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Q&A with Dr. Allison Arwady of Chicago Department of Public Health
April 10, 2020
 
During the COVID-19 outbreak, it is critical that all businesses take the necessary steps to protect their workers and consumers. As you know, Governor Pritzker’s Stay at Home Order has been extended to April 30. Under this order, all non-essential businesses must cease operations, and essential businesses must take precautions to keep their employees and consumers safe. For Frequently Asked Questions on the Stay at Home Order, please visit the City of Chicago Coronavirus Resource Center .
 
I am reaching out to make sure all businesses have the resources they need to follow regulations and keep their community safe. Below you will find answers to common questions businesses and workers may have during the COVID-19 Outbreak.
 
What should essential business do to keep employees and consumers Safe?
BACP has put together an informational campaign to remind businesses of the critical steps they must take to protect their workers. Businesses should remember to CARE for their workers:
·      C onduct Regular Cleanings
·      A ccommodate Employee Sick Time
·      R equire Social Distancing
·      E nsure Regular Hand Washing
I would also like to remind businesses that these steps are required under the Stay at Home Order . BACP is investigating violations of the Order and have issued citations to businesses for failing to follow social distancing requirements.
 
What should businesses do if a staff member, contractor, or client is suspected/confirmed to have COVID-19?
 
The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) has put together detailed Guidance for Businesses and Employers on everything they need to know related to COVID-19 at their workplace. I recommend that all essential businesses read this guidance in detail and take the recommendations seriously. Specifically, CDPH has established comprehensive steps that businesses should follow if a staff member, contractor, or client is suspected/confirmed to have COVID-19, including:
·      Conduct a phone interview with the individual to determine timeline
·      Inform fellow employees of possible exposure
·      Ensure that family members and direct close contacts stay home for 14 days
·      Perform enhanced cleaning and disinfection.
Please read the CDPH Guidance for full directions.
 
What should workers do to stay safe under COVID-19?
 
BACP’s Office of Labor Standards has put together a Frequently Asked Questions document for workers looking to understand their protections during the COVID-19 outbreak. Under the new Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), workers at most businesses with fewer than 500 employees are guaranteed two weeks of sick time for COVID-19 related absences. More information can be found via this Department of Labor Fact Sheet . You can submit complaints by calling 1-866-487-9243 or visiting
 
Should you wear face coverings?
 
As an additional measure, in line with  CDC guidance , CDPH recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public settings where maintaining a six-foot distance isn’t possible. We are encouraging all essential businesses to take steps to ensure safety of their employees, including allowing the use of face coverings. Please note that face coverings do not replace social distancing and careful hand hygiene. For more information, see   CDPH Guidance on the use of face coverings .
 
Where can I learn more?
 
BACP’s Director of Labor Standards will be hosting a webinar on Thursday, April 9, at 2:00pm for workers and businesses looking to better understand their rights and responsibilities during the COVID-19 outbreak. Please register at www.chicago.gov/businessworkshops .
 
Additionally, businesses, consumers and workers can find updates and resources at www.chicago.gov/BACPCOVID19 . Finally, we encourage all Chicagoans to continue visiting the City’s Coronavirus Resource Center for up-to-date health guidance and information.
 
We know that this is an incredibly challenging time for all Chicagoans. Businesses and employees are facing challenges unlike any faced before. It is critical that we all follow the guidance of our health experts and keep our community healthy. We are all in this together.
 
Sincerely,
 
Rosa Escareno,
BACP Commissioner
Dear Chicago Residents and Partners,
 
The roll out of commercial testing has made tests more readily available to people in our city and state. While we would like to see more widespread testing, not everyone needs to be tested. Testing should be prioritized for those who need it most. Because both tests and personal protective equipment for doctors and nurses who perform testing are limited, tests should be saved for healthcare workers and first responders, individuals over age 60 or with underlying health conditions, people living in congregate settings (shelters, jails, nursing homes), and people who are seriously ill and needing hospitalization.  
 
