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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Haley Pate, Biron Butler and Korde Gardener protesting
Mike Smith / NPR Illinois

Black Lives Matter protests in Springfield continued Wednesday. Young activists said they aren't giving up on voicing their concerns anytime soon. 

Olivia Mitchell/NPR Illinois

More than a thousand demonstrators shouting ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘No Justice, No Peace’ took to the streets in Springfield again Monday, demanding an end to racial injustices.

Portillo's Oaklawn Facebook Page

Although the hospitality industry continues to struggle, Portillo's, a Chicago-area restaurant chain unveiled plans for a Springfield location, its fourth in central Illinois.

The restaurant, known for their Chicago-Style hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches, announced plans to open in Springfield in late 2021 at the site of a closed pharmacy at Veteran’s Parkway and Lindbergh Boulevard, on the southwest side of town.

Ward 10 Ald. Ralph Hanauer, who represents the area, said he has no concern about the restaurant opening up, even during the pandemic.

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Diabolo-2 / Shiny Colors

As the hospitality industry continues to struggle amid the coronavirus pandemic, Illinois lawmakers approved a measure to allow bars and restaurants to serve cocktails for curbside pick-up and delivery. The bill awaits the governor’s signature.

Springfield’s Ward 2 Ald. Shawn Gregory has been teaming up with restaurants and other businesses to pass out free dinners during the coronavirus pandemic. He said the goal goes beyond giving out free food. 

Rep. Avery Bourne debates the Reproductive Health Act
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

A group of downstate Illinois lawmakers are calling again for an alternative plan to reopen the state’s economy.

Those lawmakers said since economic and social interaction levels differ in certain areas of the state, Illinois should be divided into 11 regions instead than the four broad regions already laid out by the state’s public health authority. 

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker called for the legislature to reconvene to discuss an economic recovery plan for the state.

Pritzker said his administration has supported residents and small businesses by banning evictions, delaying tax filing deadlines, and expanding unemployment eligibility, but he said more work needs to be done to get the economy going.

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2.0 Generic / Flickr

Illinois has processed more than 20,000 COVID-19 tests in one day for the first time since the pandemic began. The state ranks fourth among all fifty states in testing availability and completion, behind California, Texas, and New York. 

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois

Springfield is looking for input on its plan to spend nearly $800,000 from the federal aid package approved in March for coronavirus relief efforts.

The draft plan outlines five priorities – rental assistance, grants to small businesses, support for the food bank, health and safety equipment, and funding for public services.

The city held its first public meeting Thursday via Zoom to listen to input from residents and businesses about fund distribution.

Jim Durkin
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

Illinois Republican lawmakers are taking issue with Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan that outlines how officials plan to reopen the state’s economy in five phases. 

Wild Rose Facebook Page

Brian Galecki, owner of Dumb Records in downtown Springfield, normally sells records and CDs, but since the pandemic hit, he’s been selling t-shirts online. He said his online sales have been strong.

“A big challenge in that still is that even with us doing well, we’re still going to be less than what we would be doing if our physical store is open,” Galecki said.

Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder signing a Declaration of State of Emergency
City of Springfield

Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder announced Thursday the city will enforce Governor J.B. Pritzker's extended stay-at-home order, despite legal disputes for the state to reopen.

Fair Havens Senior Living Facebook Page

A coronavirus outbreak at a nursing home in Decatur has led to ten deaths and sickened 74.

Herald Review Editor Allison Petty recently visited Fair Havens Senior Living. NPR Illinois talks with Petty about the challenges she heard from staff working through an outbreak.

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HM Treasury / Flickr

As Illinois increased its COVID-19 testing capacity, the state saw its largest one-day spike Friday with more than 2,700 newly confirmed cases, bringing the total to nearly 40,000. 

OSF Healthcare

Before the coronavirus hit Illinois, Shannon Egli practiced dissections with first year medical students and helped doctors train for procedures in preparation to work on patients.

He is the coordinator for the Anatomical Lab at OSF HealthCare’s Jump Simulation and Education Center and a clinical associate for the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Peoria.

But now, he spends much of his day taking phone calls, being a remote tech assistant, and dropping off packages for people sick with COVID-19, taking proper precautions.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that Illinois schools will not hold any in-person classes for the rest of the academic year.

The governor said the decision reached by his administration and the state school board was a hard one. But, he told reporters during a daily press briefing he is confident that schools will expand remote learning opportunities for students. 

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois

Every year, crowds of people flood the fairgrounds in Springfield anticipating entertainment at the Grandstand, corn dogs, shake-ups, and rides. But it’s unclear if the fair will go on this year. 

Cancer Treatment Centers of America (Suburban Chicago) Facebook Page

Shenecko Jimerson beat breast cancer a few years ago. After her celebration, she found out the cancer returned and she was diagnosed with triple metastatic breast cancer. She is on radiation - treatment that uses high doses of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors.

Wikimedia Commons

Illinois residents who have COVID-19 symptoms or may have been exposed will be able to recover from their homes with the help of a new patient monitoring program.

The governor announced the statewide program Saturday. Those who are sick but don’t need to be in the hospital will have daily virtual visits with health workers. They will also receive wellness kits with alcohol wipes, thermometers, and blood pressure cuffs. 

State Rep. Mike Murphy (right), a Republican from Springfield, shakes hands with Gov. J.B. Pritkzer in this file photo from Jan. 29, 2020.
handout / Illinois Office of Communication and Information

Illinois acquired the former Vibra Hospital in Springfield on Friday to use for COVID-19 patients who need medical attention but not intensive care. Gov. J.B. Pritzker approved the acquisition in anticipation of a surge in COVID-19 patients, using powers under the state emergency declaration. 

AlexChirkin / https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en

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.

Franki Chamaki / Unsplash

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. 

Cafe Moxo's Facebook Page

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.

Addiction Professionals-Recovery Advocates Facebook Page

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.

BOS Center Facebook Page

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.

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