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 dph.sick@illinois.gov.  – 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 makeamask@carle.com 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

News Around Illinois – March 23, 2020

Illinois COVID-19 Cases Top 1,000

URBANA – The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 296 new cases of coronavirus disease in Illinois. The number of cases now stands at 1,049 in 30 counties.  There are also three new deaths: a Cook County man in his 80s, a Chicago man in his 80s and a woman in her 70s from McLean County. The youngest patient in the state is an infant (younger than one). The oldest is 99-years-old. – Reginald Hardwick, Illinois Newsroom

Champaign County Coronavirus Cases Grow To 3

CHAMPAIGN – Two more Champaign County residents tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend. Both are University of Illinois  Urbana-Champaign employees, one in his 30s and one in his 50s. They are the first confirmed cases within the campus community. They’re both at home recovering, and while public health officials are reaching out to those who may have come into contact with the infected individuals, they say the risk of transmission is low. The two new cases brings the total known cases in Champaign County to three. The first was announced on March 15. – Dana Cronin, Illinois Newsroom

Grocery Stores Looking For Workers As Others Begin Layoffs

NORMAL – Many grocery stores in Illinois are in a hiring frenzy as they struggle to keep their shelves stocked, their stores clean and their workers healthy amid the COVID-19 response. Kroger stores have said they can put applicants on the job within days and will pay up to two weeks if an employee contracts COVID-19 or is forced to quarantine. Meijer is hiring to help meet increased demand for its delivery and pickup services. Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club say they are providing bonuses to hourly staff. Wal-Mart says it is hiring 150,000 workers nationwide. Jewel-Osco said it has 3,000 job openings for part-time in-store employees, delivery drivers and workers in Illinois, Indiana and Iowa. – Eric Stock, WGLT News

Dental Society Recommends Medical Donations

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Dental Society has recommended that its doctors keep their offices closed except to perform emergency services. The guidelines are intended to protect both dentists and patients, says Dental Society spokeswoman, Dr. Alice Boghosian. She practices in suburban Park Ridge. “Under no circumstances would I, as a patient, visit a dentist for a routine procedure feel that it’s critical that we make the public aware that it is not a good idea,’ said Boghosian. Emergency services that would be provided include severe pain, uncontrollable bleeding, extreme swelling that impedes breathing, infection or trauma such as a fall causing the loss of a tooth. – Maureen McKinney, NPR Illinois

Many Caterpillar Workers To Work From Home

DEERFIELD – Thousands of Caterpillar workers will continue heading to work classified as essential employees under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s executive stay-at-home order meant to control the spread of COVID-19. A Caterpillar spokeswoman said via e-mail Sunday that the earth moving giant’s Illinois facilities will continue to operate while adhering to Pritzker’s executive order. She says employee health, safety, and well-being remain a “top priority.” The governor’s executive order exempts many types of businesses, including those considered vital to continuing to keep the supply chain flowing. – Tim Shelley, Peoria Public Radio

Civil rights activist and Emmett Till relative dies at 50

CHICAGO — A relative of Emmett Till who spent her life educating others about the legacy of the black teenage lynching victim through her foundation has died. Airickca Gordon-Taylor was 50. Her family says the suburban Chicago woman died early Saturday after decades of kidney problems. Her mother, Ollie Gordon, was Till’s cousin. Gordon says her daughter was a fighter for equal justice. Gordon-Taylor started the Mamie Till Mobley Memorial Foundation in 2009. It was named after Till’s mother, whom she considered a surrogate mother. Till’s brutal death in 1955 helped energize the civil rights movement. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – March 21/22, 2020

Illinois Governor Imposes Stay-At-Home Order To Curb Virus

CHICAGO — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has ordered the state’s residents to remain in their homes except for essential needs, joining similar efforts in California and New York to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Pritzker’s order announced Friday will still allow the state’s 12.6 million residents to seek essentials including groceries and medicine. The order will take effect Saturday and last through April 7. Pritzker says the move could potentially prevent tens of thousands” of deaths. He says people can continue to shop for groceries, visit pharmacies and gas stations, exercise outdoors and pick up meals from restaurants. Click here for details of the order. – Associated Press

Illinois: Woman Dies From Coronavirus; Cases Grow To 585

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

Weather Service Says 2 Tornadoes Struck Southern Illinois

SUNFIELD — The National Weather Service says preliminary findings by surveyors indicate damage done to structures in two southern Illinois counties was caused by two tornadoes. One person was slightly injured and about a dozen homes were damaged Thursday in Hamilton and Perry counties. A tornado, estimated to be 125 yards wide, traveled a little over three miles through the town of Sunfield in Perry County. Surveyors estimate the twister reached peak winds of 100 mph. Surveyors estimate the second tornado, nearly 300 yards wide with peak winds of an estimated 110 mph, hit Dahlgren. Authorities say trees in both communities were snapped or uprooted and power lines downed. – Associated Press

Oberweis Declared Winner Of 14th District GOP Primary

CHICAGO —  Illinois state Sen. Jim Oberweis has come out on top in the scrum of Republican candidates seeking to reclaim the 14th District U.S. congressional seat from first-term Democratic Rep. Lauren Underwood. The Associated Press on Friday declared Oberweis the winner over six other candidates in Tuesday’s Republican primary. Underwood flipped the longtime GOP seat in 2018 when she defeated Rep Randy Hultgren, who was elected in 2010. The 14th District, west of Chicago, includes city suburbs and rural areas. – Associated Press

 

News Around Illinois – March 20, 2020

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

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

Champaign County Brookens Center Now Off Limits To The Public

URBANA – UPDATE: The Champaign County Brookens Administrative Center is Urbana is now completely closed to the public. County Executive Darlene Kloepple announced the closing Friday, effective immediately and continuing through April 7, in response to Governor Pritkzer’s “stay at home” order. The move comes after the several county offices at the Brookens Center and the Champaign County Courthouse had already been closed to public visits.  County offices can still be reached by phone, email and the Champaign County website.  Property tax payments can be left at a drop box at the front entrance of the Brookens Center, near the flagpole. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom, 3/20/20 4:45 PM

Health & Hospitals Asking For Equipment Donations

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

Man Faces Federal Charges In Illinois Trooper’s Killing 

EAST ST. LOUIS — A federal grand jury has indicted a southern Illinois man accused of fatally shooting a state trooper on drug and weapons charges. U.S. Attorney Steven Weinhoeft announced Thursday that 46-year-old Christopher R. Grant of East St. Louis, faces eight counts including using a firearm to murder Illinois State Trooper Nicholas Hopkins in furtherance of a drug-trafficking offense. The 33-year-old Hopkins was fatally shot Aug. 23 while serving a search warrant. Grant also faces three counts of distributing crack cocaine, maintaining a drug house and other charges. Online court records don’t list an attorney for Grant. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – March 19, 2020

Ill. Virus Cases Top 200, Include 42 Tied To Nursing Home

CHICAGO — Illinois officials say an additional 128 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in the state, including 20 more individuals living or working at a nursing home in a southwestern suburb of Chicago. The additional results announced Wednesday by the Illinois Department of Public Health bring the state’s total to 288 cases in 17 counties. The patients have ranged in age from 9 to 91. Operations at Chicago’s Midway International Airport also remained limited Wednesday after technicians’ positive tests for the coronavirus prompted federal authorities to close the control tower. The city’s Department of Aviation urges travelers to check with their airlines about flight plans. – Associated Press

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

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

Visitation Restricted at Veterans Health Care Hospitals & Clinics

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

Despite Virus Outbreak, Search For SIU Chancellor Continues

CARBONDALE — The search for a chancellor at Southern Illinois University will continue despite the coronavirus outbreak. The Southern Illinoisan reports that in a letter to faculty and other university stakeholders, President Dan Mahony said a search committee has been reviewing application materials and screening candidates for the past two months and recently settled on finalists. Mahony says the coronavirus pandemic will limit large face-to-face participation in campus interviews of finalists. Typically, chancellor candidates meet with various public interest groups on campus to introduce themselves and answer questions before a decision is made. – Associated Press

Neville Keeps Seat In Crowded Primary For Supreme Court

CHICAGO — Illinois Supreme Court Justice P. Scott Neville Jr. has won the primary election to keep his seat on the high court. He’s emerged from a field of a six other Democrats. No Republicans ran, making him the presumed winner in November for the 10-year term. Democrat Charles Freeman, who died this month, held the post from 1990 to 2018, when he retired. He was the court’s first black judge. Neville, who is black, was appointed to finish the term. He was formerly a First District Appellate Court justice. The other challengers included five 1st District appellate justices and an attorney. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – March 18, 2020

Currently, there are 160 individuals in 15 Illinois counties who have tested positive for COVID-19. Click here for a map of the affected counties and other resources from WILL’s Coronavirus Information Center.

Chicago Woman In 60s Is State’s 1st COVID-19 Patient Death

CHICAGO — Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the first death in Illinois of a person who tested positive for the coronavirus. The victim was a Chicago woman in her 60s who had an underlying health condition. The only additional information Pritzker released about the woman on Tuesday was that she was not a nursing home patient. The Illinois Department of Public Health is reporting 160 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state, among them are 18 residents of a nursing home and four members of the facility’s staff. For most people, the novel coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. Older adults and people with existing health problems can develop more severe illness. – Associated Press

Biden Wins Illinois Primary, Widening Lead Over Sanders

CHICAGO — Former Vice President Joe Biden has won the Illinois Democratic primary for president, widening his lead over rival Bernie Sanders in an election complicated by the coronavirus pandemic. Biden also won in Florida, which along with Arizona held its primary Tuesday. Ohio delayed in-person voting until June amid the COVID-19 outbreak, but Illinois officials declined to postpone. The virus caused problems including polling places that didn’t open and lower than usual voter turnout in some areas. Other races were on the ballot, including for Congress and Legislature. – Associated Press

Opponents for 13th and 15th Congressional Races Set

Left: Betsy Dirksen Londrigan (D) Right: Rodney Davis (R)

URBANA – The 13th congressional district appears headed for a rematch in November. Springfield native Betsy Dirksen Londrigan bested her Democratic opponent Stefanie Smith in Tuesday’s Illinois primary. She will now challenge Republican incumbent Rodney Davis. Londrigan lost to Davis in the 2018 race by a slim margin. The sprawling 13th Congressional District includes parts of Bloomington-Normal, Springfield, Champaign-Urbana, and Decatur. Experts say both campaigns have already built up war chests and the race may become one of the most expensive in the state. 

 

Left: Erika Weaver (D) Right: Mary Miller (R)

Meanwhile, attorney Erika Weaver beat three opponents in the Democratic primary in the 15th congressional district. On the Republican side, farmer Mary Miller bested three opponents to run in the general election. Both women are vying to replace Rep. John Shimkus (R), who is retiring. Illinois’ 15th congressional district is larger in land size than the state of Maryland. It stretches north to Rantoul, south to the Kentucky border, and west to the east St. Louis suburbs. Click here to learn more about all of the candidates.Reginald Hardwick, Illinois Newsroom

 

Funeral Association Recommends Smaller Services

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

University of Illinois Cancels May Commencement Ceremonies

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

News Around Illinois – March 17, 2020

Currently, there are 105 individuals in 15 Illinois counties who have tested positive for COVID-19. Click here for a map of the affected counties and other resources from WILL’s Coronavirus Information Center.

Illinois Governor: Election Still On, Despite Virus Concerns

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. J.B. Pritzker says the primary election in Illinois will proceed despite a spreading COVID-19 and new federal suggestions that gatherings of 10 or more people be avoided. Pritzker pointed to Tuesday’s election as a touchstone of normalcy in a chaotic time. His state public health director reported that the number of cases in Illinois has hit 105 in 15 counties. Illinois elections officials scrambled to avoid voting disruptions while the Illinois House canceled legislative sessions until further notice. – Associated Press

Coronavirus Concerns Cause Cancellations

MACON COUNTY – Concerns about the coronavirus have affected the ranks of election judges for Tuesday’s primary election in one central Illinois county. Macon County Clerk Josh Tanner says more than 70 of his election judges have dropped out in the days leading up to the primary more than twice the usual number. “We’ve had a lot of election judges who’ve fallen into the category where they’ve been recommended not to go out in public,” said Tanner. “And so they’ve called us to cancel. And since this has been a relatively recent event, it’s been difficult to fill all those vacancies.” As of Monday evening, Tanner said he had enough replacements to fill all the vacancies. But he says many of them have less experience than the election judges who dropped out. Tanner says Macon County typically requires about 350 election judges to staff polling places at each election. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Pritzker Endorses Biden On Eve of Illinois Primary

CHICAGO — Gov. J.B. Pritzker is endorsing Joe Biden for president on the eve of Illinois’ primary, saying the Democratic former vice president “is the right candidate to beat Donald Trump and lead us into a new era.” Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders are facing off on Tuesday in Illinois. Pritzker had held off endorsing any of the candidates in the once-crowded Democratic field. His team told the Chicago Sun-Times that Pritzker opted to give his endorsement on Monday because he wanted to remind residents of the importance of voting despite the COVID-19 pandemic. – Associated Press

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

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

COVID-19 Update from Champaign County 

CHAMPAIGN – Champaign County Public Health District Administrator Julie Pryde says coronavirus tests are pending for more than 80 people; 13 negative results have been received so far. The county has one confirmed COVID-19 case, which was first announced Sunday, involving a woman in her 50s who reported having contact with people who recently traveled to Italy. Efforts to conduct coronavirus testing locally are still in progress. – Christine Herman, Illinois Newsroom

News Around Illinois – March 16, 2020

Currently, there are 93 individuals in 13 Illinois counties who have tested positive for COVID-19. Click here for a map of the affected counties and other resources from WILL’s Coronavirus Information Center.

