Cases Increase on College Campuses, Rising Positivity Rates – NBC Chicago

Cases Increase on College Campuses, Rising Positivity Rates – NBC Chicago


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

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is scheduled to hold a memorial service on Thursday to honor the lives lost to the coronavirus pandemic.

That event comes as the University of Illinois and other colleges see an increase in cases as students return to campus.

Here are the latest updates from around the state on the fight against coronavirus today (Sept. 2):

Pritzker to Hold COVID-19 Memorial Service

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is scheduled to hold a memorial service to honor those who have lost their lives to COVID-19 on Thursday.

The service will begin at 6:30 p.m., per Pritzker’s public schedule, and will be held at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, located at 5850 South Woodlawn Avenue in Chicago.

University of Illinois Taking Precautions After More Than 300 COVID-19 Cases Confirmed

The University of Illinois is ramping up enforcement of restrictions on student activity after more than 330 COVID-19 cases in two days on the school’s Urbana-Champaign campus, school officials said Wednesday.

In an email to students, Chancellor Robert Jones said he expects all undergraduates to “limit their in-person interactions to only the most essential activities” for the next two weeks starting Wednesday evening.

“These include things like taking twice weekly COVID-19 tests, attending class, purchasing groceries and food, going to work, engaging in individual outdoor activity, attending religious services and seeking medical attention,” Jones wrote.

The University of Illinois isn’t the only university in the state seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases. Illinois State University in Normal is reporting about 1,025 students have tested positive since the start of the fall semester two weeks ago, nearly 5% of the student body.

Since students returned to the Urbana-Champaign campus Aug. 16, more than 1,000 people on campus have tested positive. University officials say about 800 people are currently in quarantine. Jones says there is no evidence the spike of the coronavirus among students has spread to instructors or to the local community.

Illinois requires everyone on campus to take a saliva-based test it developed twice a week, wear masks, and show proof of a recent negative test before entering campus buildings. School officials decided the precautions would allow students to return to campus for the fall term. About two-thirds of the university’s classes this semester are entirely online. A third of the classes have in-person components.

Jones is blaming the rise of COVID-19 cases on campus on the behavior of a small number of students. He pointed to students going out in public despite being tested postitive, avoiding contact tracers and joining large gatherings.

“Students who do not comply with campus COVID-19 rules or who fail to follow any instructions from Champaign-Urbana Public Health District will face immediate suspension,” Jones wrote.

Officials say students who host parties or fail to comply with quarantine or isolation directions will face “immediate suspension.” As of Wednesday, two students and a fraternity have been suspended, with more than 100 students facing discipline.

The university is reporting 182,060 saliva tests have been performed since July. The school’s seven-day average positive rate stands at 1.16% , up from .75% last week.

Jones said the number of new cases in recent days has progressed at a rate that will double every seven days if students don’t follow the actions he suggests. At that pace, as many as 8,000 people could be infected this semester.

Since Aug. 17, Illinois State has conducted around 4,400 tests at three on-campus locations, yielding a testing positivity rate of about 24% in the past week, officials said.

“As our surveillance testing ramps up, we expect that expanded testing will result in a lower positivity rate,” said John Baur, professor of chemistry and ISU’s COVID-19 testing coordinator.

Pritzker Warns of Positivity Rate Increase in Most Illinois Regions

While only two of the state’s 11 healthcare regions currently have enhanced coronavirus mitigation rules in place, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker says that positivity rates are rising in the vast majority of those regions, causing concerns among health officials as fall approaches.

According to the governor, nine of the state’s 11 healthcare regions have seen their positivity rate increase over the last two weeks, with four of those regions seeing an increase of more than one percentage point.

Region 3, which includes Quincy and Springfield, and Region 6, which includes the Champaign-Urbana area and Decatur, are the only two regions that have seen their positivity rates go down over that time, Pritzker said.

“We continue to closely monitor every region, so I want to emphasize again that local elected officials and health officials should pay close attention to the data for their communities and, where necessary, step up and impose greater mitigations on a targeted basis to bring down the number of infections and the positivity rate,” Pritzker said.

Here is where each region stands as of Wednesday, with increases and decreases calculated over the last week:

Region 1 – 5.8% (up 0.8%)

Region 2 – 7.1% (up 0.6%)

Region 3 – 5.0% (down 0.5%)

Region 4 – 9.6% (down 0.1%)

Region 5 – 6.9% (down 0.2%)

Region 6 – 1.7% (up 0.1%)

Region 7 – 8.8% (up 0.5%)

Region 8 – 5.9% (up 0.3%)

Region 9 – 6.5% (up 0.7%)

Region 10 – 6.6% (down 0.2%)

Region 11 – 5.7% (up 0.4%)

Of those regions, Region 4 (located near St. Louis) and Region 7 (comprised of Will and Kankakee counties) are currently above the 8% threshold that triggers new coronavirus restrictions. Region 4’s restrictions were bumped up on Wednesday to match those in Region 7.

Both regions have had to suspend in-person dining and bar service, and are both required to lower the maximum allowable gathering size to 25 or fewer people, according to guidelines set forth by the state.

IDES Employees Receiving Threats, Pritzker Says

Employees at the Illinois Department of Employment Security have been receiving threats as the state continues to battle record unemployment levels during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The people who work at IDES have been receiving literally threats,” Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday, adding that the threats have made opening some offices challenging.

Pritzker did not specify the nature of the threats.

Several Illinois residents have reported issues with receiving unemployment in the state.

Pritzker has attributed the issues to an older system not equipped to handle the influx of applications the coronavirus pandemic brought on. He added Wednesday there has been “enormous effort by the new director to get in touch with everyone who has issues about their unemployment.”

