Thousands of dollars are available to those who are struggling to pay rent due to the pandemic, as the Illinois Rental Payment Program opens Monday.

Plus, where do you still need to wear a mask after the CDC issued new guidance? Get the full breakdown below.

Here's what you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic across Illinois today.

Illinois Rental Payment Program Offers Up to $25K for Tenants Struggling to Pay Rent

The Illinois Rental Payment Program opens Monday, with thousands of dollars available to Illinois residents who are struggling to pay rent due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Applications for the ILRPP will be accepted beginning Monday. Tenants and landlords could be eligible for up to 15 months of assistance in grant form to cover the past due rent from the last 12 months as well as future rental assistance for the next three months if necessary, the state says. The maximum grant amount is $25,000, provided by federal funding.

In order to be eligible, applicants must be behind on their rent for at least 30 days and renting the home as their primary residence and have experienced a financial hardship as a result of the pandemic.

Read more, including how to apply, here.

Coronavirus in Illinois: 1,248 New COVID Cases, 24 Deaths, 53K Vaccinations

Illinois health officials reported 1,248 new confirmed and probable coronavirus cases and 24 additional deaths in the last day, along with more than 53,000 vaccinations administered.

The newly reported coronavirus cases bring the state total to 1,366,268 cases since the pandemic began and lift the total death toll to 22,439, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The state reported 53,335 vaccinations administered in the last day, according to the latest data, bringing the seven-day rolling average of vaccines administered to 66,728 doses.

Read more here.

Do You Need to Wear a Mask in Illinois? Here's What We Know So Far on New CDC Guidance

Now that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has changed its mask guidelines for fully vaccinated people, many are asking, "Do I need to wear a mask here?"

The CDC revised its guidelines on Thursday, saying that vaccinated individuals should not be required to wear masks in indoor and outdoor settings, with some exceptions.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he plans to revise executive orders to sync up with new CDC guidelines.

“I firmly believe in following the science, and will revise my executive orders in line with CDC guidelines lifting additional mitigations for vaccinated people,” Pritzker said. “The scientists’ message is clear: if you are vaccinated, you can safely do much more.”

Similarly, in Chicago, the city's health department said it is "supportive of this recommendation allowing people who are fully vaccinated to participate in most indoor and outdoor activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing."

While local guidelines will likely still be issued, here's a breakdown of when and where you'll need to wear a mask under the CDC guidance.

Illinois and Chicago Enter Bridge Phase, Marking Final Stage Before Full Reopening

Illinois and Chicago both entered the Bridge Phase Friday - a transition period aimed at bringing the city and state closer to a full reopening that will see capacity limits increased at places like museums, zoos, stadiums and more.

The long-awaited phase is the second-to-last stage of the Restore Illinois reopening plan, which ends with Phase 5, a period where all capacity limitations are lifted.

“Illinoisans have worked so hard over the past year and a half to keep their families and neighbors safe, and reaching Bridge Phase means that we’re closer than ever to a return to normalcy,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Thursday. “To keep up this progress, I urge every eligible Illinoisan – now including 12 to 15-year-olds – to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

The Bridge Phase allows for higher capacity limits at restaurants, bars, gyms, spectator events and more. So what changes between Phase 4 and the Bridge Phase? Here's a breakdown by category.

Pritzker to Revise Orders on Mask-Wearing After New CDC Guidance Released

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker says that he will revise executive orders to sync up with new CDC guidelines on mask wearing by vaccinated individuals in indoor and outdoor spaces.

The new guidelines, released Thursday, say that masks are no longer recommended for individuals who are fully vaccinated against coronavirus, paving the way for a return to normalcy as summer nears.

“I firmly believe in following the science, and will revise my executive orders in line with CDC guidelines lifting additional mitigations for vaccinated people,” Pritzker said. “The scientists’ message is clear: if you are vaccinated, you can safely do much more.”

