madigan’s spokesman, Steve Brown, couldn’t be reached for comment Friday and didn’t immediately respond to a voice message. – Associated Press

Pritzker Lawsuit Seeks Face Mask Order For Illinois Schools

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Gov. J.B. Pritzker took the unusual step Thursday of preemptively filing a lawsuit to ensure school children wear face coverings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus when schools reopen in a few weeks. The action filed late Thursday in Sangamon County Circuit Court by the state attorney general seeks a judge’s approval of Pritzker’s order that schoolchildren, teachers and staff wear coverings over mouths and noses among other measures to reduce the chance that the highly contagious and potentially deadly virus can spread. It’s typical for the governor to be in court as a defendant seeking validation of a policy or action. In this instance, no lawsuit has been filed, but a public school district and two private academies have informed the Illinois State Board of Education that Pritzker no longer has authority under emergency rule-making to require face masks in schools and that they will be developing their own safety rules. – John O’Connor – Associated Press

Rebuild Of Damaged Illinois Covered Bridge Nears Completion

LONG GROVE, Ill (AP) — Work is nearing completion on a $1 million project to rebuild a covered bridge in northern Illinois that was severely damaged two years ago by a delivery truck. Long Grove village President Bill Jacob said work on the steel-reinforced reconstruction of the community’s iconic covered bridge is in the “homestretch” and crews are installing the roof rafters this week. The bridge, which dates back to 1906, had been listed on the National Register of Historic Places in June 2018. Sixteen days later, a box truck plowed into it, severely damaging the structure, the Lake County News-Sun reported. – Associated Press

Rev. C.T. Vivian, Key Civil Rights Leader, Has Died At 95

ATLANTA (AP) — The Rev. C.T. Vivian, an early and key adviser to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. who organized pivotal campaigns in the civil rights movement and spent decades after advocating for justice and equality, died Friday at the age of 95. Vivian began staging sit-ins against segregation in Peoria, Illinois, in the 1940s — a dozen years before lunch-counter protests by college students made national news. He met King soon after the budding civil rights leader’s leadership of the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott, and helped translate ideas into action by organizing the Freedom Rides that eventually forced federal intervention across the South. President Barack Obama honored Vivian with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013, saying that “time and again, Reverend Vivian was among the first to be in the action: in 1947, joining a sit-in to integrate an Illinois restaurant.” – Desiree Seals and Michael Warren – Associated Press

Former Top Cop Had ‘Several Large Servings Of Rum’ Before He Was Found Asleep At The Wheel, Report Says

Fired Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson consumed “several large servings of rum” before driving drunk and apparently passing out for nearly two hours in a city-issued car last fall, according to a new report from Chicago’s Office of Inspector General. But multiple officers failed to conduct a sobriety test and allowed Johnson to drive himself home, the report found. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot fired Johnson last December, weeks before his scheduled retirement, saying he lied to her and the public about the drinking-and-driving incident. – Patrick Smith – WBEZ

ISU Faculty Look For More Course Control As Reopening Nears

Illinois State University faculty took the first steps Thursday toward asserting the power to make their own decisions individually about whether they feel safe teaching face-to-face this fall. More than 400 faculty and invited guests attended an online meeting focused on concerns about ISU’s reopening plan. That plan-in-progress, dubbed Redbirds Return, calls for a mix of face-to-face, hybrid, and online-only courses. Residence hall and dining centers will be open with new restrictions. On-campus coronavirus testing will be available for students. Masks will be required, but enforcement is muddy. – Ryan Denham – WGLT

Pritzker Deciding Whether To Halt Evictions Again

Governor J.B. Pritzker says he is considering extending a moratorium on evictions beyond the end of July. During a stop in Rockford, Thursday, Pritzker was asked if he planned to renew the order when it expires at the end of the month. As part of his emergency orders surrounding COVID-19, the governor had halted evictions for unpaid rent and mortgages in Illinois. With that set to expire in two weeks, the governor said he is focused on the issue. – Mary Hansen and Bill Wheelhouse – WUIS

News Around Illinois – July 16, 2020

At Least 36 Students Test Positive For Virus After Camps

LAKE ZURICH, Ill. (AP) — At least three dozen high school students in northern Illinois have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus after some attending summer sports camps showed symptoms of the disease. Investigations and contact tracing of the infections are tied to the camps held last week at Lake Zurich High School and multiple prior social gatherings, according to Lake County health officials. – Associated Press

ISU Student-Athletes Step Into Racial Justice Conversation

Hundreds of Illinois State University student-athletes huddled this week to discuss the biggest issues of our day—race, justice, and what they stand for. More than 250 student-athletes joined a Zoom forum Monday night, organized by the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). It was in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests. They talked about a lot—from microaggressions students of color have felt on ISU’s campus, to what they think about kneeling during the National Anthem. SAAC wanted to provide a space to discuss issues that crossed among sports, gender, and race. – Ryan Denham – WGLT

Twitter Hack Response Takes Out Weather Service Account During Tornado Scare

The National Weather Service’s Central Illinois office appeared to lose access to its Twitter account Wednesday during several hours of severe weather. Like many authoritative or official accounts, the @NWSLincolnIL account is verified—signified by that iconic blue check mark. It has over 17,000 followers. Twitter temporarily restricted access to verified accounts Wednesday night following a large-scale and coordinated cryptocurrency hack. That unprecedented step came after the Twitter accounts of some of the richest and most famous people on the social media platform were attacked. The @NWSLincolnIL account itself was not hacked. – Ryan Denham – WGLT

Normal FD Gets 5th COVID-19 Positive; County Adds 4 Cases

A fifth Normal firefighter has tested positive for COVID-19 as McLean County health officials announced four new coronavirus cases on Wednesday. The firefighter was part of a group of 15 the town placed under quarantine after a co-coworker contracted the virus while off duty, said City Manager Pam Reece. Three others later tested positive. “Since he was already in quarantine, there was no risk of any additional exposures related to his case,” said Normal Fire Department Public Information Officer Matt Swaney. Swaney added all the infected firefighters are showing symptoms and remain quarantined at home. He said none has required medical intervention or hospitalization. – Eric Stock – WGLT

Chicago Police Aren’t Helping ICE Detain Immigrants, Report Says

In the last three months, federal immigration agents asked the Chicago Police Department to help detain immigrants 14 times. But CPD refused each time, citing the city’s sanctuary ordinance, according to a report obtained by WBEZ. “CPD received 14 such requests for assistance, and did not transfer any individual into a federal agency’s custody,” according to the report sent to Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Joe Ferguson, the city’s inspector general. “Being an immigrant is not a crime. Chicago stands with its immigrant community, especially in the face of politicized immigration enforcement.” – María Inés Zamudio – WBEZ

News Around Illinois – July 15, 2020

Chicago Officials Expand Quarantine Order For Visitors

CHICAGO (AP) — People traveling from Iowa and Oklahoma to Chicago will have to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival or face possible fines starting Friday. Chicago first issued a quarantine order early this month for 15 other states based on increasing numbers of confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The city updated the order Tuesday, bringing the total number of affected states to 17. States are included based on the rate of new confirmed cases per 100,000 residents. To comply, travelers must stay at a single home or other dwelling for 14 days except to seek medical care or be tested for COVID-19. The order also applies to city residents returning from a visit to a designated state. Chicago officials acknowledge there’s little way of enforcing the order. Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the order can raise travelers’ awareness of “what their obligations are when they travel.” – Associated Press

Illinois Collects $52M In Taxes From Legal Pot Sales

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The state of Illinois has collected $52 million in taxes from legal adult-use marijuana sales. Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office said Tuesday that $34.7 million is coming from excise taxes. Sales taxes that will be shared with local governments account for $18 million. Nearly $26 million in excise and sales taxes will be directed to the state’s general fund. More than $239 million in recreational marijuana has been sold in Illinois since Jan. 1 when it was legalized. – Associated Press

Gov. JB Pritzker ‘Won’t Hesitate’ To Enact Stricter COVID-19 Measures If Numbers Continue To Increase

Democratic Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker again threatened that he “won’t hesitate” to impose stricter measures on the residents and businesses of the state if the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to climb. Statewide, Illinois has seen a slight uptick in case numbers and the percentage of those who are tested being positive since entering Phase 4 of Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan, which allowed for the reopening of indoor dining and bars. That uptick has come as states such as Florida, Texas, Arizona and California have seen an explosive growth in case numbers, forcing some to close down bars or require face coverings while in public. – Tony Arnold – WBEZ

More People Seeking Addiction Treatment, Rehab Centers In Illinois Say

Before the coronavirus pandemic, Illinois was already fighting a public health crisis – the opioid epidemic. Clinicians at two drug rehab centers said more patients have been admitted to their facility since the coronavirus pandemic. Mercedes Kent is the clinical supervisor of the Springfield outpatient department at Gateway Foundation – a drug and alcohol treatment center. Kent said due to the stay-at-home order, there might not be anyone there to call 911 or administer narcan to individuals who overdose. She explained how the pandemic could lead to more opioid overdoses. – Olivia Mitchell – WUIS

To Change Or Not To Change – ‘That Is The Question’

An Illinois coalition that advocates changing the state from a flat to a progressive income tax is highlighting public support for an amendment on the November ballot that would do just that. July 15th is the deadline for filing this year’s income taxes. The Vote Yes for Fair Tax group is using this week to remind people of the upcoming Fair Tax amendment. This includes voters from Rockford, DeKalb, Peoria, Springfield, Chicago and Metro East. – Yvonne Bose – WNIJ

News Around Illinois – July 14, 2020

Loyola University Chicago Rolls Back Plans For In-Person Classes This Fall

Loyola University Chicago is walking back its initial plan to offer a mix of in-person and online classes this fall amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In a letter to students and faculty Monday, University President Jo Ann Rooney and Provost Noberto Grzywacz said most classes would be offered online this fall, limiting in-person courses to labs, experiential learning classes and research. More than 200 faculty and staff signed a petition last week asking administration for the right to choose if they want to teach online or in-person. Faculty groups released a joint statement commending the university’s leadership. – Kate McGee – WBEZ

Illinois Hospitals Have A Patchwork System For Transferring COVID-19 Patients. Some State Lawmakers Say That Should Change.

Some Illinois lawmakers are calling for the state to coordinate transferring COVID-19 patients between hospitals, and demanding more transparency from medical centers to know which ones actually have beds available. “The state must do better,” said State Rep. La Shawn Ford, a Democrat who represents some West Side communities hit especially hard during the pandemic. Ford is among some lawmakers who are speaking out on the heels of a WBEZ investigation that revealed a patchwork system for transferring patients that has left some hospitals scrambling, usually the ones with the least amount of resources — and typically treating patients who are dying most of COVID-19, African Americans and Latinos. – Kristen Schorsch – WBEZ

New Practice Restrictions Cast Doubt Over Return Of High School Sports

Illinois high schools have sharply scaled back practices in response to new health data as their sports seasons remain in jeopardy during the pandemic. The IHSA has limited physical contact and won’t allow schools to scrimmage other schools. Student athletes are also required to wear masks unless they are outside and are social distancing. The changes haven’t impacted non-contact sports; tennis, swimming and cross country. – Eric Stock – WGLT

IWU Alumni Brace For Trustees Decisions On Cuts

Hundreds of Illinois Wesleyan University graduates are closely watching this week’s expected Board of Trustees decisions on the future direction of the institution. A variety of potential cuts and changes will be considered. Close to a third of the faculty has received pre-termination notices that their programs or positions may end. More than 800 alumni from more than a half century of classes have signed on to a petition sent to trustees urging the board to keep threatened programs and departments such as religion, philosophy, and sociology, including those that were not in earlier faculty recommendations for reduction. Instead faculty signed off on proposals to ‘transform’ or ‘sustain’ some of those offerings. – Charlie Schlenker – WGLT

Prevent West Nile Virus By Reducing Mosquito Population

An Illinois bird tested positive for West Nile virus, but no humans have been diagnosed with the virus this  year. Ryan Kerch is the environmental health supervisor with the Winnebago County Health Department. He says they don’t want to scare anybody, but it’s important to understand that the virus is always out there. Though rare, West Nile virus can cause encephalitis and meningitis. Adults over the age of 60 and those with a compromised immune system are the most risk for the virus. Kerch said the vast majority of people will be asymptomatic. To prevent an outbreak or even a single case, he says the best thing you can do is get rid of stagnant water. Cleaning out your gutters, removing old tires, and dumping out kiddie pools and wheelbarrows will reduce mosquito population. – Connie Kuntz – WNIJ

News Around Illinois – July 13, 2020

Illinois Launches Campaign To Prevent Abuse Of Seniors

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois is launching a $2.1 million campaign to prevent abuse, neglect and exploitation of seniors and adults with disabilities, a problem officials fear has worsened during the coronavirus pandemic. The Illinois Department on Aging’s Office of Adult Protective Services received federal funds for the three-year Engage2Change campaign. It will include ads on television, online and via email that will encourage people to report suspected abuse of people age 60 and older and of disabled adults. Some funds also will be used for training caseworkers and legal professionals. – Associated Press

Crews Restore Power After Storms Hit Central Illinois

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (AP) — Crews were working Sunday to restore power for thousands of customers in central Illinois after a series of storms brought high winds and hail. Ameren Illinois activated an emergency operations center Saturday evening to resolve the outages. By Sunday morning, more than 12,500 customers were without power, according to the company’s website. Storms hitting multiple counties brought strong winds and hail. The Pontiac Fire Department responded to several calls, including for damaged from downed trees and power lines. An 80-foot tree fell through the roof of a house in Lexington, the (Decatur) Herald & Review reported. There were also reports of flattened crops near areas including Mackinaw. – Associated Press

Murphysboro May Rename Park After Influential Black Educator

MURPHYSBORO, Ill. (AP) — The mayor of Murphysboro wants to rename a local park in honor of one of the first Black graduates from what was then known as Southern Illinois Normal University. Mayor Will Stephens says Carl Lee was a “trailblazer and pathfinder.” The Murphysboro City Council will consider renaming Town Center Park after him at the council’s Tuesday meeting, The Southern Illinoisan reported. Lee attempted to integrate Murpysboro Township High School in 1916, when he was 18. After graduating from college he became an educator, serving as principal of Douglas School in Murphysboro. – Associated Press

15 Normal Firefighters In Quarantine Amid COVID-19 Outbreak

Four Town of Normal firefighters have tested positive for the coronavirus and nearly a dozen co-workers also may have been exposed. City Manager Pam Reece told WGLT on Saturday that a firefighter who contracted the coronavirus while off-duty “unknowingly exposed colleagues when returning to work.” Reece said 15 firefighters remain under quarantine and those with negative test results will be eligible to return to work on July 18. Reece said no citizens or patients have been placed at risk of exposure by Normal Fire Department staff and service continues uninterrupted. She noted fire department staff members wears personal protective equipment on every call to protect the public and patients. – Eric Stock & Charlie Schlenker – WGLT

Fundraising Campaign Benefits Small Businesses in Macomb

The COVID-19 pandemic is hurting the bottom line of many small businesses. So a Macomb couple suggested an idea to help those businesses. Mayor Mike Inman said Laura and Ritchie Gabbei contacted his office, inquiring as to what they could do. After talking about it a bit, the couple worked with the Macomb Community Foundation to start a fundraising campaign. Donors could ask for their money to go to a specific business or several of them. The Foundation maintained the fund for the campaign, which brought in $4,850. Inman said he visited 15 businesses with Foundation President Jodi Pospeschil this past week to give them the money. – Rich Egger – WIUM

News Around Illinois – July 10, 2020

Gov. Pritzker Names New Head Of Unemployment Department Months After Complaints Pile Up

Democratic Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker Thursday named a new director of the agency that manages unemployment claims after the department encountered serious problems dealing with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. The Illinois Department of Employment Security also started a new approach to helping legions of unemployed workers who have been frustrated by problems with the state’s system for processing their benefits claims. Pritzker named Kristin Richards, the current chief of staff to the Illinois Senate president, to serve as the director of IDES, the governor said in a release. The agency had been headed previously by an interim director, Thomas Chan. For months, Pritzker has promised to fix the system, which has been beset with problems, even hiring an outside contractor to staff a new unemployment benefits call center. – Dan Mihalopoulos – WBEZ

UIS Releases Fall Plan For Return Of Students And Faculty

The University of Illinois Springfield released its fall plan with details on how students and faculty would return to the campus and remain safe during the coronavirus pandemic. Face coverings, hand sanitizer and frequent cleaning are all part of the University of Illinois Springfield’s plan for students to return to campus in the fall. The university will offer both on-campus and online options for students this fall up until November 25. After the Thanksgiving holiday, all classes will be online through the end of the semester. Interim Chancellor Karen Whitney said the administration consulted students and professors in the decision because of the uncertainty of COVID-19. – Olivia Mitchell – WUIS

Census Efforts Continue In Illinois Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

About a third of Illinois households still need to fill out their 2020 census forms, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Census officials touted Wednesday upcoming efforts to encourage people to participate in the census before the in-person follow-up begins, which was delayed until this summer due to the coronavirus pandemic. The efforts include more paid advertising and census takers standing outside grocery stores, pharmacies and other essential businesses to help people fill out the forms. A spokesman for the regional census office in Chicago could not confirm if workers would be posted outside of Illinois businesses in the next few weeks. – Mary Hansen – WUIS

Complaint Against O’Shea Dismissed

Rockford’s Board of Fire and Police Commissioners voted unanimously to dismiss a formal complaint against the city’s police chief. Commissioners found no probable cause to proceed to an evidentiary hearing over a formal complaint alleging that Police Chief Daniel O’Shea violated policy by showing bias and discrimination. The complaint arose over a comment O’Shea made in May during a news conference. O’Shea said, “The 16, 17-year-olds running around shooting each other, we’re not wasting our time trying to save them. They are lost. We’re trying to focus on 4 or 5-year-olds all the way up to 12 or 13, where we have a chance at saving them, changing their lives and changing the direction they are going in it.” – Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco – WNIJ

Rivian Lands Another $2.5 Billion; Biggest Investment Round To Date

The electric automaker Rivian has pulled in another $2.5 billion—its largest single investment round to date—as it prepares to begin production in Normal. Rivian, which has grown from stealthy startup to lead candidate to bring the first electric pickup to market, announced the new investment Friday. Rivian plans to make its electric vehicles at its Normal manufacturing plant. The company already has 350 employees in Normal, with plans to hire hundreds more. Rivian says it’s investing over $750 million into the plant to get it ready for production. It acquired the plant for $16 million in 2017, after Mitsubishi Motors shut it down and moved out. – Ryan Denham – WGLT

ISU Fall Semester Plans Are Definitely Maybe

Illinois State University is confirming a lot of plans for a pandemic-related fall class schedule. But in a news conference on Thursday, university President Larry Dietz said things are still pretty fluid. “This afternoon something could change. Tomorrow something could change. We’ve literally had instances where we met in the morning and thought we knew what to do in a particular area and something came out from the governor or the CDC or whatever, and we had to change pretty quickly,” said Dietz. The university announced there will be no triple or quadruple occupancy dorm rooms. There will be a mix of online and in-person classes. ISU is still doing a classroom inventory and matching it with class sizes to figure out how much it will have to offer online. There will be some on-campus COVID-19 testing, but how much isn’t certain. Dietz hopes a program the University of Illinois is test driving could help. – Charlie Schlenker – WGLT

News Around Illinois – July 9, 2020

Illinois Driver Services Expirations Extended Until Nov. 1

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Expiration dates for driver’s licenses, identification cards and license plate stickers have been extended one more month to Nov. 1, Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White announced Wednesday. Expired documents will remain valid so customers need not need rush into state Driver Services offices, especially during the current heat wave, White said. The extension also covers those who have July, August and September expiration dates. – Associated Press

Recount Underway In 2018 Macon Country Sheriff Election

DECATUR, Ill. (AP) — Ballots from an Illinois sheriff election are being recounted — 20 months later. Tony Brown has been serving as Macon County sheriff after defeating Jim Root, a Republican, by one vote out of nearly 40,000 cast in 2018. The recount started Tuesday and could last weeks. It was ordered by a judge as a compromise agreed to by both candidates after Root filed a legal challenge to the result, the Herald & Review reported. – Associated Press

Illinois Gov. Pritzker Rails Against Trump Administration’s ‘Sick ‘Hunger Games’ ’ During COVID-19 Pandemic

Testifying before a Congressional panel, Democratic Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker on Wednesday called for a national mandate that everyone wear a face covering while in public as part of a broader federal strategy to help stem the spread of COVID-19. In continuing his criticism of Republican President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, Pritzker presented a five-point national strategy in his testimony before the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security on Examining the National Response to the Worsening Coronavirus Pandemic. – Tony Arnold – WBEZ

Lightfoot To Trump: States And Cities Should Decide When And How To Reopen Schools

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot blasted President Donald Trump today for demanding schools open for in-person instruction in the fall. “It’s ironic because typically Republicans talk about states’ rights and localized control, but here’s one where the president’s trying to mandate from Washington, D.C. what the conditions should be on the ground across the country,” Lightfoot said. “That doesn’t make any sense.” Lightfoot said the president’s push eliminates the option of using a hybrid model in the fall that mixes in-person and online instruction. The mayor’s comments came as the president fired off two tweets Wednesday morning calling the CDC’s new guidelines for reopening schools “very tough & expensive.” Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday the CDC would be revising its guidelines to schools. – Becky Vevea – WBEZ

Public Libraries Plan Reopening As Pandemic Restrictions Loosen

Public libraries are working to open up their facilities to the public again, even as they expand their offerings online. When Governor J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order went into effect mid-March, most businesses and nonprofits temporarily shut down. Jen Barton, the director of Genoa Public Library, said there wasn’t any specific guidance in the order for libraries. Now, libraries are planning the reopening of their buildings to the public. DeKalb Library has already opened. Though they’ve had to shut down some areas, such as specialized reading rooms, they can still offer access to computers and other in-library services that involve fewer people. That includes browsing the shelves. – Chase Cavanaugh – WNIJ

Southern Seven Health Department Reports 50% Drop In Child Vaccinations

The CDC reports during the COVID-19 pandemic routine childhood vaccinations have declined. Southern Seven Health Department operates clinics in the lower seven counties in Illinois. During the last few months the clinics have seen a 50% drop in childhood vaccinations during Illinois’ stay at home order. The CDC says it’s important to stay up to date especially during this pandemic because the recommended vaccines give protection from 16 diseases. Southern Seven Public Information Officer Shawnna Rhine says the level of vaccination coverage needs to be above 90% for population immunity. – Benjy Jeffords – WUIS

News Around Illinois – July 8, 2020

Blackhawks Say Team Name Honors Namesake Who Inspired

CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Blackhawks say they will continue to use their team name because it honors a Native American leader who has been an inspiration to generations. “The Chicago Blackhawks name and logo symbolizes an important and historic person, Black Hawk of Illinois’ Sac & Fox Nation, whose leadership and life has inspired generations of Native Americans, veterans and the public,” the NHL team said in a statement Tuesday. “We celebrate Black Hawk’s legacy by offering ongoing reverent examples of Native American culture, traditions and contributions, providing a platform for genuine dialogue with local and national Native American groups. As the team’s popularity grew over the past decade, so did that platform and our work with these important organizations. – Associated Press

University of Chicago Removes Tributes To Stephen Douglas

CHICAGO (AP) — The University of Chicago has removed a bronze plaque and stone that publicly honored Stephen Douglas, a U.S. senator from Illinois in the 1800s. “Douglas does not deserve to be honored on our campus” because he “profited from his wife’s ownership of a Mississippi plantation where Black people were enslaved,” university President Robert Zimmer said in an email to students Tuesday. Douglas probably is best known for a series of debates with Abraham Lincoln in 1858. He was a U.S. senator who lost the 1860 presidential election to Lincoln. – Associated Press

Relocating Some Nursing Home Residents Will Protect Them From COVID-19, Advocates Say

A new coalition of disability rights groups is calling on Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker to take emergency action to protect residents in nursing homes and other congregate care facilities from the spread of COVID-19. With nursing homes linked to more than 55% of all COVID-19 deaths in Illinois, the Institutional Rescue and Recovery Coalition on Tuesday called for the state to move some residents out to temporary hotel rooms to allow for social distancing and to make facilities less crowded. “This coalition is calling for more than sympathy and sorrow at the death rate,” said Fran Tobin, executive director of the Alliance for Community Services, one of the groups in the coalition. As of July 3, according to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, a total of 3,856 deaths out of 22,833 COVID-19 cases were linked to long-term care facilities in the state. That’s a rate of 16.9% — about six-and-a-half times greater than the 2.6% rate for the 3,148 deaths out of 122,917 COVID-19 cases in Illinois that are not linked to nursing homes. – Esther Yoon-Ji Kang – WBEZ

Federal Rules Complicate International Student Attendance At ISU

Illinois State University said Tuesday it is still assessing the impact of new rules issued by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that could prevent some international students from attending the school. ISU has averaged 400-500 international students the past couple of years. The university has tried to grow the number of students from other countries by creating agreements with other universities and by bolstering independent recruitment efforts. A university spokesperson said there are other issues under study as well, including the ability to travel to central Illinois from other countries. The spokesperson said ISU is communicating regularly with international students on a variety of issues. – Charlie Schlenker – WGLT

News Around Illinois – July 7, 2020

‘The Blues Brothers’ Wauconda Beach To Reopen After 30 Years

WAUCONDA, Ill. (AP) — Wauconda’s iconic beach seen in the “The Blues Brothers” movie is set to open after a $3 million renovation. After a prolonged wait due to the coronavirus pandemic, the northeastern Illinois beach is set to open to the public Wednesday, the Daily Herald reported. The initial grand opening was envisioned for Memorial Day weekend. The beach, featured in the classic 1980 film “The Blues Brothers,” was formerly a privately run attraction founded by the late Phil Froehlke in the 1920s. Froelich’s descendants closed the beach in 1990 due to rising insurance costs, but park district leaders preserved the site and took over when the family opted to sell in 2016. – Associated Press

GOP Congressional Hopeful’s Dairy Got Virus Relief Loan

CHICAGO (AP) — A dairy owned by Illinois Republican congressional candidate Jim Oberweis received a loan worth $5 million to $10 million from the federal rescue package aimed at helping small businesses weather the coronavirus pandemic, according to data released Monday. Oberweis Dairy, the North Aurora-based business where Jim Oberweis is chairman, was approved for the Paycheck Protection Program on April 8, according to Treasury Department data. The business is currently operated by Oberweis’ son, who is the company president. Oberweis says his role with the company is advisory and he does not receive a salary. His campaign website says his wife also works for the family business. Oberweis said in a statement Monday the loan was used to pay for salaries and benefits for employees. The Treasury Department did not release the exact amount of the loan. A spokesman for Oberweis’ campaign said it was between $5 million and $6 million. – Sara Burnett – Associated Press

Big Players In Illinois Got Millions In Federal Help For ‘Small Businesses’

In March, when the COVID-19 outbreak first prompted many states to all but shut down their economies, Congress and President Donald Trump approved an initiative that was supposed to help avert layoffs by “small businesses.” The Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, has doled out more than half a trillion dollars across the country in just a few months. data released Monday identified all who are getting $150,000 or more — including more than 27,000 recipients in Illinois. A WBEZ analysis of the new data found 255 companies, nonprofits and other organizations got the largest loans available — more than $5 million and as much as $10 million. The records show those enjoying the biggest PPP loans included the Field Museum of Natural History, Four Seasons Heating and Air Conditioning in Bedford Park, the Des Plaines-based Illinois Bone & Joint Institute, the Mario Tricoci Hair Salon & Day Spa chain, Willow Creek Community Church, the Brookfield Zoo and the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe. – Dan Mihalopoulos – WBEZ

Illinois Law School Grads Ask State To Let Them Skip The Bar Exam Because Of COVID-19

Law school graduates in Illinois petitioned the Illinois Supreme Court Monday to waive the bar exam requirement for those scheduled to take the test in September due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The emergency petition filed by recent law graduates asks the Illinois Supreme Court to waive the requirement and allow those who otherwise qualify to become licensed lawyers in the state, known as diploma privilege. The petition was written by Mollie McGuire, a 2020 graduate from the University of North Carolina School of Law who now lives in Chicago, and Dalton Hughes and Steven Tinetti, both graduates of the University of Illinois College of Law. Graduates typically take the bar exam in July, but Illinois pushed the test back to September due to the pandemic. – Kate McGee – WBEZ

Illinois Ends License Suspension For Non-Moving Violations, More Penalties For Texting While Driving