“There’s a lot of work being done and I do think we need to work on the security of the people in these offices,” Pritzker said.

Why Illinois Health Officials Say Reported Daily Testing Numbers Have Dropped

After several days of daily testing numbers ranging between 40,000 and 50,000, Illinois suddenly saw a sharp drop this week.

With Tuesday’s report dropping below 30,000 and Wednesday rising only slightly higher, state health officials cited a “slowdown in data processing within [Illinois Department of Public Health] systems.”

According to IDPH, the slowdown affected the number of tests reported “due to the large volume of testing occurring in Illinois.”

“All available resources are being deployed to improve our data systems throughput and we anticipate improvement in data processing as the week proceeds,” a release from the department stated. “Although the slowdown has delayed the reporting of some additional aggregate numbers, this has not affected the reporting of positive or negative results to individuals in any way.”

Labs in Illinois on Wednesday reported 32,751 tests performed in the past 24 hours, with 2,128 positive cases, lifting the state’s positivity rate once again this week.

Illinois Reports 2,128 New Coronavirus Cases, 27 Additional Deaths

Illinois health officials reported 2,128 new coronavirus cases and 27 additional deaths on Wednesday, lifting the state’s positivity rate once again this week.

Those figures brought the statewide totals to 238,643 confirmed cases since the pandemic began, according to new data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, with at least 8,091 deaths in all 102 counties attributed to the virus.

Labs in Illinois on Wednesday reported 32,751 tests performed in the past 24 hours, well below the 40,000 to 50,000 the state had been conducted on average per day over the past week. The health department attributed the lower test results to “a slowdown in data processing within IDPH systems.”

With Wednesday’s increase in cases, the state’s rolling 7-day positivity rate increased to 4.5% from 4.3% the day before.

Hospitalizations ticked up slightly on Tuesday, health officials said. In all, 1,596 patients are currently hospitalized due to COVID-19 in the state of Illinois, with 347 of those patients in intensive care units. The number of patients on ventilators dropped, however, from 146 to 142.

5 Chicago Businesses Temporarily Shut Down for Violating Coronavirus Guidelines Over the Weekend

The city of Chicago temporarily shut down five businesses over the past weekend for violating coronavirus regulations, officials said Tuesday.

Chicago’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection conducted a total of 93 investigations over the weekend, including eight at residential locations, a spokesman for BACP said in a statement.

City officials said BACP issued a total of 14 citations to seven businesses, five of which were temporarily closed for violating health orders related to mitigating the deadly coronavirus.

Those five restaurants and their citations included, per the city:

  • J.L. Lounge at 3402 N Cicero: Closure order and two citations for failure to ensure social distancing, failure to require face coverings and operating after midnight
  • Grota Restaurant at 3108-12 N Central Ave: Closure Order and two citations for failure to ensure social distancing, patrons not seated and failure to require face coverings
  • Family Den at 8940-44 S Stony Island Ave: Closure Order and two citations for operating over capacity indoors, failure to ensure social distancing, patrons not seated and failure to require face coverings
  • Dirty Dozen Motorcycle Club at 720-22 E 67th St: Closure Order and two citations for failure to ensure social distancing and failure to require face coverings
  • B’Z Sports Bar & Grill at 12001-03 S Halsted St: Closure Order and two citations for allowing patrons to consume alcohol indoors without a Retail Food License and failure to require face coverings

The orders to close required that those businesses “cease operating immediately that evening,” the BACP said, with legal operations allowed to resume the following day.

The BACP has conducted a total of 1,488 investigations regarding the city’s reopening guidelines and issued citations to 106 businesses since June 3, officials said.

Chicago’s Top Doc Predicts ‘Safe and Effective’ Coronavirus Vaccine By Early 2021

Chicago’s Public Health Commissioner said Tuesday she expects the United States will have a “safe and effective” coronavirus vaccine by the beginning of 2021, but the availability of a vaccine is just the beginning.

“Let’s say [a vaccine] starts to roll out in early 2021,” Dr. Allison Arwady said during a Chicago coronavirus update on Tuesday. “That is going to take the better part of a year at minimum to get a new vaccine. Literally available to everybody.”

Arwady said that when the vaccine is approved, it won’t be available to everyone right away.

“We’ll probably start with the highest risk folks, healthcare workers, etc.,” she said, “and then over time be able to roll it out.”

In April, the city rolled out “Chi COVID Coach,” an app to help Chicago residents during the pandemic. The app also give Chicagoans the opportunity to pre-register for vaccine dissemination once it becomes available.

“I think 2021 is going to be a mix of helping people get the vaccine, which is going to be the most important step in terms of really creating that herd immunity that everybody is so interested in, as well as really having some more long-term protection,” Arwady said.

Illinois Imposes Stricter Coronavirus Mitigation Rules in Region 4, Officials Say

Two weeks after it became the first healthcare region in the state to have additional coronavirus mitigation strategies implemented, Region 4 in southwestern Illinois saw even more restrictions put in place as its positivity rate continues to remain over the state’s acceptable limits.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, the new restrictions officially went into effect on Wednesday in the region, which includes Bond, Clinton, Madison, Monroe, Randolph, St. Clair and Washington counties.

The new restrictions include a suspension of indoor service at restaurants and bars for at least two weeks. Outdoor service will still be allowed, but must be stopped at 11 p.m. each night, according to the new guidelines.

Party buses will remain banned in the region, with gatherings also restricted to 25 or fewer people, according to a press release.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration faced backlash last week after restrictions were put in place in Region 7, which includes Will and Kankakee counties. Those restrictions match the restrictions now being put into effect in Region 4, but were harsher than the initial mitigation strategies put in place by the state.

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