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*** UPDATED x1 *** AFSCME loses vax arbitration case; Pritzker and IHA urge hospitals to expand bed capacity

Thursday, Dec 30, 2021

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* As expected…

Building on efforts to protect state employees and people in the State’s care or custody from the threat of COVID-19, Governor JB Pritzker today announced that the Arbitrator in the State’s Vaccine Mandate Interest Arbitration determined that the State can and should require vaccinations for Illinois Department of Correction (IDOC) guards and Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice (IDJJ) staff

This decision will ensure employees in State Correctional Centers and Juvenile Justice facilities are protected with the COVID-19 vaccines. Employees subject to this decision will be required to get their first shot by January 31, 2022 unless they are approved for a religious or medical exemption.

“The recent surge of cases brought on by the Omicron variant has brought a serious threat to our state, and I’m glad that this ruling will protect nearly 10,000 state workers and all of the people at these facilities,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Protecting the health and safety of workers and residents across the state remains a top priority for my administration and I look forward to continued discussions with our labor partners as we move forward with the task of keeping our employees and residents of our congregate facilities safe.””

Vaccination is the key to ending the COVID-19 pandemic. All Illinois residents over the age of 5 are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at no cost and proof of immigration status is not required to receive the vaccine.

The administration has taken extensive measures to make the COVID-19 vaccine equitable and accessible. Governor JB Pritzker recently directed the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) to enhance its partnerships with local health department mass vaccination operations throughout the state to help meet the growing demand for the COVID-19 vaccine booster.

Individuals can visit http://www.vaccines.gov to find a nearby location to receive a vaccine or booster dose. Testing locations can be found at https://dph.illinois.gov/covid19/testing.html, including information on the days and hours for free Community-based Testing Sites.

* Meanwhile…

To prepare for a likely surge of post-holiday Omicron COVID-19 cases and to prepare for a potential shortage of staffed ICU beds, Gov. JB Pritzker and the Illinois Health and Hospital Association are urging hospitals to take every possible measure to maintain and expand bed capacity, including postponing non-emergency surgeries and other procedures as needed and without risking patient harm.

The state and hospitals throughout Illinois are continuing to work in concert to prevent the state’s healthcare infrastructure from being overwhelmed by the ongoing Omicron variant surge of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations. By working closely together over the course of this pandemic, this partnership has prevented Illinois from exceeding capacity, unlike other states.

Throughout Illinois, hospital admissions are rapidly increasing, further diminishing ICU bed capacity. Holiday gatherings are anticipated to drive an increase in the coming weeks, placing an additional strain on Illinois’ hospitals and healthcare workers.

In particular, hospitals should continue to follow the Illinois Department of Public Health’s guidance on when to consider postponing elective surgeries and procedures that physicians believe can be rescheduled without risking patient harm. Some hospitals have already delayed non-emergent procedures to increase capacity, and the Governor and hospital leaders urge all hospitals to take needed steps to ensure sufficient capacity in the coming weeks.

“We are preparing for a continuing post-holiday surge, and with hospital staff already working so hard, I appreciate the work hospital leadership is doing to assure capacity, including postponing non-emergency surgeries and procedures to ensure their ability to handle serious COVID cases and other emergencies without putting patients at risk,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “To all Illinoisans: please understand that the nation is experiencing high COVID transmission rates, and some surgeries in Illinois will be postponed. We’re asking our residents to temporarily hold off on important medical care like tonsillectomies, bariatric surgeries and hernia repair. As we work to keep ICU beds open, I continue to applaud the efforts of our hospitals and healthcare workers across the state, who have been heroes for us all.”

“We are currently seeing approximately 500 new admissions a day to Illinois hospitals due to COVID-19, and approximately 90% of those are unvaccinated,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “There is a health care worker shortage in Illinois, in the U.S., and across the world. We’re seeing health care workers leave the profession because they are burnt out after watching people suffer severe illness and even death for almost two years now. We want to make sure that there is a hospital bed available for anyone for any reason - cancer complications, appendicitis, stroke, heart attack, car crash, or COVID-19. Please get vaccinated and get boosted, for all of us.”

With the Governor’s encouragement, hospital leaders continue implementing other strategies to further free up availability in Illinois hospitals. This includes utilizing telehealth technology, reallocating staff resources, and expanding ICU capacity. In an effort to increase staffing to ensure care is available, the Governor has already extended state waivers to allow out-of-state healthcare professionals to work in Illinois. The State of Illinois has invited hospitals to participate in its staffing contract so that they can bring in additional available staff when needed to ensure capacity to treat COVID-19 patients. The Governor also supports hospitals and healthcare facilities that choose to implement new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance accelerating return-to-work timeframes. The Pritzker administration is also working with Illinois’ federal partners, seeking federal assistance to address healthcare staffing shortages.

