Stories by Kristen Thometz

Going to a Wedding or Planning One in 2020? Here’s What You Can Expect

During phase four of Illinois’ reopening plan, gatherings, including weddings, are limited to up to 50 people, according to state guidelines. (StockSnap / Pixabay)

What will weddings look like in the age of COVID-19? Here’s what betrothed couples and their guests can expect as Illinois settles into phase four of its reopening plan.

FDA: Streamwood Facility ‘Likely Cause’ of Foodborne Illness Linked to Salads

Packaged garden salads from various grocery stores, including Hy-Vee, have been linked with an outbreak of an intestinal illness. (Courtesy

Health officials say a Cook County production facility is the “likely cause” of an outbreak of an intestinal illness linked to packaged salads that has sickened more than 200 people across the country.

Care Kits for COVID-19 Patients Aim to Ease Anxiety

(valelopardo / Pixabay)

A local health center is giving COVID-19 patients tools to monitor their blood oxygen levels as they recover at home. 

As City Enters Phase 4, COVID-19 Positivity Rate Remains High in 60639 ZIP Code

(WTTW News)

An analysis of city data shows the majority of Chicago ZIP codes have positivity rates at or below those needed move into phase four, but one has a rate of 15.3%. We discuss metrics and reopening with Chicago’s top doctor.

Officials Praise Residents, Urge Caution as Illinois Enters Phase 4

New statewide totals: 139,434 cases, 6,810 deaths

A cyclist enters the 606 trail in Chicago on its reopening date Monday, June 22, 2020. On Friday, the city and state will move into phase four of reopening plans. (WTTW News)

It’s official: Illinois will move into the next phase of its reopening plan Friday. “Illinois is being touted across the country for getting it right,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.

CDC: Growing Number of Salmonella Outbreaks Linked to Backyard Chickens, Ducks

(Steve Buissinne / Pixabay)

More than 460 people across the country, including 16 in Illinois, have become ill after coming in contact with poultry in backyard flocks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

With Blood Supplies ‘Critically Low,’ Centers Seek Donations

A Red Cross blood donor rolls up a sleeve to give blood during the COVID-19 outbreak at the Rockville Donation Center in Maryland. (Photo by Dennis Drenner / American Red Cross)

Coronavirus-related shutdowns of businesses, schools and community organizations has led to massive cancellations of blood drives, leading to a nearly 60% drop in collections, according to the Illinois Coalition of Community Blood Centers.

Pritzker Unveils Plans for Schools to Reopen in the Fall

New statewide totals: 137,825 cases, 6,707 deaths

(WTTW News)

Teachers, parents and students across Illinois finally have an answer to the question of whether or not classrooms will reopen in the fall — and the answer is yes. But it’s not going to be business as usual.

Health Officials Investigating Foodborne Illness Linked to Packaged Salads

Packaged garden salads from various grocery stores, including Hy-Vee, have been linked with an outbreak of an intestinal illness. (Courtesy

An outbreak of an intestinal illness linked to packaged salads has sickened more than 20 people across the state, according to health officials.

COVID-19 Saliva Test as Accurate as Swabs, UChicago Research Finds

(WTTW News)

Testing for COVID-19 involves inserting a swab deep into the nasal cavity. But the virus can also be detected in saliva, and early research by University of Chicago scientists found those less invasive tests to be just as accurate.

$900M in Grants for Families, Businesses Impacted by COVID-19, Unrest: Pritzker

Crews start boarding up the 3 Smokin Sisters Tobacco Shop on 71st Street in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood. Shop owners emptied the store of inventory following looting on Sunday, May 31, 2020. (@paschutz / Twitter)

Funding will be used to support communities and businesses disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus and the unrest following the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said.

Looking to Volunteer? Or Need Help? Website Links Volunteers with Opportunities

The website, Corona Connects, was started by a group of college students looking to volunteer their time when campuses closed and courses moved online. (Courtesy of Corona Connects) seeks to match people across the country with coronavirus-related volunteer opportunities based on interest, location, availability and time commitment.

