The coronavirus chronicles

Message from city to stay home tonight unless there's an emergency

Photo courtesy of City of Springfield
Mayor Jim Langfelder signs an emergency declaration.

On Thursday, March 12 we started regularly reporting on how the new coronavirus is impacting our community. Each day, there has been more to report. Closures, executive and emergency orders, medical updates — the news is always changing. Check in for our daily updates.

For basic info and local resources, we have created a guide. The state also has set up a website with resources and information, here.


Tuesday, June 9

Another Sangamon County resident has died
, according to the Sangamon County Department of Public Health. The man, who was in his 80s, tested positive on May 11 and was hospitalized at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. His death brings the county’s death toll to 33. There have been 371 confirmed cases, and two county residents are hospitalized. Statewide, there have been 95 deaths and 797 new confirmed cases, bringing Illinois’ death toll to 6,018 and the number of confirmed cases to 129,212.

Saturday, June 6

Another person has died
, according to the Sangamon County Department of Public Health. The woman, a patient at Memorial Medical Center, was in her 70s and had tested positive for the virus on May 11, authorities said. Her death brings the death toll among Sangamon County residents to 32, according to the health department, which says that 365 county residents have tested positive and two are currently hospitalized. Statewide, the Illinois Department of Public Health reports 975 new confirmed cases and 72 deaths, bringing the death toll to 5,864 and the number of confirmed cases to 126,890.


Friday, June 5


The Sangamon County Department of Public Health
reported two new confirmed cases, bringing the number county residents who have tested positive to 365, including 31 deaths. Three county residents are hospitalized. Statewide, the Illinois Department of Public Health reports 1,156 new confirmed cases and 59 deaths, bringing the total number of cases to 125,915 and the death toll to 5,795.

Thursday, June 4

The Sangamon County Department of Public Health
announced four new cases, bringing the total number of county residents with confirmed cases to 363, including 31 deaths. The department says that 6,047 tests have been administered, with 94 percent of test yielding negative results. Three county residents are hospitalized. Statewide, the Illinois Department of Public Health announced 929 new cases and 116 deaths, bringing the total number of cases to 124,759 and the death toll to 5,736. The virus has been found in all but one of the state’s 102 counties.

Tuesday, June 2


From Sangamon County officials: "At the time of this press release, we are announcing two new positive cases. The total number of Sangamon County residents with confirmed cases is three hundred fifty-seven, including thirty-one deaths. One positive case that was first reported on May 20th will no longer be included in our totals, the case has been transferred to Dallas, Texas. Currently, four confirmed positive Sangamon County residents are hospitalized."

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced 1,614 new cases and 113 additional deaths. From a release: "IDPH is reporting a total of 122,848 cases, including 5,525 deaths, in 101 counties in Illinois. The age of cases ranges from younger than one to older than 100 years. Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported 16,431 specimens for a total of 934,704."

Monday, June 1

The Sangamon County Department of Public Health announced two new positive cases. The total number of confirmed cases is 356. Of those, 249 have reportedly recovered and 31 people have died. More info, here. The Illinois Department of Public Health announced 974 new cases, including 23 additional deaths. From a release: "IDPH is reporting a total of 121,234 cases, including 5,412 deaths, in 101 counties in Illinois. The age of cases ranges from younger than one to older than 100 years. Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported 20,014 specimens for a total of 918,273. The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total test from May 25–May 31 is 6%."

Sunday, May 31

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced 1,343 new cases of coronavirus disease, including 60 additional deaths. From a relase, "Currently, IDPH is reporting a total of 120,260 cases, including 5,390 deaths, in 101 counties in Illinois. The age of cases ranges from younger than one to older than 100 years. Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported 21,154 specimens for a total of 898,259. The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total test from May 24–May 30 is 7%." More state data, here. The Sangamon County Department of Public Health has stopped sending updates on Sundays, the latest county info regarding co


Saturday, May 30

Sangamon County public health officials announeced one new positive case. Six confirmed positive people are hospitalized in the area. County officials will begin to the skip announcements regarding new cases on Sundays, citing the area's move into Phase Three of the governor's re-opening plan. There have been 354 total confirmed cases in the county. Of those, 247 are reported to have recovered, and 31 people have died. The Illinois Department of Public Health announced 1,462 new cases and 61 additional deaths. From a release: "IDPH is reporting a total of 118,917 cases, including 5,330 deaths, in 101 counties in Illinois. The age of cases ranges from younger than one to older than 100 years. Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported 25,343 specimens for a total of 877,105. The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total test from May 23–May 29 is 7%."

Facial coverings will be required in court by anyone entering the Sangamon County Complex. The rule begins June 1. From a county release: "The Illinois Supreme Court Guidelines for Resuming Illinois Judicial Branch Operations During the COVID-19 Pandemic recommends that all practical measures should be taken within the courthouse and courtrooms to ensure a clean environment and prevent the spread of the virus. The masks or face coverings are mandated at the courthouse to protect the general public as well as employees who may be unable to practice social distancing measures while conducting courthouse business."

Friday, May 29

Another person in Sangamon County has died after testing positive for COVID-19. The woman was in her 80s. County officials also announced four newly confirmed cases. That brings the total number of cases confirmed in the county to 353, with 247 reportedly recovered and 31 deaths. More information about county numbers, here. The Illinois Department of Public Health announced 1,622 newly confirmed cases and 86 additional deaths. IDPH reports a total of 117,455 cases, including 5,270 deaths. More state info, here.

Businesses in Springfield are beginning to re-open as the governor's stay-at-home order lifts and most of the state moves into phase three of the "Restore Illinois" plan. In downtown Springfield, roadways will be adapted over the weekend to provide more outdoor seating space for restaurants as well as walkways. The Old Capitol Farmer's Market is open on Saturday from 8 am – 1 pm now through October. Customers must wear masks and are asked not to gather or socialize, instead they should treat the market as an outdoor grocery store.

You might be able to patronize a restuarant outdoors now, but no karaoke. Sangamon County Department of Public Health director, Gail O'Neill, said businesses should continue to promote masks and social distancing. She said medical experts have strongly advised against one activity in particular, karaoke. Public singing is bad she says "because you're going to work hard to come up with deep breaths and sing along and sing out, but that just projects the aerosolized potential virus." News of an outbreak after a choir rehearsal early on in the pandemic has served as caution.

Springfield high school grads will be honored on Fox Illinois programming on Saturday. They'll also be able to walk across a stage at high school football fields, with a limited audience, next week. For more information about schedules, click here.

State officials urge those in need to apply for federal health insurance during the current special enrollment period. Illinoisans who apply for unemployment insurance might need health insurance after losing coverage from their previous employer. “We’re committed to helping Illinoisans during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we want everyone to know about this option to purchase quality, affordable healthcare for themselves and their families,” said Illinois Department of Insurance director Robert Muriel in a release. Federal application info, here. The state also has a website to help Illinois residents enroll. 

Thursday, May 28

More than 1.3 million Illinois residents have filed for unemployment in the past three months, according to The Illinois Department of Employment Security. That's nearly 12 times more than usual during the period of March 1 through May 23. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program has reportedly processed 88,965 claims in its first two weeks. The program provides federally-funded benefits for those who are unemployed due to COVID-19, but not eligible for state assistance.

Sangamon County officials announced six new cases. Eight county residents with a confirmed case are currently hospitalized. That brings the number of confirmed positives to 349, with 238 reported to have recovered, and 30 deaths. More information from the Sangamon County Department of Public Health is available, here. The Illinois Department of Public Health announced 1,527 new cases and 104 additional deaths. From a release: "IDPH is reporting a total of 115,833 cases, including 5,186 deaths, in 100 counties in Illinois. The age of cases ranges from younger than one to older than 100 years. Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported 25,993 specimens for a total of 829,966. The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total test from May 21–May 27 is 8.3%" More info on state data, here.

Wednesday, May 27

Sangamon County officials announced one new COVID-19 related death and five newly confirmed positive cases. For more about the latest county numbers, click here.

More than 5,000 people in the state have now died after being infected with the virus. Illinois Department of Public Health announced 1,111 new cases, and 160 additional deaths. From a release: "IDPH is reporting a total of 114,306 cases, including 5,083 deaths, in 100 counties in Illinois. The age of cases ranges from younger than one to older than 100 years. Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported 17,179 specimens for a total of 803,973. The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity from May 20-26 is 8.6%." More state data here.

Tuesday, May 26

Sangamon County officials announced one new COVID-19 related death and two new confirmed cases. For more about the latest county numbers, click here. The Illinois Department of Public Health announced 1,178 new cases and 39 additional deaths. From a release: "IDPH is reporting a total of 113,195 cases, including 4,923 deaths, in 100 counties in Illinois. The age of cases ranges from younger than one to older than 100 years. Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported 17,230 specimens for a total of 786,794." More state data, here.

Memorial Health System announced plans to expand telehealth services. According to a release, "Two-way, real-time video visits, which bgean on a limited basis in April, are available for patients of Memorial Physician Services, Decatur Memorial Hospital Medical Group, Memorial Weight Loss & Wellness Center and other Memorial outpatient programs, including home hospice." Patients can schedule telehealth visits by calling their primary health providers. The visits are a way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and make appointments more accessible. They come with the same co-pays and associated costs of traditional appointments and are performed via web-cams on home computers or apps on smartphones.

Monday, May 25

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced 1,713 new cases and 31 additional deaths statewide. From a release: "Currently, IDPH is reporting a total of 112,017 cases, including 4,884 deaths, in 100 counties in Illinois. The age of cases ranges from younger than one to older than 100 years. Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported 21,643 specimens for a total of 769,564. The statewide 7-day rolling positivity rate, May 16 – May 22 is 12%." Sangamon County officials did not release numbers updating test result information.

Sunday, May 24

Sangamon County officials announced one newly confirmed case. In all, 336 tests have been positive and 28 people have died. County updates including regular updates about test results, here. State public health officials announced 2,508 new cases and 67 additional deaths. From an Illinois Department of Public Health news release: "IDPH is reporting a total of 110,304 cases, including 4,856 deaths, in 100 counties in Illinois. The age of cases ranges from younger than one to older than 100 years.  Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported 25,674 specimens for a total of 747,921.  The statewide 7-day rolling positivity rate, May15th – May 21st is 12%." More state data, here.

State lawmakers passed a new state budget. Legislators had begun to meet in Springfield on Wednesday to address COVID-19 related measures. Session wrapped up in the early morning hours. For legislative updates, click here.

Saturday, May 23

One new confirmed case was announced today by officials in Sangamon County. That's the eleventh day in a row that the daily number of new confirmed cases stayed in the single digits. In all, 5,022 have reportedly been tested in the county. 335 have tested positive in total, and 188 are reported recovered. There have been 28 deaths, mostly people in their 60s or older from The Villas East nursing home in Sherman. Illinois Department of Public Health announced 2,352 new cases and 75 additional deaths statewide today. According to a relase: "IDPH is reporting a total of 107,796 cases, including 4,790 deaths, in 100 counties in Illinois. The age of cases ranges from younger than one to older than 100 years. Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported 25,114 specimens for a total of 722,247. The statewide 7-day rolling positivity rate, May 14th – May 20th is 13%." More state data is here.

A major voting access expansion bill for the 2020 general election passed through the legislature on Friday and is headed to Gov. JB Pritzker who's expected to sign it. From Captiol News Illinois: "The bill, which Pritzker has said he supports, expands mail-in voting for the Nov. 3 general election in anticipation of social distancing and other restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic that will make in-person voting more challenging. The bill requires Illinois’ local election offices, by Aug. 1, to mail or email vote-by-mail ballot applications to any voter who cast a ballot in 2018, 2019 or 2020, as well as voters who registered or changed addresses after the March primary. Bill proponents estimate 4.8 million people will receive applications. The bill also states that by Sept. 15, the secretary of state must send a notice to people who received an application but have not yet returned it."

Many childcare facilities are set to reopen within coming weeks, some as soon as May 29 if the state goes into a new phase of its re-opening plan as anticipated. “Many parents have reached out expressing how overwhelmed they are as they try to balance work from home, e-learning and other new roles that they have taken on,” State Sen. Suzy Glowiak Hilton (D-Western Springs) said in a release. “Childcare centers will soon reopen and help lift a weight off their shoulders.” Phases Three and Four of the governor’s "Restore Illinois" stategy allow the centers to reopen if they adhere to public health guidlines, including a reduced capacity, symptom checks and setting up an emergency plan in case a child or worker tests positive for COVID-19.

Friday, May 22

As session continues, Gov. JB Pritzker said he wants help from the General Assembly to enforcing the stay-at-home order
. From Capitol News Illinois: "Pritzker’s administration withdrew an emergency rule this month that would have allowed for the filing of Class A misdemeanor charges against those who disregard his stay-at-home order amid opposition from lawmakers in a key committee. He said Friday he would be disappointed if lawmakers did not approve a measure to allow for lesser fines without misdemeanor charges if a business ignores his order."

Sangamon county officials announced two new positive cases, bringing the total to 4,967 tests, 334 confirmed positives, 186 reported recoveries and 28 deaths. Statewide, health officials announced 2,758 new cases, including 110 additional deaths. More state data, here.

Thursday, May 21

In Sangamon county, officals announced three new positive cases, bringing the total number of confirmed positives to 332. 4,907 tests had reportedly been given. Out of the 332 positives, 166 residents reoprted they have recovered. 28 had died, most had been residents at a nursing home in Sherman. Across the state, Illinois Department of Public Health officials announced 2,268 new cases of coronavirus, including 87 new deaths. More state data, here.

The Illinois State Dental Society is bringing attention to a shortage of PPE as dental offices begin to reopen. Many dentists had donated their protective equipment to others in health care since dental offices were closed for several weeks for all but urgent care. Now, as they reopen, they say they need more gear in order to to function safely.

Wednesday, May 20

Sangamon county officials announced six new positive cases, bringing the total to 329 confirmed positives, including 28 deaths. Throughout the state, 2,388 new cases were announced, including 147 additional deaths. According to a release from the Illinois Department of Public Health: "Currently, IDPH is reporting a total of 100,418 cases, including 4,525 deaths, in 100 counties in Illinois. The age of cases ranges from younger than one to older than 100 years. Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported 21,029 specimens for a total of 642,713. The statewide 7-day rolling positivity rate, May 11-17, 2020 is 14%."

