Coronavirus live blog, July 8, 2020: Trump should order nation to wear masks, Pritzker says

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

SHARE Coronavirus live blog, July 8, 2020: Trump should order nation to wear masks, Pritzker says

Another 980 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Illinois, health officials said Wednesday, marking the largest number of new cases reported during a 24-hour period in over a month.

The battle against the coronavirus pandemic is far from over. Here’s what happened in Chicago and Illinois as officials grappled with testing, school reopenings and other pandemic problems.


News

8:55 p.m. Pritzker says Trump should order nation to wear masks: ‘It’s not too late for the federal government to make an impact’

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker adjusts his face mask after a press conference in the Lawndale Plaza parking lot on the West Side, Wednesday afternoon, June 17, 2020.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Gov. J.B. Pritzker, an avid critic of President Trump and his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, called on the federal government Wednesday to require face coverings and to devise a national strategy to try to contain the virus that has killed more than 133,000 Americans.

“We need a national masking mandate. We instituted ours in Illinois on May 1, the first in the nation. And it aligns with our most significant downward shifts in our infection rate,” Pritzker said in testimony video streamed to the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security. “It’s not too late for the federal government to make an impact. In fact, it’s more important than ever.”

Pritzker is not the only governor to call for a national mask mandate. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has also done so. Trump does not wear a mask and has said it is a “voluntary” measure, despite health officials urging Americans to wear face coverings to try to contain the virus’ spread.

For months, Pritzker has been a frequent critic of Trump and the Republican president’s response to the coronavirus, both in national television appearances and in local news briefings. As the pandemic began to take its toll on the world and the country, the governor complained about Illinois having to secure its own tests and personal protective equipment to get ahead of the spread of the virus.

Read the full story by reporter Tina Sfondeles here.


7:16 p.m. Too early to tell whether CPS can safely reopen this fall, ex-U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says

Former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Wednesday it’s “too early to tell” whether the Chicago Public Schools can safely reopen this fall to in-classroom learning.

It all depends on whether Chicago adults behave responsibly or recklessly this summer to prevent a surge in coronavirus cases that mirrors what’s happening in nearly two dozen other states.

“We, as a country, haven’t taken the hard steps we need to open schools and to make things safe,” said Duncan, who spent more than seven years as CPS’ chief executive.

“What we as a country are willing to do — what small sacrifices we’re willing to make so our children can safely return to school this fall — that’s up to us. Schools systems can’t do this by themselves. They don’t live in a bubble.”

Those sacrifices?

“Wear a mask. Don’t hang out at the beaches. Don’t go to bars. Don’t go eat indoors at restaurants,” he said.

Read the full story from City Hall reporter Fran Spielman or listen to the full interview on “The Fran Spielman Show” podcast.

5:35 p.m. United Airlines might trim nearly half of U.S. employees

United Airlines said Wednesday up to 36,000 of its frontline U.S. employees, or about 45% of its domestic workforce, could lose their jobs Oct. 1.

The carrier said the affected employees will get a notice of what it called “involuntary furloughs” either from the company or a union representative. With the announcement, Chicago-based United becomes the first major U.S. airline to detail a massive downsizing due to the business decline related to the coronavirus.

The advisories are being given under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Act, or WARN, which requires a 60-day notice of large-scale layoffs or furloughs. United said not everyone who gets a notice will be forced out; complying with the WARN act gives the company the right to cut the workers if it must.

“We expect to offset these numbers through increased participation in new and existing voluntary programs as well as continued discussions with our union partners about creative ways to help reduce furloughs,” the company said. “Our primary goal throughout this crisis has been to ensure United — and the jobs it supports — are here when customers are flying again.”

Read the full story here.

3:40 p.m. State sees biggest daily spike in COVID-19 cases in a month as Pritzker beefs up mobile testing sites

Another 980 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Illinois, health officials said Wednesday, marking the largest number of new cases reported during a 24-hour period in over a month.

The Illinois Department of Public Health also reported another 36 deaths attributed to COVID-19, raising the state’s pandemic death toll to 7,099.

The 980 new cases is the most in a single day since June 5, the last time the state’s daily caseload hit four digits: 1,156.