However, healthcare experts emphasize that getting vaccinated, boosted and following recommended social distancing and masking guidelines remains critical.

“Hospitals continue to be on the front line of this fight, and are doing everything in their power to maintain access to healthcare for all patients. But we need your help. Wear a mask. Social distance. Avoid large gatherings. And please get vaccinated and boosted. Vaccination remains the best way to prevent severe illness, hospitalization and death,” said Karen Teitelbaum, President and CEO of Sinai Chicago Health System and Chair of the IHA Board of Trustees.

“I want to thank Governor Pritzker for his continued partnership and collaboration with the hospital community during this pandemic. The overwhelming majority of the 5,000 COVID patients currently in our hospitals are unvaccinated. Hospitals cannot end this pandemic on their own. They need the continuing help and support of the public,” said AJ Wilhelmi, President and CEO of the IHA. “The best way to support your hospitals is to get vaccinated.”

Ted Rogalski, Administrator at Genesis Medical Center in Aledo and incoming 2022 Chair of IHA’s Board of Trustees, appealed to the public.

“Healthcare workers need your help,” Rogalski said. “This pandemic has taken a mental and physical toll on those who see the worst side of this virus every day. They are exhausted, but still standing tall. Please support your community healthcare workers and all frontline responders by taking all precautions to prevent sickness.”

*** UPDATE *** From Council 31’s website

On December 29 Arbitrator Edwin Benn ruled against AFSCME members in the interest arbitration regarding the State’s plan to require COVID vaccinations for employees in IDOC and IDJJ (see below). AFSCME had invoked the right of security employees to interest arbitration when the State broke off negotiations with the Union over the mandate and was prepared to unilaterally implement its terms.

In the arbitration, as at the bargaining table, AFSCME opposed the State’s rigid vaccine mandate, arguing that employees who do not wish to be vaccinated should have the option of testing weekly for COVID—a protocol in place for all school districts in the state. Benn did not agree and instead affirmed the State’s position that a crisis exists that requires the most robust possible response. He set January 31 as the date by which employees must receive a first vaccination shot.

Interest arbitration relies on a tripartite panel which in this instance includes the neutral arbitrator (Edwin Benn) who serves as chair; a union representative (Ed Caumiant, AFSCME Council 31 Regional Director) and an employer representative (Ed Jackson, DHS Labor Relations). The panel effectively functions as a sole arbitrator, since the employer and the union panel members invariably vote in opposition to each other, leaving the neutral arbitrator to be the deciding vote. The AFSCME representative on the panel has filed a formal dissent from the decision at the Labor Board (see below).

The arbitrator’s initial ruling only pertained to the core question of whether the mandate could proceed. He remanded all related issues—e.g. time off for COVID-related quarantines—to the parties to resolve by January 7. He retained jurisdiction to rule on any outstanding issues that cannot be resolved within that timeframe.

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      


Hospitalizations up 33 percent from a week ago, nearing all-time high

Thursday, Dec 30, 2021

[Comments are now open.]

* In November of 2020, Illinois hit its all time peak of 6,175 covid hospitalizations. If you’re keeping track, we’re only 486 away from that number right now…

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) today reported 128,246 new confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Illinois, including an increase of 386 deaths since December 23, 2021.

Currently, IDPH is reporting a total of 2,149,548 cases, including 27,821 deaths, in 102 counties in Illinois. The age of cases ranges from younger than one to older than 100 years. Since Thursday, December 23, 2021, laboratories have reported 1,260,179 specimens for a total of 44,469,630. As of last night, 5,689 individuals in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 1,010 patients were in the ICU and 565 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.

The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total test from December 23-29, 2021 is 10.2%. The preliminary seven-day statewide test positivity from December 23-29, 2021 is 14.4%.

A total of 19,176,277 vaccines have been administered in Illinois as of last midnight. The seven-day rolling average of vaccines administered daily is 46,046 doses. Since Thursday, December 23, 2021, 322,324 doses were reported administered in Illinois. Of Illinois’ total population, more than 72% has received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose and more than 64% of Illinois’ total population is fully vaccinated according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

All data are provisional and will change. Additional information and COVID-19 data can be found at https://dph.illinois.gov/covid19.html.

Vaccination is the key to ending this pandemic. To find a COVID-19 vaccination location near you, go to www.vaccines.gov.

Also in November of 2020, ICU usaged peaked at 1,224, so we’re not too far away from that, either.

* Related…

* Illinois Department of Public Health Adopts CDC Recommendations for Isolation and Quarantine

- Posted by Rich Miller   4 Comments      


Three-judge federal appellate panel upholds Democrats’ legislative remap plan

Thursday, Dec 30, 2021

[Comments are now open.]

