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Coronavirus in Illinois updates: 2,257 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 30 additional deaths reported

Gov. J.B. Pritzker warned Wednesday the region of northwest Illinois that includes Rockford and Northern Illinois University and borders Wisconsin and Iowa could soon see stricter rules aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus.

The nine-county region, as defined by Pritzker’s reopening plan, had a 7.5% test positivity rate as of Wednesday, which has climbed “at a concerning rate,” the governor said at a news conference in Chicago.

Here’s what’s happening Thursday with COVID-19 in the Chicago area and Illinois:

11:25 a.m.: Historic Chicago dive bar Old Town Ale House reopens despite tavern restrictions — by selling frozen pizza

Old Town Ale House, the historic dive bar that the late film critic Roger Ebert once called “the best bar in the world that I know about,” quietly reopened Wednesday night on the North Side of Chicago.

“GOOD NEWS! THE OLD TOWN ALE HOUSE IS PLANNING ON REOPENING TONIGHT!!!!” wrote artist and self-described mascot-in-residence Bruce Elliott publicly on his personal Facebook page Wednesday morning. Elliott painted the infamous political wall art behind the bar. The series debuted with a naked Sarah Palin holding an assault rifle, progressed to a portrait of Mitt Romney wearing what the artist calls “Magic Mormon Underwear,” as well as a work entitled “Cavity Search” featuring convicted former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich.

Open since 1958, the bar has been closed since July 24 at 12:01 a.m., when city COVID-19 orders went into effect shuttering all taverns without outdoor seating. By Chicago licensing rules, taverns sell drinks, but no prepared food. Packaged foods, including chips and other staple dive bar sustenance, did not count. So how could Old Town Ale House open? Thank frozen pizza.

The bar obtained a retail food license from the city, which allowed it to sell the pizza.

“My boss drove down to the City Clerk (office) and got a copy that they said we could post and be legal,” said Tim Polk, bartender and manager of 20 or so years. Tobin Mitchell owns the bar, and is Elliott’s ex-wife. “We just found out we could open at noon,” said Polk.

11 a.m.: Six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, here’s how the virus has changed our lives

For six months, the world has changed in ways few of us could have imagined at the start of 2020.

As COVID-19 took hold on so many facets of our lives, from our health to our livelihoods, our schools and our cultural institutions, the Chicago Tribune has sought to follow each development with insight into how the pandemic impacts us all.

Now, six months after the World Health Organization declared the new coronavirus' spread had become a pandemic, we reflect on how the pandemic is shaping our world — and how we’re getting through it together.

The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment aid rose slightly last week to 870,000, a historically high figure that shows that the viral pandemic is still squeezing restaurants, airlines, hotels and many other businesses six months after it first erupted.

The figure coincides with evidence that some newly laid-off Americans are facing delays in receiving unemployment benefits as state agencies intensify efforts to combat fraudulent applications and clear their pipelines of a backlog of jobless claims.

California has said it will stop processing new applications for two weeks as it seeks to reduce backlogs and prevent fraudulent claims. Pennsylvania has found that up to 10,000 inmates are improperly receiving aid.

In Illinois, 23,113 people filed initial claims for jobless benefits during the week that ended Sept. 19, compared with 27,384 a week earlier.

6:43 a.m.: Sign tallying COVID-19 deaths that was marred with spray paint will stay up in Northbrook after some called for its removal

On the corner of Shermer Road and Walters Avenue in what many refer to as Triangle Park, a large sign displaying the number of national COVID-19 deaths stood Tuesday night, freshly covered with black spray paint.

At the exact same time, Northbrook officials were discussing whether the sign should be allowed to remain standing. Regardless of any personal views, trustees concluded at the meeting that they legally have no right to order the sign taken down.

The sign, which was unveiled Friday, says “We’re #1,” along with an updated tally of the number of national COVID-19 deaths — now displaying a grim 200,000. At the bottom of the sign reads “U.S.A. Donald J. Trump, President.”

6 a.m.: Want to vote early in Illinois' general election? Here’s what you need to know.

Balloting for the Nov. 3 general election kicks off Thursday with the opening of some early-voting polling sites while election officials across the state begin to mail out ballots to some of the more than 1.7 million applicants and brace for an unprecedented surge in both types of voting because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Though election officials will begin sending mail-in ballots to all Illinois residents, only some polling places will open Thursday, including a few sites in DuPage, Lake, Kane, Kendall, McHenry and Will counties.

In suburban Cook County, in-person early voting starts Oct. 7 and will expand Oct. 19 to more than 50 sites.

6 a.m.: ‘This is not good enough.’ Chicago-area parents rally to get kids back in school, and some districts are making it happen.

Her three children had always been good students, but since being relegated to online learning in Downers Grove, Carrie Swenson has had to guard against sleeping during class, poor grades and the temptation to cheat.

At random times, with all three in band but no group practice, they take turns playing a trumpet, saxophone or percussion, while their golden retriever howls. Swenson’s son is dejected and no longer in the Advanced Placement classes at which he excelled.

“This is not good enough,” Swenson said of remote learning. “It’s like they’re watching TV. I’ve heard of more and more students disengaging. Overwhelmingly, parents are saying this isn’t enough, we cannot do this.”

Swenson recently joined in a wave of parent rallies across the suburbs, calling for kids to get back in the classroom and into athletics in Algonquin, Barrington, Libertyville, Naperville, Orland Park, Villa Park and Wheaton, among other towns. They say online learning is not working, noting that some districts are operating with children in class, showing it can be done safely despite the coronavirus. In response, some boards are taking steps to reopen schools, many through a hybrid plan of remote and in-person learning.

Here are five stories related to COVID-19 from Wednesday:

Football news:

Lopetegui on the win over Rennes: Sevilla played almost perfectly
Danilo about 0:2 with Barca: Juventus played organized, but not aggressive enough
Tuchel on neymar's adductor muscle injury: I hope it is not serious
Jaydon Sancho: Zenit made us work hard, but Borussia managed to score
Frankie de Jong on the defender's role against Juve: Always ready to play where Barcelona need to play
Rashford with 4 goals led the race of scorers of the season Champions League
Holand scored the most goals (12) in the first 10 matches in the Champions League