“This virus is not a blue state virus or a red state virus … going out without a mask is not a political statement,” he said.
A day earlier, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced that people traveling from Kansas to Chicago will need to quarantine for 14 days, effective Friday. Kansas became the latest state added to the city’s Emergency Travel Order. The city also continues to monitor a surge of COVID-19 in neighboring Wisconsin.
Here’s what’s happening Wednesday regarding COVID-19 in the Chicago area and Illinois:
4:10 p.m.: Seniors hope new ordinance will protect them during COVID-19: ‘Like living a horror movie’
It was a cold January day when 67-year-old Jackie Reynolds gathered about 60 tenants from two senior buildings.
She called a meeting after one of the residents in her Evergreen Tower building died. A foul smell alerted neighbors to the death. Reynolds organized a team of tenants who were willing to conduct wellness checks on one another.
Soon after, while doing her own checks, Reynolds noticed a neighbor wouldn’t answer the door. A custodian entered the unit and found the woman dead.
A new ordinance passed Wednesday by the City Council aims to prevent seniors from having to conduct wellness checks themselves. It requires building managers to check on residents at least twice a week, unless residents choose not to be checked on. If a wellness call is not answered by a resident, managers must follow up with a home visit. The ordinance will take effect Aug. 1.
4:04 p.m.: Chicago banks, stores ask for spare change as they deal with national coin shortage
First, it was the face masks and hand sanitizer. Then, it was toilet paper. Canned foods. Meat products. Flour. Now, the latest scarcity brought on by the pandemic: coins.
Convenience stores, grocers and national retailers like Walgreens and Walmart are asking customers to pay with a debit or credit card or with the exact amount due as they grapple with a national shortage of coins. Some businesses are offering free drinks or buy-back programs to entice people to bring in their spare change.
In June, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell told lawmakers the flow of coins through the economy “kind of stopped” as states enacted stay-at-home orders. Coin deposits from banks to the Fed have declined significantly. Also, production has slowed at the U.S. Mint as it implemented coronavirus safety measures to protect workers and inventory orders from banks picked up.
The Fed, which manages coin inventory and distributes it to banks, announced last month it would ration coins to banks beginning June 15.
The shortage primarily will affect older people who rely on cash and those who don’t have bank accounts, said Ted Rossman, industry analyst at CreditCards.com.
“Cash is still a big deal. It’s more private. Some people like the privacy aspect of it,” he said.
The Fed announced in late June it would create the U.S. Coin Task Force, comprised of trade organizations, business leaders and government officials, to address the problem. The group hopes to have a set of recommendations by August.
In the meantime, Chicago-area banks and businesses are taking different approaches as they ask customers for assistance.
2:35 p.m.: United expands mask requirement as spike in COVID-19 cases stalls travel rebound
United Airlines is broadening requirements for where passengers must wear masks as a surge in COVID-19 cases stalls slowly recovering interest in air travel.
Travelers over age 2 must wear face coverings in gate and baggage claim areas, airline lounges and customer service counters and kiosks, in addition to on board. Those who refuse can be banned from flying United while masks are required, and possibly longer. Travelers who believe “extraordinary circumstances” warrant exception can contact the airline, United said.
Like other major airlines, United already required passengers wear a mask while flying and pledged to crack down last month after travelers complained not everyone followed the rules. Masks are already required in the terminals at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and Midway International Airport, according to the airports’ websites.
The move comes as U.S. air travel, which plummeted in mid-April to just 5% of typical traffic a year ago, had started to bounce back, until recent spikes led to new quarantine requirements for travelers from hard-hit states in cities including Chicago.
2:08 p.m.: Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb imposing statewide face mask order to slow the coronavirus spread
Indiana will have a statewide face mask mandate starting next week, joining many other states in the attempt to slow the coronavirus spread, Gov. Eric Holcomb said Wednesday.
The order will apply to anyone ages 8 and older in any indoor public or business areas and at outdoor public spaces when sufficient distancing can’t be maintained. The order will take effect Monday.
Holcomb said his order will also require masks in schools for grades 3 and above by students, teachers and other employees.
1:55 p.m.: Laid-off workers brace for expiration of the extra $600 in unemployment benefits helping them get by. ‘It’s a slap in the face.’
The extra $600 weekly in federal unemployment benefits that people have been receiving during the pandemic is set to expire this weekend. After that, the jobless will be eligible only for regular state unemployment aid, which in Illinois pays 47% of a person’s regular wages, up to a maximum of $484 a week.
For the millions who remain out work, including many in industries that were decimated by stay-at-home mandates and won’t get back to normal for some time, the scenario is devastating. Economists warn that letting the supplement expire could make it difficult for people to buy food and pay bills, dealing a blow to the overall economy.
