(Springfield-jm) -- About 32,500 people filed for initial unemployment claims last week in Illinois. That’s about 4,000 fewer than the week before but brings the total number to around 1.5 million Illinoisans who’ve filed for unemployment since the beginning of March. 



(Springfield-jm) --  A new study ranking school systems across the country put Illinois among the best in the nation. The website WalletHub analyzed 33 metrics – including test scores, dropout rate, pupil to teacher ratio, and statewide school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Illinois ranked 13th in the nation, boosted by median ACT scores, which were tied for 4th best in the country. Illinois scored poorly in the category of threatened or injured high school students and incidents of bullying.



(Springfield-jm) -- Thursday marked the highest daily total for new Coronavirus cases in more than two months. The State Department of Public Health reported nearly 18 hundred new cases. The last time the daily total exceeded that amount was May 24th. Director, Dr Ngozi Ezike says you have to be vigilant and most certainly wear a mask…



Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr Ngozi Ezike. Illinois now has nearly 177 thousand cases of COVID-19, although many have recovered. Nearly 75 hundred have died. The state’s positivity rate is 3.8 percent. About 14 hundred patients are in the hospital with 149 on ventilators.



(Undated-jm) -- Locally, McLean County reported 18 new cases bringing their total to 504. Vermilion County reported 11 new cases bringing their total to 176. Livingston County reported 4 new cases bringing their total to 85. Kankakee County reported 16 new cases bringing their total to 1,728. Champaign County reported 19 new cases bringing their total to 1,432. Iroquois County reported 7 new cases bringing their total to 250. Ford County reported no new cases Thursday.



(Paxton-jm) -- The Paxton Area Chamber of Commerce is encouraging people to shop local for your Christmas gifts. Christmas is 5 months away but Paxton Area Chamber of Commerce President Alan Meyer says they want people to consider mom and pop stores instead of the big box stores…



Paxton Area Chamber of Commerce President Alan Meyer.



(Urbana-jm) -- OSF Healthcare is announcing a new primary care provider in C-U. Dr. Margaret Tate joins the staff of OSF. She is currently at their West Park Street location but will move to the new Union Square location at Mattis and Springfield when it opens.



(Rantoul-cf)-- Rantoul City Schools will have two plans for the upcoming school season. The first is a hybrid plan that will allow students to come to school for two days a week for in person learning and the rest of the students week will be online. The second plan, or the Learning Academy is all online says Rantoul City Schools  Superintendent Michelle Ramage…


Rantoul City Schools Superintendent Michelle Ramage


(Undated-jm) -- The American Red Cross is reminding Illinoisans to prepare for storms and floods. Among those is an emergency kit with food and water, first aid and other essential items. The nonprofit group is also looking for volunteers as the summer season could bring wildfires and hurricanes in other communities across the country.


The Paxton IGA will be hosting a cookout benefiting Helping Hometown Heroes on Saturday from 10 to 2.


(Springfield-jm) -- The state's two largest education unions said all options are on the table, including strikes, to make sure school districts have appropriate protections in place. The Illinois Education Association and Illinois Federation of Teachers, which represent 238,000 school, college and university employees in the state, also called for the school year to begin with remote learning.The unions said in-person instruction was possible, but more planning was needed. The union leaders said they would use every tool available to make sure all school districts follow state and federal safety guidelines.



(Springfield-jm) -- With high unemployment and an economy ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, some first responders said calls for suicide attempts are becoming far too familiar. The Illinois Department of Public Health reported preliminary numbers that show there have been 601 suicides in Illinois so far this year, but that does not include a month-to-month breakdown. There were 1,400 suicides in all of 2019, according to the department. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned the pandemic could be stressful for people. Fear and anxiety about the virus and what could happen can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Psychiatric Times reported once the pandemic ends, the psychological after-effects will likely linger for years to come. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255.



(Undated-jm) -- As for local active and recovered cases, McLean County is reporting 409 have recovered, 77 remain in isolation, 3 are hospitalized and 15 people have died. Vermilion County is reporting 130 have recovered, 42 in isolation, 2 hospitalized and 2 have died. Livingston County is reporting 68 have recovered, 15 cases are active and 2 have died. Kankakee County is reporting 1,195 have recovered, 468 cases are active with 7 hospitalized and 65 have died. Champaign County is reporting 1,194 have recovered, 219 cases are active, 14 are hospitalized, there’s an additional death bringing their new total to 19. Iroquois County is reporting 186 have been released from isolation, 50 remain in isolation, 7 are hospitalized and 7 have died. Ford County is reporting 43 have been released from isolation, 5 remain in isolation and 1 person has died.



(Springfield-jm) -- There will be some changes when lawmakers return to the state capitol. 106th District State Representative Tom Bennett of Gibson City talks about the changes…



106th District State Representative Tom Bennett of Gibson City.



(Undated-jm) -- Ameren Illinois has set aside $8 million in bill payment assistance for qualified customers. The money will help reduce or eliminate past-due account balances. Qualified customers can get up to $700 under Ameren Illinois' "Fresh Start" program. Customers can apply for the Fresh Start program by calling 1-800-755-5000, Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.


The American Red Cross will hold a blood drive at Marketplace Mall in Champaign today from 10-3.


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