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Illinois Coronavirus Updates: Chicago's Top Doctor Warns of Indoor Gatherings, Indiana Added to Travel Order

NBC Chicago logo NBC Chicago 10/14/2020
a close up of a logo: CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – JUNE 15: A sign on the sidewalk in Millennium Park encourages visitors to practice social distancing on June 15, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. The park, which had been closed to visitors to help curtail the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19, partially reopened, with restrictions, to the public today. The park located in downtown Chicago is the most visited tourist attraction in the Midwest, attracting more than 12 million visitors annually. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images) © Getty Images

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – JUNE 15: A sign on the sidewalk in Millennium Park encourages visitors to practice social distancing on June 15, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. The park, which had been closed to visitors to help curtail the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19, partially reopened, with restrictions, to the public today. The park located in downtown Chicago is the most visited tourist attraction in the Midwest, attracting more than 12 million visitors annually. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Note: Any news conferences from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot or other officials will be streamed in the video player above.

The city of Chicago updated its emergency travel order requiring a 14-day quarantine on Tuesday, with Indiana added to the list of states.

The update comes as Chicago health officials detailed the metrics residents should pay attention - and issued a warning about indoor gatherings ahead of the colder winter months.

Meanwhile, Gov. J.B. Pritzker is set to deliver a COVID-19 update on Wednesday.

Here are the latest updates from across Illinois on the coronavirus pandemic today (Oct. 14):

Pritzker to Deliver COVID-19 Update

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is set to deliver a coronavirus update on Wednesday, according to his public schedule.

Pritzker will give the update in a news conference at 12 p.m. from the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago, his office says.

It's the first update he'll deliver in person after isolating at home for two weeks following a staffer's positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

The update can be watched live in the video player above.

These Are the Coronavirus Metrics to Pay Attention to

Chicago's top public health official has long warned that the city's average new coronavirus cases per day was a number to keep an eye on, but as that number rises, she says it's no longer the only statistic to watch for.

In addition to new cases and daily testing numbers, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady is also watching the city's hospitalization numbers and daily death tolls, which have remained "steady," she said.

"We continue to admit, on average, fewer than 15 new Chicago residents to the hospital every day with COVID-19," she said. "That's down from the more than 150 residents being admitted every day back at our peak in April and May. Similarly, we continue to see between two and three Chicago residents die from COVID every day. Now, that is still too many deaths and every one of those deaths has such ripple impacts in terms of families and neighborhoods that are impacted. That is, though, down from the approximately 50 deaths per day that we were seeing in Chicago."

In addition, the city's reproduction number, also known as the r-naught or RT, is currently just above one. The number is an indicator of how many people a single person with coronavirus, on average, spreads it to.

"If the RT is two, this means that every one person in Chicago with COVID spreads it to, on average, two other people. And that might not sound so bad - one person, spreading to two other people does not sound like a very infectious disease and in fact there are many diseases that are more infectious than that," Arwady said.

But if one person spreads the virus to two people and those two people spread it to two more "we very quickly see a big increase in cases in Chicago."

"If on average, one person in Chicago with COVID is spreading to an average of one other person, our outbreak actually stays flat," Arwady said.

Early on during the city's outbreak in March, the number was at 3.62. After weeks of stay-at-home orders and as the curve began flattening, the number dropped as low as .85.

"A reproductive number of just over one does not make me very happy, it does not make me extremely worried. But if we see this number going up, it means that our outbreak is out of control," Arwady said. "If it stays where it's been, really June to October, even if the numbers are going up, as long as the testing and the other number is part of what's driving that, we remain broadly in control. But all around us there is trouble. Wisconsin has a very poorly controlled outbreak, Indiana has a poorly controlled outbreak, Iowa, Missouri, and parts of downstate Illinois are not in as strong control as we are here in Chicago. And we are not in a strong control in Chicago this week as we were last week. So what I want you to hear is that now is the time to get even more serious. As we're moving indoors. As colder weather is coming. We know the things we need to do."

Arwady Expects Chicago to Reach 400 Cases Per Day This Week, a Number She Has Long Warned About

Chicago's top public health official says she expects the city to reach an average of 400 new coronavirus cases per day this week, a metric she has been warning about for weeks.

Currently, the city is averaging 364 cases per day, 10% higher than at this time last week, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said.

"I expect this number to continue to increase," Arwady said. "And in fact, I expect that this number will cross the 400 mark likely this week."