Lawmakers are debating the future of such supplements as the economic impact of the pandemic drags on. While the unemployment rate has declined from its April peak, in June it was still at 11.1% nationally and 14.6% in Illinois, where more than 946,000 people were out of work. Last week, an additional 38,000 people in Illinois applied for jobless benefits.
1:31 p.m.: Teachers, parents continue to push back against CPS proposal to reopen schools after Labor Day
Both outside and during a Chicago Board of Education meeting Wednesday, members of the teachers union and other detractors shared their dismay about the tentative plan to reopen schools this fall with a hybrid of in-person and virtual classes.
”Reopening school is not the safest option,” said Yvette McCaskill, who teaches at Morrill Math and Science Elementary. She appeared in a video from a car caravan organized by the teachers union.Marilyn Piggee, a first-grade teacher assistant at Murray Language Academy, said paraprofessionals like herself are the “first responders” within schools, yet may are over the age of 50 and at a higher risk for complications if they get the coronavirus.
CPS CEO Janice Jackson said schools will open reopen if it’s safe.
”It’s important for people to know that the plan we are putting in place is just that. Our goal is to ensure that we can cautiously reopen schools, and we will only do that if it is a safe and responsible thing to do,” she said.
12:55 p.m.: Pritzker on rising COVID-19 numbers: ‘It remains a serious threat’
As COVID-19 cases rise in neighboring states, Illinois has expanded testing across the state and on Wednesday announced the highest number of new cases in the month of July with 1,598. There were 23 deaths reported.
“Let me start with the unfortunate truth, COVID-19 has not gone away and it remains a serious threat,” said Gov. J.B. Pritzker at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.
Though Illinois has a positivity rate half that of neighboring states, Pritzker said COVID-19 has “no boundaries” and it would not take long to reverse the state’s progress.
“If there had been a federal mandate perhaps things would be different, we can’t rely on that possibility,” he said. “A rise is still a rise and it is on all of us to bring these numbers down … you can go from 3% positivity to Arizona’s 23% positivity in a blink of an eye.”
Pritzker also addressed virus deniers and encouraged residents to wear face coverings in public settings.
“This virus is not a blue state virus or a red state virus … going out without a mask is not a political statement,” he said.
There are now more than 280 testing sites around the state and about 1,600 contact tracers to address coronavirus spread.
The eviction moratorium will extend through Aug. 22, he added.
12:07 p.m.: 1,598 new known COVID-19 cases, 23 additional deaths
Illinois health officials on Wednesday announced 1,598 new known cases of COVID-19 and 23 additional fatalities, bringing the total number of known cases to 165,301 and the statewide death toll to 7,347 since the start of the pandemic. The state also announced the results of 39,633 new test results.
11:38 a.m.: Calumet Fisheries ‘ambassador’ Carlos Rosas dies at 41 of COVID-19
If fish shacks had maitre d’s, then that was Carlos Rosas at Calumet Fisheries, the James Beard award winning smoke stand on the Far South Side of Chicago.
Rosas was more than a store manager, though that was the title he proudly claimed. He was the storyteller at the site first made famous by “The Blues Brothers” car jump at the bridge next door. He was the history keeper on a visit by Anthony Bourdain immortalized on the late chef’s food and travel television series “No Reservations.”
Rosas was the heart, soul and beacon to the red-roofed store to generations of Black, white, Asian and Mexican families like his own, who came for fish, and left imprinted by his larger than life hospitality.
Rosas died on Monday from complications related to COVID-19. He was 41 years old.
10:58 a.m.: Chinese infants born to Chicago-area surrogates are stranded in the U.S. without their parents, due to COVID-19
Seven weeks old, with a thoughtful expression and a full head of silky black hair, Zane is a much-wanted baby.
His parents, an attorney and social worker who live in southern China, experienced a series of miscarriages before a doctor advised them to seek out a surrogate — a woman who agrees to carry someone else’s biological child. Surrogacy is illegal in China, but seeking out surrogates in the handful of nations that openly allow such arrangements is permitted, so Zane’s parents turned to an agency halfway across the world, in Illinois. Their U.S. surrogate got pregnant via in vitro fertilization, and on May 29 the couple became the proud parents of a boy.
There’s only one problem: Zane’s parents can’t hold him, feed him or even see him in person.
From 8,000 miles away, they watch him via a Wi-Fi baby monitor.
Due to travel and visa issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, Zane is stuck in North Aurora, where a former employee from his parents’ Chicago surrogacy agency, Vicky Li, has agreed to take care of him and another stranded Chinese infant, Ryder.