Residents that are experiencing symptoms and are at higher risk should call their health care provider and see if they need to be tested. Health care providers evaluate patients individually and are best positioned to determine whether testing is needed. If health care providers don’t perform testing themselves, they should be able to refer you to a location for testing. For those who don’t have a health care provider or medical insurance, there are approximately 165 community health centers throughout Chicago, so find one that is close to you at findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov . Call ahead and they will work with you to coordinate appropriate care. No patient will be turned away because of inability to pay.

Testing is not currently recommended for people who do not have symptoms, even if they have had contact with someone with COVID-19. Those people are advised to stay home for 14 days and self-monitor for symptoms. Please refer to CDPH’s guidance for individuals who might have been exposed .

For most people, illness is generally mild and can be safely managed at home. If your symptoms are mild and you are not in one of the high risk groups, you will receive the same advice whether you have a test or not. There is no treatment or cure for COVID-19. Most importantly, you must stay home and away from others for at least seven days. Please refer to CDPH’s guidance for individuals who are sick .

Following these testing guidelines will protect healthcare workers and avoid spreading the virus in our communities. Everyone, regardless of whether they have symptoms, should practice social distancing and good hand hygiene.

Stay home. Save lives.
What's New

  • Protecting Immigrant and Refugee Communities - Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot signed an executive order explicitly ensuring that all benefits, opportunities, and services provided or administered by the City of Chicago are accessible to all residents, regardless of birth country or current citizenship status. This includes programs such as:
·         The COVID-19 Housing Assistance Grant program, which provides disaster relief aid for the housing costs faced by individuals and families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic;
·         Online Enrichment Learning Resources through Chicago Public Schools for all students at all levels, so that each student, regardless of immigration status, can continue to pursue a top-notch education; and
·         A $100 million  Chicago Small Business Resiliency Fund  to provide small businesses with disaster relief cash flow during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is available to any entrepreneur, including immigrant business owners.

  • New Public Health Order - Effective Thursday, April 9th, all liquor sales citywide are prohibited after 9 p.m. to help prevent congregate activity that has been observed across the city near stores that sell alcohol, particularly during evening hours. Recent enforcement measures have led to 21 citations issued for up to $120,000 in fines for eight businesses violating the statewide mandate. The new Public Health Order gives the Chicago Police Department (CPD) and the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) enforcement authority to further curb non-compliance, with potential penalties for liquor sales after 9 p.m. including $500 fine, arrest and revocation of liquor and other licenses.

  • 2020 Census - The 2020 Census is going on now and will determine how billions of dollars in public funding are spent. The Census will play a critical role in our city's recovery and resources that impact our health care services, schools, infrastructure, and political representation. It is important, safe, and easy to complete online. Go to my2020census.gov to fill it out and remember that in 2020, it's time to make yourself count!


Resources

  • CPS Meal Sites - During spring break, families may pick up grab-and-go meals at more than 130 school sites across the city from Monday–Thursday, 9 a.m.–1 p.m. Meal sites will not be open on Friday, April 10 to give CPS staff members off for Good Friday. Beginning the following week, Monday, April 13, more than 270 schools that have been high demand distribution sites for families will be open to provide free meals. Find the meal site closest to you at cps.edu/mealsites.

  • Know Your Rights - The Office of Labor Standards, BACP has created a Know Your Rights flier with answers to frequently asked questions that essential workers may have related to COVID-19. Under the new Families First Coronavirus Response Act, certain employees are guaranteed Paid Sick Time from the federal government for leave used for specific reasons related to COVID-19. On Thursday, April 9, at 2:00pm, BACP’s Director of Labor Standards Andy Fox will be hosting a webinar to inform workers and employers of their rights and responsibilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. To register, visit www.chicago.gov/businessworkshops.

  • Smart 911 - Residents are encouraged to sign up for Smart 911 and provide critical medical information to 9-1-1 so they can help faster in an emergency. Residents can create a safety profile for themselves and family members with information on their current health conditions as well as information if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or are under quarantine, and it will automatically be provided to first responders when calling 9-1-1. To learn more, check out this video:
Latest Public Health Guidance


More guidance documents and supporting materials are available at www.chicago.gov/coronavirus .