Attorney General Kwame Raoul Tests Positive for COVID-19

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul speaks to the media Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. (WTTW News via BlueRoomStream)

The Illinois attorney general says he began self-isolating after experiencing minor symptoms over the weekend. He is the most prominent politician in the state to test positive for the novel coronavirus. 

UIC Clinical Trial Will Test COVID-19 Vaccine

In this March 16, 2020, file photo, Neal Browning receives a shot in the first-stage safety study clinical trial of a potential vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. The vaccine by Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Moderna Inc., generated antibodies similar to those seen in people who have recovered from COVID-19 in a study of volunteers who were given either a low or medium dose. (AP Photo / Ted S. Warren, Fil

Next month, the University of Illinois at Chicago will begin testing a vaccine to see if it will prevent people from getting the novel coronavirus or experiencing severe illness from it if they do get it.

GoFundMe Campaign Started to Support Double Lung Transplant Recipient

Mayra Ramirez (Courtesy of Kate Ramirez)

Kate Ramirez is asking for prayers and donations as her 28-year-old sister, Mayra, recovers from a double lung transplant she received earlier this month as a result of complications from COVID-19.

UIC Study Analyzes How COVID-19 Has Changed Travel Behavior, Lifestyles

Pedestrians wear masks as they walk along the sidewalk in the Humboldt Park neighborhood on Thursday, May 7, 2020. (WTTW News)

As Illinois businesses and schools closed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, daily routines changed. How much of an impact will COVID-19 have on people’s future behaviors?

Cook County Receives $41M from State for COVID-19 Contact Tracing

(rawpixel / Pixabay)

The Cook County Department of Public Health will scale up its COVID-19 contact tracing program within the next six months, thanks to a $41 million grant from the Illinois Department of Public Health. 

Northwestern Surgeons Perform Double Lung Transplant on COVID-19 Patient

Dr. Ankit Bharat chief of thoracic surgery and surgical director of the Northwestern Medicine Lung Transplant Program. (©Copyright 2020, Northwestern Medicine)

After six weeks on a ventilator and life-support machine, a 20-year-old woman whose lungs were damaged by COVID-19 received what is believed to be among the first double lung transplants performed on a survivor of the virus.

Pritzker Says Illinois on Track to Move to Phase 4, Won’t Lift Restrictions Early

New statewide totals: 129,837 cases, 6,095 deaths

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announces a shelter-in-place rule to combat the spread of the Covid-19 virus, during a news conference Friday, March 20, 2020, in Chicago. (AP Photo / Charles Rex Arbogast)

A group of Republican lawmakers are calling on Gov. J.B. Pritzker to lift additional restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus by Friday — weeks ahead of the timeline outlined in the governor’s reopening plan for Illinois.

$270M of Illinois’ Federal Coronavirus Funding to Help Child Care Providers

(ponce_photography / Pixabay)

While schools and nonessential businesses temporarily closed in March, hundreds of child care centers stayed open to care for the children of essential workers. The state is now dedicating millions of dollars toward their financial health.

City Cancels Summer Festivals Through Labor Day

(EMR / Flickr)

This year’s summer festival season will look a little different, with large outdoor festivals canceled or moved online, including Lollapalooza.

More than 1 Million COVID-19 Tests Performed in Illinois

New statewide totals: 125,915 cases, 5,795 deaths

(WTTW News)

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the milestone was the result of the “incredible work of so many people behind the scenes.”

Northwestern Study of Pregnant Women with COVID-19 Finds Placenta Injuries

(culturarte86 / Pixabay)

The placenta provides nutrients and oxygen to a developing fetus, among other things. In a small study, researchers found the placentas from pregnant women with COVID-19 showed signs of injury.

Pritzker Signs Legislation Permitting Sale of To-Go Cocktails

(Photo by Lightscape / Unsplash)

Next time you order takeout food, you can pair it with a premade to-go cocktail, thanks to legislation signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday. 

How to Clean Your Cloth Face Covering

(Innviertlerin / Pixabay)

Cloth face coverings should be washed after each use. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shares tips on how to get yours squeaky clean.