Champaign County Woman Diagnosed With COVID-19

URBANA – Champaign County’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 is a woman in her fifties. She called the office of her primary physician’s office before going to Carle Hospital’s Emergency Department in Urbana to be checked out. Local public health officials announced the diagnosis on Sunday. The patient was not hospitalized, but was tested for COVID-19. She is now recovering in home isolation.  – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Danville City Buildings Shut Down For Two Weeks

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

Illinois Shuts Down Bars, Restaurants Due To Coronavirus

CHICAGO – Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has ordered all bars and restaurants in the state to close to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. The Democratic governor said Sunday the closure will take effect Monday night and run through March 30. Officials in other parts of the country said they are considering similar restrictions after revelers ignored warnings against attending large gatherings. – Associated Press

Many State Workers May Telecommute Soon

SPRINGFIELD – Many state government workers in Illinois are being told to prepare to work from home.  It’s another change to slow down the coronavirus spread. Governor J.B. Pritzker says plans are being made.  “These changes will roll out over the coming days and state workers should expect communication from their agency directors shortly,” said Pritzker on Sunday. Pritzker also says some government functions could be reduced, but essential operations will continue.  AFSCME, the state’s largest employee union, supports the move.  The Governor says all employees will be paid during the period. – Sean Crawford, NPR Illinois

Illinois Primary Races For US House and Senate On Tuesday

CHICAGO — Competitive primaries for the House and Senate are being held across Illinois. Five Republicans are vying for the uphill battle of unseating U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, while U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski faces a strong primary challenge from small business owner Marie Newman and two others. Tuesday’s contest also features the only open congressional primary in Illinois. The impending retirement of U.S. Rep. John Shimkus has triggered a spirited primary in southeastern Illinois. Voters will also choose Republicans to face U.S. Reps. Sean Casten and Lauren Underwood in November. – Associated Press

 

News Around Illinois – March 13, 2020

Champaign Mayor Declares Emergency, Ebert Fest Canceled

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

Pritzker Asks Sports Teams To Cancel Games Or Bar Fans

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

IHSA Cancels March Madness Tournament Due To COVID-19 Concerns

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

Senior Centers Closed To Stem Coronavirus

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

State Farm Workers Told To Work From Home

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

News Around Illinois – March 12, 2020

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

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

Lawmakers Cancel Session

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois General Assembly is canceling its work days next week. Lawmakers say they’re doing their part to prevent  community spread of the coronavirus disease. Session days can draw thousands of people to the Illinois Capitol from legislators to everyday citizens. State Rep. Bob Morgan (D-Deerfield) says lawmakers should do what they can to protect the public. “We function and our whole existence relies on the ability of the public to access us,” said Deerfield. “And when that exact premise is what is putting people in danger, I think we have to be very, very thoughtful about that, and take the steps necessary to keep people safe.” Officials are also banning large groups from the Capitol Complex including rallies and school tours. Public health authorities say “social distancing” is one of the key ways to prevent or at least slow the spread of COVID-19. – Brian Mackey, Illinois Public Radio

Secretary of State Office Questioned

SPRINGFIELD – Republicans are questioning whether the Illinois secretary of state’s office can handle being in charge of Automatic Voter Registration. The latest in a string of problems involved 1,100 people incorrectly “opted out” of voting. State Rep. Tim Butler (R-Springfield) says the agency’s front-line staff already has its hands full. “Renewing your driver’s licenses, figuring out REAL ID vs non REAL ID, your state ID vs. that…getting your registration for your car, everything like that,” said Butler. “They have a lot of other things to do other than registering people to vote.” Republicans want another meeting between Secretary of State Jesse White and local election authorities, and an independent audit of the state’s voter database. They also say the automatic voter registration system should be suspended, fixed, and back up and running by the end of 2021. – Olivia Mitchell, NPR Illinois

2020 Census Launches Thursday

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois census officials say residents can begin filling out the 2020 US Census form online starting Thursday. Counting efforts are moving forward despite public health concerns about the spread of  COVID-19. Illinois Department of Human Services Secretary Grace Hou says in light of the new virus that’s so far affected the Chicagoland area, remote methods for filling out the nine question form are crucial. “There is an option, right, to do it online, by phone, or by mail, and I think potentially that’s an even more important message today more than ever: that there is an opportunity to do it on your own,” said Hou. Illinois has dedicated nearly $30 million to its counting efforts in the hopes of securing tens of billions of dollars in federal money that is based on its census count. Click here to fill out the online census form. –Sam Dunklau, NPR Illinois

News Around Illinois – March 11, 2020

Illinois COVID-19 Cases Increase To 19

[perfectpullquote align=”left” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Click here to connect with WILL’s Coronavirus Information Center. [/perfectpullquote]

CHICAGO – State officials say Illinois now has 19 confirmed cases of coronavirus. The state identified eight new cases since yesterday afternoon – including a teenager from McHenry County. Dr. Ngozi Ezike is the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. “Yes I know people will be concerned that they see a youth in this new identification of cases,” said Ezike. “Although we do have younger individuals The virus appears to show more severe illness in older adults.” Ezike says people older than 60 should limit their activities with other people, especially large indoor events. She says people should be prepared for the virus to start spreading more widely in Illinois. – Patrick Smith, WBEZ News  

School  Districts Preparing For Extended Closings 

McLEAN COUNTY – School districts that have run digital learning days during weather emergencies may be better prepared for extended closings from the coronavirus. But McLean County educators say prolonged e-learning poses its own challenges. Olympia superintendent Andrew Wise says e-learning has worked well, except for the 10 percent of students who lack reliable internet at home. Wise says he’s not sure the district has enough wifi cards for everyone. Unit 5 in Normal does not have any e-learning program and must now develop one. Bloomington School District 87 superintendent Barry Reilly says schools must now develop long-term lesson plans for online classes.  – Charlie Schlenker, WGLT News

Lawmakers Deciding If Childcare Can Be Paid By Campaign Funds

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois General Assembly is considering whether to allow money raised for political campaigns to be used for childcare. State Sen. Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake) co-chaired the state’s Anti-Harassment, Equality, and Access Panel. She says she thinks it’s already legal to pay for childcare with campaign funds but that fact is not widely known. “Women didn’t run for office many times because they have childcare expenses and were not able to cover those expenses, and therefore many of them didn’t run for office,” said Bush. A spokesman for the Illinois State Board of Elections says there’s never been a complaint about the practice. He says the board has been asked about childcare in the past, and always said it was okay citing a law that lets officeholders use campaign money to cover “customary and reasonable expenses.” – Brian Mackey, Illinois Newsroom

Proposed Law Named For Ex-Inmate Limits Isolation In Prisons

CHICAGO (AP) — A man’s decades-long stay in isolation in an Illinois prison has prompted proposed legislation that would limit how long a prisoner can stay in solitary confinement. Called the Anthony Gay Isolated Confinement Restriction Act, the legislation would bar the Illinois Department of Corrections from placing an inmate in isolation for more than 10 days in a six-month period. Corrections would also be required to give isolated inmates access to therapy. Anthony Gay went to prison in 1994 for stealing a dollar bill and a hat. Behavior problems, including self-mutilation, added to his sentence. By the time he was released in August 2018, he had served 22 years in solitary. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – March 10, 2020

Lawmakers Pushing For Privacy Protections From Smart Speakers

SPRINGFIELD – A pair of Illinois lawmakers want privacy protections for data from smart appliances and virtual home assistants. State Rep. Ann Williams (D-Chicago) says the information collected by those devices deserves the same protection as everything else in a home.  The legislation would require police to get a warrant before they could get information from devices like Alexa from Amazon or Siri from Apple. It would also require companies that share with third parties the data from those devices to disclose it on their websites. – Brian Mackey, Illinois Public Radio

Grant Proposals Sought To Help With Shortage of Special Needs Educators

URBANA – The Illinois State Board of Education is calling for grant proposals to help school districts across the state grapple with a shortage of special education teachers and school psychologists. The grant totals $7.5 million dollars in federal aid. Barbara Moore is the director of special education for ISBE. Moore says whoever receives the grant will be expected to help schools create individualized plans for students with special needs which she says should help prevent the use of seclusion and restraint of students. Moore says grant recipients will be expected to conduct workshops and webinars on behavioral assessments and interventions. Statewide there are nearly 700 unfilled special education teaching positions, and almost 150 unfilled psychologist positions, according to ISBE. – Lee Gaines, Illinois Newsroom

Pritzker Issues Disaster Declaration To Fight COVID-19

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. J.B. Pritzker has announced four new cases of COVID-19 in Illinois and issued a disaster proclamation that will help the state respond to the potentially deadly virus. Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Monday that two of the new cases involve relatives of a patient diagnosed with the flu-like malady last week. The other two involve a woman who traveled to Illinois from California and a woman who recently returned from an Egyptian cruise. – Associated Press

Fourth Chicago Convention Canceled Due To Coronavirus Worry

CHICAGO — Fears of coronavirus transmission has prompted the cancellation of another event planned this month for Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center. The American College of Cardiology on Monday cancelled its annual World Congress of Cardiology, which was expected to attract 18,000 people March 28 through March 30. The organization said the decision followed updates and recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. Last week the International Housewares Association among other groups scrapped events scheduled for Chicago, causing the loss of about 100,000 visitors to the city. – Associated Press

Nobel-winning Physics Professor Donates Papers To Illinois

CHAMPAIGN — A Nobel Prize-winning physics professor has donated papers from more than 50 years of work to the University of Illinois Archives. Anthony Leggett was awarded the 2003 Nobel Prize in Physics for contributions to the theory of superconductors and superfluids. He came to the university in 1983 as a physics professor. The donated material includes Leggett’s early correspondence, research and lectures, along with handwritten research notes and correspondence with other scholars. Leggett was born in London in 1938. He retired from the University of Illinois in December. – Associated Press

 

News Around Illinois – March 9, 2020

Lawmakers Okay SNAP Participants To Use Benefits Online

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois House passed legislation this week meant to let recipients of food aid use their benefits online. Representative Anne Stava-Murray (D-Naperville) says not being able to spend food assistance on the web has directly hurt her constituents. “It really has been a struggle in my area specifically that food pantries won’t deliver, and they can’t use their snap benefits for online services. So this will help feed children in my district,” said Staya-Murray. Other backers say the legislation would also help home bound seniors and people with disabilities. If the measure becomes law, it would direct Illinois to apply for a test project within the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — or SNAP. So far people in four states are allowed to use SNAP benefits online. – Olivia Mitchell, NPR Illinois

Lake Land College Tuition Vote on Monday Night

MATTOON – Trustees at Lake Land College are scheduled to vote Monday night on a $5 per credit-hour tuition increase for the community college in Mattoon. The increase is described as a modest one by Vice President for Business Services Greg Nuxoll, and needed to maintain education quality while remaining affordable. If approved, in-district students at Lake Land would pay $110.50 per credit-hour, beginning in the fall. By comparison, trustees at Parkland College in Champaign voted last month to keep their tuition the same, while trustees at Danville Area Community College voted to raise fees by $5, but not tuition. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Trial Set To Begin In Southern Illinois Woman’s 2010 Death

JERSEYVILLE — The trial of a southern Illinois man charged with a woman’s murder is set to begin Monday, nearly ten years after she went missing. The Alton Telegraph reports that Roger Carroll is charged with three counts of first-degree murder, concealing a homicide and aggravated kidnapping in 48-year-old Bonnie Woodward’s death. Two weeks have been reserved for the trial. Woodward was last seen in June 2010 outside her work, a nursing home in Alton. Authorities considered Carroll a suspect at the time of Woodward’s disappearance because fingerprints found on her truck matched his. – Associated Press

Illinois Campaign Focused On Marijuana Use Education

CHICAGO — Illinois officials launched a new statewide campaign this week focused on health and safety information for people who use marijuana. The campaign is centered around a new website, and advertisements via social media, digital media and radio. The Illinois Department of Human Services developed the campaign with Prevention First, a nonprofit that offers substance use prevention services, and Rescue, a communications agency. Illinois began broadly allowing the sale and use of cannabis products by adults in January, becoming the 11th state with a similar approach to the drug that remains federally illegal. –Associated Press

Town’s Leaning Tower Replica Will Play New Tunes

NILES — A half-scale replica of Italy’s famed Leaning Tower of Pisa in suburban Chicago is undergoing some renovations. The tower in Niles was recently named to the National Register of Historic Places. The bells are now being restored. Once they’re back in action, they will be playing some new tunes. The founder of a group called Community Bell Advocates says she arranged a collection of “familiar tunes” for the seven bells to play. One such tune is “When the Saints Go Marching In.” The tower was built in 1934 by businessman Robert Ilg as part of a park for his company’s workers. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – March 6, 2020

Lawmakers Hear How Greenhouse Gas Emissions Are Being Cut

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois state senators heard testimony Thursday from environmental groups and power companies on how to curb future greenhouse gas emissions and what’s being done to do that right now. Utilities like Commonwealth Edison say they are meeting clean energy goals set out by agreements like the Paris Climate Accord with existing nuclear technology. Some environmental advocates, though, say a measure called the Clean Energy Jobs Act would do more to reduce CO-2 emissions by increasing state investment in the clean energy sector. Governor JB Pritzker says approving some form of energy legislation is a priority for his administration. Data from the federal government shows Illinois utilities give off the sixth highest amount of carbon dioxide in the nation. – Sam Dunklau, NPR Illinois

R. Kelly Pleads Not Guilty; Feds Say New Charges Planned

CHICAGO  — R&B singer R Kelly has pleaded not guilty to a 13-count federal indictment that includes child pornography charges and allegations involving a new accuser. An attorney for the 53-year-old musician entered the plea on his behalf in Chicago federal court on Thursday. Kelly stood silently beside his attorney in orange jail garb. The superseding indictment unsealed last month includes multiple counts of child pornography. Prosecutors say another superseding indictment is expected in the coming weeks, but provided no details. Kelly faces several dozen counts of state and federal sexual misconduct charges in Illinois, Minnesota and New York. He has denied abusing anyone. – Associated Press

Correctional Officers Charged With Sexual Misconduct

MARION — Two southern Illinois correctional officers have been charged with custodial sexual misconduct for an alleged assault on several women in their custody. Williamson County Sheriff Bennie Vick announced Thursday that in addition to the custodial sexual misconduct charges, officers Russel Herzog and Brandon Elam have been charged with official misconduct. Elam is alleged to have offered special treatment to three women in exchange for them “fondling their sex organs” in front of him. Herzog allegedly made the same offer to two women. The prosecution of the men is being handled by Union County State’s Attorney Dan Klingemann. – Associated Press

Body Of Former ‘Jane Doe’ Reburied In Illinois Next To Kin

BELVIDERE — The body of a woman whose identity was unknown for 20 years following her 1999 death has been moved from a cemetery in Wisconsin and reburied next to her family in Illinois. Peggy Lynn Johnson was known as “Jane Doe” until last November when investigators were able to identify her and arrested 64-year-old Linda La Roche in connection to Johnson’s death. According to WDJT-TV, investigators say she was 23 when she was killed. Her body was found in a Wisconsin cornfield. Her burial was held Wednesday in Belvidere. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – March 5, 2020

Involve Women In Policy That Involves Women: Report

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois officials say the state should be doing more to level the playing field for women and girls. A council working toward that goal released its first annual report on Wednesday. Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton is leading the Illinois Council on Women and Girls, which is working to provide women with more leadership roles, increase economic and academic opportunities, and address barriers such as gender-based violence and issues related to health and healthcare. Stratton and other lawmakers said these barriers have been preventing women from reaching their full earning potential. The council also wants to empower women and girls to take on issues facing their communities. –  Olivia Mitchell, NPR Illinois