Join the Fight against COVID-19

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CDPH Commissioner Allison Arwady, M.D. have issued  a call for assistance from the medical community and are seeking to hire healthcare workers immediately  to help the City of Chicago in its COVID-19 response efforts.


  • Chicago Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) is a network of both medical and non-medical professionals who volunteer their time to assist during public health emergencies such as the current COVID-19 outbreak. Many MRC volunteers are just like you - nurses, doctors, pharmacists, therapists, public health professionals, and other community members who believe in keeping Chicago safe. Register at illinoishelps.net and be there when Chicago needs you most.

CDPH is coordinating multiple opportunities for individuals, organizations and businesses to  donate medical supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE)  and join the fight against the COVID-19. Go to the links below to:

Mayor Lightfoot Announces CTA To Provide Rear Door Boarding on All Buses, Implement System to Reduce Crowding
New measures will encourage social distancing and limit the number of riders on some buses to further prevent the spread of COVID-19
As part of continuing efforts to ensure the health of customers and employees and further prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) today announced that it will be implementing rear-door boarding on buses starting Thursday, April 9. 
Designed to promote social distancing among customers and frontline employees who are essential to keeping the CTA and the City of Chicago moving, the new and temporary change will remain in effect until further notice.
“While this is an extremely difficult time for all of us, I am heartened by the resilience of the public servants that work for the City and its sister agencies, especially our bus drivers and train operators who we rely on every day,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “With these new measures, we’re further ensuring the health and safety of our CTA employees, who continue transport our police officers, firefighters, paramedics and healthcare workers from the frontlines of this fight to their homes.”
“Public transit is an essential service on which Chicagoans depend, including healthcare workers, emergency responders and others who rely on transit,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. “This is one of many measures we have taken to better protect our riders as well as our employees, whose commitment and dedication have helped to keep Chicago moving throughout this crisis.”
 
During this time, when CTA buses pull up to stops, customers will be directed to the rear doors to board. Customers using a mobility device or individuals who require use of the ramp or for the bus to lower (kneel) will still use the front door. This latest effort by the CTA aligns with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that encourages bus passengers in major cities to enter and exit the bus through rear entry doors.
To allow for fare payment, CTA is moving farecard readers (tap devices) to the rear doors of buses. While a number of buses already have the readers at their rear doors, all remaining buses will receive them in the coming weeks. During the transition, CTA will not enforce fare payment on buses that do not yet have rear-door farecard readers.
To board via rear doors, customers will be required to manually open the doors from outside the bus due to the fact that most CTA buses do not have the ability for operators to open the rear doors automatically.
Signs will be posted on the front of all buses directing customers to enter through the rear door and any customers who need the bus to be lowered or the ramp deployed can signal to the driver for assistance at the front door.
As part of the agency’s precautionary measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19, CTA is also introducing bus crowding management , giving bus operators authority to run as “drop-off only” and bypass certain bus stops if their bus is becoming crowded. Operators will use the guideline of 15 or more passengers on a standard 40-foot bus, 22 or more passengers on a 60-foot articulated bus.
In effect, this measure may require buses to run express for a portion of their route. Any stops that a bus passes up will be served by the next bus following on that route. Buses will make all stops requested by customers who wish to get off a bus.
CTA already uses this practice as a service restoration technique—a way to ensure that buses maintain optimal intervals to meet customer demand and avoid bus bunching and big gaps. This practice is similar in concept to what retail/grocery stores are doing: regulating the number of customers inside the building at one time.
This effort reinforces the need for riders to limit their travel on the CTA for essential trips only and to consider leaving early, later or alternating their commutes.
Customers using CTA for travel other than work are strongly encouraged to plan essential trips outside the traditional peak rush periods (7-9:30AM and 3:30-6PM) and to allow for extra travel time.
The introduction of rear-door boarding and bus crowding management are the latest steps CTA has taken to promote social distancing. CTA has been running as much service as possible, to provide ample space for customers to spread out on vehicles. CTA has also added posters to all buses, rail cars and on station/platform displays promoting and encouraging social distancing whenever possible.
Since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, CTA has placed the health and safety of customers and employees as a top priority.
CTA also continues its rigorous cleaning schedule for vehicles and rail stations, which is among the strongest in the transit industry. Currently, all vehicles and stations receive daily cleanings, which includes disinfecting commonly touched surfaces multiple times a day—seats, handrails, stanchions, Ventra vending machines, etc.—and more-concentrated spot cleanings, as needed. These are in addition to regular vehicle deep cleans, which entail intensive cleanings of the interior and exterior surfaces.
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CARES Act Unemployment Benefits Expansion Package
 