Illinois Joins Companies in Offering Incentives to Encourage COVID Vaccinations

While Illinois doesn’t quite have a million-dollar giveaway, here is our up-to-date list of giveaways and discounts associated with getting COVID-19 vaccines.

-Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced a massive effort to encourage residents to get vaccinated, teaming up with Six Flags to donate 50,000 free tickets to amusement parks in Gurnee and Rockford.

According to the governor, the value of the tickets is approximately $4 million.

Illinois National Guard mobile vaccination teams will go to the Gurnee theme park on June 5 and 6 to administer doses, and more details will be released in coming weeks.

-The Chicago Cubs are offering discounted tickets to fans for their upcoming series against the Washington Nationals. For $20, fans who are fully vaccinated can sit in a special section of the bleachers at Wrigley Field, with no social distancing guidelines in place, according to the team.

The news comes ahead of the Cubs opening up seating capacity to 60%, as Illinois moves to its “Bridge Phase” in its COVID reopening plan.

Chicago Announces Capacity Changes for Vaccinated People in City's Bridge Phase

Chicago implemented some new guidelines as the city entered its Bridge Phase Friday.

The city expanded vaccine exemptions as part of the new stage of reopening, allowing capacity limitations to increase for businesses with fully vaccinated guests.

"In addition to the increased capacity that comes with the Chicago Bridge Phase, businesses will have the option of not counting fully vaccinated individuals towards COVID-19 capacity limits for all industries," the city said in a release. "Restaurants and bars will also be able to seat parties larger than ten people if all patrons are fully vaccinated."

Under the exemption, the following changes took effect, according to the city:

  • Fully vaccinated individuals do not count towards COVID-19 capacity limits across all industries. 
  • Bars, restaurants, and other establishments that allow onsite consumption of food or alcohol can increase table or party size above the limit of ten if all patrons age 16+ at that table or within that party are fully vaccinated.  
  • Late Hour Liquor Licensees can operate without hour restrictions for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began if only fully vaccinated patrons are permitted to enter. While all bars and restaurants are allowed to stay open under standard hours in the Chicago Bridge Phase, this will allow Late Hour establishments to stay open until 4:00 am Monday through Saturday morning and 5:00 am on Sunday morning if all patrons are fully vaccinated. 

Six Flags to Give 50K Free Tickets to Illinois Residents Who Get COVID Vaccine

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Thursday announced a new incentive to encourage Illinois residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19: free tickets to Six Flags.

Six Flags Great America is donating 50,000 free tickets to the amusement parks in Gurnee and Rockford to newly vaccinated Illinois residents, Pritzker's office said in a statement, noting that the value of the tickets is $4 million.

As part of the effort, the state is sending Illinois National Guard mobile vaccination teams to the park's Gurnee location on June 5 and 6, and if turnout is high they will return on other days to continue vaccinations, officials said.

Read more here.

Cubs and White Sox to Increase Capacity, Designate Areas for Fully Vaccinated Fans

The Cubs and White Sox will both increase capacity limits at Wrigley and Guaranteed Rate fields to 60% later this month as Chicago continues to further lift COVID restrictions, the teams announced Thursday.

The Sox will increase capacity to approximately 24,300 fans at Guaranteed Rate Field beginning May 24 against the St. Louis Cardinals, the team said in a statement.

The new capacity limits at Wrigley Field will take effect when the Cubs begin their three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds on May 28, the team said.

Both fields will also soon debut new designated areas in the stands specifically for fans who are fully vaccinated.

Read more here.

COVID Vaccine for 12-15: Where Kids Can Get Vaccinated in the Chicago Area

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has signed off on use of Pfizer's COVID vaccine for children ages 12 to 15, clearing the way for shots to begin Thursday.

Where can parents get their kids vaccinated in the Chicago area?

A number of health departments have announced plans to begin vaccinating children in that age group, as have health care providers.

Here's a look at what jurisdictions and providers have said.



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