Previously, Arwady had said an average of 400 cases per day would likely mean a rollback to phase three of the city's reopening plan. But she said while the number is alarming, the situation not as drastic as when she made that claim in July.

"The news needs to be in the context of our testing rates," she said.

According to data, the city currently has a test positivity rate of 4.4%, well below the goal of under 5% and the second-best region in the state behind only Urbana-Champaign.

In addition, the city has reported record testing numbers with an average of 10,000 tests per day. One month earlier, that number was between 7,000 and 8,000.

"This is highlighting that, in part, the increase in cases that we are seeing is because of an increase in testing," Arwady said. "It is not the full story, but it is part of the story and I want people to understand that the reason we expect to see these cases continue to grow is partly reflected because of tests."

As of Tuesday, the city would need to test an average of 24 people to find one positive coronavirus test. Last month, that number was 20.

"We want that number to stay flat," she said. "Even better, we want it to be going up."

Arwady Warns of Indoor Gatherings Ahead of Winter Months

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Alison Arwady warned Tuesday of the risks associated with indoor gatherings before colder temperatures hit.

Arwady said for an indoor space to be considered "safe," people should be wearing a mask, keeping six feet of distance and avoiding large crowds.

Increased ventilation can slow the spread of COVID-19, according to Arwady citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and can be done by opening windows to bring in outdoor air.

Arwady recommended focusing on the flow of outdoor air circulating indoors as opposed to turning on fans, which could bring airflow downward toward individuals.

Health officials said that ultra violet lights that individuals can "just buy" are not recommended to clean surfaces from the coronavirus, unless they are used at a "very high" level.

Arwady said that though air filtration and open windows can aid in decreasing the spread of the virus, it cannot other replace important precautions.

For people visiting another home, Arwady said that person should be "in the same bubble." The top health official suggested that people not within the social distancing bubble, should meet outdoors.

"Generally speaking, always fewer interactions are safer from a COVID perspective," Arwady said. "If you have to the think twice, safer activities broadly are ones that avoid crowds, where everybody can wear a mask, everybody can keep a six foot distance and they're outdoors. As outdoors is less of an option, you got to double down on those other things."

Lightfoot Says Discussions Ongoing With Bears About Allowing Fans at Soldier Field

The Chicago Bears are off to a 4-1 start on the season, but could there be a time in the near future when the team’s fans will be allowed to catch some football action in person at Soldier Field?

At a Tuesday press conference, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot left the door open for just such a possibility, saying that her administration is having conversations with the team about allowing limited numbers of fans into the team’s remaining home games.

“Like any other Bears fan, I would like to be there,” she said. “We’re having conversations with the Bears and we’ll see where they lead. We’ll see.”

The debate over whether to allow fans into professional sports stadiums has ratcheted up in recent weeks, as some stadiums have begun to open their doors. In Major League Baseball, the National League Championship Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves is being contested in front of a limited number of fans at the home stadium of the Texas Rangers in Arlington.

In the NFL, multiple teams have begun to allow fans on a limited basis, including the Dallas Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns.

Teams like the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers and Seattle Seahawks are continuing to play without fans in their stadiums.

There are even teams looking at other potential options, including the New Orleans Saints, who are discussing playing home games at Louisiana State University’s campus in order to allow fans into the seats. Officials in the Big Easy have repeatedly rebuffed the team’s efforts to allow fans in the Superdome, and a trip to Baton Rouge may allow them to welcome fans into games, according to reports.

City officials will have some time to make their decision, as the Bears have two straight road games against the Carolina Panthers and Rams in the next two weeks. Their next home game isn’t scheduled until Nov. 1, when they’ll welcome the Saints to the shores of Lake Michigan.

Chicago Adds Indiana, 3 Other States to Coronavirus Travel Order

The city of Chicago on Tuesday added four states, including bordering state Indiana, to the city's emergency travel order requiring a 14-day quarantine.

Chicago health officials added Indiana, North Carolina, Rhode Island and New Mexico, the city said in a press conference Tuesday.

The travel order now covers 25 states and territories: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Travelers entering or returning to Chicago from "states experiencing a surge in new COVID-19 cases" will need to quarantine "for a 14-day period from the time of last contact within the identified state" under the order, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady says. Essential workers could be exempt from the quarantine requirement, however, as long as their employer certifies their work in writing.

States are added to the list if they have "a case rate greater than 15 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 resident population, per day, over a 7-day rolling average." If they fall below that threshold, they could be removed as well.