Drivers in Illinois will no longer have their license or vehicle registration suspended for unpaid parking fines and tollway violations. Spokesperson for Secretary of State’s Office, Henry Haupt said a parking ticket doesn’t define a person’s ability to drive. Backers of the new law, referred to as The License To Work Act said drivers in Illinois should be able to drive back and forth to work, even if they cannot afford to pay fines. Suspensions will be lifted for drivers whose license is suspended for ten or more parking tickets, providing they don’t have other serious driving convictions. However, the new change does not apply to moving violations. Drivers who receive three or more moving violations in a year, could still have their licenses suspended. Some moving violations include speeding, running a stop sign, or a red light. There are now more severe penalties for Illinois drivers who are caught texting while driving, and for crashes involving crosswalks and right-of-way violations. If a driver is caught texting while driving, or using a computer, and they cause a serious injury to a person, they will face a 12 month license suspension and a minimum fine of $1,000. – Olivia Mitchell – WUIS

News Around Illinois – July 6, 2020

13 Illinois ‘Bomb Squad’ Gang Members Sentenced To Prison

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) — Thirteen members of a Peoria street gang known as the “Bomb Squad” have been sentenced to prison terms for a racketeering conspiracy that included murder, attempted murder, arson and drug trafficking. Federal prosecutors said one defendant was sentenced to life in prison, plus 10 years. Judge James Shadid sentenced the other defendants to prison terms ranging from 12 to 40 years over two weeks last month. A jury convicted the defendants in December after a seven-week trial and three days of deliberations. Prosecutors said gang members had standing orders to shoot rivals on sight, and they would later boast about their actions on social media. They said the group committed four murders, over 20 shootings and two residential arsons. – Associated Press

Illinois Expands Hours At Emissions Testing Sites

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Vehicle emissions testing sites in Illinois are expanding their hours in July and August. The 12 facilities will open earlier and remain open later on three days of the week through the end of August. Saturday hours are 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Hours on Mondays and Tuesdays are 7:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. The changes take effect on Monday. Hours on other days of the week have not changed. – Associated Press

700 Nurses At Joliet Hospital Go On Strike Over Pay, Safety

JOLIET, ILL. (AP) — More than 700 nurses at Amita Health St. Joseph Medical Center Joliet went on strike Saturday morning after negotiations between the hospital and the nurses union failed to result in a contract. The strike comes after Amita Health, which has 19 hospitals in Illinois, issued a statement that said it would bring in other licensed nurses during a strike, prepare to have ambulances bypass the hospital if necessary and cancel non-urgent surgeries. One of the main sticking points in the negotiations is the union’s contention that the nursing staffing levels are too low to keep the nurses safe. But in his statement to the Tribune, Amita Health spokesman Tim Nelson said hospital negotiators had presented the union with an offer Friday that the system believes addressed many of the concerns raised by the nurses. – Associated Press

IDPH Reports Lowest Daily Death Count In One Day Since March

As of Saturday, Illinois’ average daily COVID-19 case numbers have increased by 29% since three weeks ago. But the numbers remain much lower than the state’s peak in May, and daily deaths are down. On Sunday, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) reported six deaths, the lowest number of deaths in a single day since March. Illinois also reported 2,369 new cases over the July 4th weekend, as well as 33 total deaths. There are now more than 147,251 total cases in Illinois, and more than 7,020 total deaths. – Lecia Bushak – Illinois Newsroom

Pritzker Kicks In $51.5 Million More For Taxes Initiative

CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is contributing an additional $51.5 million to a ballot initiative committee backing his constitutional amendment that would dump the state’s flat-rate income tax structure in favor of one that takes a bigger bite from the wealthy. The contribution to Vote Yes for Fairness, a committee headed by the governor’s former deputy campaign manager, was reported late Friday in a filing with the State Board of Elections. It comes about six months after Pritzker wrote a check to the committee for $5 million. The only other individual contribution reported to date was $250, according to the Chicago Tribune. – Associated Press

Illinois Opening More Centers To Support Small Businesses

CHICAGO (AP) — Seven new state-run centers will open this summer to support Illinois small businesses. The Small Business Development Centers set to launch in July or already opened are in Chicago, Elgin and Joliet. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Development said the $11.5 million effort brings the total of centers statewide to 42. Business owners can get one-on-one confidential advice and assistance at the centers on many topics including education, training and business planning. The centers also have helped small businesses seek financial assistance during the coronavirus pandemic, which forced many to close or dramatically change day-to-day operations. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – July 3, 2020

Illinois Seeking New Poet Laureate, State’s First Since 2017

CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois is looking for a new poet laureate. Gov. J.B. Pritzker has launched a search committee to fill the post, which has been vacant since 2017. He said Illinois has been home to talented poets including Carl Sandburg, Gwendolyn Brooks and Sandra Cisneros, and he wants to hear from “the next generation of great writers. – Associated Press

Police Chief Shot In Reagan Assassination Attempt Retiring

ORLAND PARK, Ill. (AP) — A suburban Chicago police chief who was wounded in the assassination attempt on then-President Ronald Reagan is retiring after nearly half a century in law enforcement. Tim McCarthy, who has served as Orland Park’s police chief for 26 years, is retiring Aug. 1. McCarthy, 71, said he wants to spend more time with his wife, children and grandchildren. – Associated Press

COVID-19 Cases Are On The Rise In Some Parts Of Illinois. This Worries Experts.

Illinois’ declining number of positive COVID-19 cases has started flattening over the past week in some areas of the state, while other areas are starting to see a slight uptick, according to two epidemiologists in Chicago. The number of new positive cases in Illinois has increased for three days in a row, with 869 new confirmed cases reported by the Illinois Department of Public Health Thursday, which is higher than the 7-day rolling average of 778 new cases. But the state’s seven day case positivity rate has remained flat, between 2 and 3% over the past month, compared to 14% in mid-May. – Kate McGee – WBEZ

Lincoln Association Unveils Plans To Reconstruct Original Lincoln Cottage

The Abraham Lincoln Association has launched a $400,000 campaign to acquire vacant land to construct an accurate replica of Lincoln’s original cottage – before the home was expanded. The budget includes $250,000 for construction, and $70,000 dollars for land acquisition. The remaining funds will be used for site cleanup, signs, and landscaping. The replica will be of the 1.5 story, six room cottage the Lincoln family lived in from 1844 through 1856. It was then reconstructed into a spacious two story, 12-room home, of what visitor’s know of today. Michael Burlingame, the distinguished chair in Lincoln studies tat the University of Illinois Springfield, said visitors will get an idea of what living conditions were like for the family the first 12 years they lived in Springfield. – Olivia Mitchell – WUIS

ISU To Offer More Flexibility On Telework, Instruction To De-Densify Campus At Reopening

Illinois State University’s administration will release a new round of reopening guidance next week related to work-from-home and instruction that could help to de-densify campus when students return in August, a spokesperson said Thursday. That new guidance comes as nearly 400 concerned faculty, staff, students, and community members have signed a letter to ISU President Larry Dietz, arguing that the university’s COVID-19 planning has come up short in many key ways. Academic Senate chair Susan Kalter, who signed the letter, has called an all-faculty meeting for July 16 via Zoom to discuss “serious matters” related to the reopening. – Ryan Denham – WNIJ

Law Aims to Give Students With Epilepsy Better Care In Illinois’ Schools

The Seizure Smart School Act, is a new law in Illinois that requires schools to train employees and care aides on how to handle students with epilepsy, and how to administer their medications. Epilepsy is a neurological disorder in which the brain activity becomes abnormal, causing seizures or periods of unusual behavior, sensations, and sometimes loss of awareness. It is the fourth most common neurological disorder in the country. State Senator Julie Morrison (D-Lake Forest) said all schools should be equipped to help students in epilepsy-related situations. – Olivia Mitchell – WUIS

News Around Illinois – July 2, 2020

From Tight Hallways To Packed Elevators, Urban Campuses Are Grappling With Social Distancing

Colleges and universities in downtown Chicago often use their urban location as a selling point when attracting students. Now, those campuses — located in the densest part of the city — are turning into a potential liability as schools plan to reopen this fall after the COVID-19 shutdown. Tight stairwells, elevators, small classrooms and limited entrances and exits are now all problems to be solved while students and staff are supposed to stay 6 feet apart. For many downtown schools, the solutions start with far fewer students. Many campuses, including National Louis University, Roosevelt University and City Colleges of Chicago, have said the vast majority of fall classes will still be held online because they can’t operate at full capacity while social distancing. But all the schools will offer limited in-person offerings, mostly for hands-on classes or to give students access to technology or study spaces they can’t get at home — and that’s where the schools are trying to get creative. – Kate McGee – WBEZ

Casino Gambling Resumes In Illinois After Months Of Being Shut Down By Coronavirus

Dozens waited outside the Casino Queen on Wednesday morning, eager for the first day of gambling in Illinois since the coronavirus pandemic hit. The Illinois Gaming Board announced last week all 10 casinos and more than 37,000 video gaming terminals in the state could resume operating Wednesday, nearly a month after casinos in Missouri reopened. It’s a big step for the industry, which has lost around $390 million in revenue in the 100-plus days it’s been shut down, said Tom Swoik, executive director of the Illinois Casino Gaming Association. – Eric Schmid – KWMU

No Motive Discovered In Bunn-O-Matic Shooting

Springfield Police Chief Kenny Winslow said Wednesday authorities have yet to determine why an employee shot and killed three co-workers last week at a Springfield manufacturer. Winslow, holding his first availability with reporters since the day of the incident, offered a few new details. But he said conversations with witnesses, co-workers, friends and family of the suspect have yet to shed light on his actions. – Sean Crawford – WUIS

IWU Students, Faculty and Alums Rally To Defend Threatened Programs

Few rallies include performances by a brass ensemble. But for Scott Ferguson, choral director at Illinois Wesleyan University, the selection made perfect sense for a rally to drum up support for the liberal arts. Ferguson will be starting his 25th year as an IWU faculty member when classes resume this fall. But for him and at least 24 of his colleagues, it could also be his last. The faculty members organized Wednesday night’s “Standing Up for the Liberal Arts” rally on the IWU quad after receiving letters from the university president and provost last month saying their positions may be cut. – Breanna Grow – WGLT

Animal Shelters Reopening As Pandemic Restrictions Loosen

COVID-19 has affected how animal shelters operate, and the demand for pets. When the state started closing down in mid-March due to the pandemic, a lot of businesses and organizations had to adjust quickly. For Tails Humane Society in DeKalb, that meant shifting their cats, dogs and other critters to foster care. With Phase 4 of Restore Illinois underway, restrictions are being loosened on gatherings. But shelters like Tails will still limit how many people can be in the building at once, even if the animals are there. – Chase Cavanaugh – WNIJ

News Around Illinois – July 1, 2020

Wage Hike, Driving Privileges, Civics Address In New Laws

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — New Illinois state laws dictating minimum wage, certain driving offenses and LGBTQ history education in public schools will take effect Wednesday. Low-wage workers statewide will see a salary increase for the second time this year as required by a law signed last year by Gov. J.B. Pritzker. The minimum wage will increase to $10 from $9.25. There was a $1 hike in January, from $8.25 per hour, the first statewide increase in more than a decade. In Chicago, the minimum wage will increase $1, to $14 per hour. LGBTQ history must be taught in Illinois public schools starting in the 2020-2021 school year. The bill also requires schools to purchase textbooks that are “non-discriminatory” and “include the roles and contributions of all people protected under the Illinois Human Rights Act.” Under the new laws, the secretary of state will be allowed to suspend or revoke driving privileges when a person is using an electronic communication device while driving and results in “great bodily harm, permanent disability or disfigurement.” The offense is also subject to a minimum $1,000 fine. Illinois banned texting while driving ten years ago.

Community Groups Push A Bold Idea To Revitalize Some Chicago Neighborhoods

A coalition of community groups, has a bold proposal to address decades of abandonment and disinvestment in Chicago neighborhoods. They want to build 1,000 new-construction, single-family homes on the city’s West Side, and 1,000 more on the South Side. They’re asking for hundreds of free, city-owned vacant lots to kick off the effort and to keep the cost of housing down. They say quickly building a critical mass of homes is necessary for real neighborhood revitalization to take place, and they’ve caught the attention of Mayor Lori Lightfoot and city officials, who seem intrigued by their idea. For decades, many of Chicago’s Black neighborhoods have been marred by vacant lots and abandoned buildings. They’ve been losing population. And even decades-long efforts by community groups have not reversed overall trends. – Linda Lutton – WBEZ

In Letter, ISU Faculty And Staff Say Reopening Plan Comes Up Short

letter circulating Tuesday among employees and students argues that Illinois State University’s draft reopening plan does not do enough to protect campus—or the Bloomington-Normal community at large. The letter suggests giving more employees the option to work from home, requiring students to sign a “Redbird pledge” to behave responsibly, and creating a free on-campus testing site, among other ideas. The letter, penned Monday, already has over 100 signatures from faculty, staff, students, and community members. It’s addressed to President Larry Dietz. – Ryan Denham – WGLT

Some Concerned Parents Are Choosing To Homeschool During The Pandemic

Illinois recently released guidelines for schools to return in-person this fall. Some concerned parents are choosing to homeschool their kids this year rather than send them back to in-person classes during COVID-19. Brandi Poreda has homeschooled three of her kids over the last 20 years. She said the biggest advantage of homeschooling is flexibility. Nikki Atterberry and Brad Brad are homeschooling their twin 5-year-old boys. They thought about giving their kids the option to go to public school this year but decided against it because of the pandemic. Atterberry said she thinks if parents knew how enriching it would be for them and their kids, more people might do it. – Peter Medlin – WNIJ

News Around Illinois – June 30, 2020

‘We Are Burying Our Future’: Chicago Mayor Mourns Kids’ Deaths From Weekend Shootings

Mayor Lori Lightfoot says the last two Mondays she’s woken up with an “incredible sense of dread” after reading emails, text messages and media reports about the number of Chicagoans shot and killed over the weekend. On Monday morning, Lightfoot took a moment to express heartache for the latest tally of the dead — including a 10-year-old girl and a 1-year-old boy. Both were killed by stray bullets over the weekend. “It’s bad enough that we’re seeing people shooting, and we’re seeing violence in places that we really haven’t talked about in a number of years. It’s happening all over the city,” the mayor says. “But what causes me the greatest heartache as a mayor, as a mother, and just as a human being is seeing our babies being killed.” – Claudia Morell – WBEZ

McLean County’s Active COVID-19 Case Count Hits Lowest Mark In Two Months

The number of active coronavirus cases in McLean County is at its lowest level in two months. The McLean County Health Department reported Monday there are nine COVID-19 patients who are all isolating at home. No one is hospitalized. Those nine active cases are the lowest tally since April 30, when there were eight. Cases spiked in mid-May after an outbreak at a Bloomington nursing home and among some Illinois State University students. McLean County has not yet seen a big increase in cases despite a slight uptick in testing, a partially reopened economy, and various social justice demonstrations. – Ryan Denham – WGLT

Facebook ‘Likes’ DeKalb With Announcement Of $800 Million Data Center

Facebook is building an $800 million data center in DeKalb. City leaders have been working out the details for months under the secret project name “Ventus.” DeKalb City Manager Bill Nicklas confirmed the project early Tuesday morning. According to a news release, the facility will be the 12th Facebook data center in the United States — and is being touted for its energy efficiency. It’s expected to be supported by 100% renewable energy and use 80% less water than the average data center. – Jenna Dooley and Chase Cavanaugh – WNIJ

Jobs Expected To Come Back As State Reopens

Illinois unemployment in May was up — way up — compared with last year due to COVID-19. But the state reopening is bringing jobs back. Sam Salustro is with the Illinois Department of Employment Security. He said Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan is bringing these numbers down. “As industries have been returning, we’ve seen a lot of jobs return to manufacturing and construction, and we’re seeing it now within the leisure and hospitality business.” – Chase Cavanaugh – WNIJ

News Around Illinois – June 29, 2020

Illinois Reports 646 New Confirmed COVID-19 Cases, 15 Deaths

CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois public health officials reported 646 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases on Sunday and 15 deaths. The latest Illinois Department of Public Health figures show nearly 24,000 tests were administered in the past 24 hours. Overall, there have been 141,723 total confirmed cases in the state since the start of the pandemic and 6,888 deaths. More than 1.5 million tests have been administered. – Associated Press

Illinois Adds Spinal Muscular Atrophy To Newborn Testing

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Every baby newly born in Illinois will be tested for Spinal Muscular Atrophy starting Monday, state health officials said. The Illinois Department of Public Health said Spinal Muscular Atrophy, known as SMA, is a group of hereditary diseases that destroys motor neurons over time and leads to muscle weakness and atrophy. The department said SMA affects about 1 in 11,000 births. Officials said the early screening can let treatment begin before an infant begins to show symptoms. – Associated Press

Start Of July Brings Increase To Illinois Minimum Wage

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois’ minimum wage increases to $10 per hour this week, and state officials are reminding workers to make sure their paychecks reflect the change. The change takes effect Wednesday as July begins. The increase is part of a multi-year plan to bring the minimum wage to $15 by 2025. The first increase to $9.25 came on Jan. 1. Minimum wages in Cook County and the city of Chicago are higher. The county will increase to $13 per hour on Wednesday, and the city to $13.50 for small employers and $14 for employers with 21 or more employees. – Associated Press

Democrats And Republicans Are Critical Of Pritzker’s Handling Of COVID-19 In Prisons

In early April, as the state of Illinois was being hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. JB Pritzker issued an executive order on coronavirus protections focused on the 37,000 inmates locked up in state prisons. That April 6 executive order said “the vast majority” of those inmates were “especially vulnerable to contracting and spreading COVID-19” because of their “close proximity and contact with each other.” But according to data from the Illinois Department of Corrections, only 12 Illinois inmates have been granted medical furloughs. Experts say it’s just one symbol of the governor’s failure to protect inmates and guards from the dangers of COVID-19 in prisons and their surrounding communities, a failure rooted in his prioritizing politics over public health. And critics on both sides of the aisle point out that the extent of the problem in Illinois prisons remains unknown because of the administration’s continuing refusal to do widespread testing of inmates. – Patrick Smith – WBEZ

News Around Illinois – June 26, 2020

Pritzker Touts Illinois Reopening As Other States Backtrack

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Thursday that the state is progressing much more quickly than expected into the fourth phase of his five-part Restore Illinois program in response to the coronavirus, a vaccination for which is still at least several months away. Pritzker and his state public health director, Dr. Ngoze Ezike, congratulated Illinois residents for following efforts to stymie the highly contagious virus, particularly at a time when other states are seeing new surges in the virus, critics say because they reopened their economies too quickly or too aggressively. – John O’Connor – Associated Press

Asians Are The Fastest Growing Racial Demographic In Illinois

Illinois’ population has declined for the sixth year in a row, but some racial groups are growing in number, according to new population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau released Thursday. Asians are the fastest growing racial demographic in the state, increasing by 24% since 2010 and now making up 5.7% of Illinois’ population. They were followed by Latinos, whose population has grown by 9.5% since 2010 and now accounts for 17.5% of the state’s total. The growth of Asian population in Illinois mirrors a national trend; the number of Asian residents in the U.S. has increased 29% since 2010. According to the data, Illinois has also witnessed the steepest decline in Black population among all U.S. states since 2010 — both in number and by percentage. The state’s Black population has fallen by about 56,000, or 3%, since 2010. – Alden Loury – Esther Yoon-Ji Kang – WBEZ

Illinois Won’t Quarantine Visitors From COVID-19 Hot Spot States — For Now

Gov. JB Pritzker said he doesn’t intend to enact a mandatory quarantine for out-of-state visitors to Illinois from COVID-19 hot spots like Florida or Texas. His comments come as New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, which were hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, announced they were enacting such a quarantine for visitors. – Tony Arnold – WBEZ

Supreme Court Sets Standards For New Trials

A recent ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court involving post-conviction petitions could impact pending innocence claims across the state. In a 4-3 decision issued June 18, the state’s high court ruled that the post-conviction petition of a Cook County man convicted in a 1997 shooting death may move forward. An earlier ruling by a Cook County judge, later affirmed by the First District Appellate Court, effectively ended Rickey Robinson’s legal challenge to his conviction. The new court ruling puts his case back on track. – Edith Brady-Lunny – WGLT

Parents Face Childcare Challenges As Illinois Moves To Phase Four

As Illinois continues to re-open, one challenge facing many families is childcare. Lori Longueville, director of Child Care Resource and Referral at John A. Logan College, said there has been an increase in families looking for childcare, as their traditional options, like summer camps, have been cancelled due to the pandemic. It’s a problem that continues to grow, she said, as people who have been furloughed or working remotely return to their offices. Longueville says the issue is compounded by guidelines reducing the number of children allowed in a daycare setting, as well as some home-based providers deciding to stay closed due to concerns about coronavirus. Some childcare facilities have also faced issues with staffing, which was already an issue before the pandemic hit. – Steph Whiteside – WUIS

News Around Illinois – June 25, 2020

Illinois Man Freed After 2008 Murder Conviction Gets Vacated

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — An Illinois man is free after getting his 2008 murder conviction vacated following new evidence that revealed he was not responsible for the death of his infant son, partly because of efforts from a group in the state that’s cleared more than a dozen people wrongfully convicted of crimes. Nathaniel Onsrud, who had been serving a 60-year sentence, was released Tuesday from the Illinois Department of Corrections, The State Journal-Register reported. He’s the 15th client to be released or exonerated as part of the Illinois Innocence Project, which was founded in 2001 and headquartered at the University of Illinois Springfield. – Associated Press

Illinois Teen Identified As Drowning Victim At Indiana Dunes

CHESTERTON, Ind. (AP) — An Illinois teenager has been identified as the swimmer who drowned in Lake Michigan at Indiana Dunes State Park, authorities said. Dominic Snovicky, 18, of Plainfield, Illinois, was rushed to Porter Regional Hospital and pronounced dead at 2:12 p.m. Tuesday, the Porter County coroner’s office said. Snovicky went underwater about 11 a.m., Porter Fire Chief Lewis Craig Jr. said. He was found in the water just after 12:30 p.m. Witnesses said the teen was hit by a wave, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources said. – Associated Press

Chicago School Board Votes To Keep Cops In City Schools

In a tight vote, the Chicago Board of Education voted on Wednesday to continue the controversial practice of assigning nearly 200 police officers to city schools. The 4-to-3 vote came after a lengthy and intense discussion, with students, parents, aldermen and others speaking out on both sides of the issue. The majority spoke in favor of ending the Chicago Police Department program. But in the end, the majority of the board members said they worried about what would happen if they pulled police. “Safety is of the utmost concern,” said Board President Miguel del Valle before voting to continue the police-in-schools program. – Sarah Karp – WBEZ

As A Bear Roams In Illinois, Wildlife Officials Want It Left Alone

A black bear has been spotted several times this month in western Illinois. And authorities are telling the public to avoid getting too close or agitating the animal. It’s unusual for a bear to show up in Illinois, although it happens from time to time. They usually come from the north, like this one that was seen near the Wisconsin border on June 10th. The state has advised residents to avoid the bear.  That includes not feeding the animal or trying to get  closer to snap a picture. “We don’t want to intervene.  We want it to safely continue its journey to its destination, wherever that is.  We need the public to leave the bear alone,” Fitzsimons said.  “Black bears are the smallest bear species. They’re pretty timid.  But when provoked, they can attack.” – Sean Crawford – WUIS

News Around Illinois – June 24, 2020

Champaign Firefighter Tests Positive For COVID-19

A firefighter for the City of Champaign tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a press release released by the city. The name of the firefighter that tested positive is not being released, however, the city was in contact with the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District for protocol instruction. As a result, the city placed 12 other firefighters in a two-week quarantine in order to prevent the spread of the virus. The afflicted employee will not be able to return to work until the CUPHD deems it safe.  The city notes that services will not be affected by the temporary loss of the 13 firefighters, and that all stations will continue to be fully staffed. – Jose Zepeda – WILL

Ten Mahomet-Seymore Students Test Positive For Coronavirus

After attending an “unofficial” prom at a private home in Mahomet, 10 students have tested positive for coronavirus. The CUPHD is investigating and following up with the students and stressing that anyone that attended the event be tested for coronavirus. In response to the unofficial prom, Mahomet-Seymore Schools announced that it is suspending all in-person activities such as athletic conditioning and behind-the-wheel driver’s education, as a form of caution as the CUPHD continues its investigation. – Jose Zepeda – WILL

State-Distributed Masks Among Precautions For School Opening

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois public schools and colleges will open this fall despite the COVID-19 pandemic, with help from the the state to provide 2.5 million face coverings to K-12 students to help prevent transmission of the virus, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Tuesday. Pritzker was joined by a group of education administrators in Chicago to announce COVID-19 safety guidelines for community colleges and universities. Illinois has received $569 million in federal pandemic relief funds. The bulk of that will go directly to elementary and secondary schools to handle local needs in response to the outbreak. The Illinois State Board of Education will use $54 million of it to help schools buy laptops and tablets, internet connectivity, virtual coaching for teachers and professional development. – John O’Connor – Associated Press

Illinois Courts To Get Diversity And Inclusion Officer

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The Illinois Supreme Court is recruiting a chief diversity and inclusion officer for the judicial branch of state government to address racial justice. The court said Monday the officer will propose practices, procedures and rules for Illinois courts to protect the constitutional rights of the public. It said the position will work with the Supreme Court and leaders throughout the judicial branch to achieve goals related to diversity, equity and inclusion. Recent events “have exposed frailties in our public institutions and brought to the forefront the disproportionate impact the application of certain laws, rules, policies and practices have had on the African American population, the Latinx community, and other people of color in Illinois and nationally,” the court said in a statement. – Associated Press


News Around Illinois – June 23, 2020

Chicago To Join State In Reopening Museums, Zoos On Friday

CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago will join the rest of Illinois in the next reopening phase starting Friday, allowing museums, gyms and zoos to open for business with restrictions in place. Public health officials said Monday that COVID-19 metrics required for reopening under state and city plans have been met, with a continuing decline in new infections. Previously, Chicago’s reopening after a stay-at-home order imposed during the pandemic was behind Illinois with stricter standards than the state. – Associated Press

Illinois’ Lake County Starting Up Weddings Again, Virtually

WAUKEGAN, Ill. (AP) — You can’t use the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse not to get married any more — at least not in Lake County. The 19th Judicial Circuit Court suspended marriages and civil unions in March to protect the health of the public but it was scheduled to start officiating weddings and civil unions — virtually — on Monday. The only requirement for the general public is that at least one member of the couple getting married be a Lake County resident. All active-duty members of the military are also eligible. To have a judge officiate at a virtual wedding, couples must call the county clerk’s office to set up an appointment to apply for a marriage license and then visit the clerk of the local circuit court to pay $10 in cash on the day the license is issued. – Associated Press

Restaurants Eagerly Await Reopening This Week

The State of Illinois will enter Phase Four of its pandemic recovery plan this Friday July 26, Governor J.B. Pritzker announced. One of the most talked about aspects of the next phase is that diners will be allowed inside restaurants. A number of restaurants used to serving diners inside have been making a living offering curbside service.  Illinois Restaurant Association President Sam Toia said that the last 12 weeks have been devastating for business. – Bill Wheelhouse – WUIS

2020 Illinois Kids Count Report Shows Improvements But Significant Barriers Remain

Voices for Illinois Children released their 2020 Illinois Kids Count report on health. The report shows improvements in the outcome of children’s health over the last decade, but gaps for health care for children in the state remain. The reports indicates a larger gap for health care for children of color and inequalities in health well-being and other socioeconomic areas for children of race and ethnicity. The state’s overall rank in child well being went from 23 to 24 in the latest national kids count report. – Benjy Jeffords – WUIS

News Around Illinois – June 22, 2020

Illinois Reports 658 Additional COVID-19 Cases, 23 Deaths

CHICAGO — Illinois is reporting 658 new cases of COVID-19 and 23 more deaths. The Illinois Department of Public Health released updated numbers Sunday, saying there have now been 136,762 cases since the start of the pandemic and 6,647 deaths in Illinois. However, the state’s rate of positive tests continues to drop. The preliminary seven-day statewide rate was 2%. The rate hit a high of 23% in late April. Public health officials announced more than 23,800 tests in the past 24 hours. Starting Monday, Chicago’s lakefront trail and other outdoor trails will reopen. Later in the week, Chicago restaurants are expected to allow limited indoor dining. – Associated Press

Group: Remove Statue of Illinois’ 3rd Governor, Slave Owner

EDWARDSVILLE — Residents of a southwestern Illinois community want a statue of the state’s third governor removed from a public plaza, arguing that he owned slaves and used his power to protect the practice. The (Edwardsville) Intelligencer reports nearly 500 people have joined a Facebook group supporting petitioning the city to tear down a Ninian Edwards statute and rename the plaza with his moniker. Edwards died in 1833 and is also the namesake of the community but residents aren’t pushing to change that. Lifelong Edwardsville resident, Kirk Schlueter, says he thinks it is one way to boost the civil rights movement happening nationwide. – Associated Press

Illinois Officials To Begin Treating For Gypsy Moth

SPRINGFIELD — State officials say they’ll begin treating northern parts of the state for gypsy moth later this month. The destructive moth eats more than 250 species of trees and shrubs. The insects are capable of stripping plants bare, which leave them more susceptible to other insects, disease and death. The Illinois Department of Agriculture plans to treat for the insect on Thursday and Friday in parts of JoDaviess, Kendall, Ogle and Will counties. Officials say their focus is to disrupt mating by using a pheromone product through an aerial application. State officials say it isn’t harmful to humans or animals. – Associated Press

Illinois Man Gets 30 Years In 2015 Slaying of Army Veteran

SPRINGFIELD — A central Illinois man has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for the 2015 slaying of an Army veteran who prosecutors say was fatally shot during a dispute over a small amount of drugs. Larry Broomfield of Springfield was sentenced Friday after being convicted of first-degree murder in September by a Sangamon County jury in Louis Tuttle’s January 2015 killing. The State Journal-Register reports Broomfield was 16 when Tuttle, a former Lanphier High School football player who served in the U.S. Army, was slain. Broomfield was tried as an adult. A co-defendant of Broomfield’s is scheduled to stand trial in August. – Associated Press

World Trapshooting Meet’s Cancellation Angers Southern Ill.

