What a beautiful day to start the weekend. Today’s update will try to clear up as much as possible some of the information that came out yesterday from Governor Pritzker. Additionally, there is new safety guidance from the CDC out for schools, the economy is revving up, President Biden hits a goal, and an update on an immigration bill.
A few reminders first –
We have a busy end of the month as far as our calendar goes. Our State of the City Address with Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk is back on the calendar for Monday, March 22 at 11 AM. Make sure to sign up here.
Please add the Women’s Empowerment Forum on Wednesday, March 24th. In honor of National Women’s History month the chamber has partnered with Lewis University and invites you to join an interactive, virtual, open forum with women educators and leaders from our community. Join us at 2:30 PM by registering here: http://jolietchamber.chambermaster.com/events/details/2021-webinar-march-24th-women-s-empowerment-forum-6018
Also, you can now register to join us for a Joliet City Council Candidate forum to take place on Thursday, March 25th. We’ll have an in-person event that will be taped and released immediately as well as a published questionnaire before the 3/25 event. This event will run from 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM. You can register here: http://jolietchamber.chambermaster.com/events/details/2021-member-lunch-march-25-joliet-city-council-at-large-candidates-6027
*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital
Review of Updates to Phase 4 Allowances and Beyond
The announcement yesterday from Governor Pritzker was a lot to take in for most, so here is a condensed review of what is going on with our phases. Yesterday’s shared information increases capacity limits immediately for some venues, such as large theaters, while creating an intermediate step where a wide range of businesses will be able to accommodate more customers ahead of a full-scale reopening.
To move into the bridge phase, the entire state must reach:
• A 70 percent first-dose vaccination rate for residents 65 and over (that rate is currently 59.73 percent);
• Maintain a 20 percent or lower ICU bed availability rate;
• Hold steady on COVID-19 and COVID-like illness hospital admissions, mortality rate and case rate over a 28-day monitoring period.
To advance to Phase 5, or “back to normal,” the state must:
• Reach a 50 percent vaccination rate for residents age 16 and over (that rate is currently 18.35 percent);
• Hold steady on COVID-19 and COVID-like illness hospital admissions, mortality rate and case rate over an additional 28-day monitoring period.
The state will revert back to an earlier phase if those measures backtrack.
Pritzker also updated Phase 4 guidance: People with proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID—the PCR test—one to three days prior to an event or outing will not count against capacity limits.
Governor Pritzker is making a few immediate changes to his coronavirus restrictions. Those include:
- Allowing outdoor festivals and general admission events to open with capacity limits
- Permitting larger indoor theaters and performing arts venues to seat people at up to 25% of normal capacity, without the 50-person limit set for smaller venues.
- Large conference rooms and convention spaces can now have gatherings of up to 250 people or 25% of capacity, whichever is fewer.
- In another change, people who got their final vaccine dose 14 days earlier or who have had a negative coronavirus test within three days of an event do not count against capacity limits.
The restrictions would be further loosened in the bridge phase, when businesses in a wide range of categories, from restaurants to retailers to offices, would be permitted to operate at 60% capacity. Once the state reaches the final phase, all capacity limits would be lifted.
One item that was in question is how soon as a state we can move to the bridge phase. We do not have final guidance yet, but the belief is once the 70% metric has been met rather than 28 days after the 70% has been met of 65+ aged individuals. In addition to the vaccination requirement of 50% in individuals over 16 years old, a 28-day monitoring period during the bridge phase will be required before the full reopening of Phase 5.
CDC Says Three Feet of Distance is Safe in Schools
Federal health officials on Friday announced updated guidance on physical distancing in schools, now saying students need only be 3 feet apart, rather than 6. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), students can maintain a distance of three feet or more in classroom settings so long as there is universal masking, a change that could speed the reopening of schools.
The recommendation is for all K-12 students, regardless of whether community transmission is low, moderate, or substantial, the CDC said. Middle school and high school students should be at least 6 feet apart in communities where transmission is high, the CDC said, if cohorting is not possible. Cohorting is when groups of students are kept together with the same peers and staff throughout the school day to reduce the risk for spread throughout the school. According to the CDC, older students are more likely to be exposed to COVID-19 and spread it than younger children.
The CDC also recommends 6 feet of distance in common areas, like lobbies and auditoriums, and during activities like singing, shouting, band or sport practices. Health officials in recent days have previewed the recommendations and said they will better reflect changing science.
Three feet is the minimum distance endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization. For many schools, keeping students 6 feet apart is not feasible. In some cases, there’s no distancing at all. The CDC’s insistence on 6 feet of separation has been a flash point of the school reopening debate. The agency has acknowledged that in-person schooling is not a major driver of community spread and that virus transmission is rarer in schools compared with the surrounding community.
Economy Revs Up as Americans Increase Spending
Restaurant and hotel bookings are up. Airplane tickets are selling fast. Consumers spent more on gyms, salons, and spas in recent weeks than they have since the coronavirus pandemic began. The U.S. economic recovery is picking up steam as Americans increase their spending, particularly on in-person services that were battered by the coronavirus pandemic.
