Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

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State Senate sends Pritzker COVID-19 relief bill designed to ‘keep people in the state of Illinois in their homes’

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

SPRINGFIELD — A bill distributing $1.4 billion of federal relief to those in need of COVID-19 emergency housing assistance was sent to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk on Thursday over Republican objections that the measure does not target those who are in real need of help.

“This bill essentially is trying to keep people in the state of Illinois in their homes,” said state Sen. Omar Aquino, the bill’s sponsor. “It tries to prioritize and surgically utilize the one-time money that we’re getting from the federal government to assist those people that truly need it the most.”

The bill “prioritizes disproportionately affected areas” based on “positive COVID-19 cases” or by “a history of homelessness,” according to the Near Northwest Side Democrat.

But state Sen. Jason Barickman said the money does not go to those who need it the most because it prioritizes “not based on their individual circumstances but based on the ZIP code in which they live.”

Read the complete story here.

News

8 a.m. Fans allowed at Bulls, Blackhawks games as Chicago continues to ease restrictions

With two million vaccine doses administered and health metrics improving, Mayor Lori Lightfoot is reopening Chicago a little bit more — this time to let restaurants and theaters serve more patrons and allow fans inside the United Center for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

The new Phase Four rules, effective immediately, allow the Bulls and Blackhawks to close their seasons before roughly 5,250 fans per game — 25% of the United Center’s capacity.

The Blackhawks play at home Thursday and Saturday against the Florida Panthers, then finish their regular-season home schedule with two games in May. The Bulls have a home game Friday, the first of six regular-season games left.

That 25% rule also applies to Wrigley Field, Guaranteed Rate Field and Soldier Field, an increase from the current 20%. The 25% also includes churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship.

Restaurants and bars can increase indoor capacity to 50% or 100 people, whichever is less. The cap had been 50% or 50 people.

Meetings, conferences and conventions held at large indoor venues like McCormick Place now can operate at 25% capacity or 250 people, whichever is less.

Festivals and, what the city calls “general admission outdoor spectator events” get the green light to welcome 15 people for every 1,000 square feet.

The same rules apply to flea markets, which can operate at 25% capacity.

Fran Spielman has the full story here.

7:15 a.m. Shot, please! Preckwinkle pushes vaccinations for restaurant workers as indoor capacity expands

Public health officials in Cook County are serving up COVID-19 vaccines to bar and restaurant workers as the suburbs follow in lockstep with Chicago’s latest round of eased coronavirus restrictions.

Mondays in May will be designated “restaurant days” at the county’s six suburban mass vaccination sites, Cook County Board Presidents Toni Preckwinkle announced Thursday.

Anyone can sign up for an appointment or walk up to the six sites in Tinley Park, Matteson, River Grove, South Holland, Des Plaines or Forest Park. But officials want to vaccinate as many of the “essential heroes” in the hospitality industry as possible with indoor capacity expanding to the lesser of 50% or 100 people per room.

“Restaurant staff people worked tirelessly, even as they were asked to pivot to new roles to meet new demands, even as hours were cut, doors were closed, and their own life livelihoods were in jeopardy,” Preckwinkle said. “Now we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and people are returning toward cafes and restaurants for a sense of normal normalcy and camaraderie that we all have craved.”

An estimated 20% of restaurants statewide won’t survive the pandemic, according to Illinois Restaurant Association President Sam Toia, shuttering about 5,000 businesses and leaving more than 100,000 out of work.

Mitchell Armentrout has the full story here.

New cases and vaccination rates

A total of 3,394 new cases of COVID-19 and 38 additional deaths were reported by Illinois health officials Thursday.
The latest cases were among 89,057 specimens tested over the last 24 hours, bringing the state’s positivity rate to 4%, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
A total of 107,689 vaccine doses were administered in the state Thursday, health officials said. An average of 97,434 vaccine doses have been administered per day over the last week.
Since the pandemic began, over 1.3 million people in Illinois have tested positive for COVID-19 and 21,927 have died, officials said.

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