CARBONDALE — The decision by Illinois officials to cancel a world sport-shooting championship in southern Illinois because of the coronavirus pandemic has lawmakers from the area upset. The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan reports that the 121st Grand American World Trapshooting Championships at a state-owned complex near Sparta, scheduled for Aug. 5-15, is canceled. The event generates about $30 million in sales tax revenue from visitors lodging and eating in the area. But the state public health director, Dr. Ngoze Ezike, and Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Colleen Callahan concluded they could not prevent transmission of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – June 19, 2020

At Some CPS Schools, Conversations And Peace Circles Will Replace Traditional Punishment

When Iysha Jones and her team took over Doolittle Elementary School last year, it was a place where students had trouble talking about how they felt because they expected bad behavior to result in harsh discipline, like suspensions. So Jones was elated when she learned recently that she will be one of 15 principals who will be able to hire what is called a restorative justice coordinator next year. Restorative justice practices focus on preventing harms and addressing harms through conversations and peace circles, instead of punishing a student. – Sarah Karp – WBEZ

Cop-Organized Walk Seeks Unity Against Police Brutality

Frustrated and disgusted by the events surrounding the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police last month, Normal Police Department third-shift officer Jasmine Johnson went to her chief and asked for a show of department solidarity with protesters. The result was Thursday’s United Against Police Brutality Walk through Uptown Normal, drawing about 100 community residents and police. – Willis Kern – WGLT

Two Illinois Legislators Are Happy About The Supreme Court’s Decision For DACA

The U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 Thursday to uphold the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Two northern Illinois legislators are applauding the decision. State Senator Cristina Castro of Elgin represents Illinois’ 22nd District. She said she is relieved that things turned out the way they did. State Representative Barbara Hernandez represents Illinois’ 83rd district. “Today the students have won, the ‘Dreamers’ have won. And we should continue fighting,” Hernandez said. “We should continue fighting for what we deserve in the community.” – Yvonne Boose – WBEZ

Confirmed COVID-19 Cases Rapidly Rising Among Peoria’s Latinx Population

Hispanic and Latinx people now account for more COVID-19 cases in Peoria County than Blacks. As of Wednesday, just over 30 percent of Peoria County’s 406 confirmed COVID-19 cases identify as Hispanic or Latinx, and a little under 30 percent identify as African American or Black. The rest identify as white. Compare that to a month ago, on May 17, when a bit over 40 percent each of Peoria County’s then-reported 158 cases identified as either white or Black. Another 10 percent or so identified as “other.” – Tim Shelly – WCBU

News Around Illinois – June 18, 2020

Pritzker Announces Rent Support And Business Relief Fund

CHICAGO (AP) — Illinoisans struggling to pay mortgages and rent and small businesses, all impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, will have access to $900 million in grants, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Wednesday. According to state officials, $150 million of the funds, to be administered by the Illinois Housing Development Authority, will be available for emergency rental assistance, with the same amount for mortgage assistance, beginning in August. Pritzker also announced a residential eviction ban will be extended to July 31. He first banned evictions when he issued a stay-at-home order on March 21. – Associated Press

Illinois Supreme Court Rules Police Complaint Files Should Be Saved

The Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday rejected an effort by a Chicago police union to force the destruction of thousands of police complaint records that are more than five years old. The decision was a victory to police accountability advocates who say the records can help identify problematic officers and patterns of abuse. The opinion came in response to a legal challenge from the police union that represents about 12,000 rank-and-file Chicago cops. The union was seeking to enforce a part of its contract with the city that requires old police complaint files be destroyed. – Patrick Smith – WBEZ

A Growing Number Of Illinois Employers Will Observe Juneteenth As A Paid Day Off

Akele Parnell has been celebrating Juneteenth for many years, but this Friday will be the first time he officially has the day off from work. Parnell’s organization, a small team of mission-oriented attorneys, is part of a growing number of workplaces to mark Juneteenth as a paid holiday for the first time this year. In the Chicago area, the trend includes locally-headquartered giants, such as biotechnology AbbVie and insurance company Allstate, as well as small retailers and nonprofits. – Odette Yousef – WBEZ

Back To School Guidance Expected This Month

A list of health and safety guidelines for getting students back in classrooms is scheduled to be released before the end of the month. It will provide rules and recommendations for more than 850 school districts resuming classes this fall. A series of webinars with educational leaders is being planned once the list is made public. – Sean Crawford – WUIS

IL Attorney General Alleges Plasma Company Discrimination

The Illinois Attorney General has filed a discrimination lawsuit against a plasma collection company that has a location in Normal. Attorney General Kwame Raoul said in the complaint the policies of SCL Plasma, Inc. and parent company CSL Behring LLC prevented people from providing plasma because of their disabilities. CSL Plasma has 14 locations around the state, including Normal, Champaign, Peoria, Decatur, and Springfield in central Illinois. According to Raoul’s complaint, workers at a facility turned away a woman who had a service dog and told her she did not meet donation criteria. During the investigation, the Attorney General’s office found a copy of an internal CSL policy encouraging staff to discriminate against people with service animals, according to the AG’s office. – Charlie Schlenker – WNIJ

News Around Illinois – June 17, 2020

ComEd Quadruples Payments To Powerhouse Law Firm Amidst Corruption Probe

Amid a sprawling federal corruption probe, Commonwealth Edison quadrupled its payments last year to a powerhouse Chicago-based law firm that’s representing the utility giant in the investigation of its Springfield lobbying practices. Federal regulatory documents show ComEd paid Jenner & Block nearly $2.4 million in 2019 — more than what the power company had reported paying the law firm in the previous four years combined. WBEZ first reported last year the feds are investigating whether ComEd hired politically connected consultants — some with ties to powerful Illinois House Speaker and state Democratic Party boss Michael Madigan — in order to win favorable government actions in Springfield, including electricity rate hikes. – Tony Arnold – Dan Mihalopoulos – WBEZ

Some South And West Side Preschools Might Close June 30. Here’s Why.

Preschool providers, parents and even some young children are accusing Mayor Lori Lightfoot of decimating community-based programs that have educated and cared for children in their neighborhoods for decades. On Tuesday, about 200 teachers, activists and parents held a march and rally at City Hall, just weeks before some of the programs will lose needed funding on June 30. They said Lightfoot promised to meet with them, but that meeting had “fallen through the cracks” in the midst of the pandemic. Now some of them might have to close down. – Adriana Cardona-Maguigad – WBEZ

Illinois Is Hiring Thousands Of Contact Tracers To Help Slow COVID-19. Here’s How To Become One.

The state of Illinois is looking to hire 4,000 contract tracers, with an additional 600 in Chicago. You don’t need a background in health care to sign up for the program. The job can be done from home and the city of Chicago says it’ll pay tracers at least $20 an hour to start. Students at College of DuPage are also eligible for a scholarship. Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker has called contact tracing “arguably our most sustainable tool” to contain COVID-19. – Peter Medlin – WNIJ

Schimpf “Bitterly Disappointed” In State Decision On Grand American

Southern Illinois leaders say they’re disappointed with a decision that bars the Amateur Trapshooters Association from hosting their Grand American competition in Sparta this year. State Senator Paul Schimpf says he was “bitterly disappointed” with the decision, announced Monday. He says the World Shooting and Recreational Complex in Sparta should be an economic engine for the region – now he’s worried about the facility’s viability. State leaders pointed to concerns about the spread of COVID-19, but Schimpf says the ATA and regional leaders had a detailed plan ready. – Jennifer Fuller – WSIU


News Around Illinois – June 16, 2020

GOP Sues Pritzker Seeking Exemption From 10-Person Limit

CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois’ Democratic governor was sued Monday by the state’s Republican Party, which is seeking exemption from the 10-person limit on public gatherings. The Chicago Tribune reports the GOP contends in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago that Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s limit on in-person gatherings to battle the coronavirus curtails people’s First Amendment rights. The GOP wants the court to exempt political parties from the cap on gatherings and seeks permission to hold meetings without size restrictions during the time leading up to the November election. – Associated Press

19 Deaths And 473 New COVID-19 Cases Announced For Illinois

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The number of coronavirus deaths in Illinois increased by 19 to 6,326, the Illinois Department of Public Health announced Monday. An additional 473 new cases of COVID-19 was reported Monday by the health department, bringing the state’s total to 133,016 cases. It was the lowest daily tally of cases since March 30 and were the result of 18,627 new processed tests. The state’s preliminary seven-day positivity rate for cases remains at 3%. On Sunday, Illinois also saw 19 deaths from COVID-19. – Associated Press

Must Chicago Destroy Records Of Police Complaints After 5 Years? Illinois Supreme Court Scheduled To Decide This Week

In the midst of an almost deafening national and local outcry over police abuses, the Illinois Supreme Court may order the city of Chicago to destroy all records of complaints against police officers that are more than five years old, potentially undermining attempts to identify problematic officers. A decision is scheduled to be issued Thursday in a legal challenge brought by the union representing Chicago police officers, asserting that their contract with the city requires the destruction of old complaints. – Patrick Smith – WBEZ

Judge Allows Man Accused Of Rape To Be Own Lawyer At Trial

URBANA, Ill. (AP) — A Champaign County judge ruled Monday he will allow a former University of Illinois police officer accused of raping four women to proceed in his case without a lawyer. The News-Gazette in Champaign reports Jerald Sandage told Judge Roger Webber he understood he had a right to an attorney and that one would be appointed if he couldn’t afford one. Sandage, 49, also said he understood other admonitions from Webber, among them that representing himself without a lawyer would involve more than just “telling your story” and that he wouldn’t be assisted by a stand-by lawyer. Sandage of LeRoy is charged with sexual assault, sexual abuse and intimidation for alleged attacks on four women in incidents that date back to June 2012. Sandage was a University of Illinois police officer for 12 years and resigned in February. – Associated Press

Bloomington Looks To Revive Parts Of Downtown Plan

Bloomington City Council members expressed a desire Monday to revive a three-year-old downtown revitalization plan now that a major component is off the table. The council previously shelved the 2017 report after Bloomington Public Library officials stated their intentions to expand at the library’s current location rather than take part in a so-called catalyst project that would have included a downtown Connect Transit bus transfer center. – Eric Stock – WGLT

News Around Illinois – June 15, 2020

Illinois Health Official Announce 19 New Coronavirus Deaths

CHICAGO — Public health officials in Illinois are reporting 19 more deaths linked to COVID-19 and 672 new coronavirus cases. The Illinois Department of Public Health said Sunday that overall there have been 6,308 deaths and 132,543 cases in the state since the pandemic began. The state has reported 22,040 tests in the past 24 hours and the seven-day statewide rate for positives tests is 3%. Nearly 1.2 million people in Illinois have been tested. – Associated Press

Report: 75% of Chicago Curfew Violation Arrestees Were Black

CHICAGO – A published report says black people made up 75% of those arrested in Chicago for alleged violations of a curfew put in place following demonstrations over George Floyd’s death. The Chicago Sun-Times analyzed police data from the first five days of the curfew imposed May 30 and lifted June 7. The racial disparity in Chicago, where black people are about 30% of the population, drew criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. A Chicago police spokesman says the department’s curfew enforcement was “universal” regardless of race or neighborhood. – Associated Press

Chicago Group Seeks Detained Immigrants’ Release In Pandemic

CHICAGO — A Chicago advocacy group is working to get dozens of high-risk immigrant detainees nationwide released during the coronavirus outbreak. The National Immigrant Justice Center’s efforts come as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has faced growing criticism from members of Congress, lawyers and activists who say the agency hasn’t done enough to curb the virus. More than half the detainees at a southern Illinois facility have COVID-19. Nationally, there have been roughly 1,800 COVID-19 cases of ICE detainees and two deaths. ICE says it has taken protective measures, but detainees and activists say they’re applied unevenly and don’t go far enough. – Associated Press

Cicadas Make A High-Protein Snack For Brookfield Zoo Animals

BROOKFIELD — The early emergence of cicadas in Illinois provided animals at the Brookfield Zoo a rare treat. Officials at the zoo west of Chicago said the red-eyed cicadas make for a nutritious snack that’s high in protein and low in fat. Animal care staff this week provided cicadas to white-throated monitor lizards, meerkats, golden-lion tamarins and the owl-like tawny frogmouth. Sloth bears also got a share, frozen in ice. – Associated Press

Grand Tower Approves $100K Loan To Repair Sinkhole

GRAND TOWER — Grand Tower city leaders have approved a $100,000 emergency loan to repair a sinkhole that has been getting bigger and deeper since flooding overwhelmed the Mississippi River in the small southern Illinois city last year. Fire Chief Dennis Wright says it started off small, but earlier this month, the road buckled and the hole grew. It is nearly 30 feet in diameter and 5 feet deep, and has brought the sewer system to a halt. The city is waiting on $4.5 million in flood recovery funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The Southern Illinoisan says City Council approved the loan June 8. – Associated Press

Officials: Illinoisans Can Preregister For License, ID Needs

SPRINGFIELD — Secretary of State Jesse White says Illinois residents can preregister online when applying for a driver’s license or identification card. White said Friday that he hopes preregistering will save time at driver’s services facilities. Customers have encountered long lines after weeks of the offices being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Residents can visit to provide information ahead of their visit to an office. White’s office says people will still need to bring all required paperwork to be verified by a clerk in person. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – June 12, 2020

NTSB: Plane Spiraled Before Fatal Crash In Illinois Field

CARLINVILLE, Ill. (AP) — A small plane that crashed last month while heading from Missouri to Michigan, killing four men aboard, entered into a “right descending spiral” before it went down in a southwestern Illinois farm field, authorities said. Investigators will examine the wreckage to determine if there was any mechanical failure as well as study the plane’s maintenance history and the pilot’s history, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a preliminary report released this week. Found at the scene of the wreckage was a GoPro camera, which federal investigators are studying for clues. It may be more than a year before the cause of the crash can be determined, authorities said. – Associated Press

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker Hired 35 People From House Speaker Michael Madigan’s Clout List

Despite repeatedly promising to be “independent” of longtime Democratic boss Michael Madigan, first-term Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker filled many prominent roles in his administration with people recommended by the state House speaker and party chairman. As Pritzker won the election in 2018 and was sworn into office last year, Madigan’s office sent him the names of scores of job seekers and the positions in state government they desired. Madigan’s successful recommendations far outnumbered those from other legislative leaders, with records showing the new governor made nearly three dozen hires and board appointments off the speaker’s clout list. – Dan Mihalopoulos – WBEZ

Gov. Pritzker Says Illinois Isn’t Quite Ready For Phase 4

Despite calls to reopen, Governor J-B Pritzker says Illinois is not ready. Senate republicans and some other local officials would like to see the state move to phase four now, saying businesses don’t understand why they can’t fully re-open when protests with hundreds and even thousands of people are being held. But, Governor Pritzker says the pandemic isn’t anything states were expecting or knew how to deal with at first. – WSIU

Judge: State Prisons Need To Improve Services To Hearing Impaired

A federal Judge says the state has been too slow in responding to the needs of inmates with hearing problems. The judge from the U.S. District Court’s Northern Division admonished the Illinois Department of Corrections for its slow response in helping hard-of-hearing inmates get tested and fitted with proper equipment. Rachel Weisberg, an attorney with disability rights group Equip for Equality, said there are 1,500 inmates who need devices like hearing aids. – Bill Wheelhouse – WNIJ

IHSA Summer Sports Guidelines Released, Future Of Team Sports Uncertain

The Department of Public Health’s new guidelines require teams with ten or more players to be separated into smaller groups. Practice time is limited to three hours per day, and the use of sport-specific equipment, certain indoor facilities, and even water jugs, is prohibited. IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said the Association worked on the original guidelines with their Sports Medicine Advisory Committee and sent them to IDPH for approval. In a statement, he commended the work of the organization. – Mike Smith – WUIS

Chicagoans Inch Their Way Back To Public Transit And Air Travel

Travel by planes, trains and taxis remain at dismal levels compared to pre-pandemic trends. But, as stay-at-home restrictions lift across the state, transit agencies are registering slight upticks, and more flyers are passing through O’Hare and Midway airports. – Mariah Woelfel – WBEZ


News Around Illinois – June 11, 2020

State Grants To Help Child Care Centers Reopen

As Illinois begins to re-open, and people go back to work, they’ll need safe and reliable child care. That was the message Wednesday from Gov. JB Pritzker when he announced a sizeable portion of federal CARES Act funds will go to child care providers. At Skip-a-long Child Development Services in Moline, he said he and the General Assembly had agreed to spend $270 million from COVID relief funds to help closed centers reopen, and help those that had managed to stay open to expand and accept more children. In addition to re-opening safely, the governor hopes the federal money will help hold down the cost of child care. Providers can help decide how to distribute the money by filling out an online survey on the Illinois Network of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies website. – Herb Trix – WVIK

Heavy Rains, High Winds Lash Illinois, Indiana, Michigan

HAMMOND, Ind. (AP) — Strong wind gusts and heavy rains from remnants of Tropical Storm Cristobal flooded roads and knocked out power Wednesday to thousands of customers across Indiana, Illinois and Michigan. Utilities in the three states reported more than 20,000 homes and businesses without power as of late morning. The weather service issued a gale warning through Wednesday evening on Lake Michigan because of the possibility of strong winds creating waves of 6 to 10 feet (1.8 to 3.1 meters). Scattered severe thunderstorms were possible Wednesday in Michigan, forecasters said. – Associated Press

Pritzker Signs $43B Illinois Budget Reliant on Federal Grant

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Gov. J.B. Pritzker has signed state budget heavily reliant on federal assistance because of revenue lost to COVID-19 restrictions on commercial and social interaction. But even short of revenue, Democrats who control the General Assembly sent the Democratic governor a $42.9 billion spending plan, 7.5% larger than the current year’s outlay. It takes effect July 1. The legislation relies on billions of dollars in hoped-for federal assistance and allows borrowing up to $5 billion from a federal COVID-19 relief fund. Republicans wanted spending cuts, but Democrats said balancing the budget with cuts would be too drastic. – Associated Press

ISU’s ‘New Normal’ Takes Shape With Reopening Plan

Illinois State University will welcome students back to campus in August but could push many larger classes online and finish face-to-face instruction before fall break, according to a preliminary reopening plan released Wednesday. The plan calls for a “blended” approach for fall instruction, with some classes on campus and others online, or a little of both. Residence halls and dining centers would be open, albeit with new precautions, like limited dorm guests and more spread out seating. Everyone on campus would be expected to wear face coverings. The report answers some—but not all—questions about what life will look like at ISU when classes resume Aug. 17. Much of the plan is framed as “recommendations,” implying they may not happen as-is. – Ryan Denham – WGLT

Aldermen Debate CARES Act Money As Lightfoot Launches City Relief Plan

Chicago households left out of the COVID-19 federal stimulus package may now be eligible for $1,000 from a new private fund Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Wednesday. The news came on the same day City Council members debated how to distribute more than $1.1 billion from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, known as the CARES Act. Chicago is also now grappling with a $700 million budget shortfall for 2020, according to the mayor’s office. Applications to the $5 million “Chicago Resiliency Fund” will open on June 22. The program is being funded by private donations and will be administered by The Resurrection Project and Open Society Foundations. – Becky Vevea – WBEZ

As Hospitals Get Busier, Need For Blood Donations Rises

The shortage of blood donations due to the COVID-19 pandemic is becoming more troublesome, as patient traffic at area hospitals revs back up. The Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center—which provides blood products to hospitals in Peoria, Canton, Bloomington, and Galesburg, among other areas—is calling for those who are healthy and able to consider donating. Katie Middleton is a clinical laboratory scientist at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center — one of MVRBC’s partners. She said the need for donations became more urgent as hospitals resumed admitting patients for procedures. That’s on top of the need generated by COVID-19 patients and the spike in trauma patients the hospital typically sees in the summer. – Dana Vollmer, WCBU

News Around Illinois – June 10, 2020

A Dialogue On Race Begins With Police In Bloomington-Normal

NORMAL – On Saturday, a diverse group of around 60 people gathered in the parking lot of CrossFit Bloomington-Normal to have a conversation about race. Called “The Community Unification Project,” the event was organized by CrossFit owner Chad Hobbs in coordination with the Normal Police Department (NPD). The crowd then broke into smaller discussion groups with a reminder from Hobbs:  “I don’t like cancel culture. I’m a big fan of keeping people in the network,” he said. Hobbs encouraged the groups, each of which comprised a mix of community members and Normal police officers, to speak openly, without fear of reprisal. The point of the event, he said, was to bring people together in face-to-face conversation. – Sarah Nardi – WGLT

Fallout From The Pandemic Blows A $700M Hole In Chicago’s Budget

CHICAGO – Chicago is now facing a $700 million budget shortfall this year due to the COVID-19 economic downturn, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot acknowledged Tuesday that “2021 isn’t looking great, either.” Budget officials released the new projected 2020 deficit after reviewing the numbers from March and April, when most of Illinois’ economy and amusements were shut down to slow the spread of coronavirus. Lightfoot said tax revenue from hotels, restaurants and other large events tanked while the stay-at-home orders were in place. – Becky Vevea, WBEZ 

Bradley Athletes Commit To Fight For Racial Justice

PEORIA – Dozens of Bradley University student athletes staged a peaceful demonstration Tuesday night, protesting racial injustice and inequality. Nearly 100 players, coaches, family members, and university administrators marched from Bradley’s Renaissance Coliseum down Main Street to the Peoria Civic Center, where they held a brief rally in memory of George Floyd. Sophomore Terry Nolan Jr. of the Bradley Braves men’s basketball team reflected on how he felt watching Floyd’s funeral processions that afternoon. “As I watching it, the word ‘moment’ kept coming to my mind. ‘Moment.’ We can’t allow George Floyd’s moment of death to just be a moment. We need his moment to catapult our movement,” Nolan said. – Dana Vollmer, WCBU 

Department Receives $4.9 Million For Contact Tracing

ROCKFORD – The Winnebago County Health Department has received a sum of money from the federal government to improve its contact tracing efforts. Public Health Administrator Sandra Martell said $4.9 million will go toward hiring 51 temporary full-time employees for the effort. She says there will be a variety of positions, including clerks, disease investigation specialists, and epidemiologists. Dedicated teams will address long-term care facilities, congregate settings, and other areas such as schools and childcare centers. The Department hopes to have the positions filled by June 30th. – Chase Cavanaugh, WNIJ

News Around Illinois – June 9, 2020

Remnants of Cristobal Will Bring Winds And Heavy Rains To Illinois

Tropical Storm Cristobal could soon renew its strength by merging with another storm system to form a large cyclone. After drenching much of the South, forecasters now expect the storm to bring fierce winds and heavy rain to much of the Midwest by Tuesday. Forecasters say significant river flooding is possible in the upper Mississippi River valley. – Associated Press


Illinois Reports 867 New Coronavirus Cases, 43 New Deaths

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Department of Public Health is reporting 867 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases in the state to 127,757. The department on Sunday reported 43 additional deaths from the disease in the past 24 hours, raising that total number to 5,904. The Health Department says nearly 21,000 tests for COVID-19 were administered within the past 24 hours, for a total of slightly more than one million. The health department says the preliminary seven-day statewide positivity rate for cases as a percent of total tested from May 31 through June 6 is 5%. – Associated Press

University Of Illinois Releases Draft Plan For Returning To Campus In Fall 2020

URBANA – As the state moves through Phase 3 of the Restore Illinois plan, officials at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign say it’s unlikely that full in-person classes will return in the fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, a task force in charge of planning out strategies for a return to campus is laying out plans for a modified reopening of classes. In a report draft released last week, the task force says the goal is to inch toward face-to-face learning as much as possible, since in-person instruction provides students with vital interactions and opportunities, and remote learning is even more difficult for those who lack access to technology, quiet spaces or support networks. But due to public health concerns, the U of I is considering a modified approach, which would involve a mix of in-person and remote learning. – Lecia Bushak, Illinois Newsroom

Small Plane Crashes In Corn Field Near Monee, Pilot Killed

MONEE  — A pilot is dead after a small plane he was flying crashed into a cornfield near a small northern Illinois airport. Will County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Kathy Hoffmeyer says the single-engine plane had just taken off from Bult Field near the community of Monee and was trying to land there when one witness said the aircraft sounded like it was having engine trouble before it spun out of control and crashed. Nobody else was injured an the pilot has not been identified.  Hoffmeyer says investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration are at the scene trying to determine the cause of the crash. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – June 8, 2020

Illinois Reports 867 New Coronavirus Cases, 43 New Deaths

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Department of Public Health is reporting 867 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases in the state to 127,757. The department on Sunday reported 43 additional deaths from the disease in the past 24 hours, raising that total number to 5,904. The Health Department says nearly 21,000 tests for COVID-19 were administered within the past 24 hours, for a total of slightly more than one million. The health department says the preliminary seven-day statewide positivity rate for cases as a percent of total tested from May 31 through June 6 is 5%. – Associated Press

Peaceful Protest In Champaign Draws Huge Crowd

CHAMPAIGN – Thousands gathered in the streets of downtown Champaign on Saturday afternoon for a peaceful march in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Protesters gathered in Hessel Park around noon to meet and make signs, and began marching soon thereafter. People of all ages and skin colors joined in the march, chanting things like “I can’t breathe,” “Black lives matter” and “Being black is not a crime.”  Click here to read the entire story. – Dana Cronin, Illinois Newsroom

Durbin: Congress Working On National Police Conduct Bill

SPRINGFIELD – At a meeting with faith and youth leaders in Springfield, US Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) says Congress will introduce a measure to address police conduct. Durbin says the legislation will  include a ban on the use of choke holds and knee holds, outline acceptable use of force by officers, and make suggestions on recruitment and training. Meanwhile, some  protestors have called for the government to defund the police.  But Durbin says the country should spend extra money to retrain police, and do periodic investigations of all officers. – Olivia Mitchell, NPR Illinois

Illinois Scientists Study Disease-Carrying Mosquito’s Spread

CHAMPAIGN — University of Illinois researchers are studying how a disease-carrying mosquito has spread in the state for decades. They focused on Asian tiger mosquitoes, an invasive bug that can spread dengue fever and other diseases. The mosquitoes originated in southeast Asia, came to Texas in the 1980s and spread to Illinois. Researchers at a division of the university’s Prairie Research Institute say the mosquitoes were able to weather winters in cities like Chicago, which are warmer because of the roads and concrete, surviving in places like sewers and subways. Their findings were published in the Journal of Medical Entomology. – Associated Press

Parts of Navy Pier To Reopen Wednesday With Masked Staff

CHICAGO — Chicago’s Navy Pier plans to begin reopening Wednesday, nearly three months after closing as part of state and city efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Initial reopening plans include outdoor restaurant spaces, tour boats, parking garages and outdoor parks and piers. Navy Pier officials said carnival rides including its Ferris wheel and indoor spaces including the Chicago Children’s Museum will not reopen yet. Fireworks shows also remain shut down. Staff who work directly with visitors will be required to wear face coverings and Navy Pier has assigned some employees as “social distancing ambassadors” to remind people to keep space between groups. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – June 5, 2020

Fire Chief Apologizes For Sharing Post On Shooting Looters

LINCOLN — The fire chief of the central Illinois city of Lincoln is apologizing for sharing a social media post asserting supporters of President Donald Trump would blow the heads off looters. Chief Bob Dunovsky said Thursday the decision to share the Facebook post was made “without much thought.” The written apology was made to Lincoln Mayor Seth Goodman, the City Council and the city’s residents. The post said looters should target homes with signs supporting Vermont senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders or former Vice President Joe Biden. It noted “they don’t believe in guns.” Vandalism and looting has followed peaceful protests of the death of George Floyd as a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck. – Associated Press

Community-Based COVID-19 Testing Sites Remove Criteria To Expand Availability

CHICAGO – Community-based COVID-19 testing sites in Illinois will now be open for anyone to be tested without certain criteria. That’s meant to prevent future spread of the virus as the state reopens, according to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA). Testing is free at the state-operated drive-thru sites, including the site at Marketplace Mall in Champaign. No insurance or doctor referral is needed. The Illinois Department of Health (IDPH) recommends that people who have attended a protest recently should get tested for COVID-19.

