Illinois schools can resume in-person instruction this fall, governor says

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CHICAGO — Governor JB Pritzker released guidelines for K-12 schools, community colleges, and higher education institutions to resume in-person instruction for next fall on Tuesday.

“Classroom learning provides necessary opportunities for our students to learn, socialize, and grow. The benefits of in-person instruction can’t be overstated,” Pritzker said in a statement.

Schools in Illinois can return to in-person learning this fall under specific guidelines, Pritzker said. These include use of PPE and social distancing when possible, limiting indoor gatherings to 50 people, increased cleaning and monitoring students for COVID-19 symptoms.

All schools will be allowed to reopen, including P-12 schools and higher education, all public school districts, non-public schools, colleges and universities.

All of Illinois is set to move on to “Phase 4” of reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic this Friday, although some restrictions in Chicago remain stricter than those outlined in the state’s “Restore Illinois” plan.

Places of worship, bars and restaurants, zoos, movie theaters, gyms and performance venues can open their doors to allow people inside once again, under certain restrictions. In Chicago, restrictions include capacity limits of 25 percent or up to 50 people in one space, limits on groups outdoors of 100 people, as well as requirements that staff and customers wear face coverings.

According to Pritzker, Illinois will bring back about 7 percent of the state’s workforce as it moves on to Phase 4, accounting for about $30 billion in annual GDP.

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said testing capacity continues to expand. To date, there have been nearly 1.4 million COVID-19 tests performed, and the positivity rate from June 16-22 remains at a low of 2 percent.

Chicago launched a pilot program of mobile COVID-19 testing sites Tuesday, as the city works to bring more tests to residents at highest risk of infection. Testing at community-based sites run by the City of Chicago and State of Illinois offer COVID-19 tests free to all.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday he is cautiously optimistic there will be a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the year or early 2021, but warned the next few weeks will be critical to tamping down coronavirus hot spots.

Fauci has recently warned that the U.S. is still in the first wave of the pandemic and has continued to urge the American public to practice social distancing

An extra $600 a week in federally provided benefits to the unemployed is set to expire on July 31. The money was included as part of the government relief package passed earlier this year.

Congress remains divided largely along partisan lines over whether another round of similar relief is necessary.

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