Note: Press conferences from Gov. J.B. Pritzker or Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot will be streamed live in the video player above.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced newly-proposed guidelines for the state on mechanisms for local authorities to enforce a mandate requiring face coverings.

That announcement comes after Illinois reported its highest number of daily cases in recent weeks on Thursday.

Among those testing positive recently was Chicago Ald. Michael Scott Jr., who attended an event with Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Wednesday. The mayor’s office said Lightfoot has since tested negative for COVID-19.

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around Illinois today, August 7:

Pritzker: ‘This is a Make or Break Moment’ For Illinois as Coronavirus Cases Surge

As Illinois reported more than 2,000 coronavirus cases Friday – the highest daily case count in more than two months – Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a stern warning to residents, pleading for compliance to the state’s face mask requirement.

“This is a make or break moment for the state of Illinois for making sure that people are doing everything they can to mitigate, to reduce the spread,” an adamant Pritzker said.

13 Illinois Counties Now at ‘Warning Level’ for Coronavirus, Health Dept. Says

Thirteen counties in Illinois are now at a “warning level” for coronavirus, the state’s health department said Friday.

The warning means each of the counties saw increases in two or more COVID-19 “risk indicators,” the health department said.

The counties now under a warning include: Cass, Coles, Grundy, Iroquois, Jackson, Monroe, Perry, Saline, St. Clair, Tazewell, Union, Williamson, Winnebago.

Last week, 11 counties were at a “warning level,” five of which remained on the list Friday.

The counties each “saw cases or outbreaks associated with businesses, long-term care facilities, large social gatherings, and out of state travel,” according to IDPH.

“There have been several instances of multiple cases among family members in the same, large household,” the department said in a release. “Students returning to universities and colleges are also driving the recent increase in cases in several communities. Many students are not wearing face coverings or social distancing and are gathering in large groups and at bars.”

MLB Postpones Cardinals-Cubs Game After Another St. Louis Player Tests Positive

After postponing all three of the St. Louis Cardinals’ games against the Milwaukee Brewers last weekend and their four-game series against the Detroit Tigers, Major League Baseball has now added Friday’s Cubs-Cardinals game to list.

The league announced Friday afternoon that the game at Busch Stadium was being postponed “to allow for additional testing” after another Cardinals player tested positive for coronavirus.

No new time or day was given for when the game would be rescheduled.

Earlier this week, officials reported the Cardinals had returned 13 positive tests in their traveling party, seven of them players, forcing them to suspend their season.

They were finally cleared to travel back to St. Louis late Tuesday, when they returned negative tests for the second straight day. 

“You can’t take for granted even the freedom we have in a somewhat limited-freedom world when you’re in a hotel room for six straight days and you get outside,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said on a conference call. “It’s a nice feeling to feel that sun, and move around, and get a little sweat going and see the guys enjoying their workout.”

Illinois Reports More Than 2,000 New Coronavirus Cases as State Total Tops 190K

Health officials in Illinois reported more than 2,000 new cases of coronavirus Friday, the highest daily increase since late May and the first time the state has crossed the 2,000 mark in recent weeks.

According to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, the state saw 2,084 new cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases since the pandemic began to 190,508.

The number is the highest daily case increase since May 24, which saw more than 2,500 new cases in a single day. That date also reported significantly fewer test results, however.

Friday’s 21 additional fatalities bring the state’s death toll to 7,613, according to IDPH.

The number of coronavirus tests increased from a day earlier, with 46,869 test samples returned to state laboratories over the last 24 hours. That’s up from the 41,686 reported Thursday.

In all, 2,984,618 tests have been conducted during the pandemic.

The state’s seven-day positivity rate increased slightly to 4.1%. The last time the state went above 4 percent in that category was on June 11, according to data compiled by the NBC 5 Investigates team.

At least 1,486 coronavirus patients were in Illinois hospitals as of Wednesday evening. Of those patients, 333 have been admitted to intensive care units, while 125 are currently on ventilators.

The state’s recovery rate, defined as the percentage of
patients who aren’t reporting coronavirus symptoms six or more weeks after their
first positive test, still stands at 95 percent.

IDPH to File Emergency Rules on Masks for Businesses, Schools and Child Care

The Illinois Department of Public Health will file emergency rules Friday to give local health departments and law enforcement agencies “more leeway” in enforcing the state’s mask mandate and social gathering restrictions.

Under the rules, which still require approval, businesses, schools and child care facilities could face fines of up to $2,500 for refusing to comply.

