* From Katie Prout’s profile of Chicago blues singer Mary Lane…
The blues are not linear; they circle around the listener like smoke or spiral stairs, returning again to the same rounded corner, or what feels like the same. For that, they can sound repetitive, deceptively simple. But it’s not the same stair; you and your ghosts are one floor up. It’s not the same line; there’s a stronger chord, an “I said” where there wasn’t one before, which acts as a streak of lightning in the same dark and illuminates, briefly, the world around you and your place in it.
* As I told subscribers this morning, I’m taking next week off. But, before I do, I’d like to ask y’all one more time to please, pretty please wear a mask, keep your distance and use actual common sense, unlike these folks…
Rod never had a lick of common sense, which is a big reason why he ended up in the pokey.
* Alas, I must say the same about these folks…
Speaking to manufacturers and small business owners this morning at @TMAInfo in Schaumburg this morning. We had a great conversation and I look forward to working with them to bring jobs back to Illinois! pic.twitter.com/2XGXHbvp91
Across Illinois, many small cities and counties are facing a financial abyss caused by plummeting sales tax and other lost revenue related to pandemic shutdown orders.
They say no real relief is coming their way, despite the money Congress allocated to help state and local governments in the CARES Act. Of the roughly $3.5 billion sent to Illinois, the General Assembly carved out $200 million specifically for small cities and counties. […]
“And then, as the state, through DCEO, developed guidelines on what it could be used for, and the restrictions placed on it, essentially, are going to make most of that money inaccessible to us,” [Carbondale City Manager Gary Williams] said. […]
Under the reimbursement program, Carbondale is eligible for up to just more than $1 million — incidentally, about the same amount the city has lost in sales tax. But Williams said he projects only being able to draw down about 10% of that amount.
* I reached out to Mr. Williams to ask him to explain the ten percent number…
That’s actually not what I said during the interview, I told the reporter that it was doubtful that we use even 10% of our allocation which is a little over $1 million. I also told her that it was an estimate at best and we wouldn’t know for a while yet. The reason why we expect to use little of our allocation is that most of our expenses to date would have been for PPE which we received free from IEMA. To date, our total costs are a little under $30,000 which 75% is reimbursable through IEMA. We can recover the additional from CURE, which we’re grateful for, but like every other city I’ve talked to, we would prefer to use the funds for revenue losses which to date are over $1 million.
* And then I asked Jordan Abudayyeh at the governor’s office for comment…
NONE of the federal funding we’ve received can be used for revenue losses, at the state level or at the local level. It can only be used to cover additional costs that are related to COVID. There’s some talk at the federal level about relaxing the rules on it. Wouldn’t so much help the state because all of our federal money is allocated already.
* The Belleville News-Democrat took a look at what information Metro East schools were and, more importantly, weren’t divulging about COVID-19 cases…
Collinsvile District 10 confirmed last week that it had confirmed “more than one” case. When asked by a reporter exactly how many tested positive, whether they were students or staff members, and in which of the district’s 15 buildings they were present, Public Relations Liaison Kimberly Collins said the district “won’t be sharing a tally.”
Yumi Hohm, a parent of two Highland District 5 students, said she and other parents have been doing “detective work” on Facebook to see which families in the community were posting about being quarantined.
She says they are looking for information parents should already be getting from the school district. Hohm’s own kids are taking the remote learning option through the district.
“As a citizen, you shouldn’t have to find something out for yourself during a pandemic,” Hohm said. “This is something that should be transparent and available.”
In Madison County, a sample letter was sent to superintendents, with the recommendation that districts follow the template when communicating to parents and staff about COVID-19 cases, Regional Superintendent Robert Werden said.
The letter, which came from the Illinois Department of Health, suggests districts say an individual or individuals at a particular school tested positive for COVID-19 without specifying how many. [Emphasis added.]
That’s the same Rob Werden, by the way, who is an old friend of this blog and its proprietor (me).
* The Question: Should schools be required to divulge more information about new cases? And if so, how much info? And if not, why?
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) today reported 30 counties in Illinois are considered to be at a warning level for novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). A county enters a warning level when two or more COVID-19 risk indicators that measure the amount of COVID-19 increase.
Thirty counties are currently reported at a warning level – Bureau, Carroll, Cass, Clinton, Cook, Cumberland, Effingham, Fayette, Greene, Grundy, Henderson, Henry, Jasper, Jersey, Jo Daviess, Johnson, Madison, Monroe, Morgan, Perry, Pike, Randolph, Sangamon, Shelby, St. Clair, Union, Warren, White, Will, and Williamson.
Although the reasons for counties reaching a warning level varies, some of the common factors for an increase in cases and outbreaks are associated with weddings, large gatherings, long-term care facilities and other congregate settings, travel to neighboring states, bars, and spread among members of the same household who are not isolating at home. Cases connected to schools are beginning to be reported. General transmission of the virus in the community is also increasing.
Public health officials are observing people not social distancing, gathering in large groups, and not using face coverings. In some counties, local law enforcement and states’ attorneys are not enforcing important mitigation measures like social distancing and the wearing of face coverings.
Several counties are taking swift action and implementing mitigation measures to help slow spread of the virus, including increasing testing opportunities, working with schools, meeting with local leaders, and educating businesses and large venues about the importance of mitigation measures.
IDPH uses numerous indicators when determining if a county is experiencing stable COVID-19 activity, or if there are warning signs of increased COVID-19 risk in the county. A county is considered at the warning level when at least two of the following metrics triggers a warning.
• New cases per 100,000 people. If there are more than 50 new cases per 100,000 people in the county, this triggers a warning.
• Number of deaths. This metric indicates a warning when the weekly number of deaths increases more than 20% for two consecutive weeks.
• Weekly test positivity. This metric indicates a warning when the 7-day test positivity rate rises above 8%.
• ICU availability. If there are fewer than 20% of intensive care units available in the region, this triggers a warning.
• Weekly emergency department visits. This metric indicates a warning when the weekly percent of COVID-19-like-illness emergency department visits increase by more than 20% for two consecutive weeks.
• Weekly hospital admissions. A warning is triggered when the weekly number of hospital admissions for COVID-19-like-illness increases by more than 20% for two consecutive weeks.
• Tests perform. This metric is used to provide context and indicate if more testing is needed in the county.
• Clusters. This metric looks at the percent of COVID-19 cases associated with clusters or outbreaks and is used to understand large increase in cases.
These metrics are intended to be used for local level awareness to help local leaders, businesses, local health departments, and the public make informed decisions about personal and family gatherings, as well as what activities they choose to do. The metrics are updated weekly, from the Sunday-Saturday of the prior week.
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) today announced 2,149 new confirmed cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Illinois, including 20 additional confirmed deaths.
- Cook County: 1 male 60s, 1 female 70s, 1 male 70s, 1 female 80s, 2 male 80s
- DeKalb County: 1 male 70s, 1 male 80s
- Douglas County: 1 male 90s
- Greene County: 1 female 70s
- Iroquois County: 1 female 80s
- Jefferson County: 1 female 90s
- Jersey County: 1 female 70s, 1 female 80s
- Lake County: 1 male 20s
- Richland County: 1 male 90s
- Rock Island County: 1 male 80s
- Union County: 1 male 50s
- Will County: 1 female 70s
- Williamson County: 1 female 70s
Currently, IDPH is reporting a total of 229,483 cases, including 7,997 deaths, in 102 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 48,383 specimens for a total of 3,924,305. The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total test from August 21 – August 27 is 4.1%. As of last night, 1,546 people in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 352 patients were in the ICU and 132 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.
Following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, IDPH is now reporting both confirmed and probable cases and deaths on its website. Reporting probable cases will help show the potential burden of COVID-19 illness and efficacy of population-based non-pharmaceutical interventions. IDPH will update these data once a week.
*All data are provisional and will change. In order to rapidly report COVID-19 information to the public, data are being reported in real-time. Information is constantly being entered into an electronic system and the number of cases and deaths can change as additional information is gathered. For health questions about COVID-19, call the hotline at 1-800-889-3931 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Aside from Regions 4 and 7, no other regions are in immediate danger of mitigations. Region 1 does have seven days of a rising positivity rate, but would need a lot more hospitalization increases to trigger anything. Reminder of how that works: pic.twitter.com/dyKmhHp6Uc
Illinois election authorities are confronting higher levels of pushback from polling sites wary of hosting this year because of concerns and closures related to COVID-19. With early voting scheduled to begin Oct. 19, and the deadline to finalize sites set for early September, election administrators don’t have much time left.
“It’s been difficult,” McHenry County Clerk Joseph Tirio said. “We have received word from a number of locations — and that changes from day to day — that no longer wish to participate.”
But, scroll down and it’s really not that dire in other counties surveyed. Will County has lost two early voting sites, but they’re both expected to come back into the fold. Lake County isn’t having serious problems. Cook County claimed securing sites was “a little bit more work” than in the past. College of DuPage has withdrawn as an early voting site, but that was the only problem mentioned.
If positivity rates, cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to rise, then yeah, fear will definitely spread and we could see some very big problems.
Please, wear a mask, keep your distance, wash your hands and use actual common sense.
*** UPDATE *** Press release…
In preparation for the 2020 elections, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has issued guidance to protect the safety and health of voters as they cast ballots at polling locations throughout the state during early voting and Election Day. The “COVID-19 Guidance for Election Polling Places” guidance can be found here.
“Voting is a right and a privilege,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “While the safest way to cast a ballot this year is voting by mail, we are and will continue to take the necessary steps to ensure that Illinoisans can exercise their right to vote in person, in the safest possible environments during this COVID-19 pandemic.”
In accordance with the guidance, all local election authorities will be required to develop written COVID-19 prevention plans for all polling sites within their jurisdiction. Plans will contain specific COVID-19 safety and training instructions along with the names of individuals responsible for implementation of the plan.
Election authorities are being strongly encouraged to relocate polls previously housed in long-term care facilities and senior living residences to protect voters and residents – particularly those who are most vulnerable.
All locations will have signage to encourage voters to wear masks and maintain a distance of 6 feet, while inside the polling places. If voters show up to a polling place without one, election authorities are required to offer them a face covering outside of the polling place. Polling booths will be set up at least 6 feet apart and foot traffic will be one-directional.
Additional recommended preventative actions in the guidance include using Plexiglas barriers between election officials and voters, large print instructions to facilitate communication, routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces, and polling place personnel to remind voters to maintain physical distance. While election officials are prohibited from preventing a voter without a face covering from casting a ballot, the guidance requires they take every reasonable action to separate noncompliant voters, ensuring they are socially distanced from those voters who are compliant.
More than 1 million Illinois voters have requested vote-by-mail ballots for the November election, as voters respond to a statewide push for mail voting amid concerns over COVID-19.
The number of requests puts Illinois on pace to substantially exceed the record it set for voting by mail in the 2018 general election, when 430,000 votes were cast by mail, accounting for 9.3 percent of all ballots. In the 2016 general election, 370,000 votes – 6.5 percent of all ballots — were cast by mail.
This summer, the state’s 108 local election authorities sent mail ballot applications to 6.4 million Illinoisans who had voted in the 2018 general, 2019 consolidated or 2020 primary elections. The mailings were required under a series of special election laws passed by the Illinois General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. JB Pritzker in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The 1,111,387 mail ballot applications received to date likely is lower than the true total, as 28 Illinois election authorities have not yet reported their totals.
“We are encouraged by the strong response to the ongoing vote-by-mail effort,” said State Board of Elections Executive Director Steve Sandvoss. “Voting by mail provides a safe, secure and convenient voting option for those concerned about COVID-19. It also will help ease congestion at in-person polling places during early voting and on Election Day.”
Man, that’s a lot. Ballots won’t even be mailed to voters until September 24th.
State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, is backing legislation to promote fair contracting opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses in the public and private sector.
“For too long, Black-owned businesses, other minority-owned businesses, and women-owned businesses have been shut out of opportunities to provide services to public and private sector institutions,” Welch said. “I am fighting to ensure that institutions in government and the private sector are giving businesses owned by African Americans, women, and other minorities a fair shot to provide services to other businesses or to their government.”
Welch is sponsoring House Bill 5824, an initiative to promote the use of diverse contractors within the public and private sector. Under Welch’s bill, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) will be required to hold matchmaking workshops to connect diverse vendors with various institutions seeking services including colleges and universities, hospitals, casinos, racetracks, and health insurance companies.
Welch’s measure also strengthens fair contracting reporting requirements for public sector entities. Any insurance company with assets of more than $50 million and all health insurance companies with Medicaid contracts will be required to file a supplier diversity report with the state. Additionally, all recipients of the state’s Economic Development for a Growing Economy (EDGE) tax credits will be required to file a supplier diversity report with the state. Previous legislation to require supplier diversity reports for utilities led to a more than 400% increase in the use of diverse vendors for that sector.
“Ensuring better connections between diverse businesses and large institutions seeking services is one way we can increase the use of businesses owned by African American, other minorities, and women,” Welch said. “For public institutions and businesses relying on special tax breaks, we go even further by requiring public reporting on the use of diverse businesses in order to ensure fair contracting opportunities for Black-, minority- and women-owned businesses.”
“I am demanding that veto session takes place as scheduled, because the Black agenda cannot wait,” Welch, a Hillside Democrat, said during a video news conference. “The Black agenda, which will be rolled out in the coming days, is going to demand equity and inclusion and in several areas.”
Welch was referring to a package of legislation expected to be put forward by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus. Ahead of that announcement, however, the Maywood Democrat said he will push for passage of House Bill 5824. It would improve contracting opportunities for minority- and women-owned and operated businesses, he said.
“This isn’t something new. It’s something that we’ve been consistently fighting for year after year after year,” Welch said. “And I think in this watershed moment that we are (at) in history, this is the time, now more than ever, that we should be given fair contracting opportunities.” […]
Illinois currently has a statute that sets a goal of awarding at least 20 percent of the total dollars of state contracts to businesses owned by minorities, women and people with disabilities, but Welch said many of the state’s largest purchasing institutions, including its higher education system and Medicaid program, have consistently failed to meet that target.
“I have spent the summer looking at data in all of these industries. And the data is abysmal, particularly in the managed care organization industry,” he said.
The leader of the Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce said Gov. J.B. Pritzker doesn’t like for black businesses to have an opinion about the proposed income tax amendment that would change the state’s flat tax rate to a structure with higher rates for higher earners.
Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Larry Ivory said it is the wrong time for changing Illinois flat income tax to one with higher rates for higher earners.
Ivory said 40 percent of businesses may not survive the economic impact of COVID-19 restrictions and because of the state’s poor business climate pre-pandemic, people needing jobs are already being hurt by businesses leaving the state.
State Rep. LaShawn Ford, D-Chicago, said the proposed graduated income tax makes sense for Illinois.
“If we can make sure that those that make more can pay more we should do that,” Ford said.
Ivory said it’s “ridiculous” to think that raising taxes on businesses won’t affect their employees. He said taxing higher earners at higher rates will impact job creators and limit job offerings, which will in turn hurt the Black community.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday took the next step in the push for a Chicago casino, putting out a request for gambling operators and real estate developers to submit plans about how they would build and run what is expected to be a gigantic betting parlor in the city.
The request for information from the operators was the expected next step after Springfield lawmakers came through with the changes to the casino tax structure the mayor wanted to the legislation that allowed a gambling hall in the city.
“After securing favorable legislation that had eluded us for decades, Chicago can finally pursue a once in a generation opportunity to bring a casino to our city, generating hundreds of millions in new gaming revenues to shore up the City’s pension obligations and drive huge levels of infrastructure funding in Illinois as well as creating thousands of new and much needed jobs for local residents,” Lightfoot said Thursday.
The request for information asks applicants to talk about their thoughts on operating a temporary casino while a permanent one is under construction, and asks them to weigh in on what factors the city should prioritize for the location of the casino, including how many acres of land will be required.
Firms have until Oct. 21 to submit their pitch for this “once-in-a-generation opportunity for new gaming and entertainment development in the heart of a major American city,” as described by city officials.
Those plans should envision a Chicago casino “that would provide much-needed city and state revenues, as well as create well-paying jobs for Chicago residents,” according to the request for information packet released Thursday.
The city is looking for a company that has “demonstrated excellence in casino design, development, sustainability and operations, financial stability, accommodation of multi-modal transportation needs and giving back to the community” to operate the casino, according to the request. […]
The city also asked firms to weigh in on what impact the coronavirus pandemic will have on a Chicago casino. Illinois’ other casinos have been operating at a reduced capacity of 50% or less since the stay-at-home order was lifted at the end of May.
Last summer, her office offered up five South and West side sites — a list she stressed is “not definitive” — for a state-mandated consultant to evaluate. They included the Harborside Golf Course area at 111th Street and the Bishop Ford Freeway; Pershing Road and State Street; Roosevelt Road and Kostner Avenue; and the former U.S. Steel parcel at 80th Street and Lake Shore Drive.
But “the slate is clean” for developers to opine on where the casino should go, according to Samir Mayekar, Lightfoot’s deputy mayor for economic and neighborhood development.
“We are very interested in what developers will come back with, the acreage they envision, the entertainment district possibilities, all of those factors,” Mayekar said. […]
The city is asking developers to submit packets of information by Oct. 21.
After reviewing those, Lightfoot’s team will begin planning public meetings and planning when to request firm proposals from developers, Mayekar said.
* And a dude who represents potential Chicago casino competitors freely admits to bad-mouthing the city to potential investors…
One industry player underlined questions about how viable a Chicago casino is right now, with COVID-19 still running loose.
In an email, consultant Guy Chipparoni, who represents clients seeking casino licenses in Rockford and in the south suburbs, says he’s urged potential Chicago bidders who have approached him to go slow. Financing will be difficult “amidst a consolidating industry that has taken a big hit with the pandemic,” he said. And there is more competition for the gambling dollar. The real question, in his view: “Are deep-pocketed companies willing to plow through this with social equity in mind? Can they see through the issues in our city’s windshield today?”
* They sent us ventilators when times were tight, so this is the right thing to do. Press release…
Gov. JB Pritzker announced today a CH-47F Chinook helicopter, six Illinois National Guard (ILNG) soldiers and the required mission equipment will deploy to California to assist with efforts to contain wildfires in northern California. These first responders hail from B Company, 2nd Battalion, 238th General Support Aviation based in Peoria. The team will be deployed to the Golden State for 14 days.
The CH-47F Chinook is a versatile, twin-engine, tandem rotor heavy-lift helicopter. The unit comes equipped with a Bambi Bucket which can hold 2,000 gallons of water for fire suppression missions. The team, which includes two pilots, two crew members to operate the Bambi Bucket and two maintenance personnel, will also provide operational assistance for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CALFIRE).
The LNU Lightning Complex fire in northern California has charred more than 350,000 acres, destroyed nearly 1,000 structures, forced the evacuation of thousands and already claimed five lives. Rising temperatures could fuel this raging fire over the coming days and into the weekend.
“This spring, California Governor Gavin Newsom came to our state’s aid by loaning Illinois 100 ventilators in our time of need, and right now we have an opportunity to return the favor,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “California first responders are not only battling wildfires, they’re doing so in a COVID environment under the threat of severe heat and rolling blackouts. Our team of Illinois National Guard airmen will be coming in to provide additional manpower and equipment to help tackle this disaster. Our airmen are well-trained for these types of missions and will be a valuable resource for the Golden State.”
“This is a great example of how the Illinois National Guard can use its military capabilities to help others in need,” said Brig. Gen. Richard Neely, the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard. “These Soldiers just returned from their annual training in Nevada where they practiced many of the high altitude and high temperature aviation skills they will now put to use in helping our fellow citizens in California. I couldn’t be more proud of these Soldiers and the families and employers that support them. This is what it means to be a member of the National Guard.”
The soldiers and helicopters from Co. B 2/238th Aviation previously deployed for rescue operations in 2018 during Hurricane Florence (North Carolina) and in 2011 to aid in Hurricane Sandy (Vermont) relief efforts.
Requests for assistance are coordinated through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), a mutual aid agreement that allows states to request assistance from other states during emergencies. Officials from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) have been in regular contact with their Californian counterparts and remain committed to meet additional needs of the state of California.
“In a period when states are stretched thin due in terms of personnel and resources due to extensive or repetitive disasters, EMAC becomes a vital tool to bolster manpower, expertise and various other resources needed for disaster response,” said IEMA Director Alicia Tate-Nadeau. “EMAC allows states to help other states be safe, secure and resilient against all hazards. That partnership and collaboration is more important now than ever before.”
The ILNG unit will depart Saturday from Peoria Air Wing after receiving event identification, mission and safety briefings and mobilization assistance. This process ensures the accountability and readiness of personnel and state assets prior to departure. All costs associated with these deployments will be paid for by California.
* In the past few days, some commenters seemed unclear on the concept about how these fires started. Here’s Popular Mechanics…
In recent years, Pacific Gas & Electric’s poorly maintained infrastructure have sparked a number of large fires, several have been ignited by discarded cigarette butts, and a handful of blazes have spiraled out of control at homeless encampments or been set off by fireworks.
Fighting these fires in California’s varied terrain is undoubtedly challenging, as firefighters have deep canyons and steep hills to contend with. The spread of COVID-19 has complicated the response to many of these fires this year; resources are tight, and agencies are stretched thin without the help of inmate firefighters, who typically assist in the effort. With high winds and crushing heat expected this week, the outlook is grim. […]
There is no question that climate change has played a significant role in shaping the number and intensity of these fires. In recent years, California’s climate has gotten hotter. Drier conditions mean less snowpack in the Sierras, less runoff in the spring, and less moisture for vegetation. These conditions have made it especially easy for massive wildland fires to ignite and quickly burn through parched vegetation.
As the The New York Times reports, nine of the 10 largest fires in the state’s history have occurred in the past ten years, and it’s no coincidence that nine of the ten hottest years on record have happened since 2000. In 2016, the hottest year on record, the average global temperature was 1.78 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th-century average, according to NOAA.
The infrastructure referenced above is mainly about old, above-ground power lines.