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Governor extends stay-home order and school closing through April, local closures follow suit

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced on Tuesday that he will sign a 30-day extension of the state’s disaster proclamation on April 1. The disaster proclamation provides the governor the authority to sign additional executive orders, extending the stay-at-home order and suspending on-site learning in K-12 schools through the month of April.
 
Local organizations quickly announced extensions of their closures to match the state’s timeline.

The village of Homewood announced in an email that village hall, 2020 Chestnut Road, and the Public Works municipal service center at 17755 Ashland Ave. will remain closed until Monday, May 4. 

Flossmoor, which has similar restrictions in place, including closing village hall to residents, also will follow the state’s new timetable.

Flossmoor Public Library announced it would remain closed through April 30. Homewood Public Library is already closed until further notice, and material due-dates have been extended to May 1.

Flossmoor Baseball and Softball had planned to evaluate the situation on April, but that step has been deferred to April 30. 

Pritzker said in announcing the order extension at the daily COVID-19 briefing that he has relied on top medical experts, scientists, public health researchers, epidemiologists, mathematicians and modelers to determine the best target date for ending the stay-at-home order. 

“I have let the science guide our decisions,” he said. “Illinois has one of the strongest public health systems in the nation – but even so, we aren’t immune to this virus’ ability to push our existing capacity beyond its limit. We need to maintain our course and keep working to flatten the curve.”

The curve refers to the graphical representation of the trend in confirmed cases, which continues to move higher each day. 

The stay-at-home order was first issued on March 20 in order to encourage physical distancing between people, considered a key tool in slowing the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. 

The extension of the order will continue to permit a range of essential activities that will allow Illinoisans to meet their necessities while maintaining social distance from others. Grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies and other businesses providing services deemed essential will not close.
 
As of March 30, preliminary reports from hospitals statewide show that 41 percent of our adult ICU beds are “empty,” which means they are staffed and ready for immediate patient use, a two-percentage point decrease in a week. As far as ventilators, 68 percent are available statewide across Illinois, a four-percentage point drop in a week.
 
Statewide, about 35 percent of the state’s total ICU beds and about 24 percent of ventilators are occupied by COVID-19 patients.

The state remains within its capacity, and is working every day to increase its capacity to prepare for an anticipated surge in hospitalizations related to COVID-19 in the coming weeks. In some countries and other states, cases increased so fast that healthcare systems were overwhelmed.

As of Tuesday, Illinois has 5,994 confirmed cases and 99 deaths. New York has more than 75,000 cases and more than 1,700 deaths.
 
Anyone who is experiencing symptoms should call a health care provider who will help arrange medical treatment without putting others at risk of exposure. The Illinois Department of Public Health has a statewide COVID-19 hotline and website to answer any questions from the public or to report a suspected case: call 1-800-889-3931 or visit IDPH.illinois.gov.
 

Pritzker also will extend his March 13 order to temporarily close all K-12 schools to minimize spread of COVID-19 across communities. Child care providers who have been licensed to operate to provide care to the children of essential workers will remain open.
 
Schools will transition from Act of God Days to Remote Learning Days, with days counting toward the school year. Each school district will create and implement a Remote Learning Day Plan to ensure all students, including students with disabilities and English Learners, receive instructional materials and can communicate with their teachers.
 
To prepare, the Illinois School Board of Education (ISBE) assembled an advisory group of more than 60 educators to make recommendations about instruction and grading during remote learning.
 
Schools can use up to five Remote Learning Planning Days at any time to prepare and refine their approaches to remote learning. Schools will design plans to minimize instructional loss and to provide opportunities for students’ academic, linguistic, and social-emotional growth.
 
Remote learning will look different for every district and every school. School districts will create plans based on their local resources and needs. Most districts will use a mix of digital and non-digital methods of engaging students in learning.
 
As a part of their recommendations, the advisory group recommended that grades be used only to increase students’ academic standing with a recommendation that any grades that schools give during this time be used as an opportunity for feedback and not an instrument for compliance.
 
ISBE will continue to work in partnership with school districts to address any questions and to provide guidance to educators and administrators to protect and support Illinois students.

Tim Drea, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO, also spoke at the briefing Tuesday, offering praise for the workers who continue to keep essential services running. 

“As we all come together to stay at home and out of harm’s way, we must never forget the selfless service of Illinoisans on the frontlines of this pandemic: our health care workers, first responders, grocery workers, child care providers, letter carriers, tradesmen and women, and so many more. They are going to work to serve and protect us, putting themselves and their families at great personal risk, because they have a job to do. Their sacrifices are real and meaningful, and we should all take time to think about them and thank them for keeping up the fight. We will all get through this together,” he said.

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