State Economy Is Not Doing Badly: Report

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois economy is in “decent shape” for a state that still has significant problems. That’s one of the key points of a report by Moody’s Analytics, prepared for the General Assembly’s non-partisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability. Analyst Jim Muschinske says compared to how the state was doing a few years ago, Illinois is in a “better place.” Among the issues identified by the report are “a slowdown in manufacturing, poor agricultural conditions, and numerous demographic and fiscal problems.” Experts say the trade war with China had a significant effect on the state’s agricultural exports and although a new deal is in place, the rise of coronavirus could interfere with a recovery. – Brian Mackey, Illinois Public Radio

State Police Identify 3 Victims Of Plane Crash

LINCOLN — A former Bradley University baseball player was among the three people killed when a small airplane crashed on the median of an interstate highway near Lincoln. Illinois State Police announced Wednesday the victims of Tuesday’s crash were 22-year-old Mitchell W. Janssen of Princeville; 33-year-old Matthew Hanson of Pulaski, Wisconsin and 30-year-old Kevin Chapman of Urbana. Janssen, a right-handed pitcher who attended Bradley from 2015 to 2019, was piloting the single-engine Cessna 172 when it crashed on Interstate-55 and burst into flames. The National Transportation Safety Board is looking into the cause of the crash. – Associated Press

United Is First To Cut US Flying Due To Virus Outbreak

CHICAGO – United Airlines is cutting back on flights both internationally and within the United States as it grapples with lower travel demand because of the new virus outbreak. United is also asking employees to volunteer for unpaid time off. The news on Wednesday is the clearest yet of the damage that the coronavirus outbreak is having on the U.S. airline industry. The CEOs of several airlines went to the White House to discuss the impact of the outbreak on travel. The administration is seeking the airlines’ help in tracing travelers who might have come in contact with people ill with COVID-19. – Associated Press

 

News Around Illinois – March 4, 2020

Police: 3 Die In Plane Crash On I-55 In Central Illinois

LINCOLN — State police say three people died when a small plane crashed and burst into flames on Interstate 55 in central Illinois. Mindy Carroll of the Illinois State Police said in a statement that all three occupants of the plane were killed in the crash in Lincoln at about 8:49 a.m. Tuesday. The National Transportation Safety Board has described the aircraft as a single-engine Cessna 172. Authorities have not described what caused the crash. The NTSB says it is investigating. The Federal Aviation Administration is responding to the scene.  – Associated Press

Illinois City To Pay $11M In Wrongful Conviction Settlements

ROCKFORD — Three men who say they were framed by police in the 2002 murder of a boy will each receive $3.7 million in a settlement with a northern Illinois city. Thirty-nine-year-old Anthony S. Ross, 38-year-old Tyjuan T. Anderson and 46-year-old Lumont D. Johnson were imprisoned for more than a decade after their sentencing to 50 years for killing 8-year-old DeMarcus Hanson in Rockford. Their convictions were overturned in 2015 and they filed wrongful conviction lawsuits against Rockford. The Rockford Register Star reports that the city agreed Monday to pay each of them $3.7 million after former police detective Doug Palmer testified that he had fabricated evidence and coerced testimony. – Associated Press

Panel Recommends Disbarment For Ex-Illinois Gov. Blagojevich

CHICAGO — A panel of the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission has recommended that former governor Rod Blagojevich’s suspended law license be permanently revoked. The panel’s ruling Tuesday came a week after commission attorneys reminded the three-member panel about some of the things that led to Blagojevich’s conviction on corruption charges and 14-year prison sentence. In its four-page decision, the panel noted that Blagojevich sought to “further his own interests” as governor despite his oath of office and “has not acknowledged that his conduct was wrongful or expressed any remorse.” The Illinois Supreme Court would have to approve the panel’s decision before Blagojevich could be disbarred. – Associated Press

Lawmakers Consider Adding “Sexting” To State’s Sex Education Curriculum

SPRINGFIELD – Under the proposal, schools that are already offering sex education for grades 6 through 12 grades would have to teach about the consequences of sexting. Parents would be able to opt their children out of such lessons. State Representative Maurice West, a Democrat from Rockford, is sponsoring the legislation. He says many students do not understand the consequences of sharing a sexually explicit text, which could include felony charges. West says education is key, because it would be difficult to change the law to keep teens from getting in trouble. Even if a sext is consensual between minors, West says anyone convicted of distributing the material would have to register as a sex offender. Olivia Mitchell, NPR Illinois

 

News Around Illinois – March 3, 2020

Illinois Officials Announce 4th Positive Test For Virus

CHICAGO — Health officials say a person in Illinois has tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the fourth suspected case in the state. The woman is the spouse of the third patient, whose case was announced over the weekend. The Illinois and Cook County public health departments made the announcement Monday. Officials say the unidentified patient, a woman in her 70s, is quarantined at home and reported to be in good condition. The number of U.S. cases climbed to over 100 and the country recorded its sixth death. – Associated Press

Illinois Praised For Handling Of Legionnaires Cases

SPRINGFIELD – A national group is praising Illinois for taking the initiative to control sporadic cases of Legionnaires Disease in the state. National water safety expert Bob Bowcock says the federal government should come up with a nationwide standard modeled after regulations in the state of Illinois. Legionnaires’ Disease made headlines in Illinois two years ago — after public radio station WBEZ reported more than a dozen deaths at the state-run veterans’ home in Quincy. Exposure to the disease comes from breathing water vapor — like the steam of a hot shower. The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 569 cases of Legionnaires Disease last year, with 43 fatalities. – Mike Smith, NPR Illinois

1st African American On Illinois High Court Dies At 86

Justice Charles E. Freeman

CHICAGO  — The first African American to serve on the Illinois Supreme Court has died at 86.  A statement from the state’s high court says Charles E. Freeman died on Monday, though it didn’t specify a cause of death. Current Chief Justice Anne M. Burke heralded Freeman as someone with a sharp legal mind who broke down barriers throughout his life.  She calls him a “trailblazer” who was also a “gentleman” who never had an unkind word to say about anyone. Freeman was also the first African American to become chief justice on the court. He won election to the open seat in 1990 and retired in 2018. Freeman is survived by his son, Kevin Freeman, two grandchildren and a brother in Virginia. – Associated Press

 

 

Proposed Program Would Create College Savings For Children Of The Incarcerated

CHAMPAIGN – Illinois Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton and State Treasurer Michael Frerichs have proposed creating college savings accounts specifically for children of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people. The two government officials hosted a discussion about the idea Monday afternoon in Champaign. Stratton had few details to share about how such a program would work. She says the first step is to gather input from stakeholders. Stratton leads the Justice Equity and Opportunity initiative, which is tasked with recommending criminal and social justice reforms. Frerich’s office already operates two college savings programs for families in the state. Stratton says they plan to host another discussion about the idea in southern Illinois. – Lee V. Gaines, Illinois Newsroom

News Around Illinois – March 2, 2020

Bill Would Allow Parents To Opt Students Out of Shooter Drills

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois lawmakers are considering whether parents should be allowed to keep their children from participating in active shooter drills at school. Some parents and school personnel say the exercises have a negative effect on children. State Sen. Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) said he’s not against active shooter training, but he said it should be conducted with more sensitivity. Bennett said there are more effective ways to prepare students and administrators for drills, like practicing basic lock down procedures. Since 2013 Illinois law has required schools to conduct active shooter drills, but it was left up to the school district on whether or not to involve students. But in 2018, the state mandated that children participate in the exercises, which must be conducted within the first 90 days of the school year. – Olivia Mitchell, NPR Illinois

Illinois Bill Requires Rules For Native American Mascot Use

ROCKFORD — A Rockford lawmaker has proposed a bill requiring Illinois schools with Native American mascots and logos to meet certain requirements and failure to meet them would make the school ineligible to participate in playoff competitions. The Rockford Register Star reports state Rep. Maurice West pitched the amendment after students at Hononegah High School led a protest over the use of the Princess Hononegah Indian mascot and other Native American imagery and iconography. Hononegah students however, have asked the school board to completely end the school’s tradition of having a cheerleader dress as an Indian princess and dance at sporting events. – Associated Press

Former State Rep. Costello To Head Agriculture Department

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. J.B. Pritzker has tapped another former legislator to be director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture. Pritzker on Friday named Jerry Costello II as acting director, a job which pays $157,000 annually. The 51-year-old former state representative has been director of law enforcement for the Department of Natural Resources since leaving the General Assembly in May 2019. Costello replaces former state Sen. John Sullivan, who resigned as director Jan. 13. Expressing confidence in Costello’s appointment, Pritzker said agriculture drives the “state’s economy to the tune of $19 billion every year.” – Associated Press

Illinois Man Gets 30 Years For Methamphetamine Trafficking

URBANA — Federal prosecutors say a man had been sentenced to serve 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to distributing more than 45 pounds of methamphetamine in East Central Illinois. Travis Tuggle, a 38-year-old from Mattoon, pleaded guilty in September.  U.S. District Judge James E. Shadid sentenced him on Feb. 18. The office for U.S. Attorney for the Central District of Illinois John Milhiser says Tuggle was at the center of a drug trafficking conspiracy selling methamphetamine in Coles County starting in 2013 and ending in 2016. – Associated Press

Voting Opens For ‘Coolest Thing Made in Illinois’

SPRINGFIELD — Voting has begun in the “Makers Madness” contest to determine the “Coolest Thing Made in Illinois.” The contest that’s sponsored by the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association is a bracket-style tournament to highlight many different products made in Illinois, from food to military flashlights. First-round online voting is open through March 8.  It includes 259 products which will be winnowed to 16. Voters may cast up to five votes per day in the first round as the field narrows. The Coolest Thing Made in Illinois will be crowned in an awards ceremony April 1 at the Governor’s Mansion.  – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – February 28, 2020

Fees, Not Tuition Rising At Danville Area Community College

DANVILLE – Student fees will be going up at Danville Area Community College, but tuition will remain the same. Trustees for the community college voted unanimously Thursday to increase the technology-and-activity fee for students from $20 per credit hour to $25. The college’s basic tuition rate of $140 per credit hour will remain the same, as will tuition for other residency categories. The decision at Danville Area Community College comes one week after trustees at Champaign’s Parkland College also voted to keep their basic tuition the same, at $148.50 per credit hour. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Illinois Governor Seeks To Spend $40M For River Port Project

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker wants the state to spend $40 million to develop a river port in Cairo, where the Mississippi and Ohio rivers meet. The Southern Illinoisan reports that Senate President Don Harmon filed the capital bill proposal last week as a formality on Pritzker’s behalf. The measure would spend $110 million for statewide public port projects that include constructing the terminal in Cairo. Pritzker’s proposal comes after Sen. Dale Fowler spent months advocating for an inland Cairo port. Fowler says the earmarked money indicates the project is inching closer to becoming a reality. – Associated Press

Two Top Chicago Tribune Editors Leaving As Part Of Shakeup

CHICAGO — The exodus of journalists from the Chicago Tribune continues since a hedge fund with a reputation for eliminating jobs became the parent company’s largest shareholder.  On Thursday, the paper reported that Bruce Dold, the paper’s publisher and editor-in-chief, is leaving after 42 years. Also leaving is Managing Editor Peter Kendall. The departures come days after several reporters and editors from the Tribune and other papers in Tribune Publishing’s chain of papers took voluntary buyouts. They come weeks after Tribune Publishing CEO Tim Knight stepped down. Alden Global Capital took a 32% stake in Tribune Publishing last November. – Associated Press

Chicago Schools Drop Columbus Day For Indigenous Peoples Day

CHICAGO — Chicago’s public schools will no longer observe Columbus Day, replacing that October school holiday with Indigenous Peoples Day. The decision by the Chicago Board of Education has aroused the ire of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans. It’s president, Sergio Giangrande, on Thursday called the decision a “slap in the face” of the more than 500,000 Italian Americans in Chicago. Grande says his group, which sponsors the city’s annual Columbus Day parade, is moving to reverse the school district’s decision. The five-to-two decision by the Chicago Board of Education follows similar efforts elsewhere, including South Dakota, to recognize the negative effect of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the western hemisphere on the indigenous population.  – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – February 27, 2020

Decatur Schools And Union Meet With Mediator

DECATUR – Negotiators for Decatur Public Schools and their teaching assistants union met with a federal mediator for about three hours on Wednesday. But talks ended without a settlement, and no date for another session has been set. A District 61 news release called the meeting “productive” and said another bargaining session would be held soon. Meanwhile, Decatur Federation of Teaching Assistants president Paula Busboom said in a statement that the Decatur School Board was refusing to budge from their positions and accused them of a “complete lack of understanding” of the needs of union members and students. Teaching assistants in the Decatur school district have spent the school year without a contract. But they have stayed on the job, except for a brief strike last October. The union has frequently cited district proposals for new health insurance rates as a major point of contention in negotiations. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Lawmakers Considering Mandatory Sex Ed For Grades K-12

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois lawmakers are debating whether to join 29 other states that require sexual education in public schools. Legislation would mandate a curriculum that focuses on healthy relationships, consent, and sexual identity. Brigid Leahy of Planned Parenthood says the curriculum must also be medically accurate, culturally inclusive, and age appropriate. If approved, the requirement would be phased in so schools and teachers have time to prepare. Parents would still have the right to remove their children from sexual education classes. – Olivia Mitchell, NPR Illinois

House OKs Partial Red-Light Camera Ban, Part Of Fed Probe

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois House approved a ban Wednesday on some Chicago suburbs’ red-light enforcement cameras, an unpopular program with motorists which is now part of a federal bribery investigation. Rep. David McSweeney’s plan to ban red-light cameras in non-home rule cities where the Legislature has more power was OK’d 84-4. Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Martin Sandoval pleaded guilty last month in federal court to taking bribes  to be a “protector” of red-light programs in the Legislature. Critics say red-light cameras are a municipal money-grab. Advocates say they increase safety and free police for other duties. – Associated Press

Biden Looks Beyond Super Tuesday With Illinois Endorsements

CHICAGO — Former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and more than 80 other top Illinois Democrats are endorsing Joe Biden for president. Biden’s campaign announced the endorsements on Wednesday. Biden is hoping to notch his first Democratic primary victory in South Carolina on Saturday and take that momentum into next week’s Super Tuesday contests and beyond. Illinois’ primary is on March 17, two weeks after Super Tuesday. Besides Quinn, the endorsement includes former Chicago Deputy Mayor Andrea Zopp, state Sen. Iris Martinez and Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering. Zopp says Biden knows the struggle working people go through to get out of poverty because of his own family’s experience.- Associated Press

