More tests available; New guidelines for summer school

Coronavirus testing now available for all Illinoisans

Since the early days of the coronavirus outbreak we have heard concerns about the availability of testing. Due to a limited number of testing kits public health authorities were forced to put in place certain restrictions on who would be able to get a test: considerations like whether or not a person is in a high-risk group or whether the person has reason to think they have been exposed. But now that many more tests are available, that is no longer the case. Any Illinoisan can now get a coronavirus test.

Late last week, the state passed the one million mark in testing. There are now 279 public sites in Illinois where a test can be taken. In recent days the Department of Public Health has been reporting a testing rate of more than 20,000 tests per day. For more information on testing sites, click here or contact your local health department.

ISBE, IDPH release guidelines for summer school

Schools in Illinois will be able to re-open for some limited summer school activities under new guidelines released by the Illinois State Board of Education and the Department of Public Health. Limited in-person instruction will be resumed this summer under very tight safety guidelines. The guidelines prohibit more than 10 people from being in one space, require social distancing and the use of personal protective equipment at all times.

See the full set of guidelines here.

Preparing for severe weather during the pandemic

Over the weekend a tropical storm struck the Louisiana coast, forcing many residents to consider whether to stay home or move to a potentially crowded shelter. These concerns take on extra weight during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. Here in Illinois local residents have to weigh their options in deciding where to go in the event of a tornado warning.

We are all aware of the need for a disaster preparedness kit with such items as water, food, a flashlight and batteries, first aid kit and a radio, among other essentials. But now the Illinois Emergency Management Agency is encouraging Illinoisans to add some items to your kit to protect yourself and your loved ones from the coronavirus. IEMA is now recommending that your kit also include such items as hand sanitizer, face coverings and disinfectant wipes. Read more here.

Early Childhood Funding Commission developing recommendations

Earlier this year I was appointed to the bipartisan Commission on Equitable Early Childhood Education and Care Funding. We were tasked with studying Illinois’ system of funding for early childhood education and developing recommendations for improvements. Early childhood education covers education care and services from birth to age 5.

The commission will study everything from funding adequacy and inclusion to management and oversight and even the funding mechanism itself. Over the course of the summer we will continue to meet virtually to develop recommendations for our final report to the Governor and the General Assembly. This is an area where we need to be constantly striving for better results so that our kids will be prepared when they start kindergarten.

More news from around the state

The latest news from the Department of Public Health

Progress toward Phase 4 of re-opening (click this link and scroll down to see the Central and North Central regions which include the figures for our district)

Meat packing industry ramps back up amid pandemic

$1.3 million awarded to downstate communities from Small Business Stabilization Fund

Court blocks sales of Bayer’s dicamba-based weed killer

Fewer ‘bombs bursting in air’ around area this July 4

Two of the nation’s fastest-shrinking cities are in Illinois

For additional helpful resources, click here.

For continually updated news from state agencies, visit: coronavirus.illinois.gov or my website at repbennett.com and click on COVID-19 Info. Persons with coronavirus questions or concerns should call the statewide toll-free coronavirus hotline at 1-800-889-3931. You can also submit questions via e-mail at dph.sick@illinois.gov.

My district offices remain closed to in-person visits, but are still accessible by phone at (815) 432-0106 (Watseka) and (815) 844-9179 (Pontiac).