As Illinois and the nation continue to struggle with the spread of COVID-19, a small number of Chicago Public School students were slated to return to class Monday for the first time in 10 months in the CPS prekindergarten and special education programs.

At the same time, with not enough improvement in Chicago COVID-19 case counts, city officials over the weekend renewed their stay-at-home guidance, urging city residents to stay at home as much as possible and keeping in place restrictions on gatherings.

Meanwhile, Illinois health officials Sunday announced 4,711 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 and 81 additional fatalities, bringing the total number of known infections in Illinois to 1,028,750 and the statewide death toll to 17,574 since the start of the pandemic.

Here’s what’s happening Monday with COVID-19 in the Chicago area and Illinois:

Chicago over the weekend extended a stay-at-home advisory and other coronavirus restrictions, including capacity restrictions on retail stores and a ban on indoor dining in line with state rules.

The reissued stay-at-home advisory, dated Sunday, says that “Chicago continues to experience a sustained level of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, which left unchecked poses a risk” to people’s lives and the local health care system.

Under the advisory, “Residents are advised to only leave home to go to work or school, or for essential needs such as seeking medical care, going to the grocery store or pharmacy, picking up food, or receiving deliveries.”

As of Sunday, more than 4,300 people have died from coronavirus-related illness in Chicago alone, out of a statewide total of more than 17,500 people and the city’s positivity rate has increased in five of the last seven days. But the city’s rate of positive cases has been below a target level of 12% over the last seven days and hospitalizations have hovered close to target numbers in the last 10 days. — Chicago Tribune staff

Chicago’s Cultural Affairs and Special Events Department was expected Monday to announce $2.5 million in funding for city artists and arts groups, according to a news release from the mayor’s office.

The new Artist Response program was to “provide $750,000 to support art that responds to recent health, economic and humanitarian crises.” Of the total funding, $500,000 is earmarked for 10 public art projects, with $250,000 to up to five “regranting partners to distribute for smaller local projects,” according to the release.

“The annual “CityArts Program”, opening January 19, will also award an additional $1.7 million in grants to nonprofit arts organizations throughout Chicago,” according to the release.

Information and applications are available on a city website, “Registration is available for an application webinar on Friday, January 15, at 11 a.m. The application closes on February 5, at 5 p.m.,” according to the release. —Chicago Tribune staff

When Chicago’s Vaughn Occupational High School closed in March after a classroom assistant had one of the state’s earliest known cases of COVID-19, Cindy Fah-Ok agreed that swift action was needed to protect her daughter and the other students with disabilities who take classes there.

“It seemed like the very safe thing to do, and I was grateful that we were given that advice to close,” said Fah-Ok, who was at the Portage Park school that week for a fundraising meeting and had to quarantine with her daughter Sophia.

No other staff or students fell ill, and the employee, believed to have caught the virus on a cruise ship, ultimately recovered.

But on Monday, when thousands of Chicago Public Schools students in prekindergarten and special education programs are due to return for the first time 10 months, Fah-Ok feels safer waiting a little longer.

Questions linger about how CPS will keep the building safe for teachers, Fah-Ok said, as do concerns about students who don’t have to wear masks due to medical exemptions. Her 21-year-old daughter Sophia, who has autism, is in her last year at Vaughn and doing well with the online classes, Fah-Ok said.

“I don’t want to disrupt that routine,” said Fah-Ok, of Ravenswood. “She is learning, she is focused. She is doing all that they can possibly do online, and I don’t want to toss a possible infection into the mix.”

Read more here. —Elyssa Cherney and Hannah Leone

Here are some recent stories related to COVID-19.




Copyright © 2021, Chicago Tribune


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