COVID-19 in Illinois updates: Here’s what’s happening Thursday

COVID-19 in Illinois updates: Here’s what’s happening Thursday


Chicago will move up its full reopening date to coincide with Illinois’ planned target of June 11, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Thursday after more than a year of restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think we’re ready to move to Phase Five with the state next Friday, June 11th. What do you think?” Lightfoot asked public health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady during an online question-and-answer session.

“I agree,” Arwady responded. “I agree.”

The move from the city came after weeks of the mayor’s administration keeping mum on whether Chicago will push up its previous reopening target date of July 4 for a full opening. Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced early last month that June 11 would be when the rest of the state would fully reopen and on Tuesday said Illinois was on track to meet that mark.

Meanwhile, Illinois public health officials on Thursday reported 674 new and probable cases of COVID-19 and 24 additional deaths. That brings the state’s totals to 1,383,739 cases and 22,865 deaths.

There were 36,372 doses of the vaccine administered Wednesday and the seven-day rolling average of daily doses is 37,328. Officials said 67% of Illinois adults have received at least one vaccine dose and 51% of adults are fully vaccinated.

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

4:40 p.m.: As consumers head back to restaurants, offices and vacations, clothing brands make a big bet that all-day workout wear is here to stay

People are going back out in public, but before they leave home they’re weighing wardrobe questions that were largely irrelevant last year — from whether skinny jeans are still in to what’s OK to wear to work now that co-workers will see below a Zoom shirt.

While some look forward to again having occasions to get dressed up, the apparel industry is betting consumers won’t entirely give up the jogger pants, sweatshirts and other comfortable pieces that got them through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chicago-based Wilson Sporting Goods, better known for sports equipment, recently introduced a sportswear line and plans to open its first stores later this year. Meanwhile, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Kohl’s announced new private-label apparel brands in March: VRST, a men’s line at Dick’s Sporting Goods, and FLX, for both men and women, at Kohl’s.

“We expect that desire to be comfortable … to continue for the foreseeable future,” said Diana Smith, Mintel’s associate director for the U.S. retail and apparel industries. “It’s not a trend, it’s more of a lifestyle.”

2 p.m.: Horizon welcomes workers to new US headquarters in Deerfield, redesigned for a post-pandemic workweek

About a month after Horizon Therapeutics paid $115 million for a 70-acre office complex in Deerfield, workplaces throughout the country began shutting down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rather than pause plans to convert Takeda Pharmaceutical Co.’s former campus to its U.S. headquarters, the Irish drug company forged ahead.

The retrofitting, led by the Lamar Johnson Collaborative architecture and design firm, gives Horizon room to spread out at a time when many workers are reluctant to return to offices after more than a year working from home.

“With COVID, one thing we looked at is the density,” said Tim Walbert, Horizon’s chairman, president and CEO. “Even if you overcome the pandemic, there are lingering views that you want to have more spa

1:45 p.m.: Gurnee COVID-19 test making facility closing due to shrinking demand; 2,000 jobs to be eliminated

A temporary COVID-19 test manufacturing facility run by Abbott in Gurnee, which has employed 2,000 people and operated around the clock, is in the process of being decommissioned.

Abbott informed employees at the plant Tuesday and Wednesday the operation will be discontinued because the demand for COVID-19 tests is in decline as more and more people are vaccinated against the disease slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

1:40 p.m.: Now that COVID-19 is easing, are pregnancy-related visitation policies shifting? Some are, some aren’t.

The first time Pat O’Brien attended a pregnancy-related appointment with his wife was the day they walked into Northwestern Memorial Hospital for the birth of their first child.

Like many couples last year, Pat and Ellie O’Brien were not able to share the experiences of pregnancy at prenatal appointments, as COVID-19 precautions restricted visitor policies.

“I mean, it stunk,” said Pat O’Brien. “Not being able to hear the heartbeat is one thing, but not being able to be there and support Ellie and her having to go it alone was frustrating.”

It also added stress during pregnancy, where partners could not be there for ultrasounds or regular visits associated with becoming a parent.