“As I’ve visited with and listened to mayors and health departments all across our state, it’s clear there is still an even greater need to get people to wear masks – especially to protect frontline workers, whether they’re at the front of a store asking you to put on your mask or whether they’re responding to 911 calls to save those in distress,” Pritzker said in a statement. “These rules, which provide multiple opportunities for compliance before any penalty is issued, are a commonsense way to enforce public health guidelines. Illinois has made substantial progress in our fight against COVID-19 because the vast majority of communities and business owners have done the right thing. These rules will help ensure that the minority of people who refuse to act responsibly won’t take our state backward.”

Though the rules do not apply to individuals, Pritzker said they “provide flexibility for local communities.” The order still needs to be approved by the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, a bipartisan group which will meet next week.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Friday that the Illinois Department of Public Health will file emergency rules aimed at helping local health and police agencies enforce the state’s mask mandate and social gathering restrictions.

Under the proposed rules, the process for enforcing mask and social gathering restrictions will include:

  • First, businesses will be given a warning in the form of written notice and encouraged to voluntarily comply with public health guidance.  
  • Second, businesses that do not voluntarily comply will be given an order to have some or all of their patrons leave the premises as needed to comply with public health guidance and reduce risks.  
  • Third, if the business continues to refuse to comply, the business can receive a class A misdemeanor and be subject to a fine ranging from $75-$2,500. 

“We know that face coverings are key to helping prevent the spread of COVID-19, but it only works if everyone wears them,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement. “We are seeing cases increasing each day and hearing about people not complying with the masking mandate. This rule is an effort to help keep all of us healthy and decrease the risk of contracting COVID-19.”

Pritzker said while many businesses already enforce the mask mandate, some even putting employees outside to ensure customers coming in are wearing face coverings, “there are some businesses that aren’t doing that and they need to be reminded and reminded and then fined if they are not following this rule for the state of Illinois.”

Earlier this week, the governor indicated he had asked the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules to “consider a rule that would impose fines when people are not requiring masks to be worn.”

“They didn’t want to do that,” he said. “They wanted to consider legislation and then didn’t bring up that legislation. So we are certainly considering what rule we could put in place that JCAR would approve.”

Lake View YMCA Staffer Tests Positive for COVID-19

A staff member at the Lake View YMCA has tested positive for the coronavirus, the North Side center announced Thursday.

The employee last reported to work on Aug. 1, kept to one isolated room and did not interact with other staff, Executive Director Brandon Krozel wrote in an email to Lake View YMCA members.

“We are informing you of this development out of an abundance of caution and believe that the risk to you is low,” Krozel said. “We have already conducted an extensive deep cleaning of the center and the staff member who has contracted the coronavirus is currently self-isolated at home for 14 days per CDC recommendations.”

Anyone who may have had contact with the staff member has been notified, Krozel said, noting that everyone at the center, located at 3333 N. Marshfield Ave., has been wearing face masks.

Krozel said the YMCA has “intensified our regular facility cleanings with additional deep-cleaning and sanitizing of all areas,” in addition to implementing social distancing and face mask requirements.

“We believe that the risk of exposure is lessened by the numerous safety precautions that we always undertake at the Y,” Krozel said. “However, we must acknowledge that as with many things an element of risk is always present.”

Loyola University Suspends On-Campus Housing for Fall Semester

Loyola University Chicago will suspend on-campus housing for the upcoming fall semester due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to an announcement from the university.  

University officials distributed a letter on Thursday alerting students and staff of the decision to close on-campus housing for the fall semester, which begins Aug. 24.

School officials cite health conditions and concern over future uncertainty regarding the coronavirus for the decision to close doors.

Loyola University Chicago will suspend on-campus housing for the upcoming fall semester due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to an announcement from the university.  NBC 5’s Natalie Martinez reports

“With predictions of increased outbreaks in the coming months, and early reports of COVID-19 clusters at other higher education institutions, we simply cannot put our on-campus residential students in harm’s way and risk further disruption,” the statement reads.

In a previous statement, officials announced classes will resume in the fall to a primarily online mode of instruction and in-person classes will be limited to courses that require doing so, like research-based classes and labs.

How to Safely Open Colleges? Test Everyone and Test Often, Experts Say

A recent study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association concluded colleges would need to test students for coronavirus every two days in order to reopen safely.

But with the costs and number of tests needed for that level of broad, repeated testing, scientists are looking into a cheaper alternative: pool testing.

Instead of testing individual samples, in pooling, multiple samples are collected and tested together in groups. If the group tests negative, all people in that pool are presumed to be negative for the virus. If a group tests positive, all individuals are then re-tested.