No jail for you! Illinois State Police officials have sent out via Twitter notification that scofflaws who ignore the governor’s stay at home order by exceeding gathering requirements or opening businesses that are supposed to be closed won’t be subject to criminal penalties. The focus, ISP says, will be on education and voluntary compliance. “As part of that effort, the ISP will act incrementally to urge compliance with the executive order,” the agency said. “Consistent with this community spirit and with state law, policy guidance and discretion, the Illinois State Police will not issue any criminal misdemeanors to individuals for violations of temporary emergency rules or executive orders.” Emergency rules will be applied only to businesses “consistent with state and constitutional law,” state police officials wrote: “No individual will be arrested or taken to jail for a violation of the executive orders or emergency rules.” The announcement came as the General Assembly prepared to meet in Springfield today, with legislators expected to consider what rules should be passed to enforce stay at home edicts and protestors making plans to gather. A growing number of downstate elected officials say they will not enforce Gov. JB Pritzker’s stay at home orders, with some critics saying they doubt such decrees are constitutional.

Free masks are being offered in Springfield today.
Per a Faith Coaltion for the Common Good press release: "The Wood River Baptist District Association Region 2 will be giving away free safety masks and 2020 census educational and promotional materials tomorrow,  Wednesday, May 20th at  1 p.m. at Holy City Baptist Church, 1601 E Carpenter St. in Springfield Illinois.  The public is invited.  Over 6000 masks will be available."

Tuesday, May 19

Masked hamsters: Researchers say experiments featuring hamsters show that masks help impede the virus' spread. The transmission rate dropped by more than 60 percent when surgical-mask material was placed between the cages of healthy hamsters and ones that had been injected with the virus.

Bring a mask and wear it: That’s the message House Speaker Michael Madigan sent today in preparation for Wednesday’s legislative session at the Bank of Springfield Center, where the House is scheduled to convene; the Senate will meet at the Capitol. At least one House member, Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, has said that he plans to go mask-less, but in a written statement issued today, Madigan said that the first order of business on Wednesday will be passing rules requiring masks while in the building as well as requiring that temperatures be checked at the door and requiring that social distancing protocols be observed. “After the motion passes, any member in violation of the rule change will face discipline, including potentially being removed from the chamber by a vote of the House,” Madigan said in the written statement. “I look forward to focusing on the critical work needed to ensure our state can continue to respond to the COVID-19 health crisis and provide relief to people struggling around the state and not on needless distractions.”

Another resident of a Sherman senior home has died
, the Sangamon County Department of Public Health has announced. The resident of The Villas Senior Care Community was in her 80s and had tested positive on April 28. Her death brings the death toll among residents of the home to 23, with 108 positive tests among residents and employees. Sixty-two residents have tested positive and 46 employees have tested positive, and one resident is hospitalized. County health officials say five more county residents have tested positive, bringing the number of confirmed cases to 323. Twenty-eight people have died and nine county residents are hospitalized. Statewide, the Illinois Department of Public Health reports 1,545 new confirmed cases and another 146 deaths, bringing the death toll to 4,379 and the number of confirmed cases to 98,030.

Monday, May 18

One new case
has been confirmed in Sangamon County, the Sangamon County Department of Public Health has announced, bringing the confirmed caseload among county residents to 319, including 27 deaths. Statewide, the Illinois Department of Public Health confirms 2,294 new cases and 59 more deaths, bringing the total caseload to 96,485 and the death toll to 4,234.

Sunday, May 17


Another resident of The Villas Senior Care Community has died, the Sangamon County Department of Public Health has announced. The woman was in her 80s and tested positive on April 26. Her death brings The Villas death toll to 22 and the county resident death toll to 27, with 108 confirmed cases at the Sherman senior home, including 62 residents and 46 employees. No residents or employees of The Villas are currently hospitalized. Six new cases have been confirmed in the county, with eight county residents currently hospitalized. So far, the county health department says, 327 county residents have tested positive, with 8% of the 4,227 tests given so far resulting in confirmation of the virus. Statewide, the Illinois Department of Public Health reports 1,734 new cases and 51 deaths, bringing the death toll to 4,177 and the number of cases to 94,191. During the past week, 15% of tests given have confirmed the virus’ presence.

Saturday, May 16

The Sangamon County Department of Public Health
says that six new cases have been confirmed, bringing the total to 314 since March. Eight county residents are hospitalized. Twenty-six county residents, including 21 residents of The Villas Senior Care Community in Sherman, have died. A Villas employee, a woman in her 50s, has tested positive during the past 24 hours, but no residents or employees are hospitalized, the health department reports. The health department says 62 residents and 46 employees have tested positive. Statewide, 2,088 new cases have been confirmed, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health, and 74 more people have died, bringing the statewide death toll to 4,129 and the number of confirmed cases to 92,457. Fifteen percent of tests have produced positive results during the past seven days, according to state health department.

Friday, May 15


Another person has died in Sangamon County, according to the Sangamon County Department of Public Health. The deceased woman, who was in her 60s, had tested positive on April 28 and was hospitalized at Memorial Medical Center. Eight people have tested positive during the past 24 hours, bringing the number of positive tests since March to 308. The death toll stands at 26. Statewide, 2,432 people have tested positive during the past 24 hours, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health, and 130 people have died. The statewide death toll stands at 4,058, and 90,369 people have tested positive. During the past week, 16% of people tested have tested positive.

Thursday, May 14

Eight new cases
have been confirmed in Sangamon County, according to the Sangamon County Department of Public Health, bringing the total to 300, with 25 deaths. Seven county residents are hospitalized. There is some good news: No new cases have been confirmed among residents or employees at The Villas Senior Care Community, which has been hit hard, with 21 deaths and 107 confirmed cases, including 62 residents and 45 employees. No residents or employees are hospitalized. Statewide, the Illinois Department of Public Health reports 3,239 new cases and 138 deaths, bringing the total to 87,397 cases with 3,928 deaths. Cases have been confirmed in all but three of the state’s 102 counties.

Wednesday, May 13

Sangamon County officials announced seven newly confirmed cases,
bringing the total to 292, with 114 confirmed recoveries and 25 deaths. The Villas East nursing home in Sherman reported a newly confirmed case of a male resident in his 60s, bringing the total to 62 confirmed positives for residents there and 45 staff. 21 Villas residents have died after becoming infected.

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced its highest number yet of COVID-19 related deaths in a 24-hour period: 192. From a release:
Currently, IDPH is reporting a total of 84,698 cases, including 3,792 deaths, in 99 counties in Illinois. The age of cases ranges from younger than one to older than 100 years.  Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported 17,668 specimens for a total of 489,359.  The statewide 7-day rolling positivity rate is 17%. More about the latest numbers statewide and the demographics behind them, here.

State legislators are due back in Springfield next week for a special session announced today. They are slated to consider a relief package addressing the economic downturn resulting from the pandemic. Both the House and Senate are slated to convene starting Wednesday, May 20. Other subjects on the docket include the election and state budget. For the House, session will be held at the Bank of Springfield Center to better allow social distancing. The Senate will meet at the Capitol.

Tuesday, May 12

Sangamon County officials announced 11 new cases. Two new positive cases at The Villas East in Sherman were also announced; a staff member and resident. For The Villas, the total number of confirmed positives include 61 residents and 45 staff members, for a total of 106, including 21 deaths. No one related to The Villas is hospitalized as of Tuesday afternoon. Throughout Sangamon County, 3,438 people are reported to have been tested for COVID-19, with 286 positive results. Of those, 76 are reported to have recovered, while 25 have died, the majority of whom were Villas residents. Statewide, health officials announced 4,014 new cases, including 144 additional deaths — bringing the totals to 83,021 confirmed cases and 3,601 deaths. More state data, here.

Monday, May 11

Sangamon County officials announced five new positive cases, bringing the total to 275, and 25 deaths. The majority of those deaths have been from The Villas East nursing home in Sherman. One new death of a Villas resident was announced today. The total number of confirmed positives from The Villas include 60 residents and 44 staff, for a total of 104 cases and 21 deaths. The Illinois Department of Public Health announced 1,266 new cases and 54 additional deaths. "Currently, IDPH is reporting a total of 79,007 cases, including 3,459 deaths, in 98 counties in Illinois," according to a release. Gov. JB Pritzker said the latest projections show that Illinois won't peak until mid-June, a month later than previously anticipated. 

Sunday, May 10

No deaths from the virus
have been reported in Sangamon County during the past 24 hours, according to the Sangamon County Department of Public health, which says there have been three new cases confirmed, bringing the total number of cases to 270, with a death toll of eight. Statewide, the Illinois Department of Public health announced 1,656 new cases and 57 deaths within the past 24 hours, bringing the statewide total to 77,741 cases and 3,406 deaths.

Saturday, May 9

The death toll has reached 20 among residents and staff at Villas Senior Care Community in Sherman, with one new death reported by the Sangamon County Department of Public Health during the past 24 hours. The woman who died was in her 90s and had been hospitalized at HSHS St. John’s Hospital. She tested positive for the virus on April 23. One resident who tested positive is hospitalized at Memorial Medical Center and another resident is at St. John’s Hospital. Sixty residents and 44 employees have tested positive. Countywide, eight people have tested positive during the past 24 hours and eight Sangamon County residents are hospitalized, according to the county health department. Twenty-four county residents have died from the virus since March, and 267 have tested positive. Statewide, the Illinois Department of Public Health reports 2,325 new confirmed cases within the past 24 hours, bringing the statewide total to 76,085. There have been 111 deaths during the past 24 hours across the state, bringing the total death toll to 3,349. The virus has been confirmed in 98 of the state’s 102 counties.

Friday, May 8

Sangamon County officials announced 11 new confirmed cases and four new deaths. All four people who died had been residents at a nursing home, The Villas East in Sherman. Three residents are hospitalized. Three additional residents have tested positive. There have been 104 positive cases and 19 deaths from The Villas. Throughout the county, there has been 259 confirmed positive cases. Of those, 64 patients have reported recovery and 23 have died. The Illinois Department of Public Health announced 2,887 new cases statewide, and 130 additional deaths. Per a release: "Currently, IDPH is reporting a total of 73,760 cases, including 3,241 deaths, in 98 counties in Illinois."

Thursday, May 7

Four more residents of The Villas Senior Care Community in Sherman have died, and two more residents have tested positive according to Sangamon County officials. Five Villas residents are hospitalized. Out of 80 residents and 115 staff at The Villas East, a longterm care area of the senior center, there have been 101 confirmed positive cases: 44 staff and 57 residents. 15 residents have died. Officials announced five additional new confirmed cases county-wide, for a total of 248, including 19 deaths. The Illinois Department of Public Health announced 2,641 new cases throughout the state, and 138 additional deaths. According to a release, "Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have processed 17,783 specimens for a total of 379,043." In Illinois there have been 70,873 confirmed positive cases and 3,111 deaths.

Memorial Health System announced that on May 11 it will begin to resume surgeries and other procedures and appointments that had been postponed as a result of COVID-19. All patients will be required to wear masks and those getting surgery must test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of surgery. The tests and further guidance will be coordinated by Memorial Health System. Per state guidelines, patients are only allowed one support person who can not wait in the hospital but will be given guidance on post-procedure care when picking the patient up. According to a release, "In addition to in-person visits, Memorial providers will use telephonic, telehealth and virtual technology to enhace the availability and safety of care for patients who are appropriate. Drive-up laboratory testing also will be offered at several locations and hospitals." HSHS St. John's made a similar announcement, stating it will also resume surgeries and other procedures May 11 with stipulations, and also noted visitor restrictions still apply. More info is at st-johns.org.

Springfield officials are seeking public comment regarding the allocation of federal funding to address COVID-19.
Per a City of Springfield press release: The public comment period is now open for residents to review and provide their thoughts and feedback to the amendment regarding the allocation of $799,000 of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds for Springfield COVID-19 relief.
To review the information, visit springfield.il.us/publiccomments.aspx. Residents may submit their comments through the website; via email to feedback@springfield.il.us; or through U.S. mail to the Office of Planning & Economic Development, 800 E. Monroe, 1st Floor, Springfield, IL 62701. In addition, two virtual public hearings will take place. One will be hosted this evening, Thursday, May 7, at 5:00 p.m. Individuals may register at this link in order to make their comments live during the meeting. Tonight’s hearing will be broadcast live on Comcast Cable Channel 18 and streamed on the City’s website. Due to COVID-19, the council chambers is closed to the public. The next virtual hearing will take place on Thursday, May 14 at 5:00 p.m. To register to speak at this meeting, please email feedback@springfield.il.us or call the Office of Planning & Economic Development at 217.789.2377 by 4:00 p.m. on May 14th.

Wednesday, May 6

Sangamon County will send property tax bills by the week of May 11, one week later than last year. Due dates are also a week behind, with the first installment due on June 12 and the second on September 11. The Sangamon County Board decided to waive late fees on the first installment, if paid on or before September 11, 2020. That's the board's way of addressing the pandemic and its economic implications. Sangamon County Treasurer Joe Aiello said those who can pay are encouraged to as soon as they can. As for waiving the late fee, "We thought 90 days was appropriate, because we saw what the state and federal government did, they allowed you to file your income taxes 90 days later than normal. We kind of followed that standard. If things continue this way, it's up to the county board to decide if they want to extend that. But at this point, I don't see them doing that." In-person payments will not be accepted, as the treasurer’s office is closed to the general public. Tax-payers can use an e-check service or mail payments to: Sangamon County Treasurer, PO Box 19400, Springfield, IL 62794-9400. Payments can also be made at any INB drive thru facility in Sangamon County. Credit and debit payments can be made here, and are subject to convenience fees.

Sangamon County officials and area hospitals announced 13 new cases, bringing the area total to 241. Of those, 54 people have reportedly recovered, and 15 have died. Four new cases were announced at the The Villas Senior Care Community in Sherman, where a longterm care section referred to as The Villas East has suffered an outbreak. The cases announced today are all staff members. The total of confirmed cases there include 55 residents and 44 staff. 11 residents have died. Statewide, 2,270 new cases were announced, including 136 deaths. That's 68, 232 cases in total and 2,974 deaths. 

