New Illinois Covid Restrictions Begin TOMORROW; How Will They Impact You?
As covid-19 variants slam the state with new records for infections, new covid restrictions begin around some areas of Illinois on Monday, Jan. 3, and some schools are planning on beginning their semesters this week on remote learning schedules.
For the first time, Chicago as well as suburban Cook County — areas in regions 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 — will require proof of vaccination for many indoor public spaces for anyone over the age of 5.
The proof of full vaccination will be to dine inside or visit gyms or entertainment venues where food and drinks are being served. Anyone 5 and older must show proof of full vaccination, and anyone 16 and older will also need to provide identification verifying that they are the person matching their vaccination record.
All employees at venues will need to provide proof of vaccination or proof of negative covid testing. The statewide mask mandate also remains in effect for all, meaning that employees and anyone attending an establishment will need to wear a mask.
“Despite our diligent and equitable vaccine distribution efforts throughout this year, unfortunately, our city continues to see a surge of covid-19 Delta and now Omicron cases,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement. “New steps must be taken to protect the health and well being of our residents. This public health order requiring proof of vaccination to visit certain indoor public places is a necessary measure to ensure we can continue to enjoy our city’s many amenities as we enter the new year.”
“This new requirement will not eliminate covid risk, but it will help ensure a much safer indoor environment for fully vaccinated Chicagoans, as well as for the employees working in these higher-risk settings. As we head further into the winter months, we must take this step now,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a statement. “With Omicron, I do expect to see many more covid reinfections and breakthrough cases, but luckily the vaccines continue to protect very well against severe illness, hospitalization, and death—and even more so when people have also had a booster shot. I remain most worried about the hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans who still have not received a single dose of covid vaccine nor recovered from covid infection. I’m worried for their own health, but also for the risk they pose to others’ health and to our hospital capacity—and while we are in this concerning surge, we must limit that risk.”
The new restrictions arrive as Illinois has absolutely decimated the daily record for covid cases, with a stunning 30,386 cases reported on Thursday alone, according to numbers just released by the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The whopping 30,386 cases over that 24 hours obliterated the previous record of 21,131 in one day set on Christmas Eve, as well as the 21,098 cases announced for Wednesday and reported on QuadCities.com.
Hospitalizations and deaths are likewise skyrocketing, as 87 new deaths were confirmed, and 5,689 covid patients were listed as occupying the state’s hospital beds. The vast majority of the patients, over 90 percent, were unvaccinated. Officials urge people to get vaccinated against the virus, especially as the virulent omicron variant sweeps across the country.
The omicron variant has begun to sweep across Illinois, with confirmed cases in seven counties, all around Chicagoland. The variant was responsible for 73 percent of new cases over the last week nationwide.
“Hospital bed availability has reached a critically low level. Demand on resources is high,” said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director, Illinois Department of Public Health.
“This virus is devastating the economic stability of our counties with the same intensity we have witnessed in human victims and the toll it has taken on families all across the region,” she said. “Here in the northern Illinois Rockford region, hospitals are seeing covid admissions rise at an alarming rate.”
The numbers are spiking as children are getting ready to return to school after winter break. However, some school districts have already announced they will be switching to remote learning.
District 300 in suburban Chicago announced today that they would be closing their schools on Monday and reevaluating if they were going to return on Tuesday.
On the district’s website, the superintendent said, “District staff will use January 3rd to better understand the Omicron Variant’s full impact on staffing and student attendance. Additionally, we hope to receive clarification on the updated quarantine guidelines from the Illinois Department of Health (IDPH) and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) based upon the latest CDC quarantine guidelines. ”
Buffalo Tri-City School District in central Illinois has gone to remote learning through at least Jan. 10.
Virginia School District in central Illinois has announced it will go to remote learning as well, as schools in that district have 32.9 percent of students testing positive for covid or having had close exposure to someone with the virus.
In addition, Pike County’s Pleasant Hill School district in central Illinois is also going remote, due to an outbreak of cases of both covid and the flu.
Several colleges across the state announced they’ll be going to remote learning at least to begin the next semester in January. Northwestern, DePaul and University of Chicago in Cook County will all begin as remote learning, as will University of Illinois Urbana- Champaign in downstate Champaign and Illinois State University. In addition, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale has told students, faculty and staff that they must test negative for covid-19 within 48 hours of returning to campus, including those who have been vaccinated, and those who have not been vaccinated will have to continue to be tested weekly.
Chicago Public School district CEO Pedro Martinez reiterated that his district, the largest in the state, will not close down unless there is a citywide order requiring it.
“I want to be clear, our plans are to have our schools open on Jan. 3, our plans are to welcome our children for in-person instruction,” Martinez said at a news conference last week at City Hall. “But I need your help. I need the help of our families. We’ve been trying to make sure we ensure as much as we can that we can have a state opening back after break.”
Locally, Rock Island Milan School District 41 also plans to return to in-person learning Jan. 4. They announced on their website, “In the midst of growing concerns about the Omicron variant and high levels of spread in Rock Island County, the school district is still going to be in compliance with masking, social distancing, keeping classrooms clean and sanitized when students return to school on Tuesday, January 4.”
For ongoing coverage of this situation, continue to follow QuadCities.com.