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Metro East

The center of SIUE's campus without any students on March 30. The university asked all students move out of the dorms on March 21.
Eric Schmid | St Louis Public Radio

EDWARDSVILLE — College students should respond to the 2020 census as if they were still living on campus or in their off-campus apartment, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The coronavirus outbreak has added confusion to this question because most college students are now back at home, finishing their semesters online. 

The decennial headcount tracks where people in the U.S. live and sleep most of the time. 

Illinois REAL IDs have a gold star in the top right corner.
Illinois Secretary of State Office

Updated March 28 with the new October 2021 deadline

Like the rest of the country, Illinois residents will need to get Real IDs if they want to continue to use their licenses or other state identification cards to board domestic flights and enter federal buildings starting late next year.

In March, the state started issuing Real IDs in compliance with the security standards set by the 2005 Real ID act. Compliant licenses are marked by a gold star in the top right corner of the card. 

A sign in Belleville encouraging residents to respond to the census on March 24, 2020. The coronavirus has upended much of the local census outreach efforts. 03 24 2020
Eric Schmid | St Louis Public Radio

BELLEVILLE — The actions Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker took to curb the spread of the coronavirus are having an impact on local organizations trying to ensure accurate census counts in the Metro East.

The orders to close schools and stay at home came at the height of many local outreach efforts only weeks before census day on April 1. 

As medical marijuana sales start in Missouri in 2020, local companies see potential new clients in the companies that are recieving the medical program's first licenses.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

BELLEVILLE — Thousands of retail stores and other businesses have shuttered across Illinois under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s “stay-at-home” order, which was issued on Friday. But there is one notable exception: Marijuana dispensaries are open to both medical and recreational customers.

Medical cannabis facilities are classified as essential health care and public health operations under Pritzker’s order. While other businesses have seen steep drops in customers, sales at cannabis dispensaries remain solid.  

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday ordered Illinois residents to stay home and non-essential businesses to close. 3/20/20
Governor J.B. Pritzker Facebook Live screenshot

Updated 6:20 p.m. March 20 with comments from business leaders and details about what activities and businesses are excluded from the order

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has issued sweeping new orders that restrict movement and close vast numbers of businesses statewide, the latest steps he has taken to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The order goes into effect at 5 p.m. Saturday. It closes all nonessential businesses, including hair salons, retail shops and recreational businesses like bowling alleys. The order does not apply to grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations or other businesses that provide essential services. Transit and roads will not close down, and restaurants will still be able to provide takeout food if they wish.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker annouced he would expand Illinois Medicaid becuase of the coronavirus outbreak at a press conference on March 18, 2020.
Eric Schmid | St Louis Public Radio

BELLEVILLE — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced he filed for a federal waiver to expand Medicaid coverage for COVID-19 illnesses in the state at a press conference on Wednesday.

“We’re working both with the insurance companies as well as with Medicaid with the federal government to try and make sure everything around COVID-19 is covered,” he said. “So that nobody has to go without treatment for a [coronavirus]-related illness.” 

Illinois was one of three states that held primaries on March 17, 2020. Voter turnout was lower than usual, officials say.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

BELLEVILLE — Voters in Illinois went to the polls on Tuesday to decide whom they wanted to see on the ballot in November. A few cities and villages also put referendums to their voters. Congressional races in three Metro East districts were in play for the primary.

Here are five things to take away from the results.

Three states are voting Tuesday in the Democratic presidential primary: Arizona, Florida and Illinois. Ohio suspended its primary. Follow NPR's live coverage with updates on the ground, news from the candidates, analysis and results.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is projected by the Associated Press to win the Democratic presidential primary in Illinois.
Gage Skidmore | NPR, Flickr

Former Vice President Joe Biden won the 2020 Illinois Democratic Primary. The Associated Press called the race for Biden at 7:23 p.m., shortly after the polls in Illinois closed.

Biden won the vast majority of Democratic voters in the Metro East, capturing between 60% and 70% of the primary vote in St. Clair, Madison, Monroe, Washington and Clinton counties.