Gov. Pritzker said it is "highly unlikely" that the 2020 Illinois State Fair in Springfield would happen. Earlier in the day, Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder said he wasn't sure if the fair would perhaps be allowed to proceed in a pared down way. Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau director Scott Dahl said during a livestream on the mayor's Facebook page, "I believe the department of agriculture of the state is still assessing the State Fair. But the State Fair is very important to the Springfield economy." Pritzker said of both the Springfield and DuQuoin fairs this summer, "Many people would be packed together in buildings or even on pathways. So I do not believe that we’ll be able to open.”

Tuesday, May 5

The governor announced a statewide strategy to lessen restrictions based on phases and regions. It's "an initial framework" for reopening that is subject to change, and the state remains under a stay-at-home order at this time. "We have to figure out how to live with COVID-19 until it can be vanquished – and to do so in a way that best supports our residents’ health and our healthcare systems, and saves the most lives," said Gov. JB Pritzker in a release. Sangamon County spokesperson Jeff Wilhite said, “Direction has now been given, and it is being reviewed. The plan released by the state places Sangamon County in the Central Illinois Region, an area in which more than 30 counties together must meet specific requirements to move to the next phase of recovery,” in a release. He said the aim is for a countywide approach implementing the input of health, government and emergency officials as well as business representatives.


Sangamon County announced eight newly confirmed cases, and the death of a resident of The Villas Senior Care Community in Sherman, a female in her 70s. Nine Villas residents are hospitalized. The total number of confirmed positives from The Villas include 55 residents and 40 staff members, for a total of 95 cases, including 11 deaths. Throughout the county, 228 residents have tested positive, 51 are confirmed to have recovered and 15 have died. The Illinois Department of Public Health announced 2,122 new cases including 176 additional deaths, bringing the total to 65,962 confirmed cases and 2,838 deaths. 


Monday, May 4

Sangamon County officials announced 14 new positive cases, bringing the total to 220 and 14 deaths. Residents of The Villas in Sherman account for ten of those deaths. One new death at the senior care community was announced today. There are 12 sickened residents who are currently hospitalized. The total number of confirmed positives from the The Villas include 54 residents and 40 staff members, for a total of 95 cases.


The Illinois Department of Public Health announced 2,341 new cases, including 46 additional deaths. That brings the total to 63,840 confirmed cases and 2,662 deaths. Gov. JB Pritzker addressed guidelines for the next month or so. His extended stay-at-home order requires residents to wear masks when in public places where a distance of six feet can not be maintained. He said people should continue to only gather within their own family unit, that is, not visit with other family and friends. He said he would begin to release plans about the phases of re-opening the state before the end of the month.


Sunday, May 3

Five new cases
have been confirmed in Sangamon County during the past 24 hours, according to the county public health department and private health care providers, bringing the total to 206. One person, a resident of Villas Senior Care Community, which has suffered the worst breakout, has died, bringing the county’s death toll to 13. Ten patients, including six county residents, who have tested positive are at Memorial Medical Center. Fourteen patients who have tested positive, including 10 county residents, are at HSHS St. John’s Hospital, where test results are pending on one patient. The new confirmed cases include two employees at Villas Senior Care Community in Sherman where nine people have died and 95 people have tested positive since the pandemic hit. The Villas cases include 55 residents and 40 employees. Statewide, the Illinois Department of Public Health reports 2,994 new confirmed cases within the past 24 hours, bringing the statewide total to 61,499. There have been 63 deaths during the past 24 hours across the state, bringing the total death toll to 2,618.

Saturday, May 2

Eleven new cases
have been confirmed in Sangamon County during the past 24 hours, according to the county public health department and private health care providers, bringing the total to 202 cases with 12 deaths. Eleven patients, including seven county residents, who have tested positive are at Memorial Medical Center, where test results are pending on five patients. Fourteen patients who have tested positive, including nine county residents, are at HSHS St. John’s Hospital, where test results are pending on two patients. The new confirmed cases include one resident at Villas Senior Care Community in Sherman where eight people have died and 93 people have tested positive since the pandemic hit. The Villas cases include 55 residents and 38 employees. Statewide, the Illinois Department of Public Health reports 2,450 new confirmed cases within the past 24 hours, bringing the statewide total to 58,505. There have been 105 deaths during the past 24 hours across the state, bringing the total death toll to 2,559.

Friday, May 1

Eleven new cases have been confirmed in Sangamon County during the past 24 hours, according to the county public health department and private health care providers, bringing the total to 191 cases with 12 deaths. Eleven patients, including seven county residents, who have tested positive are at Memorial Medical Center, where test results are pending on four patients. Fourteen patients who have tested positive, including nine county residents, are at HSHS St. John’s Hospital, where test results are pending on three patients. The new confirmed cases include one resident at Villas Senior Care Community in Sherman and one staff member at the facility where eight people have died and 92 people have tested positive since the pandemic hit. The Villas cases include 54 residents and 38 employees. Statewide, the Illinois Department of Public Health reports 3,137 new confirmed cases within the past 24 hours, bringing the statewide total to 56,055. There have been 105 deaths during the past 24 hours across the state, bringing the total death toll to 2,457. More information about the current numbers and demographics is here.

click to enlarge A group calling itself "Re-open Illinois" organized an unpermitted rally held outside the Statehouse. - PETER HANCOCK, CAPITOL NEWS ILLINOIS
Peter Hancock, Capitol News Illinois
A group calling itself "Re-open Illinois" organized an unpermitted rally held outside the Statehouse.

An estimated 500 people rallied outside the Springfield Capitol today to protest measures meant to stem the spread of the new coronavirus. No arrests were made. Among the signs some read, "Heil, Pritzker” and “Grandmas for Freedom.” Mandates from the governor to not congregate in large groups and to wear face masks in public where social distancing is not possible were clearly not being adhered to. Springfield Police Chief Kenny Winslow said the proceedings were peaceful and protestors were within their rights. When asked about the ralliers largely not wearing masks, he said: “There is no criminal penalty for not wearing a mask. I've said that 100 times. With that said, obviously you do your best to encourage people to wear them. I know when our people reached out to the organizers, we asked them to enforce the importance of wearing a mask and social distancing. Again, you only have to wear a mask outside when you can't maintain that six-feet social distance, so you don't have to have a mask on outside.” Winslow said that city police coordinated with Capitol Police, which are responsible for the Capitol grounds. Dave Druker is a spokesperson for the Secretary of State, which oversees the Capitol Police. He said police were on the scene, but could not say how many. “There were no arrests. So we view that as a very positive thing. It was a well-behaved group,” said Druker. With the Statehouse closed for now, Druker said no permits are being given for rallies. Gov. JB Pritzker said at his daily press briefing that restrictions would not be lifted until it was deemed safe to do so by experts, "It isn’t going to be because some protester has a sign that says liberate Illinois."


Memorial Health System announced it is offering iPads and iPhones to help patients connect with loved ones who aren't allowed to visit at this time. According to a release, Memorial made more than 100 iPads and iPhones available to patients at its central Illinois hospitals including in Springfield. Tiffany Otten, system director for patient experience, said in the release that hospital staff are helping patients connect with families through the new iPads when they stop by patients’ rooms so that relatives can be involved in the care of family members. “For relatives not to be there to advocate is so hard,” she said. “This is connecting them to the care team again, and that is a huge difference and a comfort for the family.” Some patients have also been given iPads and iPhones of their own to connect and initiate calls with family.


Thursday, April 30

One new case
has been confirmed at the Villas Senior Care Community in Sherman, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 90, including 54 residents and 36 employees. 26, including 18 residents and eight staff members. The new confirmed case is an employee who is in her 20s. Eight people have died. Nine residents are at HSHS St. John’s Hospital and five residents are at Memorial Medical Center. Throughout Sangamon County, nine new cases have been confirmed during the past 24 hours, according to public health authorities and private health care providers. The countywide death toll stands at 12, with 180 people testing positive. e who is at least 100 years old. Eight residents are hospitalized at HSHS St. John’s Hospital and six residents are at Memorial Medical Center. All told 14 new cases were confirmed during the past 24 hours in Sangamon County, according to local health authorities, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 87, with six deaths. Ten patients, including six county residents, who have tested positive are at Memorial Medical Center, where test results are pending on two patients. HSHS St. John's Hospital has 16 patients who have tested positive, including nine county residents. St. John’s has two patients with test results pending. Statewide, 2,563 cases have been confirmed during the past 24 hours, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health, and 141 people have died. The statewide death toll stands at 2,355, with 52,918 cases confirmed.

Wednesday, April 29

The Sangamon County Department of Public Health announced two more deaths, both were women in their 80s and residents at The Villas nursing home in Sherman. The county also announced eight newly confirmed cases from there. Of 80 Villas residents, 54 have tested positive, 15 negative and 11 are awaiting test results. Of The Villas' staff, 35 have tested positive, 43 negative and 30 are awaiting test results. Sangamon County officials announced 19 newly confirmed cases overall, bringing the total to 172.

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced 2,253 new cases throughout the state, including 92 additional deaths. There are now more than 50,000 confirmed cases in the state and 2,215 deaths in total. Further breakdown of state numbers is here


Gov. JB Pritzker announced IDPH nurses will be sent to nursing homes throughout the state to conduct testing, train existing staff on how to test and to review hygiene and sanitization practices. He also announced, “IDPH and our Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation have simplified the hiring process for long term care facilities at this time, so that they can bring on temporary nursing assistants to ensure that they have the healthy staff they need to care for all of their residents.” In regards to testing, “At facilities with known cases, we are ensuring that all employees can be tested for free,” he said, noting the policy to test all staff at facilities with a known case began ten days ago. “To expand this effort, IDPH has secured a special contract with Quest Diagnostics to run 3,000 tests per day from Illinois long term care facilities at no cost to the facilities,” said Pritzker. Test results are promised within two days.


Tuesday, April 28

Sangamon County is reporting 41 new confirmed cases of coronavirus, the most ever in a single day. Of those, 37 are affiliated with The Villas Senior Care Community in Sherman, according to a county spokesperson. There were 40 new confirmed cases announced Tuesday in total from the nursing home. 17 residents of the nursing home are current inpatients at Springfield hospitals. The cases announced Tuesday range from staff in their 20s to residents in their 90s, according to a release. The total number of confirmed positives related to The Villas includes 46 residents and 35 staff members, including five deaths. A week ago, Gail O’Neill, head of the Sangamon County Department of Public Health, told The State Journal-Register that the senior center had 81 residents and 115 staff. Jeff Wilhite, a spokesperson for Sangamon County, said of the nearly 200 people affiliated with the nursing home, 19 still need to be tested. The outbreak is the first of its kind in the area. The state’s public health department had prioritized testing for congregate settings, such as nursing homes. The state began releasing data it collects regarding infections at nursing homes earlier this month.

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced the highest number of deaths in one day, 144. The overall number of deaths is now 2,219. More details from the state about the numbers regarding infection are here. With the majority of deaths over the past day upstate, central Illinois accounts for 6%. "We mourn the loss of all the lives and we’re sorry for all those who have had to endure a battle in the hospital, but the majority of individuals do recover," said IDPH director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. 74% of respondents in a survey who had tested positive reported recovery after four weeks, she said.

A new testing site in Springfield has opened outside the county's public health building at 2833 South Grand Ave. Run by SIU Medicine, the site is open 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on weekdays. From an SIU release: Anyone with COVID-19-like illness or symptoms can be screened, without a doctor’s order. Symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and new loss of taste or smell. Certain essential workers such as those in health care and corrections who are not currently symptomatic can also be tested there. Other area testing sites include a Memorial Health System respiratory screening clinic at 2950 S. Sixth St. and a Walgreens drive-through site at 1155 N. Ninth St. A complete list of testing sites in Illinois is here.

Springfield Clinic is not operating COVID-19 testing but is expanding its capacity for routine services outside of its buildings. According to a spokesperson, the parking lot of a building at 1227 S. Seventh St. is being set up to provide routine labwork to patients who wish to avoid going into the health care provider's buildings. The option has been provided outside the clinic's buildings on Sixth and Fifth St. as well. "We have a safe environment for patients to come in and be able to come here," said Springfield Clinic's Zach Kerker. "But if that is a concern it allows you to come and get your routine labs from the convenience of your car." 

Gov. Pritzker again used part of his daily news briefing to condemn the efforts of a Republican lawmaker who challenged his stay-at-home order in court. Pritzker said throughout the state, the danger of contracting the disease has not passed. While he said he's concerned about the state's economy, saving lives must be the continued priority. “Responsible people understand the trade-offs and the consequences of opening too early,” he said. The governor said an appeal hearing is expected in the coming week to challenge the ruling of a Clay County judge who sided with the plaintiff. Meanwhile, an upstate Republican lawmaker has reportedly sought to file another lawsuit challenging the mandate for people to stay home. The governor said the moves seem partisan at a time “when frankly political parties shouldn’t matter at all.”


State Sen. Andy Manar, a Democrat from Bunker Hill whose district includes part of Sangamon County, joined other downstate lawmakers in requesting the state double its funding for local health departments. Manar's plan would increase the funding by $36 million in the state's next budget. The grants he wants would bolster funding to address infectious diseases. “This pandemic has demanded an unprecedented response beyond the operating capacities of most local health departments and the budgetary capacities of most county boards,” Manar said in a released statement. “It is critical that local health departments remain stable and are able to respond to the spread of COVID-19 when needed. This is key to reopening the economy.”


Monday, April 27

Sangamon County announced one new death, a woman in her 80s who tested positive three days ago. Five new positive cases were also announced. That makes 112 confirmed cases in the county in total and nine deaths. 36 people have reportedly recovered. The state announced 1,908 confirmed new cases and 50 additional deaths. That's a total of 45,883 confirmed cases in Illinois, and 1,983 deaths.