The boys are among an estimated 200 to 400 international babies born to American surrogates who have been stranded in the U.S. in recent months due to COVID-19, unable to go home to their biological parents in countries such as France, Britain, Israel and China, according to Robin Pope, a Portland lawyer who represents international parents seeking surrogacy in the U.S.
10:35 a.m.: 19 cases of COVID-19 reported at juvenile justice center in St. Charles
Nineteen cases of COVID-19 were reported at the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice’s Illinois Youth Center in St. Charles, officials said.
The cases include 16 staff members and three juveniles at the center, officials from the Illinois Department of Public Health said in a news release. The facility houses approximately 80 youth per day and has 140 employees, according to its website.
All youth and staff have been tested for the virus and the facility is now implementing programming to reduce further spread, officials said.
The Kane County Jail has no cases of coronavirus at its St. Charles facility, sheriff Ron Hain said.
—Aurora Beacon-News staff
9:10 a.m.: Naperville to add signs, PSAs urging people to wear face coverings
The city of Naperville will increase signage and develop public service announcements urging people to wear face coverings to quell the spread of COVID-19 as many have observed groups of people walking downtown without masks.
Some Naperville residents have avoided the city’s busy downtown area amid the coronavirus pandemic even as businesses and restaurants reopen because many people are not wearing masks or face coverings while walking the central business district sidewalks.
Jim Hill, co-chair of Naperville Senior Task Force, said he and his wife generally love going downtown to shop and dine, but as individuals over 65 with underlying conditions, they now avoid the area because they are at a higher risk for developing severe symptoms if they contract COVID-19.
The last time they went downtown, the pair found themselves on a crowded sidewalk with unmasked people, Hill said. And they’re not shopping as often because they’ve observed people not wearing face coverings in parking lots, but rather putting them on right before entering a store.
“We’re sort of trapped in our home because people aren’t wearing masks in public,” Hill said.
7:03 a.m.: CTU holds car caravan to protest CPS plan to hold mixed in-person, online classes in fall
The Chicago Teachers Union will hold a car caravan Wednesday to protest the Chicago Public Schools’ hybrid school plan, saying it “falls short on safety.”
The caravan will assemble at 9 a.m. with the intention of circling Chicago Public Schools headquarters during the Board of Education’s regular meeting, according to a news release from the union.
The protest was planned as a way to tell the district that its teachers, clinicians and support staff “reject the mayor’s strategy.” They contend the board “is seeking to force students, faculty and staff into buildings for a full school day without allocating more resources for safety or specifying how they will keep them safe.”
The union further said it wants to see the mayor reverse course and move to a remote learning plan, such as those being implemented in cities such as Atlanta and Los Angeles.
6 a.m.: An estimated 4,400 Chicago-area businesses have closed during the pandemic. 2,400 say they’ll never reopen.
Chicagoans have watched for months as “For Sale” and “For Rent” signs popped up in windows of their favorite coffee joints and neighborhood bars, and they’ve wondered whether treasured restaurants will ever reopen.
A tally is in: The coronavirus pandemic has forced an estimated 4,400 businesses in the Chicago area to close, including 2,400 that say they won’t reopen. The data, released Wednesday, comes from crowd-sourced business review platform Yelp.
Nationally, more than 132,500 businesses have permanently or temporarily closed since March, according to Yelp. Temporary business closures are decreasing nationally as some states reopen, but permanent closures are rising, accounting for 55% of all closed businesses.
The Chicago area has suffered the fourth-highest number of closures among the nation’s metro areas, behind Los Angeles, New York City and San Francisco. Restaurants and retail were the hardest-hit sectors in the Chicago area.
6 a.m.: Students push back against in-person bar and medical college exams amid coronavirus fears
Designed to measure fitness, character and competence, the bar exam is a grueling 12-hour test typically administered over a two-day period to thousands of recent law school graduates.
But with coronavirus cases still surging in many parts of the nation, some law school graduates view this communal experience not as a shared rite of passage but as a potentially life-threatening risk.
One person worried about the uncertainties of the in-person bar exam is aspiring child protection lawyer Mollie McGuire of Chicago.
McGuire, along with Dalton Hughes and Steven Tinetti, formally filed a legal petition with the Illinois Supreme Court, asking the state’s highest court to grant 2020 law school graduates diploma privilege, meaning they could practice law without sitting for the bar exam. Nearly 1,400 law school graduates, faculty members, lawyers and health care workers signed on to support the effort.
In its response, the Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar, which administers the state’s bar exam, reiterated the necessity of the in-person exam, citing the board’s “duty to protect the public from dishonesty and incompetency.”
Here are five things that happened Tuesday related to COVID-19.