Coronavirus in Illinois updates: Here’s what’s happening Thursday with COVID-19 in the Chicago area

Chicago News

Gov. J.B. Pritzker confirms that all four regions of Illinois will move to the third phase of his five-phase reopening plan on Friday. The 28-day tracking period for all four regions will reset on Friday, meaning the earliest any region could move into the next phase is June 26, Pritzker said.

Additionally, Chicago will advance to the city’s next phase of reopening beginning on June 3 with retail, hotel and restaurant openings, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Thursday.


The opening of libraries and park buildings will happen on June 8, Lightfoot said. The mayor said she will have to see how things go with these initial steps before considering reopening the lakefront.

As Chicago and the rest of the state prepare to reopen in the coming days, officials on Thursday announced 1,527 new known cases of COVID-19 and 104 additional deaths. That pushes the statewide known case count to 115,833 total since the pandemic began. The statewide death toll now stands at 5,186.


Here’s what’s happening Thursday with COVID-19 in the Chicago area and Illinois:

4:01 p.m.: Trump to extend federally covered National Guard deployment through mid-August amid outcry over benefits

President Donald Trump said Thursday he would extend federally covered National Guard deployments to deal with the coronavirus pandemic through mid-August amid an outcry that an earlier cutoff date would deny members access to benefits.

“The men and women of the National Guard have been doing a great job fighting the Coronavirus. This week, I will extend their Title 32 orders through mid-August, so they can continue to help states succeed in their response and recovery efforts,” the president tweeted.

The Title 32 designation means that the Guard’s activations are federal funded, saving the states from the cost of utilizing guard members. Trump’s previous extension of Guard deployment lasted until June 24—one day before thousands of members would have qualified for education and retirement benefits.

Administration critics questioned whether the original date was set intentionally in an effort to avoid awarding benefits, including access to the post-9/11 G.I Bill, that become available after 90 days of activation in a federal emergency.

“While today’s decision to extend the service of our men and women in the National Guard is a step in the right direction, it shouldn’t have taken this long or required public pressure,” said Democratic U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos of Moline.

Bustos was among more than 70 members of Congress who sent a letter to Defense Secretary Mike Esper more than a week ago asking for an extension of Guard deployment.

“This pandemic has no end date, which is why we need these servicemen and women,” Bustos said of Trump’s latest extension. “They are vital to our response to COVID-19 and should be activated for the duration of the president’s emergency and disaster declarations.”

Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois last week introduced legislation to mandate the deployment benefits in light of the situation Guard members faced.

“After four letters and a new bill, Trump finally got my message: The 40,000 National Guards troop responding to the COVID-19 pandemic deserve full benefits for putting themselves at risk to protect the rest of us,” she said. “I’m glad that, after repeatedly trying to nickel and dime our troops, he finally abandoned his cynical ploy to cut off the Title 32 authorization at 89 days to deny members of the National Guard access to federal benefits that require 90 days of service.”

The president’s deployment extension also came after 42 governors signed a letter to him requesting the continued Guard activation. The letter was signed by the bipartisan leaders of the National Governors Association and included the signature of Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

“As states and territories move toward recovery and reopening, our National Guard will be critical in supporting operations such as testing, distribution of personal protective equipment, supply and food chain support, augmenting staff at nursing homes, and supporting warehouse operations,” the letter said.


“Likewise, our National Guard are perfectly positioned to support the federally defined core state preparedness responsibilities outlined in your Guidelines for Opening Up America Again,” it said. —Rick Pearson

2:51 p.m.: 1,527 new known COVID-19 cases and 104 additional deaths as all four state regions set to move into phase 3 of reopening plan

Gov. J.B. Pritzker confirmed Thursday that all four regions of Illinois will move to the third phase of his five-phase reopening plan on Friday.

“And while it’s at least a few weeks off, I want to affirm that the three metrics that have brought us from phase two to phase three will be the same as those that will move us into phase four,” Pritzker said at his daily news briefing.

The 28-day tracking period for all four regions will reset on Friday, meaning the earliest any region could move into the next phase is June 26, Pritzker said.

To move to the next phase, the percentage of positive tests must remain below 20% and not increase by more than 10 percentage points for 14 days, hospital admissions for COVID-19 must remain flat for 28 days, and there must be enough available hospital and intensive-care beds and ventilators to handle a 14% surge in cases.

Pritzker, whose administration is facing a 7 p.m. deadline to respond in the U.S. Supreme Court in a lawsuit brought by a pair of churches challenging his stay-at-home order, also announced that guidelines will be released Thursday for houses of worship to resume services.

The announcement came as officials reported 1,527 new cases of the coronavirus and 104 more fatalities, bringing the total of known cases to 115,833 and the death toll to 5,186 statewide since the start of the pandemic.

