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Coronavirus live blog, Oct. 12, 2020: Illinois records ninth straight day of at least 2,000 new positive COVID-19 cases

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

Illinois’ seven-day positivity rate — the metric by which health experts measure the virus’ spread — increased Monday, this time to 4.3%, the highest it’s been in a month. On Oct. 3, the state’ positivity rate was 3.3%.

The coronavirus pandemic isn’t over yet. Here’s what else happened in COVID-related news in Chicago and around the state.


News

8:57 p.m. 13 more deaths, 2,742 new cases reported as Illinois’ coronavirus positivity rate ticks upward

Access Family Health Center in Englewood started providing coronavirus testing in May. Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

State health officials announced Monday another 2,742 people in Illinois had tested positive for COVID-19, with 13 more dying of the virus.

Meanwhile, the state’s seven-day positivity rate — the metric by which health experts measure the virus’ spread — has again increased, this time to 4.3%, the highest it’s been in a month. On Oct. 3, the state’ positivity rate was 3.3%.

Monday was the ninth consecutive day in which the Illinois Department of Health reported at least 2,000 new positive cases, though the state’s testing capacity has increased. In the last month, the state has administered more than 1.7 million tests, with more than 47,000 tests given Sunday.

Of the 13 new deaths, according to IDPH, four occurred in Cook County. The deceased were two men and two women who ranged in age from their 50s to their 70s.

Since the outbreak began, 8,997 Illinois residents have died of the virus with more than 321,000 Illinoisans testing positive. The recovery rate for Illinois coronavirus patients is 96%. Most who contract it show mild or no symptoms.

Read the full story here.


6:18 p.m. ‘Splatter Theater,’ though online this year, will not skimp on gore

The flagship show of the Annoyance Theatre, “Splatter Theater,” won’t be drenching any stages with blood this Halloween season. Instead, the long-running North Side horror spoof will be dirtying people’s homes.

The key gimmick of “Splatter Theater” is its lavish use of stage blood, which drenches the walls and the performers as characters are slashed, stabbed and disemboweled.

With indoor stage productions all but prohibited by the city’s COVID-19 restrictions, the Annoyance has moved the show online but promises to keep the gore abundant.

Actors across the country will be performing live from their homes — some with white walls and white costumes, the better to accentuate the splashes of crimson. Taped video segments will amplify the carnage.

Darel Jevens has the full story.

4:09 p.m. Confidential coronavirus outbreak data shows thousands of undisclosed incidents across Illinois

Like many Midwestern states, Illinois has struggled with rising coronavirus cases and death counts recently, surpassing 300,000 confirmed cases this month and recording its highest daily death count since late June on Friday.

Public health officials issued a “warning list” for 28 Illinois counties at risk for coronavirus surges and blamed, in part, businesses who were “blatantly disregarding mitigation measures, people not social distancing, gathering in large groups and not using face coverings.”

Now, confidential statewide coronavirus outbreak data, obtained by the Documenting COVID-19 project at the Brown Institute for Media Innovation as part of a collaboration with the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, shows workplace, school and prison outbreaks are driving the increases – and that many of these outbreaks have never been made public.

The Illinois Department of Public Health, citing a state communicable disease code, does not release details about where many outbreaks have occurred, limiting its disclosures to long-term care and assisted living facilities. Separately, the Illinois Department of Corrections and some county health departments regularly release numbers of infected inmates and prison staff.

But the internal statewide data we obtained – prepared by the state health department and covering four different dates between July and September – gives detailed information and case counts for nearly 2,600 separate outbreaks across Illinois.

“Even though they are close to it, sometimes the infected don’t know that there’s an outbreak where they work. It’s a problem,” said Dr. Michael D. Cailas, an associate professor of occupational and environmental health sciences at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, who reviewed the confidential state data for this story. Cailas, who has mapped Chicagoland long-term care outbreaks, added that many of the workplace outbreaks in Illinois are simply “not known” to the public.

Read the full story here.

3:08 p.m. ‘It’s scary’ — Bears take precautions after COVID-19 case

Two days after practice squad offensive lineman Badara Traore tested positive for the coronavirus, coach Matt Nagy said he’s trying to go “above and beyond” to ensure the Bears don’t become the NFL’s next outbreak epicenter.

By changing Monday’s practice to a walk-through, Nagy was able to leave his entire 15-man practice squad — whose role is to mimic the upcoming opponent in full practices — at home. He expects them to return Wednesday, provided the team doesn’t produce another positive test by then.

No Bears player has tested positive since Traore — whose sample was collected Friday — did.

‘It’s scary,” receiver Allen Robinson said Monday. “All you can kind of do is keep your fingers crossed that this is the last and only person.”

Bears players had the weekend off, but Nagy communicated with them through a team phone app and a during a Zoom meeting on Sunday night. There, he reiterated the words of Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s Chief Medical Officer, who encourages players to wear masks and to act selfless, not selfish, when away from the team facility.

Read the full story here.

2:27 p.m. Alderman wants to review city’s ad contracts with JC Decaux

Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) is demanding a review of the city’s advertising contracts with JC Decaux — including bus shelters, electronic billboards and myriad ads at O’Hare and Midway airports — to improve the logistical and financial terms for Chicago taxpayers.

