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Attendees eat lunch while listening to rhythm and blues quartet Three’s a Crowd on Wednesday during the first Sandwiches with a Side of Jam event to return this year at the Harold and Jean Miner Festival Square at the Kankakee Depot. The lunchtime concert series is hosted by the City of Kankakee, Kankakee Development Corp. and Kankakee Public Library.

Attendees order lunch from Jimmy Jo’s BBQ as rhythm and blues quartet Three’s a Crowd plays on Wednesday.

Attendees eat lunch while listening music on the grounds of the Kankakee Depot in downtown Kankakee.

Pritzker unveils virus mitigation playbook in case of surge

SPRINGFIELD — As Illinois’ rolling COVID-19 test positivity rate saw a modest tick upward Wednesday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker laid out a new virus mitigation framework dividing the state into 11 regions for purposes of slowing the coronavirus’ spread.

That’s an increase from the four broad regions in the Restore Illinois reopening plan in place before Wednesday’s announcements.

The new regions largely follow the state’s emergency medical regions, including five split between Chicago and its suburbs, one in the St. Louis Metro East area, one Southern Illinois region, a Northern Illinois non-Chicago or suburban region, and each an East-Central, West-Central and North-Central region.

Pritzker, at a COVID-19-specific news conference in Chicago, also laid out the metrics that, if hit by any of the regions, would cause the state to implement new restrictions to mitigate spread. No regions were currently hitting any of the metrics as of Wednesday.

Those metrics include a combination of: an increase in the seven-day rolling average for test positivity rate for seven out of 10 days; a sustained seven-day increase in hospital admissions for a coronavirus-like illness; or a reduction in hospital capacity of intensive care unit beds to under 20 percent available.

Pritzker said there would be a “menu of options” to contain the virus, including many of those in place during previous phases of the reopening plan.

Bars were of particular concern, he said, along with youth sports camps that have proven to be hotbeds for the virus.

“Local governments have the ability more immediately to do things than state government does, and so we encourage that,” the governor said. “But where state government needs to step in, we do and we will.”

A “fail-safe” requiring immediate action, as Pritzker described it, would occur if a region has three consecutive days averaging greater than an 8 percent positivity rate on tests conducted.

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced three tiers of mitigation strategies that could be employed if a region reaches those metrics.

In “higher risk” settings, such as indoor bars and restaurants, some mitigations could be triggered “automatically.” These include reduced indoor dining capacity and suspended indoor bar service in tier one, followed by suspended indoor dining in tier two, then takeout only in tier three.

There are also mitigation factors for hospitals, including visitor limits and reduced elective surgeries, then suspended elective surgeries, or, in tier three, opening alternate care facilities.

Additional meeting size restrictions would also be considered, along with remote work guidance or requirements for offices, and a reversion to other reduced in-person retail and businesses and services that were in place in previous phases of the reopening plan.

On the reopening of schools, Pritzker said all districts and buildings are different, so “one size doesn’t fit all.” There’s room for adaptation of the Illinois State Board of Education guidelines, as long as face covering, social distancing and classroom size guidelines are met.

“In every decision relating to this viral threat, schools must focus on giving our children the best education possible, while offering the greatest consideration to their health and the health of their families, and all of those who work in our schools,” he said. “And as indicated by the ISBE instructions, hybrid schedules and remote learning are likely to be a part of that solution.”

Pritzker’s news conference came as the state’s overall positivity rate for tests conducted ticked up to 3.1 percent after four days at 3 percent that followed multiple weeks below that level. There were 1,187 new confirmed cases reported out of 38,161 tests completed over the previous 24 hours, resulting in a one-day positivity rate of 3.1 percent.

The eight COVID-19-related deaths reported Wednesday drove the statewide total to 7,226 among 156,693 confirmed cases since the pandemic reached Illinois.

The IDPH website still contained information based on only the original four regions of the reopening plan Wednesday afternoon, and the Southern region had the highest positivity rate at 5 percent, followed by the Northeast and North-Central region at 4 percent each, and the Central region at 2 percent.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of IDPH, and Pritzker both said the best virus mitigation tactic is wearing a face covering in public, keeping distance from others and hand washing. Ezike added young people are now a major driver of the virus’ spread.

“Ages 10-to-19 and ages 20-to-29 — they are having higher case rates now than ever before in this pandemic,” she said. “We are following this very closely, but young people and parents of young people, please be aware. This virus is now being spread by youth, by younger people. So young people, we need you to make responsible decisions to help us continue to keep our successes and decrease and minimize spread.”

Ezike said those exposed to a person testing positive for the virus must “undergo a 14-day timeout” of self-quarantine. It’s best to wait six to seven days after exposure to get tested, she said, otherwise a false negative may occur. Even a negative test does not release a person from the 14-day quarantine requirement, she said.

“I know that’s hard to take — You’re feeling fine. You got an initial test, it says you’re negative. But that test is not enough to take you out of the 14-day timeout. We have many individuals that have not been positive on day six or seven,” she said, adding that positive test results have come as late as 14 days after exposure.

The state’s hospitalization metrics continued to hover around their pandemic lows at the end of Tuesday. There were 1,454 hospital beds in use by COVID-19 patients as of 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, up by 38 from the day before but within the range of the past two weeks. The 324 COVID-19 patients in intensive care unit beds and 130 on ventilators were also near pandemic lows.{span class=”print_trim”}

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

LeVar Kellogg, center, of Kankakee, plays saxophone as part of rhythm and blues quartet Three’s a Crowd.

County board OKs contested special use permit

LIMESTONE — The Kankakee County Board OK’d a contested special use permit that the Zoning Board of Appeals recommended for a business in Limestone Township.

The board voted 18-7 in favor of the resolution on the ZBA case of a special use permit for the Limestone property on 5000W Road owned by Ron O’Connor, who operates a “heavy processing facility.” It’s a recycling of used concrete where concrete is crushed into gravel, and rebar is removed and recycled. Soil and clay is also recycled.

Neighbors have complained, saying it was detrimental to people’s health due to dust created by the operation and increased noise due to truck traffic. Drainage issues were also mentioned.

“The noise has become overwhelming,” said Lori Foster, who lives just north of the property. “I have a pool. … The last two years I’ve noticed in my pool there is a constant silt. Everyday that I clean my pool, there is a gray silt on the bottom of the pool, and I can never get it all out. There’s a constant level of that from the dust that comes from next door.”

Foster was one of five people who spoke on the case during the public comment portion of Tuesday’s board meeting before a vote was taken. She also has incurred drainage problems, she said might be due to the elevation of neighboring property.

“Over the years I’ve seen my property flood far more than it ever used to,” she said. “Obviously, in the spring it would get wet and that kind of thing. I now have standing water in many places on my property that never had any water.”

Foster, who lives on 5000W Road, said the recycling operation has affected the intended use of her property.

“I’m just hoping the board takes all of that into consideration, what it’s doing to a very quiet, very peaceful road,” she said.

O’Connor also spoke during public comment and said he’s made several improvements to the proper, which includes a little more than 33 acres, since he bought the land in 2006.

“I realize that dust and noise from driving on the gravel portion of the road that is on my property is the largest complaint from the neighbors,” O’Connor said. “I plan on installing more asphalt further back on the half-mile long lane. This will solve the road dust problem and greatly soften the vehicle noise.

“I’ve tried my best to get along with all of the neighbors. … Some of the things [Foster] stated I had not heard. That’s the first time I’ve heard about gray soot in the pool. I’ll look further into that. I’d like to cure problems and not ignore them.”

The ZBA recommended the special use permit by an 8-6 vote and noted several findings and changes that must be made. Del Skimerhorn, county planning manager, said three public hearings had been held on the case, two in December and one in March.

At the June ZBA meeting, it decided to approve the special use permit.

“The board finds that after careful review of the evidence and testimony provided, a preponderance of evidence indicates that the use will not be detrimental to the health, safety, morals comfort, or general welfare of the public at large. However, this same evidence indicates the property owners in the immediate vicinity of the operation may be affected by dust emanating from trucks entering and leaving the facility.”


The board also said the permit comes with conditions — the operation must maintain all required permits from the IEPA (Illinois Environmental Protection Agency) and county; and the processing and storage of materials is limited to the rear of the property.

In addition hours of operation will be limited to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and open burning will only be permitted in the rear 1,500 feet of the property.

The ZBA had also recommended a Saturday operation hours of 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., but the county board amended the permit to exclude Saturday operation. The county board also included in the amendment that a dust suppression unit must be used on the recycling grinder.

Also part of the special use permit, the property owner shall do a drainage study of the property to be conducted at his expense to evaluate that elevating the property has had on the surrounding neighborhood. The study must be completed within 24 months of approval of the special use, and any improvements or changes to drainage shall be completed within 24 months of the date of the completed study at the owner’s expense.

“Basically, that is forcing the applicant to do what should’ve been done in the first place — get a stormwater permit and have a study done,” Skimerhorn said. “If any issues are found based on that study, then they would need to be corrected.”

State bowling center owners sue Pritzker

DIXON — Brookmont Bowling Center in Kankakee is among 180 members of a state association that has filed a civil lawsuit against Gov. J.B. Pritzker in Lee County Circuit Court.

The Illinois State Bowling Proprietors Association said it is seeking to invalidate Pritzker’s “unconstitutional and improper” exercise of authority to issue consecutive emergency declarations that improperly restrict the number of people allowed in a bowling alley.

Now in the fourth of five phases of the Restore Illinois program, the state’s current orders say that bowling centers, regardless of size, are restricted to a maximum of 50 people. Businesses such as gyms, waxing centers, tattoo parlors, retail stores, nail salons, restaurants and other businesses face no 50-person cap and are limited only to 50% of their capacity.

“Frankly, Gov. Pritzker has thrown a gutter ball on this one,” ISBPA Executive Director R. William Duff Jr. said in a news release. “Even medical experts agree that bowling is not a highly dangerous activity with regard to COVID-19 spread.

“As the businesses of our members buckle under the governor’s orders, it’s hard to explain to employees, the bowling public and family members why other activities rated by experts as more dangerous than bowling enjoy the governor’s favor. That’s why we want the court to intervene and put a stop to this before more harm is caused.”

He said the association’s members have not only suffered substantial pain and burden as a result of Gov. Pritzker’s “unconstitutional, successive orders,” but they now face insolvency and the permanent loss of their livelihood.

“The governor’s ill-advised policies have resulted in staggering losses for our members, and these unconstitutional moves threaten thousands of jobs and millions of dollars of tax revenue,” he said.

According to the lawsuit, ISBPA initiated a dialogue with the state and urged Pritzker to allow its members to operate with its proposed safety requirements, standards consistent with those used successfully in other states.

Duff said that bowling centers around the state have instituted a broad range of safety and sanitation measures to ensure the bowling public could enjoy a safe environment with strict rules that include maintaining at least one empty lane between each group bowling, daily temperature and wellness checks of employees, ongoing sanitation of all venue-provided equipment, and reducing touch points in all facilities.

Member bowling centers also have elevated their cleaning procedures and installed floor markings, plexiglass and signage to enforce social distancing, he said.

The Brookmont Bowling Center is a 36-lane facility located on West Brookmont Boulevard in Kankakee. The Daily Journal attempted to contact owners for comment.