Quick hits: Illinois news in brief for Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021

Some school districts changing policies on mask use

Some Illinois school districts that decided to make mask use optional this fall may have to change course.

The Carbondale District 95 superintendent said in a letter that if positivity rates continue to rise, district officials will pivot and require masks to start the school year.

Masks use continues to be optional in Effingham Unit 40 schools. It’s reported by some media outlets that Gov. J.B. Pritzker could announce mask requirements for schools.

Pritzker to give COVID-19 briefing

The governor holds a COVID-19 briefing this afternoon in Chicago.

Public health officials have been raising alarm to a growing number of positive cases across the state, including the delta variant. Since tracking variants in February, Illinois’ latest totals are 840 as of Monday.

Hospitalizations have increased to around half of the recent peak in late April, but are a fraction of where they were statewide last fall.

Small Illinois cities can now apply for share of $742 million in federal funds

As of last Friday, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity said of 1,200 smaller cities, more than 450 have taken steps to claim their funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.

Cities have until Sept. 30 to apply. If they don’t, the state will reallocate dollars from non-responsive to those who have responded.

U.S. Department of Agriculture reports crop progress

Corn and soybean crops across the state are ahead of schedule, according to the Illinois crop progress report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The report released this week shows nearly 50 percent of corn dough has been reached, compared to the 5-year average of 44 percent.

Soybeans blooming reached 87 percent, compared to the 5-year average of 82 percent.

Volunteer fire departments still have time to apply for grants

Volunteer fire departments across the state have until Aug. 13 to apply for COVID-19 relief grants.

The Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal said approximately 80 eligible fire districts in various communities could get up to $15,000 to make up for lost donations because they were unable to host fundraisers during 2020.

Grants are expected to be awarded in October.

More vaccine lottery winners announced

State officials announced the location of three $100,000 COVID-19 vaccine lottery winners.

Monday’s drawing produced winners in Macon County and in Schaumburg and Springfield. Winners of vaccine lotteries can remain private.

The next drawing for 3 adult winners is Aug. 9. Funds for winners come from federal taxpayers.

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