Coronavirus in Illinois updates: Here’s what’s happening Thursday with COVID-19 in the Chicago area

Illinois public health officials reported Thursday they had logged 2,166 newly diagnosed cases and 25 additional confirmed deaths of people with COVID-19, raising the statewide tally to 295,440 known cases and 8,696 deaths.

Meanwhile, Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday unveiled a series of rules for the holiday that she said will allow people to celebrate safely, including a requirement that everyone including candy-givers wear masks.

Among the rules, candy-givers are asked to leave a light on or hang a sign in their window letting people know whether they’re participating in the holiday while following social distancing rules and providing hand sanitizer. Trick-or-treaters are asked to stay on the move in groups of six people or less.

Additionally, on Wednesday state public health officials warned the central Illinois region around Champaign-Urbana could be hit with stricter restrictions on restaurants, bars and other businesses as the percentage of positive coronavirus tests is on the rise.

Here’s what’s happening Thursday with COVID-19 in the Chicago area and Illinois:

2:50 p.m.: State of Illinois says haunted houses are not allowed to operate, but several are already open

In what would seem to be a stake through the heart of commercial haunted houses open for the Halloween scare season, an Illinois Department of Public Health statement issued Wednesday said those businesses were not allowed to operate.

Along with suggestions about safe ways to trick-or-treat during the pandemic, the directive said that haunts “currently are not allowed in Restore Illinois Phase 4.” An earlier Phase 4 FAQ from Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office said indoor haunted houses “should remain closed.” (Hayrides and “haunted trail”-style attractions are allowed with COVID-19 precautions in place, since outdoor activities are considered less risky.)

That earlier FAQ came Sept. 25, during what was the unofficial opening weekend for haunted houses in the Chicago area.

About six large indoor haunts currently are open across the suburbs — places like The Massacre in Montgomery and 13th Floor in Melrose Park. The latter of those is run by the Denver-based Thirteenth Floor Entertainment Group, a national franchise; the rest are locally owned. (None of them is in Chicago.)

1:53 p.m.: Chicago ‘Tamale Guy’ Claudio Velez discharged from hospital after more than a month due to COVID-19

Claudio Velez, owner of the Tamale Guy Chicago restaurant, previously known as the patron saint of late night drinkers at bars across the North Side of the city, was discharged Thursday afternoon from Rush University Medical Center hospital.

Velez was hospitalized with COVID-19 Aug. 27, and placed on a ventilator in the intensive care unit. He had opened his long-awaited namesake restaurant just two weeks earlier, with lines 10 blocks long and two hour waits.

1:30 p.m.: Chicago won’t cancel Halloween as Mayor Lori Lightfoot unveils pandemic rules for the holiday

Halloween in Chicago isn’t canceled after all.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday unveiled a series of rules for the holiday that she said will allow people to celebrate safely, including a requirement that everyone including candy-givers wear masks.

Candy-givers are also asked to leave a light on or hang a sign in their window letting people know whether they’re participating in the holiday while following social distancing rules and providing hand sanitizer, according to the city’s rules.

Trick-or-treaters are asked to stay on the move in groups of six people or less, avoid sticking their hand into candy bowls, and wait until they get home and wash their hands to eat candy, the rules said.

The city doesn’t want to see any haunted houses this year and also forbids house parties “large or small,” the rules said.

1:02 p.m.: Christkindlmarket cancels in-person holiday markets in Chicago and Milwaukee, will begin selling online instead Nov. 1

Organizers of Christkindlmarket have canceled the popular outdoor holiday market and moved it online as the coronavirus pandemic continues to hamper large-scale events and travel.

The event, which typically takes place at Daley Plaza and in Chicago’s Wrigleyville neighborhood, will be virtual this year from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31.

12:11 p.m.: 2,166 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 25 additional deaths reported

Illinois public health officials reported Wednesday they had logged 2,166 newly diagnosed cases and 25 additional confirmed deaths of people with COVID-19, raising the statewide tally to 295,440 known cases and 8,696 deaths.

11:41 a.m.: White House ups offer to $1.6 trillion in last-ditch COVID-19 relief effort

The White House is backing a $400 per week pandemic jobless benefit and is dangling the possibility of a COVID-19 relief bill of $1.6 trillion as last-ditch, pre-election negotiations hit a critical phase Thursday.

The offer by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on unemployment is higher than many Republicans would like in any potential COVID deal with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Significant, possibly unbridgeable hurdles remain.

After Pelosi said the new offer still fell short, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the speaker was “not being serious” in the negotiations.

“We raised our offer to $1.6 trillion,” McEnany told reporters Thursday. “It’s one that she is is not interested in.”

Mnuchin and Pelosi are scheduled to talk by phone early Thursday afternoon, a Pelosi spokesman said.

The Trump administration is pressing for an agreement, more so than Capitol Hill Republicans.

11:05 a.m.: ‘I’m ready to do it’: Chicago voters flock to Loop Super Site on city’s first day of early voting in Nov. 3 election

While in-person early voting for Chicago voters began Thursday at the Loop Super Site location, all 50 wards will open their polls on Oct. 14. The locations of the ward sites can be found at chicagoelections.gov/earlyvoting. Suburban Cook County voters can begin early voting in person later this month.

The poll booths will be more spread out at the sites than usual to comply with coronavirus social distancing rules, said Marisel Hernandez, chairwoman of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. Masks will be available for voters who arrive at polling sites without them, she said.