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said 44% of those deaths are tied to long-term care facilities. —Dan Petrella

2:49 p.m.: llinois will lose the equivalent of 550,000 year-long full-time jobs due to the pandemic

llinois will lose the equivalent of 550,000 year-long full-time jobs due to the pandemic, with 40% of them concentrated in trade, transportation, leisure and hospitality services and the professional sector, according to a new study from the University of Illinois.

The study by the university system’s Institute of Government and Public Affairs also warned that more than $28.5 billion in income will be lost to Illinois citizens and businesses, along with $76 billion in economic output representing the value of goods and services produced due to stay-at-home and business closures.

The study’s authors said that in a slow reopening of the state’s economy, small changes in the critical economic component of household spending, such as non-food shopping or going to restaurants, could significantly impact a recovery.

The authors of the study note that the recession caused by the pandemic appears that unlike previous economic-driven recessions, as Illinois’ economy is moving in concert with the entire country rather than lagging behind the rest of the nation.

“What cannot be forecast at this time is whether Illinois’ recovery will lag that of the U.S. or whether the historical divergence between Illinois and U.S. job growth will persist, widen or narrow,” said the authors, Professors Geoffrey J.D. Hewings, Kenneth Kriz and David Merriman.


Illinois, they said, has a complex interactive economy, and interruptions in one sector have ripple effects that affect directly or indirectly other sectors. As a result, the authors projected 400,000 direct year-long job losses from the pandemic and another 150,000 from a multiplier effect of indirect job losses for each direct job lost.

The study forecast a decline of nearly $52.6 billion in production in the service sector, representing a loss of $19.7 billion in income and more than 389,000 full-time jobs. The transportation, communications and pubic utilities sector will see a $14 billion loss in production, $4.2 billion in income and a decline of more than 65,000 jobs.

The study said the ripple effect in the state’s economy is evident in less vulnerable sectors. Construction output will fall $2.6 billion and income loss will be $1.3 billion while 26,450 jobs in the sector will be lost. Governments in Illinois will have more than 30,000 full-time job losses, the research found.

“Many of the unemployed will be able to garner relatively generous unemployment benefits due to recently enacted federal legislation” granting an additional $600 in weekly benefits through July, the authors said. “Despite this potentially mitigating factor, the hardship is undeniable and the macroeconomic repercussions are immense.”

The study said a significant influence on economic recovery will be the degree that employees feel comfortable returning to the workplace and how households view the risk of attending cultural and leisure activities.

“These were not risks faced by households in the recovery from previous recessions, so they add an important layer of uncertainty to the current economic situation,” the study said. —Rick Pearson

1:22 p.m.: Lightfoot says Chicago will move to phase 3 of her reopening plan on June 3

Chicago will advance to the city’s next phase of reopening beginning on Wednesday, June 3, with retail, hotel and restaurant openings, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Thursday.

The opening of libraries and park buildings will happen on June 8, Lightfoot said.

Lightfoot said she will have to see how things go with these initial steps before considering reopening the lakefront.

Lightfoot called on businesses to stagger start times for their workers to hold down crowding on trains and buses as people commute to work in greater numbers. Read more here. —John Byrne

12:57 p.m.: As Chicago moves to next phase of reopening, CTA says it will watch crowds and make announcements to keep riders apart

As Chicago enters the next phase of reopening during the pandemic, the CTA said it will use cameras to monitor crowds at stations and on trains and make announcements urging people to spread out or wait for the next train.

The agency also plans to place decals on station floors “guiding riders on where to stand and how to keep distance,” according to a draft of guidelines posted Thursday ahead of phase three in the city, which will likely begin in early June and allow many offices, day care centers, retailers and gyms to open.

The CTA has remained open throughout the stay-at-home order, but overall ridership has been down 80-85% each day, according to agency spokesman Brain Steele.

He said officials do not know how much ridership will increase over the next weeks, but they are encouraging riders to use other forms of transportation for non-essential travel. For those who use the CTA, the agency is asking riders to continue taking precautions like social distancing, wearing masks, not boarding crowded trains and buses “and being mindful and respectful of fellow customers.” Read more here. —Sophie Sherry

12:29 p.m.: Cook County awards $8 million in animal shelter grants to city of Evanston, south suburban nonprofit

Two animal shelters in Cook County are getting a combined $8 million to expand their facilities and ensure there is no overcrowding.

South Suburban Humane Society, a nonprofit located in Chicago Heights, was awarded $6 million, while the city of Evanston was given $2 million, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced in a press conference Thursday. The grants are part of the Cook County Department of Animal and Rabies Control’s “Housing Cook County’s Animals program” announced in November to help revamp nonprofit and government-run shelters that may face overcrowding as long as they agree to house rescue animals.