Illinois Lawyers Say Blagojevich Should Be Disbarred

CHICAGO — Government attorneys say former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich should be stripped of his law license. Lawyers for the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission urged a commission panel Tuesday to recommend that Blagojevich be disbarred because of all the corruption charges he was convicted of in 2011.  Blagojevich didn’t attend the hearing, but his attorney, Sheldon Sorosky, told the panel that Blagojevich didn’t break the law.  The panel is expected to issue its ruling within three months. A commission review board would then decide whether to recommend Blagojevich’s disbarment to the state supreme court. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – February 26, 2020

Special House Committee Challenges Newcomer

SPRINGFIELD – On Tuesday, the Illinois House formally began investigating the appointment process used to replace former State Rep. Luis Arroyo. The Chicago Democrat resigned from office last fall after he was arrested for allegedly attempting to bribe a state senator. But two lawmakers are challenging the qualifications of his replacement, State Rep. Eva Dina Delgado (D-Chicago). They say Arroyo participated in her selection. State Rep. Avery Bourne (R-Raymond) is on the special House committee that’s hearing the challenge. “We are not interested in personal attacks,” said Bourne. “We are not even interested on whether or not the committee chose the right person in the appointment process. Our focus in this committee should be on whether or not the appointment process was fair and whether or not the selection process was proper.” The committee will allow lawyers for Delgado and her challengers to present their cases starting next month. In a statement, Delgado says the challenges against her are “purely political.” – Sam Dunklau, NPR Illinois

Police: Opioid Overdoses Down, Meth Use Up

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Police says opioid overdoses are declining. But they’re also reporting an uptick in the use of methamphetamines. In the past, meth was homemade, so the state restricted access to some of the ingredients, like sudafed. But now drug cartels are smuggling the drug into the US. State Police Major Troy Phillips says his task force has seen a significant increase in the amount of meth on the streets. Phillips also says price is driving people toward methamphetamine, which is cheaper than heroin. Although opioid overdoses are declining overall, they’re on the rise in black and Latino communities. – Olivia Mitchell, NPR Illinois

Fewer Bald Eagles Spending Time Along Mississippi River Near Quad Cities

QUAD CITIES – During this year’s mid-winter bald eagle count, wildlife biologist and consultant, Kelly McKay, counted 912 between Clinton, Iowa and Keithsburg, Illinois. It’s the fourth lowest count in the last 20 years for that 80 mile section of the river. From 2000-2009, McKay says the number of bald eagles he counted in the same area averaged nearly 2,500 per year. McKay also says the problem may be due to a dwindling supply of food. Bald eagles mainly eat a fish called gizzard shad. Eagles didn’t roost in large numbers along the Mississippi this year because of a lack of ice on the river. That may have contributed to the lack of gizzard shad, too. – Michelle O’Neill, WVIK News

Sheriffs: Illinois Halts Transfer Of Some Facing Deportation

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Sheriffs Association says some violent felons who had faced deportation are instead being released into local communities after their prison terms end as a result of a policy change by Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration. The sheriffs said Tuesday they object to ending the Department of Corrections’ practice of allowing Kankakee County authorities to pick up released immigrants for possible deportation. Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh says it violates the 2017 Trust Act which bars Illinois police agencies from detaining anyone based on immigration status alone. She says Pritzker is trying to counter President Donald Trump’s “attacks on immigrant communities.” – Associated Press

 

News Around Illinois – February 25, 2020

Union Vows To Fill Decatur School Board Meeting 

DECATUR – The teaching assistants union at Decatur Public Schools is calling on members show their solidarity by packing Tuesday night’s  school board meeting. The meeting comes one day before the union and school district hold a bargaining session with a federal mediator. Teaching assistants have been without a contract at Decatur Public Schools since last summer. The Decatur Federation of Teaching Assistants held a strike in October, but ended it after the school district withdrew health insurance benefits. Contract negotiations have stalled over the district’s new health insurance proposal which the union calls unaffordable. The Decatur School Board meets Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Keil Administration Building. The bargaining session between the district and its teaching assistants unions is set for Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Illinois Prison Education Program Receives Grant

URBANA – Northwestern University’s Prison Education Program has received a one million dollar grant from a charitable foundation to expand to prisons outside of the Chicago area. Jennifer Lackey is the director of the program, which offers credit-bearing courses to inmates at Stateville prison. Illinois Newsroom reporting shows that few people in Illinois prisons have access to post-secondary education. Lackey says they’ll use the grant to expand to Logan Correctional Center, a women’s prison near Springfield. She also hopes state officials will provide more resources to the Illinois Department of Corrections to educate prisoners. – Lee V. Gaines, Illinois Newsroom

Lawmaker Wants Harsher Punishments For Harming Domesticated Animals​

SPRINGFIELD – An Illinois lawmaker says people who injure or kill domesticated animals should face a harsher punishment. State Senator Steve McClure (R-Springfield) wants to raise the penalty for aggravated animal cruelty. He says the idea is to deter would-be abusers from committing the crime. “If people don’t appreciate the fact that animals are so valuable in the lives of so many, they should appreciate the fact that this is a telltale sign that a person is capable of doing horrendous things to humans,” said McClure. The bill would make injuring or killing a pet a Class two felony – meaning those convicted would face 3-7 years in state prison and fines of up to $25-thousand. The crime currently carries a sentence of 1-3 years. – Mike Smith, NPR Illinois

Metal Scrapper Finds Body Of Man In Springfield Garage

SPRINGFIELD — Police in Springfield say a man searching for scrap metal discovered the decomposed body of another man in a garage. The body was reported around 4:30 a.m. Sunday. An autopsy is planned. Springfield Lt. Christopher Russell says a man found the body after noticing that a door to a garage near an alley was open. The nearby house is vacant. – Associated Press

Actor Jussie Smollett Pleads Not Guilty To Restored Charges

CHICAGO — Former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett has plead not guilty to restored charges that accuse him of staging a racist, homophobic attack against himself last year and falsely reporting it to Chicago police. His lawyer, Tina Glandian, entered the not guilty pleas on his behalf to six counts of felony disorderly conduct. She also told Judge James B. Linn that she’s asked the Illinois Supreme Court to halt the case. Glandian told reporters that the revived prosecution is “an ordeal” for Smollett. Smollett has repeatedly denied police allegations that he staged the attack to get attention and further his career. His next court date is March 18. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – February 24, 2020

State Lawmaker Sponsoring ‘Crown Act’ In Illinois

PEORIA – State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth (D-Peoria) wants to amend the Illinois Human Rights Act to ban hairstyle discrimination. She says her Crown Act will likely come up for a vote near the end of the legislative session. The goal is to help black and Latinx women who are disproportionately impacted by hairstyle discrimination in the workplace or their daily lives. Leading up to the vote, Gordon-Booth is recruiting powerful women like Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx for “The Politics of Hair” campaign. – Tim Shelley, WCBU News

Illinois Supreme Court Candidate Forum Set For Chicago

Hospital, College In Springfield Team Up On Nursing Shortage

SPRINGFIELD — Lincoln Land Community College and Memorial Health System will team up to expand nursing education to address a national shortage. The (Springfield) State Journal-Register reports Lincoln Land will admit 90 additional nursing students beginning in the fall of 2021, for a total of 215 per year. Memorial Health System will contribute $6.1 million to renovate a campus hall as a nursing center, buy state-of-the-art equipment and hire additional faculty. Lincoln Land President Charlotte Warren said there will be a shortage of 21,000 nurses in Illinois next year. She says one-quarter of the current nursing workforce will retire within the next five years. – Associated Press

Fire Officials Say Homes Need Approved Smoke Alarms By 2023

SPRINGFIELD — State fire officials are reminding Illinois residents to get approved smoke alarms in their homes ahead of a 2023 deadline. A state requires that all smoke alarms and detectors have to have a sealed 10-year battery unless the alarms are hardwired into the residence. The Illinois Office of the State Fire Marshal says there were 105 residential fire deaths in 2018 and more than 70% took place in homes without smoke alarms. Illinois Fire Marshal Matt Perez says smoke alarms will provide an early warning to evacuate before circumstances become dire.  – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – February 21, 2020

Higher Profits, Lower Sales For Deere In First Quarter

Despite a decline in sales, profits rose for John Deere in first quarter results reported Friday morning. Profits rose four per cent to $1.63 per share, compared with $1.54 last year at this time. Worldwide sales fell four percent, to 7.6 billion dollars. For its two major divisions, sales of farm equipment fell four percent, while construction and forestry dropped 10 percent. CEO John May says the first quarter results show “early signs of stabilization in the US farm sector,” thanks to lower trade tensions and the hopes for higher agriculture exports. But the construction sector continues to slow down, so the company is reducing production. – Herb Trix, WVIK

Sanders Holds Small Lead Over Competitors In Illinois Poll

SPRINGFIELD – With less than a month until Illinois’ primary election, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is leading in a new poll of Illinois voters. The poll of likely voters is from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. It was taken from February 10-17 before the most recent debate. 

Support Among Democrats

  • Bernie Sanders 22%
  • Mike Bloomberg 17%
  • Joe Biden 14%
  • Pete Buttigeig 13%
  • Amy Kloubuchar 8%
  • Elizabeth Warren 6%

The wildcard in the results is that nearly one in five Democrats is still undecided. On the Republican side, 89 percent of GOP voters say they support President Donald J. Trump. – Brian Mackey, Illinois Public Radio

Poll: Most Voters Approve Of Pritzker’s And Durbin’s Job Performances

SPRINGFIELD – Just over half of Illinois voters approve of Governor J.B. Pritzker’s job performance. Fifty-one percent either strongly or somewhat approve, versus 38 percent who disapprove. That’s according to new polling results from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. The poll also asked about Democratic Illinois US Senator Dick Durbin, who’s up for re-election this year. His numbers were similar to Pritzker’s — with 52 percent approving of his performance.  President Trump, meanwhile, has just a 39 percent approval rating in the state. – Brian Mackey, Illinois Public Radio

Pritzker Calls Out Statehouse Separatists In Budget Speech

SPRINGFIELD – Dividing Chicago and the rest of Illinois into two separate states has become a pet issue for a small group of Republicans. This week, Governor J.B. Pritzker used his budget address to chastise them and call for unity. “Trying to separate Chicago from the rest of Illinois will not solve the economic challenges of downstate Illinois,” said Pritzker. But separatist state Representative Dan Caulkins (R-Decatur) says he did not feel chastised. He says the governor’s mention legitimizes his point of view.  “If it was just something that he could dismiss or brush, I doubt that he would have said anything. So we’re, we’re getting our message across,” said Caulkins. Proposals to separate Chicago from downstate Illinois have never gone anywhere in the past. Even most Republicans refuse to support the idea. – Sam Dunklau, NPR Illinois

Custer Fair Moving To Indiana After Dispute With Evanston

EVANSTON — A suburban Chicago arts festival that’s been held for nearly a half-century is moving to northwestern Indiana following a dispute with Evanston officials. Tammy Szostek organizes the Custer Fair with her husband. She tells the Chicago Sun-Times the festival’s move from Evanston to Whiting, Indiana, comes after Evanston officials sabotaged the event’s attendance numbers last year, leaving the festival in debt to the city. She says the two-day festival’s attendance dropped to less than 10,000 last year after previously averaging about 85,000 annually. Evanston Mayor Steve Hagerty says the street fair had many issues, including organizers’ failure to pay the city and their non-profit partners. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – February 20, 2020

Women Will Share Empowering Stories In Champaign This Weekend

URBANA – “That’s What She Said” will take the stage at the Virginia Theatre in Champaign this Saturday night with a series of performances by women from the local community. The speakers will share personal stories in a monologue format in what will be the group’s sixth installment in the C-U area. In addition to live events featuring women in the community, the She Said project produces a podcast in partnership with WILL/Illinois Public Media based on previous live events. The group also helps empower teen girls to tell their stories through a program “That’s What Teens Say” taking place later this month. – Christine Herman, Illinois Newsroom

Former IL US Attorney Calls On US Attorney General To Resign

PEORIA – A former U-S Attorney from central Illinois is part of the call for Attorney General William Barr’s resignation. More than 1,000 former Department of Justice officials say Barr’s interference in the sentencing of Roger Stone shows he’s allowing politics to corrupt the judicial process.​ Jim Lewis retired from the Justice Department in 2016. He says it wasn’t the fault of the federal prosecutors who presented the case.​ “They had reported it accurately,” Then, all of the sudden, for one reason or another, someone put their thumb on the scale and the work they had done was undone.” The four prosecutors handling the case then resigned.​ Lewis says the Stone case is just a “trigger” reviving larger concerns about the culture within the department.​ – Dana Vollmer, WCBU News

Proposed Bill Would Allow Affordable Housing Residents To Have Pets

SPRINGFIELD – A state lawmaker wants to keep Illinoisans living in affordable housing from having to give up their pets. The legislation would require housing authorities and state-subsidized public housing to allow tenants to keep a cat or dog. State Senator Linda Holmes (D-Aurora) says everyone in Illinois should be able to enjoy the benefits of having a pet. “They influence social, emotional, and cognitive development in children and they promote an active lifestyle,” said Holmes. If passed, the legislation would still let property owners make rules for pets such as requiring registration, vaccination, and sterilization and complying with noise and sanitation standards. And if a pet causes an injury, the owner would be held responsible, not the housing provider. – Olivia Mitchell, NPR Illinois

Illinois Restricts How Students Are Secluded And Restrained

CHICAGO — The Illinois State Board of Education voted unanimously to adopt the state’s most restrictive permanent rules that ban the use of locked seclusion rooms and prohibit schools from using prone restraint. The new rules approved on Tuesday specify that seclusion may not be used “as discipline or punishment, convenience for staff, retaliation, a substitute for appropriate educational or behavioral support, a routine safety matter, or to prevent property damage.” The vote comes after a Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois investigation in November revealed extensive misuse of isolated timeout and restraint in Illinois schools. The new rules ban locks on rooms and employees from holding the doors shut. – Associated Press

EPA Orders Cleanup Of Zinc Smelter Site In DePue

DEPUE — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued an administrative order to those responsible to clean up contaminated soil at a site near the northern Illinois town of DePue, where a zinc smelter and fertilizer plant was once located. The city of DePue on Tuesday announced the issuance of the order by the EPA to TCI Pacific Communications and CBS/Westinghouse. The order requires what the EPA calls “potentially responsible parties” to clean up a portion of the New Jersey Zinc/Mobil Chemical Corp. site. The site is contaminated with elevated levels of zinc, lead, arsenic, cadmium and other metals.   – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – February 19, 2020

