Tag: County

Cook County investigating wedding reception at north suburban hotel

A Prospect Heights hotel was given a written warning for not following state COVID-19 guidelines after a large wedding-related event Wednesday evening.

And the Cook County Department of Public Health is investigating the incident at the Hilton Chicago/Northbrook, which is in Prospect Heights.

Don Bolger, a health department spokesman, said it was unclear how many guests attended the event. “We won’t know until we get the guest list,” he said Thursday.

Joe Wade, Prospect Height’s city administrator, said he spoke to the hotel’s general manager Thursday and she was “very forthright” and acknowledged there had been a wedding party at the hotel Wednesday.

Wade said the general manager told him at least one hotel employee had urged members of the party to socially distance and wear masks.

Neither the hotel’s general manager nor other representatives from the facility could be reached for comment.

During his daily COVID-19 media briefing Thursday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker described the event as “very irresponsible.”

“This is very concerning to all of us at a moment when we have rampant COVID-19 throughout Illinois,” Pritzker said. “Here we have people who, in a concentrated fashion, have the ability now to go spread it to everywhere that they return to.”

“I’m deeply worried for them and for the communities that they’ve returned to, for their families and so on. I hope that each of them will isolate and get a test.”

Pritzker said it would be up to local authorities to mete out punishment.

The Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association said the event was “unacceptable and does not reflect the careful efforts the hotel industry as a whole has taken since the onset of the pandemic to protect guests, employees and our communities.”

“The hotel industry is committed to working with policymakers and public health officials to ensure this situation is not repeated,” association president and CEO Michael Jacobson said in a statement.

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Donated bus fills void for Lake County special recreation association

A small bus formerly used to transport seniors is being repurposed to serve people with special needs or disabilities in the Vernon Hills area.

Declared surplus after the village of Vernon Hills switched to a taxi-type program to shuttle seniors, the eight-seat bus recently was gifted to the Special Recreation Association of Central Lake County.



“It definitely was something that we needed to fill a void,” said Tim Nockels, president of the SRACLC Foundation, the organization’s fundraising arm.

The organization is composed of seven entities — park districts from Grayslake, Mundelein and Vernon Hills, as well as the villages of Lincolnshire, Hawthorn Woods, Libertyville and Lake Zurich. It is headquartered in Hartmann Park on Oakwood Road in Vernon Hills.

The village for decades had offered a senior shuttle bus service. But in fall 2019, it piloted a taxi service in which the village pays the first $6 of travel cost per rider.

“It has cut down our costs probably by half and has increased the usage level,” said Village Manager Mark Fleischhauer.

Once the wrinkles were worked out and the program became well established, the bus, a 2016 Ford E350 with 56,527 miles on it, became expendable.



“The bus was still under warranty,” Fleischhauer said. “We could have sold it, but the board was in agreement to donate it.”

In a letter of interest to the village, recreation association Director John Buckner said transportation is essential to making the organization’s programs available to as many residents as possible.

Because the vast majority of adult participants don’t drive, many of the experiences wouldn’t be available without it, he added.

Another goal is to make as many activities as possible accessible.

“While we do currently have the ability to transport people in wheelchairs, the smaller vehicle (from the village) would enable us to make more appropriate and economical scheduling decisions,” Buckner wrote.

The recreation association recently took possession of the bus and is adding its logo to it.

One aspect that has carried over is a tribute to Cecil Blevins, an Army veteran who drove the senior citizens bus in Vernon Hills for 20 years after retiring from a career in construction. His name is printed on a passenger’s-side window.


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The Ultimate Adventurous Martin County Florida Family Vacation

This post was written in partnership with Martin County.

Many a vacationing family has spent their time in Florida going back and forth between the hotel and the theme parks. First of all, there’s nothing wrong with that. But for families who are seeking a bit more adventure than parks can offer, there are plenty of under-the-radar destinations to be found in the Sunshine State.

Many of these relatively hidden treasures can be found in Martin County, a highly accessible Atlantic coast destination that’s long been overshadowed by the theme parks of Orlando to the north and the glamourous beaches of Miami to the south. Its relative anonymity is a plus, however, for families seeking out a less hectic getaway, a chance to explore a new destination without navigating large crowds and long lines.

In the COVID-19 era, the open spaces and relatively low number of tourists in Martin County make it an even more attractive destination. Its outdoor sights, from over 22 miles of beaches to more than 100,000 acres of wetlands, parks, and forests, are perfectly suited for social distancing. And its indoor attractions have implemented measures, including but not limited to mask and social distancing mandates, designed to make them safe for visitors.