* Click here for the full opinion

Plaintiffs in these three consolidated cases, McConchie, Contreras, and East St. Louis NAACP, challenge Illinois’ legislative redistricting map1 and ask this Court to order alterations that would create additional districts featuring majorities of either Latino or Black voters. All Plaintiffs bring statutory claims, arguing that the redistricting map impermissibly dilutes minority votes in violation of § 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 52 U.S.C. § 10301, et seq. Contreras and East St. Louis NAACP Plaintiffs also present constitutional claims, contending that several legislative districts were racially gerrymandered in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

On § 2 Voting Rights Act claims, the Supreme Court has admonished that “[f]ailure to maximize cannot be the measure of § 2” because “reading § 2 to define dilution as any failure to maximize tends to obscure the very object of the statute and to run counter to its textually stated purpose.” Johnson v. De Grandy, 512 U.S. 997, 1016–17 (1994). Nearly three decades later, those principles animate this Court’s analysis of these three challenges to Illinois’ legislative redistricting map. Many of Plaintiffs’ proposed districts barely surpass the 50% mark. For all but one of the districts in SB 927, Latino voters maintain a census voting age population of 42.7% or higher, which Legislative Defendants insist allow for additional opportunities to form coalitions with voters of other races to elect their candidate of choice, enhancing the overall political power of Latinos in Illinois.

In light of these figures, these three cases are not about “the chance for some electoral success in place of none.” Johnson, 512 U.S. at 1012–13. Rather, for many of the challenged districts, these cases are about “the chance for more success in place of some.” Id. at 1013. This disagreement also reflects competing views about how to guarantee Latino and Black voters, in their respective districts, equal opportunity to elect their candidate of choice when minority voters could form different permutations of majority-minority, coalition, and opportunity districts.

Although there is debate about how to achieve the guarantees of the Voting Rights Act, one thing is clear: A federal court is not the arbiter of that dispute unless Plaintiffs carry their burden to prove that an elected legislature’s approach violates the law. […]

As to the constitutional claims, Contreras Plaintiffs allege that House District (“HD” or “House District”) 21 and Senate District (“SD” or “Senate District”) 11 constitute racial gerrymanders, and East St. Louis NAACP Plaintiffs allege the same for HD 114. But neither set of Plaintiffs has proved that race predominated in the configuration of any of the challenged districts. Indeed, the record could not be more clear that partisan politics—a legally acceptable criterion—controlled that decision. The second part of this opinion lays out our evaluation of those constitutional claims.

For the reasons that follow, we uphold the General Assembly’s redistricting map under SB 927 and reject in full all three Plaintiffs’ remedial proposals, denying Plaintiffs any further injunctive or declaratory relief.

…Adding… Press release…

House Speaker and Senate President Statement on Federal Court Decision to Uphold Fair Map

“From the beginning we have been guided by the goal of creating a fair map that recognizes the true diversity of the people of this great state. We appreciate that the court recognized and affirmed our efforts to ensure all communities across Illinois receive equal representation,” said House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch and Illinois Senate President Don Harmon.

We would like to thank Chairs Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez and Sen. Omar Aquino, Vice Chairs Rep. Curtis Tarver and Sen. Elgie Sims and the bipartisan Redistricting Committees for their work, as well as members of the public who offered testimony and insight throughout this redistricting process.”

* And…

Leader Hernandez’s Statement Regarding Federal Court Decision on Legislative Map

“From the beginning of this redistricting process, we have sought to reflect the diversity of this great state. Today’s ruling confirms that our map is constitutional, adheres to the Voting Rights Act and preserves Illinois’ reputation as a model for the nation when it comes to minority representation,” said Rep. Lisa Hernandez, Chair of the House Redistricting Committee. “I want to thank our bipartisan Redistricting Committee, community organizers, advocacy groups and the general public for their participation in this long but important process.”

…Adding… From the plaintiffs…

“This ruling is a disappointment, but that does not mean we will ever stop fighting for independent maps in Illinois,” said Illinois Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods). “While we didn’t get the outcome we believe the people of Illinois deserve, the fact remains that Gov. Pritzker and his cronies broke their promises and failed Illinois families.

“It didn’t have to be this way. Gov. Pritzker could have kept his promise to support independent redistricting, but instead signed a map that was ruled unconstitutional and another that was opposed by voting rights groups throughout Illinois. Gov. Pritzker and his Democratic allies have made their allegiance clear: they are more committed to protecting the same political insiders who have been wrecking our state for decades than defending voting rights in Illinois.”

And

“We are disappointed at the three-judge court’s decision today,” MALDEF President and General Counsel Thomas A. Saenz said in a statement. “In particular, we believe that the court reached conclusions about the extent of crossover voting by non-Latinos to support Latino-supported candidates that are not accurate under the law. Nonetheless, the legislatively-drawn districts will be in effect as a result of today’s decision, and MALDEF will be carefully monitoring electoral outcomes in the districts we have challenged.” […]

MALDEF staff attorney Ernest Herrera said the decision means Latino voters will continue to be underrepresented in Springfield.

