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

A Chicago-area train line’s “mask optional” cars have sparked a discussion over enforcement policies.

This comes as Illinois announced another 1,848 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, while Gov. J.B. Pritzker again touted the state’s testing capacity as among the best in the nation.

You can track and compare the positivity rate in testing in 10 Midwestern states in the chart embedded below.

Here are the latest updates from across Illinois on the coronavirus pandemic today (Sept. 24):

Illinois Reports 1,848 New Cases of Coronavirus, 22 Additional Deaths

Health officials in Illinois on Wednesday reported 1,848 new cases of coronavirus in the last 24 hours, along with 22 additional deaths attributed to the virus.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, Wednesday’s new cases of the virus brings the statewide total to 279,114 confirmed cases since the pandemic began.

The 22 additional deaths bring the statewide death toll to 8,508 fatalities attributed to the virus.

WEB COVID19 UPDATE Dr Ezike

Days after Gov. J.B. Pritzker touted testing milestones – more than 5 million total conducted and one of the highest number of average daily tests in the country – state health officials said 46,391 tests were conducted in the past 24 hours. That brings the total number of tests in Illinois to 5,231,607 since the pandemic began.

The statewide seven-day average positivity rate was 3.5% Wednesday, officials said, no change from the day before.

Currently, 1,563 patients remain hospitalized statewide, with 351 of those in intensive care units and 144 on ventilators.

Sept. 23: Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker delivers a coronavirus update for the state.

Pritzker to Discuss 2020 Census

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expected to discuss the 2020 Census twice on Thursday, according to his public schedule.

His first appearance will be with local leaders in Carbondale beginning at 10:30 a.m., his office says. Then, he will head to Marion for a second news conference on the importance of being counted in the Census beginning at 1 p.m.

South Shore Line’s ‘Mask-Optional’ Cars Spark Debate

The debate over wearing masks amid the coronavirus pandemic has been an ongoing issue for several months now, but the South Shore Line train service has come up with a solution to prevent confrontations with customers who choose not to wear the facial coverings.

The South Shore Line, operated by the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, has begun to make accommodations for those who refuse to wear masks, setting up so-called “mask-optional” cars on its trains.

“We were getting complaints from riders, telling us that others in their car weren’t wearing masks,” President Michael Noland said. “Because we had enforcement problems, we went with this approach.”

The South Shore Line, which runs from South Bend, Indiana, travels to Millennium Station in Chicago.

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The debate over wearing masks amid the coronavirus pandemic has been an ongoing issue for several months now, but the South Shore Line train service has come up with a solution to prevent confrontations with customers who choose not to wear the facial coverings. NBC 5’s Regina Waldroup reports.

Employees on the train service are still required to wear masks, and passengers not in the “mask-optional” car must also wear them, unless prevented from doing so by medical condition or other extenuating circumstances.

Noland says the complaints for non-compliance have gone down since the mask-optional cars were added.

“It’s not a perfect policy, but we think it’s worked very well because we had a lot of concerned customers,” he said. “We are not encouraging them not to wear a mask, and we are advising them that there are mask requirements that they need to be aware of.”

Those requirements are in place in several communities along the train’s route, including St. Joseph, Laporte and Lake counties requiring masks in public areas.

Illinois requires masks to be worn in public when social distancing is not possible.

Even with those requirements in place, officials with the South Shore Line did not consult with officials in Chicago or in any of the other counties along the train’s route before implementing the mask-optional cars.

Metra says it has no plans to implement similar cars on its train lines.

Suburban School Says 4th Grader Tested Positive

A suburban school district announced Wednesday that a 4th grade student has tested positive for COVID-19.

North Shore School District 112 said in an email to parents that the student at Oak Terrace tested positive on Wednesday. That student has not been in attendance at school since Sept. 18 and is in isolation, officials said.

The school said it is working on contact tracing with the Lake County Health Department, which will contact the student directly and notify any close contacts.

“If you do not receive communication from school administration or the Lake County Health Department, your student has not been identified as a close contact and can continue to attend school,” the email from Assistant Supt. Holly Colin reads.

Colin noted that federal privacy laws prevented the school from sharing the name of the student or any information that may lead to the child’s identification. The email also warned the school community to be aware of scams, saying contact tracers won’t ask for a social security number or any form of payment.

“Given the spread of COVID-19 in Lake County, we should not be surprised when presumed positive or positive test results are identified within our community,” the letter says. “It may continue to occur, and this is a major reason why mitigation strategies such as maintaining social distance, masking and hand washing are all still very important.”

Wisconsin, Several Other States Added to Chicago Travel Order Requiring Quarantine

Wisconsin was one of several locations added Tuesday to Chicago’s emergency travel order requiring a 14-day quarantine.