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    What, exactly, is there to do in Martin County? Read on to find out, and make sure you make it there the next time you’re in Florida.

    1. Do more at the beach.

    Beaches are about natural beauty, sure, but beach days are good or bad depending in large part on human factors. There are plenty of hidden beaches tucked away along the shore, but four different Martin County beaches have ocean lifeguarding seven days a week. They’re also less developed than many other beaches, and the dearth of towering condos and hotels beachside means there are fewer people soaking up the sun, making it easier to safely space. Martin County’s beaches are also open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And alcohol is permitted! From surfers and snorkelers to aspiring sand-castle architects, there’s a Martin County beach for every type of traveler. If you were to build a perfect beach, it would likely check all of these boxes.

    2. Explore epic trails.

    There are plenty of natural wonders in Martin County. Chief among them is Halpatiokee Regional Park, 65 acres of active parkland surrounded by 470 acres of wetland preserve area. Hiking and mountain bike trails abound, and you can also rent a kayak to explore the South Fork of the St. Lucie River. Jonathan Dickinson State Park, the largest state park in Southeast Florida, is another popular option. It comprises 16 distinct natural communities and covers close to 11,500 acres, offering everything from fishing and swimming to horseback riding and boat tours.

    For a more structured experience,

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    Body of adult male found near Rockpile Recreation area on TVA in Colbert County

    The Colbert County Emergency Management Agency confirmed a body was found on the TVA trail early Monday near the Rockpile Recreation area in Muscle Shoals.

    Malinda Hunter with TVA said employees found the body of an adult male on the downstream side of Wilson Dam.

    Hunter said TVA police inspectors are leading the investigation but working with local law enforcement.

    Colbert County Coroner Justin Gasque said TVA is investigating because the body was found on its property.

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    What’s the rush with west county hotel tax?

    The Board of Supervisors is racing the clock to call a special election in March to raise lodging taxes in western Sonoma County.

    Here’s our take: Call timeout.

    Don’t rush this tax to a vote without sober consideration of the impact on the tourism trade, which is reeling from the coronavirus recession, or the potential consequences of an unprecedented commitment to add public schools to the county’s already stretched budget.

    The proposal, sponsored by Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, would raise the tax on hotel rooms and vacation rentals from 12% to 16% across a wide swath of west county.

    Tax revenue — an estimated $2.7 million annually — would be divided between west county school districts and the Bodega Bay and Sonoma County fire protection districts.

    This proposal, which wasn’t on the Nov. 3 ballot, moved onto the fast track as the West County Union High School District discussed consolidation of Analy and El Molino high schools. The district is facing budget deficits exceeding $2 million a year, a result of declining enrollment.

    No one wants to lose a local school. We get it.

    But enrollment is down across Sonoma County, and the trend is likely to accelerate.

    Consolidating the high schools would save $1.2 million a year, and the district may not be able to avoid that outcome — with or without the hotel tax. But other options, including combining the high school district with the 10 elementary school districts it serves, are under consideration.

    In September, the Sonoma County Office of Education launched a feasibility study, which could take a year. Meanwhile, the school board placed a $48 parcel tax lasting three years on the March 3 ballot, which would provide help for immediate obligations while the consolidation study is completed.

    Moreover, there’s no assurance that a hotel tax will keep both high schools open.

    In fact, the school board opposed the hotel tax until the supervisors softened language that would have prohibited school closures in districts receiving a share of the revenue.

    We have additional concerns about the tax proposal.

    There is a nexus between a lodging tax and the fire districts, which provide emergency medical services. Up to 80% of calls in the coastal area are to assist visitors, according to the county.

    As for taxing tourists to educate local children — well, it’s easier to persuade voters to tax someone else, especially when a two-thirds majority is required for approval.

    But a transient occupancy tax, as it’s formally known, of 16% would be among the highest in the country, according to a 2019 survey by HVS, a hospitality industry group.

    In California, the only higher taxes on lodging are 16.75% in San Francisco and 17% in Anaheim and Garden Grove, the cities nearest Disneyland.

    West county hoteliers fear tourists will bypass them to stay elsewhere Sonoma County, where, with the exception of Healdsburg, rates will remain 12% or less.

    Finally, if the supervisors start funding west county schools, other districts will surely seek lottery jackpots of

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    San Francisco, San Mateo County move into purple tier; Santa Clara sets travel quarantine

    A flurry of coronavirus tier-list updates were announced by health officials Saturday, bringing greater restrictions to several Northern California counties, including San Francisco, which slid back to the state’s most-restrictive purple tier as coronavirus cases continue to surge at an exponential rate statewide.

