Maureen Foertsch McKinney

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is the NPR Illinois News Editor and a lead editor of Illinois Issues' feature articles, working with freelance writers,  and is curator of the Equity blog. Maureen joined the staff in 1998 as projects editor. Previously, she worked at three Illinois daily newspapers, most recently the suburban Chicago-based Daily Herald, where she served stints as an education reporter and copy editor. She graduated in 1985 with a bachelor's in journalism. She also has a master's degree in English from the University of Illinois at Springfield.

By Saturday, officials expect 500 hospital beds to be in place at a converted McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago to deal with the overflow of COVID-19 patients. 

The massive facility off Lakeshore Drive is expected by mid-April to have up to 3,000 beds, including ICU units, to deal, if needed with COVID-19 cases. There are now more than 5,000 cases statewide, most in the Chicago metropolitan area.

Gov. J.B Pritzker announced the progress in his daily press briefing on Monday.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker in his daily COVID-19 briefing had harsh words for people who

gathered on Chicago’s beaches and in parks during this week’s warmer

temperatures

“Right now, hosting a party, crowding down 

by the lake, playing a pickup basketball game in a public park.  If you are doing these things you are spitting

in the face of the doctors and nurses and first responders who are risking

everything so you can survive. “

Meanwhile, Illinois saw the highest growth in reported cases in a single day since COVID-19

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday described an Illinois worst-case scenario in which the state could  be far short of the ventilators, hospital beds and intensive-care unit spaces for expected COVID-19 cases.

After days of blasting President Donald Trump over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the two spoke by phone Monday.

Pritzker has been especially critical regarding the lack of supplies going to states.  But he said in their conversation, the president was “very responsive.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker Tuesday announced Illinois’ first COVID-19 death – a Chicago woman in her 60’s with underlying medical conditions.

Income of about $1.4 billion a year for Illinois workers would be generated if paid parental leave became law — that’s according to a report out today from a pair of Illinois think tanks.

Paid-leave legislation was introduced last year, and state Rep. Mary Flowers, a Chicago Democrat, told NPR Illinois she would introduce a version of that again this legislative session.

Illinois today joined Virginia and Nevada, in filing a federal lawsuit to get the Equal Rights Amendment on the books now that it’s been ratified by enough states.

Virginia on Monday became the 38th state to ratify the ERA, but President Trump’s administration is trying to block it from being added to the Constitution.

University of Illinois Springfield professor Jason Pierceson recently published an encyclopedia detailing LGBTQ politics. It includes profiles on candidates, officials and activists; a timeline of events;  government documents; speeches; and court cases. Pierceson recently talked about the two-volume work with reporter Maureen McKinney, as well as the Trump administration's handling of LGBTQ issues. 

Former Democratic campaign staffer Alaina Hampton has found a new job. The news comes on the heels of her settlement in a discrimination lawsuit against organizations tied to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Likely more than 100,000 Illinoisans will lose food stamps under a rule change finalized by President Donald’s Trump administration this week. 

Hate crimes rose by 30 percent in Illinois in 2018, according to a recently released FBI report.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has a bill on his desk that would end the practice of suspending driver’s licenses for most non-moving violations, like unpaid parking tickets.

Amid a federal corruption probe, a suburban Chicago lawmaker wants to effectively ban red-light cameras.

The company SafeSpeed has contracts to provide red-light cameras to several Chicago suburbs. And it's reportedly part of a federal investigation driving raids on several suburban municipal offices and on the offices and home of state Sen. Martin Sandoval. Late last week the Chicago Democrat resigned his powerful position as head of the Senate Transportation Committee.

*The city of Fairview Heights in southwestern Illinois has drawn national attention for the stealthily built Planned Parenthood Clinic that will open there later this month.

The 18,000-square-foot clinic will dwarf another one that  Planned Parenthood already operates in Fairview Heights, about a dozen miles from downtown St. Louis.  That site only provides medication abortions and other medical treatments.

Though the U.S. poverty rate has dropped to the pre-recession level, Illinois has not yet reached that target.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday signed a sweeping anti-sexual harassment law. But one woman who accused a lawmaker of harassment is disappointed with an aspect of the new rules.