During Illinois’ peak month of May, an average of about 2,172 people were testing positive for COVID-19 each day. That rate fell to about 764 new cases per day in June, and, a week into July, so far has risen slightly to about 781 cases per day.

Coronavirus test results have also been reported at a greater clip so far this month, though. The latest batch of cases were detected among 32,742 tests, the fourth highest total ever received by the state. The state has topped 30,000 daily tests nine times; it’s happened five of the first eight days in July.

Read the full story here.

3:14 p.m. President Trump threatens to cut federal aid if schools don’t reopen in fall because of coronavirus

Determined to reopen America’s schools, President Donald Trump threatened on Wednesday to hold back federal money if school districts don’t bring their students back in the fall despite coronavirus worries. He complained that his own public health officials’ safety guideline are impractical and too expensive.

Shortly afterward, Vice President Mike Pence announced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would be issuing new guidance next week “that will give all new tools to our schools.”

Despite Trump’s increased his pressure on state and local officials, New York City announced that most of its students would return to classrooms only two or three days a week and would learn online in between. “Most schools will not be able to have all their kids in school at the same time,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

For a nation that prides itself on its public school system, it’s a newly extraordinary situation in this pandemic-ridden year.

Read the full story here.

3 p.m. Berwyn to get biggest share of $51 million in federal funds Cook County is doling out to cover suburban COVID-19 expenses

More than 100 Cook County suburbs will receive roughly $51 million in federal relief dollars for personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer and other expenses related to the coronavirus, officials said Wednesday.

Of those municipalities, Berwyn will receive the most money. A total of $788,000 of the funding has been allocated to that western suburb.

The county received $429 million through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. Local units of government were then allowed to distribute the money to municipalities with fewer than 500,000 people.

Municipalities will only be able to use the funds for direct expenses related to the coronavirus, such as those associated with buying personal protective equipment. The cities and towns must submit their expenses to the county to be reimbursed for what they spend.

Read the full story here.

1:22 p.m. Scott County’s first COVID-19 case

Steve Granger, owner of Winchester Bowl.

Neal Earley/Sun-Times

To the degree that small, rural Scott County was known for anything to the rest of the state, it was for being the only Illinois county without a single case of COVID-19.

A few weeks ago, one guy even made the trip down from the Chicago area just to visit the last corner of Illinois that had been spared.

“He went and got his hair cut at the barbershop and walked around town,” said Steve Granger, who owns the bowling alley in the town of Winchester.

Scott County lost that distinction last week, when a 66-year-old woman was diagnosed with the virus and was reported to be recovering at her home.

But even with the news, little has changed in the central Illinois county of 4,951.

“Well everybody was disappointed because we kind of liked being the only county that didn’t have a case, a confirmed case,” said Rex McIntire, mayor of Winchester, the 1,458-population county seat. “But we kind of also knew it was just a matter of time, so no shock or anything.”

In fact, if anything has changed, it’s in the direction of reopening, along with the rest of the state.

Read reporter Neal Earley’s first report from Scott County here.

12:32 p.m. Lysol can kill coronavirus on surfaces, EPA says

Lysol is the first surface disinfectant approved by the Environmental Protection Agency to wipe out the coronavirus.

Two versions of the common household disinfectant spray were lab tested by the agency, which found they could kill the virus on surfaces, the EPA announced. Lysol Disinfectant Spray and Lysol Disinfectant Max Cover Mist can kill the virus in under 2 minutes, the agency found.

“The EPA’s approval recognizes that using Lysol Disinfectant Spray can help to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on hard, non-porous surfaces,” said Rahul Kadyan, executive vice president of hygiene for Lysol’s parent company Reckitt Benckiser in a statement.

“In the face of the pandemic, Lysol continues to work with a wide range of scientific and health experts to educate the public on the importance of hygiene.”

Read the full story here.

10:45 a.m. White Sox introduce fan cutout initiative to fill empty stands

There might not be fans in the stands but there could be faces in the crowd.

The White Sox announced a new initiative, called FANtastic Faces, allowing fans to buy a cardboard cutout of their likeness that will be displayed at Guaranteed Rate Field during the team’s first homestand against the Twins July 24-27.

Sales begin at 3 p.m. today on the White Sox’ web site. All proceeds go to White Sox Charities.

A limited supply of FANtastic Faces are available for $49 each. Fans can create their personal cutout by submitting a photo following the guidelines provided at whitesox.com/fantasticfaces.

Read the full story here.

10 a.m. Advocacy groups call on Pritzker to move some nursing home residents to hotels to ensure social distancing

Advocacy groups want Gov. J.B. Pritzker to transfer some nursing home residents to hotels to ease crowding and ensure social distancing at long-term care facilities.

The Institutional Rescue and Recovery Coalition, composed of several senior and disability rights groups, is calling for immediate action to prevent further spread of the coronavirus among vulnerable populations at nursing homes and long-term care facilities, which account for more than half of the state’s virus deaths.

It’s impossible to social distance when multiple people often share rooms at these facilities, said Becky Ozaki, health care and economic justice organizer with the Jane Addams Senior Caucus, a nonprofit that seeks economic, social and racial justice for seniors.

“Under this plan, people who don’t need high levels of care would be evacuated to hotels, many of which are empty right now,” Ozaki said.

The coalition held a virtual news conference Tuesday to discuss its proposed plan.

Read Mitch Dudek’s coverage of Tuesday’s news conference here.

8:04 a.m.Suburban movie theaters to temporarily close again after 3 weeks of social distancing

Suburban movie theaters in the Classic Cinemas chain, which reopened 11 days ago, will close again temporarily after the end of business on Thursday.

“Unfortunately, the lack of new movies and the extra costs have made our current business model unsustainable,” the company said in a statement Tuesday.

Classic Cinemas operates the York Theatre in Elmhurst, the Luxury 6 in North Riverside, the Charlestowne 18 in St. Charles, the Cinema 12 in Carpentersville, the Cinema 7 in Sandwich, the Elk Grove in Elk Grove Village, the Fox Lake in Fox Lake, the Paramount Theatre in Kankakee and the Woodstock in Woodstock, as well as locations in Beloit, Wisconsin, and Freeport.

Read the full story here by Darel Jevens.

6:40 a.m. Another PPE shortage? Protective gear for medical workers begins to run low again

The personal protective gear that was in dangerously short supply during the early weeks of the coronavirus crisis in the U.S. is running low again as the virus resumes its rapid spread and the number of hospitalized patients climbs.

A national nursing union is concerned that gear has to be reused. A doctors association warns that physicians’ offices are closed because they cannot get masks and other supplies. And Democratic members of Congress are pushing the Trump administration to devise a national strategy to acquire and distribute gear in anticipation of the crisis worsening into the fall.

“We’re five months into this and there are still shortages of gowns, hair covers, shoe covers, masks, N95 masks,” said Deborah Burger, president of National Nurses United, who cited results from a survey of the union’s members. “They’re being doled out, and we’re still being told to reuse them.”

When the crisis first exploded in March and April in hot spots such as New York City, the situation was so desperate that nurses turned plastic garbage bags into protective gowns. The lack of equipment forced states and hospitals to compete against each other, the federal government and other countries in desperate, expensive bidding wars.

In general, supplies of protective gear are more robust now, and many states and major hospital chains say they are in better shape. But medical professionals and some lawmakers have cast doubt on those improvements as shortages begin to reappear.

Read the full story here.


New cases


Analysis & Commentary

8:24 a.m. Trump runs foreign students out of the country in a desperate move to return to ‘normal’

We have one question about a Trump administration plan to force thousands of foreign college students to leave the country should their school go online because of COVID-19:

Why?

Why now, when dozens of states are seeing skyrocketing new cases of COVID-19 and colleges are struggling with how best to serve their students during this resurgent pandemic?

Why the rush? Why no advance warning? Why create even bigger problems for more than a million international students who already are struggling to carry on with their education in the United States in this time of global crisis?

Why is the Trump administration so eager to turn back smart and talented young people from around the world whose presence here only makes our campuses of higher learning, college towns and big cities more cosmopolitan, vibrant and diverse?

It’s not as if international students have been a burden. They pump an estimated $41 billion into the U.S. economy each year and support 458,290 jobs, according to NAFSA: Association of International Educators. In Illinois, 53,724 foreign students boost the economy by some $1.9 billion and support 25,855 jobs.

Read the full editorial here.

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