The weekend is here already and believe it or not it’s Friday the 13th! COVID is impacting us on all sides and the stay at home advisories increase, pointing toward a possible revert to the conditions we faced back at the start of this pandemic.
As a point of reference (credit to Caroline Portlock at the Workforce Investment Board), it was 8 months ago today (and another Friday the 13th) when the U.S. declared a national emergency concerning COVID-19.
Read below for an additional announcement on the stay at home, state drug shipment, teacher stress, our next virtual conference, and more.
*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital
Cook County Follows Up with Advisory
The Cook County Department of Public Health issued a stay-at-home advisory Friday for all residents of suburban Cook County as COVID-19 cases continue to surge across the state. The guidance comes in response to increased rates of COVID-19 transmission, and just a day after Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a stay-at-home advisory for the City of Chicago.
The advisory is scheduled to go into effect for both suburban Cook County and Chicago on Monday, Nov. 16 at 6 a.m., and will last at least 30 days. Cook County Department of Public Health officials are advising all Cook County residents and visitors to follow the guidance to curb the increased spread of the virus in Illinois Region 10.
The guidelines are as follows:
- Stay home as much as possible, please refrain from any non-essential activities and stay home. If you must go out for essential activities, such as work, to attend school, get tested for COVID-19, get a flu shot, or to shop for groceries:
- Wear a mask consistently and correctly over your nose and mouth.
- Avoid close contact with others and maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from others who do not live with you.
- Wash hands often with soap and warm water.
- Limit gatherings as much as possible, please refrain from attending or hosting gatherings with people who do not live in your household. This includes recommendations to postpone holiday gatherings or host virtual celebrations to limit the spread of COVID-19.
- Limit travel as much as possible, do not engage in any non-essential travel, including vacations or trips to visit relatives or friends.
- Work from home as much as possible, CCDPH is calling on employers in suburban Cook County to re-establish telework protocols for staff who are able to work from home.
Back to Work on the Federal Aid We’ve Been Waiting For
Hopes for an end-of-the-year coronavirus relief deal are off to a rocky start, raising fresh questions about the chances for a long-elusive agreement before January. Lawmakers in both parties say they want a deal, but they have just a few weeks to get one. Neither side is signaling any interest in backing down, with both saying they have more leverage because of the elections.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the “starting point” on any agreement should be the $2.2 trillion coronavirus bill passed by the House in October, the same line Democrats have held for months. “Joe Biden has won, now move on and work with us to solve the COVID crisis,” Schumer said Thursday, pointing to the results of the presidential election. “The American people are waiting for relief from the COVID virus, but Republicans refuse to take comprehensive action that meets the needs of the country.”
Senate Republicans are digging in on the roughly $500 billion figure that they previously coalesced behind. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is making it clear that he wants any deal to mirror the scaled-back packages that have been blocked twice by Senate Democrats. “My view is the level at which the economy is improving further underscores that we need to do something at about the amount that we put on the floor in September and October. Highly targeted at what the residual problems are,” McConnell told reporters.
He warned that the “dramatically larger” figure being pushed by Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi is “not a place I think we’re willing to go.”
In a post-election setback for Democrats, McConnell is taking over the reins of any negotiations from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, according to GOP senators. The decision significantly shifts the dynamics because the administration, before the election, had indicated it could agree to $1.9 trillion or higher, while that figure was always dead in the water with Senate Republicans.
Illinois getting biggest initial shipment of new COVID drug
As one of the states hardest hit by COVID-19 right now, Illinois is getting the largest shipment this week of a newly authorized COVID-19 antibody therapy.
The state is getting 6,380 doses of Eli Lilly’s bamlanivimab, which is being used for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 patients who are at risk for severe symptoms.
Because the supply of the drug is limited, the federal government is allocating doses to states each week based on their case counts and hospitalizations. Illinois, which reported 12,657 new COVID-19 cases today and 145 additional deaths, is getting 8 percent of the 79,350 total vials, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Texas is getting the next-largest shipment, with 5,780 vials.
The FDA on Monday granted emergency-use authorization to bamlanivimab. The federal government has purchased 300,000 doses of the intravenous drug for $375 million, Lilly said last month. Under the agreement, the government has the option to purchase up to an additional 650,000 vials through June 30, 2021.
Illinois Teachers Considering Leaving Profession Amid Covid Stress
More than a third of Illinois teachers surveyed said they’ve considered leaving the profession amid the safety concerns and debilitating stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, officials at the state’s largest teachers union said Wednesday. The departures would arrive at a critical time coinciding with teacher shortages at many school districts across the state and a spike in teacher retirements.
“This should sound the alarm for every person in Illinois who values our children and their education,” Illinois Education Association President Kathi Griffin said at a virtual news conference Wednesday.
“We are already in the middle of a teacher shortage. Teacher retirements are at their highest rate in five years, and others are considering switching careers,” Griffin said. “We need to figure out how to keep our talented people in education. And we think the best way to do that is by asking local health departments to intervene when school boards and/or administrations aren’t keeping their students and staff safe.”
The warning of a potential exodus of teachers was based on a recent poll of more than 1,300 teachers across the state conducted on behalf of the teacher’s union by Washington, D.C.-based Normington Petts & Associates.
