With Indiana and other states pausing or backtracking on their reopening plans as new cases of the coronavirus surge across the U.S., officials in Chicago and Illinois said Wednesday they have no plans yet to alter loosened rules that took effect statewide last week.
A spokeswoman for Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in a statement that the governor and medical experts are watching the data closely to see whether the looser restrictions in phase four of Pritzker’s reopening plan have any effect on the state’s health care system.
“The governor has been clear that he will follow the guidance of medical experts and if they advise reinstituting previous mitigations he will not hesitate to do so,” Jordan Abudayyeh said.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the city tracks its data closely and will “not hesitate” to take action if they see an upward swing.
Illinois health officials Wednesday reported 828 new known cases of COVID-19 and 30 additional confirmed fatalities, bringing the total number of known cases to 144,013 and the confirmed death toll to 6,951.
In Illinois, state health officials have now made it possible for residents to track weekly COVID-19 figures at the county level and watch for signs of concern, such as a rise in cases or more people testing positive.
Here’s what’s happening Thursday with COVID-19 in the Chicago area and Illinois:
10 a.m.: Wrigley Field rooftops reach agreement with city to open for Cubs games, rooftop manager says
The city of Chicago has approved rooftops around Wrigley Field opening at 25 percent capacity for Cubs games, according to the general manager of a rooftop venue.
"We can open our rooftop," said Freddy Fagenholz, general manager of Murphy's Rooftop.
Fagenholz said he received a call from the city Wednesday that their license was approved with safety restrictions related to COVID-19.
When Chicago guitarist Andy Brown headed out for his gig Wednesday night at Andy’s Jazz Club, he realized he’d forgotten something.
”I was so excited as I walked out of my house, I was halfway to my garage when I realized” what he had left behind, Brown told the audience during his first set. ”My guitar.”
So he rushed back inside to get it.That’s what happens when you haven’t played a concert gig in 3-1/2 months.
But Brown and his bandmates – pianist Jeremy Kahn and bassist Joe Policastro – clearly have been practicing during the shutdown, judging by their exuberant performance at Andy’s, which reopened last weekend. Each instrumentalist packed so much melodic content and rhythmic drive into their solos, it sounded as if they were unleashing a torrent of pent-up musicality. Which, of course, they were.
”I was sort of planning for this period,” said Brown in an interview. “The game hadn’t even begun till this past weekend,” when phase four of the state’s reopening plan allowed clubs to reopen at 25% occupancy.
7:05 a.m.: Chicago to focus on ticketing bar, restaurant violations of COVID-19 guidelines over July 4 weekend
Chicago’s Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Department on Thursday “will begin ramping up its enforcement” of health guidelines for phase four of the state’s coronavirus reopening plan, especially at bars and restaurants, according to a news release from the mayor’s office.
The city has focused on reaching out and educating businesses up to this point, but this weekend expects to focus on writing tickets up to $10,000 “related to social distancing, capacity limits and face coverings,” according to the release.
City inspectors also are now able to immediately order the close of businesses they believe are committing “egregious” violations of the guidelines, according to the release.
Among the rules under the city’s version of phase four: customers must practice social distancing and use face coverings; bars and restaurants have to keep to 25% of indoor capacity or 50 people; alcohol sales end at 11 p.m.; and lines outside must be managed.
The city’s encouraging anyone who sees violations to call 311.
Since phase three of COVID-19 reopening began June 3, the city has issued 59 warnings or notices to correct and 9 citations, after 377 investigations of violations.
6 a.m.: Lightfoot dismissed questions about ability to afford new CTU contract if economy tanked. Then COVID-19 hit, damaging CPS budget for years.
After the Chicago Board of Education approved an expensive new teachers’ contract last fall following a bitter strike, Mayor Lori Lightfoot dismissed as “100% wrong” the notion that the school district could have trouble affording the deal if there was an economic downturn.
Then came COVID-19, stay-at-home orders and a resulting recession that has hammered public finances across the country. Now, the financial fault lines that the Tribune identified have been breached as Chicago Public Schools officials try to put together a new spending plan in the coming weeks.
There are short-term problems: The state, which has its own financial woes, did not include extra education funding in its new budget that CPS was counting on to help pay for the teacher contract. And property tax collections the district is heavily relying on could decline because people and businesses might not have the wherewithal to pay their bills.
Over the longer haul, the school district faces the double-whammy prospect of further erosion in property tax collections and higher pension contribution costs triggered by the economic downturn, budget analysts said.
6 a.m.: You think the first half of 2020 was unpredictable? Wait until the second half.
The first six months of 2020 have been, shall we say, a lot: a whipsaw presidential primary, a worldwide pandemic, economic collapse and massive, sometimes violent protests over police brutality and racial injustice.
If little of that was predictable, imagine how volatile the next six months might be.
While COVID-19 cases are decreasing in Illinois, a sharp contrast to other areas of the country, nearly all plans for major events remain subject to change. But as it stands, schools will return to in-person instruction, some safety net benefits related to the pandemic will cease and the Chicago Bears will start their season by playing the Detroit Lions at noon on Sept. 13.
That’s the plan, anyway. As 2020 has amply demonstrated, who knows how things will actually shake out? Here are some things to look forward to in the second half of 2020.
Here are five things that happened Wednesday related to coronavirus in Illinois: