#illinois

DeKalb Protests Move To Courthouse In Sycamore

Jun 4, 2020
Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco / WNIJ

Protesters continue to gather in DeKalb County to call for an end to racism and police brutality.

Wednesday was the fifth consecutive day of protests in DeKalb County as hundreds assembled in front of the courthouse in downtown Sycamore. 18-year old organizer, Tiana McAllister, is part of the team of two that planned out the march.

The Winnebago County Health Department announced 8 more coronavirus deaths.

County Chairman Frank Haney went into detail in a Thursday press conference.

“The dates of death range from May 17th through the 21st. The age range is age 50 through age 98. These deaths have all been confirmed as COVID-19 by the coroner today.”

This brings the total number of coronavirus-related deaths in Winnebago County to 52. 

An Illinois church is appealing a decision that upholds Governor J.B. Pritzker's stay-at-home order for religious gatherings.

Pastor Stephen Cassell with the Beloved Church of Lena sought a temporary restraining order so it could hold in-person services. Over the weekend, a judge ruled the governor’s order is constitutional in order to prevent mass infections and death. Senior Counsel Peter Breen is with the Thomas More Society, which is representing the church. He said the current limit on attendees in the coronavirus executive order violates religious freedom. 

Northern Illinois University

The Center for Governmental Studies at Northern Illinois University is taking a look at what lies ahead as lockdown restrictions loosen.

CGS has been at NIU for more than 50 years. Its researchers have conducted studies on issues related to the economy, politics, community, and the workforce.  Dr. Norman Walzer is a senior research scholar at CGS with a background in economics. He said current studies aren’t looking as much at the immediate consequences of COVID-19.

senatordavesyverson.com

Illinois State Senator Dave Syverson said the lawsuits against Governor J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order reflect frustration with the lockdown.

Syverson admitted Pritzker and other State officials didn’t have as much information about COVID-19 when they first formulated the stay-at-home order.  The lawsuits, he said, are in response to a perception that State leaders aren’t listening to the concerns of constituents. Syverson said this particularly applies to small businesses. 

A nonprofit food provider is expanding its services to Rockford. 

Top Box Foods was founded by Chris Kennedy, a nephew of the late U.S. president. The organization buys foods from sources such as restaurant suppliers and sell preassembled boxes of groceries to residents. Kennedy said the decision to move to Rockford was strongly based on the economic situation there.

State of Illinois

Illinois U.S. Representative Cheri Bustos is calling the recent designation of the federal prison in Thomson as a quarantine location "irresponsible."

Bustos says as many as 280 new prisoners could enter the federal system through the facility located near the Mississippi River in northwestern Illinois. She’s troubled about understaffing and lack of PPE at the prison, along with insufficient testing capacity. She’s also worried about the lack of local health care options if someone does come down with the disease. 

Chase Cavanaugh / WNIJ

Chicago Rockford International Airport has received $18.6 million in grant money from the federal CARES Act. Much of the money will be put toward operational expenses during the pandemic. Zack Oakley is Deputy Director of Operations and Planning for the airport. He said, with reduced passenger service, the airport is facing financial stress. 

"It’s not just the landing fee, but the parking and concession fees, rental car fees. There’s a lot of revenue that’s created based off passengers. Off cargo, our biggest generation is just the landing fee of the aircraft." 

Carl Nelson/WNIJ

Gas prices in Illinois have dropped significantly due to the coronavirus outbreak. The state’s current average is $1.79 per gallon, according to AAA.  GasBuddy Head of Petroleum Analysis Patrick DeHaan said the trend is being seen nationally.  

“The national average for gasoline stands at its lowest level since 2016, and will likely later this week be at its lowest level since 2008 -- a sign of the tumultuous times we live in where gasoline demand has been slashed by nearly in half,” said DeHaan.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded a $3.6 million grant to the City of DeKalb for public transit.

The money is part of CARES Act funding and will go toward ensuring the smooth operation of the city’s public transit services.  DeKalb Transit Manager Marcus Cox said the extra money is important, particularly in a time of reduced municipal revenue. 

“We are operating a $9 million a year operation that if other funds are impacted, than this will help, but it’s not the end-all, be-all answer.” 

Pixabay

Illinois Mayors are considering how their cities will eventually reopen as the State relaxes coronavirus restrictions. 

On Thursday, Governor J.B. Pritzker announced a modifed stay at home order for the month of May. Earlier this week, some communities were pressured to re-open small businesses. Mayor Greg Jury of Loves Park said any moves should depend on location.

IDOT

COVID-19 isolation orders changed how state agencies ensure the safety of the roads, and who travels on them.  

On a state level, traffic is down throughout the board, but that doesn’t mean state agencies aren’t active. Paul Wappel is a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Transportation. He said workers are still engaged in maintenance work.

“Transportation is deemed an essential service. We are maintaining the roads, and the bridges, making sure they’re still in good shape.”

Illinois.gov

Business shutdowns have led to mass unemployment across the nation. The jobless are filing for benefits in unprecedented numbers, including Illinoisans.  

Before the pandemic, about 200,000 people applied for unemployment insurance across the country in an average week. That all changed with mass furloughs and layoffs. Carl Campbell is Professor of Economics at Northern Illinois University. He says filings  increased greatly in the first three weeks since stay-at-home orders went into effect.

“It’s been 17 million, so about 30 times what it normally is,” he said. 

Flickr user / kristin_a (Meringue Bake Shop) "Vote!" (CC BY 2.0)

States are working to expand remote voting to address the coronavirus pandemic, but what’s already in place can differ widely between them. 