During a daily news conference, Gov. JB Pritzker addressed a lawsuit filed in Clay County where Republican State Rep. Darren Bailey of Xenia alleged the governor's extended stay-at-home order violated his rights to work and travel. The suit called into question how long the governor can declare an emergency declaration and subsequent executive orders. The plaintiff requested that the provisions not apply to him as an individual. The judge reportedly sided with the plaintiff today. It's unclear if the ruling could apply to other residents. Pritzker said the case would be appealed by the Illinois Attorney General, "I can see that people want to make this a political issue. From my perspective this is a matter of life and death." Illinois Senate President Don Harmon issued the following statement: “Today’s ruling doesn’t change the fact that nearly 2,000 Illinoisans have died from this disease in recent weeks and thousands more remain hospitalized, struggling to maintain their health. I would appeal to everyone’s common sense. A dangerous, highly infectious virus is loose in our communities. You have stayed inside and practiced social distancing because you know it’s the right thing to do. You’ve done it because you care about your family, friends and neighbors. Today’s ruling doesn’t change any of that. This virus isn’t paying attention to judicial orders. Please, be patient, recognize the dangers and keep following the advice of our medical professionals and public health experts.” House Speaker Michael Madigan issued a similar statement.

Sunday, April 26

Two more residents
of a Sherman nursing home have died during the past 24 hours, according to the Sangamon County Department of Public Health. The deaths bring the death toll to four at the Villas Senior Care Community, where 24 residents and 13 employees have tested positive. Both residents who died during the past 24 hours were men who were in their 80s, with one testing positive on Wednesday and the other on Friday. During the past 24 hours, five new cases have been confirmed, including three staff members between 40 and 80 years old, and two residents, both women. One is in her 80’s and the other in her 90’s. Sixteen residents who have tested positive are hospitalized outside the nursing home.

Saturday, April 25

Six new cases
have been confirmed at the Villas Senior Care Community in Sherman, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 32, including 21 residents and 11 staff members. Two people have died. Cases confirmed in the last 24 hours include three staff members and three residents. Nine residents are hospitalized at HSHS St. John’s Hospital and eight residents are at Memorial Medical Center.

Friday, April 24

Testing has surged statewide,
with 16,124 tests administered during the past 24 hours, the first time the state has reached a goal of 10,000 tests in one day. The Illinois Department of Public Health says 2,724 new cases have been confirmed while the death toll has climbed by 108, bringing the total to 1,795 deaths and 39,658 confirmed cases. Cases have been confirmed in 96 counties.

A dozen new cases
have been confirmed at the Villas Senior Care Community in Sherman, bringing the total number of confir
med cases to 26, including 18 residents and eight staff members. Two people have died. Cases confirmed in the last 24 hours include two staff members and 10 residents who range in age from people in their 70s to someone who is at least 100 years old. Eight residents are hospitalized at HSHS St. John’s Hospital and six residents are at Memorial Medical Center. All told 14 new cases were confirmed during the past 24 hours in Sangamon County, according to local health authorities, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 87, with six deaths. Nine patients, including five county residents, who have tested positive are at Memorial Medical Center, where test results are pending on two patients. HSHS St. John's Hospital has 14 patients who have tested positive, including eight county residents, and three patients with test results pending.

Thursday, April 23

Another COVID-19 related death has been announced in Sangamon County. The patient was a male in his 70s who had tested positive on Wednesday. That brings the total to six deaths in county-wide. The man was the second resident of The Villas Senior Care Community in Sherman to die, according to The State Journal-Register. Another resident, a man in his 90s, had died last week after hospitalization. The newspaper reported 100 tests were delivered at the complex on Thursday, where there are 81 residents and 115 staff.  Six new confirmed cases were also announced by the county, bringing the total of confirmed cases to 73. More here. Statewide, 1,826 new cases were announced, including 123 additional deaths. 96 out of the state's 102 counties have reported confirmed cases. Detailed data is here.

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker announced an extension of the stay-at-home mandate, with some changes. Many of the same rules will remain in place through the end of May, though some businesses such as greenhouses will be allowed to open. Other retailers are allowed to re-open so that staff can work on online orders and answering phones. State parks will reopen, as will golf courses. Those going out in public must wear masks. The state health department will also begin to allow some elective surgeries beginning next month. More details here.

Wednesday, April 22

Sangamon County public health officials report four new confirmed cases. That brings the total to 69 confirmed cases, with 31 recovered and five deaths. More details, here. Illinois public health officials reported 2,049 new cases and 98 additional deaths. A more detailed breakdown of the numbers is here.

click to enlarge Examples of "May Day" baskets. - SPRINGFIELD ART ASSOCIATION
Springfield Art Association
Examples of "May Day" baskets.

The Springfield Art Association is reviving an older tradition in response to the pandemic. In honor of May Day, SAA is bringing back the "May Basket." The celebration dates back to pagan times, handmade baskets were filled with flowers and treats and delivered anonymously to friends. SAA encourages residents to create baskets for their neighbors, especially the elderly "to build community and good will." The practice is supposed to be anonymous. Tips for production and samples can be found here.


Those with student debt who didn't find relief under the federal CARES Act might find some help through a state program. That's under a recently announced initiative of Gov. JB Pritzker and Deborah Hagan, Secretary of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. “At this unprecedented time of financial hardship, it was essential to find a way to provide relief to all student loan borrowers who are struggling financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Hagan in a statement. The expansion could benefit more than 138,000 Illinois residents with privately held student loans who are struggling to make payments because of the ongoing pandemic, according to a release. Relief options include waiving late payment fees and ensuring no borrower is subject to credit downgrades. The governor urged those struggling to make payments to contact their lenders about the program.


More than 70 patients who were tested for COVID-19 at Memorial Medical Center's respiratory screening clinic at 2950 S. Sixth Street in Springfield have been equipped with kits to self-monitor, according a hospital release. The devices help monitor blood-oxygen levels, heartbeat, temperature and lung function. “The kits give us some more insight to ensure that patients’ symptoms don’t worsen,” Kimberly Paskiewicz, Memorial Health System administrator of special services, said in the release. She also said some others patients received the at-home kits after being evaluated for symptoms in the emergency departments of hospitals operated by the health system in Springfield, Decatur, Jacksonville, Taylorville and Lincoln. The governor had announced the patient self-monitoring system on April 11.


Tuesday, April 21

Vibra and McCormick Place:
Fewer than a dozen patients have been treated at a field hospital set up at McCormick Place in Chicago, where 500 beds were set up last month, with a total of 3,000 beds planned, Dr. Ngozi Ezike told reporters at an afternoon press conference. Gov. JB Pritzker said much of the cost is being borne by the federal government, and he defended the decision to build the hospital. “The consequence of being underprepared would be the loss of life and the consequence of being over prepared would be that we built out more than we may have needed, and nobody can know exactly where we’ll end up until much later, after we’ve hit the peak and moved off it,” the governor said. Pritzker said that the state has spent no money on the former Vibra Hospital at 701 North Walnut Street since acquiring rights to the property more than two weeks ago. The governor said he doesn’t know how much the state has paid for rights to use the property.

Three new cases have been confirmed in Sangamon County, public health authorities say, with 66 total confirmed cases and five deaths. bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 59, including five fatalities. Nine patients, none county residents, who have tested positive are at Memorial Medical Center and HSHS St. John’s Hospital. Five patients with test results pending are at the two hospitals. Statewide, health officials say 1,551 new cases have been confirmed and 119 people have died within the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 1,468 and the number of confirmed cases to 33,059.

A Sherman senior living center has been hit, with four employees and three residents falling ill and one resident dying last Thursday. Local public health authorities have confirmed the outbreak at Villas Senior Care Community. Health officials say the first case came in March, when an employee fell ill. A state database set up to track deaths in long-term care facilities does not include any cases in Sangamon County.
click to enlarge A state database that's supposed to track deaths and confirmed cases in longterm care centers does not include any local cases, despite seven confirmed cases and one death in Sherman. - PHOTO BY BRUCE RUSHTON
Photo by Bruce Rushton
A state database that's supposed to track deaths and confirmed cases in longterm care centers does not include any local cases, despite seven confirmed cases and one death in Sherman.
It’s not clear why the state database, which is supposed to be current as of Saturday, three days before the death in Sherman, did not include any local cases as of Tuesday evening. Jeff Wilhite, a Sangamon County spokesman, said that the state gets test results shortly before they are received by the county, and the county promptly reported the cases in daily press releases – in the case of the Villas resident who died, the fatality was reported the same day as the death, he said.

Monday, April 20

The Sangamon County Department of Public Health announced four new cases in a release, bringing the total to 63 positive cases, including 31 recoveries and five deaths. The Illinois Department of Public Health announced 1,151 new cases and 59 additional deaths, bringing the total to 31,508, including 1,349 deaths in 95 of the state's 102 counties. More detailed state data is here.

Gov. JB Pritzker said the rate of growth for hospitalizations shows social distancing measures and the stay-at-home order are working. The majority of ICU beds in the state are empty, 60% as of Monday according to the state department of public health. The governor said that means so far the state has prevented "worst case scenarios."

The governor said he wants all residents and staff tested at nursing homes that have seen outbreaks. He said two facilities did tests with the help of the Illinois National Guard and the Illinois Department of Transportation over the weekend, and ten more facilities were set to receive widespread testing on Monday. He said the testing will allow isolation of cases "before widespread transmission." On Sunday, the state released data that showed the problem of clusters at nursing homes has spread throughout Illinois. "Fairhavens Senior Living in Decatur, in Macon County, had 31 cases and three deaths," a recent report from WBEZ in Chicago points out.

Sunday, April 19

One new case has been confirmed
in Sangamon County, public health authorities say, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 59, including five fatalities. Eight patients, none county residents, who have tested positive are at Memorial Medical Center and HSHS St. John’s Hospital. Eleven patients with test results pending are at the two hospitals. Statewide, health officials say 1,197 new cases have been confirmed and 33 people have died within the past 24 hour, bringing the death toll to 1,290 and the number of confirmed cases to 30,357.

Saturday, April 18


Both state and local numbers are up, according to public health authorities. In Sangamon County, two new cases have been confirmed during the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 58, with five people dying since the pandemic hit. Between HSHS St. John’s Hospital and Memorial Medical Center, seven patients, none Sangamon County residents, who have tested positive are hospitalized. The two hospitals together have 14 patients with test results pending. Statewide, 125 deaths were announced, the highest 24-hour total so far, with another 1,585 new cases confirmed. The statewide tally since the pandemic began stands at 29,160 confirmed cases and 1,259 deaths. The virus has been confirmed in 93 of the state’s 102 counties.

Friday, April 17

Illinois public, private and parochial schools will remain closed through the end of the school year, per an announcement from Gov. JB Pritzker. He said any grades for the remainder of the school year "should deliver feedback and not be used as a tool for compliance." Pritzker commended schools for continuing to provide meals and education for students, via paper packets, iPads and laptops, online learning and internet access. “I know that many have felt that this was inevitable. But trust me when I say this was not a decision that I made lightly,” he said.

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced the most new confirmed cases in a single day, 1,842, including 62 additional deaths. That brings the total to 27,575 and 1,134 deaths. More detailed data is here. Gov. Pritzker said this was the second-highest day for testing, as capabilities for testing expand throughout the state. The head of IDPH, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, said she did not believe the number of cases had yet "peaked."

The Sangamon County Department of Public Health announced the death of another person who had tested postive for COVID-19. The person was a male in his 70s who tested positive on April 14th and was a patient at Memorial Medical Center. Three new confirmed cases were also announced. More from local hospitals and the county health department on the latest numbers is here.

The Winter Farmers Market in Springfield scheduled for April will proceed, with many changes. Illinois farmers markets have been deemed essential business per the governor. Shoppers should consider it "much like a grocery store experience: one shopper per household, do not shop if you are sick, and maintain at least six feet between yourself and other people," according to a release sent on the behalf of the Old Capitol Farmers Market. Shoppers can also choose a new online pre-order option that includes curbside pick-up for the market scheduled on April 25th. More information is here.

Thursday, April 16

A fourth person in Sangamon County has died after being infected with the new coronavirus, according to a release sent on behalf of the county health department and area hospitals. The HSHS St. John's Hospital inpatient who died was a male in his 90s who tested positive for COVID-19 on April 16. Of the three previous deaths, the first was a 71-year-old woman and the county’s first confirmed case of COVID-19. She was visiting the Springfield area from her home in Florida when she became ill. The second infected person to die was a man in his 90s and the third was a female in her 70s. Memorial Medical Center has reported five confirmed positive patients who are hospitalized, including one Sangamon County resident, and 11 inpatients awaiting test results. HSHS St. John's Hospital reported three patients who are hospitalized and positive for coronavirus, none of whom are Sangamon County residents, and six inpatients awaiting test results.

The most deaths in a single day statewide were announced by the Illinois Department of Public Health. The 125 deaths bring the total count to 1,072. The number of confirmed positive cases is now at 25,733.

Illinois is one of seven states that say they will partner to re-open the Midwestern economy.
According to a release from the governors of the states, which also include Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana and Kentucky: “Phasing in sectors of our economy will be most effective when we work together as a region. This doesn’t mean our economy will reopen all at once, or that every state will take the same steps at the same time. But close coordination will ensure we get this right. Over time, people will go back to work, restaurants will reopen, and things will go back to normal. We look forward to working together as one region to tackle this challenge together.”

On Friday, April 17th Walgreens will begin operating a “drive-up” coronavirus testing site at a former Walgreens location, 1155 N. 9th Street, according to Sangamon County officials and Walgreens. Testing will be provided through a “self-administered nasal swab, at no-cost to the patient,” according to a release. Results are promised to take no more than two days on average. Testing is prioritized for those with symptoms who are also: healthcare workers or first responders, 65 or older, or have pre-existing conditions. Those who want an appointment are directed to go online to take an assessment for qualification before being given an appointment time. “An individual cannot and should not show up at the testing location prior to taking the online assessment or without an appointment,” according to a release.


Asthmatics may not be at risk to the degree previously thought, according to authorities in New York who say people with asthma have not been disproportionately represented in fatal cases.

"As of March 1, the Illinois Department of Employment Security has processed more than 650,000 initial unemployment claims, 12 times more than the number of claims over the corresponding time period last year, when it processed 53,000 initial unemployment claims. It is also five times greater than the amount processed during the first six weeks of the Great Recession. Statewide unemployment claims data, which reflects activity for the week prior, will be available on the IDES website every Thursday afternoon," according to a department release. Sectors facing the largest declines in employment are leisure and hospitality, professional and business services and financial activities, according to the department.


