The Arts Are Not Immune

First, it was sporting events. Now the arts are falling victim to coronavirus precautions. Many of the following organizations cited Gov. Pritzker, Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara, and the IDPH’s requests that large public events be postponed to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

All scheduled Rockford Symphony Orchestra and Rockford Youth Symphony Orchestra rehearsals, performances, and public events through March 30, 2020, are cancelled. It is our hope to reschedule all affected performances.
The following performances at the Coronado Performing Arts Center and Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center are impacted:

  • RSYO Chamber Concert at Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center(March 15, 2020)
  • Soundbites at Mau-Nah-Tee-See Club (March 27, 2020)
  • Beethoven Symphony No. 2 at Coronado Performing Arts Center(March 28, 2020)

For more information on the Rockford Symphony Orchestra go to

“Standing in My Shoes” the one woman play by Val Lantz-Gefroh, scheduled for Friday, March 20, at 7 p.m., at Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Health and Wellness Center, and Lantz-Gefroh’s training sessions that day with NIU students in the College of Health and Human Sciences and the College of Visual and Performing Arts have been canceled.

The Rockford Art Museum has rescheduled its Friday Art X event. The fundraiser has been moved to July 17 and ticket holders will be contacted. This Sunday’s opening reception for the 79th Young Artist Show: High School Division has been canceled, although the exhibit will remain open through April 11. The museum remains open.

Artists’ Ensemble Theater shut down its production of “Cry It Out” early, with the final show having taken place Thursday.

The West Side Show Room in Rockford has canceled auditions and postponed its next play until fall.

Paramount Theatre in Aurora is canceling performances of The Secret of My Success. Ticketholders can get credits for future shows. Five performances by a variety of entertainers that were scheduled for April are now postponed – ticketholders will be contacted about new dates. And Classic Movie Mondays are canceled through April.

The Egyptian Theatre in Downtown DeKalb has announced that it will postpone the Beth Fowler School of Dances’ Wizard of Oz and Swan Lake shows on March 13, 14 and 15 as well as cancel the Rhythm of the Dance performance on Tuesday, March 17 due to the ongoing COVID-19 (coronavirus) situation. At this time, no other events at the Egyptian have been canceled or rescheduled. Updates when available will be posted on the Egyptian Theatre website ( and social media.

The Ultimate Sam Cooke Experience at Rockford’s Nordlof Center scheduled for March 29 has been postponed.

Rockford University’s annual International Food Festival scheduled for April 4 has been canceled.

The 9th Annual Transformation Through Rhythm benefit concert March 20th at DeKalb High School has been canceled.

After much discussion, the DeKalb County History Center is temporarily closed until further notice. Staff will still be working on the upcoming exhibit “History of DeKalb County in 100 Objects,” and the Joiner History Room will still be accepting research requests by email or by phone (815) 895-7271.    

Please continue to watch our website, and social media for further updates. 

Need to Go to the DMV? Read and Heed:

Secretary of State Jesse White announced the Driver Services facility located in the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago will be closed beginning Monday,
March 16 as the entire building has been closed to the general public. However, all other Driver Services facilities statewide will remain open.

White is urging that only those with immediate needs for in-person service visit Driver Services facilities. In addition, he requests that applicants who must visit facilities not bring multiple people –friends or family – as this will help decrease the volume of people visiting facilities.

Many transactions with the Secretary of State’s office may be conducted online at Customers are encouraged to take advantage of these online services,some of which include: obtaining a duplicate driver’s license or ID card, renewing a vehicle registration, obtaining a driver record abstract or renewing a standard driver’s license with the SafeDriver Renewal program.

What About NIU Staff? The Fine Print…

Dear Colleagues,

We know this is a particularly challenging time, and our top priority at NIU is the health and well-being of our campus community. We want to provide you with more information regarding campus operations and employee work schedules.

Public health officials are not asking institutions to close or cease operations. By extending spring break, we are allowing time for our faculty to prepare for two weeks of non face-to-face learning, reducing the number of people on campus who have recently traveled from other areas and following the Centers for Disease Control’s guidelines to reduce the risk of transmission by avoiding large gatherings. Our core business and research functions should continue with basic preventative health measures.

Should employees report to work?

To the extent possible, employees should report to work being mindful of public health measures including hand hygiene and social distancing.  However, supervisors are expected to be flexible and accommodate the needs of employees who may feel uncomfortable coming to campus during this time. This means supervisors and employees should work together to determine what work, if any, can be done remotely.

Can I work from home?

It may be possible for you to work from home; please discuss work assignments with your supervisor.  We are asking supervisors to be flexible with work assignments because of the differing circumstances of our employees. During this dynamic time, you will not be required to fill out forms related to working from home and utilization of NIU computers off campus. For technical support related to working remotely, please see this resource page on working remotely or contact with questions.