929 new COVID-19 cases Thursday brings the state’s number of cases to 124,759. With an additional 116 deaths in the last day, Illinois’ total fatalities are now at 5,736. Champaign County reported nine new COVID-19 cases Thursday, for a total of 671. Coles County reported one death Thursday, a resident at Charleston Rehab and Healthcare facility. There were an additional 5 COVID-19 cases reported Thursday in Coles County, for a total of 136 cases. In Macon County, one new death Thursday brings the total fatalities to 20. The county also reported 3 new cases, bringing the total to 200. – Lecia Bushak, Illinois Newsroom

Champaign Bail Reform Group Helps Release 16 People Charged In Looting Incidents

CHAMPAIGN – The Champaign County Bailout Coalition paid more than $46,000 to bail 16 people out of the county jail. The 16 were among 27 arrested following looting and property damage reported in and near the Marketplace Mall last Sunday. Peaceful protests and some incidents of civil unrest have erupted across the country in response to the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. Click here to read the entire story. – Lee V. Gaines, Illinois Newsroom

Controversial Herbicide Dicamba No Longer Legal, Federal Court Rules

Farmers can no longer spray the controversial pesticide dicamba over-the-top of genetically modified soybeans and cotton, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday. Dicamba is a weed killer that skyrocketed in use in recent years after agribusiness giant Monsanto introduced genetically engineered soybean and cotton seeds that resist the herbicide. The ruling means that farmers will have to immediately cease the use of dicamba on millions of acres of crops across the Midwest and South. About 60 million acres of crops will be affected. Click here to read the entire story.Johnathan Hettinger/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

News Around Illinois – June 4, 2020

State Lawmakers Call For Special Session Over Police Brutality

SPRINGFIELD – At least three Illinois House members say they want a special legislative session to strike on issues of law enforcement reform and accountability while police brutality has the nation’s focus. Representative Curt Tarver (D-Chicago) says among bills he would like to see addressed include one that would strip officers found guilty of crimes such as murder, child exploitation or criminal sexual assault of their pensions. Spokespeople for Governor J.B. Pritzker and Senate President Don Harmon said those leaders are open to a special session. House Speaker Michael Madigan’s spokesman did not return a call as of early Wednesday evening. But Pritzker has the power to call a special session. – Maureen McKinney, NPR Illinois

Illinois COVID-19 Cases Top 123,000

URBANA – The Illinois Department of Public Health announced 982 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, which brings the state’s total case count to 123,830. There were an additional 97 deaths in the last day, with total fatalities at 5,621. Urbana Mayor Diane Marlin announced Wednesday that the city’s bars and restaurants will be permitted to host live music in their outdoor seating locations, starting this Friday. Public health guidelines require maintaining a separate area for performers at least 10 feet away from patrons. – Lecia Bushak, Illinois Newsroom

Illinois Reopens Virus Testing Sites Closed Due To Unrest

CHICAGO — Ten state-run testing sites for the coronavirus reopened Wednesday after Illinois officials shut them down on Sunday in response to unrest following protests over the death of George Floyd. State officials say an 11th testing site at a vehicle emissions facility in Waukegan is relocating and will reopen on Thursday, state officials said in a statement. Illinois officials have encouraged anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 to get tested for the virus and expanded eligibility last month to people working in healthcare and at other essential jobs, along with anyone who has been exposed to a confirmed case. – Associated Press

State Police To Probe Joliet Mayor’s Scuffle With Protester

JOLIET — Illinois State Police will conduct an investigation after video posted online shows the mayor of Joliet, Illinois, forcibly grab a protester during a demonstration over the death of George Floyd. The video posted on YouTube Monday shows Mayor Bob O’Dekirk, a former police officer, grab a man by his collar and forcibly walk him toward a police car. It was not clear from the video what sparked the confrontation. Seconds later, another man runs up to O’Dekirk from behind, causing all three of them to tumble to the ground as they are quickly surrounded by several police officers. Both men were taken into custody. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – June 3, 2020

Scattered Severe Storms Possible On Wednesday

More Than 900,000 COVID-19 Tests Conducted in Illinois To Date

CHICAGO – Illinois reported 1,614 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, bringing the state’s total number of cases to 122,848. There were an additional 113 new deaths in the last day, with the total fatalities now more than 55,525. The state has conducted more than 900,000 COVID-19 tests to date, with the statewide positivity rate at 7%. On Tuesday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker also signed legislation that allows restaurants and bars in Illinois to sell cocktails for pickup and delivery. The cocktails must be in a sealed container, and cannot be delivered through a third party delivery app. – Lecia Bushak, Illinois Newsroom

Motorcyclist Charged With Hate Crime For Hitting Protesters

BLOOMINGTON — A central Illinois man is charged with hate crimes for allegedly riding his motorcycle into a protest rally in Bloomington and striking two people. Marshall R. Blanchard of Bloomington was being held Tuesday in the McLean County Jail in lieu of $40,000 bond. The 21-year-old Blanchard is also charged with aggravated battery and aggravated assault and misdemeanor battery. When the incident occurred Sunday, demonstrators were protesting the death of George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes, even after he stopped moving and pleading for air. A woman was hospitalized with abdominal wounds and a man was treated for an arm injury. – Associated Press

Illinois Courts To Resume As COVID-19 Restrictions Lift

CARBONDALE — As COVID-19 restrictions are lifted in Illinois, an administrative order from Chief Judge will allow courts to resume all operations, including non-emergency hearings. Court personnel and visitors will be required to follow CDC guidelines when doing business at a courthouse. According to the Southern Illinoisan, an executive order signed last week by Chief Judge Nancy Rosenstengel details that if a judge finds that delaying felony pleas or sentencing cannot be pushed back without harm to the defendant, video and teleconferencing can be used instead. All civil and criminal trials will not be held until after August first. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – June 2, 2020

Charges: Galesburg Man Went To Minneapolis To Riot

MINNEAPOLIS  — An Illinois man who allegedly said he was traveling to Minneapolis to “riot” after the death of George Floyd has been charged with federal counts. Twenty-eight-year-old Matthew Lee Rupert of Galesville is charged with civil disorder, rioting and possession of unregistered destructive devices. An FBI affidavit says Rupert posted videos to his Facebook page last week that showed him in Minneapolis, handing out explosives to others. Floyd, a black man, died May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck, despite Floyd saying he couldn’t breathe. The charges come as civic leaders nationwide have blamed outsiders for bringing trouble into their communities. – Associated Press

974 New COVID-19 Cases Reported In Illinois

CHICAGO – The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced 974 new COVID-19 cases Monday. The state has now seen 121,234 COVID-19 cases throughout 101 counties. An additional 23 deaths in the last day brings the total number of fatalities to more 5,412. The state’s seven-day positivity rate is now down to 6%. Champaign County reported 14 new COVID-19 cases Monday, with a total of 646 cases. That includes 156 cases in the Rantoul zip code. The Champaign death toll remains at seven. In Macon County, one new case brings the total case count to 196. – Lecia Bushak, Illinois Newsroom

4 Killed In Truck-Auto Collision On Decatur Street

DECATUR — Authorities in central Illinois say four people were killed in a collision in Decatur between a car and a semi-trailer truck. Six people were riding in the auto when it collided with the truck early Monday. Macon County coroner Michael E. Day identified those killed as 23-year-old Shonez Harper; 20-year-old Keithsah C.S. Bowman; 19-year-old Brittany King and 23-year-old Armani Cooper, all of Decatur. Day says all died from injuries ranging from “traumatic arrest” to internal and head trauma. A fifth passenger was hospitalized, however his condition isn’t known. Decatur police say the driver, who hasn’t been identified, fled after the accident and was later found. The truck driver wasn’t injured. – Associated Press

Illinois To Offer Free Meals To Youth During Summer Break

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois will offer free meals to school-aged children at hundreds of sites this summer, using options such as home delivery and drive-through distribution to ensure families that need help can get it during the pandemic. The Illinois State Board of Education said more organizations are needed to participate in the summer food program, as the number of families relying on the assistance for meals when school isn’t in session has increased due to the coronavirus outbreak. Schools, faith-based groups, local governments and nonprofit organizations are encouraged to participate, and meals are available to those age 18 and younger. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – June 1, 2020

Public Officials Announce 60 New COVID-19 Deaths in Illinois

CHICAGO — Public health officials say there have been 1,343 new cases of COVID-19 and 60 additional deaths in Illinois. The state’s Department of Public Health announced the latest details on the coronavirus pandemic Sunday. Overall, there have been 120,260 cases, including 5,390 deaths. More than 21,000 tests have been administered in the past 24 hours. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others, especially older people and the infirm, it can cause severe symptoms and lead to death. – Associated Press

Champaign & Urbana Issue Curfews After Looting

CHAMPAIGN – Citywide curfews were imposed in the central Illinois cities of Champaign, Urbana and Savoy after reports of looting and property damage at the Marketplace Mall in Champaign on Sunday. At a press conference Sunday evening, Champaign Police Chief Anthony Cobb says officers received a report of a social media post promoting civil unrest on Sunday. He says offiers witnessed people driving up and looting businesses at the Marketplace Mall. Champaign Mayor Deb Feinen says the protests that occurred in Champaign on Friday and Saturday were peaceful demonstrations. – Lee V. Gaines, Illinois Newsroom

Vehicle Emissions Testing Resumes June 1

SPRINGFIELD — Vehicle emissions testing, on hold because of stay-at-home orders issued during the coronavirus pandemic, will resume Monday, state officials said.The Environmental Protection Agency said that with a new phase of the state’s recovery plan in place, all emissions testing stations will be open except for those in Waukegan and Markham. Those two sites have become COVID-19 testing drive-through sites. Safety precautions are in place. To reduce traffic volume and wait times, EPA said that motorists with vehicle registration expiration dates of March or earlier should visit a station during June. Those with later expiration dates should wait.  – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – May 29, 2020

Pritzker: All Illinois Regions Have Met Conditions To Reopen

CHICAGO — The governor of Illinois has announced the end of a 10-week stay-at-home order meant to stem the spread of the deadly coronavirus. Gov. J.B. Pritzker said on Friday, the state will move to the third phase of his five-stage recovery plan, meaning manufacturing and retail business will resume, there will be outdoor dining and small social gatherings. Chicago, the nation’s third-largest city, which has been battered by the pandemic, will move more slowly. Mayor Lori Lightfoot says restrictions will be loosened next week, with city offices, parks and libraries to reopen in coming weeks. – Associated Press

Illinois Comptroller Says Legislators Won’t Get Pay Raise

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza says the state’s legislators will not be getting raises in the next budget year, which begins July 1. Mendoza made her decision known in a video she released Wednesday. The issue of a pay raise for legislators came up as they debated budget details in the early-morning hours Sunday. Republican legislators balked at the idea of a raise being including in the state’s approximately $40 billion spending plan. While there is no language in the budget that prohibits a pay raise, it does not provide any money to cover the cost of a pay raise. – Associated Press

Positive COVID-19 Test For Worker At House Meeting Place

SPRINGFIELD — The chief of staff for Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan says a worker at the Springfield convention center where lawmakers met in special session last week has tested positive for COVID-19. In a Wednesday email to lawmakers, Jessica Basham said early indications are the individual had no interaction with lawmakers of staff members. According to Basham, the person who tested positive worked an eight-hour shift at the Bank of Springfield Center on May 21 and was not in the space that was used for the makeshift House floor or a public viewing area. Basham is urging those who were in attendance to be tested for the virus and self-isolate from others for 14 days. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – May 28, 2020

Illinois Driver Services Centers Reopen For Some Next Week

CHICAGO — The Illinois Secretary of State’s office has announced driver services centers will reopen with limited services next week. They will open Monday and Tuesday for new drivers, people with expired licenses and IDs and people making vehicle transactions. They will be open with expanded hours through July 31. Centers in Chicago will open Monday and in the rest of the state on Tuesday. However, the Chicago centers at the James R. Thompson Center and the Chicago Loop Express will not reopen until July 1 because those buildings are still shut down. The centers closed March 16 to slow the spread of the coronavirus. – Associated Press

Stylists and Barbers Preparing To Go Back To Work On Friday

PEORIA – Hair salons and barbershops will reopen this Friday after more than two months of closure under Governor J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order. Paola Hinton, the owner of Five Senses Spa, Salon, and Barbershop in Peoria, says there’s a lot of pent-up demand. But new safety guidelines mean it may not be possible to serve everyone on day 1. “We are trying to squeeze everybody in,” said Hinton. “And there is no such thing as squeezing in. It’s either a haircut, or it’s not. It’s either a massage, or it’s not. There is no squeezing in. So with our new guidelines, we are working as hard as we can to provide what everybody is used to.” Some of the new guidelines include face mask and hand washing requirements for employees. Businesses are also required to admit no more than 50 percent occupancy at any one time in an effort to maintain social distancing. – Tim Shelley, Peoria Public Radio

Flood Prevention Efforts Underway Near Illinois River

MEREDOSIA – Flooding is beginning to feel like an annual event in some areas along the Illinois River. The river is within a foot of topping the levee at Meredosia in Morgan County.   National Guard troops have added  another five feet of sandbags to insure that the water  stays out of the small town.  The efforts continue in Pike and Scott counties across the river as well.  The river may be near its peak, but it will be the weekend before there’s much drop in the levels.  The Illinois river flooding in north central Illinois will also limit this weekend’s re- opening of Starved Rock State Park in Lasalle County.  – Bill Wheelhouse, NPR Illinois

Duckworth Says Federal Aid Should Help Local Governments

URBANA – Over the weekend, the Illinois General Assembly passed a $40 billion state budget that would rely on billions of dollars in federal aid to assist in pandemic relief. Speaking on WILL’s The 21st show Wednesday, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) says she plans to push for that federal funding to go to local municipalities. “We’re going to push hard for additional aid to come out to state and local governments,” said Duckworth. “Local governments are the ones that are on the front lines of this crisis. They’re the ones seeing revenue shortfalls, they are the ones that are having to pay extra money to buy higher-cost PPE.” Duckworth says her main priorities include getting that funding to health care facilities, especially in rural areas, as well as bolstering widespread testing and providing ongoing access to PPE. She adds the next CARES package will be negotiated in the Senate next week. – Lecia Bushak, Illinois Newsroom


News Around Illinois – May 27, 2020

Illinois’ COVID-19 Hospitalizations, Infection Rates Drop

CHICAGO — Gov. J.B. Pritzker says metrics used to measure the spread of the coronavirus are trending downward as Illinois prepares to further open businesses. Illinois’ rate of positive COVID-19 tests, which hit a high of 23% in April, is roughly 9%. The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations is at a six-week low. Public health officials on Tuesday announced 1,178 new cases and 39 new deaths. Overall, there have been 113,195 cases and 4,923 deaths. Chicago announced plans to hire and train 600 people to boost contact tracing efforts, part of a plan to loosen restrictions intended to limit the spread of the virus. – Associated Press

Judge: Illinois Federal Courts Will Look ‘Quite Different’

CHICAGO — The chief judge of federal courts in Northern Illinois says things will look “quite different” as some operations resume at courthouses in Chicago and Rockford. Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer said in a video message released Monday that a task force has been planning for how to proceed safely during the coronavirus pandemic. She says the court will issue an order Tuesday outlining details. Federal courthouses have been largely empty since mid-March. Pallmeyer says in her message that the task force has been working with public health officials to determine the safest way to screen visitors entering the courthouse, sanitize facilities and eventually resume jury trials. – Associated Press

Child Care Facilities To Reopen Under Phase Three

SPRINGFIELD – Child care facilities  will be able to operate again once Illinois enters the third phase of its reopening plan, which is expected Friday. Maria Whalen is president and CEO of Illinois Action for Children’s, which offered input into the plan to reopen child care centers. “I think that this is a plan that recognizes that at the end of the day, we’re talking about children who are being cared for in congregate settings,” said Whalen.  Newly reopened child care facilities will limit rooms sizes to eight for infants and 10 for others. There are now new sanitation and social distancing requirements. Children over the age of 2 will wear face covering when possible. – Maureen McKinney, NPR Illinois

News Around Illinois – May 26, 2020

Pritzker Issues Rules as Illinois Prepares For Reopening

CHICAGO — The Illinois Department of Public Health has reported 1,713 new cases of COVID-19, including 31 additional deaths. The new numbers bring the statewide total to 112,017 cases, including 4,884 deaths, as of Monday. With much of the state on track to reopen many businesses later this week, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has released his most detailed guidelines yet. Barbers and their customers will have to wear face masks and restaurants will be able to serve parties no larger than six people, spaced apart and outdoors only. Pritzker issued a stay-at-home order in mid-March.  – Associated Press

Attacking Retail Workers Could Become A Felony In Illinois

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois legislature voted to enhance penalties for those who physically attack a retail worker. It’s a response to reports of incidents during the pandemic as employees enforce safety rules like wearing masks and social distancing. State Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Collinsville) says lawmakers showed support for those still working through pandemic. “I think it’s going to protect front line workers by making sure we are respecting them and the job they’re having to do,” said Hoffman. Under the measure, attacking a retail worker would be considered aggravated battery.  It still needs the governor’s signature to become law. – Sean Crawford, NPR Illinois

Illinois Grants To Help Expand Broadband, Digital Access

SPRINGFIELD — A new state grant program will provide communities with money and expertise to expand broadband capacity and improve digital access as more people work, shop and go to school online during the coronavirus pandemic. The $150,000 Illinois Connected Communities grant program will provide grants of up to $15,000, on a competitive basis. Erin Guthrie is director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. Guthrie says “there’s never been a more important time to improve digital access in our state.”   – Associated Press

Bill To Allow Curbside Pickup & Delivery From Bars

SPRINGFIELD – In an effort to provide assistance to bars and restaurants in Illinois, lawmakers have passed a bill that would allow bars and restaurants to serve pre-mixed drinks to go, for curbside pickup and delivery for one year. Senator Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) says this legislation will help the hospitality industry and put people back to work. “The state of Illinois: we have 580,000 jobs in hospitality, 300,000 of those people are now unemployed,” said Feigenholtz. The measure provides other forms of relief for restaurants such as fee waivers, deferred license fees, automatic renewals, and a license extension for 120 days. Opponents of the legislation say it will increase the likelihood of vehicle code violations, and product contamination. – Olivia Mitchell, NPR Illinois

News Around Illinois – May 25, 2020

State COVID-19 Cases Top 110,000

SPRINGFIELD – On Sunday, the state reported 2,508 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 110,304. Illinois Department of Public Health also reported an additional 67 deaths, making the statewide total 4,856. The Coles County health department says two more residents of Charleston Rehab and Healthcare died of COVID-19. The countywide caseload now stands at 119 and 9 deceased.  The Macon County health department reports a man in his 60’s passed away due to coronavirus. The countywide caseload is 185 including 19 deaths. – Reginald Hardwick, Illinois Newsroom

Judge Won’t Reconsider Lawsuit Brought By Madigan Opponent

CHICAGO — A federal judge won’t reconsider a decision to throw out a lawsuit alleging Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan conspired to put up sham candidates in a 2016 Democratic primary. The Chicago Tribune reports U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly denied a motion Saturday to reconsider a lawsuit brought by Jason Gonzales. Gonzales lost to Madigan by a wide margin and alleges Madigan’s team put up phony candidates with Hispanic-sounding names to confuse voters. Madigan spokeswoman Eileen Boyce says the ruling reaffirms Gonzales had a chance make his case to the voters and lost. Gonzales plans to appeal. – Associated Press 

Minor Damage Reported After 2 Northwest Illinois Tornadoes

COLETA — Officials are reporting minor damage after at least two tornadoes touched down in northwest Illinois. The National Weather Service says one touched down in Whiteside County near Coleta on Saturday afternoon. The Ogle County Sheriff’s Department reported another touched down near Chana around 4:30 p.m. Sauk Valley Media says authorities reported downed power lines, scattered debris and one destroyed machine shed. – Associated Press

Illinois Lawmakers Pass $40B Budget

SPRINGFIELD  — Illinois lawmakers have approved a $40 billion state budget and a plan to address tax rates for a casino expansion during a whirlwind special session held amid the coronavirus pandemic. The budget approved early Sunday largely maintains funding from the current budget, which the exception of health care agencies affected by the outbreak. It also relies heavily on federal funding.  The House vote was 68-44 and was largely along party lines. Senate Republicans also voted against the plan, objecting to a small spending spike during a time of uncertainty. The Senate vote was 37-19.  – Associated Press

Female Students Represent Illinois In Cybersecurity Program

CHICAGO — Forty-five Illinois students will represent the state in a national challenge aiming to increase girls’ participation in studying cybersecurity. State officials says 385 Illinois students participated in this year’s Girls Go CyberStart program, the first year the state took part. Winners will be announced during the last week of May. Participants in the national finals include 279 teams and 268 individuals from around the country. Illinois has several teams and more than 20 individual students competing for recognition and some cash prizes. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – May 22, 2020

Pritzker Says No Decision Yet On Holding State Fairs This Summer

SPRINGFIELD – Governor J.B. Pritzker says no decision has been made yet on whether Illinois’ two state fairs can be held safely this summer. Illinois’ two fairs are scheduled for later in the summer: August 13-23 for the Illinois State Fair in Springfield and August 28 to September 7 (Labor Day) for the DuQuoin State Fair in southern Illinois. Speaking in Springfield at his daily briefing, Pritzker said whether the fairs will be held depends on what Restore Illinois phase the state will be in by then. Illinois law indicates that holding the two state fairs is mandatory, stating that they “shall” be held every year.

State Public Health officials announced 2,268 new COVID-19 cases in Illinois Thursday. That brings the state’s total number of cases up to 102,686. There were 87 additional deaths, bringing the total to 4,607. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Lawsuit Challenging Stay-At-Home Order Now In Federal Court

SPRINGFIELD — A lawsuit challenging the validity of Illinois’ stay-at-home order to stem the spread of the coronavirus has been transferred from state court to federal court. Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office stated in its court filing that it was moving the case from state court because it involves U.S. constitutional rights of free religion and due process. The lawsuit was brought by state Rep. Darren Bailey, Clay County Judge Michael McHaney previously ruled Bailey was not bound by Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s order shutting down most businesses and churches. Bailey is attempting to broaden the ruling to make the order invalid for all Illinois residents. – Associated Press

Vote-By-Mail Expansion Ready For Illinois House Floor Vote

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois House approved on Thursday evening an expansion of voting by mail for the fall election, using federal pandemic-relief funds, despite Republican criticism that it would take a financial bite out of county budgets and could increase errors and electoral fraud. Rep. Kelly Burke’s proposal was adopted 72-43. It would encourage mail-in ballots by sending applications to anyone who voted by mail in 2018, 2019 or in this year’s primary. The Evergreen Park Democrat said it would provide a simpler and safer way to vote during the COVID-19 outbreak. It moves to the Senate where members expected to vote Thursday night. – Associated Press

Pritzker Activates Guard To Help Prepare For Flooding

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. J.B. Pritzker has activated nearly 60 Illinois National Guard soldiers and ordered additional steps by the state to prepare for projected flooding along the Illinois River and other streams. The National Weather Service forecasts the Illinois River will reach major flood stage Saturday morning at Meredosia, about 50 miles west of Springfield, and continue to rise through the middle of next week. Without additional flood protection, water could flow over several levees and flood roads, threatening Meredosia’s 980 residents. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency has begun sandbagging to help communities along the river, and Pritzker has issued a state disaster proclamation for four counties. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – May 21, 2020

Illinois On Track To Loosen Restrictions Later This Month

CHICAGO — Gov. J.B. Pritzker says all parts of Illinois are on track to see coronavirus-related restrictions loosened and more businesses reopen before the end of the month. The Illinois Department of Health reported 2,388 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, with the total cases surpassing 100,000 An additional 147 deaths brings the total fatalities to 4,525. IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike says the numbers are evidence Pritzker’s stay-at-home order and other measures such as wearing masks are working. But she says “we can’t undo all that we’ve done.” – Lecia Bushak, Illinois Newsroom & Associated Press 

Click here for the New Modifications To Phase 3 Of Restore Illinois Plan

Lawmakers, 6 Feet Apart, Catch Up On Delayed Work

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois General Assembly has convened in Springfield for the first time in 10 weeks, desks spaced apart and most members wearing masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Lawmakers are hoping to complete a spring-session’s worth of work in three days after canceling all meeting days since early March because of the coronavirus pandemic. GOP Rep. Darren Bailey was removed from the House when he refused to wear a face covering. Despite 147 more COVID-19-related deaths, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the state is recovering enough to allow outdoor dining at restaurants with appropriately placed tables starting May 29. – Associated Press

Virus Claims 23rd Life At Sangamon County Nursing Home

SHERMAN — Health officials say the coronavirus outbreak has claimed the lives of 23 residents of a central Illinois nursing home. Sangamon County Department of Public Health officials said Tuesday a woman in her 80s is the latest victim of the outbreak at the The Villas East home in Sherman. The State Journal-Register reports 62 Villas East residents have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, including one who is hospitalized, as well as 46 staff members. – Associated Press

Supreme Court: Circuit Courts Can Return To Normal June 1

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Supreme Court says the state’s courts can return to normal operations beginning June 1. In Wednesday’s order, the high court leaves to the chief judges of the state’s 24 judicial circuits to implement plans for in-person hearings based on specific factors. The justices urge social distancing measures remain in place and a way found to reduce the number of people physically present in court facilities. The Supreme Court on March 17 ordered state judges to limit in-person proceedings to essential cases and delay other matters. The justices also ordered the shift of a sizable share of the courts’ business to videoconferencing platforms. – Associated Press

Ex-University Employee Gets Probation For Rare Book Theft

URBANA — A former employee of the University of Illinois has been sentenced to two years of probation for stealing rare books from the school’s music library. Thomas McGeary of Champaign pleaded guilty before Champaign County Circuit Judge Heidi Ladd to the theft of two rare books worth more than $500. Assistant State’s Attorney Alex Boyd told Ladd that McGeary stole the books for money and was seeking revenge against the university because he believed it wronged him. Under Tuesday’s sentencing, the 71-year-old McGeary can avoid a conviction if he completes probation without additional criminal activity. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – May 20, 2020

State Lawmakers To Convene In Springfield On Wednesday

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois state legislators will meet for session in Springfield Wednesday for the first time in more than two months. It’s all subject to change, of course, but a few key items are scheduled to come up according to House documents: the state budget, a measure expanding vote by mail, and the highly-anticipated COVID-19 relief package. Right now, the package is broken up by industry. There’s a set of proposed changes for education, a set for healthcare, and so on. Each includes a slew of policy ideas: everything from telehealth access to free days at state parks and museums. Separately, several House lawmakers have said they will not wear face masks during session. But Speaker Michael Madigan drew a hard line in the sand on that subject. In a statement, he says anyone not wearing one risks discipline and even removal from the chamber. – Sam Dunklau, NPR Illinois

Illinois On Track To Loosen Restrictions Later This Month

CHICAGO — Gov. J.B. Pritzker says all parts of Illinois are on track to see coronavirus-related restrictions loosened and more businesses reopen before the end of the month. But officials warned Tuesday that residents must remain diligent about stopping the spread of COVID-19. Illinois recorded 1,545 new cases of COVID-19, including 146 additional deaths. That brings the state’s total cases to 98,030, with 4,379 deaths. IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike says the numbers are evidence Pritzker’s stay-at-home order and other measures such as wearing masks are working. But she says “we can’t undo all that we’ve done.” – Associated Press

U Of I Medical Student Writes Children’s Book About Pandemic

URBANA – An University of Illinois medical student to write a children’s book, “Heroes of a Pandemic.” Anant Naik is a second-year student at the Carle Illinois College of Medicine. He says he wanted to find a way to help as the COVID-19 pandemic started to spread. Naik is donating all proceeds from the sale of his book to Doctors Without Borders. You can find more information, including where to purchase the book, at Naik’s website. – Brian Moline, Illinois Newsroom


News Around Illinois – May 19, 2020

Illinois Supreme Court Disbars Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich

CHICAGO — Disgraced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has been officially disbarred. The Illinois Supreme Court announced on Monday that it revoked Blagojevich’s law license. The announcement was not a surprise, as Blagojevich didn’t even attend a March hearing in which the matter was discussed and indicated afterward that he had no intention of practicing law again. Blagojevich was released from a federal prison in Colorado in February after his 14-year sentence was commuted by President Donald Trump. He recently signed on to host a podcast in Chicago called “The Lightning Rod.” – Associated Press

GOP: Graduated Tax ‘Cash Grab’ Will Stifle Pandemic Recovery

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois Republicans are demanding a vote in the General Assembly on removing from the fall ballot a proposed graduated income tax structure, saying the state’s pandemic-pillaged economy can’t sustain higher taxes. House Minority Leader Jim Durkin and Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady said Monday that the special session this week in Springfield should consider dumping the plan to alter the state Constitution and discard the current flat-rate income tax. Right now, it’s up to voters. Gov. J.B. Pritzker calls his proposal a “fair tax.” Durkin says it’s a “cash grab” that will decimate the economy as it recovers from COVID-19. – Associated Press

Free COVID-19 Testing Offered At Champaign Mall

CHAMPAIGN – A new drive-through COVID-19 testing site opens Tuesday at the Market Place mall in Champaign. Officials say the state-supported site supplements local testing efforts and aims to increase access for those in marginalized communities. The site is located at the Market Place shopping mall on North Neil Street, outside the J.C. Penney’s wing. The facility will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., seven days a week, and will offer free testing for anyone with COVID-19 symptoms, as well as all employees who support critical services — including health care workers, first responders and employees of grocery stores, pharmacies and other essential businesses — regardless of whether they have symptoms. Read the full story here. – Christine Herman, Illinois Newsroom

Michelle Obama Joined By Barack For Online Reading Series

NEW YORK — Michelle Obama had a famous fellow reader Monday as she continued her popular online series “Mondays With Michelle Obama.” The former first lady read “The Giraffe Problem,” by Jory John and Lane Smith. And she was joined by Barack Obama on Julia Sarcone-Roach’s “A Bear Ate Your Sandwich.”  Michelle Obama has been reading midday Monday for the past several weeks in support of families with small children at home during the coronavirus pandemic. Books she has featured include Julia Donaldson’s ”The Gruffalo” and Eric Carle’s “The Hungry Caterpillar.” – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – May 18, 2020

More Than 2,000 New COVID-19 Cases In Illinois; 7-Day Rolling Positivity Rate Drops 

CHICAGO – Illinois reported 2,088 new COVID-19 cases Saturday, bringing the total to 92,457 in 100 counties in the state. An additional 74 deaths brings the total fatalities to 4,129. The state’s 7-day rolling positivity rate lowered a bit further, at 15% Saturday, a decrease from 16% Friday and 17% Thursday. Gov. J.B. Pritzker says the drop in the positivity rate is due to increased testing throughout the state. In the last 24 hours, Illinois has conducted 23,047 COVID-19 tests, for a total of more than 561,000 to date.