A new University of Illinois report considers “ways people in the state are burdened by the pandemic and the social distancing measures needed to slow the spread of the virus,” according to a release from the Institute of Government & Public Affairs. The reports authors are calling for a "Resilient Illinois Initiative" that would partner public and private entities and be funded by the state. “Research shows that during times of stress, rates of intimate partner violence, child abuse and family conflict increase. Family instability, including mental health concerns, substance abuse, prior trauma exposure and the loss of work that creates economic hardships, magnify these concerns,” the report said. “For the most vulnerable children, even if the risk for infection is very low, the risk for heightened anxiety, fear and depression can increase.” More from the report, including recommendations for families and proposals for policy are here.


Wednesday, April 15

Gov. JB Pritzker said the coronavirus has had a profound impact on the state's finances, some of which were outlined in a press release. In Illinois general revenue funds are being revised down by $2.7 billion in fiscal year 2020, and $4.6 billion in fiscal year 2021, which begins in July. All things considered, the overall deficit for the coming fiscal year could be $7.4 billion. Pritzker said the health crisis comes with a "massive economic disruption that's unprecedented in modern hisitory." The governor's Office of Management and Budget directed state agencies to put a hold on all non-essential purchases, including freezing travel, until July. The Comptroller and Treasurer have also extended borrowing agreements that were due to be repaid in and March and April until July. Borrowing to the tune of $1.2 billion is planned. The governor has directed "nearly $500 million" in additional spending authority to the state's emergency management agency. "Federal funding is expected to cover most of the costs the state is incurring in response to the COVID-19 pandemic," the release said. In addition, Illinois expects to get nearly $5 billion in total, split up between state and local governments, through the federal CARES Act, a stimulus package. More details with forecasted changes in general revenue from the Governor's Office of Management and Budget are here.

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced 1,346 new cases in Illinois, including 80 additional deaths. The Sangamon County Health Department announced four new confirmed cases, bringing the total to 52, including three deaths, and 26 recoveries.

Planned Parenthood of Illinois announced a “new telehealth service.” According to a release, the service will allow patients to use video conferencing to connect with providers from home. “The COVID-19 pandemic is a major challenge for everyone in health care. During these uncertain and challenging times, Planned Parenthood of Illinois remains steadfastly committed to ensuring patients can access safe, affordable, high-quality sexual and reproductive health care services,” said Jennifer Welch, president and CEO of PPIL in the release. The services will prevent patients from needing to go to facilities in person for services such as emergency contraception, gender affirming hormone therapy and STD treatment. Planned Parenthood has already consolidated to six health centers statewide. From the release: “To make a telehealth appointment, call (800) 230-7527. For more information about PPIL’s services, visit www.ppil.org."

Tuesday, April 14

“We are in fact bending the curve,” Gov. JB Pritzker said during his daily briefing with reporters. While confirmed the numbers of confirmed cases and deaths continue to grow, Pritzker said the rate is lessening in a way that shows mitigation efforts are working. “This curve may not flatten and it may go up again if we don't adhere to the stay-at-home order,” he said. He said currently 40% of ICU beds are taken, the majority being people infected with coronavirus, and that percentage is down from 43% last week.


The Illinois Department of Public Health announced 1,222 new confirmed cases and 74 additional deaths. That's 23,247 confirmed cases and 868 deaths in 88 counties in total. More context and data behind those numbers is here.


The Sangamon County Department of Public Health announced four new positive cases, bringing the total to 48 confirmed cases and three deaths. 26 people have reportedly recovered. More information including the current caseloads at Memorial and St. John's hospitals is here.


Monday, April 13

Three new cases
have been confirmed in Sangamon County, where the death toll remains at three. So far, 44 county residents have tested positive. Five patients who have tested positive, none county residents, are at Memorial Medical Center, where seven patients have test results pending. Three patients who have tested positive, none county residents, are at HSHS St. John’s Hospital, where 13 patients have test results pending. Statewide, 1,173 new cases have been confirmed during the past 24 hours, state officials announced this afternoon, and 74 people have died. The statewide total since the pandemic hit stands at 22,025 confirmed cases and 794 deaths. The virus has been found in 87 counties.

Sunday, April 12

Cautious optimism:
State health officials today announced 1,672 new confirmed cases during the past 24 hours, with 43 deaths. The 24-hour death toll, which brings the state to 720, is lower than in the past six days. So far, 20,852 cases have been confirmed. “I’m optimistic, or at least, cautiously optimistic,” Gov. JB Pritzker said at a press conference. During the past day, 7,956 tests have been performed, a significant increase over prior days, with the percentage of positive tests not increasing, the governor said, which suggests that the percentage of people with the virus has not increased. “Our hopes have been coming to fruition,” he said.


Saturday, April 11

Hospitals see decreases: Since the pandemic hit, health care providers have canceled or postponed non-emergency and elective procedures, and numbers are reflected in patient counts. As of Friday, HSHS St. John’s Hospital had 248 admitted patients, give or take – folks get discharged or admitted throughout any given day. Prior to the pandemic, the highest census at St. John’s exceeded 400 patients. “Over the last month, depending on the day, we’ve seen a decrease close to 50% lower census numbers largely due to the cancellation of non-urgent, elective procedures,” writes Erica Johnson, a hospital spokeswoman, in an email. Numbers at Memorial Health System, including facilities in Springfield, Decatur, Jacksonville, Taylorville and Lincoln, are also down. “Across the Memorial Health System, in the past six weeks, our inpatient volumes have decreased by approximately 28%,” writes Dean Olsen, Memorial spokesman, in an email. “The number of surgeries has dropped by 59% and Emergency Department visits have declined by 35%.”

Cover that thing! Police are cracking down on nudists who neglect face masks.

A third person in Sangamon County has died after being infected with the new coronavirus. The news came in a release sent on behalf of the county health department and area hospitals on Saturday afternoon. The patient was a female in her 70s who tested positive on April 4. She was an inpatient at Memorial hospital.

Of the two previous deaths, the first was a 71-year-old woman and the county’s first confirmed case of COVID-19. She was visiting the Springfield area from her home in Florida when she became ill. The second infected person to die was a man in his 90s.

Health officials have not released further information about the latest death. The Sangamon County Department of Public Health announced no new confirmed cases on Saturday. According to a news release: "Memorial Medical Center is reporting four confirmed positive cases currently hospitalized, none of which are Sangamon County residents, and eight inpatients currently under investigation. HSHS St. John’s Hospital is reporting three confirmed positive cases currently hospitalized, none of which are Sangamon County residents, and ten inpatients currently under investigation."


In the what-else-is-new department
, the state will no longer accept inmates from county jails deemed mentally unfit to stand trial. Gov. JB Pritzker issued an emergency order Friday stating so. But the state long has been slow to accept mentally ill inmates. On March 30, nine mentally ill inmates deemed unfit to stand trial were awaiting transfer from the Sangamon County jail to state mental health facilities. The inmate who'd been waiting longest was deemed unfit and ordered transferred on Nov. 21 of last year; the other eight all were found unfit and ordered transferred before Pritzker’s stay-at-home order took effect last month. As of March 30, the last two mentally ill inmates sent to state facilities were transferred on Feb. 25 and March 6, according to Sangamon County Sheriff Jack Campbell. In addition to barring transfer of the mentally ill from jails to treatment facilities, Pritzker’s order allows for Department of Human Services employees who face discipline to return to work.

Cannonball! The coast-to-coast driving record has been shattered thanks to the pandemic. "Police is a variable we can almost control. There are tons of countermeasures. But we cannot control traffic." Coronavirus has.

The city of Springfield announced a new effort to show support for those on the frontlines. From a news release: In a show of unity, along with giving thanks and gratitude to our healthcare workers and first responders, the City of Springfield is partnering with churches and other places of worship in Springfield to ring out their bells at 7:00 p.m. every evening for 1 minute beginning this Sunday, April 12 ... The initiative, “Ringing In Springfield,” is a reminder to residents that we have healthcare workers and first responders who risk their health and well-being to serve and protect others during this coronavirus pandemic.

From the Illinois Department of Public Health: "1,293 new cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Illinois, including 81 additional deaths." IDPH said it is "closely monitoring all of our state facilities." The agency announced an employee at the Illinois Veterans Home at Manteno tested positive for COVID-19. And at a separate facility on the Manteno grounds that serves homeless veterans, four employees and two veterans tested positive as well.

The governor announced a new state hotline for those experiencing emotional upheaval, residents can text to "talk" to 552020 and be connected with a counselor "within 24 hours" to discuss mental health. It is not a crisis line for those experiencing suicidal thoughts or an emergency.

The governor also announced a new patient monitoring system for those with COVID-19 who are well enough to stay at home. Patients are to receive "wellness kits" with items such as thermometers and blood pressure cuffs. They will have regular virtual visits with doctors.

The Illinois Department on Aging announced it will distribute $7 million "to meet the growing demand for meal assistance by older Illinoisans impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency." A news release said, "If you or an older family member, friend, or neighbor are in need of any kind of assistance, please know we are here to help you. Please visit our website at www.illinois.gov/aging or contact our Senior HelpLine at 1-800-252-8966 (hearing impaired call 888-206-1327)."


Friday, April 10

Ray Lytle, WMAY radio host has been let go along with four other employees of Mid-West Family Broadcasting, which operates several stations. It's part of a nationwide trend: Nearly 30,000 people who work for news organizations have been laid off, furloughed or had their pay reduced due to revenue shortfalls caused by the pandemic.

State public health officials have announced 1,465 new confirmed cases, including 68 additional deaths. That's 17,887 cases and 596 deaths total, in 83 counties throughout Illinois. No new cases were reported by Sangamon Country health officials, leaving the number at 41 confirmed positives.

Gov. JB Pritzker announced hotel rooms in areas including Springfield will be made available to house those who need to isolate due to infection or potential infection but can't safely do so in their own homes.

An equity team was announced by Illinois Department of Public Health director Dr. Ngozi Ezike who addressed the higher rates of infection and death among black Illinois residents. "We must address the dramatic disparity we're seeing, we have to tackle it head on," she said. She said the equity group will identify "issues and patterns" and suggest solutions. Testing must be increased in populations that are affected, she said.

A new text messaging service was announced as part of the equity effort. To access "the most accurate" information, people can text "COVID" to 312-500-3836. Spanish speaking residents can text "COVID ESP" to the same number.

Bus riders in Springfield must wear a face covering or mask starting Wednesday April 15. Sangamon Mass Transit District officials suggest those who ride don them starting now, but won't begin to refuse to carry passengers without them until that date. The masks can be medical or homemade. “With the President and Governor both recommending anyone in public wear a mask, SMTD sees this as a logical, additional step to protect our operators and our passengers,” said SMTD Managing Director Frank Squires in a news release. There are many tutorials online of how to make a mask, including this one which uses a bandana and hair tyes and does not require sewing.

Dogs and cats are weathering the storm better than a lot of us.

Amazon is building a testing lab and considering testing all employees.

Thursday, April 9

Fire away: Hit by a surge in gun purchases, Illinois State Police are extending the deadline to renew expired Firearm Owner Identification cards. Expired cards will be good for another year under emergency rules. Gun owners have long complained the cops take too long to renew cards, but it's worse now.

The statewide death toll rose by 66 today, according to public health authorities, but the number of deaths in Sangamon County remains at two and hasn’t risen since March 29. New cases are being confirmed throughout the state and in Sangamon County, and so health authorities warn that social distancing remains critical. The state announced 1,344 new cases during the past 24 hours; Sangamon County health authorities and private health care providers in the county say they’ve confirmed six new cases. Statewide, the number of cases stands at 16,422, with 528 deaths. There have been 41 cases confirmed in Sangamon County, where 795 people have been tested. Six patients, including four who live outside Sangamon County, who’ve tested positive are at Memorial Medical Center and three are at St. John’s Hospital, none of whom are Sangamon County residents. Memorial has an additional ten patients suspected of having the virus and St. John’s has an equal number.

Federal courthouses in central Illinois are donating more than 500 masks, including 175 N95 respirator masks, to health care entities, and just as the federal stockpile of protective gear has become depleted. The masks, which are kept in case of suspicious mail or other shenanigans requiring masks, were stored in court facilities in Springfield, Champaign, Peoria and Rock Island. In the capital city, the equipment is being given to Hospital Sisters Mission Outreach for distribution to workers at Memorial Health System, HSHS St. John’s, Southern Illinois School of Medicine and Springfield Clinic, according to a press release from U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois, which has scaled back operations and closed courthouses to the public.

Wednesday, April 8

Scofflaws who violate social distancing rules may be fined up to $500 under an emergency directive issued by Mayor Jim Langfelder. Langfelder telegraphed the move at Tuesday’s city council meeting, when he said that the corporation counsel’s office was working on a measure that would be announced today. Under the measure, police can pursue criminal charges such as reckless conduct or issue tickets with fines not exceeding $500 to people who gather in groups of more than ten, in defiance of a statewide order, or who violate social distancing protocols that call for people to maintain at least six feet between each other. Families who reside at the same residence are exempt. “With coronavirus cases increasing, it is crucial that everyone is diligent and adheres to the stay-at-home order,” the mayor said in a written statement. “This means keeping your family home as well. This is a life or death situation.”

Sangamon County health officials announced four new confirmed cases, bringing the total of county residents who have been infected and tested to 35.

Chicago retailers can no longer sell liquor past 9pm, per an order from Mayor Lori Lightfoot that takes effect Thursday. During a daily coronavirus briefing Gov. JB Pritzker commended the move but, when asked by a reporter, said he would not issue a similar statewide order. Instead he said the decision should be left up to local governments.


The Illinois Department of Public Health announced the highest number of COVID-19 related deaths in a 24 hour period. 1,529 new confirmed cases were announced, including the 82 deaths. IDPH director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said the rate of “exponential growth” is lessening and urged people to social distance and refrain from religious gatherings in particular, given the holiday season. She said she is “optimistic” the state is reaching the peak of infection rate.

Gov. JB Pritzker said the state has not yet reached its goal of issuing 10,000 tests per day. He said the state has just reached a maximum of 6,000 tests per day, and won’t reach 10,000 by this week. Pritzker reiterated that the state can not rely on the feds for an adequate number of test kits and said he is working with a private company, Abbott — based in Illinois, to secure rapid test kits, which can produce results in minutes. Tests done by state labs can take two days or so, and results from tests done privately can take several days.


