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Coronavirus live blog, Oct. 8, 2020: RAs become COVID cops on college campuses navigating quarantine

Here’s Thursday’s news on how COVID-19 is impacting Chicago and Illinois. Follow here for live updates.

Public health officials reported 3,059 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 across Illinois on Thursday, the state’s biggest caseload since the initial peak of the pandemic nearly five months ago.

Here’s what else happened in Chicago and around the state in coronavirus-related news.


News

8:58 p.m. RAs become COVID cops on college campuses navigating quarantine

Illinois State University’s campus was far quieter on Aug. 17, 2020, the first day of classes, than in previous years, said university spokesman Eric Jome. Clare Proctor/Sun-Times

Breaking up parties, confiscating booze and answering noise complaints — being a resident adviser in a college dorm always has required a willingness to be the “bad guy” and uphold university policy despite the protests of friends and peers.

Now, there’s a new element to the job description: COVID cop.

The worst part of his job as a resident adviser and dormitory hall security manager is verifying residents’ ID cards in the evening and dealing with the mask policy, said Marco Maldonado. But the positions help him afford his $20,000 tuition at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Almost every night, he said, at least one person tries to enter the building without a mask. While most will take advantage of the box of disposable masks at the security desk, “Every once in a while, you’ll meet someone who’s, like, ‘Oh, it’s all bulls—. Stop — I don’t want to hear it,’ ” said Maldonado, 20, a political science and legal studies double major.

Read the full story here.


6:47 p.m. Answering Lightfoot’s call, Chicago Community Trust launches $25M plan to help Chicago rebuild equitably after pandemic

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has been urging Chicago’s corporate and philanthropic communities to help Chicago rebuild more equitably after the economic devastation created by the coronavirus and the civil unrest triggered by the death of George Floyd.

On Thursday, both sectors answered the call.

Armed with $25 million in “initial” philanthropic contributions and “corporate commitments,” the Chicago Community Trust launched, Together We Rise.

The goal is to make certain that Black and Hispanic communities that bore the brunt of both the health and economic impacts of the coronavirus can make a strong comeback from that double-whammy.

“Every neighborhood. Every corner. Not just the downtown, River North, South Loop. But the entirety of our city that has been dramatically impacted — not just by COVID-19, but by way too many years of lack of investment,” Lightfoot said Thursday.

Reporter Fran Spielman has the full story.

4:32 p.m. Daily COVID-19 caseload recalls May numbers: 3,059 new Illinois infections — most in a day in five months

Public health officials reported 3,059 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 across Illinois on Thursday, the state’s biggest caseload since the initial peak of the pandemic nearly five months ago.

The state last topped 3,000 daily coronavirus cases on May 14, when 3,239 people were infected.

The Illinois Department for Public Health reported more than 5,300 cases on Sept. 4, but that bloated figure was the result of a three-day data processing backlog.

The state now has logged an average of about 2,100 new cases per day over the last two weeks, almost triple the state’s rate in early July — but still shy of the roughly 2,500 cases that were being added per day in early May.

Reporter Mitch Armentrout has the full story.

12:13 p.m. Senate candidate Willie Wilson tests positive for COVID-19

U.S. Senate candidate and Chicago businessman Willie Wilson will self-quarantine for more than a week after testing positive for the coronavirus.

Wilson is “experiencing mild symptoms” and suspending in-person campaign events for the next 10 days, according to a Thursday statement from campaign spokesman Scott Winslow, who said he’s also tested positive for the coronavirus.

Wilson, 72, said he tested positive “recently” despite following precautions of wearing a face mask and social distancing.

“Like so many of my fellow Americans, I am not immune from COVID-19,” Wilson said in the statement. “This is a disease that does not discriminate... However, I am confident that we will beat COVID-19.”

Wilson, whose diagnosis comes less than four weeks before Election Day, has notably distributed more than 40 million face masks to the public during his long-shot bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin.

Reporter David Struett has the full story.

9:32 a.m. ‘SNL’ drops Morgan Wallen after he’s seen maskless at party

Morgan Wallen has been dropped from performing on “Saturday Night Live” after breaking the show’s COVID-19 protocols.

