COVID Illinois: 26 IL schools report COVID-19 outbreaks; 546 have 'potential exposures'

CHICAGO (WLS) -- More than 25 Illinois schools are reporting COVID-19 outbreaks, mostly in districts that are complying with Gov. JB Pritzker's school mask executive order.

The Illinois Department of Public Health on Tuesday identified 26 schools with COVID-19 outbreaks. The outbreaks reported by the department include those that have been identified by the school's local health department to have at least two COVID-19 cases among people who may have a shared exposure on school grounds and come from different households.

There are 546 schools with "potential exposures," state officials said.

At Lara Academy in Chicago's Back of the Yards neighborhood, a single reported COVID case has resulted in 20 people having to quarantine after potential exposure.

"I'm very concerned that I'm probably gonna have to take my daughter out of school," said parent Caroline Rivera.

"As anywhere, whether it's sports or stores or anywhere, it could happen anywhere so I expected something to pop up, yes I did," said Alexander Ruiz, parent.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot assured parents earlier this week that schools are safe and that Chicago Public Schools are following CDC guidelines, but the Chicago Teachers Union said more needs to be done.

"Now those same mitigations that the mayor's team from CPS and that the mayor herself, continue to talk about, do not exist in many of these communities," said Stacy Davis Gates, CTU Vice President.

Glenbrook Elementary School in the Cook County village of Streamwood, which is complying with the governor's mask mandate, reported between 11 and 16 related cases of COVID-19, the Chicago Tribune reported.

"Due to a COVID outbreak in a fourth/fifth split grade level classroom, we shifted to Distance Learning for this classroom only," Glenbrook principal Cheryl DeRoo wrote to parents last week.

RELATED: COVID exposure at Lake Central Schools lands 650 students, staff in quarantine

The classroom is closed until Sept. 7, DeRoo said.
Most of the schools listed as having outbreaks reported fewer than five cases. Carlyle School District 1 east of St. Louis, Missouri, which is on the state's list of school districts refusing to comply with the statewide indoor mask mandate, reported 16 or more.

A few of the schools reporting outbreaks have been put on probation by the state for ignoring Pritzker's mask mandate.

Pritzker, responding to a spike in COVID-19 infections fueled by the highly contagious delta variant, announced last week that educators from kindergarten through college now are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to weekly testing.

Governor Pritzker said several days of decreasing COVID cases is not enough to signal a trend.

"And so we're watching these numbers closely certainly over the last few days when put together an average, it seems like things are flattening. And that's a really good piece of news for all of us," he said.

Pritzker said at this time there's no plans to repeal the school mask mandate, which he says, along with vaccinations, can help slow the spread of COVID.

"There are lots of options, certainly and again, I want to make sure that we're heading in the right direction before we might do anything that might tend to increase the number of cases," Governor Pritzker said.

To encourage vaccinations, the City of Chicago will be offering people $100 in gift cards if people get their shots at one of the mobile vaccination sites or if they schedule an in home vaccination visit. The program launches on Saturday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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