WEDNESDAY UPDATE: Coronavirus in Central Illinois …

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: Coronavirus in Central Illinois

THE DATA



THE DATA

State health officials announced 1,551 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, and an additional 119 deaths.

There have now been 33,059 people in Illinois diagnosed with the disease caused by the new coronavirus, and 1,468 people have died.

Some 77% of those who had reported cases a month ago are now considered recovered, state Department of Public Health director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said during a media briefing Tuesday.

The deaths were: 

  • Boone County: 1 male 20s, 1 female 60s, 1 female 70s
  • Carroll County: 1 female 80s
  • Cook County: 1 female 30s, 1 female 40s, 2 males 40s, 2 females 50s, 9 males 50s, 4 females 60s, 10 males 60s, 1 unknown 60s, 9 females 70s, 14 males 70s, 5 females 80s, 17 males 80s, 8 females 90s, 5 males 90s
  • DuPage County: 1 female 40s, 1 male 60s, 1 female 70s, 1 male 70s, 1 female 80s, 3 males 90s
  • Jackson County: 1 male 80s
  • Kankakee County: 1 female 90s
  • Lake County: 1 female 60s, 1 male 70s, 1 male 80s, 1 female 90s, 1 male 90s
  • Madison County: 1male 70s, 1 male 80s
  • McHenry County: 1 male 70s, 2 females 90s, 1 male 90s
  • Rock Island County: 1 female 70s
  • Will County: 1 female 50s, 1 male 80s, 1 female 90s
  • Winnebago County: 1 male 60s
  • Woodford County: 1 female 70s 

Pritzker: Changes to stay-at-home order coming, but ‘normal’ a long way away

PHOTOS: Coronavirus in Illinois


STAY AT HOME



STAY AT HOME

Changes are coming to the stay-at-home order, Pritzker said again at his daily COVID-19 briefing Tuesday in Chicago, but it is unclear what they are and when they will happen.

More information on what models the state is using to predict a peak and what changes will be made to the order is “coming in the very near future,” Pritzker said, and many options are being considered,

“We’re looking at lots of things like that,” Pritzker said when asked about the possibility of opening golf courses. “We understand the summer is different than what we’ve had up to now, which has been colder weather. We want to consider all of those things, that’s just one of the many, many things we are trying take into consideration.”

He faced the questioning at his daily briefing hours after telling the Washington Post that he is now anticipating a mid-May peak in the number of cases of the virus in Illinois.

He predicted that smaller, later peak and said wide compliance with his stay-at-home order is the reason for the delay to what was an initial prediction of an April peak. He said that compliance has helped save lives and limit strain on the hospital system.

“We will be making some changes to the order as it is. But it is true that it is working,” he said, adding that removing it entirely would “open everything back up to infection.”

The latest peak prediction came as the state announced 119 more deaths in the past 24 hours – more than the previous two days combined – bringing total fatalities to 1,468 in Illinois. There were also 1,551 more confirmed cases, bringing the total to 33,059.

Still, Pritzker said, there won’t be any return to “normal” until the state can adequately test and track the virus, and being able to do so is not immediately on the radar.

“There isn’t enough testing and there won’t be for some time,” he said, adding “to really open everything up,” the state is “going to need a whole lot more.”

That means, Pritzker said, “we have to leave things, you know, still in a place that seems not normal for everybody and won’t be for some time.”

“But we’re going to work hard to make it more normal and make it easier for people and certainly we want people to be able to get outside and enjoy themselves,” he said.

The state has now tested 154,997 people for the virus, an increase of 6,639 from the day before as it has yet to near the administration’s goal of 10,000 daily despite claims by Pritzker last week that the state was ramping up testing and had “eliminated our supply chain problems as they relate to viral transport medium (VTM) and swabs.”

Pritzker said he would not follow Georgia’s lead as that state reopens parts of its economy Friday, and he said he would heed the advice of the federal government in taking broader action once the number of new cases and deaths has decreased for 14 straight days.

“I want to caution that there isn’t – I don’t think there’s going to be some mass opening of, you know, lots and lots and lots of businesses come May 1,” he said when asked if there would be enough hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies when businesses reopen.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, also said there is a risk of a COVID-19 resurgence in the fall if there is still no treatment or vaccine, as is expected.

“It’s very concerning that that could be a significant second wave or a second surge,” she said.

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STUDENT LOANS, SNAP BENEFITS



STUDENT LOANS, SNAP BENEFITS

Private student loan borrowers in Illinois who are struggling to make payments because of the coronavirus pandemic will have options to delay payments, among other choices.

Nearly 140,000 additional Illinois borrowers will be eligible for relief options, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Tuesday at a daily news conference in Chicago.

Students with federal loans were already provided relief through the CARES Act. Under the act, borrowers will be able to suspend monthly payments, interest and involuntary collection until Sept. 30.

“However, the CARES Act left out millions of student loan borrowers with federal loans that are not owned by the U.S. Government as well as loans made by private lenders,” a statement from the governor’s office said.

Illinoisans with commercially owned federal loans or private student loans struggling to make their payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic will be eligible. Borrowers in need of assistance must immediately contact their student loan servicer to identify the options that are appropriate to their circumstances. Options include:

— Providing a minimum of 90 days of forbearance

— Waiving late payment fees

— Ensuring that no borrower is subject to negative credit reporting

— Ceasing debt collection lawsuits for 90 days

— Working with borrower to enroll them in other borrower assistance programs, such as income based repayment.