Denise Rotheimer says she objects to part of the new law that levies a fine of $5,000 on accusers for leaking information from an inspector general  report's release.

A Chicago-based think tank on Tuesday called for a federal investigation into racial disparity in small-business lending.

Banks in Illinois, and the nation as a whole, are more likely to lend to white-owned small businesses as opposed to their minority counterparts to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has signed a law intended to prevent discrimination against living organ donors. It will apply to employers and insurance companies.

Megan Craig said she made the best decision of her life at age 25. That’s when she donated a kidney to 20-month-old Evan Simms. Eight years later, Simms is alive and well and resides in South Wilmington. And Craig works at the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois.

An inmate’s complaint about an Illinois prison’s refusal to let her breastfeed has led to a system-wide policy change at the Illinois Department of Corrections

Emily French said she tried to breastfeed her newborn son Elijah but guards at Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln ordered her to stop, citing Department of Corrections’ rules.

“We offered to use a blanket to cover and they said no. So, it was, it was uncomfortable. I felt guilty that I couldn't do anything about it.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed legislation that will allow some Supplement Nutrion Assistance Program (SNAP) - formerly known as food stamps - recipients to use benefits at restaurants.

The program will be offered to people who are elderly, homeless or have a disability. 

The federal government plans to cut funding to clinics that provide abortion referrals. But in Illinois, any clinics that lose that funding can get grants from the state. 

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the plan Thursday, saying it amounts to about $2.4 million for 28 clinics throughout the state. Those clinics normally receive federal Title X grants, which cover services like family-planning and HIV screening for low-income, under-insured and uninsured women.

The state of Illinois  is expected to hire more than 300 training and technical  staff members in an attempt to bring down a backlog of unprocessed Medicaid applications.

The  General Assembly also approved a bill this spring aimed at addressing problems with the Medicaid program. Those include a high denial rate cited by providers and the application processing backlog – which has reached over 100,000.  

More counties appear on an anti-poverty group’s watch and warning lists this year than last.

Of the state’s 102 counties, 67 are on a watch list — or more serious warning list — created by the research arm of the Heartland Alliance, which works on social issues in areas that include poverty. That’s up from 52 last year.

This year, 14 counties throughout the state made the severe warning list.

Opioid use is on the rise in Illinois. In response, the General Assembly adopted a plan to create a statewide needle exchange.

The measure calls for a  new community-based needle exchange programs, which the Illinois Department of Public Health would have to sanction.

Looking at the well-being of Illinois’ children through a racial lens … shows big disparities, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual KIDS count report.

Racial disparities show up on measures of health, educational achievement, and economic well-being.

All Illinois employers would have to conduct sexual harassment training under sweeping legislation adopted in the waning days of the General Assembly. 

“This really deals with sexual harassment, discrimination, and equity issues affecting every worker in the state of Illinois,’’ said  Democratic state Senator Melinda Bush of Grayslake, who is sponsor of the bill, which would protect independent contractors under the Illinois Human Rights Act. “So it is, I would say, probably one of the biggest pieces of civil rights law we’ve had in years.”

The Illinois legislature last week approved a measure to have public schools include LGBTQ history in their curriculum. That news hit home with Callie Vine, who will attend Carbondale High School in the fall.

Callie, who's 14, is gender-nonconforming, which means she doesn’t fit into a set definition being of masculine of feminine. She made this bill the focus of her history fair project, and won the chance to compete at state.

State Representative Kelly Cassidy said Thursday that she’s received a pledge from House Speaker Mike Madigan that her expansive abortion legislative will be heard.

That bill would lift provisions that would make performing abortions illegal if Roe. V. Wade is overturned. The bill would also require private insurers to cover abortion if they already cover pregnancy-related expenses.

Illinois could become the third state in the nation to require that single restrooms in offices, restaurants and other public places be gender-neutral.

Similar laws are in place in California and Vermont.

A suburban parents’ group dropped its lawsuit that attempted to ban transgender students from using school restrooms and locker rooms associated with their gender identity, a move that supporters of transgender students say helps affirm the rights of  students across the state.  

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