Coronavirus live blog, July 19, 2020: Illinois sees dip in COVID-19 cases Sunday after recent rise

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Illinois’ daily COVID-19 case count dips below 1,000 for first time in four days


Workers check in residents at a mobile COVID-19 testing site in Chicago last month.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Illinois saw its daily COVID-19 case count dip below 1,000 for the first time in four days on Sunday, marking the end of the longest stretch of four-digit daily caseloads since a peak month of May.

Health officials announced another 965 people tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the state’s total to 161,575 cases, though the vast majority have since recovered with Illinois boasting a 95% recovery rate.

While the daily case count did decrease from the previous few days, the state also received nearly 14,000 fewer test results than the previous day.

The new cases were confirmed among the latest batch of 32,113 test results reported to the Illinois Department of Public Health, for a daily positivity rate of 3%. In each of the past three days, Illinois processed more than 40,000 tests, including a record-setting batch of 46,099 test results Saturday.

In total, Illinois has performed more than 2.24 million tests over the last four months.

Read the full story here.


5 p.m. ‘A dangerous environment’: As churches reopen, coronavirus outbreaks are sprouting and some are keeping doors shut

At a church in Sacramento, California, that has been closed for in-person services since March, congregants occasionally still stop by to pray outside and try to capture a sense of fellowship they dearly miss.

In Nashville, Tennessee, the pastor of an Anglican church has been handing out Communion in the parking lot for weeks.

South of Atlanta, the animated pastor of a 3,000-member congregation tries to summon every ounce of enthusiasm in his body to deliver a lively, music-filled service in front of a live audience of no one, hoping his message and spirit come through on various technology platforms.

None of those are ideal options, but they beat becoming the source of an outbreak of COVID-19.

Almost 40 places of worship and religious events have been linked to more than 650 U.S. cases of the coronavirus since the pandemic began, according to tracking by the New York Times. Along with the nationwide surge in infections that has followed the loosening of restrictions aimed at combating the virus, outbreaks connected to churches have sprouted at several spots.

Read the full story from USA Today here.

1:51 p.m. How COVID-19 spread through one U.S. immigration facility

SAN DIEGO — Gregory Arnold walked into the warden’s office April 1 as the novel coronavirus ripped through one of the largest immigration detention centers in the United States. Waiting with about 40 guards to begin his shift, he heard a captain say face masks were prohibited.

Incredulous, he and a guard who recently gave birth wanted to hear it from the boss. Arnold told Warden Christopher LaRose that he was 60 years old and lived with an asthmatic son.

“Well, you can’t wear the mask because we don’t want to scare the employees and we don’t want to scare the inmates and detainees,” Arnold recalls the warden saying.

“With all due respect, sir, that’s ridiculous.” Arnold retorted.

He said he wanted to wear a mask and gloves, and “everyone else should be doing the same.” But the warden was unmoved. And in the weeks that followed, Otay Mesa Detention Center would see the first big outbreak at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s 221 detention centers.

The origins of the outbreak are uncertain, but accounts of workers and detainees reveal shortcomings in how the private company that manages the center handled the disease: There was an early absence of facial coverings, and a lack of cleaning supplies. Symptomatic detainees were mixed with others.

Read the Associated Press’ full story here.

9 a.m. As COVID-19 cases surge, election officials scramble to find poll workers

Governments across the country are scrambling to find people to staff polling places for the presidential election this fall as the coronavirus sows doubt about how safe it will be to cast a ballot in person and thins out an already scarce pool of workers.

Recruitment efforts are increasingly targeting younger people, who are less at risk of developing serious illness from the virus, as officials and advocates aim strategies toward professional associations, students and sports teams to make sure election sites stay open. Still, a big unknown remains.

“Everything having to do with this election will be determined by where we are with the virus, and obviously, indicators are not very encouraging,” said Neil Albrecht, former executive director of the Milwaukee election commission, which had worker shortages and was forced to shutter all but five of the city’s 180 polling places earlier this year.

Experts say finding enough poll workers is always difficult, even when there isn’t a pandemic killing thousands of people, forcing widespread shutdowns and spawning a series of evolving safety rules. Normally, long hours, low pay and lots of stress might keep folks away. Now add face shields, protective barriers and fears of getting sick.

More than two-thirds of poll workers are over age 61, putting them at higher risk of the COVID-19 disease. Scores of workers dropped out during this year’s primary season, taking with them decades of experience as the pandemic stifled efforts to train replacements.

Read the full story from AP here.

7:15 a.m. Next year’s Cubs Convention canceled due to coronavirus-related uncertainty

The 2021 Cubs Convention is kaput, the latest event to be canceled because of the coronavirus.

It was to be held Jan. 15-17 at the Sheraton Grand Chicago. Those dates get wiped away like so many others throughout the sports world have been.

“Pain and torture,” Cubs vice president of communications Julian Green said.

That was a reference to the one-thing-after-another experience lately of being a fan who can’t go to a game at Wrigley Field, can’t look forward to convention tickets going on sale in August, can’t enjoy their team as usual.

Read the full story from Steve Greenberg here.

7 a.m. Stimulus checks for kids? Country Time launches bailout fund for lemonade stands closed due to COVID-19

Here’s another “business” struggling because of the coronavirus pandemic: kids’ lemonade stands.

According to lemonade brand Country Time, the popular summertime fixtures in neighborhoods across the nation are closed “due to social distancing guidelines.”

So, Country Time has launched the “Littlest Bailout Relief Fund” to help put a “little juice back into the economy.” 

The brand owned by Kraft Heinz announced in a news release that it will send stimulus checks to kids who can’t operate their lemonade stands this summer.

Read more about the promotion here.

New cases

  • Yoan Moncada rejoins White Sox after testing positive for coronavirus.
  • Boxer Tom O’Shea, a beloved Chicago high school teacher and coach who sent three boxers to the 1996 Olympics, has died of COVID-19. He was 81.
  • 1,276 new Illinois coronavirus cases, 18 more deaths on Saturday.

Analysis & Commentary

4:30 p.m. Even with patrons spaced far apart, moviegoing feels safe and communal

The world has been turned upside down.

A global crisis has resulted in millions taking ill and hundreds of thousands of dying. When a child coughs in the kitchen, the adults in the room share terrified glances: Is it serious? A father driving with his family issues a command: “Masks on!” Even our national games have been affected. In the middle of the summer, the New York Yankees are playing in front of about 54,000 fewer people than would normally be in attendance.

Sounds like snippets of our real-life world in 2020 — but in fact everything I’ve described is playing out in breathtaking 70mm in the main theater of the iconic Music Box Theatre in Lake View, which is open for limited capacity, social distance screening.

Over the last 126 days, I’ve watched more than a hundred films and streaming releases for review — but all at home. The last time I screened a film in a public environment was on March 10: the forgettable Vin Diesel actioner “Bloodshot” at the Navy Pier IMAX. I’m breaking the streak with a Saturday afternoon screening of “Interstellar,” Christopher Nolan’s beautiful, sprawling, ambitious, sentimental and sometimes insanely ludicrous sci-fi epic about a NASA pilot named Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) who leads a team of researchers across the galaxy and through a wormhole in search of an inhabitable planet that could be the new home for humankind.

Read the full column from Sun-Times film critic Richard Roeper here.

6:45 a.m. Growing my own food in the times of COVID

The garden hoe, hoe, hoe . . .

Raspberries in the time of COVID.


Sprouting from the sun belt in my backyard garden, a five-foot tall patch of blood-red raspberries was proof I’d dug a safe anti-virus haven for myself.

But as the purple irises, pink climbing roses and Virginia bluebells gave way to pastel pink astilbes, buzzing bee balm and God knows whatever else I obsessively tossed into my crazy lady backyard, the call of the wild whispered in my ear.

It spit: “Forget the flowers, toots!”

It asked: “What about the climbing cucumber, acidic home-grown tomato, slender green bean and splendid baby zucchini?”

It advised: “Get a grip! Grow what you eat!”

Read the full column by Michael Sneed here.

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