Preckwinkle said the grants will help ensure that no animal will be turned away at the shelters.

“Over the last few decades, the way shelters care for our pets has evolved,” Preckwinkle said in a news conference. “Many of their facilities have not. … And they do not provide an optimal environment that helps them engage successfully with potential adopters.” Read more here. —Alice Yin

12:24 p.m.: Bosses say $600 coronavirus unemployment boost makes reopening harder. Some workers ‘are making more money than they’ve ever made by not working right now.’

About a month after suit maker Hart Schaffner & Marx furloughed its nearly 250 factory employees, the Des Plaines-based company called them all back to work, marshaling their talents to cut and sew face masks suddenly in high demand to protect against COVID-19.

But there was an unanticipated hurdle: many employees were making more money on unemployment insurance than they did working. While unemployment benefits usually pay a fraction of a person’s regular wages — 47% in Illinois, up to a cap — people laid off or furloughed amid government-mandated shutdowns are getting an additional $600 per week through July.

Three-quarters of the factory workers, whose jobs on average pay above $15 an hour, voiced concerns about letting go of the extra cash, said Ken Ragland, chief operating officer at W Diamond Group, which manufactures the Hart Schaffner & Marx brand. In a difficult conversation, he told their union that those who didn’t return to work within 72 hours would lose their jobs — and also lose their unemployment benefits — unless they had a legitimate reason to stay home, such as child care constraints. Read more here. —Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz

11 a.m.: Coronavirus tab for Chicago Public Schools now up to about $44 million

So far, Chicago Public Schools estimates about $44 million to address the pandemic, with about 20% of that spending beyond the district’s regular contract costs, Chief Operating Officer Arnie Rivera told the Board of Education Wednesday.

That includes an estimated $24.4 million on technology such as laptops, tablets and internet hotspots, with $4.4 million of that total coming from a $75 million emergency coronavirus authorization approved by the Board of Education in March.


Other expenditures include $1.2 million for emergency cleaning and supplies such as soap and masks; $10.2 million for essential personnel; $3.4 million for educational materials for distance learning; and $4.9 million for nutrition and other costs, ranging from student meal delivery to reimbursement for canceled international trips. —Hannah Leone

10:50 a.m.: Ford temporarily shut downs Chicago Heights stamping plant Wednesday for COVID-19 cleaning, the fourth factory to face production disruption in less than two weeks

Ford Motor Co. temporarily paused production at its stamping plant in Chicago Heights Wednesday for sanitation after an employee at the facility tested positive for COVID-19.

The company closed production on one line at the stamping plant, the Detroit Free Press reported Wednesday evening. Ford notified workers known to have been in close contact with the infected individual and asked them to self-quarantine for 14 days, according to the Free Press.

It is the automaker’s fourth plant shutdown tied to the coronavirus since the firm resumed production last week.

The Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker stopped production at its Kansas City Assembly Plant Tuesday. Last week, the company paused work at its Chicago Assembly Plant, which makes Lincoln Aviator, Ford Explorer and Police Interceptor SUVs, and its Dearborn Truck Plant in Michigan after employees tested positive for COVID-19. Read more here. —Abdel Jimenez

10:46 a.m.: CVS opening hundreds more drive-thru testing locations

CVS Health on Friday plans to open another 24 COVID-19 drive-thru testing sites in Illinois, bringing the total number statewide to 40.

Most of the new drive-up test sites are in the Chicago area. A list of CVS testing locations is available here.

All of these CVS pharmacy drive-thru sites use self-swab tests and patients must make an appointment first, the company said in a news release.

Patients should stay in their vehicles and will be directed to the pharmacy drive-thru window, where they will be provided with a test kit and instructions. A CVS employee will observe the self-swab process to make sure it’s done properly, the news release said. Tests will be sent to an independent lab and results are expected in about three days.

CVS Health said it’s establishing 1,000 test sites across the country, and more than half are in communities in need of the most support during disease outbreaks and other hazardous events, as defined by the social vulnerability index developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The index takes into account factors like poverty, lack of access to transportation and crowded housing, according to the CDC. —Angie Leventis Lourgos

10:22 a.m.: COVID-19 spurs union pushes among Chicago-area essential workers. ‘We’re not just burger flippers. We’ve been essential.’

Concerned about their safety on the job as the coronavirus pandemic continues, workers at Chicago-area grocery stores, marijuana dispensaries and other essential businesses are increasingly pushing to unionize.

Workers at Sunnyside dispensary in Lakeview have cast ballots, and Instacart employees at a nearby Jewel-Osco are also in the process of voting by mail on whether or not to unionize. Workers at the Dill Pickle Co-Op in Logan Square staged a demonstration asking the co-op to recognize their 13-member union, which has been certified by the National Labor Relations Board.