What if I am not feeling well?

If you are not feeling well, you should stay home. Per CDC guidelines, employees who are sick or showing symptoms of illness should stay home and seek timely and appropriate medical care.

Do I need to use my sick leave benefits?

If you are sick, caring for a member of your immediate family or immediate household, or under self-quarantine you can use sick leave benefits.  Please reference the Human Resources Services website for more information on sick leave benefits that can be utilized in times of illness. Also, please be reminded of the 25 days of non-accumulative sick leave benefits that the university now provides for both an employee’s illness and the illness of an employee’s immediate family member(s) or immediate household. Balances of all available accrued benefits are available on the bottom of pay advices. Questions regarding sick leave usage should be directed to the HRS Service Center at 815-753-6000.

What if I am a temporary employee (graduate assistant, student worker or extra help employee)?

If you are paid hourly…

Hourly graduate assistants, hourly student workers and extra help employees may continue to work during this time.  You should continue to report to work and/or make arrangements with your supervisor to determine if remote work is feasible. If you are working remotely, your supervisor will work with you on how to submit your timesheet(s).

Hourly employees who do not wish to work should inform their supervisor and recognize they will not be paid.

If you are a salaried graduate assistant…

If you earn a salary, you will continue to get paid.  Check with your supervisor regarding any changes to your work assignment(s) or any additional concerns you may have.

More Information

Additional information will be posted on the university’s Coronavirus Updates page as it becomes available. We are developing an FAQs page on the Human Resource Services website to continue to address employee questions.

We know that this is a stressful time, so we encourage you to make use of the resources offered by our Employee Assistance Program. We need to work together as a community, taking care of one another in a respectful and generous way. We appreciate everything you do for NIU every day and thank you for your service and commitment to our university.

Beth Ingram

Executive Vice President and Provost     

Bryan Perry

General Counsel

IDPH March 12 Update: 32 Cases

According to the latest update from the IDPH: The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) today is announcing seven more individuals in Illinois have tested positive at the IDPH laboratory for coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“The virus is here in Illinois. While it may not be in your community now, we anticipate it will be eventually. We all need to take action now by postponing large events and restricting visits to nursing homes to limit the spread,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “Guidance for this novel virus is changing day by day, sometimes hour by hour, but we want to empower people to think about what they can do to reduce their risk of possible infection, as well as spread of the virus. The state will continue with containment efforts while also implementing mitigation strategies and we’re asking for your help in these efforts.”

Approximately 29% of the cases in Illinois are travel associated, about 44% are a contact of a COVID-19 case, and the remaining cases do not have a clear connection and could be the result of spread in the community. While the vast majority of cases are recovering, approximately 94% are in isolation either at home or in the hospital. At this time, there have been no deaths associated with COVID-19 in Illinois.

At this time, we have the following information about the most recent cases.

  • 40s – female
  • Youth – male


  • 70s – male


  • 70s – female
  • 70s – female
  • 50s – male


  • 60s – man

Public health officials are still investigating the travel history of these individuals and any potential contact with a known COVID-19 case. Public health officials will identify and contact people who are considered close contacts of these cases.
An increase in cases each day not only includes monitoring and following-up with each patient for care, it also means dozens if not hundreds more close contacts need to be identified and contacted. IDPH understands there is a high demand for information and we want to provide as much information as possible, but our top priority is investigating all cases and protecting patient confidentiality. Reports of suspected cases are inevitable, especially when we see more spread, but we want to reassure people that we are sharing as much information as we can as soon as we can.

For information about how you, your school, workplace, and community can prepare, please visit Preventing COVID-19 Spread in Communities. For general questions about COVID-19, call the hotline at 1-800-889-3931 or email

Rock Valley College to Extend Spring Break for Students Only

In light of the evolving COVID-19 public health crisis, the College has determined it to be in the best interests of the College community and the greater community college district to extend spring break an additional week for students only.

All employees including faculty are expected to report to work as planned the week of March 16, 2020.

DeKalb Public Schools to Postpone Large Gatherings, Will Keep School and Extracurriculars on Regular Schedules

DeKalb CUSD 428 Families:

As was shared last night, we continue to closely monitor the COVID-19 outbreak and possible implications for our community and district. This is a fluid situation and plans are quickly changing. The most recent guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health, DeKalb County Health Department, and our Governor is to postpone or cancel events that involve large gatherings of spectators and visitors outside of the regular school day. As a result, we will be postponing all large public events until further notice. Cancellations will be communicated by each program and school through our Skylert message system, emails, and building Facebook pages.

