Note: Any news conferences from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot or other officials will be streamed in the video player above.

A woman who’s still battling coronavirus symptoms a month after she tested positive has one question for those planning to gather this Thanksgiving: “Is it worth it?”

Meanwhile, according to the latest data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, nearly all Illinois regions have seen a drop in positivity rates.

Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic across the state of Illinois today (Nov. 25):

COVID Long-Hauler Shares Message to Thanksgiving Travelers

Candice Lepek and her family thought they were being careful during the coronavirus pandemic, but that didn’t stop the virus from spreading to them and eventually infecting her – a 34-year-old breast cancer survivor.

Now, weeks after her diagnosis, she’s still battling symptoms and has a message for families planning to get together this Thanksgiving.

“I write in all my posts, ‘Is it worth it?'” Lepek said.

Candice Lepek and her family thought they were being careful during the coronavirus pandemic, but that didn’t stop the virus from spreading to them and eventually infecting her – a 34-year-old breast cancer survivor. NBC 5’s Regina Waldroup reports.

Lepek was diagnosed with coronavirus nearly one month ago.

“The COVID went into my lungs- pneumonia in both lungs,” Lepek said.

Still, even weeks after her diagnosis, Lepek continues to have a fever and a painful cough, among other symptoms.

“When I got it I didn’t think it would last like this,” she said.

Lepek is considered by medical professionals a “long-hauler,” which includes those who experience symptoms for weeks or even months after contracting it, but don’t require hospitalization.

She said she plans to celebrate with her family via Zoom and that she hopes her story can possibly change even one mind.

“It spread through my family and we were careful,” she said. “It is not a joke.”

Almost Every Illinois Region Sees Decrease in Positivity Rates, Hospitalizations Remain High

According to the latest data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, nearly all Illinois regions have seen a drop in positivity rates for the coronavirus with hospitalizations remaining high.

As of Saturday, COVID-19 metrics showed positvity rates generally falling across the state, but hospital admissions increasing or remaining high in many regions.

Region 1, located in northwestern Illinois, reported a 16.3% positvity rate as of Saturday, which is the latest number in the region’s 12-day decline.

Seeing a slow and steady decrease, Region 2 dropped 0.2% in a single day, sitting at a 14.5% positvity rate as of Saturday, latest data showed.

Regions 3, 4 and 5 all saw lower positivity rates Saturday than days prior, according to IDPH data. Region 5 recorded the lowest of the three at 12.5%.

Without the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Region 6 reported a positivity rate of 13.4%, which is down 0.3% from one day prior. However, with data from the rapid saliva test from the university, Region 6 would have a 5.3% rate, which is the lowest in the state.

In Champaign county alone, health officials calculated the positvity rate to be just 2% with the saliva test, but reaching 9% when not using the university’s data.

Regions 7 and 8 are each comprised of just two counties, both of which have seen a decrease in positvity rates over the past week, according to IDPH data. However, Region 7 recorded the highest rate in the state Saturday at 18.5%.

Also comprised of just two counties, Region 9’s positivity rate was the only to increase in Illinois Saturday, now at 14%. The region peaked at 17.1% Nov. 13.

Region 10, which includes all of Cook County not within Chicago’s city limits, decreased Saturday, reporting a 14.8% positvity rate. The number is 0.2% lower than the prior day, which had seen a slight increase.

Chicago’s positivity rate also dropped slightly Saturday to 13.7%, which is nearly 2% lower than the city’s latest coronavirus peak.

Hospitalizations, however, remain high in areas close to Chicago and within the city itself. Regions 2, 8, 10 and 11 have reported the highest numbers of hospital admissions ranging between 511 and 1,601 patients with coronavirus, IDPH data showed.

Regions 1, 4, 6, 8 and 9 have each seen a decrease in hospitalizations, according to the latest metrics, though numbers had been increasing throughout the month.

More than half of Illinois’ regions had been seeing rising hospital admissions during the past week, but data showed some have increased ICU and hospital bed availability.

Five regions remain below the 20% availability threshold set by the state for hospital beds, ICU beds or both. IDPH reported that some are sitting on the cusp of dropping “too low.”

For a full list of coronavirus metrics and counties in each region, click here.

Chicago Mayor Seeks to Extend Outdoor Dining, Other Relief Efforts

With businesses struggling during the coronavirus pandemic, Chicago’s mayor is proposing an extension of relief efforts to get them through tough times ahead.

This could mean larger outdoor dining spaces and a reduction in fees to keep restaurants afloat.

“There’s a lot more that will need to be done, starting with, we’ve got to get the federal government to stand up and do its job,” said Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

With businesses struggling during the coronavirus pandemic, Chicago’s mayor is proposing an extension of relief efforts to get them through tough times ahead. NBC 5’s Chris Hush reports.

On Tuesday, Chicago’s mayor proposed an ordinance that would extend many of the programs rolled out over the summer into next year.

LICENSES:

-If the City Council passes the mayor’s proposal, businesses with expired public vehicle licenses would have until next summer to renew.

SIDEWALK CAFE REFORMS:

-Businesses issued a sidewalk cafe permit next year would have an option to extend their sidewalk cafe space in front of a neighboring business.

-There would also be a 75% reduction in permit fees.