Voters in Illinois currently have the option of requesting an absentee ballot, without the need for a specific reason.  Scot Schraufnagel is Chair of the Political Science Department at Northern Illinois University. He says other states currently have an easier voting process than the Land of Lincoln.

The Winnebago County Health Department reported eight new positive cases of COVID-19 in the area  Monday. This brings the total number of positive cases reported up to 113. 

Public Health Administrator Sandra Martell says the rate of positive cases among tests has been on the rise. But she says they’ve become easier to follow thanks to community interviews and contact. She says those contacted by the health department have been very cooperative.

Susan Stephens

A student emergency fund unveiled Monday at Northern Illinois University aims to help with hardships related to COVID-19.

It provides up to $500 per student to cover various needs caused by the pandemic and social distancing. These can include the cost of technology to take remote spring courses, childcare costs, and emergency medical expenses. Assistant Dean of Students Kelly Olson said there’s been significant interest.

City of Rockford

Rockford’s mayor says city services have remained relatively uninterrupted during the pandemic. 

Mayor Tom McNamara said a key measure early on was making sure staff could take care of themselves and loved ones.

“Where we provided all staff 14 days of paid sick leave to ensure that none of them were coming to work or doing work while they were sick, or while they had a family member who was sick with COVID-19, so that they could focus on what was most important to them, which should be their family.”

Northern Illinois University is expanding its admissions campaigns further into the virtual space in response to COVID-19.

The university had already offered photos, overhead campus drone tours, and mailing campaigns to prospective students. But another focus is on making up for the “day visits” that social distancing prevents families from taking part in. Vice President for Enrollment Management Sol Jensen explains.

Winnebago County Health Department

A northern Illinois health department is emphasizing the importance of social distancing as the coronavirus pandemic continues. Winnebago County Public Health Administrator Sandra Martell said it’s key to ensuring the county can “flatten the curve.” 

Steve Williams

A vintage machine built by a Rockford company is joining the permanent collection at the National Museum of Industrial History. 

Our story begins in Kalispell, Mont. with Steven Williams. He’s a woodworking enthusiast who owns a “shop” of sorts.

“People come to visit, they say you don’t have a woodworking shop, you have a museum," he said. "And so I buy old vintage machinery and I restore it to factory condition and I use it every day.” 

DeKalb County Health Department

Members of a northern Illinois health department held a web event Wednesday to answer questions about COVID-19. 

The event, part of Northern Illinois University’s STEM Café series, was an opportunity for the DeKalb County Health Department and the DeKalb County State’s Attorney to address resident concerns. Officials emphasized the importance of social distancing, and offered clarity on county testing, isolation, emergency response and the risk of exposure. The Department’s director of community health and prevention, Cindy Graves, explained: 

Susan Stephens

Northern Illinois University is adjusting student bills to reflect the social distancing measures implemented due to COVID-19. These measures include having students take remote classes and a reduction of services on campus due to less staff physically present.

Pixabay

In-person mental health services are being scaled back due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some groups are making a transition to telemedicine to compensate.  

When it comes to therapy and psychiatric care, telemedicine isn’t new. It involves a videoconference or phone call between patient and caregiver.  It has proven useful in rural areas, where it may not be feasible for the patient to make regular trips to the doctor in a faraway city or town. 

Pixabay

Scammers are taking advantage of the pandemic to trick people into giving away money and personal information.

Some of these scams take the forms of e-mails and robocalls claiming to be from a reputable organization like the CDC or WHO. There can be an appeal to urgency, such as saying you were exposed by someone to the disease, and they need your personal information. Others may be asking for donations, but those aren’t actually going to a legitimate organization. Retired NIU Professor David  Sinason specializes in fraud prevention. He said due diligence is key.

DeKalb County Health Department

Testing for the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, remains focused on those most at risk for the disease.

Lisa Gonzalez is the public health administrator for the DeKalb County Health Department. She said, right now, testing requests go through a health care provider, and are still focused on a limited subgroup. 

“We’re really looking at testing only those who are severely ill or who fit in the other criteria like living in a congregate setting, having a chronic health condition, or a weakened immune system,” she said.

Northwestern Medicine is implementing new rules at its hospitals and clinics in response to the spread of COVID-19. 

Photo Provided By Zach Satterlee

Despite the current health crisis, Lifescape Community Services, a northern Illinois nonprofit, is continuing its Meals on Wheels program. Every day, volunteers deliver meals to people who are socially isolated or "shut in." Now, the only requirement is to be at least 60 years old. 

Meals on Wheels provides more than just food. Lifescape Executive Director Mike Hughes said the drivers are also trained to conduct daily welfare checks on their clients who, he emphasized, are some of society's most vulnerable people. 

Pixabay

Centers that treat addictions are adding social distancing to their services. At Remedies Renewing Lives in Rockford, this includes limiting the size of and spacing out in-person groups. Other measures include providing take-home medication and corresponding by phone with clients that are at risk for COVID-19. Counselor Cheryl Hollembeak notes social distancing doesn't mean isolation.

www.cheribustos.com

U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos of Illinois says testing capacity for the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, is improving. Currently there is a two-to-three day turnaround time for test results. The tests are being carried out by three state labs, commercial and national labs, and several hospitals. Bustos says the quantity of test kits is improving rapidly.  

“The governor told me this morning that by Sunday of this week [March 22], we should be near full capacity as far as being able to get all the testing done that we need to.”

Secretary of State

Illinois Secretary of State offices, including those that deal with driver services, are closed until the end of the month due to the coronavirus outbreak. Secretary of State Jesse White says the expiration dates for drivers' licenses, plates, and other transactions will be extended by at least 30 days.  

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