The Illinois Department of Public Health continues to recommend that schools maintain normal school schedules. For now, we will follow this guidance. Normal school schedules will include after school activities such as practice, rehearsals, and clubs.

The health and well-being of our students and staff are always our number one concern. We will continue to monitor the situation, continue to communicate with the DeKalb County Health Department, and update our families if further action needs to be taken.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with questions or concerns.


Richard J. Craven

Blood Centers Need Donations

story from Connie Kuntz, WNIJ — Heidi Ognibene is the director of operations for the Rock River Valley Blood Center. She said they need more blood donations because they share their supply with “sister centers” throughout the United States. She said the national supply may become low because of reaction to the coronavirus. Heidi Ognibene is the director of operations at the Rock River Valley Blood Center.

“There are places all over the country that are canceling their blood drives.” she said, “because there’s a fear of people gathering together in big numbers and social groups.” “We’re really worried,” she continued, “that we’re going to have a national blood shortage because of the cancellations.”

Ognibene said if the center doesn’t maintain an adequate supply in northern Illinois, then they can’t help on a national level.

It takes about one hour to donate blood. Ognibene said donating blood is safe and does not hurt. She compared it to a “pinch in your arm.”

“If you could pinch your arm and save someone’s life, most people would say ‘Yes,'”she said. “You can pinch your arm at the blood center and save up to three people’s lives.”

Healthy people with any blood type are welcome to donate blood. Especially needed are those with O Negative and O Positive blood types. You can learn how to donate blood here

COVID 19 and Food Access in DeKalb County

The spread of Covid 19 (Coronavirus) is increasing here in the United States. DeKalb County Community Gardens (DCCG) in collaboration with state and county public health departments, and other local social service agencies are monitoring the situation closely.

DCCG will continue to work to ensure everyone has access to food during this time of risk. We will follow the information provided by the health departments to make sure all health safety protocols are followed at our Genoa Area Community Food Hub and our Grow Mobile Pantry.

DCCG has established an on-line ordering option for Genoa and Kingston residents only to the Genoa Area Community Food Hub. This will allow for a kind of “drive through” pantry option for those who are most vulnerable. This option can be accessed at:

At the point where it is determined mobile pantries are no longer safe DCCG will establish a method to order on-line for an emergency box(s) of food. 

DeKalb County Community Gardens has been in conversation with Voluntary Action Center, Family Service Agency, Elder Care Services, and DeKalb County officials. DCCG is also convening a meeting of all DeKalb County Food Pantries for Monday morning to discuss coordinated efforts to ensure all members of the vulnerable population are provided access to food. We will work together to respond to food and other needs as they develop over the next few weeks.

The coronavirus is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person, usually via droplets ejected during a cough or sneeze. Coronavirus does not target specific populations, socioeconomic status, ethnicities or racial backgrounds. DCCG will continue to treat all we serve with respect and dignity.

Several Northern Illinois Counties Suspend Events With More Than 25 People

The Winnebago County Health Department in coordination with the Boone County Health Department, Ogle County Health Department, and DeKalb County Health Department are issuing a news release to announce recommendations to suspend public events due to COVID-19:

As a precaution, and in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the risk of exposure, the Winnebago County Health Department (WCHD), Boone County Health Department, DeKalb County Health Department, and Ogle County Health Departments (LHDs) is recommending that businesses, institutions, and organizations suspend all public gatherings and events of 25 people or more until further notice. We do understand that this threshold may differ from community to community. This number was determined based on our local community considerations and with an abundance of caution.

This suspension includes large sporting events, fundraisers, concerts and performances, and many St. Patrick’s Day events including the Rockford’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. It does not include schools and childcare programs; government including polling places; healthcare and regular commerce that would occur at restaurants, grocery stores and other businesses. Social distancing in any situation is recommended.

Churches and faith based institutions are encouraged to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and are encouraged to maintain a contact list of those who attend each service.

As of right now, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Northern Illinois Rockford Region, including Winnebago, Boone, Ogle, and DeKalb. The health and safety of our residents is our highest priority. “We want to do all we can to minimize the spread of this virus. Limiting public gatherings is a proven method of containing and minimizing the spread of disease. Here in Winnebago County, our priority is to limit public exposure and get back to normal public operations as quickly and safely as possible,” said Dr. Sandra Martell, director of the WCHD.

DeKalb Superintendent Says Twitter Feed Was Hacked

A message from Jamie Craven:

Someone apparently hacked my twitter account and sent a message that all DeKalb Events have been cancelled. That is not the case. We are in contact with the Health Department and will be making a decision on events this afternoon.

Moving forward any and all official news will be posted through skyalert, the district website, and our official school Facebook pages.