-More than 1,000 existing permits set to expire in February would be recognized through June 2021.

EXPANDED OUTDOOR DINING PROGRAM:

-The 450 Chicago bars and restaurants operating under expanded outdoor dining could see the program extended through the end of 2021.

The City Council could vote on this ordinance at December’s meeting.

Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe Cancels December Pilgrimage

The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines has canceled its festivities and pilgrimages in the face of rising COVID-19 cases across the state and country.

The Shrine, which typically sees thousands of visitors during its December pilgrimage, will now hold services virtually in lieu of in-person services Dec. 11 and 12, the Archdiocese of Chicago announced Tuesday.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused much hardship and pain for so many,” Rev. Esequiel Sanchez said in a statement.

“The message of comfort offered by Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego: ‘Am I not here, I, who am your mother?’ extends particularly to us today,” Sanchez said. “While we cannot observe this feast as we have in the past, it is still a time of prayer, petition and hope.”

The Shrine’s website at www.solg.org will host a schedule of livestreamed masses.

Illinois Reports 9,469 New Coronavirus Cases, 125 Additional Deaths Tuesday

Illinois health officials reported 9,469 confirmed and probable coronavirus cases Tuesday, along with 125 additional deaths attributed to the virus.

According to the latest data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, the new case total brings the state to 674,089 cases of the virus since the pandemic began in March. The 125 deaths reported Tuesday bring the state to 11,677 amid the ongoing pandemic.

The state continues frequent testing, with 97,323 new tests performed over the last 24 hours. The state is drawing closer to a significant milestone of 10 million coronavirus tests performed, currently sitting at 9,990,304 as of Tuesday.

The seven-day positivity rate dropped again Tuesday, dipping to 10.4%. After a rapid rise in that number over the month of October and the beginning of October, the positivity rate has now fallen six of the last seven days.

The state continues to see large numbers of hospitalizations related to the virus, a trend that will likely continue even if case numbers begin to decline slightly. In all, 6,134 patients are currently hospitalized for the virus in Illinois, with 1,203 of those patients in intensive care unit beds and 668 on ventilators.

More Crowds Form at O’Hare as Officials Continue to Warn Against Holiday Travel

Large crowds and lines again formed at O’Hare International Airport on Tuesday as travelers prepared to depart Chicago ahead of Thanksgiving despite warnings from state, local and federal health officials against gathering for the holiday.

Photos showed people lined up in terminals and checking in for flights on Tuesday morning, one day after the Transportation Security Administration reported the highest number of passengers boarding flights nationwide over the weekend since March.

On Sunday, 1,047,934 people were screened at U.S. airports, the highest number of passengers boarding flights in a single day since March 16, according to the TSA. In all, over three million people were screened over the weekend. While that’s far lower than during the same time last year, Friday also marked only the second time since mid-March that daily airport screenings topped 1 million.

According to O’Hare’s website, face coverings are required inside the airport and, “when possible, travelers should maintain 6 feet or 2 meters distance between individuals.”

Large crowds and long lines could be seen at O’Hare beginning on Friday. The Chicago Department of Aviation did not immediately respond to a request for comment on how many travelers passed through the city’s two airports over the weekend.

“The safety, security, and well-being of the traveling public is our highest priority, and CDA works closely with our airport and public health partners to ensure the safest possible environment,” the Chicago Department of Aviation said in a statement Friday. “This means, among other things, masks are required to be worn at the airport, social distancing is encouraged via floor decals and other signage, and the most up-to-date public health guidance is communicated regularly through a variety of channels.”

In addition, the department said it worked with TSA and airlines operating out of the airport to “ensure consistency throughout the terminals.” There are also volunteer “ambassadors” moving through terminals, distributing masks and encouraging social distancing, officials said.

“We will continue these efforts, but we would also like to remind travelers of their responsibility to follow public health guidance, including wearing a mask and maintaining appropriate social distance,” CDA’s statement read. “We all have a role to play.”

It’s Not Too Late to Change Your Thanksgiving Plans, Illinois’ Top Doctor Says

Thanksgiving’s not here just yet. And if you’re planning to take part in a large gathering, it’s not too late to change your mind.

That’s the message Illinois’ Department of Public Health Director, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, shared Monday as she and Gov. J.B. Pritzker voiced concerns about the possibility of an uptick in coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations stemming from large gatherings this Thanksgiving.

“We don’t have to have ‘super spreader’ events at homes throughout our state and throughout the country and bring it back,” Ezike said. “Please reconsider your plans and be part of the solution to decrease infections, instead of part of the plan to increase them.”

Illinois continues to see large numbers of hospitalizations related to the virus, a trend that will likely continue even if case numbers begin to decline slightly.

Ahead of Thanksgiving, Pritzker said state leaders are doing “everything we can to limit the spread with mitigations” and working with hospitals to determine whatever they need in the event of an uptick in cases.

In line with recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people are advised to celebrate virtually or only with members of their own household. For those who want to visit with other family members or friends, it’s recommended you quarantine for 14 days prior to a gathering.

“Let’s lessen the burden on all of our hospital teams, and we can do this by not spreading infection over this Thanksgiving holiday by wearing our mask, by watching our distance, by washing our hands and by getting our flu shots,” Ezike said.





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