Health officials in Indiana reported 1,569 new cases of coronavirus Tuesday, along with 27 additional deaths attributed to the virus.

For the eleventh day in a row, Indiana on Monday broke its own record for average daily new coronavirus cases.

Students, and people who usually travel to Indiana, are exempt from this order, along with people needing medical care and parental shared custody.

Chicago's travel order, which began on July 6, is evaluated every Tuesday, with any additions taking effect the following Friday.

Illinois Reports 2,851 New Coronavirus Cases as State Death Toll Tops 9K

Illinois health officials on Tuesday reported 2,851 new coronavirus cases and 29 additional deaths over the last 24 hours, lifting the statewide death toll over 9,000.

According to the latest data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, Tuesday's figures bring the state’s totals to 324,743 cases and 9,026 deaths since the pandemic began.

“After nine months of battling this virus and hearing the updates each day, many of us forget that the hospitalizations and deaths are more than just numbers,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement. “They are our family, friends, and loved ones who have been directly impacted by COVID-19, which continues to spread.  You can help slow the spread and reduce the number of people who become sick with COVID-19 by wearing your mask, washing your hands, and watching your distance.”

Nearly 56,000 tests were reported Tuesday, bringing the state's seven-day positivity rate to 4.5%.

As of Monday night, 1,848 people in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 406 patients were in the ICU and 160 patients were on ventilators.   

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said last week that while many of the state's healthcare regions were seeing "promising declines," "that progress has cooled."

"We are seeing changes in positivity averages around the state level off, with three regions that were decreasing last week now sitting at a stable level," he said during a virtual update last Wednesday.

Still, on Friday state health officials loosened the stricter mitigations that had been in place for weeks in Region 4, allowing the area to return to phase four guidelines Friday afternoon as positivity rates declined there.

“More than 9,000 Illinoisans — our mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, family, friends, and neighbors — have had their lives cut short by COVID-19, leaving tens of thousands more to grieve loved ones lost too soon,” Pritzker said in a statement Tuesday.  “As we pause today to mourn these individual and collective losses, may we find strength in the tools we have to protect our communities: wearing a mask, watching our distance, and respecting public health and each other.  My heart breaks for all those who have lost a loved one in this battle we never asked to fight – may their memories be for a blessing.”

Several Cook County Residents Contracted COVID-19 From Teen Relative During Family Vacation: CDC

A 13-year-old girl transmitted COVID-19 to 11 relatives, including several from suburban Cook County, during a three-week family vacation at a shared house this summer, according to local health officials and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC released detailed findings of the case in an online report Friday, emphasizing the outbreak highlights several important issues, including that children and adolescents can efficiently transmit SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The teenage girl was exposed to the virus during a large outbreak in June 2020, and because of her exposure, she sought testing after returning home, according to the CDC.

A rapid antigen test performed four days after exposure, when the teen was asymptomatic, was negative. Two days later, the 13-year-old experienced nasal congestion, her only symptom of the virus. That same day, she, her parents, and two brothers traveled to a gathering with 15 other relatives.

It's not known if the girl and her immediate family members are from Cook County.

A total of 14 relatives from four states, including the patient, stayed in a five-bedroom, two-bathroom house for 8–25 days and did not wear face masks or practice physical distancing.  

An additional six relatives visited on two occasions, one of which was when six individuals staying in the home were potentially infectious. The six visiting relatives maintained physical distance and remained outdoors, but did not wear face masks.

Of those who stayed in the house, 12 individuals, including the teen girl, were found to have COVID-19.

One person who contracted the coronavirus was hospitalized and another sought emergency department care for respiratory symptoms; both recovered, officials said. None of the six relatives who remained outdoors and maintained physical distance developed symptoms.

The Cook County Department of Public Health confirmed that several individuals involved were from suburban Cook County, but didn't provide additional information, citing privacy concerns.

County health officials that the community is not at risk as a result of the cases.

According to the CDC, the investigation of the case provides evidence of the benefit of physical distancing as a strategy to prevent the virus.

The situation also reinforces the recommendation that person should self-quarantine for 14 days after a known exposure or after travel when mandated by local authorities.

While the CDC didn't say where the gathering took place or which states the family members resided in, a footnote in the article cites the Rhode Island Department of Health, the Georgia Department of Health, the Cook County Department of Public Health and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Midwestern Coronavirus Positivity Rates Over the Past 2 Weeks

How States Compare on Where Coronavirus Is Most Easily Spread

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