    Calaveras, Plumas, San Mateo and San Francisco counties will move from the red tier to the purple tier, the state’s most restrictive designation due to rising infection rates, while Modoc County will move from the orange tier to purple. Alpine, Inyo and Mariposa counties, meanwhile, will go from the orange tier to the red tier.

    Just as it has elsewhere in Northern California, cases of COVID-19 has been rapidly rising in recent weeks in San Francisco and its southerly neighbor San Mateo County. The most recent weekly average for daily infection reports from the San Francisco Department of Public Health reached a new high of 137, compared with July’s high of 131 at the height of the summer surge.

    Although data from the California Department of Public Health indicates a relatively low COVID-19 test positivity rate of 1.8%, San Francisco is averaging more than 14 daily infections per 100,000 city residents.

    The majority of the Bay Area is already in the purple tier, with the lone exception being Marin County, which is just one step below in the red tier.

    That means both San Francisco, which has nearly 900,000 residents, and San Mateo County, home to about 765,000 people, will be placed under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s limited curfew order, which affects purple-tiered counties and is set to last until Dec. 21. The order takes effect Monday.

    Under the curfew, all nonessential activity is limited between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., including in-person dining.

    Now, only a few counties in California are exempt from the curfew. Seven counties in total are not in the purple tier, many of which lie along the Sierra Nevada on California’s eastern border.

    San Francisco is now required to shut down all indoor dining services — although officials already took the step earlier this month of eliminating indoor dining due to an alarming increase in coronavirus cases.

    “This is the most aggressive surge SF has seen to date,” San Francisco Mayor London Breed said in a statement. “I don’t know how to be more clear — this is the most dangerous time we’ve faced during this pandemic. Do not travel or gather with others.”

    Thus far, 15,342 San Francisco residents have contracted coronavirus, and 160 have died of COVID-19.

    Los Angeles County, meanwhile, imposed a stricter lockdown due to the COVID-19 surge on Friday. There, all public and private gatherings with members of multiple households — barring church services and protests — have been banned.

    Sacramento County has been in the purple tier and under state curfew orders for some time.

    Local health officials said they do not, at the moment, plan to institute any similar full shutdown in Sacramento, but said they will be following the governor and state health officials

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    Greene County recreation department holding children’s Christmas activities | Community News

    Children from all across Greene County will be able to enjoy two upcoming Christmas-themed events being coordinated by the county’s department of recreation.

    Santa Claus will be the focus of the upcoming activities, as he will serve as the special guest at “Breakfast with Santa” from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Dec. 5. He will also be receiving letters from local youths who write to him through the department’s “Letters to Santa” initiative.

    The breakfast starts at 9 a.m. in the lower level of the 4-H Building at the Greene County Fairgrounds. Admission is $7 per person and includes a breakfast catered by Dan Wagner, culinary arts instructor at Greene County Career and Technology Center.

    To follow CDC guidelines put in place because of COVID-19, the current plan is for the department to offer three time frames with a 35-person occupancy per time frame, and masks must be worn by attendees unless they are seated.

    Also, Santa will be seated behind a Plexiglas frame in the upper level of the 4-H Building and available for a picture. Children will also receive that picture with Santa and a special treat.

    A mailbox for the North Pole will be available for children to write and deposit their letters into, along with “Dear Santa” templates to compose their wish list on.

    The event is sponsored by Direct Results and Waynesburg VFW Post 4793.

    Recreation department director Bret Moore said all steps are being taken to ensure the event will follow all CDC mandates and guidelines.

    “We haven’t made a final decision yet as to whether we will allow people to come inside and eat breakfast, or if this will become a ‘to-go’ event,” Moore said. “We will make the decision based on what is best for those coming, and what is mandated.

    “As for Santa, unfortunately children will not be able to sit on his lap this year because of COVID-19, but he will be there, greeting and waving, and he will be situated behind a safety glass that will resemble a wonderful Christmas card.”

    Moore said tickets for the breakfast are now available at the recreation office, located at the county fairgrounds, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

    Also, through Dec. 15, area children wishing to receive a personalized letter from Santa can simply send their letter with a completed request form to Greene County Department of Recreation, ATTN: Santa Claus, 107 Fairgrounds Road, Waynesburg, Pa., 15370.

    Letter request forms include the child’s contact and basic information, including gender, age and any gifts requested from Santa, and must be completed by a parent or guardian.

    A completed form must accompany each letter, and parents are asked to limit one request per child. There is no cost for a letter from Santa, as funding has been provided through various sponsors and fundraising efforts the department of recreation holds throughout the year.

    Children should receive the letters before Christmas.

    For more information on the “Breakfast with Santa” event or the “Letters

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    Bay Area tightens COVID-19 restrictions; Santa Clara County orders travel quarantine

    As the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly worsens across California, San Francisco and San Mateo counties on Saturday were moved into the state’s most restrictive tier, which forces the closure of indoor gyms and movie theaters.

    At the same time, Santa Clara County issued its own tightened COVID-19 rules that in some ways are stricter than the ones issued by Los Angeles County on Friday. Under Santa Clara County‘s directive, people must quarantine for 14 days upon return from travel of more than 150 miles, hotels will be open for only essential travel or isolation and quarantine, and nonessential retail establishments will be limited to 10% of capacity indoors, down from the current cap of 25%.

    The backward steps come as hospitalizations related to COVID-19 have tripled in the last month, coming perilously close to exceeding their summer peak.

    According to data released Saturday by the state Department of Public Health, on Friday there were 6,972 people infected with the coronavirus in hospitals statewide. On Oct. 25, that number was 2,254. The all-time high for hospitalizations is 7,170, set July 22.

    In all, more than 1.18 million people have been infected with the coronavirus and more than 19,000 have died in California.

    San Francisco had been able to avoid the state’s most restrictive “purple” tier, but the rate of new coronavirus cases in the Bay Area has continued to explode up in recent days. In just the last six weeks, weekly coronavirus cases have quadrupled, from about 200 a week in mid-October to about 900 a week now,

    A Times analysis published Friday found that most California counties are now suffering their worst daily new coronavirus case rates of the pandemic, surpassing even the summer surge that forced officials to roll back the state’s first reopening.

    The state Department of Public Health announced Saturday that six counties had fallen into the most restrictive tier of the state’s reopening framework: San Francisco, San Mateo, Plumas, Lake, Modoc and Calaveras counties. Three counties fell into the red tier: Mariposa, Inyo and Alpine.

    The changes mean that 51 of California’s 58 counties are now in the purple tier, accounting for 99% of the state’s population, or 38.8 million people out of California’s 39.1 million residents. Purple tier counties are required to shut indoor operations of restaurants, gyms and houses of worship.

    Counties in the purple tier are subject to the state’s limited overnight stay-at-home order, which prohibits all gatherings between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. and all nonessential activities outside the home during those hours, with exceptions such as to get groceries, take walks with members of your household, pick up takeout food and work in essential industries such as meal preparation.

    The only counties not in the purple tier are Marin, Amador, Plumas, Inyo, Mariposa, Mono and Alpine, which are in the red, or second-most restrictive tier, and Sierra, which is the orange tier, the third-most restrictive tier.

    San Francisco had already ordered the shutdown of indoor restaurant dining rooms starting Nov. 14. Beginning

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    ‘Like hitting three home runs in a row,’ Spokane County park planner takes the big picture to conservation, recreation

    It’s likely you don’t know Paul Knowles.

    But you almost certainly know his work.

    Over the past decade, the 38-year-old Spokane transplant has been a key force behind the region’s growing trail and green space portfolio, in the process reshaping regional recreation for decades to come.

    As Spokane County’s park planner, his work is often dry and behind the scenes. While others swing Pulaskis (although he’s been known to pick one up on occasion), Knowles submits impeccable grant applications, coordinates volunteer efforts and generally takes in the big picture.

    If you’ve ever appreciated a well-marked trail in Spokane County, stared longingly at Mica Peak’s snow-covered slopes while driving on I-90 or taken a quick lap up and down one of Beacon Hill’s numerous mountain bike trails after work, you owe Knowles a beer.

    Particularly this year.

    That’s because three Spokane County projects are ranked first in a highly competitive state grant program.

    “That’s like hitting three home runs in a row,” said Jeff Lambert, the executive director of the Dishman Hills Conservancy and a veteran grant-writer. “If it was in the sports world, it would be on the front page of the newspaper.”

    Unlike the sports world, these wins are making tangible and long-lasting differences to the quality of life in our region.

    “We’re lucky to have someone so competent working behind the scenes for the public good,” said Rich Landers, the outdoors editor at the Spokesman-Review for 40 years and a trail guidebook author. “He’s the right man at the right time for Spokane County Conservation Futures.”

    In May, Knowles submitted two grant requests totaling $1.5 million that allowed the county and city to purchase several parcels of private land on Beacon Hill, thus preserving public access to a popular mountain biking area minutes from downtown Spokane. The sale was announced in August and made possible by the fact that both grant requests are No. 1 in the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program.

    Every two years, the Washington Recreation and Conservation Office evaluates potential projects and ranks them. The nonprofit then submits a funding request to the Legislature. The Legislature allocates money to the program. Projects receive funding based on their ranking.

    “Beacon Hill, that thing is on track,” Lambert said. “It makes me weep with happiness. He’s the most valued conservationist.”

    Another Knowles grant, this one for Antoine Peak’s Etter Ranch project, also received top billing in the grant cycle.

    “Our grant programs are very, very competitive and for a county to be that high on the various lists they applied for is incredible,” said Kaleen Cottingham, director of the Recreation and Conservation Office, which administers the grants. “It really talks about how much work they put in to showcase the project.”

    Knowles also oversaw the completion of the Phillips Creek Trailhead, the “jumping-off point” for the new, 2.25-mile “Flying L Trail.” In recent years, he’s also pioneered the use of trailhead webcams, which allow users to check how busy a trailhead is before driving there. It’s a

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    October Tourism Authority Report: Maui County Vacation Rentals at 21% and Hotels at 14.2% Occupancy | Maui Now


    Maui vacation rental

    File photo.

    The Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority (HTA) released its Hawaiʻi Vacation Rental Performance Report for October. It shows Maui County had the largest vacation rental supply of all four counties with 138,500 available unit nights, which was a decrease of 53.5 percent compared to a year ago.

    Unit demand was 29,051 unit nights (-87.6%), resulting in 21 percent occupancy (-57.6 percentage points) with an average daily rate (ADR) of $227 (-36.2%). Maui County hotels were 14.2 percent occupied with an ADR of $226.

    For the entire state, the total monthly supply of statewide vacation rentals was 373,600 unit nights (-57.0%) and monthly demand was 85,000 unit nights (-86.4%), resulting in an average monthly unit occupancy of 22.7 percent (-49.1 percentage points). Hawaiʻi’s hotels had an average occupancy rate of 19.7 percent.

    It is important to note that unlike hotels, condominium hotels, timeshare resorts and vacation rental units are not necessarily available year-round or each day of the month and often accommodate a larger number of guests than traditional hotel rooms. The unit average daily rate (ADR) for vacation rental units statewide in October was $208, which was higher than the ADR for hotels ($174), according to the report.

    The state’s pre-travel testing program started on Oct. 15, allowing passengers arriving from out-of-state and traveling inter-county to bypass the mandatory 14-day self-quarantine with a valid negative COVID-19 test result from a trusted partner. All other transpacific travelers continued to be subject to the 14-day self-quarantine. The counties of Kauaʻi, Hawaiʻi, Maui and Kalawao (Molokai) also had a partial quarantine in place in October.

    For Maui County, travelers awaiting their pre-travel test results were allowed to stay at a vacation rental as their place of quarantine. On Hawaiʻi Island and Kauaʻi, legal short-term rentals were allowed to operate as long as they were not being used as a quarantine location.

    On Oahu, short-term rentals (rented for less than 30 days) were not allowed to operate at the beginning of October. However, when Oahu moved to Tier 2 of its Reopening Plan on Oct. 22, legal short-term rentals were allowed to reopen.

    Other Island Highlights:

    Oahu vacation rental supply was 96,500 available unit nights (-59.4%) in October. Unit demand was 26,300 unit nights (-84.6%), resulting in 27.2 percent occupancy (-44.3 percentage points) and an ADR of $173 (-32.7%). Oahu hotels were 22 percent occupied with an ADR of $158.

    The Big Island vacation rental supply was 80,000 available unit nights (-61.7%) in October. Unit demand was 17,416 unit nights (-86.7%), resulting in 21.8 percent occupancy (-40.8 percentage points) with an ADR of $192 (-26.3%). Big Island hotels were 19.8 percent occupied with an ADR of $140.

    Kauaʻi had the fewest number of available unit nights in October at 58,500 (-52.5%). Unit demand was 12,300 unit nights (-86.1%), resulting in 21.0 percent occupancy (-50.6 percentage points) with an ADR of $261 (-34.2%). Kauaʻi hotels were 21.3 percent occupied with an ADR of $212.

    The entire report is available by clicking here.

    Tables of vacation

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