State Senate sends Pritzker COVID-19 relief bill designed to ‘keep people in the state of Illinois in their homes’
SPRINGFIELD — A bill distributing $1.4 billion of federal relief to those in need of COVID-19 emergency housing assistance was sent to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk on Thursday over Republican objections that the measure does not target those who are in real need of help.
“This bill essentially is trying to keep people in the state of Illinois in their homes,” said state Sen. Omar Aquino, the bill’s sponsor. “It tries to prioritize and surgically utilize the one-time money that we’re getting from the federal government to assist those people that truly need it the most.”
The bill “prioritizes disproportionately affected areas” based on “positive COVID-19 cases” or by “a history of homelessness,” according to the Near Northwest Side Democrat.
But state Sen. Jason Barickman said the money does not go to those who need it the most because it prioritizes “not based on their individual circumstances but based on the ZIP code in which they live.”
12:10 p.m. Scarred by pandemic, labor and allies mourn, then mobilize
As May Day 2021 approached, registered nurse Kathy Haff thought about the trials she and co-workers have faced over the past year and was moved to speak out.
Haff, who works at Community First Medical Center in Portage Park, wrote down her thoughts about three co-workers who succumbed to COVID-19. She touched on their humor, professionalism and generosity.
In a local observation of the International Workers’ Memorial Day, Haff talked Wednesday about her late colleagues during an online prayer service memorializing those who have died. Her point wasn’t to elevate them above others being remembered but to address the grief and sense of injustice that inhabits many workplaces because of the pandemic.
Haff told the Chicago Sun-Times the deaths shook the small hospital’s staff, where workers have organized with the National Nurses United union and pressed administrators to provide more personal protective equipment. “We finally have a voice with the union and the hospital isn’t happy because we’re airing their dirty laundry. They’re oblivious,” she said.
11:30 a.m. Response to coronavirus outbreak ‘inefficient and chaotic’ at LaSalle Veterans’ Home where 36 died, report finds
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Consistent statewide procedures and ongoing drills that target infection response and other emergencies will be routine at Illinois veterans’ homes after COVID-19 caught the LaSalle Veterans’ Home unprepared and claimed 36 lives last fall, the state’s newly appointed director said.
Terry Prince, a 31-year Navy veteran and former senior adviser to the U.S. Surgeon General, has issued a six-point plan for improving readiness at the state’s veterans’ homes in Anna, Manteno, Quincy and LaSalle. The plan follows a blistering investigative report that laid out a string of miscommunications, lax policy and missed opportunities when the pandemic hit the home in LaSalle, 94 miles west of Chicago.
The report by the inspector general of the Illinois Department of Human Services, released Friday, noted that despite escaping all traces of the deadly respiratory illness for eight months after it entered Illinois, there was little done to devise protocols for preventing or managing infections. After the first four cases were reported Nov. 1, the virus spread to 60 residents and 43 employees as confused staff operated in an environment that was “inefficient, reactive and chaotic,” the report said.
10:45 a.m. Blackhawks excited for fans’ return to United Center, albeit for only 2 games
Four players in the Blackhawks’ lineup Thursday have never played in front of fans at the United Center.
Four others have never done so as a member of the Hawks. Another three have done so only once. That adds up to 11 players — more than half the team.
But come May 9 and 10 against the Stars, the last two games of the regular season, that will change. The City of Chicago announced Thursday the UC can be filled to 25% capacity starting with the Bulls’ May 7 game, although Hawks spokesperson said the Hawks would actually have around 20% capacity — approximately 4,000 fans.
8 a.m. Fans allowed at Bulls, Blackhawks games as Chicago continues to ease restrictions
With two million vaccine doses administered and health metrics improving, Mayor Lori Lightfoot is reopening Chicago a little bit more — this time to let restaurants and theaters serve more patrons and allow fans inside the United Center for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
The new Phase Four rules, effective immediately, allow the Bulls and Blackhawks to close their seasons before roughly 5,250 fans per game — 25% of the United Center’s capacity.
The Blackhawks play at home Thursday and Saturday against the Florida Panthers, then finish their regular-season home schedule with two games in May. The Bulls have a home game Friday, the first of six regular-season games left.
That 25% rule also applies to Wrigley Field, Guaranteed Rate Field and Soldier Field, an increase from the current 20%. The 25% also includes churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship.
Restaurants and bars can increase indoor capacity to 50% or 100 people, whichever is less. The cap had been 50% or 50 people.
Meetings, conferences and conventions held at large indoor venues like McCormick Place now can operate at 25% capacity or 250 people, whichever is less.
Festivals and, what the city calls “general admission outdoor spectator events” get the green light to welcome 15 people for every 1,000 square feet.
The same rules apply to flea markets, which can operate at 25% capacity.
7:15 a.m. Shot, please! Preckwinkle pushes vaccinations for restaurant workers as indoor capacity expands
Public health officials in Cook County are serving up COVID-19 vaccines to bar and restaurant workers as the suburbs follow in lockstep with Chicago’s latest round of eased coronavirus restrictions.
Mondays in May will be designated “restaurant days” at the county’s six suburban mass vaccination sites, Cook County Board Presidents Toni Preckwinkle announced Thursday.
Anyone can sign up for an appointment or walk up to the six sites in Tinley Park, Matteson, River Grove, South Holland, Des Plaines or Forest Park. But officials want to vaccinate as many of the “essential heroes” in the hospitality industry as possible with indoor capacity expanding to the lesser of 50% or 100 people per room.
“Restaurant staff people worked tirelessly, even as they were asked to pivot to new roles to meet new demands, even as hours were cut, doors were closed, and their own life livelihoods were in jeopardy,” Preckwinkle said. “Now we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and people are returning toward cafes and restaurants for a sense of normal normalcy and camaraderie that we all have craved.”
An estimated 20% of restaurants statewide won’t survive the pandemic, according to Illinois Restaurant Association President Sam Toia, shuttering about 5,000 businesses and leaving more than 100,000 out of work.
New cases and vaccination rates
- A total of 3,394 new cases of COVID-19 and 38 additional deaths were reported by Illinois health officials Thursday.
- The latest cases were among 89,057 specimens tested over the last 24 hours, bringing the state’s positivity rate to 4%, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
- A total of 107,689 vaccine doses were administered in the state Thursday, health officials said. An average of 97,434 vaccine doses have been administered per day over the last week.
- Since the pandemic began, over 1.3 million people in Illinois have tested positive for COVID-19 and 21,927 have died, officials said.