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Repeated recordings of below-zero weather were reported this week throughout the State, with temperatures as low as -8° F. at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport on Thursday, February 19. Warming centers are operated for challenged people by municipalities, including the city of Chicago and by private sector entities such as the Salvation Army and the United Way.

Illinois residents are urged to monitor the health and safety of their neighbors, and to work with them should trouble appear. Conditions of extreme cold are also dangerous to the life and safety of companion animals.

Chicago-area measles count notches 14 cases, including 13 at Palatine daycare center. Public health officials do not know how the daycare infants caught the virus; a search is on for the person or persons who infected five infants. The count of 14 measles cases was released on Tuesday, February 17. The extremely contagious virus broke out two weeks ago at a day care center located in Chicago’s northwest suburbs.

While most Illinois adults are protected from catching measles by the vaccines they have received in the past, the 13 Palatine patients were all under 12 months of age or were not old enough to get a doctor’s approval for these shots. KinderCare, operator of the daycare center identified as the principal location of the Illinois infant outbreak, has told employees at its 1,900 day care centers nationwide that they must get vaccinated for measles as a condition of being allowed to continue to work in infant rooms.

Rep. David Harris introduces the Right to Try Act. HB 2508 would provide that an eligible patient with a terminal illness who has considered all other treatment options approved by the federal government may obtain and take an unapproved drug. Unapproved drugs and devices included in this limited carve-out of rights for the terminally ill are limited to those that have successfully completed Phase I of a clinical trial and have not yet been approved for prescription or use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In almost all cases when a drug or medical device shows promising results in preliminary “Phase I” studies, the FDA will require extensive follow-up studies to be done. These studies, often called “Phase II,” have several goals. If successful, they gather statistical confirmation that the treatment succeeds, learn more about side effects and contraindications, and learn more about why and how the treatment works so that physicians will learn when and where it should be prescribed and who is helped/not helped by it. In many cases, Phase II studies last for years. While Phase II is ongoing, access to a drug or treatment is severely limited – in effect, sharply rationed – by the maker or provider. Patients and care providers have no right to ask that the drug or device be provided to them.

Illinois House committee to hold hearing on controversial test mandate. The House Education – School Curriculum and Policies Committee will meet on Wednesday, February 25, to take testimony on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test mandate. The hearing is scheduled to be held at 4:00 p.m. in Room 114 of the State Capitol.

House members on the 26-person committee are expected to hear concerns from affected parents, teachers, and representatives of school districts. Many people are opposed to both the new test and to the way it is being implemented here in Illinois. Educators have raised concerns about inadequate technology, lack of testing infrastructure to match the spaces required to administer the test, overall school funding issues as they intersect with this test mandate, and issues of student preparation for the test. Procedural challenges include questions of whether this test has been sprung on Illinois school districts, teachers, students, and parents and whether they received adequate warning of this new mandate.

The budget for fiscal year 2016 (FY16) presented by Governor Bruce Rauner to the Illinois General Assembly on Wednesday, February 18 contains many challenges to traditional spending patterns in Springfield. Serious cuts are imposed on a wide variety of expenditures, especially in areas covered by GRF spending ($31.5 billion). Rauner says Illinois taxation and spending has, for too long, been on autopilot and that he was elected to pull the State’s government out of a death spiral.

“Even after we solve this fiscal year’s crisis, we will still be left with a budget hole of $6.2 billion for the coming fiscal year,” the newly-elected Governor told lawmakers. “Waste and inefficiency are rampant in our current system,” he reported. “To be compassionate, we must be competitive.”
Public health officials do not know how the daycare infants caught the virus; a search is on for the person or persons who infected five infants. The count of 8 measles cases was released on Monday, February 9. The extremely contagious virus broke out last week at a day care center located in Chicago’s northwest suburbs. While most Illinois adults are protected from catching measles by the vaccines they have received in the past, the infant patients were all under 12 months of age or were not old enough to get a doctor’s approval for these shots. KinderCare, operator of the Palatine daycare center identified as the location of the Illinois infant outbreak, has told employees at its 1,900 day care centers nationwide that they must get vaccinated for measles (http://www.kindercare.com/uploadedfiles/documents/measlesletter.pdf) as a condition of being allowed to continue to work in infant rooms.

A major outbreak of measles has broken loose in the United States this winter. The outbreak has been partly traced to contacts made between a patient and other visitors to Disneyland in southern California. At least 121 infections have been counted, spread across 17 states. ABC News/Channel 7 covers the outbreak: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/investigators-unsure-started-measles-cluster-illinois/story?id=28802471.
"Gov. Rauner delivered his first Budget Address today, and continued his narrative about the bleak fiscal reality our state is facing. The first step to overcoming Illinois’ fiscal short-comings is to acknowledge the reality in front of us, so I commend the Governor for doing so and not backing down from this challenge.

He stated that funding will be focused on core priorities of public safety, education, and making head-way in paying down our state’s bills. The last piece in particular reflects what every Illinois family has to do each day, and I think just about all of us feel it is long overdue that Illinois government did that same.