New Tool Will Help Farmers Calculate Crop Insurance

URBANA – Farmers must make decisions about crop insurance over the next few weeks, and a new tool from the University of Illinois can help. The crop insurance calculator allows farmers to enter their state, county, crop, and other farm information, and it spits out different premiums. It was created by teams at the University of Illinois and farmdoc daily. Gary Schnitkey is a professor at the U of I and helped develop the calculator. He says crop insurance is important, especially in these uncertain times. Schnitkey says premiums this year are generally lower than last year. The decision deadline for farmers is March 15. Click here to access the tool. – Dana Cronin, Illinois Newsroom

Lawmakers Want To Reduce Delays In Medical Care

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois lawmakers are considering legislation intended to reduce the amount of time it takes insurance companies to approve medical care. Backers say the process, known as “prior authorization,” is time-consuming and raises unnecessary obstacles for people in need. Isabella McKenna was just 14 years old when she was diagnosed with arthritis. She says prior authorization only made her condition harder to deal with. “My father had to make countless phone calls,” said McKenna. “My doctor had to take the time to give them reason after reason why I needed this test, and in the end, they, the insurance company, not my doctor, decided it was unnecessary.” Supporters of the legislation say reducing prior authorization would save money and allow medical providers to focus on people rather than paperwork. Insurance-industry representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment. – Mike Smith, NPR Illinois

Groups: Laws, Courtroom Changes Hit Police Training Budget

SPRINGFIELD — Two Illinois law enforcement groups say training for police officers is suffering because of an unexpected shortfall in state funding. The Illinois Sheriffs’ Association and the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police are asking lawmakers to fill a $5 million gap in the budget of the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board. The board finances local training with traffic fines. But a state law last year changed the allocation of the money. Another new law allows judges to waive traffic fines and the police groups believe there are fewer citations being written. – Associated Press

SIU Medical School To Pilot State Prison Health Care

SPRINGFIELD — Southern Illinois University School of Medicine will provide health care for inmates at two prisons in a test which the school hopes can expand. Dean and provost Jerry Kruse said Monday the $5 million pilot project with the Illinois Department of Corrections is in keeping with the school’s mission of universally adequate health care as well as a chance for economic expansion. It’s unclear how the plan will affect inmate health services provided by Wexford Health Sources. The Pittsburgh-based Wexford has been criticized for staff shortages and inadequate care. Its 10-year, $1.4 billion contract expires next year. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – February 18, 2020

President Commutes Prison Term Of Former Gov. Blagojevich

CHICAGO – President Donald Trump says he has commuted the 14-year prison sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. The 63-year-old Democrat is expected to walk out of prison later Tuesday. Trump told reporters the sentence was “ridiculous.” The former governor was convicted of political corruption in 2010, just months after he appeared on Trump’s reality TV show, “Celebrity Apprentice.” He was convicted on charges included seeking to sell an appointment to Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat and trying to shake down a children’s hospital. – Associated Press

Eastern Illinois University Swimmer Talks About Being Detained At Gunpoint In Front Of Team

Jaylan Butler
Jaylan Butler, Eastern Illinois University student athlete ACLU

QUAD CITIES – A lawsuit filed last month against several police officers alleges a college swimmer was subject to excessive force and false arrest during an incident last year. Eastern Illinois University sophomore Jaylan Butler says he was traveling with his swim team last February when they stopped in East Moline. When Butler, the only black student on the team, stepped away from the bus, he was approached by police, who handcuffed him, pressed his face into the snow and pointed a gun to his head.  Butler was eventually let go but says the experience was traumatizing.  “I had a huge breakdown in summertime, I kind of let myself feel the events that had happened and just kind of understanding that I didn’t do anything wrong but it’s okay to feel saddened and angered and upset,” said Butler on Monday’s episode of  WILL’s The 21st Show. Statements from at least two of the police agencies cited in the lawsuit say the allegations are without merit. –Christine Herman, Illinois Newsroom

First Families Begin Moving Into Bristol Development

CHAMPAIGN – Champaign city officials say the first families began moving into the new Bristol Development over the weekend. The 90-units making up Phase One of the development were built on the site of the old Bristol Place neighborhood on the city’s north side. The last residents were moved out of Bristol Place more than two years ago. Local officials had decided the area was too blighted to save without a total rebuild. The city says former Bristol Place residents were given the first opportunity to move into the new development provided they met its tenant selection criteria. The new Bristol Development is a project of the city of Champaign, the Housing Authority of Champaign County and a private developer. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Climatologist: Climate Change Evident In Illinois

DEKALB – The major effect of climate change on northern Illinois is projected to be large increases in precipitation. These weather events may lead to further agricultural erosion, which strips the nutrient rich topsoil from Illinois’ farmland. State Climatologist Trent Ford says that can potentially cause toxic algal blooms in local waterways. “We’re seeing changes in precipitation, more precipitation overall, but also more intense precipitation that really has significant impacts but also varied impacts on hydrology and how that water is managed,” said Ford. “And that is something that northern Illinois has been dealing with. And the projections suggest that those issues will continue and increase in magnitude into the future.” His office forecasts increasingly wet springs in the coming years. – Claudia Baker, WNIJ News

Illinois State President Creates Role Focused On Diversity

NORMAL — Illinois State University’s president has created a new position focused on diversity and inclusion on campus. The Pantagraph reports that President Larry Dietz appointed Doris Houston as the university’s first assistant to the president for diversity and inclusion last week. Houston is currently the interim director of the university’s School of Social Work. She called the new role a natural fit with her background. Dietz said existing diversity initiatives on campus focus on student and academic affairs. Those efforts often overlap. Dietz said Houston will be responsible for making sure separate efforts know about each other’s work and measuring their effect. – Associated Press

Illinois Officials To Detail Battle Plan Against Gypsy Moth

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois officials’ plan to combat infestations of the gypsy moth will be the focus of several upcoming meetings in the northern part of the state. The Illinois Department of Agriculture has planned nine open houses to discuss treatment strategies at infested sites, including the use of a naturally occurring bacteria and a pheromone specific to gypsy moths that prevents males from breeding. Officials said there’s no danger to humans, pets or other wildlife. The non-native pest eats more than 250 species of trees and shrubs but particularly feeds on oak leaves. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – February 17, 2020

Families Begin Moving Into Champaign’s New Bristol Development

CHAMPAIGN – Champaign city officials say the first families began moving into the new Bristol Development over the weekend. The 90-units making up Phase One of the development were built on the site of the old Bristol Place neighborhood at Bradley Avenue and Market Street on the city’s north side. The last residents were moved out of Bristol Place more than two years ago, after the city and the Housing Authority of Champaign County decided the area was too blighted to save without a total rebuild. The new Bristol Development is a project of the city of Champaign, Housing Authority of Champaign County and the project developer, AHDVS, LLC. –— Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Man Found Guilty Of Murder In Woman’s 2009 Stabbing

URBANA — Jurors on Friday found an Illinois man guilty of murdering a 22-year-old woman, more than a decade after she was stabbed to death in her home.  Michael Henslick, now 31, was 21 at the time of Holly Cassano’s murder in a mobile home park in Mahomet in November 2009, The (Champaign) News-Gazette reported. Police have previously said Henslick’s arrest was made possible by techniques used by Parabon NanoLabs. The Virginia company often works on cold cases with law enforcement, comparing DNA evidence to information in public databases used by people seeking more information about their ancestry.  – Associated Press

Parents Allege Daughter, 6, Was Sexually Assaulted At Recess

EDWARDSVILLE — The parents of a 6-year-old southern Illinois girl are suing local school officials, alleging that their daughter was sexually assaulted by another kindergartner during recess. The lawsuit names the Edwardsville School District 7 as the defendant and accuses the school district of being negligent in its supervision of students during recess. The Glen Carbon girl’s parents contend that she told them in February 2019 that a male student in her kindergarten class had forcibly kissed her and touched her inappropriately on multiple occasions during recess. Their suit seeks $50,000, legal costs and other damages as determined by the court. – Associated Press

New Sculpture Honoring Lincoln Planned At Springfield Museum

SPRINGFIELD — A new sculpture honoring the 16th U.S. president is coming to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield. Museum officials announced plans last week for the “Beacon of Endurance” piece, which will stand more than 24 feet tall. Renderings show an obelisk, with a base inscribed with quotes from Lincoln and a stainless-steel upper portion engraved with words describing Lincoln. Members of an advisory panel will weigh in on which words to include, and the museum also plans to take ideas from the public through social media. – Associated Press

Trucks Haul Massive Beams For Rebuild Of Mile Long Bridge

CHICAGO — Trucks hauling massive concrete beams destined for the Mile Long Bridge along the Tri-State Tollway are getting police escorts from a Wisconsin factory to a tollway plaza in Chicago’s southwest suburbs. The Chicago Tribune reports the beams will be used in the $4 billion rebuilding and re-widening of Interstate 294 near O’Hare International Airport. A chief engineering officer for the Tollway says concrete beams require less maintenance than steel ones and are more cost-efficient. Officials say the project can be done without raising tolls and is expected to be completed in 2026. – Associated Press

Officials Hope To Name New SIU Carbondale Leader By April

CARBONDALE – Officials hope to name a new chancellor to lead the Southern Illinois University Carbondale by spring. Phil Gilbert is the chair of the Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees. Gilbert said at a meeting this week that a 23-member advisory committee has chosen semifinalists.  Those candidates will be interviewed then narrowed to a list of finalists, who will be invited to visit campus in late March or early April. Board members hope to hire the new chancellor when they meet in April, The Southern Illinoisan reported. The board’s selection will replace Interim Chancellor John Dunn. Dunn has led the campus since December 2018 when then-Chancellor Carlo Montemagno died. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – February 14, 2020

Jury Finds Henslick Guilty In 2009 Holly Cassano Murder

URBANA — Jurors on Friday found an Illinois man guilty of murdering 22-year-old Holly Cassano, more than a decade after she was stabbed to death at her mobile home in Mahomet.  Michael Henslick, now 31, was 21 at the time of Cassano’s murder in November 2009, The (Champaign) News-Gazette reported. Police have previously said Henslick’s arrest was made possible by techniques used by Parabon NanoLabs. The Virginia company often works on cold cases with law enforcement, comparing DNA evidence to information in public databases used by people seeking more information about their ancestry.  – Associated Press

State Police Support Fingerprinting FOID Card Applicants

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Police supports legislation that would fingerprint applicants for the Firearm Owners Identification card. The change could help discover those with violent criminal histories and prevent them from owning firearms. The proposal is getting more attention nearly one year after a workplace shooting in Aurora that left five dead along with the gunman.  The measure also would charge more for FOID applications and renewals with the extra money going toward enforcement. The Aurora shooter had his FOID card revoked, but his guns were never seized.  The legislation passed the House last year but would still need Senate approval.  – Mike Smith, NPR Illinois

Weather Service: High Flood Risk Along Mississippi

DAVENPORT, Ia. – For the second year in a row, the risk of major flooding on the Mississippi River is high. On Thursday, the National Weather Service in the Quad Cities released its first Spring Flood Outlook. Hydrologist, Jessica Brooks, says compared to this time last year, more snow is on the ground in Minnesota and Wisconsin. And its water content is high. Historically, the chance of major flooding is 22 percent, on average but under current conditions, it’s more than 95 percent. – Michell O’Neill, WVIK News

Students: Teacher Told Classmate To Leave US For Anthem

CHICAGO — Chicago Public Schools says it has launched an investigation after four students complained that a teacher told a Hispanic student she should go back to her own country because she didn’t stand during the national anthem. The Senn High School students allege the teacher made the comment during a Jan. 30 Hispanic heritage assembly. The school district says if the teacher did make such a comment it would be a violation of the district’s anti-discrimination policy. The students staged a sit-in Wednesday to protest what they consider the district’s slow response to their complaint. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – February 13, 2020

Presidential Candidate Bloomberg Opens Offices In Illinois

ROCK ISLAND – Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg plans to  open 14 campaign offices in the state, with 80 staff members, according to Will Dubbs, Bloomberg’s Deputy States Director. Between now and the Illinois primary on March 17, campaign workers will focus on recruiting volunteers for phone banks and canvassing. Five offices are located in Chicago, plus Rock Island, Springfield, and Belleville. Others will open soon in Aurora, Rockford, and Waukegan. – Herb Trix, WVIK News

Investigators Want To Know Why Transport Company Placed Child In Shackles

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois investigators are looking into what happened when a transportation company working for the state’s Department of Children and Family Services shackled a young foster child for several hours. The company, Jim Stewart Transportation, worked with the department since 2017. But DCFS says it revoked their contract after it allegedly shackled a child during a trip between Moline and Springfield, Missouri. That violated the department’s rules, which ban the use of hard restraints. DCFS spokesperson Jassen Strokosch says the agency is conducting its own investigation into the matter and will be reprimanding any employees who approved the transfer.  – Mike Smith, NPR Illinois

State Releasing Half-Billion Dollars For Innovation Programs

CHICAGO – Governor J.B. Pritzker announced Wednesday that the state is releasing $500-million in capital funding for the University of Illinois’ Discovery Partners Institute and Illinois Innovation Network. Pritzker says the capital funds will allow DPI and the other hubs to begin architectural design work. The project seeks to spur economic growth through research and public-private partnerships. There are 15 hubs being built at public university campuses in the Illinois Innovation Network stretching from Rockford to Carbondale. – Brian Moline, Illinois Newsroom

Advocates Call For More Fair Distribution Of Illinois Medicaid Funds

SPRINGFIELD – A group of Illinois lawmakers and health care advocates want the state to more equitably provide money for low income hospital patients. State Rep. Chris Welch (D-Hillside) and state Sen. Omar Aquino (D-Chicago) have proposed legislation to change what’s known as the Medicaid hospital assessment program. That program sets aside an estimated $3.6 billion to help reimburse hospitals that care for patients who cannot afford expensive hospital stays and those without medical insurance. The money is supposed to be spread evenly among providers throughout Illinois each year based on a number of criteria. But supporters of the change argue that has not happened in the past.  – Olivia Mitchell, NPR Illinois