Researchers at the University of Washington
have revised forecasts, dropping the number of deaths expected nationwide and in Illinois. In their latest report, forecasters predict that the number of deaths in Illinois will peak in four days and that 1,588 people will die by August, assuming "full social distancing" through May. So far, 308 people have died in Illinois. Not all projections are created equal, but projections by the UW researchers have been widely cited both in the media and by the White House.

A study released by Downtown Springfield, Inc. paints a grim picture of the downtown economy. About 20 percent of the downtown workforce has been laid off, according to the survey conducted by DSI between March 31 and April 3, and most bars and restaurants surveyed said they will need between $20,000 and $50,000 in gap financing to remain in business until June 1. Slightly more than half of businesses surveyed lease space, and of those businesses, 34% have asked landlords for relief. Nearly 32% of business owners surveyed said that paying April’s rent or mortgage payment was their top concern.


Tuesday, April 7

Chicago liquor stores have a curfew of 9pm per an order from Mayor Lori Lightfoot. When asked if he would mandate that other localites do the same during a daily breifing on coronavirus, Gov. JB Pritzker commended the effort but said the decision will remain up to local governments.

No new positive cases have been confirmed in Sangamon County today. The total number of county residents confirmed to have the infection is 31, including two deaths. Memorial has five hospitalized confirmed positive patients, including two Sangamon Couty residents, as well as 14 inpatients who await test results. St. John's has three hospitalized confirmed positive patients, none of whom are from Sangamon County, as well as eight inpatients awaiting test results. Sangamon County has begun releasing the numbers of those who have recovered, meaning they no longer require daily communication with county health nurses and staff. The current number is six.

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced 1,287 new cases of coronavirus disease, and 73 additional deaths
. A comprehensive offering of the latest data and how it breaks down by zipcode and county is here.

Glimmer of hope
from University of Washington researchers, who've reduced death forecasts. Stay at home orders are proving effective, they say. The bad news? The new forecasts are predicated on stay-at-home orders staying in effect at least through the end of May.

Monday, April 6

Horrifying images from Ecuador, where bodies are in streets and the government has put in orders for cardboard coffins. "You can't escape the smell."

In Sangamon County — health officials and medical providers report two new positive cases, bringing the total to 35, including two deaths. Memorial and St. John's have 25 inpatients awaiting test results. Nine patients confirmed to have the virus are at the hospitals. Out of 656 tests, 609 have resulted negative.

Alton mayor's wife busted for partying at a downtown tavern, in defiance of stay-at-home order. "A stunning lack of judgment," the mayor says.

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced 1,006 new cases and 33 additional deaths. That brings the total to 12,262 cases, including 307 deaths. Confirmed cases are in 73 Illinois counties. Data is now available for the number of cases per county. In those areas with fewer than five cases, numbers will not be provided for patient privacy. IDPH director Ngozi Ezike said it should still be assumed the virus has made its way throughout Illinois.

Gov. JB Pritzker called it "good news" that his administration has not trusted what's been promised by the White House in terms of PPE and other tools, like ventilators. Requests have fallen short. Pritzker said the state is focused on its own procurement. He also urged that going into Easter week, and with good weather ahead, people continue to follow the stay-at-home order. People should not congregate with anyone outside their immediate family unit. "This is one Easter you will have to do something unusual," he said, noting many churches will hold services through video conferencing.  During his daily press conference, Pritzker urged residents to buy two weeks worth of groceries at a time to better stay home. He acknowledged, when asked, that more restrictions on people's ability to leave home, such as a curfew, could be coming, as the situation is constantly under consideration. He also speculated on why more black people are dying of the virus in Illinois, saying co-morbidity illnesses like hypertension and diabetes may be more pronounced in communities of color that have seen "years of disinvestment."

Hippies for the common good: While barber shops and hair salons are shut down, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot got a haircut over the weekend and defended her decision by saying she's a public figure and that her stylist wore gloves and a mask, so everything is OK. By contrast, Gov. JB Pritzker says he hasn't gotten a trim since a statewide stay-at-home order took effect. "I am going to turn into a hippie at some point," the governor said.

Members of the Illinois Retired Teachers Association are volunteering to assist students as they learn from home. Members will be able to teach on advance subjects like chemistry and math. Younger students can get help with self-directed learning. Parents can sign up at irtaonline.org.

Nearly half a million Illinois households will get additional Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits beginning Wednesday, April 8. That's according to a release from the Illinois Department of Human Services. Those who are eligible should receive the benefits by April 20. They will be automatically loaded onto Link debit cards, and there is no need to visit an office, website, or make a phone call. For those who are not yet SNAP beneficiaries but think they might qualify, there  is an online form to apply for benefits.

Good news for car owners:
Due to fewer miles being driven and, so, fewer accidents, insurance companies say they'll be refunding money to policy holders. Allstate tells the Wall Street Journal it will be refunding $600 million; American Family Mutual Insurance is planning $200 in refunds. The announcements come as the auto insurance industry stands to make a bundle from the pandemic, according to the Wall Street Journal report.

Sunday, April 5

“He has not performed well:” President Donald Trump blasts Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker in a press briefing still underway, saying the feds will staff a temporary hospital in McCormick Place because the governor isn’t able to do the job he’s supposed to do. Trump also touts supplies sent to Illinois, where Pritzker has complained that the state hasn’t gotten the help it needs from the federal government. Pritzker, in turn, continued criticism of the federal government today during an appearance on CNN. "He's complaining all the time," Trump said.

Tigers not immune:
A tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York has tested positive.

The Sangamon County death toll remained at two, having not changed since March 29, when a 90-year-old man died at HSHS St. John’s Hospital. There have been two new cases confirmed during the past 24 hours, according to a press release from county public health authorities and private health care providers, with one involving a Sangamon County resident and the second involving someone who lives in Menard County. So far, 33 people have tested positive in Sangamon County, with 602 tests administered and 547 coming out negative. Results are pending on 22 tests. Six patients who’ve tested positive are at Memorial Medical Center. Nine patients with test results pending are at Memorial and 12 are at St. John’s Hospital.

The statewide death toll stands at 274, state officials say, with 31 fatalities reported during the past 24 hours. Most deaths have occurred in the Chicago area, but Boone, Calhoun and Gallatin counties during the past day have joined the coronavirus club, which includes more than half the state’s counties and 11,256 confirmed cases.

Tom Dempsey, famed NFL kicker
with no toes on his right foot or fingers on his right arm succumbs to the virus.

Black people disproportionately dying from coronavirus in Cook County, according to media report.

Saturday, April 4

Employers, employees clash in state where the pandemic first broke out in a big way. Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker advises any workers who are being required to report for duty despite signs of illness should report their employer to the state.

One new confirmed case in Sangamon County: Public health authorities and private health care providers report one new confirmed case in the past 24 hours, as of 3 p.m., bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 31. The number of deaths remains at two, a number that hasn’t changed since March 29. Five patients who have tested positive are hospitalized at Memorial Medical Center, and two are at St. John’s Hospital. Another 17 patients suspected of having the virus are hospitalized at Memorial and another 12 are at St. John’s Hospital.

Statewide death toll increases: The Illinois Department of Public Health has tallied 33 more deaths during the past 24 hours as well as 1,453 new cases. The virus has been found in 68 counties, with a total of 10,357 cases confirmed and 243 deaths. At his afternoon press conference, Gov. JB Pritzker continued strong criticism of the federal government, which he says has not responded adequately to the crisis. Asked if he feels frustrated by bordering states, Iowa being one, that have not or have only recently issued stay-at-home orders, Pritzker turned his ire to the federal government. “Obviously, this has an effect on Illinois,” Pritzker said. “While we can talk about those individual states, this should have been the job of the federal government, to give guidance, in fact, to set orders for the country, because I don’t understand why the federal government has abdicated its role in leadership of addressing this virus.” The governor also advised anyone whose company is requiring sick employees to report it, although he did not say what agency or agencies should be called. “They should report these companies, because we won’t stand for it,” Pritzker said. Noting that crowds have congregated in some parts of the state, the governor also called on people to exercise common sense and stay six feet away from others. ere have been crowds of people congregating in some areasThe governor also called on people to use common sense and stay six feet away from each other. “Those people are either not paying attention to the news or they’re stupid,” Pritzker said of people who haven’t paid attention to social distancing protocols. “There’s no reason anyone should be ignoring this.”


Friday, April 3

The Sangamon County death toll remained at two as of 3 p.m., having not changed since March 29, when a 90-year-old man died at HSHS St. John’s Hospital, according to a press release issued by public health authorities and private health care providers. Seven new cases have been confirmed during the past 24 hours. Thirty people, 26 of them Sangamon County residents, have tested positive, with 555 tests administered and 422 coming out negative. Results are pending on 83 tests. Five patients who’ve tested positive are at Memorial Medical Center and three are at St. John’s Hospital. Fourteen patients with test results pending are at Memorial and 16 are at St. John’s Hospital.

Goodbye nasal swab: Blood tests may soon be available, some experts predicting home tests with results in minutes.

Hospital bed, ventilator stats: There were 2,984 coronavirus patients in Illinois hospitals as of 10 a.m., state officials say, with 935 of those patients in intensive care units. Coronavirus patients are using 35 percent of the intensive care unit beds that are occupied statewide; there were 806 empty ICU beds and 1,877 occupied ones as of 10 a.m. Another 2,049 coronavirus patients were in hospital beds outside intensive care units. There were 11,502 open hospital beds statewide and 16,489 occupied ones. The state had 2,543 ventilators, with 1,517 available for use. Coronavirus patients were hooked up to 666 of the ventilators in use.

The State of Illinois is taking over the vacant Vibra hospital
 at 701 N. Walnut St. on a temporary basis to use for coronavirus patients, Gov. JB Pritzker announced today. The 50-bed private hospital closed in 2019. Mayor Jim Langfelder recently had asked the city council to approve a 90-day purchase option to buy the building for $2 million, but aldermen balked. A price for the state takeover hasn't been decided, according to declaration from the state establishing that the governor is using emergency powers to occupy the property. According to the declaration, which uses the terms "owner" and "tenant," the building will be used on a temporary basis, with no compensation yet decided. According to March 27 assessment of the facility, there are 15 ventilators in the building.

Note: This post has been edited to reflect that the agreement calls for the state to use, but not necessarily buy, the building.

Physician fights public health authorities on plans to offer testing on demand, including to people who have no symptoms. And if the Pliura name sounds familiar, you're right: He's the guy who loaned $1 million to the brother of state Sen. William Brady, R-Bloomington, and never got paid  back.

Not an equal-opportunity pathogen: The poor, of necessity, are moving more than others during the pandemic. “People want to talk about this virus as an equal opportunity pathogen, but it’s really not,” said Dr. Ashwin Vasan, a doctor and public health professor at Columbia University. “It’s going right to the fissures in our society.”

Thursday, April 2

Sangamon County health officials report six new confirmed cases. The total is now 23, including two deaths.

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced 715 new cases in the state, including 16 additional deaths: "Currently, IDPH is reporting a total of 7,695 cases, including 157 deaths, in 61 counties in Illinois.  The age of cases ranges from younger than one to older than 100 years."

Springfield Public Schools is taking a pause in its "grab-and-go" meal program for spring break. Instead it is partnering with McDonalds to feed kids. On Friday, April 3, those who drive up to meal distribution sites will get a punch card "while supplies last." They will be good for a daily free breakfast and lunch. Central Illinois Food Bank will also provide basic groceries for 500 families. More information is here. Spring break is April 6-10.

The Springfield Park District said while parks are open, certain areas remain closed, such as playgrounds, golf courses, dog parks, restrooms and indoor facilities. Social distancing guidelines should be used; people should stay at least six feet apart and not cough or sneeze into the air. Parks like Washington and Southwind have been more busy so the district urges people to visit lesser traveled parks such as Lake Victoria Park and Isles Park. Trails remain open.

Wednesday, April 1

click to enlarge From a 4-1-2020 press release from the Sangamon County Dept. of Public Health and local health care providers - PHOTO BY BRUCE RUSHTON
Photo by Bruce Rushton
From a 4-1-2020 press release from the Sangamon County Dept. of Public Health and local health care providers

Sangamon County healthy officials and hospitals are reporting 17 confirmed cases of coronavirus, including two people who have died. Four of the confirmed cases are hospitalized at Memorial. Memorial and St. John’s have 13 patients awaiting test results. Officials tells those who are at home with those infected with COVID-19 should monitor their symptoms and separate themselves as much as possible. If they experience symptoms, they should call their doctors.


Illinois Department of Public Health announced 986 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 42 additional deaths. From a release: Currently, IDPH is reporting a total of 6,980 cases, including 141 deaths, in 56 counties in Illinois. The age of cases ranges from younger than one to older than 100 years.

Illinois residents seeking unemployment benefits are hitting snags according to a joint release sent on behalf of State Reps Darren Bailey, of Louisville and Blaine Wilhour of Effingham. Both are Republicans. From the release: “We’re told people trying to access the state’s online jobless claim process are frustrated to the point of surrender. Applicants get messages of 'invalid information' or 'incorrect password.' When they comply with changing their password, there is still no access.” The legislators said people are also having trouble making headway with the state phone hotline, and urged the governor to address the situation.


Tuesday, March 31

One new case in Sangamon County has been reported, bringing the total to 17. 350 tests were negative. 90 people are awaiting test results, 14 of whom are hospitalized.

Gov. JB Pritzker announced the "stay-at-home" order will be extended until the end of April. Schools will remain closed and are entering remote learning days as "act of God" days have expired, though Pritzker said there we will be no makeup days for this school year. In Springfield, the public school district is in the middle of distributing devices to those who need them for online classwork.

Illinois public health officials have announced 937 new confirmed cases, for a total of 5,994. 26 additional deaths were announced today, bringing the total to 73.