Today Is Primary Day In Illinois: Here’s What You Need To Know When You Go Vote

Mar 17, 2020
Election judge Judi Brunstein uses a disinfectant spray to clean and disinfect a voting booth at the polling place inside Douglas Elementary School in Belleville on March 17, 2020.
Derik Holtmann | Belleville News-Democrat

Editor's Note: This article was originally published by the Belleville News-Democrat.

Illinoisans go to the polls Tuesday amid extraordinary circumstances to select nominees for various offices from president to county board chairman. 

Local and state election officials prepared for an Election Day amid a pandemic that was effectively shutting society down piecemeal in Illinois. The election will still go on, but with extra precautions and changes.

Gov. Pritzker Orders Illinois Bars, Restaurants Closed For Dining In Through March 30

Mar 15, 2020
Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued an executive order closing all public and private schools in Illinois from March 17 through at least March 30.
File photo | Illinois Office of Communication and Information

Editor's Note: The story was originally published in the Belleville News-Democrat.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker ordered all bars and restaurants in the state to close through March 30 to stem the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus.

The order begins Monday at “close of business” for bars and restaurants, Pritzker said at a news conference in Chicago on Sunday.

St. Clair County officials on Saturday announced the Metro East's first two positive cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus. They held the press conference at the county health department. 03/14/20
Andrea Henderson | St. Louis Public Radio

The new coronavirus has come to the Metro East. 

St. Clair County Board Commissioner Mark Kern on Saturday issued a disaster proclamation after two women in the county tested positive for the new coronavirus.

County health officials said the two women — one in her 60s, the other in her 70s — returned from international travel about a week ago.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker Orders All Illinois Public And Private Schools Closed

Mar 13, 2020
Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued an executive order closing all public and private schools in Illinois from March 17 through at least March 30.
File photo | Illinois Office of Communication and Information

Editor's Note: This story was originally published in the Belleville News-Democrat

Illinois Governor Issues Disaster Proclamation As Number Of Coronavirus Cases Grows

Mar 9, 2020
The new coronavirus has been detected in dozens of countries, including the United States. It gets its name from its protruding spikes, which resemble a crown.
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

Editor's Note: The story was originally published in the Belleville News-Democrat.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday issued a “disaster proclamation” for Illinois as he announced four new confirmed cases of coronavirus, bringing the total to 11 in the state. 

The proclamation is Illinois’ version of a state of emergency, Pritzker said during an afternoon news conference. He said the move gives Illinois access to federal and state resources and tools.

Walter Byrd checks on an overflowing sewer grate next to his home in Centreville. Like dozens of other residents, Byrd has raw sewage seeping through his yard. Jan. 27, 2020
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

CENTREVILLE — At least twice a day, Walter Byrd checks on the pumps on his yard. 

Like dozens of residents in the Metro East city of Centreville, Byrd has raw sewage seeping through his yard. A person can’t bear to stand in his yard during the summer because it smells like a “hog pen,” he said.

The city and its sewer utility, Commonfields of Cahokia, have neglected the sewer systems for decades. When there’s a heavy rain, the water often has nowhere to drain and floods parts of town.

Short Lines, Quick Service On First Day Of Recreational Marijuana Sales In Sauget

Mar 2, 2020
On March 2, the Green Solution in Sauget became the second dispensary to sell recreational marijuana in the Metro East since Illinois legalized sales on New Year's Day.
Derik Holtmann | Belleville News-Democrat

Updated at 11:30 a.m., March 3, with comments from Erich Mauff, president of Jushi Holdings Inc., which now owns the dispensary in Sauget.

Editor's Note: This story was originally published in the Belleville News-Democrat.

SAUGET — The Green Solution dispensary in Sauget started selling adult-use cannabis on Monday morning. The dispensary is open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and accepts cash only.

The dispensary, located at 2021 Goose Lake Road, is the second to begin adult-use sales to the Metro East since recreational marijuana became legal in Illinois on Jan. 1. 