Black Eastern Illinois University Athlete Sues Local Police 

QUAD CITIES – Several police officers are being sued in federal court following their arrest of a black college student traveling through the Quad Cities last year. Jaylan Butler is a member of Eastern Illinois University swim team. He said on February 24, 2019, he was on a bus traveling back from a tournament when the bus stopped at a rest area along I-80 in East Moline. While standing outside, several officers raced up with guns drawn, threw him on the ground and arrested him. The officers eventually realized Butler was not the person they were looking for. The ACLU says Butler was arrested because he was a young black man. The defendants in the suit include East Moline police officer Travis Staes, Hampton officer Ethan Bush, and Rock Island County deputy Jack Asquini, plus a deputy whose last name is Pena, and two other officers listed as “John Doe’s.” The Rock Island County Sheriff says Butler was only detained briefly before the officers left to join the hunt for a fugitive in the area. – WVIK News

Southern Illinois Man Charged; Dog Suffered Chemical Burns

MADISON — A southern Illinois man is facing animal torture and cruelty charges for allegedly spraying a corrosive substance on a dog, causing chemical burns. Madison County prosecutors say 45-year-old Rodney W. Johnson of Granite City, was charged Tuesday. Prosecutors say the dog, a 10-year-old Maltese mix named Charlie, was dropped in critical condition at the Madison Police Department on Feb. 6. Police contacted an animal rescue agency in Granite City to get the dog emergency treatment for the burns. Madison city Detective Kyle Graham says the substance “completely ate away at the dog’s skin.” Investigators believe the burns were intentional. Johnson was being held on $40,000 bail. – Associated Press

No Injuries Or Hazards After Barges Break Loose At St. Louis

ST. LOUIS  — Towing vessels are working to gather up several barges that broke away from a fleeting area on the Mississippi River at St. Louis. The U.S. Coast Guard said the incident was reported at 3 a.m. Wednesday. Officials with the Coast Guard, Missouri Department of Transportation, Illinois State police and local agencies responded. The Coast Guard said there were no injuries or reports of pollution. The river was closed briefly before reopening. The exact number of barges that broke loose was not disclosed. The cause of the accident is under investigation. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – February 12, 2020

Actor Jussie Smollett Faces 6 New Charges In Chicago

Census Still Looking For Workers In Rural Illinois

SPRINGFIELD – The US Census Bureau is still looking for people to go door-to-door in the coming months to help residents participate in the once-a-decade population count. Theresa Miles is the assistant regional census manager covering central and southern Illinois. She says the Census Bureau is in the final stages of a recruitment push. “Certainly, we still need many people, in particular in the rural counties that may not be as populated,” said Miles. “It’s hard to reach people sometimes in places like that, so we need candidates everywhere.” The part-time jobs pay between $19 and $23 an hour. Click on this sentence for more information. – Mary Hansen, NPR Illinois

Proposed Bill Would Allow “Mental Health Days” For School Children

SPRINGFIELD – New legislation would allow children to take five days off from school to address problems related to their mental health. Kevin Rubenstein is president of the Illinois Alliance of Administrators of Special Education. He supports the idea, but says the legislature should also provide more money to help kids while they’re at school. The five days off would be in addition to other absences already allowed, like for religious observances. Opponents of the legislation say it would do more harm than good and that staying home won’t solve the kids’ problems. – Olivia Mitchell, NPR Illinois

Education Group Says Illinoisans Gives Schools Low Grade

Man Buried In Corn, Dies Inside Farm’s Grain Bin

MORRISONVILLE — A central Illinois man has died after becoming buried in corn while working inside a farm’s grain bin. Sixty-one-year-old David L. Lowis was pronounced dead at the scene Monday morning at a farm in rural Morrisonville. Christian County Coroner Amy Calvert Winans says first responders had to cut a hole in the grain bin to get to Lowis, but he died after being submerged in corn. WCIA-TV reports that an autopsy was scheduled for Tuesday on the Taylorville man. – Associated Press

 

News Around Illinois – February 11, 2020

13th District Democratic Primary Candidates Discuss Issues At Forum

CHAMPAIGN – Healthcare was a major issue for both Betsy Dirksen Londrigan and Stefanie Smith at a candidate’s forum in Champaign Monday evening. But the two Democrats competing to run against U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis in Illinois’ 13th District disagreed on what’s the best plan. Smith, a first-time candidate from Urbana, supports a single payer or “Medicare for all” option that would replace private health insurance. “Anything less than single payer is eugenics,” Smith said. Londrigan, who lost narrowly to Davis in 2018, backs the public option. Under that proposal, private insurance continues, but the government offers a Medicare-like option as an alternative. “I have a problem forcing people to give up insurance that they want to keep,” said Londrigan. The forum was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Champaign County, Champaign County NAACP and the News-Gazette, and will air on CGTV, Champaign’s government TV channel.Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Cancer Center Uses Laser, Microscope And Algorithms In Cancer Diagnosis

URBANA – Researchers at the University of Illinois are working to improve the way cancer diagnosis is done. Rohit Bhargava is a bioengineering professor and director of the Cancer Center at Illinois. His research team has developed a new technique to analyze human tissue biopsies using a laser, an optical microscope and machine-learning algorithms. The results are published in the Journal of the National Academy of Sciences. “The idea here is to not just measure the shape that you see in a microscope, but measure the chemistry,” said Bhargava. “So at every pixel, instead of getting a red, green and blue color, we get a list of chemical compounds and their concentrations. So now suddenly, instead of just thinking of cancer as how it appears under a microscope slide, we can ask the question, well, what is it composed off?” Bhargava says the technique needs to be validated on large numbers of patients before it can be used in routine practice. – Christine Herman, Illinois Newsroom

Voter Registration Error Risks Deportation For Immigrants

CHICAGO — A mistake in Illinois’ automatic voter registration system could mean deportation, criminal charges or both for a handful of immigrants who cast ballots. Hundreds of people who acknowledged that they weren’t U.S. citizens were mistakenly registered. Sixteen of them voted. The fiasco has triggered a partisan battle, infuriated voter advocacy groups and forced immigrant rights activists to do  damage control. Margarita Del Pilar Fitzpatrick is a Peruvian citizen who was deported in 2017 after she mistakenly cast a ballot. She hasn’t seen two of her three American citizen daughters in years. – Associated Press

Tazewell County Lincoln Document On View For 211th Birthday

PEKIN — A mortgage document presented to Abraham Lincoln in 1844 in Tazewell County will be on display Wednesday in Pekin for the late president’s 211th birthday. Historians will present historical background about the document later that evening. The Pekin Daily Times reports that the Tazewell County Recorder of Deeds announced last week that the newly discovered document was presented to Lincoln, then a lawyer, on Sept. 10, 1844. The mortgage on 234 acres of farmland located near Tremont was for $284.94 and used as collateral on a debt for legal services Lincoln provided. – Associated Press

New Cruise Ship Scheduled To Visit Great Lakes In 2022

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — A cruise ship currently being built in Norway is scheduled to visit the Great Lakes, including a stop at Traverse City in northern Michigan eight times starting January 2022. The Traverse City Record-Eagle reports that the Discovery Center & Pier about a year ago announced plans to transform a former coal dock in Michigan into a site that ships could use to land passengers. It’s part of efforts to attract more cruise ship traffic to Grand Traverse Bay. The 665-foot-long Viking Octantis is offering four different itineraries, starting in January 2022. Discovery Pier officials say they’re excited about the scientific bent of the planned cruises. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – February 10, 2020

OSF Healthcare Touts Emergency Care App

URBANA – OSF Healthcare is encouraging people to install an app on their phone that will alert them when people nearby are in need of life-saving CPR. The PulsePoint app launched a couple years ago in Peoria and Champaign counties and recently expanded to Vermilion county. The American Heart Association says the survival rate for people experiencing cardiac arrest is less than 12 percent but CPR can double or triple the chances of survival. OSF Healthcare reports that since PulsePoint launched in Champaign county in 2017, more than 7000 people have subscribed to the app. Formal CPR training is encouraged but not required. – Christine Herman, Illinois Newsroom

University of Illinois Springfield Chancellor Stepping Down

SPRINGFIELD – University of Illinois Springfield Chancellor Susan Koch has announced she is retiring this summer after 9 years at the school.  Her tenure has been marked by challenges, such as falling enrollment.  The total number of students is just under 4,300 and the lowest in nearly two decades. She has also faced criticism from faculty, who say they’ve been kept out of decision-making. But there have also been successes, including the construction of the first student union on the campus and the addition of several new academic programs. Koch says she wants to spend more time with her family. The university’s president has promised a transparent leadership transition. – Sean Crawford, NPR Illinois

Economist: 2020 Uncertain For Soybean Farmers

DEKALB – Illinois soybean farmers continue to face uncertainty selling their product to China.  The recent coronavirus epidemic has lowered demand, but it isn’t the only factor. University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Todd Hubbs says there was already anxiety about China’s demand with the ongoing trade war. “There’s an expectation that China’s going to buy more soybeans to meet their commitments in the phase one trade deal, and maybe later than a lot of people expected, which means we’re pushing the price rally deeper into 2020 than we would like to see,” said Hubbs. The “phase one” trade deal was signed in January, and includes commitments that China will buy more agricultural products. But until demand rises, Hubbs says Illinois farmers will have difficulty selling their products to China at more profitable prices. – Chase Cavanaugh, WNIJ News

Illinois Extends Medical Marijuana Sales Hours Amid Pressure

CHICAGO — Illinois officials are allowing medical marijuana businesses to stay open later. The change announced Friday follows complaints that people seeking those products have been at a disadvantage since a new state law allowing recreational sales took effect this year. The department also reminded retailers that they must prioritize medical cannabis patients during product shortages, according to a separate statement released last week.  Marijuana product shortages have been widespread in Illinois in recent months. The state law broadly permitting adults to purchase and use marijuana products took effect Jan. 1. – Associated Press

SIU Edwardsville Gets Record Number Of Fall Applications

EDWARDSVILLE — An increase in the number of applicants to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville has officials feeling hopeful about enrollment for the coming fall semester. Admissions officials at the school say freshman applications for fall of this year totaled 10,860, beating a previous record from 2015. The Alton Telegraph reports that the number of total applications is up 21% compared to last year. Admissions officials say they will now focus on keeping in touch with applying students as they decide where to attend college. – Associated Press

Man Hopes Thrift-Store Urn Filled With Ashes Finds Real Home 

PEORIA — A thrift-store find in Illinois has prompted its buyer to find the person to whom it rightfully belongs _ and might not know it’s even gone. The Journal Star of Peoria reports bargain-hunting Robert Ray spotted what was labeled “figurine” in a Peoria Goodwill store. Upon closer inspection, he recognized it was actually an urn, with ashes still inside. Ray said he bought the $2.99 jar, decorated with a military-style flag and eagle, with the intention of finding the owner. He bought it in late December, a day or two after it arrived in the store. Goodwill officials say they don’t know the source of the donation. Ray hopes someone realizes it was mistakenly donated and contacts the newspaper. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – February 7, 2020

Judge Orders Municipalities To Refund Carle Foundation $6.2 Million

URBANA – A circuit judge has ordered the city of Urbana and other local taxing bodies to refund $6.2 million in property tax payments to the Carle Foundation. In a ruling issued Wednesday, Judge Randall Rosenbaum also called on Carle and the taxing authorities to end their years of legal wrangling over the tax-exempt status of Carle Hospital and other Carle medical buildings. Urbana Mayor Diane Marlin says she’s worked to re-establish good relations with Carle, but says their tax-exempt properties place an unfair burden on the city, Cunningham Township and other local governments that collect property taxes in Urbana. Meanwhile, Carle President and CEO James Leonard says the court’s ruling confirms the importance of tax exemptions, which “free up resources that help provide free or discounted care.”  Mayor Marlin says the city has set money aside to pay its share of the refund, which is $2.5 million, according to the Champaign County Treasurer’s office. Local taxing bodies involved in the dispute have until March 31 to appeal the ruling. Marlin says the Urbana City Council will meet Monday night to discuss its next move. Urbana’s park and school districts have already reached their own settlements with Carle. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Inspectors: Lawmakers’ Watchdog Too Weak To Matter

SPRINGFIELD — The official in charge of uncovering misconduct in the Illinois General Assembly says the job should allow her confidentiality and be free of interference from lawmakers. Legislative Inspector General Carol Pope testified Thursday before a bipartisan commission studying tighter ethics laws after sitting legislators have faced federal bribery and embezzlement charges. Pope says the legislative inspector’s job is hindered because an eight-member commission of lawmakers must approve investigations and decide whether to publish reports where misdeeds are found. And former inspector Julie Porter testified that the commission has failed to publish reports where she proved wrongdoing. – Associated Press

Southern Illinois University Adds Travel Restrictions To China

CARBONDALE – Southern Illinois University Carbondale has announced travel restrictions in response to the coronavirus outbreak in China. The Chancellor’s office announced that all university-related travel to China is being suspended. That includes study abroad travel and other visits related to academic programs. The university also recommends faculty, staff, and students avoid non-essential personal travel to areas currently under travel restrictions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued a warning for all of China. – Steph Whiteside, WSIU Radio

Factory Farms Provide Abundant Food, But Environment Suffers

AKRON, Iowa — Factory livestock farms are spreading across rural America, raising concerns about environmental damage and health risks for people living nearby. An industry once based on small, independent farms is evolving into large operations housing thousands of animals under one roof. The change is helping make beef, poultry and pork more affordable. But animal waste from the mega-farms has fouled waters. The enclosures spew air pollutants that promote climate change and are implicated in illnesses such as asthma. The stench of manure can make life miserable for people nearby. The spread of corporate animal farms is turning neighbor against neighbor in town halls and courtrooms across rural America. Iowa is a major battleground as the top U.S. producer of swine and egg-laying chickens. – Associated Press

 

News Around Illinois – February 6, 2020

Survey: Most Americans Want Changes To US Health Care System

URBANA – More than 90 percent of Americans say changes are needed to make the U.S. health care system more affordable and lower drug costs. That’s according to a new national survey from Public Agenda, USA Today and Ipsos. Chris Jackson is vice president of Ipsos. He says across partisan lines, there’s wide support for better access to care, coverage for people with preexisting conditions, and price transparency from hospitals. “Republicans and Democrats actually have very similar goals, what they want to see the healthcare system achieve. And they also have very, relatively similar ideas in how it should go about doing that,” said Ipsos. The survey shows people are divided on the issue of whether to raise taxes and increase the size of government in order to create a better health care system. But Jackson says the findings suggest there’s more common ground on the issue of health care reform than people tend to think. – Christine Herman, Illinois Newsroom