Monday, March 30

One more person has died in Sangamon County as a result of COVID-19. "On Sunday, March 29, the Illinois Department of Public Health confirmed that a patient who was being treated at HSHS St. John's Hospital tested positive for COVID-19. Later that evening he passed away in hospice care," a news release from the Sangamon County Department of Public Health read. The man was in his 90s and "presented to the emergency department at St. John's on Friday, March 27" according to the release. County health officials announced three new cases, bringing the local total to 16 cases and two deaths. 17 patients in area hospitals are "under review."

Gannett set for cutbacks: The corporate owner of the State Journal-Register will require employees to take five-day monthly furloughs, starting in April and lasting through June, according to media reports. Pay cuts, also, will be made. Gannett stock plunged to $8 a share in August, when a merger with GateHouse Media was announced and ultimately consummated last fall. It has fallen even further in recent weeks, to less than $2 a share today. The merger was financed with $1.8 billion in debt that carries an 11.5 percent rate, and layoffs began shortly after the deal became final.

Today's numbers from the Illinois Department of Public Health are in: 461 new confirmed cases, seven new deaths, including one man who was incarcerated at Stateville Correctional Center in northern Illinois. "Additionally, 12 men who were incarcerated at Stateville are now hospitalized, including several requiring ventilators. There are 77 more incarcerated individuals with symptoms who are isolated at the facility. Eleven staff are also being isolated," a news release said. IDPH said correctional centers with confirmed cases are on lockdown "which means there is no movement around the facility except for medical care."

Sunday, March 29

From the Sangamon County public health department and area health providers: "At the time of this press release, we are announcing three new positive cases in Sangamon County. One is a Sangamon County resident, another is from Menard County, and the 3rd case is from Morgan County. The total number of confirmed cases between our five organizations is twelve, including one death. Currently, three of the confirmed positive cases are hospitalized at Memorial Medical Center." 410 people have been tested. 85 await results.

1,105 new cases in Illinois were announced, as well as 18 additional deaths. This is the highest amount of deaths and new cases announced in a single day thus far. 65 deaths in all have been counted by the Illinois Department of Public Health — and there are 4,596 confirmed cases total. Gov. JB Pritzker said he expects the number of cases to peak sometime in April.

Saturday, March 28

Three new confirmed cases have been announced in Sangamon County. There are 12 cases total, including one death. 410 people have been tested, and 313 have been confirmed negative. There are 18 people under investigation by local hospitals.

An infant was among the lives lost to COVID-19 according to the Illinois Department of Public Health's update today. There are 47 deaths statewide in all. Information and numbers are regularly updated on IDPH's website. "If you haven't been paying attention, maybe this is your wake up call," said IDPH's Dr. Ngozi Ezike, regarding the death of a baby. Thus far in Illinois, 85% of deaths have been among people 60 years of age or older. This is one of the first deaths of its kind. A state employee is also among the 13 new deaths announced today. Many state workers have been working from home.

Gov. JB Pritzker said social distancing guidelines will be more visible at grocery stores, per state guidance. That includes more signs upon entry and frequent announcements over the PA systems, telling people to remain at least six feet separated. Floor markers should show appropriate distance for customers to keep in line. Shield guards between customers and those working at check-out are being suggested. Pritzker urged customers to use self check-out, pick up and delivery  when possible and not to bring in reusable bags at this time. He also said it is up to individuals to ensure social distancing takes place.

District 186, Springfield Public Schools, will be offering devices, such as iPads, to students in need of them to continue learning. Each school has a designated pickup time next week. They will be prioritized for students who do not have devices at home to use. The distribution schedule is here, parents are encouraged only to go to the school their student attends on the assigned day.

Friday, March 27

Nine people in Sangamon County have now tested positive for COVID-19.
Health officials remind people that staying at home is one of the best ways to prevent the spread, as there are no known treatments or vaccines. Local hospitals and the county also reminded residents in statement that seeking medical care is "safe": "While postponable visits and procedures are being delayed to conserve resources, the public should continue to seek other needed treatment." Those with COVID-19 symptoms, like fever, coughing or shortness of breath, should let health providers know before showing up for visits.

488 new Illinois cases of coronavirus, including eight deaths, were reported today during the governor's press conference with state officials. That brings the total of positive cases to 3,026, with 21,542 tests total. 34 people have died. Gov. JB Pritzker mentioned a state hotline for those dealing with domestic abuse: 877-863-6338. He acknowledged the prospect of staying home indefinitely can be scary for some. SNAP benefits, which provide funding for food for low-income people, will be boosted with an increase of federal money. "A family of four making less than $42,000 a year is now eligible for $646 a month in SNAP benefits," said Illinois Department of Human Services director Grace Hou. Applicants are directed to use a website. Pritzker also addressed childcare: "We’ve received more than 600 applications for small group emergency child care licenses," he said, noting options are still needed for those on the front-lines — like health care and grocery workers, while others are encouraged to work from home.


Springfield's 10th annual PrideFest is canceled.
Jonna Cooley heads the LGBTQ resource center, The Phoenix Center, which organizes the event. In a statement she said too much is unknown to continue to plan around an event in May, and the health of the public is paramount. "Right now, and for the unforeseeable future, social distancing is critical," she wrote.

Notary requirements relaxed under order issued by Gov. JB Pritzker. No personal appearances required under order, and witnessing standards also changed.

Thursday, March 26


Sangamon County Department of Public Health announced two new cases
, with eight in total. Two people are from outside of the county, including one woman who was visiting from Florida and died after falling ill. There are 18 patients at area hospitals awaiting test results. 389 people have been tested in total and 283 have been confirmed negative.


The agency is reminding essential businesses like banks and grocery stores to consider setting aside certain hours for the elderly and vulnerable people, promote frequent hand-washing and use of hand sanitizer, screen employees for illness, encourage sick employees to take time off, have people practice good "respiratory etiquette" like using and discarding tissues, and discouraging employees' sharing of personal items. It also reminds businesses to organize in a way that enables people to keep a distance of six feet between each other. The county department also urges residents not to stockpile certain medicines they may hear are beneficial, as no treatment has yet been approved by the FDA for COVID-19, and “medications currently being stockpiled by individuals (such as chloroquine) could actually be detrimental to the health of others who actually need it.” 

click to enlarge Guidelines for testing, released by Springfield health care providers and Sangamon County Department of Public Health on 3-26-2020. - PHOTO BY BRUCE RUSHTON
Photo by Bruce Rushton
Guidelines for testing, released by Springfield health care providers and Sangamon County Department of Public Health on 3-26-2020.
The Sangamon County Department of Public Health and area hospitals also released information about testing guidelines. Tests for symptomatic hospital patients and symptomatic people in “congregate settings” like nursing homes and prisons are being authorized by the state and county health departments at this time, with an average wait of one to two days for results. Private testing by hospitals is being more liberally utilized and results take longer, up to six days on average. In addition to hospitalized patients and those in congregate conditions, private testers prioritize people who have been in contact with a positive case, symptomatic senior citizens, symptomatic health care workers, symptomatic immune suppressed people, and symptomatic pregnant women.


How much will you be getting?
An online stimulus check calculator can help you find the answer.

We're number one: U.S. goes past China, now has more confirmed cases than any other nation on the planet.

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced there are now 2,538 confirmed cases of coronavirus throughout the state, and 26 deaths. Governor JB Pritzker announced that President Trump has approved the state's request to be declared a federal disaster area. Pritzker chided those who gathered outdoors yesterday and neglected to follow social distancing guidelines that say to stay six feet apart. “You are putting not only yourself, but your family and your friends in danger,” he said. He begged residents to stay inside if possible, and to find a place “that is not crowded” if outdoors. Chicago's lakefront recreational areas are closed to the public starting today.


U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois joined the governor's press conference and spoke about federal relief measures, including one just passed by the Senate with more than $2 trillion of relief funds, including $1,200 checks for individuals who made less than $75,000 in adjusted gross income last year (or 2018, for those who haven't yet filed taxes). “Something miraculous has happened in Washington, we've actually done something on a timely basis,” Durbin said. The measure, with bi-partisan support, also addresses paid family and medical leave, and funds for small businesses and health care. It's expected to pass the House on Friday.

Unsurprisingly, unemployment numbers have hit record highs. From a state press release: "While the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) announced today that the unemployment rate fell -0.1 percentage point to 3.4 percent, a new record low, the state is responding to a surge of unemployment claims in March due to the impacts of COVID-19. To this point, March unemployment claims total 133,763 compared to 27,493 over the same period in 2019."


More than $20 million has been raised for a new COVID-19 response fund. The governor's sister, Penny Pritzker, is chairing the Illinois COVID-19 Response Fund which will seek donations that can be dispersed to nonprofits across the state.


HSHS Medical Group, which includes St. John's Hospital in Springfield, announced that, like Memorial, it will waive fees for its online doctor visit option. However, appointments related to screening for coronavirus will be free, while others will be $29. (Memorial has said all of its online visits will be free of charge for the foreseeable future).


University of Illinois at Chicago “has been selected as a clinical trail site for a nationwide National Institutes of Health study of a potential COVID-19 treatment” according to a news release. The study will test the safety and effectiveness of an anti-viral drug. Also from the release: “The University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago implemented COVID-19 testing on Monday, with capacity for 800 tests and results within six to seven hours. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has provided equipment, supplies and personnel from its laboratories to facilitate testing at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, which serves central and downstate Illinois.” And U of I at Urbana-Champaign “ is fabricating and packaging hand sanitizers at industrial scale to help ease shortfalls.”


From Wisconsin:
A state legislator describes what it's like to get sick. He got tested while others wait, according to the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal.

Wednesday, March 25

Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder declared an emergency this afternoon by signing a declaration made possible by city council action on Tuesday. Under the ordinance passed by the council, the mayor will have authority to spend up to $100,000 on any one item, twice the amount normally allowed, but must report such expenditures to aldermen within 24 hours. The ordinance passed Tuesday also gives the mayor authority to declare a curfew. The declaration signed today will remain in effect as long as a statewide emergency previously declared by Gov. JB Pritzker is in force.
click to enlarge Mayor Jim Langfelder signs an emergency declaration. - PHOTO COURTESY OF CITY OF SPRINGFIELD
Photo courtesy of City of Springfield
Mayor Jim Langfelder signs an emergency declaration.

The Sangamon County Health Department announced one new confirmed case
of COVID-19, bringing the total to six confirmed cases in the area. Starting today, the health department issued data on tests conducted by both public and private labs. Since the pandemic hit, 372 people have been tested, with 101 tests proving negative and results pending in 265 cases. It is taking between one and two days for results to come back from tests authorized by public health authorities, according to a press release issued by the county health department and private health care providers, and between four and six days for tests authorized by the county health department and/or private health care providers. There has been one death. The five other people who have tested positive are not hospitalized, according to the press release, but 21 people who may have contracted the illness are hospitalized.

Jennifer Gill, superintendent of Springfield School District 186, sent an email to parents stating that said the Scholastic Aptitude Test for high school student that had been scheduled for April 14 is postponed. She said more information could be expected by the end of April, as the state board of education works on a new test schedule. She said all other state assessments have been canceled. "Some of you may be wondering when this school closure will end and when we can go back to our normal operations of life," Gill wrote. "The simple answer is that we do not know."

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced 330 new cases of coronavirus, including three deaths; bringing the death count to 19, and the overall amount of confirmed cases to 1,865. According to an IDPH release: "Two correctional officers and one man incarcerated at Stateville Correctional Center have tested positive as well as a contractual worker at Sheridan Correctional Center. The two Stateville correctional officers are recovering at home and the individual who is incarcerated is isolated and recovering in the hospital. Those who have been identified as being potentially exposed are being quarantined and the facility is on a 14-day lockdown. After consulting with IDPH, the Department of Corrections determined staff and men incarcerated at the Sheridan facility were at low to medium risk for potential exposure. The facility also was placed on a 14-day lockdown."

Gov. JB Pritzker announced a three-month extension for income tax filing, the deadline is now July 15. He also announced a $60 million fund is for low-interest loans "for small businesses in every industry outside of Chicago," according to a release. Businesses that made less than $3 million in 2019 and who have fewer than 50 employees can apply. Applications will be on the DCEO's website by Friday.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul joined a group of 33 attorneys general in calling on the country’s top online marketplaces to crack down on price gouging. A letter was sent to urge Amazon, Craigslist, eBay, Facebook and Walmart — to "quickly implement preventative measures on their platforms to ensure that consumers don’t get taken advantage of during this public health crisis," according to a release.

The Sangamon Mass Transit District will move to a reduced-hours schedule starting Monday.

A fund to help local charities established last week has swelled to more than $120,000, according to the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln and United Way of Central Illinois, which together provided $50,000 in seed money. The first grant, $30,000 for the Central Illinois Foodbank, was announced today. Food will be distributed organizations that include Catholic Charities, Compass for Kids, Kumler Outreach Neighborhood Ministries, Salvation Army, 490 Outreach, St. Martin De Poores Center and Real Life Church.

“We’ve obviously had a huge upswing in calls,” says Dean West, program supervisor for 490 Outreach, which supplies food to group homes and sober-living houses. Dean urged prospective donors to give money directly to food agencies as opposed to buying groceries, then giving foodstuffs to charity. The local food bank, Dean says, is supplying charities with food for 19 cents a pound or less, much cheaper than food can be purchased in grocery stores. John Kelker, president of United Way of Central Illinois, said the first grant from the fund established last week went to the food bank because the committee that considers grant request was looking for an umbrella group that served multiple charities. Grant requests will be accepted through Friday, Kelker said, with the next round of grant awards expected on Tuesday. More information is available at websites for the community foundation and the United Way.

Contributions can be made by texting HELPNOW to 40403 or online. Checks made payable to COVID-19 Reponse Fund can be mailed to either Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln, 205 S. Fifth St., Suite 530, Springfield IL 62701 or United Way of Central Illinois, 1999 Wabash Ave., Suite 107, Springfield, IL 62704.

The Illinois Department of Public Health is using strict guidelines for which coronavirus tests it can process. In an email to Illinois Times Wednesday morning, an IDPH spokesperson said its testing criteria is that a person must be in "residential congregate living with clusters (2 or more) of possible or confirmed COVID-19 cases in a vulnerable population." Those settings include an assisted living facility, group home, homeless shelter or correctional setting. The other criteria for testing is for "hospitalized patients with unexplained pneumonia."