The federal government recently passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, legislation that will address the dramatic economic crisis brought on by COVID19, which includes the following federally funded unemployment benefits expansions: 
 
▪ Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) FPUC provides an additional $600 per week for individuals receiving regular unemployment benefits, PUA, PEUC, or extended benefits if they are triggered under Illinois law, beginning March 29, 2020 and concluding the week ending July 25. 
 
FPUC has been implemented and began disbursement of payment to those receiving unemployment benefits beginning the week of April 6, 2020. 
 
▪ Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) PEUC provides an additional 13 additional weeks of federally funded unemployment benefits for individuals who have exhausted their regular unemployment benefits. 
 
▪ Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) PUA provides a total of 39 weeks of federally funded unemployment benefits to individuals not typically eligible for unemployment benefits, including independent contractors and self-proprietors, but have become unemployed as a direct result of COVID-19. 
 
This portion of the benefits expansion package has not yet been implemented. Further details about the program, how to apply, and eligibility requirements will be made as soon as they have been finalized at IDES.Illinois.gov. 
 
While these new expansions will financially help unemployed Illinoisans in the months to come, not everyone will be eligible for all the benefits contained in the package, and some benefits will not begin immediately. 
 
Please do not call to inquire about these new federal programs. Our employees are processing applications for current benefits. Further details about the new federal programs and how to apply will be made available once they have been finalized. 
 
How will this affect Illinois unemployment benefits? For weeks of unemployment beginning March 29, 2020, and ending July 31, 2020, individuals receiving unemployment benefits will receive $600 more than they would receive in their weekly benefit amount. In many cases, individuals will also be eligible for more weeks of unemployment above the 26 weeks provided under regular unemployment rules. Both of these benefits will be applied automatically if you qualify. 
 
What do I do if I have already received my maximum benefits? Some individuals who have received their entire 26 weeks of regular unemployment benefits may be eligible for more weeks of benefits under the stimulus package. If you have exhausted your benefits, or you are close to exhausting your benefits, we are finalizing the process to continue benefits under the stimulus package. Details will be available as soon as we have received further guidance from the US Department of Labor.  
 
I am self-employed. Do I qualify under the new federal unemployment program? Under regular unemployment rules, the incomes of self-employed workers, freelancers, and independent contractors are not subject to unemployment taxes and so typically these individuals are not eligible for unemployment benefits. The stimulus package creates a new, temporary program to help people who lose this type of work as a direct result of the current public health emergency. IDES will provide information about how to apply for this benefit as soon as it is finalized. 
 
Thank you for waiting to apply until further details are available. This will allow our employees to address the large volume of claims for those individuals who are eligible under current benefit programs. 
Charlie Branda, founder of a non-profit art center, uses art to bring diverse neighbors together in her urban community. Branda believes that creating art catalyzes a connection that transcends racial and economic divides. Listen to her talk to hear more about using art to build community.

Charlie Branda is founder of Art on Sedgwick, a nonprofit art center that uses art to catalyze connection and opportunity across racial and economic divides in the Old Town neighborhood of Chicago. Charlie leveraged her experience as a commercial banker specializing in nonprofits to implement her vision and change lives. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at: https://www.ted.com/tedx