The rising number of Covid-19 vaccinations, falling business restrictions, ample household savings and injections of federal stimulus funds into the economy are fueling the surge, economists say. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal this month raised their average forecast for 2021 economic growth to 5.95%, measured from the fourth quarter of last year to the same period this year, from a 4.87% projection in February’s survey. The higher figure would mark the fastest such pace in nearly four decades.
“You’re looking at the biggest surge in economic growth that most people who are working today have ever experienced in their working lives,” said Tim Quinlan, senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities. He expects consumer demand and trillions of dollars in built-up savings to propel economic growth “in a manner that’s going to take people’s breaths away.”
The pickup is arriving sooner than many economists had expected at the start of the year, before Congress and the White House approved a $1.9 trillion stimulus package. In the Journal’s March survey, respondents upped their average forecasts of economic growth in the first quarter to an annualized rate of 4.9%, from 2.8% in February’s survey.
Much of the jump in spending is for services that involve proximity to other people. The weekly average of the number of seated diners tracked on restaurant reservation platform OpenTable is up markedly from mid-December, but still down 33% from 2019. In Miami, the recent upsurge in activity has put restaurant attendance 8% above where it was in 2019.
Spending on gyms, salons and spas recently climbed to the highest levels since the pandemic first hit the U.S., forcing many to shut down and scaring away clients fearful of infection, according to data from Earnest Research, which tracks trends in credit- and debit-card purchases.
Travel-related businesses are among the big beneficiaries. Spending on vacation rental sites Airbnb and Vrbo surged in the week ending March 3, and is well above pre-pandemic levels, according to Earnest Research. The number of transactions for air travel, lodging and on online travel platforms has climbed sharply in recent weeks, and is now at the highest level since the pandemic began, the firm’s data show.
Some of this spending might be for future travel, but much is happening already. U.S. hotel occupancy hit a 20-week high of 49% in the week ended March 6, led by small and medium-size hotels, according to STR, a research firm specializing in the hospitality sector. Occupancy is still down nearly 30% from 2019.
Household savings totaled $3.9 trillion in January, up from $1.4 trillion in February 2020, before the pandemic hit the U.S. economy. The $1.9 trillion federal stimulus legislative package approved this month is expected to further drive up savings.
Biden Says U.S. to Hit Goal of 100 Million Vaccine Doses Administered Since He Took Office
President Biden said the U.S. is expected to meet by Friday his goal of administering 100 million Covid-19 vaccine doses since he took office, weeks ahead of his 100-day timeline.
The U.S. passed the milestone for 100 million total doses last week. Mr. Biden’s goal was for 100 million shots after his Jan. 21 inauguration. The U.S. was administering nearly 1 million doses a day in the final days of former President Donald Trump’s administration. The pace picked up significantly this month, surpassing 2 million doses a day in early March.
“We’re way ahead of schedule,” Mr. Biden said. “But we got a long way to go.” Mr. Biden said Thursday that 65% of those 65 or older had received at least one shot and 36% were fully vaccinated.
The president pressed states in a primetime address last week to widen Covid-19 vaccine eligibility to all U.S. adults by May 1. He has previously said he expects to have enough vaccine supply for all those eligible in the U.S. by the end of May.
The Biden administration has made deals with vaccine manufacturers to boost supply, with Pfizer and Moderna expected to provide a total 600 million doses of their two-shot vaccines and Johnson & Johnson expected to deliver 200 million doses of its one-shot vaccine. Merck Co. has agreed to help produce the J&J shot.
House Passes Bills Allowing Path to Citizenship for Dreamers & Farmworkers
House Democrats passed a pair of bills Thursday that would create a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and some migrant farm workers, taking a piecemeal approach as the fate of President Biden’s major immigration package looks increasingly uncertain.
The Dream and Promise Act, which passed 228-197, would provide certainty to undocumented people brought to the U.S. as children whose ability to go to school, get work and even remain in the country has hung in the balance from administration to administration.
Sponsor Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) called the bill “a major step in ending the veil of fear and uncertainty that has plagued the lives of our Dreamers for far too long.” But beyond assisting Dreamers, the legislation would also allow those with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to apply for citizenship, a group from countries around the world that ranges from those fleeing civil unrest and natural disasters as early as the 1990s to Venezuelans deemed eligible for the status by the Biden administration earlier this month.
In total, the Dream and Promise Act would help naturalize nearly 4.5 million people.
If approved by the Senate, the legislation would cap a longstanding goal for Democrats, who have been eager to cement status for Dreamers, as former President Obama’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has been repeatedly challenged in court. But the prospects for getting the “immigration week” legislation to Biden’s desk have been complicated by a surge at the southern border, with Republicans expressing hesitation for passing any immigration reform before dealing with that situation first.
Program Notices & Reminders
Hollywood Casino Joliet Partnering with Illinois Dept. of Public Health to Host Covid Mobile Testing Program
Hollywood Casino Joliet announced that it is partnering with the Illinois Department of Public Health (“IDPH”) to host a COVID-19 mobile testing program in the casino’s parking lot. The IDPH will set up and operate the mobile testing program at Hollywood Casino every Sunday in March and the first Sunday in April.
