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Coronavirus live blog, Sept. 19, 2020: Illinois adds 2,529 more coronavirus cases, but statewide positivity rate falls again

Here’s how COVID-19 impacted Chicago and Illinois on Saturday.

The state has averaged almost 2,000 new cases added per day this month. This is comparable to the peak month of May, but positivity rates have sunk across most of the state thanks to booming testing numbers. Chicago is at 4.9% positivity and all its surrounding regions are below 6%.

People are still angry at Gov. Pritzker about his prohibitions of high school sports this fall and are protesting in the city and suburbs.

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


6:30 p.m. Illinois adds 2,529 more coronavirus cases, but statewide positivity rate falls again

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks to medical personnel during a visit to a mobile COVID-19 testing station at Edward Coles School in the South Chicago neighborhood July 8. Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Public health officials on Saturday announced 2,529 more people have tested positive for COVID-19 across Illinois as the state’s average testing positivity rate took another encouraging step downward.

The latest daily caseload is the 12th highest reported throughout the six-month pandemic, but the positives were confirmed among what’s likely the biggest number of tests ever submitted to the Illinois Department of Public Health in a single day: 74,286.

As a result, the statewide testing positivity rate over the last week— the number experts use to gauge how rapidly the virus is spreading — dipped to 3.5%, the lowest it’s been since July 24.

Read the full story by Mitchell Armentrout here.

4:15 p.m. Delayed by the coronavirus, Big Ten announces third football schedule: Illini to open at Wisconsin, NU to host Maryland

The Big Ten’s third football schedule of the 2020 season is highlighted by Michigan-Ohio State on Dec. 12, the final day of the conference’s regular-season and the latest date the rivals have ever played.

The Big Ten released an eight-games-in-eight-weeks schedule on Saturday that will start the weekend of Oct. 24. Just three days ago, the conference reversed course and decided to play a fall football season after postponing on Aug. 11 because of concerns about COVID-19.

Read the full story here.

2:45 p.m. Suburban athletes show up for Let Us Play protest, but city turnout is small

Saturday’s Let Us Play protest at the Thompson Center was designed to be a show of force and numbers to put pressure on Gov. J.B. Pritzker to change his mind and allow all fall sports, especially football, to be played now instead of in the spring.

That isn’t how it turned out. An estimated 400-500 people showed up, the overwhelming majority wearing apparel from Lincoln-Way East, Loyola and Batavia. There wasn’t a single Chicago school with a significant presence. Brother Rice coach Brian Badke was on hand with three players and there was a coach or two in attendance from about 10 Public League teams.

Read the full story by Michael O’Brien here.

11 a.m. Democrats face quandary on coronavirus vaccine support as election nears

President Donald Trump is escalating his promise for a coronavirus vaccine before Election Day.

But across America, Democrats, independents and even some Republicans do not trust his administration to produce a safe and effective vaccine on such an aggressive timeline. Such hesitancy threatens to exacerbate the public health risk for millions of Americans whenever a vaccine is released.

With the Nov. 3 election fast approaching, Democratic officials face a delicate political challenge.

Should they attack Trump’s vaccine claims too aggressively, Democrats risk further undermining public confidence in a possible lifesaving medicine while looking as though they are rooting against a potential cure. But if they don’t push back, it makes it easier for Trump to use the real or imagined prospect of a vaccine to boost his reelection campaign.

Read the full story here.

10:05 a.m. Surge keeps going in RVs and camping during the coronavirus pandemic

There’s a campground, rather peculiarly, in downtown Gibson City in Ford County along Route 9. We pass it several times a year on our way to the whimsical Harvest Moon Twin Drive-In.

The campground has been busy. One night my wife and our daughter thought it was packed to capacity.

This year, this 2020, is different.

Something is happening with people, camping and RVs during the pandemic. Part is related to schooling and working remotely, part to staycations and part to safety.

Read the full story by Dale Bowman here.

8:15 a.m. ‘I guess they’re waiting for us to die’

Nearly 7,000 Chicago hotel workers who remain laid off due to the pandemic are at risk of losing their health insurance at the end of the month.

The Friday rally, which lasted roughly two hours, began at Daley Plaza before participants marched through downtown streets, then returned to the plaza. Chicago police officers blocked intersections for the parade of protesters as they paraded through the streets.

It’s difficult for workers to pay medical bills when it’s unclear when or if their jobs will return, said Sarah Lyons, spokeswoman for Unite Here Local 1.

A recent study by the Economic Policy Institute found that up to 12 million Americans may have lost their employer-sponsored health insurance during the pandemic. And almost half of the 16.9 million jobs in the U.S. hospitality sector were lost in March and April. As of September, more than a quarter of workers in that sector remain unemployed.

The hotels have not been paying their share of employees’ health care premiums since March, Lyons said — a position disputed by a Hyatt official.

Read more about how hotel workers are fighting for their health insurance.

New Cases

Analysis & Commentary

2:30 p.m. Remote learning compounds longstanding challenges facing bilingual students like me

Sometimes it’s difficult to consider being bilingual an advantage.

The road to achieving what is seen as a powerful skill leaves a mark. For a Mexican like me, it’s imposter syndrome.

Picture laughter erupting from a second grade class after a non-English speaker can’t respond to a question like, “Is your birthday coming up?” Or a 9-year-old practicing the word “world” for two weeks because it will come up in conversation some way or another. Seriously. Try it. Your tongue does about four movements for a word with one syllable.

Read the full column by Ismael Perez here.

7:47 a.m. Rosh Hashanah livestreamed in COVID-19 era

The Jewish year of ... checking ... 5781 begins at sundown Friday, and is a reminder that the Chosen People are not newcomers at celebrating holidays during hard times. As grim as the COVID pandemic has been, it doesn’t hold a candle to Babylonian captivity or Roman persecution, the Inquisition or the Holocaust.

Not yet, anyway.

The business of maintaining Jewish identity, already under siege by modern life, is complicated in the Plague Year of 2020 as Judaism celebrates Rosh Hashanah — literally, “head of the year” — and then atones for sins in the year to come at Yom Kippur nine days later.

“This is an interesting year, unlike any other,” said Rabbi Steven Lowenstein, whom I called because his synagogue, Am Shalom of Glencoe, is one of many streaming high holiday services.

Read the full column by Neil Steinberg here.