Lawmakers Grill State Election Officials Over Voter Registration

SPRINGFIELD – Secretary of State Jesse White and officials from the Illinois State Board of Elections found themselves on the hot seat Wednesday as a panel of lawmakers grilled them on automatic voter registration. State Rep. Chris Welch (D-Hillside), says he’s comfortable with the way White’s team has addressed accidental registration of non-citizens and teens too young to vote, but immigration lawyer Mony Ruiz Velasco disagreed. “We are very concerned because it really harms our immigrant communities when these kinds of things happen,” said Ruiz Velasco. “People can be subjected to deportation so we really think the Secretary of State needs to go farther, that what he did wasn’t enough to address to address the possible harm that could come to these families.” State Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) offered Velasco a document he said would function as a “pass” to absolve people who were erroneously registered to vote. But Velasco said it needs an official seal, and that people affected need reliable access to the documents. – Olivia Mitchell, NPR Illinois

Emergency Managers Pleading With You To Be Ready for Earthquakes

SPRINGFIELD – February is earthquake preparedness month in Illinois and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency wants residents to be ready. Agency spokesperson Rebecca Clark says it’s important to know what to do, even if earthquakes aren’t common in the midwest. Clark’s number one safety tip for earthquakes is “drop, cover and hold on.” If an earthquake occurs, drop to the floor, take cover under a sturdy object like a desk or table, and hold on, even if you have to move with the object. Illinoisans should also take precautions like strapping water heaters and large appliances to walls, anchoring heavy furniture and learning how to shut off their gas, water, and power in an emergency. Click here for more safety information. – Stephanie Whiteside, NPR Illinois

Illinois Tax Amnesty Collects More Than $237M In Back Taxes

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Department of Revenue says it collected more than $237 million in back taxes during a six-week tax amnesty period last fall. That revenue from more than 63,000 delinquent taxpayers exceeded the $175 million that Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration was expecting to help fund the state’s $40 billion budget. Revenue department officials say the final tally could be higher because they’re still reviewing some payments. The amnesty period ran from Oct. 1 to Nov. 15 and allowed qualified taxpayers to avoid paying penalties and interest by paying off outstanding state tax liability incurred between June 30, 2011, and July 1, 2018. – Associated Press

Ban Proposed On Red-Light Cameras, Heart Of Bribery Scheme

SPRINGFIELD — Red-light enforcement cameras would be banned in some suburban Chicago communities under legislation that won House committee approval Wednesday. The measure is sponsored by Rep. David McSweeney (R-Barrington Hills). It would ban photo enforcement of traffic violations in some Chicago suburbs. McSweeney and other critics complain they are unfair revenue-generators. They were spotlighted last week with the guilty pleas of an ex-state senator who admitted taking bribes in part from a red-light vendor in exchange for being a “protector”of the industry in the General Assembly.  – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – February 5, 2020

State Senator Trying To End FOID Cards

QUAD CITIES – Once again Sen. Neil Anderson (R-Moline) is trying to eliminate Illinois’ firearm owners identification (FOID) card. He thinks the firearm owners identification card is un-necessary, and a costly burden for the Illinois State Police. Getting a FOID card requires a background check by the state police, then when someone tries to buy a gun, they’re also subject to a federal background check.
Anderson says practically his bill makes sense, but maybe not politically for some members of the General Assembly. Anderson is also unhappy the cost of a FOID card may go from the current $11 for ten years, to $50 for only five years. The FOID law was enacted in 1968.  – WVIK News

Questions Arise After Foster Children And Adoptees Lose Health Insurance

SPRINGFIELD – Lawmakers are demanding answers about Illinois changing the health coverage for 19,000 current and former wards of the state. A supposed computer glitch left at least 2,500 foster kids and adoptees with no health insurance. The Department of Healthcare and Family Services is defending the system. The state says it’s making sure all qualifying children have access to a managed care plan. Officials say they hope to have all technical issues fixed by the end of the week. – Mike Smith, NPR Illinois

More Illinois Colleges Drop Test Requirements

SPRINGFIELD – A high score on the SAT or ACT is no longer required for admission to more than a dozen 4-year colleges and universities in Illinois. As of last week, that includes Northern Illinois University. It will now accept a high school GPA of 3.0 for admission. Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Western Illinois University, and many private colleges had already have adopted similar policies. The first Illinois school to adopt this policy was Knox College in Galesburg, back in 2005. The University of Chicago, DePaul, and Lake Forest also have test-optional admission policies. – Dusty Rhodes, NPR Illinois

Former Illinois Legislator Pleads Innocent In Bribery Case

News Around Illinois – February 4, 2020

Champaign Central High School Closed Tuesday

CHAMPAIGN – Champaign Unit 4 Schools tweeted Monday night that there will be no classes at Central High School for students on Tuesday, February 4. Repair to a water leak continues to affect the building’s heating. Staff members are expected to report to work. They will work in the heated part of the building according to the district. – Reginald Hardwick, Illinois Newsroom

Flash Index: State Economy Dipped In January

URBANA – The Illinois economy dipped slightly in the new year. That’s according to the University of Illinois Flash Index, which is calculated every month and is based on receipts for individual and corporate income, in addition to retail sales taxes. The index fell to 105.4, down from 105.6 the previous month. Fred Giertz is an economist at the U of I and compiles the index. He says despite the slight dip, the Illinois economy is still in good shape. “Illinois’ unemployment rate fell to 3.7%, the lowest in over half a century,” said Giertz. “It’s very close now to the national average.” Historically speaking, Giertz says economic growth has steadily increased in Illinois since the 2008 recession. – Dana Cronin, Illinois Newsroom

Pro-Gun Groups Sue Illinois State Police

SPRINGFIELD – A pair of gun-rights groups have sued the Illinois State Police for taking too long in handling gun licenses. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of two men who have been trying since 20-17 to restore their Firearm Owner’s Identification cards and Concealed Carry Licenses. Attorney David Sigale says the State Police are effectively denying the men’s Constitutional rights by sitting on their applications. One of the men lost his licenses when he moved out of state but has not been able to get them restored despite moving back. The other man’s licenses were taken away after he was arrested for domestic battery. Since then the charges were dropped and the arrest was expunged. Meanwhile, the Illinois State Police says last year, 90 percent of applicants saw their paperwork processed in less than a month. – Michael Smith, NPR Illinois

Illinois Mistakenly Cancels Ex-Inmates’ Voter Registrations

CHICAGO — Illinois election officials say they may have mistakenly canceled the voter registrations of 774 former inmates. The State Board of Elections on Monday blamed a “data-matching error” with the Department of Corrections. In Illinois, the voting rights of inmates convicted of crimes are suspended during incarceration but restored upon release. The error involves people who’d completed their sentences and been discharged. Officials say the records were included in roughly 126,000 shared between 2014 and 2019. Local election authorities have details so the registrations can be reviewed for reinstatement by Thursday, when early voting starts for Illinois’ March 17 primary.  – Associated Press

IEPA Opens Internships In Engineering, Science And Law

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has developed a 12-week, paid internship program for students in technical fields who want to see regulatory work in the field. Agency Director John Kim says the Engineering, Science and Law Internship Program is open to college juniors and seniors and those pursuing graduate studies in engineering, chemistry, natural science and other science disciplines and law. There are internships available in four IEPA areas: six in engineering and two each in chemistry and related fields, natural sciences and the legal department. – Associated Press

 

News Around Illinois – February 3, 2020

Proposed Bill Would Add ‘Sexting’ To Sex Ed

DEKALB – A recently-proposed plan would add sexting to the list of topics covered in Illinois sex education courses. Middle and high schools in the state would be required to discuss with students the social, academic and legal consequences of sending or receiving sexually explicit images. State Rep. Maurice West (D-Rockford) introduced the measure. “Underage photos are under age photos, no matter who’s sending it. It doesn’t matter if a 16-year-old is sending it to another 16-year-old,” said West. “It’s still considered child pornography in the law.” And it’s still a felony that could get them labeled a sex offender for life. West also says sexting can make them an easier target of sexual exploitation or sex trafficking. – Peter Medlin, WNIJ News

New University Admission Guarantee Proposed

SPRINGFIELD – A state representative wants to guarantee university admission to any Illinois student with high enough test scores. State Rep. Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield) is sponsoring legislation that would require Illinois’ public universities to admit anyone who scores in the top 10 percent nationwide on the ACT or SAT. Batnick also says high tuition costs are a huge recruiting problem. Public universities are already making changes with regard to test scores. Northern and Western Illinois are offering “test-blind admissions,” where students don’t have to submit standardized test scores. Meanwhile, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign offers free tuition for Illinois students from families with income of less than $67,000 a year. – Olivia Mitchell, NPR Illinois

Report: Required Parental Leave Would Not Hurt Economy

SPRINGFIELD – Requiring employers to offer paid parental leave would not hurt the Illinois economy — at least according to a University of Illinois report released today. The report argues more than 200,000 workers would have greater access to cash, potentially boosting local economies. The study comes from the Illinois Economic Policy Institute and its Project for Middle Class Renewal, which is headed by Robert Bruno. The leader of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce says the group supports the concept of paid family leave but not as a state mandate. Meanwhile, a lawmaker told public radio she plans to reintroduce mandatory paid leave legislation during the new session of the General Assembly. – Maureen McKinney, NPR Illinois

Transportation Agency Plans Event For Minority Entrepreneurs

SPRINGFIELD — State transportation officials are planning an event next month in Springfield for minority- and women-owned businesses. The conference on Feb. 10-11 will offer workshops and seminars on topics including financing, insurance, cybersecurity and making a safe work environment. Acting Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman says the state’s $45 billion capital program will make things busier than ever for the agency. The conference is called “Today’s Challenge, Tomorrow’s Reward.” – Associated Press

Judge OKs Removal Of Sex Offenders From Aurora Halfway House

AURORA — A northern Illinois judge has ruled the city of Aurora can force the removal of registered sex offenders from a halfway house that is less than 500 feet from a park and playground. Kane County Judge Kevin Busch on Friday denied a temporary restraining order that would have barred the eviction of 18 sex offenders from the Wayside Cross Ministries halfway house. Under Illinois law, registered sex offenders can’t live less than 500 feet from a park or playground. Mark Weinberg, an attorney representing the sex offenders, told the Daily Herald  lawyers were prepared to appeal the judge’s decision. – Associated Press

Man Convicted For Second Time In Death Of 3-Year-Old Boy

WAUKEGAN — A northern Illinois man has been convicted a second time in the 2011 beating death of a 3-year-old boy. Thomas Albea’s first conviction in 2015 for the murder of X’Zavion Charleston was reversed in 2017 and remanded back to the Lake County Circuit Court by an appeals court ruling citing trial error. The 27-year-old was serving a 33-year sentence at the time. A jury late Thursday found Albea guilty in the death of X’Zavion Charleston. Prosecutors say the child died the day after Albea punched the boy repeatedly in the stomach. Albea told investigators he became angry after the boy swore while playing a video game. – Associated Press

Atari Plans To Open Video Game-Themed Resorts In 8 US Cities

LAS VEGAS — Atari, the arcade game company that ushered in the gaming revolution in the 1980s, is opening eight video game-themed hotels across the U.S. The company said this week it will break ground on its first hotel later this year in Phoenix. Atari says it wants to create a unique lodging experience combining the iconic brand with a video game-themed destination. In addition to Phoenix, hotels are planned in Las Vegas, Denver, Chicago, Austin, Texas, Seattle, San Francisco, and San Jose, California. Timeline for hotels other than Phoenix were not released. Founded in 1972 by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney, Atari was known for such games as Asteroids, Centipede, and Missile Command. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – January 31, 2020

Illinois Unemployment Rates Fell in December

URBANA – December unemployment rates were down from a year earlier in all fourteen of Illinois’ major metropolitan areas, according to new figures from the Illinois Department of Employment Security. The following are the rates and gain of non-farm jobs over the year from three areas:

  • Champaign-Urbana: 3.3%  Gain 3,000 jobs
  • Decatur: 5.1%  Gain 700 jobs
  • Danville: 5.3%  Job number unchanged

Job growth in most metro areas was strongest in education, health services, government, transportation, warehousing and utilities. Illinois’ statewide unemployment rate for December is 3.5 percent, the lowest rate on record. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Coronavirus Concerns Could Affect New US-China Trade Deal

URBANA – The coronavirus outbreak has trade experts worried about the fate of the phase one trade agreement between the U.S. and China. Todd Hubbs is an agriculture economist at the University of Illinois. He says even before the outbreak there was concern that China wouldn’t be able to meet trade targets set in the agreement. He says the problem is that a slowdown in the Chinese economy means that people buy less goods, including agricultural goods. Hubbs says the coronavirus outbreak has already had a negative impact on commodity prices, especially soybeans. – Dana Cronin, Illinois Newsroom

Illinois AG Sues To Protect ERA

SPRINGFIELD – On Thursday, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul filed a lawsuit aimed at defeating a Trump administration effort to block the Equal Rights Amendment. Virginia ratified the amendment on Monday becoming the last state needed. The lawsuit, joined by Virginia and Nevada, was filed in federal court in Washington, DC. It seeks to have the national archivist certify the ERA as the 28th amendment, which would guarantee equal rights regardless of gender. The attorneys general of the last three states to ratify, including Illinois in 2018, said the ERA should be considered the law of the land despite a Congressional deadline for ratification that expired in 1982. – Maureen McKinney, NPR Illinois

Chicago Police Unveil Sweeping Department Reorganization

CHICAGO — Chicago’s interim police superintendent has announced sweeping changes to the force, including a plan to move more than 1,100 detectives and specialized officers from the city’s five regional headquarters to its 22 smaller districts. Interim Superintendent Charlie Beck said Thursday that the move will put those personnel in closer contact with the officers who patrol those neighborhoods. He also said the department will create an office to carry out civil rights reforms and another new counter-terrorism unit. Beck was named the interim superintendent after Mayor Lori Lightfoot fired the city’s previous top cop after saying he lied about an incident in which he was found asleep in his running vehicle. – Associated Press

 

News Around Illinois – January 30, 2020

EIU Reports 2% Spring Enrollment Increase

CHARLESTON – Spring enrollment is up at Eastern Illinois University, although by a smaller margin than a year ago.  Tenth-day enrollment figures at the state university in Charleston were up two percent from last spring, at 7,621. That compares to a seven percent increase reported last spring. Undergraduate enrollment was down slightly, but graduate student enrollment rose by more than a hundred students, or nearly ten percent. Graduate School Dean Ryan Hendrickson says in a news release, that Eastern’s graduate student population is at its higher level in a decade. EIU is among several state universities in Illinois trying to bounce back from years of enrollment declines. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Plane Crash Killed Former Springfield Mayor, Coroner