“The Court unfortunately agreed with Illinois’s legislative leaders that their map was just good enough for Latino voters for technical reasons, despite the facts that Latinos remain underrepresented in the General Assembly and continue to be left behind in education, housing access, healthcare, and income,” Herrera said in a statement. “Rather than provide Latinos equal opportunity to choose candidates who best represents their interests, today’s decision signals to the Latinos of Illinois that they remain significantly dependent on the purported munificence of the current majority political party.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   1 Comment      


House, Senate will meet Wednesday, but cancel next Tuesday and Thursday session dates, following week “likely to be canceled”

Thursday, Dec 30, 2021

[Comments are now open.]

* From House Speaker Chris Welch’s chief of staff Tiffany Moy…

Members,

I hope everyone is having a nice holiday break and that you and your families are healthy and well. This email contains several important announcements relating to session activity over the next few weeks:

1) The House and Senate will convene on Wednesday, Jan. 5. Session will be canceled on Tuesday, Jan. 4 and Thursday, Jan 6. We will continue to monitor the public health emergency and will make a final decision on the week of January 11-13 in the very near future. The attached joint release will be sent to the media shortly.

2) Please hold Tuesday, Jan. 4 at noon for a virtual caucus. Additional information will follow.

3) SHIELD Illinois testing will be available in the Stratton Building on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays beginning next week. The available dates/times and the registration information for those who have not previously registered for testing is below: [Redacted]

House Members will not be required to test, but I very strongly encourage everyone to take advantage of the SHIELD testing upon arrival to/departure from Springfield during session weeks. If testing upon arrival is not feasible, I strongly encourage obtaining a PCR or rapid test before coming to Springfield.

Additional information on testing and protocols are in the attached memo, and will also be reviewed in Tuesday’s caucus.

4) There is no intention to extend any of the existing deadlines. As a reminder, the deadline to submit legislation for drafting is Friday, January 14. The deadline to file legislation is Friday, January 28. Your Issues/Legislative staffer will be following up to ensure your drafting requests are submitted and processed before the deadline.

Thank you all for your patience as we work through this, and please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

…Adding… And if that testing schedule doesn’t make sense because they’re meeting Wednesday, this is from another internal memo

For the week of January 3rd ONLY, evening testing on Monday will be canceled and instead take place on Tuesday, January 4th from 4:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

* Press release…

The Illinois General Assembly will be in session Wednesday, Jan. 5, but the Tuesday (Jan. 4) and Thursday (Jan. 6) session days are being canceled, legislative leaders announced.

House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch and Senate President Don Harmon also said the following session week (Jan. 11-13) is likely to be canceled amid the ongoing global pandemic.

“In the past 2 weeks, Illinois’ daily average of COVID-19 cases increased 130% and hospitalizations have risen 50%. This pandemic is not over,” said House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch. “We must take necessary precautions to mitigate the spread of the virus, reduce the burden on our health care systems and keep each other as safe as possible. We know how important the people’s work is and we are committed to getting that work done in a safe way. Please take advantage of the free and widely available vaccines and boosters because we know it is our best tool in this fight.”

“We continue to monitor the situation in an effort to protect our colleagues, our staffs and everyone else who is part of a legislative session day,” said Illinois Senate President Don Harmon. “We have work to do, and we’ve proven that we can do it, minimize exposure and keep people healthy and safe. I encourage everyone to take advantage of the vaccines and booster shots available to protect themselves and those around them.”

* Meanwhile…

Due to an increase in COVID-19 cases statewide, Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White is announcing that all Secretary of State departments will not conduct in-person transactions – including Driver Services facilities – from Jan. 3, 2022, through Jan. 17, 2022. All departments and Driver Services facilities will reopen on Tuesday, Jan. 18. White is encouraging the public to visit ilsos.gov for online services. Online transactions will remain open for all departments to conduct office services, including, but not limited to the following:

    • Renewing a license plate sticker.
    • Renewing a driver’s license or ID card for those who qualify (individuals may call 217-785-1424 to confirm their eligibility or to obtain their PIN).
    • Obtaining a duplicate driver’s license or ID card.
    • Obtaining a driver record abstract.
    • Filing Business Services documents, such as incorporations and annual reports.

In addition, the Drivers and Vehicles Services hotline phone number will remain open at 800-252-8980. Customers with issues involving administrative hearings may email adminhearings@ilsos.gov or call 312-793-3722 or 217-782-7065.

…Adding… It’s pretty widespread, but mostly mild for those who are vaccinated and boosted…


- Posted by Rich Miller   6 Comments      


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