“Pooling would give us the capacity to go from a half a million tests a day to potentially 5 million individuals tested,” said Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, in June.

According to Birx and other experts, pool testing would also be much more cost-effective and allow entities, such as colleges and certain businesses, to conduct surveillance screening – testing large swaths of the population and not just those with symptoms.

A recent study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association concluded colleges would need to test students for coronavirus every two days in order to reopen safely. NBC 5’s Katie Kim reports.

NBC 5 Investigates polled dozens of Illinois universities to find if they have plans to pool test. While many said their plans are still being developed, a few said they will expand surveillance testing.

UIUC, which has developed a saliva test that the university says will allow it to test up to 10,000 people a day, said it will require faculty and students who attend in-person activities to be tested twice a week. A university spokesperson said it is seeking FDA approval for the saliva test for broader use.

Gov. Pritzker also said his administration is in talks with UIUC to make the saliva test more widely available throughout Illinois.

Bradley University in Peoria plans to randomly select 300 people each week for surveillance testing. The Illinois Institute of Technology also said it will begin voluntary random testing every two weeks to determine the prevalence of the virus on campus.

Chicago Ald. Michael Scott Jr. Tests Positive for Coronavirus, Lightfoot Tests Negative

Chicago Ald. Michael Scott Jr., who represents the city’s 24th Ward, has tested positive for the coronavirus, the alderman said in a statement released Thursday evening.

Scott said he underwent coronavirus testing Friday at the “Bike the Boulevard” event, which was hosted by the 24th Ward and the city’s 10th and 11th police districts.

Scott said he received his positive results Thursday, and was at home and experiencing no symptoms. The alderman added he is following all necessary health protocols outlined by the Chicago Department of Public Health.

On Wednesday, Scott had attended a press conference alongside Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Lightfoot has since tested negative for the coronavirus, the mayor’s office stated.

“She will continue to follow the guidance of the Department of Public Health over the course of the standard 14-day incubation period,” a spokeswoman for the mayor said. “She will not be quarantining given that she was not in close proximity with the Alderman for an extended period of time, per CDPH and CDC guidelines on quarantining. All participants were wearing masks and practicing proper social distancing for the duration of yesterday’s press conference.”

Illinois Reports Nearly 2,000 New Coronavirus Cases Thursday

Health officials in Illinois reported more than 1,900 new cases of coronavirus Thursday, marking the highest daily total in recent weeks.

According to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, the state saw 1,953 new cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases since the pandemic began to 188,424.

The number is the highest daily case increase since May 24, which saw more than 2,500 new cases in a single day. That date also reported significantly fewer test results, however.

Thursday’s 21 additional fatalities bring the state’s death toll to 7,594, according to IDPH.

The number of coronavirus tests decreased slightly from a day earlier, with 41,686 test samples returned to state laboratories over the last 24 hours. In all, 2,937,749 tests have been conducted during the pandemic.

The state’s seven-day positivity rate increased slightly, returning to 4% for the second time this week. The last time the state went above 4 percent in that category was on June 11, according to data compiled by the NBC 5 Investigates team.

At least 1,517 coronavirus patients were in Illinois hospitals as of Wednesday evening. Of those patients, 346 have been admitted to intensive care units, while 132 are currently on ventilators.

The state’s recovery rate, defined as the percentage of
patients who aren’t reporting coronavirus symptoms six or more weeks after their
first positive test, still stands at 95 percent.

Chicago Lakefront Restaurants Allowed to Reopen as Beaches Remain Closed

Restaurants on Chicago’s lakefront are now able to open for business for the first time this summer during the pandemic, city officials said Wednesday, even as the city’s beaches must remain closed.

Lakefront concessions fell under Chicago’s order to close the lakefront during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, but will now be allowed to reopen under parameters that other restaurants currently have to follow due to the pandemic.

“Chicago Park District and City officials have engaged concessionaires during the past few months to determine when and how lakefront concessions can open safely given public health guidance,” the park district said in a statement.

Beachside restaurants along Lake Michigan are able to open for business for the first time this summer during the pandemic, according to health and city officials.

Restaurant vendors were notified this week that they could reopen even though beaches must remain closed. Vendors can open as early as this week provided they have the proper health and safety precautions in place, the city said.

“With the exception of the harbors, golf courses, and trail, the lakefront, including beaches, remain closed,” the park district’s statement reads. “Lakefront restaurants with patios can accommodate seated dining service; grab and go concessions will require patrons to make their purchase and keep it moving.”