101st GENERAL ASSEMBLY:No word yet when the General Assembly plans to reconvene. Working groups continue in both chambers to discuss legislative responses to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as discussing the FY 21 budget. The new fiscal year starts July 1st.
Today, Illinois reported 2724new cases of coronavirus which brings the state’s total positive cases to 39,658 in 96 counties. Illinois reports an additional 108 deaths bringing Illinois’ death toll to 1,795 lives lost.Medical/surgical and ICU bed availability remains relatively flat statewide. Yesterday, 4,877 persons are hospitalized with COVID-19 in Illinois, occupying 1,268 ICU beds and utilizing 766 ventilators.
Stay-at-Home Order Extension: Yesterday, Governor J.B. Pritzker announced he will extend Illinois’ stay-at-home order through the end of May. The current order expires April 30th. The new order will be filed next week and takes effect May 1st.Highlights of the changes to the stay-at-home order from the Governor’s press release:
- OUTDOOR RECREATION: State parks will begin a phased re-opening under guidance from the Department of Natural Resources. Fishing and boating in groups of no more than two people will be permitted. A list of parks that will be open on May 1 and additional guidelines can be found on the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Golf will be permitted under strict safety guidelines provided by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and when ensuring that social distancing is followed.
- NEW ESSENTIAL BUSINESSES: Greenhouses, garden centers and nurseries may re-open as essential businesses. These stores must follow social distancing requirements and must require that employees and customers wear a face covering. Animal grooming services may also re-open.
- NON-ESSENTIAL RETAIL: Retail stores designated as non-essential businesses and operations may re-open to fulfill telephone and online orders through pick-up outside the store and delivery.
- FACE COVERINGS: Beginning on May 1, individuals will be required to wear a face-covering or a mask when in a public place where they can’t maintain a six-foot social distance. Face-coverings will be required in public indoor spaces, such as stores. This new requirement applies to all individuals over the age of two who are able to medically tolerate a face-covering or a mask.
- ESSENTIAL BUSINESSES AND MANUFACTURING: Essential businesses and manufacturers will be required to provide face-coverings to all employees who are not able to maintain six-feet of social distancing, as well as follow new requirements that maximize social distancing and prioritize the well-being of employees and customers. This will include occupancy limits for essential businesses and precautions such as staggering shifts and operating only essential lines for manufacturers.
- SCHOOLS: Educational institutions may allow and establish procedures for pick-up of necessary supplies or student belongings. Dormitory move-outs must follow public health guidelines, including social distancing.
- HEALTH CARE PROCEDURES: The Illinois Department of Public Health will also be issuing guidance to surgi-centers and hospitals to allow for certain elective surgeries for non-life-threatening conditions, starting on May 1. Facilities will need to meet specific criteria, including proper PPE, ensuring enough overall space for COVID-19 patients remains available, and testing of elective surgery patients to ensure COVID-19 negative status.
Worker’s Compensation Emergency Rules Lawsuit Filed: A coalition of business interests filed a lawsuit this week in Sangamon County Circuit Court challenging the Worker’s Compensation Emergency Rules that will require employers to pay workers’ compensation benefits if an employee is diagnosed with COVID-19 without proof the illness was contracted at the workplace. The Illinois Manufacturers Association and the Illinois Retail Merchants Association argue that the Commission did not have the authority to make the changes through emergency rule; rather those type of substantive changes must be made legislatively.
COVID-19 Testing: On Tuesday, Illinois ran 9,349 COVID-19 tests, the most the state has run to date. Governor Pritzker’s goal is for Illinois to run 10,000 tester per day.
Illinois is offering two addition state-run drive through testing sites, bringing the total number of state-run drive-through COVID-19 testing sites to five. The new sites will be located at Chicago Premium Outlets outdoor shopping mall in Aurora and the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Rockford. The new locations are capable of collecting 1,100 specimens daily when fully operations. Those wishing to be tested to do not a doctor’s order.
Student Loan Relief: Illinois secured an agreement with 20 private student loan services to provide relief for approximately 138,000 borrowers who were not covered under the federal CARES Act student loan relief program.
COVID-19 Response Fund: The COVID-19 Response Fund has distributed an additional $4.85 million to 18 nonprofit organizations across Illinois. This is the second round of grants. To date, the response fund has raised $30 million from more than 2,400 donors. More than $10.5 million in grants have been dispersed to 48 nonprofits to help with emergency food, housing, health care, utilities and financial assistance.
SNAP Benefits: The Illinois Department of Human Services’ is now authorized to provide an additional $112 million in nutritional benefits to families with children statewide. More than 300,000 households with children will be eligible for the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program.