A scanning electron microscope image shows the novel coronavirus (yellow) against human cells (pink.) 2-27-20
NIAID-RML

Updated 9 p.m. Feb. 28 with results of the coronavirus test

BJC HealthCare announced Friday evening that a patient tested in the Metro East for coronavirus did not have the virus.

In a statement, BJC HealthCare, which runs Belleville Memorial Hospital, said St. Clair County Health Department confirmed that there are no new cases of COVID-19 in Illinois.

Officials at the hospital say they’re following guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and are prepared to “initiate isolation and infection prevention protocols when necessary, including precautionary protection for our team members.”

The Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church in Brooklyn, Illinois, on Feb. 26, 2020. The church is one of two verified Underground Railroad locations in the Metro East. 02 26 2020
Eric Schmid | St Louis Public Radio

BROOKLYN — On the outskirts of this St. Clair County village, a small green sign reveals how many people live there — about 750. The small community is about five square blocks and sits a few thousand feet from the Mississippi River. 

Yet for a village with less than 1,000 residents, there are 12 churches. The oldest, the Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church, was established in 1825 as a Methodist church. It stands apart for its role in the Underground Railroad, helping slaves in Missouri escape to freedom.

MidAmerica St. Louis Airport Is Getting New Leadership

Feb 24, 2020
Bryan Johnson replaces Tim Cantwell as director of MidAmerica St. Louis Airport.
Provided

Editor's note: This story was originally published in the Belleville News-Democrat.

MASCOUTAH — A new director has been named to lead MidAmerica St. Louis Airport ahead of current director Tim Cantwell’s retirement.

Bryan Johnson’s starting date is April 3. His appointment was announced Monday by the St. Clair County Public Building Commission, which oversees MidAmerica’s operations. 

7 Questions About Cancer-Causing Chemicals From Scott AFB Answered

Feb 21, 2020
Airman First Class Anthony Uelk, on the ladder, along with fellow 932nd Airlift Wing flight line crew chiefs, refuel a C-40 in preparation for a launch at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.
Christopher Parr | U.S. Air Force

This article was originally published in the Belleville News-Democrat.

Officials have just begun contacting people potentially affected by contamination from Scott Air Force Base after news broke last week that dangerous chemicals may have tainted drinking water.

Last week, the base joined a growing list of military installations where cancer-causing chemicals from firefighting materials have leaked into the ground and nearby water supplies. 

The census will only ask if respondents are 'male' or 'female.' That leaves out a growing number of people who identify outside of that gender binary.
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

BELLEVILLE — The success of the 2020 census will largely depend on people answering the survey themselves, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That way, the bureau can dedicate fewer resources to finding and counting people.

Bureau officials have identified a number of factors that result in low self-response rates. These include areas with more minority residents, low-income households, frequent movers, renters and many other factors.

Scott Air Force Base Is Testing Surrounding Water Sources For Chemical Contamination

Feb 18, 2020
Airman First Class Anthony Uelk, on the ladder, along with fellow 932nd Airlift Wing flight line crew chiefs, refuel a C-40 in preparation for a launch at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.
Christopher Parr | U.S. Air Force

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in the Belleville News-Democrat.

Chemicals known to cause serious health problems, including cancer and birth defects, may be contaminating water sources near Scott Air Force Base.

Studies commissioned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers revealed that a toxic class of chemicals, known as PFAS, have saturated the ground at seven sites on base. Those chemicals may have leached into local water supplies, according to an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency report obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

The census will only ask if respondents are 'male' or 'female.' That leaves out a growing number of people who identify outside of that gender binary.
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

BELLEVILLE — Communities across the Metro East are ramping up their efforts to get an accurate count when the U.S. Census Bureau begins collecting responses in less than two months. 

The once-a-decade headcount determines congressional representation and how billions of dollars in federal and state funding is distributed. Locally, critical revenue for cities and some communities' home rule status are at stake.