People who want to instead vote by mail need to have their ballot envelope postmarked by Election Day, Hernandez said. If voters applied and were approved for a mail-in ballot but decide to vote in person instead, they must bring their mail-in ballot with them to an early voting location and surrender it to an election official. Voters who apply for a mail-in ballot but don’t receive one can vote in person but must sign an affidavit under penalty of perjury.

10:25 a.m.: In ‘painful’ decision, Joffrey Ballet of Chicago cancels 2020-21 season

The Joffrey Ballet of Chicago said Thursday that it has canceled its entire 2020-21 season at the Lyric Opera House.

The canceled programing includes the world premiere of Cathy Marston’s “Of Mice and Men” and the Joffrey premiere of George Balanchine’s “Serenade” (slated for Feb. 17-28, 2021), as well as the Chicago premiere of John Neumeier’s “The Little Mermaid” (April 21-May 2, 2021). Previously, Joffrey had canceled this fall’s production of Kenneth MacMillan’s “Manon” (Oct. 14-25) and the first staging at the Lyric of Christopher Wheeldon’s “The Nutcracker” (December 5-27), typically a huge source of revenue for the company and a highlight of the holiday season in Chicago, drawing tens of thousands to the Loop.

The Joffrey said that the decision, sparked by the COVID-19 crisis, will cost the non-profit institution in excess of $9 million at the box office. A philanthropic fund, dubbed the Joffrey Crisis Stabilization Fund, has been set up to address the disparity and cover basic operations costs through the fall of 2021.

9:30 a.m.: Illinois launches small business COVID safety program to help workers and customers returning to the office

After six months of working from home, many small businesses are facing a new challenge — how to safely return to the cubicle farm in the age of COVID-19.

The Illinois Department of Labor is launching the “Back to Business” program to help small businesses protect workers and customers as they begin to reopen.

“There’s so many businesses now that are wanting guidance on how to come back safely,” Mike Matulis, an Illinois Department of Labor spokesman, said Wednesday. “This is aimed at giving them the best guidance for keeping their customers, employees and visitors … from getting sick.”

Open to businesses with 250 or fewer employees, the program combines online training with a virtual consultant — a Department of Labor employee — to navigate everything from configuring office space to quarantining a symptomatic sales manager.

7:10 a.m.: Lightfoot, Arwady to announce Chicago plans regarding Halloween

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and city health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady were scheduled to announce plans Thursday afternoon “for a safe and healthy Halloween.”

Arwady has previously talked about possible restrictions the city could put in place for Halloween revelry. Asked specifically about door-to-door trick-or-treating, the health commissioner has said there’s still time to get cases down, but things will certainly be different from normal.

“We’re going to have to have guidance that will be different in some way. I’m not going to get into the details of exactly what that’s going to look like,” she said. “People have said, ‘Are you canceling Halloween?’ I’m not canceling Halloween. We are going to be thinking about how to do this in ways that are as safe as they can be.”

State health officials Wednesday released guidelines for the holiday Wednesday, urging trick-or-treaters to socially distance on Halloween, while cautioning the holiday is best celebrated without the usual celebrations.

6 a.m.: Column: As arts in Chicago and the nation suffered, the Kennedy Center in D.C. was about to open a nightclub on its roof

Of all the strange and desperate cultural stories to emerge from a pandemic that has sent daggers straight through the heart of the performing arts in America, here is one of the weirdest. It comes from Washington, D.C. (where else?) and is the tale of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and a planned rooftop nightclub called, believe it or not, “Heist.”

There was a sudden reversal Wednesday. But first some backstory.

In March, the Kennedy Center found itself on the defensive after the Congress earmarked $25 million within the initial $2.2 trillion federal coronavirus relief bill. Around Capitol Hill, there was some predictable back-and-forth with Republicans complaining that Democratic members had privileged a “swanky opera house” over needier causes, but the Kennedy Center and its allies were able to effectively counter by rightly reminding people that it was a job creator, a crucial cultural asset and a shuttered institution so deprived of critical revenue as to be in the middle of an existential crisis not of its own making.

All of that was true. The Kennedy Center is a glorious place. The bigger issue, though, which neither party seemed to see, was that the politicians’ notion of earmarked arts relief was limited to their own back yards.

5 a.m.: A nervous person’s guide to viewing fall foliage in the Midwest.

Watching leaves turn color and drop dead — “Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away” (Emily Bronte) — may be one of the few activities this autumn you can do safely, without too many caveats. Maybe don’t get into a bus full of leaf peepers this year. Maybe don’t call yourself a leaf peeper to begin with. Look, just stay in your car, OK? Roll down the window and peep, then roll up the window. Peep with familial peepers. Maybe don’t stay overnight, all right? Do I sound stressed? I am stressed. Here’s the thing: So are trees.

Stress creates fall foliage.

Stress is also what makes the annual admiring of foliage — aka leaf peeping — so poignant this pandemic year. “The trees are stressed, yet so is everyone else,” said David Lorenz, vice president of Travel Michigan, the agency that produces those nearly somnolent, stress-relieving “Pure Michigan” tourism spots. Scientifically, foliage is all sacrifice and hunkering down — leaves change colors because their trees are prepping for months of austerity. Aesthetically, fall foliage is all metaphor and melancholy. Because “nothing gold can stay” (Robert Frost), we spend three too-short months noticing what Gwendolyn Brooks called “summer-gone.” We wonder if leaves dream “how comfortable it will be to touch the earth” (Mary Oliver). We ascribe to foliage our own need for calm.

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