Hundreds Attend Funeral For ‘Unclaimed Veteran’ In Illinois

Ex-East St. Louis Official Sentenced For Official Misconduct

BELLEVILLE — A former East St. Louis, Illinois administrator and City Council member has been sentenced to 30 months of probation and a $500 fine for public corruption. June Olivette Hamilton was convicted last fall of forgery and public contractor misconduct. In addition to probation, the fine and 120 hours of community service, St. Clair County judge John O’Gara prohibited the 56-year-old Hamilton from any job in public administration for 10 years. Before her sentencing, her defense attorney and prosecutors agreed the two charges she was found guilty of are merged and she be sentenced on the misconduct charge alone. – Associated Press

 

News Around Illinois – January 29, 2020

Answers Demanded About DNA Testing Backlog

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois State Police are working their way through the backlog of DNA evidence, and have recently decreased the number of delayed cases by 16 percent. But the turnaround time is still, on average, 215 days. On Tuesday, Carrie Ward, Executive Director of the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, told a panel of lawmakers that’s too long. “And when we consider reasons why victims may not report crimes, this waiting period has to be a factor,” said Ward. “Why report a crime when you know it may take years to slog through the system? Justice delayed is justice denied, especially for sexual assault survivors.” State Senator Patricia Van Pelt, chair of the Public Health Law committee, told state police she wants the turnaround time reduced to two months. – Olivia Mitchell, NPR Illinois

Lawmakers Propose Anti-Poaching Laws

SPRINGFIELD – A pair of Illinois lawmakers are taking on the practice of offering tax breaks to lure companies from other states. The legislation would have Illinois agree to stop trying to poach businesses from any state that made the same agreement with Illinois. Backers say similar legislation has been introduced in at least half-a-dozen other states this year — including Missouri, Iowa, Florida and New York. – Michael Smith, NPR Illinois 

Ex-Illinois Lawmaker Pleads Guilty In Red-Light Bribery Case

SPRINGFIELD — A former Illinois state senator has pleaded guilty to accepting around $250,000 in bribes for protecting the interests of a red-light camera company. Martin Sandoval entered the plea in an agreement with prosecutors during a hearing in Chicago Tuesday, a day after federal prosecutors listed charges against him. Under the plea deal, the 56-year-old promises to cooperate with federal prosecutors in ongoing public corruption investigations. Sandoval is well connected in the Illinois Democratic Party, and his decision to cooperate comes after more than a year of home and office raids against multiple Democrats, several of whom have been charged. – Associated Press

Autistic Futures Trader Who Triggered Crash Spared Prison

 

News Around Illinois – January 28, 2020

Supreme Court: Domestic Violence Survivor Can Own A Gun

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Supreme Court says a woman once convicted of domestic violence is entitled to own a gun. At issue is a federal law meant to keep guns away from people convicted of domestic violence. The Illinois State Police used that to justify denying the woman’s application for a Firearm Owners’ Identification Card. But the Illinois Supreme Court essentially ruled that because the woman had done her time, the state had restored her civil rights — which includes the right to own a firearm. The woman’s attorney, David Jensen, says this decision could influence other courts around the country. – Mike Smith, NPR Illinois

Illinois Students Following Impeachment In Classrooms

URBANA – As the Senate Impeachment trial of President Trump enters its second week, many students around Illinois are following along in their classrooms. Clinton Mathewson is a social studies teacher at Farmington Central High School, located west of Peoria. We are living history, we are living government class right now. So obviously we were going to talk about the impeachment process in class, but why don’t we live it through our current events?,” said Mathewson on WILL’s The 21st show.  He says talking to students about impeachment is important because teaching current events is required by Illinois state law.  – Dana Cronin, Illinois Newsroom

Campaign To Save A County’s Remaining Oak Woods Begins

DEKALB – Illinois has lost much of its original ecosystem to farming and development. That includes prairies, wetlands, and in some places, oak woods. Conservationists are trying to preserve what’s left. The Land Conservancy of McHenry County launched “The 5,000 Acre Challenge.” The group is educating landowners on how to best care for their oaks. It also encourages negotiating conservation easements– voluntary, legal agreements that protect land. – Guy Stephens, WNIJ News

Illinois To Continue Voter Registration Program After Error

CHICAGO — Gov. J.B. Pritzker says there are no plans to suspend Illinois’ automatic voter registration program as election officials work to contain the fallout from hundreds of mistaken registrations. The Democrat addressed the issue Monday at an election security news conference. Republicans and government watchdog groups say the mistake threatens the integrity of the voter rolls. A legislative hearing is planned for Thursday. A “programming error” by Secretary of State Jesse White’s office led to 545 people who said they weren’t U.S. citizens being registered to vote as they applied for drivers’ licenses. Officials say 370 registrations have been canceled.   – Associated Press

Ex-Illinois Lawmaker Charged With Red-Light Camera Bribery

CHICAGO — The U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago has filed bribery and tax charges against a former Illinois state senator and longtime chairman of the powerful transportation committee.  A two-page filing in U.S. District Court Monday says the allegations relate to former State Sen. Martin Sandoval’s support for the installation of red-light cameras. It says the Chicago Democrat “corruptly solicited, demanded, agreed to accept and accepted” payments for “continued support for the operation of red-light cameras in the State of Illinois.” Agents raided Sandoval’s office in Springfield, his office in Chicago and his home on Sept. 24 amid still-active federal investigations of public corruption that have ensnared multiple Democrats. – Associated Press

Aurora Promotes New Hub For Non Profits And Entrepreneurs

AURORA — Officials in Illinois’ second-largest city say a new center opening this month will be a gathering place for nonprofit groups, entrepreneurs and social innovators. Aurora officials say the Thrive Collaborative Center will provide low-cost space for groups and organizations to meet, along with workshops and training. Members of the center can rent a meeting room or get a day pass. Topics for upcoming workshops include fundraising for research and non-profit leadership. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – January 27, 2020

Pritzker Signs Law To Limit Cost of Insulin

SPRINGFIELD – Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a law Friday intended to bring down the cost of insulin. Beginning next year, a 30-day supply of insulin will be capped at $100 but only for people who have health insurance. Pritzker says the current average monthly price of $500 and more has been driven higher by middlemen. Pritzker says the Illinois Department of Insurance will be taking a closer look at insulin pricing. The price caps in the law do not go into effect until January 1st of next year. – Mike Smith, WUIS News

Abortions In Illinois Increased About 7% In 1 Year

Hunters Bagged 153,000+ Deer In Illinois

SPRINGFIELD – The State of Illinois reported that 153,048 deer were harvested during the 2019-20 archery and firearm seasons. The most recent season concluded on January 19. More males were harvested than does. Some of the harvests by county:

  • Champaign: 635
  • Coles: 1430
  • Cook: 145
  • Douglas: 334
  • DeWitt: 903
  • Douglas: 334
  • Ford: 175
  • Macon: 769
  • Moultrie: 661
  • Sangamon: 1515
  • Vermilion: 1510

The total is up from 151,709 deer in 2018-2019. – Reginald Hardwick, Illinois Newsroom

Sports Historian: NFL Hasn’t Fully Reckoned With Racism

NORMAL – A sports historian says a Normal native’s induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame nearly a century after he helped break the league’s color barrier shows the league hasn’t fully reckoned with the racism that’s plagued the league for generations. The NFL recently named Duke Slater to its centennial Hall of Fame class. He was the league’s first black lineman. Author Jack Silverstein says the NFL still struggles with diversity in coaching and ownership. Silverstein notes the Chicago Bears are among four teams still owned by the same families since the league banned black players in the 1930s and 40s. – Eric Stock, WGLT Radio

If The $6.5M Hat Isn’t Lincoln’s, Why Not Ask For A Refund?

SPRINGFIELD — With a gleaming new museum to Abraham Lincoln open, organizers seeking to populate it with relics of the late president paid $6.5 million for the most symbolic, one of Lincoln’s stovepipe hats. But a dozen years later, there’s still no concrete evidence the hat ever belonged to the Great Emancipator. It was purchased as part of a $23 million, 1,500-piece acquisition from California collector Louise Taper. Officials with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and the foundation that bought the collection say there are no plans currently to ask Taper for a refund. – Associated Press

Official: Naval Base ‘Gate Runner’ Was Just A Base Worker

GREAT LAKES — Officials say a man who drove onto a naval station north of Chicago without showing credentials, leading to the base being locked down, turned out to be an employee who didn’t follow directions. John Sheppard, a spokesman for Naval Station Great Lakes, said in a news release that the man was caught a short time after entering the base shortly after 7:00 a.m. Friday. The base issued an initial warning on its Facebook page for personnel to “RUN, HIDE, FIGHT!” but it later described it as a “minor situation” and lifted the lockdown. Sheppard says the worker didn’t follow the gate sentry’s directions. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – January 24, 2020

Champaign Co. Board Republicans Block Budgeting For Treasurer Staffing

URBANA – $25,000 in budget amendments to cover extra staffing last year in the Champaign County Treasurer’s office fell short of needed super-majorities at Thursday night’s county board meeting. Republicans opposed the amendments to show their disapproval of the office’s performance under Democrat Laurel Prussing. The 78-year-old treasurer had hired additional help, (including former County Board chairman Pius Weibel as acting chief deputy treasurer) as her office fell behind in issuing financial reports and delivering tax revenue to local governments. Democrats said failure to pass the budget amendments would hurt Champaign County’s financial standing. Meanwhile, Republicans accused Democrats of ignoring their concerns over mounting problems in the office. Prussing has announced her resignation, effective January 31st, after just over a year on the job. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Bodies Of Three Men Found In Danville Home

Pritzker Touts Childhood Investment In Visit

MARION – Governor J.B. Pritzker visited the Heartland Kids Early Learning Center in Marion Thursday to discuss investments in early childhood development and set the bar for success. Pritzker wants to address the staffing crisis facing childcare workers. He pointed to last month’s announcement of increased reimbursement rates for the state’s childcare assistance program and a doubled investment in the Gateway scholarship to train teachers. The governor renewed his goal of bringing universal preschool to Illinois.  Pritzker also pushed his goal of having universal home visits for at risk children by 2025. – Steph Whiteside, WSIU Radio

Champaign Bids For Basketball Tournament

CHAMPAIGN – Champaign is hoping to win back the IHSA boys’ basketball finals for the first time since Peoria won the bidding back in 1995. Visit Champaign County President and CEO Jayne DeLuce is coordinating the city’s bid. She says one of Champaign’s biggest selling points is high school students getting to experience the renovated State Farm Center. Champaign and Peoria are the two cities bidding for the boys basketball finals, while Peoria is also bidding for the girls basketball finals, which are currently held at Redbird Arena in Normal. – Brian Moline, Illinois Newsroom

Portraits Of Obamas To Begin 5-City US Tour In Chicago

CHICAGO — The official portraits of former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama from the National Portrait Gallery will begin a five-city national tour in Chicago in June 2021. The gallery said Thursday the Art Institute of Chicago will host the portraits from June 18, 2021, to August 15, 2021. Kehinde Wiley’s portrait of Barack Obama and Amy Sherald’s portrait of Michelle Obama were unveiled in February 2018. Kim Sajet, director of the Portrait Gallery, says that since the unveiling, the gallery has experienced a record number of visitors. After leaving Chicago, the portraits will travel to New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Houston. – Associated Press

News Around Illinois – January 23, 2020

Gov. Pritzker Signs Law Allowing More Young People To Vote

SPRINGFIELD – A new law signed Wednesday will give students two hours out of their school day to go vote in elections. Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker approved the change to give high schoolers of legal age a chance to vote during school hours. Senator Elgie Sims, a Chicago Democrat, says he was motivated to sponsor the change by students who want to participate in the electoral process.  School administrators will still have discretion over which hours students can leave class to vote. – Mike Smith, NPR Illinois

NIU Professor To Study Mental Health In Finland

DEKALB – Northern Illinois University Sociology Professor Fred Markowitz says, in the U.S., it’s difficult to get good information on programs that might prevent jail time for those grappling with mental illness. Markowitz says, to a lesser degree, Finland is dealing with some of the same issues. But the system there is streamlined and centralized. He says that makes it possible to gather data from different places and compare them meaningfully. He’s hoping that will make it possible to come up with answers that can work in both countries. – Guy Stephens, WNIJ News

Teacher Takes Leave Case To State Supreme Court

SPRINGFIELD – Margaret Dynak, a teacher in the Wood Dale School District, west of Chicago, had banked 30 days of sick leave before her baby girl was born. But her daughter arrived on the last full day of the school year, so the first chance Dynak had to use those paid sick days didn’t come until school re-opened in the fall. The district said that’s not really sick leave. The Illinois Education Association — the state’s largest teachers union is pleading Dynak’s case before the state’s highest court. Dynak ended up taking the time off without pay. The school district says she can use those banked days later, if needed, or cash them out upon retirement. – Dusty Rhodes, NPR Illinois

Intruder Shot During Danville Home Invasion Identified

DANVILLE — Police say an eastern Illinois homeowner shot and killed an intruder during a home invasion. Danville Police Commander Josh Webb says the man told officers that at least two people armed with handguns and wearing ski masks kicked in his door and attempted to rob him Sunday night. Webb says the homeowner had a handgun and shot at the intruders. Officers located a man inside the home suffering from multiple gunshot wounds who later died at an hospital. Vermilion County Coroner Jane McFadden has identified the man as 23-year-old Jordan Parrish. The (Champaign) News-Gazette reports the homeowner told police that at least one other intruder fled the scene. – Associated Press

Coroner: Juice WRLD Died Of Accidental Drug Overdose

CHICAGO — The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office has determined that last month’s death of rapper Juice WRLD was the result of an accidental overdose of the opioid oxycodone and codeine. The rapper whose given name was Jarad Anthony Higgins went into convulsions at Midway International Airport on Dec. 8 while federal authorities searched a private plane he had been on after flying from Los Angeles to Chicago. A search of the plane revealed 41 bags of suspected marijuana, bottles of liquid codeine, guns and ammunition. Juice WRLD, who grew up in the Chicago suburb of Homewood, was gaining a national reputation as a musician. – Associated Press

Illinois Prosecutors Make Plan For Their 1st R. Kelly Trial

CHICAGO — Illinois state prosecutors say the first of the four Chicago sexual abuse cases against R. Kelly that they’ll take to trial involves a hairdresser who alleges that Kelly tried to force himself on her during a 2003 appointment. Cook County prosecutors told the judge their plan during a hearing Wednesday that Kelly didn’t attend. Cook County Judge Lawrence Flood scheduled that first trial to begin on Sept. 14, but it’s possible it could be delayed. Kelly, who has been jailed since last year, also faces state charges in Minnesota and federal charges in Illinois and New York. – Associated Press