The country singer posted a two-plus minute video on social media Wednesday about the show’s decision. He apologized after he was shown on TikTok socializing maskless at a crowded bar and house party this past weekend in Alabama.

Wallen was announced earlier as a musical guest for this Saturday’s show. The singer was emotional during his post, saying he respects the show’s decision.

The 27-year-old Wallen said his actions were “short-sighted” and has affected his long-term goals and dreams. “On a personal note, I think I have some growing up to to. I’ve tried to find joy in the wrong places,” he said in his Instagram video. “I’m gonna take a step back from the spotlight a little bit and go work on myself.”

Read the full report here.

7:48 a.m. Trump says he won’t participate in virtual debate with Biden

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump vowed Thursday not to participate in next week’s debate with Democratic nominee Joe Biden after organizers announced will take place virtually because of the president’s diagnosis of COVID-19.

“I’m not going to do a virtual debate” with Biden, Trump told Fox News, moments after the Commission on Presidential Debates announced the changes due to Trump’s diagnosis.

That cast serious doubts on whether the event will go forward, even as Biden’s campaign vowed that its candidate will participate.

“Vice President Biden looks forward to speaking directly to the American people,” deputy Biden campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said in a statement.

It is more evidence that the race remains defined by the virus, even as Trump has attempted to underplay it.

The announcement from the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates cited a need “to protect the health and safety of all involved with the second presidential debate.” The candidates will “participate from separate remote locations” while the participants and moderator remain in Miami, it said.

Read the full report here.

6:30 a.m. Alderman wants playgrounds to reopen — even if it means imposing capacity limits

The Chicago Park District would be mandated to open its playgrounds — even if it means imposing capacity limits — to give stir-crazy children studying remotely a place to let off steam, under an “order” introduced Wednesday by an influential alderman.

Lincoln Park Ald. Michele Smith (43rd), chairman of the Committee on Ethics and Government Operations, has been the City Council’s chief proponent of mask mandates.

In fact, the “order” she introduced at Wednesday’s Council meeting, would give the city’s Department of Public Health 30 days to “develop and implement a plan for uniform enforcement of the mask wearing requirement” including in its public health order, “including but not limited to” the issuance of fines.

But Smith said that does not mean Park District playgrounds can’t be safely re-opened.

“There’s really very scant evidence that kids playing on the playground with their hands cause problems. And we know that, all over the city, many parents are disregarding it. It really sends a bad message out to people,” Smith told the Sun-Times.

Read the full story by Fran Spielman here.


New cases

Illinois reported its largest number of new COVID-19 cases in over a month Wednesday as 2,630 more people tested positive for the deadly virus statewide.

The new cases were confirmed among 58,820 tests, raising the state’s average testing positivity rate over the last week to 3.5%.

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced Wednesday that the virus has killed 42 more residents, the second time in a week that the state’s daily death toll has surpassed 40 — following a stretch of more than three months without exceeding that mark.


Analysis & Commentary

7:54 a.m. Take it from a cattleman: That drug Trump took would make anybody feel ten feet tall

Back when I raised cattle, it was axiomatic: Never let a sick cow die without trying dexamethasone, the powerful steroid that persuaded Trump he was 10 feet tall and bulletproof. I’ve seen it bring animals too weak to stand back to their feet, although not for long, unless the underlying infection had been suppressed. It’s a stimulant, not a cure.

In humans, dexamethasone also has psychiatric side effects. (In cows, you can’t tell. Possibly Layla the abandoned twin calf imagined herself tyrant queen of the herd before disease carried her away. It’s impossible to know.) The most common problems in human subjects are irritability, aggression and what the drug label calls “psychotic manifestations.”

And wouldn’t that be wonderful?

That’s just one of the reasons nobody but Trump would have been released from the hospital before his treatment regimen was finished. If he weren’t going to a fully equipped White House medical clinic, that phalanx of white-jacketed physicians who staged press conferences outside Walter Reed would have been flirting with malpractice to let him check out.

Read the full column from Gene Lyons here.