Coronavirus Blog 3/17/20: Clerk Raises Concerns About Proceeding With Election | WGLT

Coronavirus Blog 3/17/20: Clerk Raises Concerns About Proceeding With Election

Mar 17, 2020

The coronavirus story is developing quickly in Illinois. Here are updates from WGLT's newsroom and our partners at Illinois Public Radio, NPR, and The Associated Press.

You can also see (or add to) our list of cancellations, closures, and rescheduled events. Find all of our coverage at WGLT.org/Coronavirus.

PRITZKER ANNOUNCES FIRST COVID19-RELATED DEATH IN ILLINOIS
5:45 p.m. | Tuesday, March 17

A Chicago woman in her 60s became the first person to die in Illinois after contracting the coronavirus, the governor announced Tuesday, as the state went ahead with its presidential primary and schools were closed to reduce the spread of the disease.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said that announcing the death was something he has been dreading since the coronavirus crisis began. He said the victim had an underlying health condition and had extended contact with another infected person, and that she wasn’t a nursing home resident.

Illinois has had 160 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to the state Department of Public Health. Among them are 18 residents of a nursing home outside of Chicago and four of its staffers. All of those infected have been isolated, officials said. The location of the facility wasn’t disclosed.

-- AP

AMERICAN RED CROSS POSTPONES EVENING OF STARS FUNDRAISER
4:45 p.m. Tuesday, March 17

The annual Evening of Stars event, which helps raise funds for communities impacted by disasters, military members, CPR training, and collecting life-saving blood, has been canceled in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Lyn Hruska, regional CEO of the American Red Cross, said they must follow all guidelines issued by government health officials.

However, plans are in place to reschedule the event. Tickets will be valid for a new date or refunded. 

-- Jolie Sherman | WGLT

CONNECT TRANSIT SUSPENDS FARES UNTIL APRIL 1
4:15 p.m. Tuesday, March 17

Connect Transit is suspending fare collection on all its services beginning Wednesday, March 18.

"We are suspending fare collection beginning Wednesday morning as a precautionary measure to eliminate the physical contact required between riders and bus operators," said Connect Transit General Manager Isaac Thorne.

Bus service is still operating. To prevent the spread, Connect Transit continues to sanitize its vehicles using EPA-approved products reccomended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Connect Transit also advises travlers to use their services if necessary and to check regularly for service updates. 

-- Jolie Sherman | WGLT 

ISU CLASSES ONLINE ONLY THROUGH END OF SPRING SEMESTER
3:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 17

Illinois State University students will not return to in-person classes for the rest of the spring semester, extending a shift to online learning prompted by the coronavirus, officials said Tuesday.

The University of Illinois announced a similar change Monday.

“Though we had originally planned to do this for a period of several weeks (until at least April 12) and then reassess, the fast-moving circumstances of the pandemic have caused us to extend that timeline,” ISU President Larry Dietz said in an email Tuesday.

ISU will shift “to alternative delivery of classes” beginning Monday, March 23. This will now continue through the remainder of the spring semester and finals week. ISU is still “exploring options” for commencement ceremonies, which are scheduled for May 8-9.

Read the full story.

-- Ryan Denham | WGLT 

SEVERE BLOOD SHORTAGE; DONORS NEEDED
12:45 p.m. Tuesday, March 17

The American Red Cross is asking for blood donors to step forward to help alleviate a "severe blood shortage" caused by an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Here in the Illinois Region, 65 blood drives have been canceled, resulting in 2,230 fewer blood donations.

Individuals can schedule an appointment to give blood with the Red Cross by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, calling (800) RED-CROSS or enabling the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device.

— Ryan Denham | WGLT

DAVIS, BRADY TALK ECONOMIC STIMULUS OPTIONS
12:15 p.m. Tuesday, March 17

U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis said Tuesday that he wants to see the aviation industry and small-business owners get a helping hand in the next round of coronavirus economic stimulus measures.

Davis, a Taylorville Republican, supported a smaller relief bill that’s already passed the House and is expected to pass the Senate this week. That legislation includes paid sick and family leave for some workers, extended unemployment benefits and emergency funds for food security programs.

The Trump administration is also asking Congress for $850 billion in new economic relief. Davis said there are many large U.S. industries that will need help, starting with airlines and airports.

Read the full story.

-- Ryan Denham | WGLT

COUNTY CLERK RAISES CONCERNS ABOUT ELECTION
7:30 a.m. Tuesday, March 17

Tuesday is still Election Day in Illinois, despite the coronavirus. Some are expecting lower turnout as a result.

In a Facebook post late Monday, McLean County Clerk Kathy Michael raised concerns about proceeding the election.

"As the McLean County Clerk, in charge of following the laws of Illinois, including conducting elections, I have to be honest with you: I don't understand why, if this virus is so serious and so many business are closing down, why our election wasn't postponed; why, as several election judges mentioned today and some of our staff, why didn't those 'in charge' think this out and extend vote by mail; postpone for a few weeks; and other measures. We will carry on with very dedicated election judges, staff and voters; but this is becoming troubling, that some lives and jobs are seemingly given more priority than others. If we are 'in this together' then we all should be considered 'in this together,'" Michael said.

The Bloomington Election Commission acknowledged the unusual election in a Facebook post Tuesday morning.

"Each poll has Clorox wipes, alcohol wipes and tissues. The Election Judges will have gloves to wear and wipe down the equipment, tables and pens approximately once an hour. Please make sure you wash your hands before and after you are at the poll," BEC said.

Polls are open until 7 p.m.

-- Ryan Denham | WGLT

ALL DMV FACILITIES CLOSED THROUGH MARCH 31
7:15 a.m. Tuesday, March 17

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White says all offices, including Driver Services facilities statewide, will be closed to the public. The closures will take effect Tuesday through March 31.

Expiration dates for driver’s licenses, identification (ID) cards, vehicle registrations and other transactions and document filings will be extended by 30 days through an emergency rule.

-- Ryan Denham | WGLT