Illinois Supply and Provisions in Collinsville sold $5 million of recreational marijuana in January. The dispensary accounted for 13.6% of sales in Illinois.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 3:10 p.m., Feb. 12, with comments from Collinsville's mayor

COLLINSVILLE — Illinois Supply and Provisions recorded $5 million in sales of recreational marijuana in the first month of the year, city officials announced Tuesday. 

The preliminary figures come after a strong month of sales across the whole state. Illinois sold nearly $40 million of legal marijuana in January alone. 

Hundreds of people line up outside of Illinois Supply and Provisions in Collinsville on January 1, 2020 to legally buy recreational marijuana for the first time in Illinois.
Derik Holtmann | Belleville News-Democrat

COLLINSVILLE — The first month of recreational marijuana sales at Illinois Supply and Provisions brought hordes of people and their vehicles to a store that didn’t have enough parking for them. 

The dispensary reserved its 45-space parking lot for medical patients and handicapped recreational customers. A maze of metal barriers occupied the spaces directly in front of the store to contain crowds of people wanting to buy recreational cannabis. 

Fairview Heights Mayor Mark Kupsky addresses the council on Dec. 17, before they vote to allow cannabis sales in the community. The council voted 7-3 to allow cannabis related businesses to open in the community.
Eric Schmid | St Louis Public Radio

FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS — The City Council voted nine to one on Tuesday to approve regulations for recreational marijuana businesses that want to open in the community. 

The ordinance specifies which kind of businesses can open in Fairview Heights — whether that be a dispensary, cultivator, craft grower or other facility. 

Marijuana Shortages Aren’t A Coincidence: Why Illinois Kept The Market Small On Purpose

Feb 4, 2020
A Wellness Group Pharms employee prepares pre-rolls, cones filled with a premium ground flower. The cultivation center in the rural southern Illinois town of Anna, plans to expand its cultivation facility.
Derik Holtmann | Belleville News-Democrat

Long lines, closures and shortages of product have frustrated consumers of legal weed in Illinois since the first of the year.

But state officials said the slow start to the sale of recreational marijuana was intentional and one that cultivators also wanted. Both, however, say the eventual goal is a market where supply and demand are in balance.

A worker trims marijuana plants in Ascend Illinois' growing facility in Barry, IL.
Eric Schmid | St. Louis Public Radio

BELLEVILLE — Illinois’ recreational cannabis industry is off to a strong start. 

Sales of recreational marijuana totaled $39.2 million in January, the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation announced Monday. 

In the 31 days after recreational marijuana became legal in the state, consumers bought almost one million individual cannabis products. Illinois residents accounted for the majority of transactions, buying $30.6 million of legal marijuana. Out-of-state residents bought $8.6 million.

Metro East Residents In Alorton, Centreville Will Vote On Proposal To Merge

Jan 30, 2020
Residents in Centreville and Alorton will vote on March 17 whether to merge the two small Metro East municipalities.
Derik Holtmann | Belleville News-Democrat

Citzens of two shrinking Metro East municipalities will be asked on the March 17 primary ballot if they should be merged.

The boards of both the city of Centreville and village of Alorton each approved a referendum that, if approved, would join the municipalities in an aldermanic style of government. The city, according to the referendum, would be called Alcentra.

Not Just Granite City: There’s Statewide Scrutiny Of Crime-Free Housing Rules In Illinois

Jan 30, 2020
From 2014 to 2018, 46.8% of the tenants who were forced out of their homes under Granite City's crime-free housing rules weren't accused of wrongdoing.
Derik Holtmann | Belleville News-Democrat

Editor's note: This story was originally published in the Belleville News-Democrat.

Groups across Illinois, from nonprofits to real estate associations, have been calling for changes to cities’ policies for renters because they say the rules that are meant to prevent crime violate tenants’ and landlords’ rights.

Some civil rights advocates spoke out against crime-free housing ordinances years before Granite City’s was the subject of federal lawsuits.

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