“We are incredibly proud to be partnering with the Illinois Department of Public Health to provide our parking lot as a COVID-19 testing site to help fight the spread of COVID-19,” said Lydia Garvey, Vice President and General Manager at Hollywood Casino Joliet. “Nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our community as we all work together towards ending the pandemic.”
The IDPH’s mobile testing program in Hollywood Casino’s parking lot will take place from 8:00am to 4:00pm on March 20, March 27, and April 3. Individuals seeking COVID-19
tests will not need a photo ID nor need to be showing signs of symptoms to receive a test. The
mobile testing program accepts insurance, however an insurance card is not necessary to be
tested. For the uninsured or if insurance does not cover the cost of the test, the state of Illinois will cover the cost.
The COVID-19 mobile testing program will use anterior nares swabs to test patients, with specimens being shipped to a lab to run on a polymerase chain reaction (“PCR”) testing machine which makes it possible to detect COVID-19 with a very high degree of accuracy. Individuals tested will receive a phone call between 4-7 days from the date of their test from the number 888-297-7208. Patients who miss the call will be requested to call back in order to receive results as they cannot be left via voicemail.
Paycheck Protection Program Office Hours This Week Hosted by the SBA Illinois District Office
The SBA Illinois District Office is here to help you navigate the Paycheck Protection Program! Join them this week for office hours and get your questions about PPP answered. They will be hosting office hours daily until PPP closes on March 31. Sign up for office hours this week below!
Office hours this week
- Friday, March 19, 11:00a.m., Click here to sign up.
Browse other events hosted by the SBA Illinois District Office www.sba.gov/il.
Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Joliet Junior College
Here are our upcoming no-cost webinars:
Starting Your Business in Illinois on March 24th at 2pm
Thinking about starting a business in Illinois? This informative workshop helps entrepreneurs understand many of the steps and requirements. In this no-cost overview of Starting Your Business in Illinois, we will touch on many aspects of your business plan, including legal, accounting, banking, marketing, and sales.
Starting Your Business in Illinois Webinar (ecenterdirect.com)
Social Media – Stop Posting! Start Marketing (with Joe Sanders) on April 1 at 11am
Are you taking advantage of the opportunities and changes in Social Media? Learn the five-step process: Find the Right Audience; Create the Right Content; Promote Your Business as a Brand; Use Ample Resources; and Analyze the Results. Digital Marketing expert, podcast host and author Joe Sanders, from Relevant Elephant, will share a powerful overview of how to improve your social media strategy and WHY you need to take action.
Social Media – Stop Posting! Start Marketing! (with Joe Sanders) (ecenterdirect.com)
Video Marketing for Small Business (with Mike at Acclaim Media) on April 8 at 11am
Video production once meant bringing in a full production crew to produce a television commercial. Now, a child can produce a quality video on their phone. And that video is a very important component to your website, social media pages, product information, as well as your local advertising. Learn the benefits of video marketing and hear from Mike Poglitsch at Acclaim Media about how easy the process can be.
Video Marketing for Small Business (ecenterdirect.com)
Funding Your Business (with Nancy Kuzma) on April 14th at 2pm
Funding your business is critical for start-ups as well as companies who are looking to expand. Establishing business credit is the first step. Get a basic understanding of what banks look for to qualify for a loan from Nancy Kuzma of Old Plank Trail Community Bank/Wintrust Community Bank.
Funding Your Business Webinar (ecenterdirect.com)
Government Certification Process (with Rita Haake at COD) on April 27th at 1pm
Certifications: Interpreting the alphabet to pursue profits! Which small business certification is the best one for you?
• Federal: 8(a), EDWOSB, HUBZone, SDB, SDVOSB, WOSB, VOSB
• State: DBE, FBE, FMBE, MBE, PBE, VBE
• Local: DBE, MBE, WBE, VBE
You will learn the details of the application process, documentation requirements, certification options, and how to market and leverage certifications for the growth of your business.
Webinar: The Certification Process (ecenterdirect.com)
Illinois Department of Transportation
The Illinois Department of Transportation is hosting free virtual workshops in February as part of its Building Blocks of Success series for firms interested in participating in the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program strengthening their skills and bidding on state projects. The workshops are open to all, but some are tailored to specific districts/regions of the state.
The workshop dates and topics are:
• March 23: Getting Paid, 10 a.m. to noon
• March 25: Required Documents, 10 a.m. to noon
• March 29: Quick Books Part 1, 10 a.m. to noon
• March 30: Quick Books Part 2, 10 a.m. to noon
• March 31: Quick Books Part 3, 10 a.m. to noon
Building Blocks of Success will be conducted through April. Workshop information, including dates and times, will be made available through Eventbrite at bit.ly/DBEworkshops. Advance registration is required. Questions can be directed to the DBE resource center at (312) 939-1100.
Finally, please consider taking a few minutes to fill out the 2021 Small Business Needs Assessment. The Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the Illinois SBDC at Joliet Junior College asks for your assistance in our effort to best serve small business. Your input is extremely valuable and we thank you for your time in completing this survey.
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry Staff and Board of Directors
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry