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Cannabis sales in Illinois to out-of-state residents nearly doubles
Other
Thursday, September 24, 2020  |   Article  |   By Greg Bishop | The Center Square
Legislators (former) (58) , Recreational Marijuana

(The Center Square) – Despite the pandemic, cannabis sales in Illinois continue to increase. But it’s not just in-state sales. Sales to out-of-state consumers in Illinois has nearly doubled since January.

Of the nearly $64 million in total adult-use cannabis sales in Illinois for August, $17.2 million was in “out-of-state resident sales.” That’s nearly double the $8.6 million in out-of-state sales back in January.

Pam Althoff, executive director of cannabis business group CannaBiz, said people are more anxious because of COVID-19.

“The knowledge is now common that Illinois did pass recreational cannabis use, is now out there and people are coming in and trying,” Althoff said.

Brandon Costerison, with the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, said that substance use has increased across the board.

“So it makes sense that Illinois being kind of an island of legalized recreational marijuana would probably see an increase in use among its residents, but also a substantial increase of use from surrounding states,” Costerison said, noting there are programs available for people who have substance use disorders.

It’s illegal to take cannabis sold in Illinois across state lines, but it’s unclear how much adult-use cannabis purchased in Illinois is spilling out to neighboring states.

One source with Indiana State Police said they make cannabis arrests, but didn’t disclose any other details, like whether the cannabis came from Illinois.

Messages seeking reaction from Missouri State Police weren’t returned Wednesday, but online arrest reports for the St. Louis area, which is minutes from a cannabis dispensary in Collinsville, show several arrests in the past few days for either a wax cannabis product or for being caught with at least 28 grams or more of cannabis, though no indication if it’s coming from Illinois.

Althoff said cannabis retailers convey the law to out-of-state purchasers with signage.

“They certainly have individuals who are outside and telling people. And when you go into a dispensary you must show some form of identification, a state ID of some sort, and obviously, if it’s an out of state license you get that lecture when you walk in that you’re limited to a specific amount,” Althoff said.

Illinoisans can buy up to 30 grams of cannabis flower. Out-of-state visitors can buy half of that.


Pritzker says Illinois better than neighbors in positivity rates
Other
Thursday, September 24, 2020  |   Article  |   By Kevin Bessler | The Center Square
Governor (44) , Health (49)

(The Center Square) – Gov. J.B. Pritzker is warning one region of the state of rising positivity rates, but says Illinois is now in the forefront when it comes to testing.

During his COVID-19 briefing Wednesday, the governor said Region 1, the northwest corner of the state, has a positivity rate of 7.5 percent. If that raises above 8 percent for 3 straight days, additional restrictions will be put in place. The governor also said Illinois is best in the nation in coronavirus testing, surpassing 5 million tests since the pandemic began.

“Together with targeted mitigations, our testing leadership means that Illinois has had the lowest positivity rate among all of our neighboring states for the last few months,” Pritzker said.

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 1,848 news cases of COVID-19 and 22 additional coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the statewide total to 8,508.

A state lawmaker is calling attention to the damage that has been caused by state-imposed restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. State Rep. Mark Batinick, R-Plainfield, said on Facebook there is a human toll, including an increase in suicides.

“We know there is a lot of stress on people, we know that this has been a tough time for people with addictions, and I have heard too many horror stories about people that are struggling with their business and also struggling with their family back home,” Batinick said.

Batinick said schools need to reopen and one way to start the process is to get lawmakers back to Springfield.

“Congress has been in Washington D.C. throughout this whole pandemic,” Batinick said. “We need to be having public hearings on everything, not just the epidemiologists, not just what is happening through the lens of COVID, but through the lens of everything.”


Some Illinois mail-in ballot request reminders sent to out-of-state addresses
Other
Thursday, September 24, 2020  |   Article  |   By Greg Bishop | The Center Square
Election Issues (not candidates) (39) , Secretary of State (80)

(The Center Square) – The Illinois State Board of Elections couldn’t immediately say how many out-of-state addresses were part of the 5.4 million reminders sent out to request an Illinois ballot to mail in for the November election, but elections authorities are working to keep the vote secure.

Early voting begins in Illinois Thursday. That’s also when local elections authorities will be sending out mail-in ballots to voters who’ve requested them.

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White’s office sent out reminders to voters that hadn’t yet requested mail-in ballots.

“Your local election authority had indicated that you have not yet applied for a ballot,” the letter said. “However, you still have time to submit an application.”

The deadline to request a mail-in ballot in Illinois for the Nov. 3 election is Oct. 29.

But some out-of-state voters took to social media to say they received the reminder to request a ballot to vote in Illinois. Asked why out-of-state voters were getting such requests, the Secretary of State’s office deferred further comment.

“We used the list of names provided by the Illinois State Board of Elections,” White’s office said. Any further questions about the list should be directed to the Board of Elections."

“If someone had previously requested a [vote by mail] ballot at an out-of-state address, or if the election authority for some other reason has that address on file, the election authority was required under the new law to send an application there,” said Matt Dietrich, a spokesperson for the Illinois State Board of Elections.

“We compiled that list based on lists provided to us by the local election authorities,” Dietrich said. “Those lists were due to us by Sept. 2, but we started requesting them Aug. 26. So theoretically anyone who returned their VBM application before Sept. 2 (and in some cases as early as Aug. 26) would have received the SOS letter.”

Dietrich couldn’t immediately say how many of the 5.4 million letters were to out-of-state addresses.

DuPage County Deputy Clerk Adam Johnson explained how some out-of-state residents may have received a reminder to request an Illinois ballot to mail in.

“If you moved and never notified us and never attempted to register anywhere else, then you might stay on the rolls for several years,” Johnson said. “There are boxes that have to be checked before you remove someone from voter rolls because obviously that’s a pretty significant step, so making sure that we got the proper notification.”

Sangamon County Clerk Don Gray said some reminders may be to so-called “snowbirds” who’ve requested absentee ballots for out-of-state addresses in the past, but the updated law breeds confusion.

“I wish this wasn’t happening,” Gray told WMAY radio. “It’s kind of frustrating all of this additional other measures on top which I think are well intentioned but they’re really just confusing people more and it’s eroding the confidence in the system.”

“Voters are smart enough to understand what’s best for them and how they want to cast ballots,” Gray said. “We don’t need to keep hounding them and reminding them of the opportunity. We all know we can vote by mail if we feel that’s best for us.”

In-person voting is still an option day or the Nov. 3 election, or early at a local election authority.

Both offices said local elections officials should continue the necessary diligence to clear voter rolls of ineligible voters.


Yelp releases dismal report on business closures in Illinois
Other
Thursday, September 24, 2020  |   Article  |   By Kevin Bessler | The Center Square
Business (10) , Governor (44) , Health (49)
(The Center Square) – An economic report from Yelp paints a dire picture for businesses in Illinois and the rest of the country.

More than 160,000 businesses listed on Yelp’s online directory have indicated they have closed since the pandemic began. In monitoring closed businesses, Yelp also takes into account the permanent closures. That number has steadily increased throughout the past 6 months, now reaching nearly 100,000, representing 60% of closed businesses don’t plan to reopen.

Restaurants account for the greatest number of permanent closures among Yelp-listed businesses. Sam Toia, president of the Illinois Restaurant Association, said a fifth of all dining establishments in the state are expected to close, eliminating a lot of jobs.

“We started with 594,000 people working in the food service restaurant industry, the largest private-sector employer here in the state of Illinois, and if we lose 20% of restaurants, we could definitely lose 20% of jobs which would be over 120,000 jobs,” said Toia.

Yelp noted that businesses already well suited for takeout service, such as pizza places, fast food and delis, are treading water better than other restaurants. The highest closures include breakfast places, sandwich shops and Mexican restaurants.

Norma Lansing, president of the Effingham County Chamber of Commerce, said her area has fared okay with business closings with just a few, but one local business recently closed up shop because of the pandemic has changed the way we do things.

“Most recent ones like the Family Video store and they specifically said it was pandemic related,” Lansing said. “People are now using streaming services and people have not been able to get out and about.”

Even as the pandemic spread nationally, geographically Yelp data shows business closures vary across the country. Bigger states and metros with higher rents for small businesses over the past six months have felt a greater toll. So to have businesses more closely linked to physical locations that need crowds of consumes to turn a profit.

Hawaii, California, and Nevada have the highest rate of total closures, while West Virginia and the Dakotas have the lowest closure rates.


14th Congressional District: Lauren Underwood
Northwest Herald
Thursday, September 24, 2020  |   Editorial  |   Our View
Candidates--Federal (13) Oberweis, Jim--State Senate, 25

In making his appeal to voters for election to Congress from the 14th Congressional District, Republican state Sen. Jim Oberweis of Sugar Grove attempts to paint the freshman incumbent, Democrat Lauren Underwood of Naperville, as being out of touch with the values of the diverse suburban and rural district. We disagree. Since her election to Congress in 2018, Underwood, as a member of House committees dealing with education and the workforce, veterans affairs and homeland security, has emerged as an effective champion of mainstream legislation intended to benefit her constituents throughout the 14th District.

As a registered nurse who has a heart condition that she says informs her stand on health care issues, Underwood secured passage in Congress of the Lower Insulin Costs Now Act, which reduced the cost of insulin by making generic brands available more widely and sooner. President Donald Trump signed the bipartisan bill into law in December 2019.

Underwood also has worked to strengthen and improve the Affordable Care Act, which provided health care coverage to millions more Americans, including those with preexisting conditions. One of the health care measures Underwood backed, the House-approved Affordable Care Enhancement Act, would limit how much consumers in ACA marketplaces would have to pay for certain plans tied to a percentage of their incomes. The plan, which still awaits consideration in the Senate, also aims to save money by giving Medicare the ability to negotiate prescription drug prices.

Concerning the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, Underwood has trusted the science and publicly supported Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations – including wearing masks – to help limit the spread of the disease that has tragically claimed more than 200,000 American lives and hospitalized thousands of others at considerable expense. Underwood also has been rightly critical of Trump’s handling of the pandemic and laments what she believes is a lack of leadership and an unwillingness on the part of the White House to put forward a national plan to help the nation combat COVID-19 and recover from the pandemic.

On the issue of protests that have occurred across the nation in the wake of the death of a Black man in May at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Underwood has described the violence that has broken out as heartbreaking and a tragedy. And in response to calls for police reform, she has voiced support for legislation that is intended to increase police accountability on misconduct allegations and end discriminatory policing practices.

We believe residents of the 14th District want a health care system that will not bankrupt them if they become ill, nor do they want to have to import prescriptions from foreign countries just to afford their medications. They want police to apply the law fairly to everyone. Above all at this moment, they want to get this pandemic behind them so they can get back to work raising their families and paying their bills. In less than two years in Congress, Underwood has been a strong advocate for measures to support all of these goals. She has earned a second term in Congress and is deserving of your vote. Underwood is endorsed.


McHenry County releases finalized plan for when kids may return to in-person school
Northwest Herald
Thursday, September 24, 2020  |   Article  |   By CASSIE BUCHMAN
Education--Elementary and Secondary (36) , Health (49)

The McHenry County Department of Health officially released countywide metrics Wednesday designed to give area school districts concrete data and statistics to consider when deciding what learning model to use during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

School districts are being advised to transition first to hybrid learning before going to a fully in-person model.

“While school officials and MCDH have a mutual desire for all students and staff to have a safe return to the classroom, it is important to note that there is currently no risk-free scenario or learning model that eliminates transmission from impacting schools,” the McHenry County health department said in a news release.

Four specific metrics are being used to help guide schools on whether to go to a new learning model. They are the COVID-19 incidence rate, the county’s test positivity rate, whether hospital admissions tied to COVID-19 are increasing, and whether the number of new cases are increasing.

The McHenry County health department recommends that schools remain in a learning model for at least 14 days with all thresholds met before transitioning to the next learning model.

For many districts, a hybrid learning model means students will be split into two groups for in-person learning for part of the day or week and be remote for the rest of the time.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, only three McHenry County districts, Riley School District 18 in Marengo, Marengo Union Elementary School District 165 and Marengo High School District 154, gave parents some sort of in-person options to start the school year.

Some superintendents pointed to changing information and sometimes conflicting guidance from local, state and federal agencies as one reason to keep students in remote learning for the start of the year.

The newly released metrics are meant to provide structure to school districts in making decisions about whether they should move to a more in-person model or move back to a more remote one, department spokesperson Lindsey Salvatelli has said.

Schools are advised to continue remote instruction if the incidence rate exceeds 14 per 100,000 per day, test positivity exceeds 8%, hospitalizations are increasing and the number of new cases is increasing, according to the plan released Wednesday.

Switching to hybrid is recommended when the incidence and positive rates fall below those rates and both hospitalizations and the number of cases are decreasing, according to the plan. Fully in-person instruction can be considered when the incidence rate falls below 7 per 100,000, test positivity drops below 5%, hospitalizations are decreasing and the number of new cases also is decreasing.

The COVID-19 positivity rate is the average percentage of COVID-19 tests that return positive results over a period of seven days. The incidence rate is calculated by dividing the number of new confirmed cases for each day into the total population of McHenry County and then multiplying by 100,000, giving the rate of confirmed cases per 100,000 people.

If the county moves backward on any two metrics, the plan recommends returning to the previous learning model, according to the release.

These metrics also are meant to be used in conjunction with the Transition Joint Guidance document developed by the Illinois State Board of Education and Illinois Department of Public Health, according to the release.

Adhering to the specific metrics will not be mandated by any kind of ordinance.

Several school districts, including Woodstock School District 200 and Prairie Grove School District 46, mentioned a draft version of these metrics during meetings where they unveiled a hybrid school reopening plan at meetings this week. Huntley School District 158 Superintendent Scott Rowe, at a meeting last week, called the new metrics a “game-changer.”

In a statement Wednesday, Rowe said the metrics are intended to assist school district leaders as one piece of their decision-making process

“School districts throughout the county vary in enrollment, building features, operational structures, class sizes and other measures that impact their decision-making in response to the ongoing pandemic,” he said.