As the pandemic begins to ease, many hospitals are updating their visiting policies; at the height of the virus, visitors were in some places completely restricted. Now, policies allow visitors in some situations. Hospitals including Northwestern’s downtown campus and the University of Illinois at Chicago are still not allowing visitors with most outpatient appointments.

12:40 p.m. Wrigley Field will be 100% capacity for Cubs vs. Cardinals series starting June 11

As Chicago moves up its full reopening date to coincide with Illinois’ planned target of June 11, the move also means 100% capacity at the city’s ballparks.

With the Cubs set to host their National League Central rivals the St. Louis Cardinals for a three-game set at Wrigley Field starting June 11, Cubs spokesman Julian Green said the North Siders were looking forward to big weekend crowds.

“The ability to welcome 100% of our fans against one of our biggest rivals as we sit atop the NL Central is huge for the team, and represents a huge economic impact to the city as we continue to put people back to work,” Green said. He thanked Lightfoot for working with the team to navigate the pandemic.

12:10 p.m.: 36,372 vaccine doses administered, 674 new cases and 24 deaths reported

Illinois public health officials on Thursday reported 674 new and probable cases of COVID-19 and 24 additional deaths. That brings the state’s totals to 1,383,739 cases and 22,865 deaths.

There were 55,432 tests reported in the previous 24 hours and the seven-day statewide positivity rate is 1.5%.

There were 36,372 doses of the vaccine administered Wednesday and the seven-day rolling average of daily doses is 37,328. Officials said 67% of Illinois adults have received at least one vaccine dose and 51% of adults are fully vaccinated.

11:20 a.m.: Chicago to move up full reopening to June 11 with the rest of Illinois

Chicago will move up its full reopening date to coincide with Illinois’ planned target of June 11, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Thursday after more than a year of restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think we’re ready to move to Phase Five with the state next Friday, June 11th. What do you think?” Lightfoot asked public health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady during an online question-and-answer session.

“I agree,” Arwady responded. “I agree.”

The move from the city came after weeks of the mayor’s administration keeping mum on whether Chicago will push up its previous reopening target date of July 4 for a full opening. Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced early last month that June 11 would be when the rest of the state would fully reopen and on Tuesday said Illinois was on track to meet that mark.

Lightfoot and Arwady cited that coronavirus metrics in the city are the lowest since the coronavirus pandemic began. The city is seeing a seven-day rolling average of 135 new cases per day and has a 2% test positivity rate.

9:09 a.m.: Chicago Marathon expecting 35K runners this year — with some COVID-19 safety measures — after last year’s event went virtual

After empty streets in 2020, the Chicago Marathon is scheduled to resume on Oct. 10.

Race officials announced Thursday morning the marathon expects to register 35,000 participants and with some safety measures, such as asking for proof of COVID-19 vaccination or negative test results.

”We’re excited to kick off the launch of training with our participants next week,” said executive race director Carey Pinkowski in a statement. “Over the next 18 weeks our team will be hard at work, much like our participants, preparing for the return of the event. After a year without a major marathon, it feels great to know the start line is once again in our sights.”

The New York City Marathon and Boston Marathon recently announced their 2021 returns after taking a year off because of the pandemic. The Chicago Marathon had more than 45,000 runners participate in 2019.

8:40 a.m.: Wisconsin businessman gets nearly 5 years in prison in $1 million COVID-19 relief money fraud: ‘You took advantage of our nation’s generosity’

A Pewaukee businessman has been sentenced to nearly five years in prison for fraudulently obtaining more than $1 million in federal coronavirus relief funding meant for struggling businesses.

According to prosecutors, Thomas Smith, 47, involved seven other people, including his brother, in a scheme to get federal funding for phantom companies.

U.S. District Judge Brett Ludwig told Smith Wednesday that he hopes a 57-month prison sentence and two years of supervision would let him get back on track as a contributing member of society, the Journal Sentinel reported.

Ludwig also ordered Smith to repay the money he obtained through the federal Paycheck Protection Program, which offered businesses forgivable loans if used for payroll, rent, utilities and other specific expenses.

“You took advantage of our nation’s generosity,” Ludwig said, and undercut public trust in government.