Macon County reported three new COVID-19 cases for a total of 164 cases, but no new deaths, leaving the total fatalities at 17. In Coles County, eight new cases were reported Saturday for a total of 83. As of Saturday, 3 people were hospitalized and 23 had recovered. 45 cases have been linked to Charleston Rehab/Healthcare, a nursing home in Coles County, though not all of the cases live in the county. The county reported no new deaths, for a total of 4 deaths. – Lecia Bushak, Illinois Newsroom

Pilot Rescued At State Park After Plane Crashed Into Tree

MACOMB — Authorities say the pilot of a small plane was rescued after the plane he was flying crashed and got stuck in a tree in Argyle Lake State Park. The McDonough County Sheriff’s Office says the plane crashed Friday afternoon, trapping the 75-year-old pilot in a tree about 50 feet in the area. Authorities received a distress call from the pilot of a Cessna 172M Skyhawk around 4:30 p.m. Deputies located the pilot in the tree, which was about a mile from the nearest roadway. The pilot had minor injuries. – Associated Press

Settlement Could Mean $300 For Some Illinois Facebook Users

CHICAGO — Some Illinois Facebook users could receive as much as $300 from a $550 million settlement in a class-action suit alleging the social media site’s facial-tagging feature violated state privacy law. But the Chicago Tribune reports that there is no timeline yet for when people will be notified of eligibility or when payments could be issued. A federal judge in California still must approve the details. Illinois law permits people to sue companies that don’t get consent before collecting consumers’ data. Attorneys alleged in the 2015 lawsuit that Facebook’s photo tagging feature was powered by facial recognition data used to create and store “face templates.” – Associated Press

News Around Illinois May 15, 2020

Champaign, Urbana Libraries Launch Curbside Service

CHAMPAIGN-URBANA – Public libraries in Champaign and Urbana will begin offering books and other items for curbside pickup beginning Friday, May 15. Patrons can use the websites and apps of the Champaign Public Library and Urbana Free Library to look up and reserve items. Once they’re notified that items are ready, they can phone the library to arrange a pick-up time. At the appointed time, patrons can drive up to the library, (the front entrance of the Champaign library and the Elm St. entrance of the Urbana library) and call to let them know they’ve arrived. A library staff member will bring out their items. The two libraries have posted specific hours seven days a week for curbside pickup. No hours are set at the Champaign Public Library’s Douglass Branch, but curbside pickup is available by appointment. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Peoria Area Still Adhering To Statewide Reopening Plan, For Now

PEORIA – Peoria officials declined to take any new questions on the Restore Heart of Illinois phased reopening plan at the regularly scheduled COVID-19 press conference Thursday. Reading from a prepared statement, Peoria City/County Health Department Administrator Monica Hendrickson said local officials are still awaiting feedback from the governor’s office. “This plan was submitted to the governor’s office and the Illinois Department of Public Health last week and is still under review,” she said. “Our region, along with the rest of the state, continues to operate under phase two of the governor’s Restore Illinois plan.” Salons, barbershops, offices, and most retail stores remain closed under phase two. – Tim Shelley, WCBU

McLean County Leaders Balk At Flouting Pritzker

MCLEAN COUNTY – Small-town officials in McLean County said they were all on board with the proposed Heart of Illinois multicounty regional reopening plan right up until a Peoria area official said they would go ahead even without approval from Gov. JB Pritzker. Then Pritzker raised the possibility that communities could forfeit aid from FEMA if they reopen without approval. “We did not like the statement he made that he was going to buck the governor regardless of whether he said yay or nay. That basically made us step back and take another look and say do we really want to endorse this plan?” said Downs Village Mayor Mike James. The McLean County Mayor’s Association met Wednesday night and has taken a more calibrated approach. James says the association will issue a public letter supporting the elements of the plan. – Eric Stock and Charlie Schlenker, WGLT

Union County Sees a COVID-19 Outbreak

JONESBORO -One southern Illinois county has experienced a surge in COVID-19 cases in the past week. Union County’s total number of cases has nearly doubled since May 7. On the 7th, the county had 57 cases. In just the past week, the county has recorded 51 cases…including 38 on Wednesday. The Illinois Department of Public Health reports there have been 40 cases in outbreaks at local long-term care facilities…35 at Integrity of Anna and the other five at Integrity of Cobden. The county’s lone death came from the Anna facility. The Southern Seven Health Department reports several Union County residents who have tested positive are tied to outbreaks at workplaces outside of the southern seven region. – Brad Palmer, WSIU

Police Shooting of Rock Island Man Justified

ROCK ISLAND – Two Rock Island police officers were justified in shooting an armed man last month. That was the announcement Thursday afternoon from State’s Attorney Dora Villarreal, after reviewing the investigation by the Rock Island County Integrity Task Force. On April 25th, Officers Steven Mumma and Tyler Evans encountered Kelvin Shaw of Rock Island after responding to a report of an armed man holding two women against their will. Villarreal says body camera footage shows Shaw pointed his gun at the officers as he tried to escape – they fired a total of five shots, and three of them hit Shaw. He died three days later. And she concluded, “based on the totality of the circumstances and the specific facts outlined above, both officers discharging their duty weapons was reasonable and justified.” – Herb Trix, WVIK

News Around Illinois May 14, 2020

State To Keep Bloomington COVID Testing Site Open Through May 22

BLOOMINGTON – McLean County residents will have another week to prove they want a convenient drive-thru COVID-19 testing site in their backyard. Amid criticism from local officials, Gov. JB Pritzker’s administration will delay the planned closure and relocation of Bloomington’s testing site at the Interstate Center on the city’s west side.  The site, which was set to close Thursday and move to Peoria, will now remain open through May 22. State officials previously said Bloomington’s site was closing because it was underutilized. It was at first, but testing numbers have increased since more asymptomatic people (like grocery store workers) were allowed in starting April 29. The site hit its 250-test daily capacity for the first time ever on Tuesday. It did so again Wednesday and had to close early. – Ryan Denham and Eric Stock, WGLT

General Assembly Returning To Springfield Next Week

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, along with other legislative leaders, are “ready to convene” a special session as early as next week, according to letters sent to lawmakers and shared with the media. In a letter to House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (Western Springs), Madigan said House Democrats agreed to follow a laundry list of public health guidelines aimed at keeping lawmakers socially distant and limiting their contact with one another. While the three day session includes dealing with a budget during uncertain times, the high profile issue is COVID-19.  Negotiators are still finalizing details on a relief package. – Sam Dunklau and Bill Wheelhouse, WUIS

Many Illinois Student Loan Borrowers Will Soon Have A Better Idea Of Their Debt

DEKALB – In Illinois, public college and university students and their guardians will soon have a better idea of how much they’ve borrowed — and an estimate of how much they’ll be paying back per month. That’s thanks to a state pilot program. The letters relay information on federal, private and institutional loans. Along with the total amounts and repayment estimates, it also tells you what percent of the borrowing limit you’ve reached and lists financial resources available. Illinois schools have until the end of June to send the letters. Most will receive them through email. Some schools collaborated with student loan servicers like Great Lakes, while others used a template from the Illinois Student Assistance Commission. – Peter Medlin, WNIJ

Black Caucus Wants Increased Support For African-American Community

CHICAGO – Illinois Senate Majority Leader and Chair of the Black Caucus Kimberly Lightford hopes to see increased state support for the African-American community, which has experienced a higher rate of COVID-19 cases and deaths. Some of the main legislative issues on the agenda for next week’s special session include the state’s budget shortfall, pension obligations, and constitutional amendments. Lightford says the Black Caucus has been donating masks and PPE to African-American communities as much as possible, but that state support is needed. Lightford made her comments on The 21st. – Lecia Bushak, Illinois Newsroom

News Around lllinois – May 13, 2020

COVID-19 Cases Top 4K In 1 Day, Pritzker Notes More Testing

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois has recorded 4,014 new coronavirus cases, which is a one-day record high. The state also reported 144 new deaths Tuesday. But Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the state also received results on 29,000 coronavirus tests in the past 24 hours, so the new numbers should come as no surprise. The Democratic governor also called on the General Assembly to convene and craft a budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The coronavirus has kept lawmakers from the Capitol since early March and a decimated Illinois economy has put the state budget at least $7 billion in the hole. – Associated Press

Freelancers May Begin Filing For Unemployment This Week

CHICAGO – Illinois began accepting unemployment applications for gig workers and independent contractors this week. Governor J.B. Pritzker says 50,000 people have filed for unemployment under the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program in just the last day. The governor says that is something the state’s original unemployment computer system could not have done. “It was built on a ten year old platform, not expecting to take the kind of size of applications that have come in for regular unemployment, but this PUA system which was built with outside assistance is doing well,” said Pritzker. Those who are interested must apply at the Illinois Department of Employment Security website. Those workers must then certify they are actively looking for work every two weeks. Benefits are taxable and can be doled out for up to nine months. – Sam Dunklau, NPR Illinois

Bradley University To Resume On-Campus Instruction In August

PEORIA — Bradley University in central Illinois has announced it will resume on-campus instruction in late August. University officials said Monday that Bradley’s location in Peoria and its size gives administrators confidence regular operations can resume in a safe environment. Incoming Bradley president Stephen Standifird said in a statement Monday the university is taking “every possible health precaution” and preparing for all scenarios. University officials say preliminary plans for an on-campus return are being devised, including modifications to classrooms, residential living and common-area access. They also say some class elements may be conducted online and others in small in-person settings. – Associated Press

Student Guilty of Disorderly Conduct For Elevator Noose

URBANA — A University of Illinois student has pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct for making a noose out of string and leaving it last September in a residence hall elevator. Andrew Smith pleaded guilty to the charge Tuesday before Champaign County Circuit Judge Heidi Ladd, who sentenced him to a year of court supervision. The 20-year-old Smith of Normal, Illinois, was originally charged with a hate crime, a felony. His sentence of supervision, along with 50 hours of public service and a $75 fine, spares Smith a criminal record should he successfully complete the sentence without further criminal activity. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – May 12, 2020

Gov. Pritzker’s Office Working From Home After Senior Staffer Tests Positive For COVID-19

CHICAGO – Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Monday that his office is working from home after a senior staffer tested positive for COVID-19. The staff member is reportedly asymptomatic, but staying in isolation. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) also reported 1,266 new COVID-19 cases Monday, bringing the state’s total to 79,007. An additional 54 deaths brings the total fatalities to 3,459.

Gov. Pritzker released an updated COVID-19 model for Illinois, which now predicts the state’s case numbers will plateau to a peak later than expected, from mid-May to mid-June. The model is based on data regarding COVID-19 cases, deaths, hospitalizations and ventilator use across the state. The governor also provided updates on the state’s four regions in meeting key metrics as part of the Restore Illinois plan. Those metrics include no overall increase in hospital admissions across a 28-day period. He says the North-Central, Central and Southern regions are currently on track to move to Phase 3 of the re-opening plan after the 28-day period. – Lecia Bushak, Illinois Newsroom

Rantoul Foods COVID-19 Outbreak Up To 82 Confirmed Cases

URBANA – Champaign County, officials announced 32 new COVID-19 cases Monday, for a total of 298. Champaign-Urbana Public Health Administrator Julie Pryde says 82 employees at the Rantoul Foods meat processing plant have now tested positive for COVID-19. She says there are still 225 employees at the facility yet to be tested, and officials are working to get them tested as soon as possible. – Brian Moline, Illinois Newsroom

Champaign Health Center Aiming To Get Testing To Underinsured

CHAMPAIGN – Frances Nelson Health Center in Champaign is reaching out to help people in underserved communities to help patients access COVID-19 testing and treatment. Nancy Greenwalt is Executive Director of the health center, which serves people who are uninsured or underinsured, regardless of ability to pay.

“We got involved when the governor had reached out to all the community health centers in the state of Illinois to try to get (COVID-19) testing and care to underserved and marginalized populations,” said Greenwalt. “Nationally, and statewide, there were people who didn’t feel they had access to care and testing.” 

Greenwalt says the clinic shared COVID-19 testing information with about 2,000 patients. So far about 160 people have been tested at their site. Governor Pritzker has said partnerships with community health centers like Frances Nelson are critical for increasing access to testing. The number of public testing sites in Illinois has doubled to more than 240 over the past two weeks. – Christine Herman, Illinois Newsroom

Report: Illinois Making Progress In Preschools

URBANA – Over the last several years, Illinois has made significant progress on increasing access to and the quality of its preschool programs. That’s according to a report from the National Institute for Early Education Research. The group releases an annual report detailing where states rank on quality measures for things like curriculum and class sizes. This year, Illinois ranked third in the country for access to preschool for 3-year-olds and 20th for access for 4-year-olds. The state also met 8 of 10 quality benchmarks. – Lee V. Gaines, Illinois Newsroom

News Around Illinois – May 11, 2020

Illinois COVID-19 Cases Surpass 77,000, With More Than 3,400 Deaths

CHICAGO — State officials reported 1,656 new COVID-19 cases in Illinois on Sunday, the lowest number reported in 24 hours in 19 days. 57 additional deaths were reported, the lowest number since May 4. The Illinois Department of Public Health says the total number of COVID-19 cases in the state has reached 77,741, out of 129,984 tests conducted. The total number of deaths in the state related to the coronavirus is 3,406.

In Champaign County, three new cases of COVID-19 were reported, for a total of 266. None of the new cases were in the Rantoul zip code, home of the Rantoul Foods meat processing plant, where dozens of workers have tested positive for the coronavirus. Macon County reported four new COVID-19 cases, for a total of 145. Coles County reported three new cases for a total of 29. — Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Pritzker Defends Extended Order, Faces Salon Owner Lawsuit

CHICAGO — Illinois’ governor is defending his stay-at-home order and plans to reopen, saying the state residents will have to change the way things are done until the coronavirus is “eradicated.” Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker spoke Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” His comments come after some Republican lawmakers have said his order has been an overreach. Pritzker also faces a lawsuit from a southern Illinois salon owner who claims Pritzker violated her constitutional rights in forcing her business to close. Pritzker has extended his order until the end of the month. He recently released a five-phase plan to reopen.  – Associated Press

Ex-Comptroller Seeks Release From Prison Over Virus Concerns

DIXON — The former Dixon comptroller convicted of stealing nearly $54 million from the northern Illinois city is seeking release from federal prison over fears of contracting COVID-19. Rita Crundwell used money stolen from the city to fund her nationally renowned horse-breeding operation and luxurious tastes. She was sentenced in 2013 to nearly 20 years in prison after being convicted of wire fraud. The 67-year-old woman’s release date is Oct. 29, 2029. She says she has multiple health problems and has been a model minimum-security prisoner. The judge says she can seek compassionate release if she’s exhausted all administrative avenues. – Associated Press

Illinois Man Uses Upcycled Tires To Create Unique Sculptures

CARY — A Cary native is taking used tires and other up-cycled objects to create unconventional sculptures. Tani Ojeda, who works full-time as a chemical operator for Ringwood-based Huntsman, says the idea was sparked about a year ago and he’s been commissioned to make animal creations that include frogs, swans, a duck and an oversize crocodile. Ojeda previously used other car parts to make things like coffee tables and nightstands but says they didn’t sell well. Barrington resident Jennifer Myers, who bought his first black swan tire sculpture, lauded Ojeda’s creativity and says his scultpures represent a certain amount of kitsch fun. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – May 8, 2020

Total Illinois COVID-19 Fatalities Surpass 3,000

CHICAGO – The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) reported 2,641 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, bringing the total to 70,873 cases. There have been a total of 3,111 deaths in the state. Gov. J.B. Pritzker says the state is building up capacity to process the large number of unemployment claims coming in due to the pandemic. Illinois has processed over 1 million unemployment claims since March 1, compared to the 180,000 the state saw during the first nine weeks of the 2008 recession. – Lecia Bushak, Illinois Newsroom

More COVID-19 Cases At Rantoul Foods, 15th Death In Macon County

URBANA – Champaign County reported 19 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 Thursday, for a total of 236. That includes three new cases linked to Rantoul Foods. Julie Pryde with the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District says the total number of cases at the meat processing plant has reached 52, and more testing of employees will begin on Friday.  Macon County reported its 15th death due to COVID-19, and confirmed two new cases today Thursday, for a total of 135. More than half of those cases are linked to the Fair Havens Senior Living facility in Decatur. Iroquois County reported six new cases for a total of 84. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Labor Deal Averts Strike At Dozens of Nursing Homes

CHICAGO — Staff at dozens of Illinois nursing homes have called off a strike set for Friday morning after the workers’ union reached a deal with nursing home owners. Certified nursing assistants and food service and housekeeping employees were among those planning to walk out at 44 facilities starting Friday morning. Staff at 20 more facilities planned to follow on Tuesday. The Service Employees International Union Healthcare Illinois Indiana announced the tentative deal on a two-year contract Thursday.  It would increase workers’ pay to at least $15 per hour and guarantee additional bonus pay. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – May 7, 2020

Latinx Population Testing Positive For COVID-19 At Highest Rate In Illinois

CHICAGO – Illinois saw 2,270 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, bringing the state’s total to 68,232. 136 additional deaths in the last day brings the total fatalities to 2,974. The state’s Latinx population is becoming the hardest hit, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). The Latinx community is testing positive for COVID-19 at the highest rate in Illinois, with a positivity rate of 60%. That’s 3 times higher than the state average. The population also has more than 40% of new COVID-19 cases in Illinois. Community leaders say many people work in essential parts of the economy and can’t stay home. – Lecia Bushak, Illinois Newsroom

COVID-19 Cases Increase At Meat Plant & Jump In Iroquois County

URBANA – Champaign County reported nine new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, for a total number of 217. Two of those cases are linked to the Rantoul Foods meat processing plant, which has now seen a total of 49 cases. Iroquois County reported 27 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, raising the total number of cases sharply, from 51 to 78.  20 of the 27 new cases are in their 70s or older. The Iroquois County Public Health Department said in a news release there would be no further details about the cases. The department also noted that tests had been conducted on 460 county residents to date. The Illinois Department of Public Health notes that as of May 1st, there had been two cases of COVID-19 at a nursing home in the county. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

GOP Wants ‘Local’ Say In Pritzker’s COVID-19 Reopening Plan

SPRINGFIELD — House Republicans say Illinois’ pandemic control plan needs GOP input and have again urged the Democratic governor to convene the Legislature. Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday released a five-phase plan to reopen shuttered businesses and ease social distancing guidelines imposed to quell the coronavirus crisis. GOP lawmakers said Wednesday that Pritzker’s plan moves too slowly to save many businesses and take the state back to how it had been. Lawmakers haven’t met in session since early March, but say they could meet safely if they follow public health department guidelines. – Associated Press

ADL: White Supremacists Involved In Capitol Protests

SPRINGFIELD – White supremacist organizations infiltrated stay-at-home protests in Springfield and Chicago last week, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism. David Goldenberg, the Midwest regional director of the ADL, says members of well-known extremist groups appear to have been at those protests. They held up signs featuring swastikas and other hate messages, including one at the state Capitol, which read “Heil, Pritzker.”  – Maureen McKinney, NPR Illinois

News Around Illinois – May 6, 2020

Gov. Pritzker: 5-Part Reopening Plan Dependent On Infections

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois’ governor on Tuesday outlined a five-phase plan for reopening the state as the threat from COVID-19 subsides, but there were no surprises here — the speed with which normal activity returns still depends on vigilance against the coronavirus. Under pressure to show signs of normalcy’s return, the Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker unveiled “Restore Illinois,” which indicates Phase 2 is underway with looser restrictions on movement. But while some states moved aggressively last week to re-open commerce, Pritzker made clear that without a vaccine, there’s no return to a former way of life. And a surge in cases could mean moving back a phase. – Associated Press Click here to read the details of the 5-phase plan.

COVID-19 Cases Grow At Rantoul Foods; 14th Death In Macon County

URBANA – Champaign County reported 25 new cases of COVID-19  Tuesday. 15 of those new cases were reported at Rantoul Foods. The total number of COVID-19 cases linked to the meat processing plant now stands at 47 out of 208 total cases in Champaign County.  

Authorities in Macon County are reporting their 14th death from COVID-19. The patient was a woman in her 70s who was a resident at Fair Havens Senior Living, where dozens of residents and employees have tested positive for the coronavirus. Macon County also reported two new COVID-19 cases. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Plans For Champaign County Tax Vote On New Jail May End

URBANA – Champaign County Sheriff Dustin Heuerman says plans to ask voters to approve a tax referendum to consolidate the county’s two jails appear to be, in his words, “dead in the water.” Heuerman told the Champaign County Board’s Facilities Committee on Tuesday night that he’s starting to talk with sheriffs in other counties about housing some Champaign County jail inmates. That’s in case he has to close the county’s aging downtown Urbana jail, without enlarging the remaining satellite jail. County Executive Darlene Kloeppel told the committee that she’s not seen any consensus on the county board for moving ahead with a jail referendum in November. The Champaign County Board is expected to discuss the matter further next week at its Committee of the Whole meeting. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Illinois Reports April Pot Sales Top Previous 2 Months

CHICAGO — The legal sale of marijuana during Illinois’ first full month of lockdown due to the coronavirus surpassed sales in two previous months. The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation reported Monday that April adult-use cannabis sales totaled more than $37.2 million. Only the $39.2 million in January sales topped April. When Gov. J.B. Pritzker on March 20 issued his stay-at-home order to battle spread of the coronavirus he allowed medical and adult use cannabis dispensaries to remain open as essential businesses. However, operators adapted to the new social situation by implementing online ordering systems, curbside pickup and social distancing in stores. – Associated Press

COVID-19 Crisis Delays Probe Of Former Priest’s Prison Death

PINCKNEYVILLE — Officials say the investigation into the death of a southern Illinois priest who died shortly after going to prison for child pornography and drug possession has been delayed because of the coronavirus crisis. Perry County Coroner Paul Searby told the Belleville News-Democrat that it is impossible to determine the cause of 56-year-old Gerald Hechenberger’s March 6 death because he hasn’t received the investigative reports from the Illinois Department of Corrections. The warden of Pinckneyville Correctional Center, where Hechenberger had just begun serving a 9-year sentence, agrees that the virus crisis has delayed the probe. Hechenberger was a priest at a  Mascoutah church when he was arrested in 2018. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – May 5, 2020

Gov. Pritzker Warns Illinois Cities That Re-Open Could Put Communities At Risk

CHICAGO – Illinois reported 2,341 new cases of COVID-19 Monday, bringing the state total to 63,840. 46 additional deaths in the last day brings the total state fatalities to 2,662. Gov. J.B. Pritzker also responded to news that the mayor of East Peoria says he’ll re-open the city in phases starting on Friday. That goes against the state’s stay-at-home order and would include re-opening businesses like salons. Gov. Pritzker warned it could cause an uptick in cases and put workers and the community at risk. Gov. Pritzker says he is considering opening parts of the state before the stay-at-home order lifts at the end of May. But he says consistently low case and hospitalization numbers would be a requirement before that could happen. – Lecia Bushak, Illinois Newsroom

Champaign County COVID-19 Cases Include 21 At Rantoul Foods Plant

URBANA – Champaign County reported ten new cases of COVID-19 on Monday. Data from the Champaign County Public Health District shows that five of those new cases are in the Rantoul zip code, which a total of 32 cases have now been counted. And a majority of the Rantoul cases are linked to the Rantoul Foods meat processing plant. A Rantoul Foods official confirms 21 COVID-19 cases at the plant, which has a work force of 650. Human Resources Director Jerry Jacobsen says the company is taking safety measures to control the outbreak. But in the meantime, he says many employees are staying away from work, due to fears of infection. Read coverage from the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting here.  – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

New COVID-19 Cases Rising In Winnebago County

ROCKFORD – Winnebago County announced 54 new COVID-19 cases Monday, putting the total number of cases at 616. The county includes the city of Rockford. Dr. Sandra Martell is with the Winnebago County Health Department. She says many of these cases are in areas of concern, such as nursing homes. So far, there have 22 deaths in the county. Other areas of concern include the Winnebago County Jail and the Rockford Rescue Mission. – WNIJ News

Illinois Man Who Put Crosses At Sites of Mass Shootings Dies

AURORA — A suburban Chicago man who spent years making crosses and bringing them to the sites of mass shootings and other disasters around the United States has died. Susie Zanis says her 69-year-old father, Greg Zanis, died early Monday. His death was expected after a recent announcement that he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and just last week he greeted well-wishers from his porch as they drove by as part of a drive-by procession and living visitation organized by his daughter. Zanis made and delivered some 27,000 crosses to the sites of mass shootings and other tragedies for more than two decades. – Associated Press


News Around Illinois – May 4, 2020

Illinois Reaches Record High For COVID-19 Tests Performed in 24 Hours

CHICAGO – In his daily briefing Sunday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced a new record high for COVID-19 tests performed in Illinois in a single day: 19,417. The state is reporting 2,994 new cases, bringing the state total to 61,499. An additional 63 deaths were reported, bringing the total fatalities to 2,618.

Pritzker cautioned against comparing Illinois and Cook County to other cities and states based on number of confirmed COVID-19 cases alone, but advised people look instead at how much testing is being done and compare the percentage of positive cases among those tested. “That’s the number that ought to be going down” as testing capacity increases, Pritzker said.

Champaign County announced 24 new cases of COVID-19 since Friday – for a total of 173. Two new cases were announced in Douglas County, for a total of 20. Iroquois County announced 5 new cases over the weekend for a total of 41, and the county’s first COVID-19 death: a woman in her 60s.  Macon County announced 9 new cases – 2 of which are associated with nursing homes – and one additional death, for a total of 13. No new cases were reported in DeWitt, Piatt, Christian, Coles, Edgar, Moultrie, or Vermillion Counties. – Christine Herman, Illinois Newsroom

McLean County Authorities Identify Mobile Home Fire Victims

LEXINGTON — Authorities in central Illinois say they have yet to determine what caused a fire that claimed the lives of a mother and two children. McLean County Coroner Kathy Yoder said Sunday that 27-year-old Hillery R. Peters, 3-year-old Emerlyn Bennett and 16-month-old Sawyer Bennett died of carbon monoxide intoxication from inhaling smoke and soot. The fire in a mobile home near Lexington was reported at 3 a.m. Saturday. Authorities say firefighters arrived quickly, however the fire had advanced too far and prevented rescue of the victims. – Associated Press

Frustrated Mayor Has To Retract News of Parks Re-opening

MURPHYSBORO — There may be nothing worse for a mayor than to have to retract the good news he’s given his constituents. The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan reports Murphysboro Mayor Will Stephens had to do that after announcing that Murphysboro State Park and Kinkaid Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area would open Friday with a relaxed statewide stay-at-home order amid the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s revised order does allow for re-opening some state parks, but not the ones Stephens publicized. Stephens said his initial conversations were with Illinois Department of Natural Resources officials who consulted the wrong list of outdoor areas set to re-open. – Associated Press

Restaurants Partner To Feed Workers Combating Virus Outbreak

MARION — A group of award-winning barbecue restaurants in southern Illinois are partnering to provide meals for health care employees and other workers battling on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. The Hands of Hope foundation will collaborate with the eateries through a program called Operation BBQ’d Hope to provide meals for about 4,000 people at Heartland Regional Medical Center, Herrin Hospital, St. Joseph Memorial Hospital and Memorial Hospital of Carbondale. The Southern Illinoisan reports that the group served their first meal last Tuesday at Heartland. More meals are planned for May 5 in Murphysboro and May 7 in Carbondale. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – May 1, 2020

Modified Stay-At-Home Order Will Take Effect May 1

CHICAGO – The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) reported 2,563 new cases of COVID-19 in the state Thursday. That brings the total to 52,918 cases throughout 97 counties in Illinois. An additional 141 deaths were reported, bringing the total fatalities to 2,355.

