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Coronavirus live blog, Nov. 29, 2020: Weekend drop in COVID-19 cases attributed to low number of tests reported over the holiday weekend

Here’s Sunday’s news on how COVID-19 is impacting Chicago and Illinois.

Here’s what happenened in the fight against the coronavirus in Chicago, the state and the nation.

News

9 p.m. Illinois records 7,178 new coronavirus cases as testing numbers dip over holiday weekend

Marianne Corrieri-Alaniz, a registered nurse at Rush University Medical Center, collects her own nasopharyngeal swab sample to test for the coronavirus for routine asymptomatic testing at the hospital’s drive-thru testing site.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

State health officials on Sunday announced 7,178 new and probable COVID-19 cases and another 57 virus-related deaths, marking the third consecutive day Illinois — which had been averaging 11,045 new cases this month — recorded a caseload fewer than 8,000.

This weekend’s drop in new cases can mostly be attributed to the relatively low number of coronavirus tests that have been reported to the Illinois Department of Public Health over the holiday weekend.

The new cases — which was the smallest daily caseload recorded in Illinois in more than 3 1⁄2 weeks — were found among a batch of 62,740 tests processed in the last day, the least amount of tests recorded in 24 hours since Oct. 27.

Illinois’ seven-day statewide positivity rate is the lowest it’s been in nearly three weeks. As of Sunday, that figure, which experts use to gauge how rapidly the virus is spreading, checked in at 10.1%, down from 11.3% last week.

Meanwhile, statewide hospitalizations have slowly trended downward over the last nine days after the state peaked with 6,175 occupied beds Nov. 20. As of Saturday night, 5,858 people were hospitalized in Illinois with COVID-19, with 1,185 of those patients in intensive-care units and 723 on ventilators, officials said.

Read the full story here.

3:53 p.m. Hurt by pandemic, local retailers say shopping local this season more important than ever

Small business owners feeling the pain of the pandemic in their bottom lines say it’s never been more important to shop local this holiday season.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are considered the biggest shopping events of the year for big-box and online retailers, but local entrepreneurs look forward to the day wedged between the two — Small Business Saturday.

The event encourages shopping local and supporting independent operations, and it’s usually one of the busiest days of the year for these retailers.

While the day is important, local business owners said they were counting on strong sales all season to help them survive in a marketplace where everything has changed.

Scott Starbuck, who opened City Soles in Wicker Park in 1995, said sales at his shoe store were down exponentially because of the coronavirus — and he worries they won’t be bouncing back soon.

“We won’t even be able to see recovery until a vaccine [is available] and we can say things like, ‘Socially distancing was so last year,’” said Starbuck, who imports his footwear from Europe and South American and also sells jewelry and other handmade goods from local artists.

Read the full story from Madeline Kenney here.

11:49 a.m. Dr. Anthony Fauci expects social distancing recommendations to stand through Christmas

The nation’s top infectious disease expert said Sunday that the U.S. may see “surge upon a surge” of the coronavirus over the coming weeks, and he does not expect current recommendations around social distancing to be relaxed before Christmas.

“When you have the kind of inflection that we have, it doesn’t all of a sudden turn around like that,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told ABC’s “This Week.” “So clearly in the next few weeks, we’re going to have the same sort of thing. And perhaps even two or three weeks down the line ... we may see a surge upon a surge.”

Fauci also appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” where he made similar remarks, adding that it’s “not too late” for people traveling back home after Thanksgiving to help stop the spread of the virus by wearing masks, staying distant from others and avoiding large groups of people.

“So we know we can do something about it, particularly now as we get into the colder season and as we approach the Christmas holidays,” he said.

The number of new COVID-19 cases reported in the United States topped 200,000 for the first time Friday. The highest previous daily count was 196,000 on Nov. 20, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Read the full story here.

9:32 a.m. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart tests positive for coronavirus

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart is at home recovering after testing positive for COVID-19, his office announced Saturday.

Dart last worked Nov. 19, began feeling symptoms the next day and then immediately self-quarantined, according to a statement from Dart’s office.

He was tested Tuesday and received results Friday confirming he had contracted the virus, the sheriff’s office said.

Dart remains symptomatic and is under the care of a physician while recovering at home, the sheriff’s office said. He is unsure how he was infected.

Read the full story here.


New Cases


Analysis & Commentary

10:29 a.m. Making the case for standardized school tests, even during a pandemic

To test or not to test during a pandemic?

School districts in Illinois and across the country are waiting to learn whether states will be allowed to request waivers from federally mandated standardized tests next spring because of COVID-19.

Waivers, to our thinking, would be the wrong move. The next U.S. secretary of education, in the incoming Biden administration, should say no to the idea, something a handful of states already have done.

We understand the arguments against administering standardized tests as usual during a year that has been anything but usual. The essence of the criticism, principally made by national teachers unions and anti-testing advocates, is that it would be a logistics nightmare for schools to test students in-person during a public health crisis.

And given the well-documented shortcomings of remote learning, a severe lack of actual learning likely would be revealed in plummeting — and perhaps unreliable — test scores.

“The vast majority of parents and teachers think it’s ridiculous to believe that you can get meaningful results from a standardized test in the middle of a pandemic,” as Bob Schaeffer of FairTest, a national organization that has raised questions in general about high-stakes testing, told Politico recently.

Read the full column from the CST Editorial Board here.

9:14 a.m. COVID-19 forces the question: How can we keep from warehousing the elderly?

Every once in a while, the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, says something I absolutely agree with.

At the beginning of the pandemic, he went on and on about how every human life matters. I prayed: If he means this, maybe we can see that reflected in our politics. As it happens, with all the death this year, my friends in the religious order Sisters of Life tell me that some pregnant women are rejecting abortion because the last thing we need is more death.

Wouldn’t a newfound commitment to protecting human life be something healthy to come from the COVID-19 ordeal?

But we seem to be heading in the wrong direction.

The Associated Press recently reported on the staggering number of Americans dying in nursing homes during the pandemic, not just from the coronavirus, but from neglect.

“As more than 90,000 of the nation’s long-term care residents have died in a pandemic that has pushed staffs to the limit,” the AP reports, “advocates for the elderly say a tandem wave of death separate from the virus has quietly claimed tens of thousands more, often because overburdened workers haven’t been able to give them the care they need.”

Read the full column here.