State-distributed masks among precautions for Illinois school opening

Illinois public schools and colleges will open this fall despite the COVID-19 pandemic, with help from the state to provide 2.5 million face coverings to K-12 students to help prevent transmission of the virus, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Tuesday.

Posted: Jun 24, 2020 12:34 PM
Updated: Jun 24, 2020 1:18 PM

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois public schools and colleges will open this fall despite the COVID-19 pandemic, with help from the state to provide 2.5 million face coverings to K-12 students to help prevent transmission of the virus, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Tuesday.

Pritzker was joined by a group of education administrators in Chicago to announce COVID-19 safety guidelines for community colleges and universities.

Illinois has received $569 million in federal pandemic relief funds. The bulk of that will go directly to elementary and secondary schools to handle local needs in response to the outbreak. The Illinois State Board of Education will use $54 million of it to help schools buy laptops and tablets, internet connectivity, virtual coaching for teachers and professional development.

“Classroom learning provides necessary opportunities for our students to learn, socialize and grow,” Pritzker said in releasing guidelines for safe classroom learning. “The benefits of in-person instruction can’t be overstated.”

COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, has sickened nearly 138,000 people in Illinois and contributed to the deaths of 6,707 through Tuesday, public health officials said. As the virus gripped Illinois in March, Pritzker ordered schools to close. Students participated in heavily criticized remote learning for the remainder of the semester, along with stay-at-home guidelines that remained in place through May.

But on Monday, Pritzker announced that the spread of the illness remains controlled enough to allow the state to move into the fourth of his five-stage Restore Illinois plan for re-opening schools and business and lifting some restrictions on social interaction.

Meanwhile, in schools, staff and students will wear face coverings, and gatherings of more than 50 people will be prohibited. People are advised to social distance by least 6 feet whenever possible. Schools are also expected to ensure that people entering their premises are free of symptoms and increase disinfection of buildings.

The state’s two major teachers unions, the Illinois Education Association and Illinois Federation of Teachers, expressed concern that safety precautions are lacking in a joint statement issued by IEA president Kathi Griffin and IFT president Dan Montgomery.

“Anxiety remains high over class sizes and the lack of school nurses and other health and safety resources,” the statement said. “We continue to be concerned about the deep disparities that exist in schools, especially in our Black and Brown communities, who still lack access to the internet and computers.”

The statement raised concerns about the number of personal protective equipment available. The state board and Pritzker’s administration have set up umbrella purchasing agreements that allow districts to buy supplies at lower prices than if they procured them individually. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency will provide 2.5 million cloth face coverings to distribute to all students and staff.

State and federal health officials have said face coverings should be changed daily and that each person should have several so that a fresh one may be worn while others are laundered. But they’ve also pointed out that virtually any discarded shirts or other material made be used to make them.

Similar guidelines were announced for community colleges and four-year institutions, which expect to have dormitories, cafeterias, libraries and other facilities open to students with proper safeguards.

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Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 1064667

Reported Deaths: 20020
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook4313858980
DuPage685341144
Will57707867
Lake52834884
Kane45493675
Winnebago26094407
Madison23998461
St. Clair21943424
McHenry21395248
Champaign1528896
Peoria14860238
Sangamon14406234
McLean13093159
Tazewell11825242
Rock Island11805302
Kankakee11401179
Kendall956578
LaSalle9328247
Macon8739179
Vermilion7404112
DeKalb738192
Adams7298117
Williamson6119115
Boone551377
Whiteside5230173
Clinton497985
Coles468480
Ogle457171
Knox4553140
Grundy431854
Effingham428568
Jackson413267
Henry399076
Marion3938111
Franklin380368
Macoupin379594
Randolph369367
Livingston360866
Monroe353370
Stephenson349574
Jefferson3392104
Morgan323789
Woodford314966
Logan306056
Lee301872
Montgomery300641
Bureau299384
Christian296473
Fayette289253
Perry261260
Iroquois256956
Fulton253649
Jersey218456
Lawrence216730
McDonough211751
Saline200553
Douglas198633
Union196832
Shelby195735
Crawford174934
Cass174131
Bond172624
Warren157743
Pike153846
Richland152244
Wayne150143
Jo Daviess147824
Hancock146733
Clark145929
Washington144025
Edgar142853
Carroll142233
Ford138049
Moultrie136128
White131930
Clay130439
Greene125242
Johnson121015
Mercer116729
Wabash116314
Piatt116216
Mason115940
De Witt113027
Cumberland107027
Jasper103016
Massac101330
Menard86410
Hamilton71116
Marshall65713
Schuyler61516
Pulaski6093
Brown60611
Stark49320
Edwards4619
Henderson44816
Calhoun4374
Alexander3847
Gallatin3834
Scott3731
Putnam3442
Hardin3008
Pope2432
Unassigned1110
Out of IL330

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 587049

Reported Deaths: 9287
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion810691296
Lake44121665
Allen31797541
Hamilton28178303
St. Joseph26684369
Elkhart24057340
Vanderburgh18519213
Tippecanoe17305121
Johnson14398284
Porter14342159
Hendricks13793241
Madison10509212
Vigo10432171
Clark10151129
Monroe9029108
Delaware8782129
LaPorte8721153
Kosciusko784677
Howard7834137
Warrick636790
Hancock633297
Bartholomew624294
Floyd6098105
Wayne5903156
Grant5799109
Dubois541670
Boone531467
Morgan512388
Marshall492484
Henry491164
Cass469060
Noble458757
Dearborn454544
Jackson413145
Shelby401178
Lawrence379475
Clinton363639
Gibson355056
DeKalb336363
Montgomery333851
Harrison326042
Knox325439
Miami308243
Steuben304940
Adams294435
Whitley292325
Wabash291645
Ripley290845
Putnam282447
Huntington281257
Jasper280733
White265738
Daviess260772
Jefferson248538
Fayette241348
Decatur241282
Greene232460
Posey230026
Wells228547
LaGrange223461
Clay216432
Scott216437
Randolph207540
Jennings191335
Sullivan188531
Spencer179917
Fountain178625
Washington175018
Starke170741
Jay162021
Fulton158829
Owen157837
Carroll151315
Orange150533
Rush148118
Perry145327
Vermillion144333
Franklin142533
Parke12788
Tipton127332
Pike113125
Blackford107022
Pulaski94637
Newton89020
Brown85530
Benton84110
Crawford7479
Martin69213
Warren6537
Switzerland6175
Union6063
Ohio4647
Unassigned0374