Quick hits: Illinois news in brief for Monday, Sept. 20, 2021

Some educators, staff exempt from vaccine mandate for medical, religious reasons

For educators and K-12 staff members who have medical issues that prevent them from being vaccinated, or if they have a religious belief that prevents them from being vaccinated, the Illinois State Board of Education says they are exempt from the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

But, they must still submit to at least weekly testing. If someone refuses testing if they’re unvaccinated, they can be kept from the school’s premise.

Schools sign up for COVID-19 testing programs

Staff at Illinois schools that aren’t part of the U of I’s covidSHIELD testing program will have to pay for the required weekly tests themselves.

The Illinois Department of Public Health said costs for tests of unvaccinated staff will be covered for schools participating in SHIELD.

While hundreds of schools have signed up for the $235 million program, hundreds more are in the process of onboarding.

Pritzker issues another executive order

Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued another COVID-19 disaster proclamation Friday.

The most recent 30-day order says the Illinois State Board of Education should continue to alleviate any barriers to the use of remote learning.

There are also orders to have state agencies expand access to COVID-19 testing so consumers don’t face financial barriers for tests.

Mask rule hits a snag

Masks can’t be forced on school kids without a health department quarantine order.

That’s the latest temporary restraining order against a district brought by attorney Thomas DeVore on behalf of parents of Hillsboro school children. A Montgomery County judge Friday said masks as a medical device can’t be forced on someone without a quarantine order.

But, the order differs slightly from others, saying the school may isolate symptomatic students.

COVID-19 metrics trend downward

There were around 100 fewer COVID-19 positives statewide last week compared to the week before.

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 25,956 positive cases last week.

The case positivity rate is also down to 4.1 percent last week from 4.5 percent the week before. ICU bed occupancy was also down from 549 the prior week to 502 last week.

Clean up agreement reached after fire

The Environmental Protection Agency has reached an agreement with a northern Illinois battery company to clean up a warehouse where a June fire led to the evacuation of thousands of nearby residents.

Superior Battery in Morris will perform the work under EPA supervision.

Of the tons of various batteries there, some containing lithium, considered a fire and safety hazard.

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