On Thursday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker responded to news that an Illinois church and pastor filed a lawsuit against him for the extended stay-at-home order. Gov. Pritzker urged faith leaders to keep churches closed, noting that restrictions will only be lifted after a 14-day period of declining case numbers and hospitalizations.

Friday, May 1 marks the start of the modified stay-at-home order. The order will allow retail stores to re-open to do online or phone orders, as well as pick-up and delivery. Hospitals will also be allowed to resume some elective surgeries with guidelines. Individuals will be required to wear face coverings in public places where they’re unable to maintain a six-foot distance. Find a full list of the stay-at-home order modifications here. – Lecia Bushak, Illinois Newsroom

Champaign County Plans To Offer COVID-19 Testing To All Nursing Homes

URBANA – All nursing home employees in Illinois can now get tested for COVID-19, even if they’re not showing symptoms, thanks to the state loosening testing criteria last week to allow all health care and front line workers to qualify. But Champaign-Urbana Public Health Administrator Julie Pryde says she would like to further expand testing to include residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities, even those with no confirmed COVID-19 cases. C-U Public Health has requested the test kits, Pryde says, and will be sending them to the facilities so that residents can get tested on site. Read the full story here. – Christine Herman, Illinois Newsroom

Illinois Casinos To Stay Closed Until Further Notice

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Gaming Board has decreed the state’s casinos will remain closed “until further notice” in the state’s continued efforts to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus. Illinois’ 36,000 video gambling terminals will also remain dark. Gaming board administrator Marcus Fruchter says the agency will consult public health professionals and review conditions when gambling will be allowed to resume. Gambling in Illinois has been suspended since March 16. Fruchter’s announcement Thursday marks the third extension of the gambling shutdown. Illinois Casino Gaming Association executive director Tom Swoik estimates the state’s 10 casinos have lost about $100 million. – Associated Press

SEALs Tried To Locate US Citizen Taken By Afghan Militants

WASHINGTON — New light is being shed on efforts to locate a military contractor from Illinois who was captured in Afghanistan. The disappearance several months ago of 57-year-old Mark R. Frerichs has been shrouded in mystery. But The Associated Press has learned that in the days after Frerichs’ capture, Navy commandos raided a village and detained suspected members of the Taliban-linked Haqqani network while U.S. intelligence agencies tried to track the cellphones of Frerichs and his captors. Frerichs remains a captive. There are no public indications that he has been part of negotiations between the U.S. and Taliban leadership. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – April 30, 2020

Illinois COVD-19 Cases Surpass 50,000

CHICAGO – The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced a milestone of surpassing 50,000 COVID-19 cases in the state Wednesday, with a total of 50,355. There were an additional 2,253 cases reported in the last 24 hours. 92 new deaths in the last day brings the total fatalities to 2,215.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker also announced new initiatives to bolster nursing home assistance in the state. IDPH plans to expand testing to 3,000 COVID-19 tests per day at Illinois long-term care facilities. Starting Wednesday, IDPH will also deploy ten teams of 50 nurses to long-term care facilities across the state, with an additional 200 nurses to join in the coming days. The nurses will assist facilities in conducting swab testing, training staff and improving hygienic practices and use of personal protective equipment.

Gov. Pritzker also responded to a second lawsuit filed Wednesday by State Rep. John Cabello against the extended stay-at-home order, calling it “irresponsible.” The Illinois Attorney General filed an appeal Wednesday after a judge ruled in favor of State Rep. Darren Bailey’s lawsuit against the stay-at-home order. – Lecia Bushak, Illinois Newsroom

Two People At Joslin Meat Plant Die From COVID-19

JOSLIN – Two people who work at the Tyson plant in Joslin have died from COVID-19. They are among 92 employees who’ve tested positive for the infection. Nita Ludwig, administrator of the Rock Island County Health Department, says her department has been working with managers at the Tyson Foods  plant to implement social distancing, slower production, and other measures to prevent the infection from spreading. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Rock Island County totals 426, and more than 21 percent of those patients are Tyson employees. – Michelle O’Neill, WVIK News

Wednesday COVID-19 Cases Include Ten In Champaign County

URBANA – Champaign County reported ten new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, for a total of 124 cases and six deaths. Macon County reported two new COVID-19 cases, for a total of 110 cases and eleven deaths. Vermilion County reported one new case for a total of 19 cases and one death. Iroquois County reported five new COVID-19 cases, for a total of 29. DeWitt County has reported its second COVID-19 case in as many days. Local health authorities say both patients are young healthcare workers who work in Decatur, and are close contacts of each other. The DeWitt-Piatt Bi-County Health Department says that healthcare workers make up five of the nine COVID-19 cases identified in the two counties. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Unclear When State Lawmakers Will Meet Again

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois state legislature will reconvene. But it’s uncertain when, where and how. Many people are working remotely these days, but it appears state law prohibits the legislature from holding virtual meetings online. Governor J.B. Pritzker summed up the problem. “That is something the legislature could do, but in order to do that they would need to meet in person and pass a law to allow distance meetings,” said Pritzker. Republicans are pushing for session to resume so the legislature can decide if Illinois’ stay-at-home order should continue. But the Democratic Senate President says he first wants a plan that would lay out urgent issues and protect the health and safety off all involved. – Sean Crawford, NPR Illinois

News Around Illinois – April 28, 2020

Illinois Sees Highest Number Of COVID-19 Deaths In One Day

CHICAGO — Gov. J.B. Pritzker responded Tuesday to the ruling of an Illinois judge that sided with State Representative Darren Bailey against the extended stay-at-home order. Gov. Pritzker said the judge’s ruling on Monday is limited and only applies to one person. He noted the state acted within its legal authority and is appealing immediately, and that the stay-at-home order still stands.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) also announced 2,219 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, bringing the total case count to 48,102. An additional 144 people died from COVID-19, marking the highest number of deaths in 24 hours to date. That brings the total fatalities to more than 2,125. In the last day, 14,561 COVID-19 tests have been processed in the state, bringing the total number of tests to 242,189. – Lecia Bushak, Illinois Newsroom

Police Chief Questions Pritzker’s Powers, Stay-Home Orders

ENERGY — A southern Illinois police chief is expressing skepticism about Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s power to issue stay-at-home orders to combat the coronavirus pandemic. In a letter to residents of the village of Energy, Police Chief Shawn Ladd says he and his department have no interest in enforcing any rules, declarations or proclamations that morally or technically violate provisions of the federal or state constitutions. Ladd told The Southern Illinoisan in Carbondale nothing requires him or his officers to enforce Pritzker’s orders. – Associated Press

Poland Sends Help To Illinois To Fight COVID-19

CHICAGO – The Illinois National guard has teamed up with the Republic of Poland to fight COVID-19 in Illinois. Poland sent doctors, nurses and EMTs to Chicago to help combat the coronavirus. Illinois Army and Air National Guard, General Richard Neely, says Illinois and the European country have been working side by side for years. Meanwhile, the 1,100 National Guard troops deployed throughout the state are running testing sites and addressing outbreaks at prisons. – Olivia Mitchell, NPR Illinois

Northwestern Joins Other Universities Rejecting Relief Aid

EVANSTON — Northwestern University officials say the school is rejecting the $8.5 million it was allotted in the CARES Act. The university’s announcement Tuesday follows similar decisions made by officials at Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Yale, Duke universities and the University of Pennsylvania. In a statement released by spokesman Jon Yates, Northwestern decided not to apply for or receive the funds allocated in the CARES Act after determining it couldn’t accept the act’s requirements and evolving guidance. The money for higher education was meant to help colleges and students facing financial losses triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – April 28, 2020

Judge Rules Pritzker’s Stay-At-Home Order An Overreach

CHICAGO — A judge in southern Illinois ruled Monday that the Illinois governor’s stay-at-home order to stem the spread of the coronavirus exceeds his emergency authority and violates individual civil rights. Clay County Circuit Judge Michael McHaney sided with Republican Rep. Darren Bailey’s lawsuit seeking to undo Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s far-reaching executive order which has closed schools, shut down nonessential businesses, and limited movement by individuals because of the potentially deadly COVID-19. At his daily briefing on the state’s response to COVID-19, Pritzker reacted sternly, accusing Bailey, a Xenia resident, of being “blindly devoted to ideology and the pursuit of personal celebrity.” – Associated Press

Illinois COVID-19 Cases Top 45K

CHICAGO — The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced 1,980 new cases of COVID-19 Monday. That brings the state’s total to 45,883. The state saw 50 deaths in the last day, bringing total fatalities to 1,983. IDPH also noted six additional COVID-19 symptoms, announced by the CDC. Those include chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and new loss of taste or smell. – Lecia Bushak, Illinois Newsroom

Monday’s COVID-19 Cases Include Family Members in Vermilion County

DANVILLE – Vermilion County health authorities say three COVID-19 cases reported Monday and a fourth reported Saturday all come from the same family. The Vermilion County Health Department says a preschooler and three residents in their 20s are related by family and/or marriage. Here’s the east-central Illinois county breakdown:

  • Champaign: 109 cases, 6 deaths (Monday: 4 new cases and 1 additional death, woman in her 60s, reported)
  • Douglas: 14 cases (Monday: 1 new case reported)
  • Iroquois: 20 cases (Monday: 2 new cases reported)
  • Macon: 107 cases, 11 deaths
  • Vermilion: 17 cases, no deaths

 Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Nursing Home Workers Threaten Strike In Midst of Pandemic

CHICAGO — Workers at 40 Chicago-area nursing homes are threatening to strike over wages a day after Illinois officials announced a jump in deaths from the coronavirus of people who live or work at long-term care facilities. Members of the SEIU Healthcare of Illinois are negotiating with the Illinois Association of Healthcare Facilities to replace a contract that expires April 30. A May 8 strike date has been set. The nursing home association says operators have offered an 11% pay hike and other contract enhancements. – Associated Press


News Around Illinois – April 27, 2020

Number of Virus Deaths Climbs To Nearly 2,000 In Illinois

CHICAGO – The death toll of the coronavirus crisis inched closer to the 2,000 mark in Illinois, as state officials say that the virus had taken 59 more lives.  Sunday’s announcement puts the number of people in Illinois killed by the virus at 1,933 and the 2,126 new COVID-19 cases in Illinois puts the state total at 43,903. The health department also says that there have been confirmed virus cases in 96 of the state’s 102 counties. At a news conference, Gov. J.B. Pritzker warned people thinking of violating statewide social distancing requirements that they risk arrest if they do so. – Associated Press

Central Illinois COVID-19 Cases Continue To Grow

URBANA – Champaign County reported two new confirmed cases over the weekend, bringing the county’s total to 105, and five deaths. In Macon County, three new cases were confirmed over the weekend, bringing the total there to 107, and 11 deaths. Most of the cases are among residents and staff of Fair Havens Senior Living in Decatur. Even so, Macon County health officials encourage the public to maintain social distancing and to not have a false sense of security. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Judge Eases Ballot Requirements For 3rd Party Candidates

CHICAGO — A judge has relaxed signature requirements for third-party candidates after a lawsuit claimed Illinois’ stay-at-home order impeded the petition process needed to get on the November ballot. The Green and Libertarian parties sued earlier this month in federal court. Under Illinois’ election rules, candidates not from established parties have to collect signatures from March 24 until June 22 for the general election. They also need more required signatures. The order issued Thursday guarantees Green and Libertarian candidates spots on the ballot while other candidates won’t have to gather as many signatures and will get more time to do so. – Associated Press

Supreme Court Allows Possible Coal Ash Lawsuits To Proceed

SPRINGFIELD – Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that the Clean Water Act applies to pollution that seeps into protected waters through groundwater contamination. The ruling will allow local environmental groups to sue companies that leak coal ash waste, a byproduct of coal burning, into groundwater. Illinois has grappled with coal ash ponds contaminating groundwater for decades, says Andrew Rehn with Prairie Rivers Network. “Every single one of these coal ash ponds are located right next to rivers or lakes,” said Rehn. “One way or the other, I think this ruling will give us a way to use the Clean Water Act to actually protect waters.” Illinois has some of the highest coal ash pond contamination levels in the country, according to a 2018 report. – Lecia Bushak, Illinois Newsroom



News Around Illinois – April 25/26, 2020

COVID-19 Tests Hit Milestone, Pritzker Warns Long Way To Go

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois public health officials completed more than 16,000 tests for COVID-19 in 24 hours, surpassing for the first time the 10,000-per-day mark that the governor on Friday called a milestone on the way to tracking the deadly virus and ending tight restrictions on social interaction. But Pritzker, who on Thursday extended the statewide stay-at-home order, indicated there’s a long way to go for Illinois. The Department of Public Health reported another 108 deaths and more than 2,700 infections of COVD-19 statewide. – Associated Press

Illinois Supreme Court To Hear Arguments Via Video

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Supreme Court will for the first time in its history hear oral arguments through videoconference because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The unusual procedure during May will allow the court’s seven justices to observe social distancing, a practice which experts believe significantly limits transmission of the potentially deadly virus. The court is scheduled to hear 11 cases on May 12-14. Arguments begin at 9 a.m. each day. Court personnel will have training sessions with lawyers involved in the cases so that they know what to expect from the virtual sessions. – Associated Press

Judge Blocks New Illinois Workers’ Compensation Rule

SPRINGFIELD — A judge has blocked a new Illinois workers’ compensation rule granting benefits to any employee deemed essential who contracts COVID-19, even if working from home. Sangamon County Circuit Judge John Madonia issued a temporary restraining order Thursday blocking the rule. The Illinois Manufacturers’ Association and the Illinois Retail Merchants Association had filed suit this week against emergency amendments adopted by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. The commission decreed earlier this month that any worker deemed essential during the pandemic who contracts COVID-19 is granted an automatic assumption that she or he contracted it at work, even if working remotely, allowing for workers’ compensation benefits covered by employers. – Associated Press

Lawmakers Face May Deadline On Change To Redistricting

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois lawmakers are facing a May 3 deadline to approve a joint resolution that would alter how the state’s congressional and legislative maps are drawn to help make elections more competitive. Legislators typically draw maps every 10 years by using new census data, without getting input from the pubic. The process has sparked criticism from some people in the public and in many government reform groups. A combined 47 legislators are sponsoring an amendment in which maps would be redrawn by an independent commission that is “demographically, politically and geographically representative” of Illinois. Some lawmakers say they’re doubtful any change will happen by the deadline. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – April 24, 2020

Pritzker Extends Stay-at-Home Order Amid COVID-19 Spread

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois governor has extended his stay-at-home order through May 30 as the highly contagious COVID-19 continues its rounds. Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s decree had been scheduled to expire April 30. Pritzker said Thursday that he understands how much everyone wants their normal lives back, but that this is the time to dig in. A peak in the state’s number of new coronavirus cases had initially been expected in late April, but Pritzker said this week that’s now likely to occur in May. Illinois has reported 36,934 virus cases and 1,689 deaths. – Associated Press Click here to what is essential/prohibited starting May 1.

Champaign County Reports 100th COVID-19 Case; More New Cases In Coles, Macon

CHAMPAIGN – Champaign County health officials confirmed two new cases of COVID-19 Thursday. That brings the total number of cases in the county to 100. About 16 of those cases are considered currently active. Reports from Champaign County officials indicate that about one-thousand people per day are being tested for the coronavirus.  Coles County reported 2 new COVID-19 cases Thursday for a total of 22. Macon County reported one new case. But health officials are keeping the county total at 96, because a previously confirmed case was determined to live in another county. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Southern Illinois Lawmaker Sues Governor For Stay-Home Order

LOUISVILLE — A southern Illinois state lawmaker is suing Gov. J.B. Pritzker for extending the state’s stay-at-home order in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Republican State Rep. Darren Bailey of Xenia claims in the lawsuit filed Thursday in Clay County Circuit Court that Pritzker has exceeded his authority and is violating the civil rights of the state’s residents. Pritzker on Thursday extended his stay-at-home order through May 30 as the highly contagious COVID-19 continued to infect hundreds in the state. Bailey says his constituents are ready to return to work and resume a normal life. – Associated Press

You’re Invited To Join Saturday Singalong

URBANA – People in the Champaign-Urbana community and beyond are invited to take part in the first C-U Singalong Saturday at 4:00 p.m. The event is being organized by several groups, including Chambana Moms, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, and music teachers in Champaign Unit 4 and Urbana 116 schools. “Sing,” will be sung at Saturday’s C-U Singalong.  – Brian Moline, Illinois Newsroom Click here for more information.

News Around Illinois – April 23, 2020

Illinois Reports Highest Number Of New COVID-19 Cases In One Day

CHICAGO — The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) reported 2,049 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday. That’s the highest number of positive cases of COVID-19 the state has seen in one day. Gov. J.B. Pritzker says the high case numbers could be a result of more tests being conducted. More than 164,000 tests have been performed in Illinois so far, according to IDPH. The new cases bring the total number of positive COVID-19 cases statewide to 35,108. An additional 98 deaths were reported, bringing the total up to 1,565. – Lecia Bushak, Illinois Newsroom

More Testing Finds More COVID-19 Cases At Decatur Nursing Home

DECATUR – The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases linked to Fair Havens Senior Living nearly doubled Wednesday, with the report of 33 additional cases from the Decatur nursing home, plus five more cases elsewhere in Macon County. Authorities say the surge is due to additional testing performed this week that covers all residents and staff at Fair Havens. Previously, testing had only been done in one part of the nursing facility. The Illinois Department of Public Health, which regulates nursing homes, sent over more test kits at the request of local officials. Macon County now reports 72 COVID-19 cases at Fair Havens and other congregate facilities, plus 14 total cases elsewhere in the county. Eleven Macon County residents have died, ten of them at Fair Havens.  – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Pritzker Offers Tepid Response To GOP Re-opening Proposal

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois House Republicans are suggesting ways for slowly reopening businesses and relaxing restrictions on public interaction as the threat from COVID-19 potentially recedes. With Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order scheduled to expire April 30, GOP lawmakers offered plans for re-opening businesses such as car dealerships, salons and state parks and allowing hospitals to resume regular screening procedures. It came just a day after Pritzker announced that the rising number of cases won’t hit its peak until mid-May, weeks later than projected, raising questions about a stay-at-home extension. – Associated Press

Chicago City Council Signs Off On New Police Superintendent

CHICAGO — The Chicago City Council has approved the appointment of former Dallas Police Chief David Brown as the city’s police superintendent. The council voted unanimously in favor of Brown on Wednesday. The vote comes a little more than two weeks after Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced her selection of Brown to head the police force in the nation’s third largest city. Lightfoot fired Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson in December, saying he lied to her about what happened one night before he was found asleep at the wheel of his vehicle. Brown will take over from Interim Police Superintendent Charlie Beck. – Associated Press

Michelle Obama’s Star Power Could Help Biden Unite Democrats

WASHINGTON — As Joe Biden looks to unite Democrats, the person with the most influence may be Michelle Obama. The former first lady is a unique figure in a deeply polarizing political environment. Her across-the-board appeal and the energy she brings could be critical for Biden as he tries to build momentum for his campaign during the coronavirus pandemic. Michelle Obama could help Biden present a clear contrast with President Donald Trump and rebuild the multiracial, multi-generational coalition that twice put her husband, Barack Obama, in the White House. Aides say she supports Biden, though an endorsement does not appear imminent. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – April 22, 2020

Pritzker: COVID-19 Case Peak Hasn’t Happened Yet

CHICAGO – The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced 1,551 new cases of COVID-19 in the state Tuesday. That brings the statewide total to more than 33,000. 119 new fatalities brings the death toll to more than 1,400. IDPH noted that of the people who had confirmed cases of COVID-19 four weeks ago, 77 percent have recovered. Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the peak in the rate of COVID-19 cases in Illinois is yet to come, and may not arrive until May. – Lecia Bushak, Illinois Newsroom

Illinois Supreme Court To Hear Oral Arguments Via Zoom

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on cases in May via the video conference platform Zoom. The court has scheduled eleven cases to be heard via Zoom on May 12-14. This is the first time that the state’s highest court will use videoconferencing technology to hear arguments. In a news release, Chief Justice Anne Burke said that such a practice would have seemed impossible a few months ago, but “the Court has found that a lot of our regular work — including oral arguments — can be done remotely while still keeping people safe from COVID-19”. Court personnel will hold training sessions with counsel so they will know what to expect from the virtual proceedings. The public will be able to attend the arguments via Zoom, on the Illinois Supreme Court’s YouTube page. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

COVID-19 Prompts Cancellation Of Spring High School Sports

BLOOMINGTON — The Illinois High School Association has canceled state tournaments for all spring sports because of COVID-19. The IHSA’s action on Tuesday comes after Gov. J.B. Pritzker last week closed the state’s public schools to in-person instruction through the end of the academic year. IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson acknowledges the association’s decision is disappointing for students, but he adds it is the right decision for their health and safety. Among the tournaments canceled were those for baseball, bass fishing, boys gymnastics, lacrosse and water polo. – Associated Press

University of Illinois Creates Fund To Offset Tuition Hike

CHAMPAIGN — The University of Illinois has created a fund to provide financial aid to students who are facing increased economic distress due to the coronavirus pandemic. The fund, which will have at least $36 million available for students, is being supported by the federal COVID-19 relief package, money from all three universities in Illinois’ system and private fundraising. President Tim Killeen says students from Illinois will have priority in accessing the aid, which will cover a 1% to 1.8% tuition increase in the fall across the system. – Associated Press


News Around Illinois – April 21, 2020

Illinois COVID-19 Cases Pass 31,000

CHICAGO — The Illinois Department of Public Health announced 1,151 new cases of COVID-19 across the state Monday, bringing the total number of cases to 31,508. As of Monday, the number of new deaths is at 59, which brings the total number of deaths in the state to 1,349.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said that 23 percent of the state’s ventilator capacity is in use, a decrease from 27 percent on April 10. He noted that social distancing measures implemented have “prevented worst-case scenarios.” Pritzker also announced that the state would ramp up testing at nursing homes and long-term care facilities – both at facilities without previously identified COVID-19 cases, as well as among staff in facilities with known cases. – Lecia Bushak, Illinois Newsroom

New COVID-19 Cases Range From Teen To Octogenarian

CHAMPAIGN – Vermilion, Macon, Coles and Ford Counties each reported one new COVID-19 case apiece Monday.  The patients’ ages range from a teen-age resident in Vermilion County to a man in his 80s in Ford County. Champaign County had no new cases to report. To date, Champaign County has confirmed a total of 95 COVID-19 cases. Macon County’s total is 55 cases — 37 of them at nursing homes or other group facilities. Coles County has confirmed 17 cases.  Vermilion County has confirmed eleven cases. And Ford County has confirmed six. None of these counties reported any additional deaths.   – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

I-80 Mississippi Bridge Plan To Be Discussed In Webinar

DIXON — The Illinois Department of Transportation will hold a virtual public meeting Wednesday on plans for replacing a more than 50-year-old Mississippi River bridge in the Quad Cities area. The meeting is being held online because of social distancing restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic. The public can participate via an online link. IDOT officials will discuss a study of Interstate 80 over the Mississippi River. The plan is to replace the I-80 bridge in the Quad Cities, which opened in 1966. The meeting is at 2 p.m. Click here to register to participate in the webinar. Associated Press


News Around Illinois – April 20, 2020

Coronavirus Cases Top 30,000

CHICAGO – On Sunday, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported the number of COVID-19 cases has grown to 30,357. The death toll stands at 1,290. – Reginald Hardwick, Illinois Newsroom

Nine Residents Dead From COVID-19 At Fair Havens In Decatur

DECATUR — Nine residents at the Fair Havens Senior Living facility in Decatur have died after contracting COVID-19. So far, all COVID-19 related deaths in Macon county have been residents at the long-term care facility. The latest casualties from the virus are a woman in her 90s and another woman in her 70s, according to the Macon County Health Department. Read the full story here. – Lee Gaines, Illinois Newsroom

Northern Illinois Mayors Ask Governor To Allow Reopening

ROCKFORD — Five northern Illinois mayors are asking Gov. J.B. Pritzker for the authority to reopen businesses next month urging “common sense modifications” to a statewide stay-at-home order amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Rockford Register Star reports the mayors say thousands of employees in the restaurant, fitness, salon and childcare industries are being unnecessarily harmed because they’re not considered essential workers. They say the need for financial assistance has exceeded available state and federal resources. Pritzker’s order runs until April 30. He says he’s evaluating if an extension is needed, as other states have done.  – Associated Press

Crews Tackle $20M Expansion Of Northwest Illinois Hospital

MORRISON — Crews are continuing work on a $20.5 million expansion of a community hospital in northwest Illinois during the coronavirus pandemic. Sauk Valley Media reports Morrison Community Hospital plans to add or renovate 80,000 square feet of space, including five emergency room bays and another operating room. Hospital Marketing Director Mick Welding says crews were already wearing protective equipment to do their jobs and there are barriers in place to separate employees and patients, so no changes were needed amid the pandemic. The project is expected to be finished in 2021. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – April 18/19, 2020

Pritzker Orders Illinois Schools Closed For Rest of Semester

CHICAGO — Illinois’ governor has ordered schools throughout the state to remain closed for the rest of the semester because of the threat of the coronavirus. J.B. Pritzker announced the action Friday during his daily coronavirus briefing in Chicago, extending school closures past the April 30 date he previously set. As of Friday, Illinois had recorded 27,575 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 1,134 deaths.. Students will continue to receive instruction and assignments over the internet through the end of the semester. – Associated Press

Second Decatur Nursing Facility Reports COVID-19 Case

DECATUR – Villa Clara Rehabilitation and Post-Acute Care in Decatur is stressing practices it’s taken against infection, as it reports one of its residents has tested positive for COVID-19. In a statement issued through a public relations firm, Villa Clara said the resident was in the hospital for a different reason, when they were tested. The resident remains hospitalized. Villa Clara says the infected resident was a recent arrival, coming after new coronavirus safeguards had been instituted. “The resident that tested positive for COVID-19 was in our facility for a total of four days,” according to the nursing facility’s statement. “During that time the resident was kept in quarantine and staff maintained droplet precautions during all interactions per our protocol.”  Villa Clara says none of their other residents or staff have tested positive for COVID-19, and that staff have all the personal protective equipment (PPE) and are using them. Meanwhile, Macon County health officials say a seventh resident of Fair Havens Senior Living in Decatur has died from COVID-19. A total of 33 residents and staff at Fair Havens have tested positive for the coronavirus. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Coronavirus Claims Life of 3rd Chicago Police Officer

CHICAGO — Chicago Police say a third officer has died after testing positive for the coronavirus. A department spokesman says that 59-year-old Ronald Newman died early Friday. Newman was a decorated officer who joined the department a little more than 19 years ago. On April 2, Officer Marco DiFranco became the first member of the department to die after testing positive for the virus. Then, on April 10, 56-year-old Sgt. Cliff Martin became the second member of the police force to die after testing positive for the virus. – Associated Press

Madison County Officials Fired For Alleged Dirt-Digging

EDWARDSVILLE — Two top officials of Madison County in southern Illinois have been fired for allegedly improperly accessing emails and other data for political purposes. The Madison County board late Thursday voted to fire county administrator Doug Hulme and information technology director Rob Dorman. The allegations against the men, both Republicans, came to light after the unsealing of court documents relating to a 2018 investigation into possible corruption within the county administration office. The documents indicate a county officials told a grand jury about suspicions Hulme and Dorman had untitled access to emails of county workers. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – April 17, 2020

Tests Prioritized As Virus Deaths In Illinois Pass 1,000

CHICAGO — Illinois has reported the deadliest 24 hours so far in the state and officials say new supplies would allow for more testing, which is essential for stopping the spread of the virus. Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Thursday said 125 people had died in the state since Wednesday afternoon, bringing the statewide total to 1,072. Cases also continued to climb, with 1,140 new results bringing the statewide total to 25,733. The grim update followed reports that 22 residents and one staff members at a nursing home in Joliet had died of of the coronavirus. Symphony of Joliet had reported a total of three deaths as recently as last week. – Associated Press

7 Midwest States To Partner On Reopening The Economy

LANSING, Mich.  — Seven Midwestern governors announced Thursday that they will coordinate on reopening their state economies, after similar pacts were made earlier this week in the Northeast and on the West Coast. Thursday’s announcement covers Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky. The governors say they will work with experts and take a “fact-based, data-driven approach to reopening our economy in a way that protects families from the spread of COVID-19.” All together, the 17 states covered by the three pacts are home to nearly half of the country’s population. – Associated Press

Death Threat Against Leaders’ Daughter Under Investigation

CHAMPAIGN – State Representative Carol Ammons and her husband, Champaign County Clerk Aaron Ammons, say a threat against their daughter is under investigation. The threat came in an anonymous hand-written letter delivered to the county clerk’s office on Monday. In it, the writer threatens to kill daughter Titianna Ammons if Carol Ammons succeeds in her bid to become chair of the Democratic Party in Champaign County. Titianna Ammons is running for a Champaign County Board seat in the November election. In a statement, Aaron and Carol Ammons say they’re taking the threat to their daughter’s life seriously. They ask anyone with information about the threat to contact the Champaign County Sheriff’s office, which is investigating the matter. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Man Gets 5-Year Sentence For Pouring Corrosive Liquid On Dog

EDWARDSVILLE — A southern Illinois man has been sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to animal torture and aggravated animal cruelty for his attack on a dog. The Madison County state’s attorney’s office says 45-year-old Rodney W. Johnson of Granite City on Thursday admitted to spraying a dog with a corrosive liquid that caused the loss of skin over a large portion of the 10-year-old Maltese mix’s body. The dog beat the odds against his survival, however he lost all his hair in the February incident. Assistant Madison County State’s Attorney Chad Loughrey says Johnson became a suspect because he was living with the dog’s owner. – Associated Press

Illinois’ Dosunmu Declares For NBA Draft

Illinois’ Ayo Dosunmu (11) drives the ball as Maryland’s Donta Scott (24) defends during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Feb. 7, 2020, in Champaign, Ill. (AP Photo/Holly Hart) Holly Hart/AP

CHAMPAIGN  — Illinois star Ayo Dosunmu declared for the NBA draft in a video posted to his Twitter account on Wednesday. A first-team, all-Big Ten guard, Dosunmu wrote in the video he is “100% locked in” and plans to forgo his final two years of eligibility. He said he does not have an agent, though players can now hire one and withdraw as long as they cut ties. The NCAA deadline is June 3, with the draft scheduled for June 25. Dosunmu averaged 16.6 points — fifth in the conference — and shot 48.4 percent. The Illini went 21-10 overall and 13-7 in Big Ten play in coach Brad Underwood’s third season and were in line for their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2013 when the season got shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – April 16, 2020

COVID-19 Cases Top 24,000; Deaths Top 900 In Illinois

CHICAGO – The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 1,346 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state Wednesday, for a total of 24,593 cases. The number of deaths from COVID-19 in Illinois now stands at 948. At his daily news conference, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the state’s general revenue funds were being revised downward by $2.7 billion for the current fiscal year, due to the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, with FY 2021 general revenue projections revised downward by $6.2 billion. Pritzker called on Congress to pass an additional aid package to help states make up for revenue shortfall due to the pandemic. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom 

Death Toll Rises at Macon County Senior Care Center

DECATUR – Two more deaths from COVID-19 have been reported at Fair Havens Senior Care in Decatur. And Decatur Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe is asking the Illinois Department of Public Health to take a bigger role in controlling the coronavirus at the facility. Wolfe wants testing for COVID-19 to be extended to all residents and staff at Fair Havens. And she wants the proper use of personal protective equipment, or PPE.  To date, 32 residents and staff at Fair Havens have tested positive for COVID-19, and a total of five residents have died from the virus. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

State Centers For Food, Medical Benefits Close To Public 

CHAMPAIGN – The Illinois Department of Human Services is temporarily closing the last 11 of its Family Community Resource Centers to the public, to guard against spreading the coronavirus. The latest closures, effective Thursday, include centers in Champaign and Charleston. Others centers, including ones in Danville and Decatur, had already closed. The Family Community Resource Centers serve as a one-stop shop for Illinois residents and families to obtain medical, food and other benefits, such as entry into the SNAP program. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom.

