Olivia Mitchell

2020 Public Affairs Reporting Intern

Olivia Mitchell is a graduate Public Affairs Reporting intern for the spring 2020 legislative session.

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With concerns that the new coronavirus is being spread by asymptomatic people, Gov. J.B. Pritzker is advising Illinois residents to wear masks while out in public.

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The nutrition program for women with infants, and young children, commonly referred to as WIC, is operating through the COVID-19 pandemic. However, some recipients say they are having a hard time finding food that is WIC-approved at grocery stores.

Last year, more than 182,00 Illinois residents participated in the program. 

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In the third week since Illinois’ governor banned going out to bars and dining out, restaurants are in limbo as they scramble to get by on takeout and curbside delivery orders, while they wait for relief from the government. 

Olivia Mitchell / NPR Illinois

Those in the real estate industry were hoping for a competitive and prosperous housing market during the spring season, but the rapid spread of COVID-19 put a pause on their plans. One broker offered advice to the industry on what it should be doing through the pandemic.

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Through the COVID-19 pandemic, some Illinois centers that treat people with substance use disorders will continue with outpatient and residential services. However, there are other options for those who choose to stay home.

Addiction recovery meetings are still taking place with small groups at some treatment centers, and centers are now offering virtual and over-the-phone options for patients.

Kerry Henry, executive director of Gateway Foundation in Springfield, said precautionary measures to stem the spread of COVID-19 are enforced for those still attending sessions.

Olivia Mitchell / NPR Illinois

Gov. J.B. Pritzker called on former physicians and medical professionals, including those who are retired, to “join the fight” against COVID-19. 

Olivia Mitchell / NPR Illinois

Illinois’ closure of bars and dine-in restaurants has Springfield businesses worried as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to spread throughout the state.

Brent Schwoerer of Engrained Brewery, on the west side of Springfield, said his major concern is the survival of his employees.

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The tourism sector of Springfield is looking toward summer travel plans, rather than the spring conventions that usually bring millions of dollars into the city, because of gathering restrictions put in place to fight COVID-19.

Olivia Mitchell / NPR Illinois

Republicans are renewing their call to suspend Automatic Voter Registration after more problems with the system came to light this week.

Earlier this year, it came out that several people who self-identified as non-citizens were permitted to vote. Now, more than 1,100 actual citizens in Illinois were improperly classified as having opted out of voter registration — potentially denying them their right to vote.

Olivia Mitchell / NPR Illinois

Hundreds of people gathered in downtown Springfield Sunday for the annual Women’s Day March. Demonstrators focused on opposing policies they say threaten women’s health and target immigrants.

Olivia Mitchell / NPR Illinois

The Illinois House has approved legislation that would allow people to use Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP benefits, online.

Olivia Mitchell / NPR Illinois

Illinois officials say the state should be doing more to level the playing field for women and girls. A council working toward that goal released its first annual report today. 

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Illinois lawmakers are considering whether sex education teachers should have to warn students about the consequences of “sexting” — sharing or forwarding sexually explicit videos, pictures, and text messages.

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Carter Staley / NPR Illinois

Illinois lawmakers are considering whether parents should be allowed to keep their children from participating in active shooter drills at school.

Some parents and school personnel say the exercises have a negative effect on children. State Sen. Scott Bennett, a Democrat from Champaign, said he’s not against active shooter training, but he said it should be conducted with more sensitivity.

Olivia Mitchell / NPR Illinois

Lawmakers are considering whether to make comprehensive sexual education mandatory for grades K-12 in public schools across the state.

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The Illinois State Police says opioid overdoses are declining, but that agency is also reporting an uptick in the use of methamphetamines. 

In the past, meth was homemade, so the state restricted access to some of the ingredients like sudafed. Now, drug cartels are smuggling the drug into the U.S.

State Police Major Troy Phillips said his task force has seen a significant increase in the amount of meth on the streets. 

“At the time, we were purchasing grams and ounces, now it’s very routine for our task force that they are purchasing pounds,” Phillips said. 

Olivia Mitchell / NPR Illinois 91.9 FM

Pet owners in Illinois that live in public housing often have to choose between keeping their pet and staying in a place they can afford. A proposed Illinois measure aims to prevent that situation from ever happening.

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Even though Gov. J.B. Pritzker says school funding is one of his top priorities, Republican lawmakers are criticizing his budget proposal, which could significantly cut promised funding if voters don’t approve the graduated income tax in November.

Olivia Mitchell / NPR Illinois

A day after former Vice President Joe Biden finished fifth in the New Hampshire primary, he still had the support of former U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

LaHood, once a Republican congressman from Peoria who went to work for the Obama administration, said Wednesday he does not have a second-choice candidate.

He said if Biden can win over diverse states like South Carolina and Nevada, he’ll show he can bring the Democratic Party together.

LaHood also continued to criticize President Donald Trump.

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Illinois lawmakers are considering a proposal to give students mental health days away from school.

The legislation would allow children in kindergarten through twelfth grade who have mental health issues the opportunity to take up to five days off during the school year.

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A group of Illinois lawmakers and health care advocates want the state to more equitably provide money for low income hospital patients.

Rep. Chris Welch during debate on the floor of the Illinois House
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

A panel of lawmakers on Wednesday grilled Secretary of State Jesse White and officials from the Illinois State Board of Elections over problems with the state’s automatic voter registration system.

A glitch in the system, known as AVR, inadvertently registered to vote about 574 people who are not U.S. citizens.

White sought to reassure lawmakers: “Heads will roll if this happens again.”

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As public universities in Illinois have seen enrollment declines in recent years, one state lawmaker has an idea aimed at keeping high school graduates from leaving.

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Lawmakers are demanding answers from the Illinois State Police about delays on DNA processing.

Olivia Mitchell / NPR Illinois

Both Republicans and Democrats say they want more answers as to why more than 500 non-U.S.citizens were mistakenly added to Illinois voter rolls.

Members of both parties say they take the issue of election security seriously.

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Both of Illinois’ U.S. senators voted in favor of a new trade deal with Canada and Mexico.

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Sam Dunklau / NPR Illinois 91.9 FM

Around 94,000 medical marijuana licenses have been issued in Illinois, and about 600 of them are for children under the age of 18.

Students who need medical marijuana – typically to treat conditions like cancer, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy – used to have to rely on their parents to come to school and give them their treatment. Now, students can get their cannabis from the school nurse, or administer it themselves under the nurse’s supervision.