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The northern neighboring state was joined by Montana, Idaho, Minnesota and Puerto Rico on the city’s quarantine list. Kentucky and Louisiana were removed, leaving the total number of locations on the list at 19.

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady had previously warned last week that Wisconsin had reached the threshold for inclusion and would likely be included in the next update.

Arwady said Tuesday that Wisconsin was “currently in very poor control when it comes to COVID,” adding that the state has more than double the average daily cases per 100,000 residents than what is required to be named on Chicago’s travel order.

CDPH Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady delivers update on Chicago’s travel order.

The positivity rate in testing in Wisconsin stood at 16% as of Monday, state health officials said, with the trendline rising sharply.

For the 10th day in a row, Wisconsin broke its own record for average daily new cases, picking up more than 1,200 new cases on Monday. Last week, the state had multiple days where more than 2,000 new cases were reported each day.

“Certainly we are watching Wisconsin with huge concern,” Arwady said last Tuesday. “They had their highest ever number of cases of COVID reported last Thursday, they had percentage positivities in the 13% to 17% range.”

Arwady said that while data indicated the state should added to the order, the city held off on its inclusion because officials recognized that “people need time for planning.”

Under the guidelines, those traveling to or from Wisconsin for work and those traveling through the state for travel will not need to quarantine, Arwady said. Those traveling to the state for leisure, however, even for less than 24 hours, will need to quarantine, she said.

Illinois Lawmaker Tests Positive for COVID-19, Quarantines

An Illinois lawmaker has tested positive for COVID-19, his office announced Monday.

State Rep. Sam Yingling tested positive last week and has been quarantined at his home in Grayslake, his office said a statement.

The 40-year-old Democrat experienced significant sinus congestion and drainage, symptoms he thought at first to be related to his allergies, the statement said. But those symptoms quickly evolved and he experienced a sore throat, cough, chest congestion, headache, fatigue, and body aches, it said.

Yingling said once he learned he’d tested positive, he notified anyone he’d knowingly been in contact with and encouraged them to get tested.

Chicago Releases Fall and Winter Outdoor Dining Guidance for Restaurants

While it remains unclear what winter dining will look in Chicago as restaurants work to find creative solutions for eating outside in the cold, Chicago officials have released new guidelines that bring some clarity to what’s ahead.

Under the guidance quietly released by the city over the weekend, restaurants with sidewalk cafe permits or outdoor patio licenses can use tents, domes or other temporary structures that allow “adequate ventilation” for circulation. Some heating devices will also be allowed, but they have to meet a required set of safety regulations.

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For places using domes or other enclosed spaces, placards must be posted “advising about increased risk of transmission within an enclosed space.”

Restaurants will need to submit their fall and winter plans in writing.

More than 50 restaurants in the Chicago area have permanently closed their doors because of the coronavirus pandemic. Restaurant owners have said they’re particularly concerned about the winter months if things don’t change and restrictions on indoor dining remain in place.

Chicago officials launched a competition last month for creative outdoor dining ideas for the winter months and have received over 600 submissions so far. They include tents, heated tables and domes. The winners get a $5,000 cash prize and the chance to try out the idea at restaurants and bars in Chicago.

“From architects to designers, restaurateurs, servers and dining enthusiasts, the city has received 643 innovative and exciting ideas for cold-weather outdoor dining in the first-ever Chicago Winter Design Challenge,” the mayor’s office said in a release.

Pritzker Announces 3 Major Coronavirus Testing Milestones in Illinois

Illinois has reached three major coronavirus testing milestones, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Monday.

On Saturday, state health officials reported 74,286 tests conducted in the previous 24 hours – marking a new one-day high in the state.

That figure brought the total number of tests conducted in Illinois to more than 5 million since the pandemic began – exactly 5,057,142 on Saturday, reaching 5,143,387 by Monday afternoon. That makes Illinois one of the first states in the U.S. to cross that 5 million mark, Pritzker said Monday.

“These nation-leading accomplishments have allowed Illinoisans to do what most states can’t. There’s a testing location and testing available for you if you feel you need one and you can get one even without a doctor’s order,” he said. “For families, businesses, schools and churches, that means there’s a measure of safety here in Illinois that doesn’t exist in most other states.”

The third milestone Pritzker noted was that the state is averaging about 52,000 tests conducted each day, putting Illinois tied for third in the country after California and New York.

Pritzker said that the robust testing program in Illinois made it “by far the best testing state in the Midwest,” saying Illinois has conducted 50% more coronavirus tests than the state ranked second in the region.

“We do three and a half times the testing that the average state does, and we’re one of the fastest states om delivering tests back to our residents. In a pandemic, widely available testing and faster results mean our people are safer,” he added.

Midwestern Coronavirus Positivity Rates Over the Past 2 Weeks

How States Compare on Where Coronavirus Is Most Easily Spread





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