Comptroller: $174 Million Spent On PPE

URBANA – In just a little over three weeks, the state of Illinois has spent $174 million on personal protective equipment (PPE) to help in the fight against the coronavirus. That’s according to state Comptroller Susana Mendoza, whose office handled the procurements. Speaking on WILL’S ‘The 21st’ show, Mendoza said none of this money was planned for in the state budget which means it took $174 million away from what the state can spend for things that are in the budget.  – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Feds Grant U of I System $63 Million

URBANA – The University of Illinois system, including its Urbana, Chicago and Springfield universities, is due to receive about $63 million in federal grant money, according to data from the US Department of Education. The money is intended to help institutions of higher education deal with the financial fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. In total, Illinois colleges and universities can expect to receive $437 million from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. Institutions are supposed to spend half of the money they receive from the federal government on emergency financial aid grants for students. – Lee V. Gaines, Illinois Newsroom

Cancellation Considered For 2020 Illinois State Fair

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Fair is still scheduled for August, despite the governor encouraging planners of other big summer events to consider canceling. Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder says the state should take a wait-and-see approach. The Illinois Department of Agriculture says they are working closely with the Illinois Department of Public Health to determine the best course forward for the 2020 Springfield and DuQuoin State Fairs. – Olivia Mitchell, NPR Illinois

News Around Illinois – April 15, 2020

1,222 New COVID-19 Cases & 74 New Deaths In Illinois

CHICAGO – The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 1,222 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, and 74 additional deaths. Most deaths occurred in the Chicago area, But deaths were also reported in Sangamon and Tazewell Counties in central Illinois, Jackson and Monroe Counties in southern Illinois and Whiteside County in northern Illinois. Clay County in southeastern Illinois became the 88th Illinois county to report a COVID-19 case.  Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced he is suspending laws that could allow garnishment or deductions from federal stimulus checks resulting from the federal CARES Act to pay off debts.  The governor’s office says the move is to ensure that federal stimulus money can be used for food, shelter and transportation as intended. –  Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Champaign-Urbana Dog Parks Close To Prevent Coronavirus Spread

CHAMPAIGN/URBANA – The region’s two dog parks are closing until further notice, because of coronavirus concerns. The parks, on West Windsor Road in Champaign and Perkins Road in Urbana, are being closed on the recommendation of local public health officials. The Champaign and Urbana Park Districts say the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District wants to prevent close gatherings of people where the virus can spread. The Champaign Park District suggests dog owners use public sidewalks and park paths to exercise their pets instead, but to remember to practice social distancing. Memberships for Champaign Dog Park patrons will be extended for the duration of the shutdown. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

37 Immigrant Children At Chicago-Area Shelters Have COVID-19

CHICAGO — Officials say dozens of immigrant children living in three Chicago-area shelters have tested positive for COVID-19 and the number could increase as test results come back. The Chicago Tribune reports 37 of 69 children are positive. The Chicago-based Heartland Alliance runs the shelters where children in the custody of the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement are waiting to be released to a relative or legal guardian. Federal officials stopped placing children in states including New York because of concerns related to the coronavirus. Heartland officials say the children’s prognosis is “very good” and staff members are taking precautions. – Associated Press

Illinois COVID-19 Response Price Tag $174M, Records Show

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois taxpayers can follow the state’s spending on thwarting the coronavirus with an online database. State comptroller Susana Mendoza debuted the portal Tuesday. It shows that since Gov. JB Pritzker declared the COVID-19 pandemic a state disaster on March 9, officials have spent $174 million on medicine and protective equipment for health care workers to prevent transmission of the potentially deadly virus. Spending will be updated daily. As of Monday, 868 had died of complications related to COVID-19 among 23,247 cases of coronavirus infection. – Associated Press

Murder Suspect Recaptured After Escaping Illinois Jail

CARLINVILLE — A southern Illinois man charged with first-degree murder is back behind bars after escaping from the Macoupin County Jail in Carlinville,. William D. Kavanaugh was captured late Monday about 14 miles away in Shipman, Illinois. Sheriff Shawn Kahl on Tuesday says deputies located the 35-year-old Kavanaugh in a trailer home after receiving a tip. Kahl says Kavanaugh surrendered peacefully after deputies surrounded the trailer. The Belleville News-Democrat reports Kavanaugh is accused in the shooting death of a man on New Year’s Eve in 2015. – Associated Press


News Around Illinois – April 14, 2020

IL House GOP Slams Governor On Handling Of Unemployment Claims

CHICAGO – Illinois House Republicans in a press conference Monday said Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration has not done enough to address the tsunami of unemployment insurance claims from recent weeks. “I believe the state of Illinois has failed those Illinoisans who have been left out, that were cut out as nonessential but they have not been able to survive and also rely upon the state of Illinois through [the] Department of Unemployment [sic] Security,” House Republican Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs said. A few hours later, during his daily briefing, Pritzker said IDES has been processing claims as fast as it can. Employees have logged 6,500 hours of overtime, and retired employees have returned to work. That department has also increased its phone capacity by 40 percent and has been working with technology companies to create a web bot that can respond to frequently asked questions. Maureen Foertsch McKinney – NPR Illinois

Employers Say Emergency Rule Will Burden Industries

CHICAGO – A group of Illinois employers say they are not happy with recent changes to the state’s workers compensation rules. Under an emergency rule adopted by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, essential workers who fall ill with COVID-19 are automatically assumed to have contracted it at their workplace, even if they work from home. That means they may qualify for workers compensation. Gov. Pritzker said these rules would give essential workers a safety net by, “ensuring that their workers’ insurance covers them if they contract COVID-19 while they’re on the job.” Groups representing Illinois employers, like the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, said the rule change will require employers to pay for medical expenses and salary benefits without proof that the illness was contracted at the workplace. In a statement, those groups said the emergency rule will burden industries already waiting on federal and state help with extra costs. – Mike Smith, NPR Illinois

Two More COVID-19 Deaths Among Decatur Care Facility Residents

DECATUR – Officials in Macon County say two more residents of Fair Havens Senior Care in Decatur have died after contracting COVID-19. The Macon County Health Department reported Monday night that the two residents were a man in his 80s and a woman in her 70s. A total of three Fair Havens residents have now died after testing positive for COVID-19. Earlier Monday, officials reported six more confirmed cases of COVID-19 among residents or employees at Fair Havens. A total of 31 COVID-19 cases have now been reported among the facility’s workers and residents over the past week — including the three deaths. –  Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Bloomington Extends Broadened Package Liquor Rules To Clubs

BLOOMINGTON – Club organizations like the VFW can now offer delivery and curbside pickup of alcohol in Bloomington. The City Council granted the permission during its virtual meeting Monday night, voting to modify the local emergency order approved on March 26. The amendment extends the temporary curbside and delivery alcohol allowance for restaurants and bars to club liquor license holders during the state’s shelter-in-place directive. With the revised alcohol policy, the original emergency declaration will remain in effect for repeated 28-day periods until it is repealed. It will appear on every City Council agenda so a repeal can be considered as soon as the pandemic subsides. – Joe Deacon, WGLT

Peoria Faces Stark Budgeting Choices In Wake of COVID-19

PEORIA – The COVID-19 economic shutdown threw the city of Peoria’s once-balanced $218 million budget out of whack. City manager Patrick Urich said lost revenues from taxes and fees will require the city to cut or borrow at least $31.5 million this year if the economy reopens May 1, as the governor’s current stay-at-home executive order prescribes. He said it will likely include both cuts and short-term borrowing, as the cuts-only option would require the city to lay off 70 percent of its workforce. That would include police officers, firefighters, and 911 dispatchers. – Tim Shelley, WCBU

News Around Illinois – April 13, 2020

CHICAGO – On Sunday, Illinois surpassed the 20,000 mark in total COVID-19 cases. The death toll now stands at 720 since the pandemic began. Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Sunday’s death count of 43 is the lowest in six days. Sunday’s announcement showed 7,956 tests given, higher than what the state has been averaging. As more tests are available, it’s likely to see more cases. But Pritzker said the percentage testing positive has remained the same. – Sean Crawford, NPR Illinois

CHICAGO – Illinois residents who have COVID-19 symptoms or may have been exposed will be able to recover from their homes with the help of a new patient monitoring program announced Saturday. Those who are sick but don’t need to be in the hospital will have daily virtual visits with health workers. They will also receive wellness kits with alcohol wipes, thermometers, and blood pressure cuffs. More details on that program here. – Olivia Mitchell, NPR Illinois

DECATUR – Authorities in Macon County reported ten new confirmed cases of COVID-19 Sunday, all of them apparently linked to the Fair Havens Senior Living long-term care facility in Decatur. Macon County has now reported a total of 35 COVID-19 cases, 25 of which are associated with Fair Havens, including one death. Champaign County officials reported no new COVID-19 cases Sunday for the first time in nearly three weeks.  Champaign County has confirmed 85 COVID-19 cases so far, including two deaths. Coles County reported two new cases Sunday, for a total of seven confirmed cases. Iroquois County reported one new case, for a total of nine. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

MONMOUTH – Thirteen-year-old David Simmons of Monmouth saw the need for personal protective equipment and decided to put his 3D printing skills to good use. Simmons has been 3D printing objects with his brothers for the past couple years. Once he got the idea to print face shields for a county health department, he found a design online and got to work. “We delivered our first 8 masks to the Cass County Health Department and they are using them. And we are now printing about 8 a day,” he said. Simmons says it takes about three hours to print and assemble one face shield. He says as long as there’s a need, his goal is to continue printing them for the foreseeable future. – Daniel Musisi, WCBU

CARBONDALE – A man in his 70s became the third Jackson County resident to die of COVID-19, officials announced Sunday. Public Health Officials say two other women have also tested positive for COVID-19. One is in her 20s and the other is in her 50s. In Franklin and Williamson County, health officials there say two new positive cases in both counties. Officials say there have been a total of 11 laboratory confirmed positives in Williamson county and 5 laboratory confirmed positives in Franklin county. – Jacob Gordon, WSIU

ROCKFORD – Rockford alderman and community activist John Beck has died. The 57-year-old Republican represented the city’s 12th ward since 2001. He worked for the Rockford Park District as its Arts, Events, and Recreation Project Manager for the past 13 years. Beck also was known as a champion of accessibility and defender of the Americans With Disabilities Act. He served for 22 years as Development Director for RAMP, a Rockford-based organization offering services and advocacy for people with disabilities. He was a founding member of the Rockford Chariots wheelchair basketball association. – WNIJ

News Around Illinois – April 11/12, 2020

1,465 COVID-19 Cases Reported Friday In Illinois

CHICAGO – The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 1,465 new cases of COVID-19 in the state Friday, including 66 new deaths. Most of the deathers were reported in the Chicago area. But fatalities were also reported in Rock Island County in the Quad Cities area, St. Clair County in the St. Louis Metro East area and Kankakee County, just south of the Chicago-area collar counties. Illinois has now confirmed 17,887 COVID-19 cases, including 596 deaths. Fulton and Greene Counties reported their first cases Friday, for a total of 83 Illinois counties reporting cases.  – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Governor Pritzker Grants Commutations Amid Pandemic

CHICAGO — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has recently been using his clemency power to commute sentences for some Illinois prisoners amid coronavirus outbreak. The Chicago Tribune reports that Pritzker granted commutations for 17 Illinois inmates since March 11. Basil Powell, who was imprisoned in 1986 for being the lookout in two robberies, was one of those prisoners. A tough-on-crime sentencing law that labeled him a repeat offender led to his life sentence after his conviction. But reform advocates fought for his release due to their concern regarding elderly and sick inmates during the outbreak, and he was released Thursday. – Associated Press

Thousands Of Patient Beds Ready At Chicago Convention Center

CHICAGO — Officials say Chicago’s lakefront convention center will be prepared to accept its first coronavirus patients next week if demand on the city’s hospitals builds. Officials with the city and the Army Corps of Engineers said Friday that frenzied work is continuing to complete plans for a total of 3,000 patient beds. So far, workers have been able to complete spaces for 2,250 patients. State and city officials have said they hope the convention center will not be needed. It’s designed to accept people with the coronavirus who don’t need the highest level of care that hospitals will focus on. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – April 10, 2020

On 1-Month Anniversary Of Disaster Proclamation, 1,344 New COVID-19 Cases In Illinois

CHICAGO – The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 1,344 new cases of COVID-19 in Illinois Thursday, including 66 additional deaths. One of the deaths, a man in his 60s, occurred in Effingham County in central Illinois. The total of COVID-19 cases in Illinois has reached 16,422, with cases reported in 81 of Illinois’ 102 counties. 528 people have died. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Virus Prompts Cook County To Open Warehouse To Store Bodies

CHICAGO — The Illinois county that includes Chicago is preparing for a likely surge in the number of coronavirus deaths by adding places where bodies can be stored. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s office says that a 66,000-square-foot refrigerated warehouse that could store more than 2,000 bodies will be open by the end of the day Thursday. The county has also acquired 14 refrigerated trailers to take bodies if hospital morgues become overwhelmed by the number of deaths. Preckwinkle says that while she hopes the additional space for bodies won’t be necessary, it is important to prepare for a likely surge. The state says Cook County has 351 Covid-19-related deaths. – Associated Press

Jobless Claims Up Again In Illinois, 200K Another New Record

SPRINGFIELD — Unemployment claims in Illinois jumped nearly 13% last week, with 201,041 new claims largely attributable to the spread of the coronavirus. The jump in Illinois, breaking a record set just a week earlier at 178,421, comes as new claims nationally dipped slightly, according to the Labor Department. State officials increased the number by 101 from an earlier federal estimate. Nationally, new claims totaled 6.6 million,  a dip of 3.8% from the previous week, the Labor Department said. The coronavirus prompted Gov. J.B. Pritzker to close “non-essential” businesses, starting with bars and restaurants, on March 21, putting tens of thousands of people out of work. – Associated Press

Mayors Ask Faithful To Celebrate Holy Week Celebrations At Home

CHAMPAIGN/URBANA – It’s traditional for families, friends and the faithful to gather together around Passover, Easter and Ramadan. But the mayors of Champaign and Urbana are asking people to avoid such gatherings, in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Champaign Mayor Deb Feinen says local residents are doing a good job of staying home and avoiding crowds that could increase the number of COVID-19 infections. “And particularly in the wake of the second death in Champaign County, we think it’s really important for our community to continue to stay at home unless they are out for essential reasons,” said Feinen. Feinen and Urbana Mayor Diane Marlin urged the community to continue physical distancing through the holidays, in a letter to the community released Thursday. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

News Around Illinois – April 9, 2020

Illinois COVID-19 Cases Top 15,000

URBANA – The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 1,529 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the state Wednesday, including 82 additional deaths.  Those deaths included Macon County’s first fatality: the resident of a Decatur long-term care facility.  Stark County reported its first confirmed COVID-19 case, becoming the 78th of Illinois’ 102 counties to report cases. The total number of confirmed cases in Illinois is now 15,078, including 462 deaths. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Central Illinois Counties Report New COVID-19 Cases

URBANA – Officials in Champaign County reported three new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, for a total of 70 cases in the county since the coronavirus outbreak began. The Champaign County Coronavirus Response website reports 27 of the infected patients have recovered, while one has died. Macon County reported its 13th confirmed COVID-19 case Wednesday afternoon. Douglas County reported its 11th case, and Coles County reported its second case. The DeWitt-Piatt Bi-County Health Department reported that the only confirmed COVID-19 case in DeWitt County has recovered. There were no new cases reported by Piatt or Vermilion Counties. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Return To Springfield Unclear for Lawmakers

SPRINGFIELD – Concerns about the coronavirus have kept the Illinois General Assembly from meeting in Springfield for nearly a month. State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) says lawmakers are continuing to meet, by phone call, email and video conferencing, in unofficial working groups. But Bennett says actual legislative sessions, where bills are voted on, are on hold until it’s safe for them to  gather together again. Bennett says most of his work right now is helping Illinois residents and businesses get through the coronavirus outbreak. He and his staff are working from home, and meeting with constituents through phone, email and other virtual means. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Aurora Leaders Discuss Surviving COVID-19

AURORA – Aurora’s Mayor says his COVID-19 symptoms made him feel like he went “to the edge” and back. Richard Irvin held a Facebook live update Wednesday afternoon. He was joined by Police Chief Kristen Ziman and Police Commander Keith Cross who also tested positive. Ziman says they don’t know exactly how they got infected. Their symptoms varied in severity but included cough, chills, and recurring fevers. Mayor Irvin says he also had fatigue. “Not long after I took the test, I went downhill. I mean, I had an extreme headache to the point where I couldn’t even think straight and if I stood up, I would get dizzy,” said Irvin. Commander Cross shared that he was admitted to the emergency room. The officials held the meeting to bring attention to the need for residents to follow “stay-in-place” and social distancing measures. The city of Aurora has more than 100 confirmed cases and several deaths associated with COVID-19. – Jenna Dooley, WNIJ News


News Around Illinois – April 8, 2020

Illinois Confirms 1,287 New COVID-19 Cases, Including Member Of Governor’s Staff

CHICAGO – The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 1,287 new cases of COVID-19 in the state, including 73 additional deaths. Those deaths include a Champaign County man in his 80s, and a Ford County man in his 80s. The total number of COVID-19 cases confirmed in Illinois has reached 13,549, including 380 deaths in 77 out of Illinois’ 102 counties. In his daily briefing, Gov. JB Pritzker noted that a member of his staff has tested positive for COVID-19. That employee has been isolating at home since first showing symptoms on March 26. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Macon County’s First COVID-19 Fatality Was Resident Of Long-Term Care Facility

DECATUR – Authorities have reported the first death in Macon County due to COVID-19, a man in his 80s, who lived at the Fair Haven Senior Living long-term care facility in Decatur. Earlier Tuesday, Macon County’s Crisis Communication Team had announced that four of the 12 COVID-19 cases reported to date were all associated with a single unnamed long-term care facility.  – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

SNAP Recipients Will See Maximum Benefits This Month And Next

CHAMPAIGN – Beginning Wednesday, Illinoisans who rely on food stamps will receive the maximum amount of benefits. The Illinois Department of Human Services is allocating the maximum amount of money to the more than 450,000 households that rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The additional benefits are meant to help families who may be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The additional money is provided by the federal government under the CARES Act that took effect April 1st. Recipients don’t need to call or visit an office in person. The additional money will be loaded automatically onto Link cards no later than April 20th. Maximum benefits will be provided throughout April and May. – Dana Cronin, Illinois Newsroom

Demand Increases For Quincy Company’s PPE Because of Pandemic

QUINCY – An Illinois company can barely keep their lab coats in stock because of the coronavirus pandemic. Many hospitals purchase cotton lab coats for doctors and nurses outside of the operating rooms. But that material leaves workers vulnerable to infection. In the face of COVID-19, many hospitals began buying from DenLine Uniforms, which makes coats out of fabric that repels bodily fluids. Dennis Adams is co-owner of the company in Quincy. He told WILL’s “The 21st” show demand is high. “We’re a 14,000 feet of facility with thousands and thousands of lab coats in it that have all been depleted in the last 60 days,” said Adams. DenLine Uniforms also has manufacturing plants in Missouri and the Dominican Republic. – Reginald Hardwick, Illinois Newsroom

Lawsuit: Gov’s Stay-At-Home Order Hurts 3rd Party Candidates

CHICAGO — The Green and Libertarian parties in Illinois have filed a federal lawsuit claiming the governor’s stay-at-home order has impeded the petition process necessary to get on the November ballot. The lawsuit filed in Chicago last week alleges the directive intended to curb the spread of coronavirus has made it “practically impossible” to safely collect signatures in person. Candidates not from established parties have from March 24 until June 22 to get signatures. The lawsuit seeks to have the signature requirements waived or suspended for November. The lawsuit names Gov. J.B. Pritzker, whose office didn’t return a message Tuesday. – Associated Press



News Around Illinois – April 7, 2020

1,006 New COVID-19 Cases, 33 New Deaths Reported In Illinois

CHICAGO – The Illinois Department of Public Health announced 1,006 new cases of COVID-19 in Illinois on Monday, including 33 deaths. Monday’s state report did not include the death of a COVID-19 patient in Champaign County, reported Monday by the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District. A total of 12,262 COVID-19 cases have been reported in Illinois, including 307 deaths. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Pritzker Signs Executive Order Allowing Prisoner Furloughs

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois inmates who meet the medical criteria may be granted furloughs to minimize the spread of coronavirus in state prisons. Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday signed an executive order giving the Illinois Department of Corrections permission to allow “medically vulnerable” inmates out of prison temporarily for as long as the governor’s disaster proclamation is in effect. Pritzker’s order came as 62 inmates and 40 Corrections Department staffers had been confirmed to have COVID-19. Two inmates at Stateville Correctional center have died of the disease.  – Associated Press

Pritzker Going Around Feds To Get PPE To Illinois

CHICAGO – Governor J.B. Pritzker said the federal government still isn’t providing enough personal protective equipment to keep healthcare workers and facilities safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Pritzker says his administration has looked for other ways of getting that equipment to supplement what’s been requested from Washington. “Day in and day out, we are on the phone with companies that have ventilators, companies that could provide ventilators to us, some that manufacture ventilators,” said Pritzker. The governor said he’s been speaking with manufacturers like Ford Motor Company, General Motors and Vyaire Medical to help get those supplies to Illinois. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump said during a news conference Sunday the governor is “always complaining” and that “ has not performed well” in negotiating supplies for Illinois. – Mike Smith, NPR Illinois

Rate of Deaths, Illness Among Black Residents Alarms Cities

CHICAGO — Chicago’s mayor pledged an aggressive public health campaign aimed at the city’s black and brown communities amid alarm that black residents make up an overwhelming number of those to die of COVID-19. Black residents accounted for 72% of deaths from COVID-19 complications in the city despite making up only 30% of the city’s population. Public health experts in Chicago said the trend was unsurprising to anyone familiar with decades-old barriers to health care here. – Associated Press

Illinois To Allow Prone Restraints In Schools Next Year

CHICAGO — Illinois schools will be allowed to restrain challenging students by physically holding them face-down on the floor for at least another year under a deal that the State Board of Education reached with a key legislative rule-making committee. The decision comes as an emergency ban on what is called prone restraint is set to expire this month. That ban was instituted after a joint Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois investigation on the use of seclusion and restraint in the state’s public schools. However, some small schools had objected to the ban, saying the use of such restraints can help challenging students calm down. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – April 6, 2020

Cases of COVID-19 in Illinois Top 11,000

CHICAGO – On Sunday, the Illinois Dept. of Public Health reported the statewide total of COVID-19 cases has grown to 11,256. The death toll now stands at 274. The state also says more than 58,000 people have been tested at IDPH, commercial or hospital laboratories. IDPH director Dr. Ngoze Ezike reported that a second inmate from Stateville Correctional Center has died. 71 counties are now affected. – Reginald Hardwick, Illinois Newsroom

Pritzker: Illinois Needs Feds To Send Thousands More Ventilators

CHICAGO — The Illinois governor says the state needs thousands more ventilators from the federal government as it desperately prepares for its a peak in coronavirus cases expected in late April. Gov. J.B. Pritzker told CNN Sunday that he has requested 4,000 ventilators but has received 450. Vice President Mike Pence says Illinois needs 1,400. Pritzker has sparred with President Donald Trump over what the governor calls a lack of federal assistance. Pritzker told CNN’s Jake Tapper that even though Trump called for General Motors to build ventilators under the Defense Production Act, they won’t be ready until well after Illinois’ expected peak. – Associated Press

New COVID-19 Cases Confirmed In Champaign, Macon and Piatt Counties

URBANA – The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Champaign County grew to a total of 56 on Sunday, according to the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District’s website. Of that total, 17 have recovered while nine are currently hospitalized and none have died. Health officials in Macon County reported two more COVID-19 cases Sunday, making a total of eight confirmed cases among county residents. The two are men, one in his 60s, who is in isolation in his home. The other, in his 80s, is in isolation at Decatur Memorial Hospital. Health departments in Vermilion and Douglas Counties said Sunday they had no new cases to report. Douglas County has reported a total of nine confirmed COVID-19 cases to date, while Vermilion County has reported five cases. The DeWitt-Piatt Bi-County Health Department reports one new case in Piatt, for a total of two confirmed cases there. DeWitt County’s total remains at one. – Christine Herman, Illinois Newsroom

Illinois Group To Receive Federal Loan To Rural Projects

CHICAGO — Federal officials say Illinois is among 14 states benefiting from $65 million in investments for the improvement of community facilities in rural areas. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the Greater Egypt Regional Planning and Development Commission in southern Illinois will get a $1.8 million loan to build a new office. Officials say they plan to lease a part of the space to another nonprofit agency, Man-Tra-Con. Both organizations offer technical assistance and economic development to the following counties: Jackson, Franklin, Jefferson, Perry and Williamson. Federal officials say the investments will benefit more than 600,000 rural residents. – Associated Press

