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News Around Illinois – Aug. 5, 2020

The latest news around the state, for Aug. 5, 2020.

As COVID-19 Cases Rise, Chicago Public Schools To Start Remotely

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot confirmed Wednesday morning that the city’s public school district will hold the first quarter of next year, until Nov. 8, with remote learning only. Lightfoot and the school district are holding out hope that the second quarter can have hybrid learning with most students in school at least two a week. The school district had released a preliminary plan last month that called for a mix of in-person and remote learning for most students. The reversal comes as pressure was building by the Chicago Teachers Union to go all remote and as COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Chicago. Lightfoot did not cite CTU as part of her decision-making process. – Sarah Karp, WBEZ

HSHS Laying Off Workers Due To Pandemic

The Hospital Sisters Health System has announced it is cutting about ten percent of its workforce in Illinois and Wisconsin. The system operates St. John’s Hospital in Springfield and St. Mary’s in Decatur, along with other facilities. Earlier, HSHS issued furloughs and cut executive pay because of a drop in patients seeking elective procedures during the pandemic. Many of those on furlough are being called back, but a written statement from HSHS says the newly announced layoffs are being done “to provide the best chance for a strong, stable future.” The system said a majority of those impacted are non-clinical workers. The number of those affected in central Illinois was not made available. – Sean Crawford, WUIS

Domestic Violence Calls Surge After Stay-At-Home Order Lifts

Franny Cole’s now-estranged husband had been emotionally abusive and financially controlling. She thinks sometimes about what might have happened had she not gathered the strength to leave prior to the coronavirus pandemic. Her sense that Illinois’ stay-at-home order — between March 21 and the end of May – would create stressors pushing abusers to the boiling point is accurate, say advocates of survivors of domestic abuse. Calls to Illinois’ domestic violence hotline were up 17 percent compared to last year during the same March 21 to May 29 period. Normally, from one year to the next, calls hold steady, said Olivia Farrell with The Network: Advocating Against Domestic Violence. The Network runs the hotline in partnership with the city of Chicago’s Department of Family and Support Services. The pace of calls has been even greater since the stay-at-home order was lifted. Between the time the order ended and July 27 calls were up 32 percent from the previous year. Meanwhile, texted messages grew by almost 2,000 percent during the stay-at-home period. Since then, there’s been a more than 3,000 percent increase over the same time last year. The incidence of domestic violence was driven in part by a volatile mix: seclusion, fear of COVID-19 and, for many, loss of employment, Farrell said. “Folks in these isolated situations, and these additional stressors really just lead to increased incidents of domestic violence.” – Maureen Foertsch McKinney, WUIS

Jail COVID Outbreak Raises Concerns About Crowding

The crowding of the McLean County Jail, and its relationship to a COVID-19 outbreak there, took center stage at Tuesday’s county board justice committee meeting. On July 29, the jail reported its first COVID case. By Tuesday, that had grown to five cases, three of which are inmates. At the start of the meeting, livestreamed on YouTube, more than a dozen submitted public comments were read to the committee. Every statement, required to be 5 minutes or less, strongly criticized McLean County Sheriff Jon Sandage’s handling of the pandemic in the jail. But he and States Attorney Don Knapp doubled down on the argument that Gov. JB Pritzker and the state’s continued refusal to take 43 prison-bound inmates from the county jail is to blame. Early Tuesday, following a court ruling that the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) must take the inmates, McLean County jail staff drove 36 prisoners to Stateville Correctional Center near Joliet. But the majority were turned away, said Sandage. Only three were permitted entry. – Michele Steinbacher, WCBU

Rockford ‘Back The Blue’ Rally Met With Protest

Tensions escalated during a “Back the Blue” rally held Saturday on the west side of Rockford. In all, 17 protesters were arrested at that and other events over the weekend. The rally drew hundreds of law enforcement supporters to the Winnebago County Criminal Justice Center. Dozens of counter protesters also gathered to disrupt the rally. Before the event started, there was already a kind of confrontation between the protestors and police. In part, because protesters weren’t let into the “Back the Blue” rally and it wasn’t clear where they were allowed to go. Over a loudspeaker, police warned counterprotesters that they would be arrested if they did not leave the parking lot of the Criminal Justice Center. One officer finally clarified that there was an area set up across the street. Both sides were cordoned off by a plastic netting and had around 20 officers between them. – Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco, WNIJ

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