The coronavirus outbreak has unleashed a flurry of unionization efforts in the Chicago area by workers who argue the pay increases and safety measures some employers have put in place don’t go far enough.

“A lot of these essential workers … are reaching out and saying, ‘I’m called a hero, I’m deemed essential. I look at my pay stub, I look at my benefits, I look at my workplace protections and there is a big mismatch,'” said Zach Koutsky, spokesman for Local 881 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which represents more than 34,000 grocery store, drugstore and food production workers in Illinois and northwest Indiana. Read more here. —Ally Marotti

10:02 a.m.: Illinois stores everywhere but Chicago can start reopening Friday. Here’s what to expect in phase 3.

Illinois retailers outside of Chicago that have been closed since mid-March are preparing to let customers back in stores starting Friday.

That doesn’t include stores in Chicago, which is not planning to loosen restrictions on retailers that are not considered essential until early June.

9:16 a.m.: Legal marijuana was supposed to help communities hurt by the war on drugs. But COVID-19 may crush efforts to diversify Illinois’ largely white weed industry.

Opening a marijuana business has never been easy.

The industry is highly regulated. Weed is still illegal under federal law, which makes it harder for companies to land financing. And finding a site can be difficult and expensive because the rules on where a cannabis business can locate vary wildly from town to town.

To foster opportunities for entrepreneurs of color to break into an industry that has seen sales of about $147.5 million of recreational weed just in the first four months, the state’s recreational marijuana law laid out specific social equity rules. But now the COVID-19 pandemic could threaten some startups’ efforts to diversify the largely white-owned industry as they run out of time and money. Read more here. —Ally Marotti

9:02 a.m.: 2 Cook County judges diagnosed with COVID-19

Two Cook County judges, both assigned to the Bridgeview courthouse, have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the Chief Judge’s office announced Thursday morning. They are the first judges known to have confirmed infections.

A statement from the office did not say when the judges were most recently at the suburban courthouse.

The announcement comes as Cook County courts are considering how to phase in a reopening as the pandemic continues. An order expected to be entered Thursday by Chief Judge Timothy Evans will extend the courts’ shutdown until July 6 or further notice. —Megan Crepeau

8:02 a.m.: Coronavirus economic toll mounts: 41 million have sought jobless aid

Roughly 2.1 million people applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week, a sign that companies are still slashing jobs in the face of a deep recession even as more businesses reopen and rehire some laid-off employees.

About 41 million people have now applied for aid since the virus outbreak intensified in March, though not all of them are still unemployed. The Labor Department’s report Thursday includes a count of all the people now receiving unemployment aid: 21 million. That is a rough measure of the number of unemployed Americans.


The national jobless rate was 14.7% in April, the highest since the Great Depression, and many economists expect it will near 20% in May. Read more here. —Associated Press

6:40 a.m.: Here’s what will be different Friday, when most of the state (but not Chicago) moves into phase three of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s reopening plan

All four regions of the state are poised to move into the next phase of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s reopening plan Friday, which means many restaurants will be back open for outdoor service and “nonessential” retailers will be open to shoppers.

Except in Chicago, where Mayor Lori Lightfoot has said restrictions won’t be loosened until “early June.” The city (and all cities and counties) can enact tighter guidelines than the state, but not looser ones. For the most part, Chicago’s guidelines are similar.

While the state’s opening up a bit, don’t throw away those masks yet, they’ll continue to be required in public. Read more here. —Dan Petrella and Jamie Munks

6:30 a.m.: As non-COVID-19 patients return to Chicago-area emergency rooms, doctors see skyrocketing blood pressure and other side effects of delays in care. ‘It’s terrible, and it’s frightening.’

One patient ran out of medication during the COVID-19 pandemic and ended up in the Loyola University Medical Center emergency room with dangerously high blood pressure.

Others, unwilling or unable to get consistent treatment for chronic conditions during the pandemic, have come in with out-of-control asthma, mental health crises or inadequately treated chronic kidney failure.

After a lull in emergency room visits due to the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors at four Chicago emergency rooms told the Tribune they have seen an increase in non-COVID-19 patients in the past few weeks, along with signs that some patients are suffering because of pandemic-related delays in care. Read more here. —Nara Schoenberg

6:25 a.m.: Staffer at Springfield convention center where state House met tests positive for COVID-19

A worker at the Springfield convention center where the Illinois House convened for a special session last week has tested positive for COVID-19.

Jessica Basham, chief of staff for House Speaker Michael Madigan, shared the news in an email to lawmakers and staff Wednesday, noting that “at this time it appears this individual had no interaction with any member or other staff person.” Read more here. —Jamie Munks

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