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Governor J.B. Pritzker announced this afternoon that he was closing down in-person instruction at all public and private schools for the balance of this school year. Schools will continue with remote learning. Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, reported that the State had just experienced the highest daily increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases.

COVID-19 Numbers Are Still Increasing

The number of Evanston residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 increased by 14 cases today, April 17, to a total of 213 cases, according to information provided by the City of Evanston. The trend is shown in the above chart. 

The cases are close to equally divided between zip codes 60201 and 60202.

To date, a total of 6 Evanstonians have died due to COVID-19.    

For Chicago, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases grew from 10,642 yesterday to 11,409 today; the cases in Cook County grew from 18,117 yesterday to 19,391 today; and the cases in Illinois grew from 25,733 to 27,575. A total of 130,163 people in Illinois have been tested for COVID-19. The trend is shown in the first chart in the chart box.

Dr. Ezike said the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased in the last 24 hours by 1,842, which was the highest number to date.

Gov. Pritzker said the increase may be due to a higher number of people being tested. “There’s a lot of people out there who hadn’t been tested who are COVID positive. The more we test, the more we’re going to see test positives,” he said.

Dr. Ezike said, “We did not think we were at our peak yet, so we expect cases to rise.” She added that the cases may not peak and then go down quickly, but may stay at a plateau for a while.

Gov. Pritzker added that they look at other measures as well as confirmed cases. He said he thought the number of hospitalizations  and the usage of ICU beds were the most important. While IDPH reviews that data on a daily basis, it is not publicly reported, he said.

The number of residents of Illinois who have died due to COVID-19 crossed the one-thousand mark today, to 1,134.

The second chart in the chart box shows the number of new COVID-19 cases reported in Illinois each day starting on April 1.

The cases between April 3 and 7 increased on an average of 11.9% each day over the total on the previous day. The average percentage increase between April 8 and 12 is 9.0% each day over the total on the previous day. The average percentage increase between April 13 and 17 is 5.7%.

The five-day average is decreasing.

Closing In-Person Instruction at the Schools

Gov. Pritzker said his decision to close down in-person instruction at the schools was not lightly made.

“The importance of our schools and our in-person school days is not just a question of tradition and sentimentality, as essential as those things are. The shutting of in-person classroom time also risks a drop in instructional time, an extended window in which students can potentially experience summer learning loss, and an educational landscape in which some districts have more experience with remote learning than others. These challenges weighed heavily on me as we came to this decision. But, my priority remains unchanged: How do we save the most lives during this difficult time? The answer to that question leaves us only with the path forward.”

Gov. Pritzker said the State is receiving $569 million to support the K-12 schools from the federal CARES Act. “This can help equip students with technology and internet access, to enhance remote learning, support teachers in developing remote instructional skills, and assist schools in continuing to provide meals to students,” said the Governor.

“Public school districts will receive a portion of this funding, proportional to the number of low-income students that they serve, and the Illinois State Board of Education will direct the remaining funds toward supporting our districts that need those resources most.”

He said his office and the Illinois State Board of Education are recommending that grades given during the pandemic reflect the unprecedented circumstances in which students are attempting to continue their studies. “That is, grades should deliver feedback and not be used as a tool for compliance.”

Illinois Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala said, “Many families don’t have sufficient access to computers or the internet at home. We’re going to tackle the digital divide as part of a strategic effort that goes beyond the end of this pandemic. We will use the Illinois State Board of Education federal CARES Act dollars to increase access to technology and devices in our least-resourced districts, and we encourage school districts to use the CARE Act allocations for this purpose as well. Closing the digital divide will be pivotal to building the agency’s new post-pandemic strategic plan.”

She posed the question, “Will students return to school totally caught up?” She said, “We’re not expecting them to. The Illinois State Board of Education will be releasing transition guidance to help school districts address learning loss and students’ social and emotional needs when they return to the classroom, whenever that is safe to do.”

She added that taking attendance during the remote learning days “really means keeping contact with each and every student every day” and that “is more important than ever. This regular engagement helps teachers gauge their students’ needs, the academic and social and emotional needs.”