Pro Football Hall of Famer Bobby Mitchell Dies At 84

WASHINGTON — Bobby Mitchell, the speedy Hall of Famer who became the Washington Redskins’ first black player, has died. He was 84. The Pro Football Hall of Fame said Sunday night that Mitchell’s family said he died in the afternoon but didn’t provide other details. After starring in football and track at Illinois, Mitchell spent 11 seasons in the NFL. He played halfback for the Browns from 1958-61 and was a flanker for Washington from 1962-68. Mitchell was a three-time All-NFL selection and  played in four Pro Bowls. He was enshrined into the Hall of Fame in 1983. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – April 3, 2020

Suit Seeks Illinois Inmates’ Release Due To Coronavirus

CHICAGO — A new federal lawsuit seeks an court order directing state officials “to drastically reduce Illinois’s prison population” on grounds that hundreds of inmates are particularly vulnerable to catching and dying from the coronavirus. The lawsuit filed Thursday in Chicago names ten inmates but seeks class-action status to represent older prisoners and those with underlying health conditions. The filing says that poor medical care and a lack of protective measures behind bars make the COVID-19 virus especially deadly. The lawsuit asks for the court to order the immediate medical furlough for some prisoners and the transfer to home detention of others. Meanwhile, Illinois reported about 7,700 cases statewide and 157 deaths.  – Associated Press

Unemployment Up Again, Illinois Receives 178K Initial Claims

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois continued to share in the nation’s economic pain wrought by COVID-19 with 178,421 unemployment claims filed last week.The 56% jump, from 114,114 a week earlier, was part of a record 6.65 million first-time claims submitted nationally.The malicious spread of the potentially deadly coronavirus is the main factor in Illinois. The primary preventive measure, social distancing, prompted Gov. J.B. Pritzker to shut down “non-essential” businesses, starting with bars and restaurants, on March 21, putting tens of thousands of people out of work. – Associated Press

Pritzker Announces Fourth Temporary Hospital To Treat COVID-19 Patients

CHICAGO – Governor J.B. Pritzker announced a fourth alternative field hospital location to treat patients of COVID-19. The facility is in a community in Cook County, where the majority of cases have already occurred. The governor says it’ll be able to house up to 230 patients, which would help ease the burden on existing medical centers for the time being. – Mike Smith, NPR Illinois

University of Illinois Says Summer Classes Will Be Remote

URBANA – Officials on the University of Illinois Urbana campus announced Thursday that all summer 2020 classes will be taught remotely. In a mass email to students, faculty and staff, chancellor Robert Jones and provost Andreas Cangellaris said they made the decision based on guidance from local and state health officials because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Registration for summer classes opens on April 20. – Brian Moline, Illinois Newsroom

Marijuana Sales Steady In March

CHAMPAIGN – The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation reported Thursday that statewide adult-use cannabis sales in March totaled $35,902,543.22. Taxes are not a part of the reported amounts. Legal cannabis sales began in January. The businesses are considered ‘essential’ and remain open under Governor J.B. Pritzker’s Stay-at-home order that began in March and continues until April 30. – Reginald Hardwick, Illinois Newsroom

Mayor Taps Ex-Dallas Chief To Head Chicago Police Force

CHICAGO — Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot says she has selected former Dallas police Chief David Brown to be the next police superintendent in the nation’s third-largest city. Lightfoot introduced Brown during a Thursday afternoon news conference. Brown has more than 30 years in law enforcement and was the police chief in Dallas before his 2016 retirement. The announcement comes a day after the city’s police board named him as one of three finalists for the job and hours after Lightfoot announced that a member of the force had died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – April 2, 2020

Health Chief: ‘Be Strong And Courageous’ In Facing COVID-19

SPRINGFIELD — The state public health director has issued a somber warning that Illinois residents can expect mounting numbers of illness and death in the new month from the vicious spread of the coronavirus. The 6,980 cases of COVID-19 reported Wednesday by Dr. Ngoze Ezike are double the state’s total just last Saturday. Along with 986 new cases reported Wednesday were 42 deaths, the largest single-day increase since the first was reported March 17, bringing the state’s total to 141. Ezike says: “The coming weeks are going to get more and more difficult as the number of cases and deaths continue to rise.” – Associated Press

New COVID-19 Cases: 9 in Champaign County, 1 in Vermilion

CHAMPAIGN –  Nine new cases of COVID-19 (the disease caused by the novel coronavirus) were reported in Champaign County on Wednesday, according to a news release from a consortium of local health agencies. In all, there have been 38 confirmed cases in the county. According to data on the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District website, five of the people diagnosed with COVID-19 have recovered, leaving 33 active cases. 15 patients are currently hospitalized, while no patients have died. Meanwhile, the Vermilion County Health Department reports a second county resident has tested positive for COVID-19. Like the first case reported earlier this week, the patient is in their 20s, but officials do not believe the two cases are connected. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Pritzker Encourages Illinoisans To Fill Out Census While At Home

SPRINGFIELD – With so many residents forced to stay home due to the coronavirus, Governor J.B. Pritzker says it’s a good time fill out the census form. The governor says it only takes only about ten minutes. “It’s incredibly important to make sure that every Illinois resident, from newborn babies to great grandparents, is counted in the census,” said Pritzker. The census will determine how much federal tax money will come back to Illinois as well as the state’s political power when it comes to the number of congressional seats. An online census questionnaire is available and reminders to complete the form were sent through the mail. But census takers in the field are being delayed because of coronavirus concerns. – Sean Crawford, NPR Illinois

Fundraising For Illinois Artists Begins

CHICAGO – There is a new fundraising effort to help Illinois artists and artisans.  The Arts Illinois Relief Fund allows for donations that will be turned into grants to help during a time when nearly all performances and exhibits have been canceled. Chicago artist Amanda Williams says the arts community is resilient. “We will not stop making, creating, inspiring, challenging, bearing witness and bringing hope,” said Williams. “In fact, that’s all we know to do in these moments.” Williams says while some performers have continued to share art online, the shutdown has been far reaching.  She says those who do lighting, costumes and more have also found themselves out of work.  Click here for more details about the relief fund. – Sean Crawford, NPR Illinois


News Around Illinois – April 1, 2020

Pritzker Extends Stay-At-Home Order To April 30

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois’ governor has extended his statewide stay-at-home order for three weeks as the nation struggles to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday set a new deadline of April 30 for keeping people inside except for essential needs and jobs. So far, the state has reported nearly 6,000 infections and 99 deaths from the coronavirus.  Pritzker initially closed schools and restaurants and bars on March 13, then issued the stay-at-home order a week later. The period was to end April 7, but experts have said the rising number of cases in Illinois won’t have reached its peak by then. – Associated Press

Fraternity Suspended For Violating In-Person Activities Ban

CARBONDALE — Southern Illinois University has suspended the Delta Chi fraternity for violating the chancellor’s order banning in-person activities to slow the spread of COVID-19. Carbondale police over the past weekend responded to a house party hosted by Delta Chi which violated an administrative directive issued March 27 by interim Chancellor John Dunn and dean of students Jennifer Johns-Hall. The directive ordered compliance with Illinois Department of Public Health protocols requiring state residents to stay home except for essential trips for groceries or medicine. Gatherings of 10 or more people are also banned.  – Associated Press

Champaign and Vermilion Counties Report New COVID-19 Cases

URBANA — Health officials in Champaign County announced five new local cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, for a total of 29 confirmed cases. The newest cases are three men, with ages in their 30s, 50s and 80s, and two women, with ages in their 40s and 50s. The numbers are compiled by healthcare organizations under the leadership of the Champaign County Emergency Operations Center. Officials say COVID-19 is spreading by community transmission in Champaign County, infecting people who may not know how or where they were infected.

Vermilion County is reporting its first confirmed case of COVID-19. A Vermilion County resident in their 20s is hospitalized in Champaign County, after being tested there. The Vermilion County Health Department says it’s investigating who the patient has been in close contact with, so they can be fast-tracked for possible testing. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Help On The Way For Illinois’ Rural Hospitals

SPRINGFIELD – The federal aid package approved to address the new coronavirus will provide some financial support for Illinois’ rural hospitals. Those hospitals serve many elderly and Medicare recipients. Pat Schou leads the Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network, a group of 51 hospitals. She says those hospitals  lost much of their revenue when they stopped elective and non-emergency procedures in preparation for a surge in patients sick with COVID-19. “If you don’t have much business, and you got to pay employees, and in our case, they have to pay people to be ready,” said Schou. “And they still have take care of some people that come in, they fall they break their leg. So it will help bridge the gap for them.” Schou says the federal government is offering advanced Medicare payments and small business loans, as well as relaxing rules on telemedicine so hospitals can still get paid for visits doctors are doing over the phone or internet. – Mary Hansen, NPR Illinois

News Around Illinois – March 31, 2020

Illinois Confirmed COVID-19 Cases Top 5,000

CHAMPAIGN – On Monday, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported 461 new cases of the coronavirus disease, COVID-19, bringing the state’s total so far to 5,057. In addition, the death toll in Illinois stands at 75. For health questions about COVID-19, call the hotline at 1-800-889-3931 or email  – Reginald Hardwick, Illinois Newsroom

U of I Researchers Design Emergency Ventilator

URBANA – Researchers at the University of Illinois came up with a new emergency ventilator in just two weeks. And they hope their design, called the Illinois RapidVent, can be utilized quickly. Mechanical Engineering Professor Bill King oversaw a team of about 40 researchers to develop a working prototype for a low-cost, bare-bones ventilator that connects to a hospital’s existing oxygen supply. King says designs for the Illinois RapidVent have been published on the U of I Grainger College of Engineering website, for anyone to use. “In a perfect world, the technology could be picked up from where we are and be scaled to production within weeks,” said King. “We’re optimistic that somebody could pick it up and do that.” King says they’re already talking to a few manufacturers who may be interested in producing the Illinois RapidVent. He says a prototype has performed well in initial, non-clinical testing. But the new ventilator design would need approval by federal regulators before it can be used in hospitals. Click here to read more about the Illinois RapidVent. Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Illinois Inmate Dies From COVID-19; Dozens More Sickened

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois officials have reported the death of a state prison inmate from COVID-19 and acknowledged the difficulty they face in stopping the spread of the virus in a crowded correctional system. Dr. Ngoze Ezike, the state’s public health director, said a man at Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet had died from the respiratory illness. Twelve more inmates with COVID-19 have been hospitalized, several requiring ventilators, and 77 others showing symptoms have been isolated, as have 11 staff members. – Associated Press

SIU President Can Reimburse Students For Some Costs

CARBONDALE — Southern Illinois University’s trustees have given the school’s president the authority to reimburse students for some costs as instruction has moved online due to the coronavirus outbreak. The board of trustees met Monday in Carbondale to vote the authority to Southern Illinois President Daniel Mahony. The board did not specify how the reimbursements should be handled. However, it gave Mahony the flexibility to make that determination in consultation with chancellors of the Carbondale and Edwardsville campuses and the dean of the school of medicine. Mahony says he anticipates reimbursements to students could total between $4 million and $5 million. – Associated Press

Man Charged In Killings of Girlfriend, Her Daughter

URBANA — Authorities say an eastern Illinois man has been charged with first-degree murder for allegedly fatally shooting his live-in girlfriend and her adult daughter over the weekend. Twenty-eight-year-old Jonathon Perry was charged Monday after being taken into custody early Sunday in connection with the killing of  54-year-old Kimberly Coyne and 24-year-old Blair Coyne at their home just northwest of the village of St. Joseph. The (Champaign) News-Gazette reports that police say the Homer man had been dating Kimberly Coyne. Chief criminal deputy Troy Lozar with the Champaign County state’s attorney’s office says Perry was arraigned Monday on first-degree murder charges in both of the killings. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – March 30, 2020

Governor Vows To Increase Testing As COVID-19 Cases Surge

CHICAGO — Gov. J.B. Pritzker says Illinois will soon more than double the number of COVID-19 tests it can administer each day as the number of cases in the state surged. Public health officials announced 1,105 new cases, including 18 deaths on Sunday. Overall, Illinois has had more than 4,500 cases, including 65 deaths. Pritzker said Sunday that the state will increase its testing capacity from 4,000 a day currently to 10,000 within days. He says the state is adding more workers to its labs and technology to make the increase. – Associated Press

Illinois State Board Of Education Orders Schools To Begin Remote Learning

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Board of Education announced late last week that remote learning days will start for students across the state Tuesday, March 31 and will continue until in-person classes resume. These days are counted as school days and do not need to be made up at the end of year. Read the full story here. – Lee Gaines, Illinois Newsroom

Champaign Unit 4 To Distribute Chromebooks To Families In Need

CHAMPAIGN – Champaign Unit 4 school officials plan to distribute Chromebooks to students whose families do not have a device at home. In a message sent to families last week, Unit 4 Superintendent Susan Zola says the initial distribution of Chromebooks will be to families who do not have any additional devices in their home. Read the full story here. – Lee Gaines, Illinois Newsroom

‘A Lot Of These Older Guys Are Gonna Die’: COVID-19 Hits Illinois Prisons

Tornado damages homes, uproots trees in northern Illinois

OREGON — Weather officials have confirmed a tornado touched down in northern Illinois damaging homes and uprooting trees. The tornado touched down in Ogle County just outside Oregon around 9 p.m. on Saturday. National Weather Service meteorologist Gino Izzi says it was on the ground for roughly 10 minutes. No injuries have been reported. One home appeared to have lost its roof and windows. Survey teams plan to assess the damage on Sunday. Reports of possible tornadoes also cropped up in Peoria County, where there were power outages, and Henry County. – Associated Press

MacMurray College to close after 174 years

JACKSONVILLE — A central Illinois college will close its doors after 174 years due to declining enrollment and other financial challenges. The State Journal-Register reports the chairman of the MacMurray College board of trustees said Friday the four-year liberal arts college in Jacksonville will close at the end of the spring semester. Charles O’Connell said there was no viable path forward for the college, citing rising costs and an insufficient endowment as factors. The college currently has 527 full-time students and 101 faculty and staff. Students already have moved off campus and are taking classes online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – March 28/29, 2020

Updated: Sunday 3:20 p.m.

Tornado Damages Homes, Uproots Trees In Northern Illinois

OREGON — Weather officials have confirmed a tornado touched down in northern Illinois damaging homes and uprooting trees. The tornado touched down in Ogle County just outside Oregon around 9 p.m. on Saturday. National Weather Service meteorologist Gino Izzi says it was on the ground for roughly 10 minutes. No injuries have been reported. One home appeared to have lost its roof and windows. Survey teams plan to assess the damage on Sunday. Reports of possible tornadoes also cropped up in Peoria County, where there were power outages, and Henry County. – Associated Press

Illinois Sets Guidelines For Schools During Pandemic

CHICAGO — Illinois has set new guidelines for schools during the coronavirus pandemic, as it seems more likely remote learning and other changes will continue further into the academic year. The Illinois State Board of Education said late Friday that all districts must implement remote learning plans for all schools starting Tuesday. The board said districts may use online or non-digital learning, such as giving out homework packets. But it said districts must find ways to engage students. Gov. J.B. Pritzker has suspended state-mandated standardized testing, including the SAT.  – Associated Press

Macon County Reports First Cases Of COVID-19; New Testing In Champaign County

DECATUR – At a Friday night news conference, The Joint Crisis Communication Team in Macon County announced the first two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Macon County. One patient is a woman in her 50s. She is in stable condition at St. Mary’s Hospital according to officials. The second patient is a male in his 60s, who is being quarantined at home. Earlier today, Champaign County reported it has 11 COVID-19 patients. Also, Carle Foundation began on-site COVID-19 testing on Friday for approved patients. Testing is still limited at the guidance of state health officials. – Reginald Hardwick, Illinois Newsroom

Surgeon General: Chicago Among ‘Hot Spot’ Cities For Virus

CHICAGO — The U.S. surgeon general says Chicago is among a number of American cities identified as a “hot spot” for COVID-19 cases and that it will see numbers continue to rise. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said on “CBS This Morning” on Friday that he is hopeful New York, which has a nation-high 519 deaths and more than 44,000 confirmed cases, will see cases begin to come down next week. He warned that Detroit, Chicago and New Orleans “will have a worse week next week.” Cases in the city and suburban Cook County account for about three-quarters of Illinois’ 3,026 positive tests. – Associated Press

U of Illinois Wants Suit By Slain Scholar’s Estate Dismissed

URBANA — The University of Illinois is seeking the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by the estate of a slain visiting Chinese scholar against two social workers at a campus counseling center. A judge dismissed a federal lawsuit against the social workers in December. But the woman’s estate refiled it in state court in January. Brendt Christensen was later convicted of kidnapping Yingying Zhang. Her body has never been found. The News-Gazette reports that her family has argued that the social workers should have done more when Christensen told them about his fascination with serial killers and that he had bought items to move and dispose of a body. – Associated Press

National Weather Service: Severe Weather Expected Saturday Evening

Updated March 28 at 4:30 p.m. – The Tornado Watch has been expanded to areas along and south of I-70, where it is in effect until 10 pm. In that area, the storms will be capable of producing hail up to golf ball size, as well as a few tornadoes. The greater threat of tornadoes and very large hail will be north from I-70 across central Illinois. Remain alert for severe weather through mid evening, and be prepared to move quickly, as the storms will be traveling around 50-60 mph. – National Weather Service

Updated at 12:00 p.m. – An unseasonably warm and humid air mass will move across central Illinois today resulting in a favorable environment for thunderstorm development. Thunderstorms are expected to redevelop this afternoon and evening, particularly 3pm and later. At this time, it appears that significant severe weather is possible, including tornadoes, damaging winds, and very large hail. Thunderstorms will be ongoing in the morning, but the MAIN SEVERE WEATHER THREAT will materialize during the afternoon and evening. Be alert for watches (your first heads-up) and warnings (TAKE ACTION) this afternoon and evening. When you receive a warning, quickly go to a secure shelter in a basement or lowest floor of a sturdy building away from windows and doors. – National Weather Service, Central Illinois



News Around Illinois – March 27, 2020

Illinois Coronavirus Cases Tops 2,500; Death Toll Now 26

CHICAGO – The Illinois Department of Public Health says there are now 2,538 cases of COVID-19, a growth of 673 cases from Wednesday.  The death toll is now stands at 26. The newest deaths include a man in his 50’s, two men and two women in their 60s, a man in his 70s and a woman in her 90s. Cases are now in 37 counties. – Reginald Hardwick, Illinois Newsroom

Sharp Increase In Illinoisans Applying For Unemployment Claims

CHAMPAIGN – Illinois is seeing a surge in the number of people applying for unemployment benefits, which mirrors the record-high surge across the nation. The state Department of Employment Security says that as of Thursday, 133,763 unemployment claims had been filed so far this month. That’s nearly five times the number of claims filed during the same period a year ago. The sharp increase in jobless claims comes after Illinois reported a February unemployment rate of 3.4 percent, a new record low and lower than the nation’s unemployment rate for the second consecutive month. But that was before Illinois felt the impact of stay-at-home measures intended to slow down the spread of the coronavirus. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Sanitary Sewer Experts: Please Don’t Flush Disposable Wipes

CHAMPAIGN – With toilet paper being harder to find, more people are using and flushing disposable wipes. But officials with sanitary sewer systems in Illinois say that’s a bad idea. The makers of disposable wipes say they’re flushable. Karen Cotton with Illinois American Water says disposable wipes dissolve too slowly, creating problems for sewer systems and in residential plumbing. Illinois American Water operates wastewater systems in several Illinois towns, from Alton and Grafton along the Mississippi River, to towns in the Chicago suburbs. She says along with disposable wipes, grease and cooking oil can also cause sewer problems, and should not be poured down the drain. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Governor Tabs Obama Aide, His Sister, For COVID-19 Relief

SPRINGFIELD  — The Illinois governor has turned to a former member of President Barack Obama’s cabinet to raise money for those hurt by the coronavirus outbreak. Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker says his sister, Penny Pritzker, is leading the Illinois COVID-19 Response Fund to assist nonprofit agencies battered by the pandemic. A Commerce secretary under Obama, Penny Pritzker took charge last week. She praised a bevy of cooperating businesses and organizations for $23 million already collected. J.B. Pritzker and his wife, M.K., have donated $4 million personally and through their family foundation. – Associated Press




News Around Illinois – March 26, 2020

Illinois Delays Income Tax Deadline As Virus Cases Climb 

CHICAGO — Illinois taxpayers will have until July 15 to file and pay their state income taxes because of the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the three-month delay Wednesday as officials reported an elderly resident has died at a suburban Chicago nursing home where dozens of people have been sickened by the coronavirus. The 90-year-old woman at Chateau Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Willowbrook was one of 33 residents and 13 staffers who have contracted the virus. The state reported 330 newly confirmed coronavirus infections Wednesday, the largest one-day jump since the first case was reported Jan. 24. There have now been 1,865 cases reported.  – Associated Press

Champaign County Has 8 COVID-19 Cases; Douglas County Has First Case

CHAMPAIGN – The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District Wednesday announced four new cases of COVID-19 … bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the county to eight. Health District Administrator Julie Pryde says the new cases are two men in their 70s, one man in his 50s and one woman in her 80s. She didn’t provide any further information on their condition. Of the eight confirmed cases, five are men and three are women.  They range in age from their 30s to their 80s. There have so far been no deaths reported in Champaign County from COVID-19. The Illinois Department of Public Health also announced the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Douglas County. No further information was immediately available about that case. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Emergency Room Doctors Brace For Onslaught Of COVID-19

CHAMPAIGN – Some hospitals in Illinois have seen a sharp rise in patients showing up with symptoms of COVID-19. That’s according to Emergency Room Dr.  Ernest Wang, president of the Illinois College of Emergency Physicians. He says the many unknowns about what the future holds makes this a scary time for ER doctors. But it’s also what they were trained for. “You swallow your fear… you gown up and you go in and do the job,” said Wang. “That’s the soul of emergency physicians, it’s different than other areas in medicine. You can’t do this job unless you’re able to do that effectively.” Wang says the biggest problem right now is the lack of widespread testing and the real possibility hospitals will run out of protective gear. He says the best way the general public can help is by staying home as much as possible to help prevent hospitals from getting overwhelmed. – Christine Herman, Illinois Newsroom

Danville Schools Feeding Students With Drive-Through Program

DANVILLE – A pilot program launched by the Danville school district is sending students to the drive-through window to get meals, while classes are suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak. The program offers two free meals this week at Danville’s three McDonald’s restaurants to District 118 schoolchildren during breakfast and lunch hours. Deanna Witzel owns and operates the restaurants with her husband Don. She says officials from the McDonald’s corporation are reviewing the effort as well. District Superintendent Alicia Geddis says McDonald’s and the Illinois State Board of Education are looking at the program’s potential for expansion to other communities. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Domestic Violence Victims At-Risk As Virus Spreads

ROCKFORD – During the COVID-19 pandemic, survivors of domestic violence can be especially at risk. Becky Winstead is the vice president of domestic violence services at Remedies Renewing Lives in Rockford. She says survivors seeking assistance often wait for the moment when their partner leaves to go to work. “If they’re not working and they’re staying at home, it’s going to be even harder to reach out for help,” said Winstead. But domestic violence services are still available across the state. Remedies Renewing Lives’ 24-hour domestic violence hotline is still open. Winstead says they’ve had to cancel some face-to-face support groups, but counseling sessions are still being done over the phone. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-7233Peter Medlin, WNIJ News



News Around Illinois – March 25, 2020

Illinois Could Need 38K More Beds If Virus Isn’t Contained

SPRINGFIELD – Gov. J.B. Pritzker says Illinois would need tens of thousands of additional hospital beds for COVID-19 patients within the next two weeks in a worst-case scenario amid a pandemic that has now claimed 16 lives in the state. The Democrat said at his daily briefing that the state would need almost 38,000 additional hospital beds, including more than 9,000 in intensive-care units, along with nearly 5,000 ventilators, if containment strategies aren’t successful. The administration is evaluating closed hospitals for temporary reuse and setting up triage centers outside existing hospitals to evaluate potential patients. – Associated Press

East-Central Illinois Health Care Providers Now Accepting Cloth Mask Donations

CHAMPAIGN – Champaign County health care providers and public health officials say area facilities have received offers from volunteers interested in donating homemade cloth masks, according to a news release. Area facilities “currently have sufficient supply of surgical masks and other PPE and continue to follow guidelines for the safety of patients and staff,” the statement reads. But Champaign county facilities have created a way for community members to contribute cloth masks, because, while they don’t prevent COVID-19 and aren’t recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for use by the general public, they can help prevent the spread of germs when worn by people who are sick. For those who wish to make masks, area providers encourage people to follow the directions available in this video on YouTube and email when masks are ready for pickup, bundled in groups of 25 in ziplock bags. Read the full story here.  – Christine Herman, Illinois Newsroom

Businesses Adapting To Physical Distance Order

CHAMPAIGN – Governor J.B. Prizker’s coronavirus Stay-At-Home order is changing the landscape for Illinois businesses. One such business is Rogards, a century-old office equipment supplier in Champaign. President and CEO Tonya Horn says that to avoid the spread of the coronavirus, their delivery crews now carry plenty of hand sanitizer, and practice “no-contact” delivery techniques.  “You know, pretty much dropping things off at a front desk or in a foyer or at a delivery dock, things like that,” said Horn. “A lot of times we do some pretty extensive inside delivery. So we’ve cut back on that for right now.” Horn says if the current restrictions continue for more than a month, many small businesses like hers will be in trouble. And she would hope for a government grant, loan or payroll tax deduction to continue. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

FAA Reopens Midway Air Traffic Control Tower Closed By Virus

CHICAGO — The Federal Aviation Administration has reopened the air traffic control tower at Chicago’s Midway International Airport. The FAA closed the tower last week after three workers tested positive for the coronavirus. The FAA kept the airport open despite the control tower’s closing and subsequent cleaning. Flights into and out of Chicago’s second-largest airport were curtailed with traffic being directed from an alternate control facility located outside the city. In announcing the airport’s reopening Tuesday, the FAA did not address whether other workers at Midway had been tested or asked to self-quarantine. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – March 24, 2020

Pritzker Works With Manufacturers To Boost Medical Supply Orders

CHICAGO – Governor J.B. Pritzker in his daily COVID-19 briefing on Monday says he has  linked together the state’s manufacturers and biotech industries to boost production of medical supplies. Manufacturers in both industries were asked to focus production on essentials such as N95 masks, gloves, gowns, ventilators and sanitizer. Pritzker says as the federal government has failed to provide needed medical items, his staff has been trying to work out deals with companies throughout the world. Meanwhile, Pritzker said he had spoken to President Donald J. Trump on Monday to get more federal help in supplying states with essential equipment. – Maureen McKinney, NPR Illinois

Food Bank Donations Down But Demand Increasing

URBANA – The coronavirus pandemic is affecting food banks across Illinois. Many have seen a decline in volunteers and donations, even as the number of food-insecure people increases due to lost jobs. That’s according to Molly Delaney, Vice President of Development for the Eastern Illinois Food Bank. Speaking on WILL’s The 21st show, she says food pantries are doing all they can to meet the increased need. “With a few exceptions, our network of 170 partner agencies and programs remain open and continue to serve,” said Delaney. “At this point, we’re continuing to function. One of the difficult things is that communication, making sure we are getting all the information out as quickly and accurately as we can.” Delaney says anyone in need of food at this time should call their local food pantry ahead of time to confirm hours of operation. The organization Feeding America estimates more than 1.3 million people in Illinois struggle with hunger. Roughly a third of them are children. Click here for a complete list of food banks, animal shelters and other organizations where you can donate.Christine Herman, Illinois Newsroom

Illinois State’s Unemployment System Inundated

SPRINGFIELD – Governor J.B. Pritzker Monday acknowledged that the state’s unemployment request system had been overwhelmed. He said the number of claims was unprecedented even as compared to the 2008 recession. Tens of thousands filed for jobless benefits in the days after the governor ordered closures for bars, restaurants and nonessential businesses. “We found over the weekend and over the last couple days of the week that the systems that we had that were supporting the online applications wasn’t robust enough to take all of the applications that were coming in at one time,” said Pritzker. A new software system was put in the place and staff to take phone calls has been moved from nonessential positions, he said. He urged that those seeking unemployment go online to make claims and said he believes the move to the new software platform will make the process less frustrating for residents. – Maureen McKinney, NPR Illinois

Chicago Reserving Hotels For Isolation Or Quarantine Needs

CHICAGO — Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot says the city plans to reserve thousands of hotel rooms for people with mild cases of the coronavirus and others unable to return to their homes while awaiting test results. Lightfoot announced Monday that the city has partnered with five hotels and will have 1,000 rooms available by Tuesday. Chicago officials describe the plan as a proactive measure to keep hospital beds available for people with severe symptoms. Illinois officials have reported 1,285 cases as of Monday and 12 deaths; that’s up from 1,049 cases and nine deaths on Sunday. – Associated Press