The guidance is subject to change, and IDPH says that patients who do not meet the criteria should be "managed as clinically indicated and providers may determine to proceed with testing at a commercial or hospital laboratory." There has been much said about a lack of available tests, and the governor has repeatedly blamed the White House for not supplying more tests to the state.

In anecdotal cases in central Illinois, potentially infected people have waited several days for test results. As said at a press conference with the governor and IDPH head on Tuesday, the IDPH labs are now running 600 tests per day. In addition, there "are four commercial labs and 15 hospital labs operating across the state, which average about 1,500 tests per day," according to the spokesperson.

New York Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard
is scheduled to undergo Tommy John surgery on Thursday to repair his pitching arm in time for...well, that's a decent question. Spring training has been canceled, opening day has been postponed, recovery time for such surgery is about one year, he isn't expected back on the mound until the summer of 2021 and the governor of Florida, where the surgery has been scheduled, has prohibited nonessential medical procedures to preserve medical resources during the pandemic.

Tuesday, March 24

"How can we practice social distancing here?" India installs stay-at-home order covering 1.3 billion people.

Sangamon County is still reporting five confirmed cases, a number that hasn't changed since last Thursday. As students head home from spring break trips, county and medical officials urge them to practice social distancing, and to self-quarantine for 14 days, especially if they are returning from locations where coronavirus infections were prevalent.

They should stay away from those with compromised immune systems and those over the age of 60. And they should take their fever twice a day, and call a health care provider in event of respiratory symptoms. "Younger people are also getting seriously ill," according to a joint written statement from county public health and local health care providers.

The state health department announced 250 new confirmed cases, including four deaths. Gov. JB Pritzker said plans to ramp up testing throughout the state are taking shape. Even with those efforts, "We still need tens of thousands more tests to get an accurate picture of our state," he said. 2,000 tests are being conducted by the state per day, he said.

Pritzker said, "No person is more or less worthy of saving," in regards to recent rhetoric that some elderly people would be willing to die to help the country's economy. He said that yesterday he heard from the White House that 300 ventilators would be supplied to the state and 300,000 N95 masks. He said in a "worst-case scenario" the state would need thousands more ventilators to equip ICU beds.

Pritzker also said the April 7 deadline of the stay-at-home order might need to be extended. "The honest answer is, we don't yet know."

Springfield City Council is scheduled to meet tonight at 5:30 p.m. to consider an ordinance granting the mayor authority to declare an emergency. The ordinance, which is up for a final vote, also would give the mayor power to set a curfew, prohibit sale of gasoline unless dispensed into a vehicle and ban the sale of alcoholic beverages, firearms and ammunition. The council will consider more routine matters as a committee of whole. Gov. JB Pritzker has authorized public bodies to meet remotely, and five aldermen last week participated by telephone instead of traveling to council chambers. In Kirkland, Washington, where a nursing home has been hit hard by coronavirus, the city council started holding virtual meetings on March 17, with neither the mayor nor council members physically present

Gouging complaints surge:
Consumers across the state are reporting retailers for overpriced sanitizer and toilet paper. If you have a concern about gouging, you can file a complaint with the attorney general.

Child abuse reports drop while advocates for children worry.

Senior assessment freeze applications on hold
: Sangamon County is delaying the deadline to file senior citizen assessment freeze applications, which are normally mailed on April 1 and distributed at the Supervisor of Assessments office through July 1. No date has been set for forms to be mailed, but the county in a press release says it expects to issue applications later this spring or in early summer. The county has closed the assessment office, according to a Tuesday press release. More information is available online, and anyone with questions should call (217) 753-6805.

While homeowners with federally backed mortgages have been thrown a lifeline by the government, a plan for other homeowners still is in the works. Those with federal backed mortgages who are in financial distress should contact their lender if they wish to alter payment arrangements.

Monday, March 23

Sangamon County announced one new confirmed coronavirus case, bringing the local total to five, including one death.

Donations of clean masks, including N95 masks, clean sewn masks, gowns, gloves, hand sanitizer, and bleach and alcohol wipes will be accepted at Hospital Sisters Mission Outreach (4930 Laverna Road - Springfield) starting Wednesday March 25, from 1-4pm. Collections will continue on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays until April 3. This is the only location items should be donated. Questions can be directed at: 217-525-8843.

The governor's press conference focused largely on efforts to get protective wear to health care workers on the front-lines. "One way or another we need these supplies," he said after giving the break-down in equipment asked for from the federal government, versus what has been provided. Respirators were among the items requested where none were given at all. Illinois had asked for 4,000. Gov. JB Pritzker said the state continues to ask for gloves and masks to be donated, including from places like salons and tattoo parlors, which are currently closed down. Pritzker also announced the launch of an "Essential Equipment Task Force."

Pritzker said he spoke with President Donald Trump directly on Monday and asked for more equipment. It "seems like he's being very responsive," Pritzker said. Pritzker said he also joined in those asking Trump to invoke the Defense Production Act, which could be used to direct private companies to make products needed for national defense.


The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases from the state's public health department: 236 new cases, which include three deaths, all elderly men in Cook County. There are 1,285 cases total, in 31 counties.

The University of Illinois announced most research activities should "ramp down" due to the stay-at-home order. In an email sent over the weekend, the U of I clarified, "Most campus research labs, facilities, and field sites should cease in-person operations—safely— with consideration during ramp-down of requirements to effectively ramp back up to resume activities when allowed." A university spokesperson told Illinois Times that exceptions include work that "directly relates to preventing, containing, or treating the COVID-19 pandemic or that is related to national security."

Sunday, March 22

A baby is among new confirmed cases of coronavirus announced by the Illinois Department of Public Health:  IDPH today announced 296 new cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Illinois, including an infant. IDPH also announced three deaths.  The deaths included a Cook County man in his 80s, a Chicago man in his 80s, and a McLean County woman in her 70s.  Jo Daviess, Livingston, Rock Island, and Stephenson counties are now also reporting cases.  Currently, IDPH is reporting a total of 1,049 cases in 30 counties in Illinois.  The age of cases ranges from younger than one to 99 years.

Mayor Jim Langfelder's message to the city after stay-at-home order was issued.

Saturday, March 21

Get a hobby and binge-watch Game of Thrones: So advises an expert on isolation who spent nearly a year in space.

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced 168 new confirmed cases of coronavirus on Saturday, and began to release data on which cases, of which there are 753, come from which counties. Sangamon County represents 1%, with the majority in Cook County. Six people have died in the state.

During a press conference, Gov. JB Pritzker also encouraged retired health care professionals to head back to work. "We need your help now," he said. License reinstatement will be expedited. Renewals will be automatically extended through September.

Pritzker stressed that protective wear for health workers is being used rapidly. An email address has been set up by the state to donate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): PPE.donations.illinois.gov

Friday, March 20

HSHS and Memorial will no longer allow visitors in most cases. Pediatric patients, maternity patients and those undergoing surgery are allowed one visitor. As of 3pm, the county said of all those tested for COVID-19 to date, 35 tested negative, four tested positive (including a woman from Florida who died) and 16 patients were awaiting results.

At 3pm, Gov. JB Pritzker confirmed the stay-at-home order. Read it, here. Residents can still get groceries and food from restaurants that are offering it on a pick-up or delivery basis. Pharmacies and gas stations will remain open. Those who perform essential functions will continue to go to work. Walking and hiking outdoors is still ok. The order takes effect at 5pm on Saturday, and for now, is set to run through April 7.

Pritzker said he conferred with scientists and medical experts, and "they've come to me with one inescapable conclusion to avoid the loss of potentially tens of thousands of lives," hence the stay-at-home order. He said the effort is part of stemming the flow of sick patients into the medical system.

"Things are already tough in Illinois hospitals," said Chicago-based epidemiologist Emily Landon during the conference. She said physical distance is one of the only known ways to stop the spread and endorsed the order.

Best case scenario? "You’re going to feel like it was all for nothing," Landon said. "Nothing, means that nothing happened to your family. And that’s what we’re going for here."

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced 163 new confirmed cases in the state. That's a total of 585 cases in 25 counties. Five people in the state have died from complications.

Springfield Supt. Jennifer Gill said in a statement to parents, "Based on the information that we have today, it is likely that District 186 will resume on April 14, 2020, after our regularly scheduled Spring Break unless we receive communication that the closure will be extended beyond that date."
 
Illinois set to be partially locked down, according to Chicago Tribune report. The stay-at-home order, which the Tribune says will start tomorrow, parallels gubernatorial action in California.

Christmas during Easter season: A St. Louis radio station will begin broadcasting Christmas music today at 5 p.m. and you can get it via the internet. May the true spirit of Christmas come through.

A local business relief fund has been established by the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, which has provided $15,000 in seed money with an additional $10,000 contributed by members of the chamber’s board of directors, according to a chamber press release. The goal is to provide a short-term lifeline. Businesses can apply by going to the chamber’s website at www.gscc.org, and organizations and people who wish to contribute should do the same thing. Donors can also text “RELIEF” to 8666125378, or mail a check payable to The Greater Springfield Chamber Foundation. Checks can be mailed to The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, 501 E. Capitol Avenue, Suite A, Springfield, IL 62701. Grants will be made on a first-come-first-served basis based on applications received by April 6.

Thursday, March 19

Stay home, California governor orders, making the Golden State the first to issue a statewide order barring people from leaving their homes except for essentials. "We need to recognize reality," Gov. Gavin Newsom said.

Five cases confirmed in Sangamon County, public health officials and health care providers announced today. One woman died today at Memorial Medical Center, officials said, but the other four people are no longer hospitalized. Memorial Health System has six patients under investigation for coronavirus and St. John’s Hospital has an equal number. The results of 16 tests are pending.

Ward 8 Ald. Erin Conley has tested negative for the coronavirus. She self-quarantined after coming into contact with someone who tested positive. Conley, who participated by telephone in this week's Springfield City Council meeting, announced the good news on Facebook: First of all, thank you to everyone who has reached out to me this week! I just got my covid test result back and I am negative. I’m relieved, and will be back at city council on Tuesday, but I continue to pray for the people who are sick.

Hold a virtual special legislative session, says former Gov. Rod Blagojevich in a Chicago Tribune op-ed.

Cases, death toll climb statewide: Public health officials and Gov. JB Pritzker announced three more deaths on Thursday, bringing the statewide toll to four, including a woman who died today at Memorial Medical Center in Springfield. Officials said there have been 134 new cases since Wednesday, bringing the total to 422 spread across 22 counties.

Gun purchases
are skyrocketing in Illinois and elsewhere.

Respirators, masks needed: The Illinois Health and Hospital Association is calling on dentists, construction companies, veterinarians and other businesses or entities to donate face masks and N95 respirators to help protect health care workers who are, or will be, caring for coronavirus patients. “Hospitals all over the state are in jeopardy of potentially running out of critically needed protective medical supplies,” said Illinois Health and Hospital Association President and CEO A.J. Wilhelmi in a press release. “With continuing uncertainties about global and U.S. supplies of face masks, we urgently need to find alternative supplies, no matter where they are, so our hospitals can continue to provide life-saving care to current and future COVID-19 patients.” Anyone who wishes to donate face masks or N95 respirators should contact Patrick Sonin, the association’s vice president for group purchasing and business development, at psonin@team-iha.org.

The Springfield Mass Transit District is suspending service to Chatham, Riverton, Rochester and Sherman effective Monday, March 23, due to low ridership. People in those areas who need transportation can call 217-522-8594 to be entered into the agency’s paratransit ride-scheduling system, which normally focuses on the disabled under the Americans With Disabilities Act, the district says in a press release, but  is now open to folks in outlying communities who usually relay on fixed-route buses. SMTD is also closing its public service areas at main offices on South Ninth Street at close of business today. No fares are being charged, so no bus passes are necessary.

The Sangamon County courthouse is closed to anyone with a temperature higher than 100, and public health workers will be posted at the courthouse entrance to screen visitors and take temperatures. Most court proceedings have been canceled, with several offices closed to the public and visitors asked to call ahead before visiting offices that haven’t been closed to everyone except employees. Authorities are asking the public to not visit the courthouse unless absolutely necessary, and then call ahead and be prepared for health screening at the door upon arrival. Courthouse offices that are running as normal, according to a press release from the county board office, include the sheriff and the county auditor. The state’s attorney’s office, the supervisor of assessments, the circuit clerk’s office are open, but anyone having business should call those offices before going to the courthouse. The court administrator and court services are offering emergency services only, with visitors instructed to call before visiting. Other county and court offices are closed to the public but offering help by telephone.

Oak Park issues shelter-in-place order as two emergency room doctors test positive. Under the order, village residents are supposed to stay home but can go out for food and other essentials.

Planned Parenthood of Illinois announced it will be consolidating some offices and expanding hours. Springfield's location at 601 N. Burns remains open. Those who are scheduled for non-essential appointments are being asked to postpone their visits until a later date and use telehealth services for the time being. For latest updates, you can check out PPIL's website, here.

Wednesday, March 18

No new cases of coronavirus have been reported in Sangamon County since Monday, public health and hospital officials said in a press release issued at 5:23 p.m. Three of the four confirmed patients are at home, officials said, and the fourth is at Memorial Medical Center. Eight people with symptoms are in Memorial facilities, and nine additional patients with symptoms are at St. John’s Hospital. Results are pending on 30 tests for the virus, officials said. Both Memorial and HSHS St. John’s have established screening centers, where people are assessed to determine whether they will be tested.

The number of confirmed cases in Illinois has risen 80% between yesterday and today, going from 160 to 288, with state officials expecting the number of confirmed cases to rise as more tests are performed. More than 2,000 people have been tested. People in 17 counties, including Sangamon, have tested positive. Anyone with symptoms that can mimic a cold should assume they have the virus and stay home, said Gov. JB Pritzker at an afternoon press briefing. "We should look at the mistakes made in Europe," Pritzker said. "It should be a cautionary tale."

Hours reduced: Hy-Vee has announced it will cut hours, opening at 8 a.m. and closing at 8 p.m. starting today.


More than 41,000 unemployment claims have been filed in two days, according to Capitolfax, which reports that 4,445 claims were filed during the same two-day period a year ago. Gov. JB Pritzker this afternoon says the state is working to streamline the process to release money quickly. "We've actually