State release plan for schools to reopen this fall

The number of Illinoisians who died from COVID-19 increased by 38 on Tuesday, while cases increased by 601, as state officials released guidelines for school districts to restart in-person learning this fall.

“Classroom learning provides the necessary opportunities for our students to learn, socialize, and grow. The benefits of in-person instruction cannot be overstated,” Governor JB Pritzker said in a briefing.

How schools return to normal will depend on individual districts in consultation with state and county authorities. And it may mean that remote learning continues in some districts. The guidelines allow schools to combine classroom and remote learning.

The new rules include the use of masks, a limit on meetings of 50 people per room and social distancing when possible in schools. Intensive cleaning and health checks with temperature controls will be instituted.

The welcome announcement affects kindergarten through grade 12, as well as universities and colleges.

Schools closed in mid-March and districts instituted remote learning.

“This fall will not be ‘as always’ in more ways than one,” said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala. “Our students will return to us transformed and hungry for knowledge to contextualize current events. I urge schools to use the summer to readjust curricula to honor these historic times and continue to be diligent in following safety protocols.”

The state will also provide 2.5 million free cloth masks for students and teachers.

The statewide number of COVID-19 cases is 137,823, while the total deaths are 6,707.

The state’s average daily infection rate for the past week is at its lowest point since the outbreak began, officials with the Illinois Department of Public Health reported.

Health officials report that only 2.4% of the tests taken during the past week resulted in a new case.

IDPH also reports an average of less than 600 new cases per day over the past week, also another low.

Meanwhile, testing is at its highest point with an average of 24,453 tests per day for the past seven days.

On Monday, the Pritzker administration released guidelines for residents, businesses and industries to switch to Phase 4, or Revitalization, of a four-region, five-phase reopening plan.

In Phase 4: cinemas, museums and zoos can reopen; youth sports may resume; people can gather in groups of 50 or less; Eating indoors is permitted, but IDPH restrictions, such as face masks and social distancing, apply.