The participants represented a statewide cross section of kindergarten through 12th grade teachers and education employees, including support staff, psychologists, counselors, and others who work with students. The survey did not include Chicago Public Schools employees, who are not represented by the IEA.
Among educators surveyed, 22% said they have considered quitting the profession or taking early retirement, and another 13% said the current circumstances have prompted them to reevaluate their career path.
The poll also illuminated the hardships educators are facing due to COVID-19-related stress, with 76% of teachers saying this school year’s workload was either somewhat or much heavier than last year, and 66% saying they have been feeling more “burned out” than usual.
Teachers also overwhelmingly expressed concerns that their district’s COVID-19 policies on required safety measures fell short in several categories, including face coverings, social distancing, adequate cleaning supplies and protocol, and appropriate PPE for staff.
In addition, when asked how likely they thought it would be for schools to reopen safely for full in-person learning for all students next semester, 69% of teachers said they felt it was either “not very” or “not at all likely.”
Can You Require Employees to be Vaccinated?
For business owners looking to get their employees back to the office, there’s light at the end of the pandemic tunnel: A Covid-19 vaccine has been found effective and could be distributed this year.
News of the vaccine also raises questions for business owners: Can you require employees to be vaccinated, and if so, how do you go about it?
Employment lawyers and HR professionals say that policies regarding the flu vaccine are a good place to start. Many states mandate that hospital workers and other health care professionals, as well as school children and preschoolers in daycare, get flu shots and other vaccines. But it’s not required for most professions. Generally, employers can require a flu vaccination, but an employee may be entitled to an exemption if he or she has a particular disability that needs to be accommodated, or a sincerely-held religious objection to taking the vaccine, says Michael Schmidt, a New York-based employment lawyer for Cozen O’Connor.
In both cases, the employer may have to pay for the vaccine or reasonable accommodation. If you refuse to make accommodations for an anti-vaxxer, it’s possible to face a claim for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Civil Rights Act, or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s whistleblower protection program. Most of the time, Schmidt says, the advice is for employers to encourage employees to get a flu shot rather than try to create a policy that demands it. However, he notes, many would argue that the Covid-19 situation is far more threatening than the flu is at this point, meaning a vaccine may be more crucial to the overall health of a workplace.
Not putting a policy in place could also cause moral and psychological conflict in the workplace, says Alissa Kranz, a labor attorney at Tampa-based law firm Lieser Skaff Alexander. Employees may have concerns about going into a workplace where one or more co-workers have not been vaccinated.
Schmidt also notes that vaccine guidance likely will be released from the Centers for Disease Control and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which deals with Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act and the ADA. So, it may be worth waiting for more information before you create a plan. When you do create one, remember to document everything and ensure that the plan is executed as written. Not only will this help to avoid worker’s compensation or gross negligence claims, but it will also give employees more assurance that you are creating a safe workplace for them.
Program and Event Notices & Reminders
Will County Small Business Assistance Grant
As a reminder, Will County has reopened applications and expanded eligibility criteria for businesses with annual revenue below $5 Million and those that have fewer than 50 full-time equivalent employees. Businesses that meet the eligibility criteria are encouraged to apply.
The deadline for applications is Monday, November 16.
Ready to Grow Your Business? The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at JJC is offering assistance for existing businesses during these times.
21 Topics in 21 Minutes for 2021 Growth
In less than 30 minutes, the SBDC will help you prioritize key 2021 business plans whether it is for your people, your product, your marketing, your sales, your money, or the impact of this crisis. In this short, one-on-one exercise, we will help you determine up to three of the biggest opportunities for growth in the year ahead. We will offer no-cost tools to develop your strategy for success in those areas. Email us at SBDC@JJC.edu and we will send you a link for registration.
Business Interruption Grant
Small Business Administration (SBA) Programs
ECONOMIC INJURY DISASTER LOANS (EIDL)
Expanded by the CARES Act, the EIDL program has been around for a couple of years and is intended to provide economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing a temporary loss of revenue during a declared disaster. Here’s our step-by-step guide.
DEBT RELIEF PROGRAM
The SBA will pay 6 months of principal, interest, and any associated fees that borrowers owe for all current 7(a), 504, and Microloans in regular servicing status as well as new 7(a), 504, and Microloans disbursed prior to September 27, 2020.
EXPRESS BRIDGE LOANS
These loans allow small businesses who currently have a business relationship with an SBA Express Lender to access up to $25,000 quickly.
Click here for the Small Business Administration’s website, where you’ll find additional programs as well as more resources and guides for coronavirus-impacted businesses.
Finally, we would like to announce our next Virtual Conference. Please make plans to join us next Thursday, November 19 at 11 AM for a City of Joliet projects and programs update. Interim City Manager Jim Hock will join us to discuss the progress has been made on the following:
- 2021 City Budget
- City Water Source
- NorthPoint and Cullinan developments
- Houbolt Road Bridge
- I80 Bridge / Highway
- Truck facility PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) program
- Single residential rental inspections
- Downtown flood plain
- Chicago Street opening, beautification, and straightening
- Van Buren Street plaza
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry Staff and Board of Directors
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry