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CHICAGO (CBS) — Amid an ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases statewide, the Illinois Secretary of State is closing all of its Driver Services centers for two weeks after the new year.

Secretary of State Jesse White’s office announced Tuesday afternoon that all of its departments, including Driver Services facilities, will close for in-person transactions from Jan. 3 through Jan. 17, reopening on Jan. 18.

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The announcement comes as the Illinois Department of Public Health reported 21,098 new cases of COVID-19 statewide on Wednesday, the second highest daily total of the pandemic, and the second day in a row the state has reported more than 20,000 new cases.

Illinois is currently averaging 16,686 new cases per day over the past week, the highest average daily case rate during the pandemic.

With COVID-19 testing also surging in December, however, the state’s case positivity rate still remains below the peaks seen during the first two waves of the pandemic. As of Wednesday, the state’s seven-day average case positivity rate is at 9.1%, the first time it’s been above 9% in more than a year, but still below the 13.2% peak of the fall surge in November 2020, and well below the peak of more than 20% during the first wave in May 2020.

As CBS 2’s Asal Rezaei reported Tuesday, the Secretary of State’s office said it is closing its facilities out of an abundance of caution for both the staff and the thousands of people they see each day at offices across the state.

“Secretary White made a decision to discontinue in person transactions,” said Illinois Secretary of State’s Office spokesman Henry Haupt.

While it is not the first time the Secretary of State’s departments and Driver Services centers have had to shut down during the pandemic, they are hoping this time that it will only be a couple of weeks – from Jan. 3 until Jan. 17.

“It is our goal, and I hope, to reopen all of those in person services on Tuesday, January 18,” Haupt said.

Online services will remain open for anyone who needs to renew a license plate, along with driver’s license or ID Card renewals or replacements.

While the Secretary of State’s office’s buildings will be closed to the public, essential workers will still be coming in to make sure things are running smoothly for online services.

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The location at 5401 N. Elston Ave. in Jefferson Park was busy with drivers coming in and out Wednesday as the news broke.

“It’s definitely very inconvenient, but of course, we have to take safety in account over anything else,” said driver Jimmy Payne.

With the last day of in-person transactions coming up on Friday, Payne said he was heading to a less-packed location to get things done.

“I need to go to the express one on Diversey ’cause of my ID,” Payne said. “I lost my wallet.”

While Illinois Driver Services centers are closed for in-person transactions, drivers will still be able to visit the Secretary of State’s website to renew their vehicle stickers, obtain a duplicate driver’s license or ID, or obtain their driving record. Eligible people can also renew their driver’s license or state ID online, and can call 217-785-1424 to confirm their eligibility or obtain their PIN.

But anyone who has to provide legal documents, or anyone with a criminal background, still needs to wait things out and come in to get everything done in person.

In addition, the Drivers and Vehicles Services hotline phone number will remain open at 800-252-8980. Customers with issues involving administrative hearings may email [email protected] or call 312-793-3722 or 217-782-7065.

The state has already extended the expiration dates for expired driver’s licenses and ID cards through March 31, 2022. The extension does not apply to commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) or CDL learner’s permits.

State officials said it is not out of the question that reopening dates could be shuffled around depending on the number of COVID-19 cases we see into the new year.

“We will keep a close eye on the COVID-19 numbers,” Haupt said. “Our hope is that they begin to decline throughout the state and also throughout the country.”

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As a reminder, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has extended the federal REAL ID deadline to May 3, 2023. After that point, travelers will need either a REAL ID card, passport, or other acceptable form of ID for airline travel. The TSA provides a list of acceptable IDs online.

Source: CBS Chicago

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