6 a.m.: For 50 years, a Chicago program provided a lifeline for blind adults with developmental disabilities. COVID-19 led to its demise.

Perched between his bed and a dresser, Michael Thomas sits on the floor of his Morgan Park home and tries to pass the time, stringing beads along a lanyard and waiting for the phone to ring.

This is how the 46-year-old spends most days during the pandemic. Sometimes Thomas gets a call from one of the friends he met at The Chicago Lighthouse, a nonprofit that serves the visually impaired. Up until last year, he went to the Lighthouse daily to take part in a living skills program for blind adults with developmental disabilities.

But the program was suspended during the pandemic and, after operating for 51 years, shut down. In an April letter to families, the Lighthouse said it was closing the program “with profound regret” and that it couldn’t be maintained “due to unanticipated outcomes resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

That’s left families scrambling to find comparable services and feeling abandoned in a state that has historically failed to provide adequate support for this vulnerable population.

“There’s nowhere else to go besides sitting at home. And he’s deteriorating just sitting at home,” said Michael’s mother, Gladys Thomas, 72.

Janet Szlyk, Lighthouse president and chief executive officer, cited a confluence of factors that led to the program’s end, such as funding constraints, lower participation and staffing challenges that emerged during the pandemic. She said the Lighthouse offers a total of 40 programs, and nothing else was cut.

The Adult Living Skills Program, however, was in danger before the pandemic. It had been running a deficit, but the Lighthouse subsidized the cost through its endowment, Szlyk said, since it was an “essential program” that “relieves the families during the day.”

Szlyk said Wednesday she hopes to reinstate a “reimagined” version of the program, with a greater focus on physical activity, by late summer, if not sooner. She said she is looking at the budget to make that a reality.

6 a.m.: Bud Billiken Parade returning after COVID-induced absence in 2020, organizers announce

The largest Black parade in the world, and second largest parade in the country, is coming back to the historic South Side neighborhood of Bronzeville, this time with the theme “Back to School, Back to Life, Back to Bud Billiken.”

Following its only cancellation last year due to COVID-19, the beloved parade is returning on Aug. 14 with new safety measures, including COVID-19 testing, wellness checks, potential mask requirements and social distancing practices.

The parade will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Washington Park on Ellsworth Drive from 51st to 55th streets in a “closed TV set format,” meaning it will be streamed as a series of short recordings instead of its traditional live format, said Chicago Defender Charities spokesperson Jakari Anderson.

6 a.m.: Back-aching work. Low pay. No health care: Here’s why Chicago restaurant workers aren’t coming back.

Emilio Enriquez has climbed from busser to line cook during his seven years working in restaurants, and he still dreams of becoming a chef.

But he hasn’t worked during the COVID-19 pandemic and won’t look for a job until fall, once unemployment benefits no longer pay more than he would likely earn working and, he hopes, more people are vaccinated.

“This is what I want to do in the long haul,” said Enriquez, 25. “I’m just not ready to do that yet — especially since I’m making more at home.”

Kodi Roberts worked as a restaurant server for 10 years until the pandemic. Unlike Enriquez, she has no plans to return.

“It hit me pretty quickly,” Roberts said. “My body started bouncing back. My back stopped hurting. My nails started growing because I wasn’t dipping them in buckets of bleach and sanitizer all the time. I felt like a person who could move through the world relatively well again.”

As society inches toward normal and diners fill tables and booths once again, a question has hovered over the restaurant industry: Where are the workers? From white-tablecloth destinations to casual neighborhood spots, business owners have decried a labor shortage that has led some restaurants to scale back menus and hours. Some need servers and bartenders. Others need dishwashers and cooks. Some need all of the above.

A simple narrative has taken root: The workers are staying home to collect unemployment, especially as long as the federal government offers a $300 weekly surplus through Labor Day due to the pandemic. At least 24 states have pulled out of the bonus payments in recent weeks, usually with Republican legislators saying it will force people back into the workforce.

But Enriquez and Roberts underscore a reality: No single answer explains the restaurant industry’s thinning labor force, nor can we predict when — or whether — it will return.

Breaking coronavirus news

Stay up to date with the latest information on coronavirus with our breaking news alerts.


Source link