Borrowers can visit the Department of Education’s National Student Loan Data System at nslds.ed.gov or call the Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243 or 1-800-730-8913. Borrowers with private student loans can check the contact information on their monthly billing statements.

If a borrower experiences trouble with their student loan servicer, they can file a complaint with the following:

— IDPFR Division of Banking 217-785-2900 for information or to file a complaint with IDFPR at https://www.idfpr.com/admin/banks/DoBcomplaints.asp

— Attorney General’s Student Loan Helpline at 1-800-455-2456 or file a complaint with the Office of the Illinois Attorney General at https://illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/consumers/filecomplaint.html

— The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint/

Illinois joins California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont, Virginia and Washington state in establishing agreements with financial regulators and student loan servicers.

The governor also said the state will receive expanded federal benefits for families with school-age children who receive aid through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. About $112 million in additional assistance will go to roughly 300,000 families.

Pritzker said his administration hopes to expand SNAP eligibility to families who qualify for free or reduced price meals in school but who do not currently receive those benefits.

“No child should ever have to worry about where their next meal is coming from,” Pritzker said.​

— Belleville News-Democrat


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SPORTS ENDED



SPORTS ENDED

Pritzker on Tuesday officially suspended in-person learning for the rest of the academic year, little hope remained for saving the spring high school sports season.

The Illinois High School Association board decided Tuesday during a virtual meeting to cancel all spring state tournaments, though it left open a window of opportunity for some teams to get in some games if the coronavirus pandemic eases in time.

“There just was not any way to believe we could have the state tournaments, and do them in the right way. … We collectively agreed,” IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said. “But there is still that potential for some local contests to be conducted.”

The IHSA may give teams a chance to play some regular season games, depending on how the pandemic plays out. But that would happen only if the state moves to relax some of the restrictions meant to halt the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

The next scheduled IHSA board meeting is June 15, but Anderson said a meeting could be called (by the president or by two board members) at any time to discuss further steps.​

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TUITION CHANGE



TUITION CHANGE

The University of Illinois System has created a fund to provide financial aid to students who are facing increased economic distress due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The fund, which will have at least $36 million available to students, is being supported by the federal COVID-19 relief package, money from all three universities in Illinois’ system and private fundraising. The recently approved federal economic assistance bill set aside $14 billion for higher education.

University President Tim Killeen says students from Illinois will have priority in accessing the Students FIRST: COVID-19 Emergency Fund, which will be used to cover the 1% tuition increase at the Springfield campus and the 1.8% increase at the Chicago and Urbana/Champaign campuses.

The tuition hike, the first for the university system in six years, is to fund faculty additions needed because of seven straight years of increased enrollment. University officials haven’t said if the campuses will fully reopen in the fall.

Barbara Wilson, Illinois’ vice president for academic affairs, says in addition to paying for tuition increases, the emergency fund will also assist those currently enrolled with such things as housing costs and technology needs.

“The pandemic has disrupted college savings plans that were years in the making and created financial hardships no one could have foreseen,” Killeen said. “We want to make sure it doesn’t deny students access to the education that will transform their lives and supply the next-generation workforce that is so critical to the future of our state and nation.”

Students that want help from the university can apply for grants up to $1,000 through the campus financial aid office.

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CONGRESS ACTION



CONGRESS ACTION

Congress is sprinting to approve the next coronavirus aid package, a $483 billion deal backed by the White House to replenish a small-business payroll fund and pump more money into hospitals and testing programs.

President Donald Trump is urging swift passage this week. The Senate approved the bill Tuesday and the House planned a vote on Thursday.

The bipartisan bill, Washington’s fourth in response to the crisis, is not expected to be the last as lawmakers take unprecedented steps to confront the virus and prop up communities nationwide amid the health crisis.

Most of the funding, $331 billion, would go to boost a small-business payroll loan program that ran out of money last week. There would be $100 billion for health care, with $75 billion to hospitals and $25 billion to boost testing for the virus, a key step in building the confidence required to reopen state economies. There is $60 billion for a small-business loans and grants.

What started as a Trump administration effort with Republicans to bolster the government’s small-business Paycheck Protection Program quickly doubled in size, second only to the nearly $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package that became law last month.

As negotiations dragged on, Democratic demands for additional funds for hospitals and virus testing in the states became more pressing, and eventually gained support from Republicans.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the bill was made “better and broader” by the effort from Democrats.

Of the $25 billion for increased testing efforts, at least $11 billion goes to state and tribal governments to detect and track new infections. The rest will help fund federal research into new coronavirus testing options.

Currently, the U.S. has tested roughly 4 million people for the virus, or just over 1% of its population, according to the Covid Tracking Project website.

While the White House says the U.S. has enough testing to begin easing social distancing measures, most experts say capacity needs to increase at least threefold, if not more.

As announced Tuesday, the centerpiece of the deal remains the small-business payroll program. It provides forgivable loans so shops can continue paying workers while businesses remain closed for social distancing and stay-at-home orders.

Launched just weeks ago, the paycheck program quickly reached its lending limit after approving nearly 1.7 million loans. That left thousands of small businesses in limbo as they sought help.


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Olympia’s softball team was poised to make another run at the Class 2A State Tournament after finishing fourth in 2019. When the IHSA canceled spring sport state tournaments because of COVID-19, the Spartans were crushed.

Depending on when the state-mandated shelter-in-place order is lifted, the city’s general fund could see deficits of $5 million to $10 million between May 1 and July 1.

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