Reilly said the “unprecedented financial crisis” triggered by the coronavirus is one reason for City Council hearings on all three long-term contracts with the French advertising giant.

Another: It’s “virtually impossible to move” bus shelters and advertising panels installed by JC Decaux without paying a “relocation fee” of up to $100,000. He called those terms “insane.”

“We’re facing an enormous fiscal challenge next year. … We need to re-examine contracts like these to make sure they are truly serving the public interest and Chicago taxpayers,” Reilly wrote in an email to the Sun-Times.

“The City Council must leave no stone unturned in an effort to shield city taxpayers from additional pain at a time when our local economy has been crippled by the pandemic. The Department of Finance and company representatives should … update us on the terms of their contract, discuss operational failures and challenges and ... allow aldermen the opportunity to ask questions about the contract and suggest improvements.”

Read the full story here.

2:00 p.m. Illinois’ positivity rate still rising; 9 deaths, 2,727 new coronavirus cases announced

A person conducts his own COVID-19 mouth swab test at Community Organized Relief Effort’s (CORE) COVID-19 testing facility at Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy in Little Village Friday afternoon, Sept. 4, 2020.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Illinois’ average positivity rate continued to rise Sunday as health officials announced another 2,727 people have tested positive for the coronavirus.

The Illinois Department of Public Health also reported nine more deaths attributed to COVID-19, raising the state’s pandemic death toll to 8,984.

Saturday marked the first time in a month the state’s seven-day positivity rate has hit 4%. That figure, used by health officials to gauge how rapidly the virus is spreading, rose to 4.2% Sunday — nearly a full percentage point more than last week. On Sunday, Oct. 4, the state’s seven-day positivity rate was 3.3%.

Illinois has reported some of its highest daily case totals of the entire seven-month pandemic over the last week, with Sunday marking the eighth day this.month the state has recorded 2,000-plus cases. However, that rise can be attributed to the state’s increase in testing capacity. Over the last 30 days, Illinois has administered more than 1.675 million tests, including 64,047 tests processed in the last day.

Read the full story here.

12:11 a.m. Technical problems arise as early voting begins in Georgia’s most populous county

ATLANTA — Long lines of people eager to cast ballots formed as early in-person voting began in Georgia on Monday, and problems soon developed in the state’s most populous county.

Election officials in Fulton County were aware of an issue with the electronic pollbooks used to check voters in at State Farm Arena, where the Atlanta Hawks NBA team plays, county spokeswoman Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez said.

The line began moving when the arena opened for voting at 8 a.m. and some voters were able to cast their ballots, but things ground to a halt a short time later when the pollbooks stopped working with hundreds of people waiting. By mid-morning, the problem appeared to have been resolved and the lines had cleared at the arena, which is the largest early voting site in the state with 300 voting machines.

“We’re disappointed that it happened,” Hawks CEO Steve Koonin told reporters, but he noted that there are still plenty of early voting days left.

Some people lined up before dawn to be among the first to participate in early in-person voting, which runs through Oct. 30 in Georgia. Turnout also may have also been boosted because Monday is a federal holiday, so more people are off work.

Read the full story here.

11:52 a.m. Underground insulin exchanges emerge as workers lose jobs, insurance co-pays fall short

DENVER — D.j. Mattern had her Type 1 diabetes under control until COVID-19’s economic upheaval cost her husband his hotel maintenance job and their health coverage. The 42-year-old Denver woman suddenly faced insulin’s exorbitant list price — anywhere from $125 to $450 per vial — just as their household income shrank.

She scrounged extra insulin from friends, and her doctor gave her a couple of samples. But, as she rationed her supplies, her blood sugar rose so high that her glucose monitor couldn’t even register a number. In June, she was hospitalized.

“My blood was too acidic. My system was shutting down. My digestive tract was paralyzed,” Mattern said, after three weeks in the hospital. “I was almost near death.”

So she turned to a growing underground network of people with diabetes who share extra insulin when they have it, free of charge. It wasn’t supposed to be this way, many thought, after Colorado last year became the first of 12 states — including Illinois — to put a cap on the co-payments that some insurers can charge consumers for insulin.

But, as the coronavirus pandemic has caused people to lose their jobs and health insurance, demand for insulin sharing has skyrocketed. Many who once had good insurance are now realizing the $100 cap for a 30-day supply is just a partial solution, applying only to state-regulated health plans.

Read the full story here.

9:32 a.m. ‘Totally Under Control’: A no-nonsense look at how COVID-19 ran amok in the U.S.

“We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”– President Donald Trump, responding to a question about the novel coronavirus in an interview with CNBC on Jan. 22.

The doctors and the science and the irrefutable timeline carry the day in Alex Gibney’s how-did-we-get-here pandemic documentary “Totally Under Control,” but the stories of the Mask Man and the Volunteer are equally valuable, equally infuriating, equally … ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

The Mask Man is Michael Bowen, a onetime Donald Trump supporter and the owner of Prestige Ameritech, a large medical supply company in Texas, who last January began sending out e-mails to top administrators offering to ramp up production on N95 masks in anticipation of demand that would occur with the inevitable spread of COVID-19. The response: crickets. Day after day, time after time, Bowen tried to find SOMEBODY at the Dept. of Health and Human Services to listen to him, but his overtures were ignored.

Cut to footage of health care workers on the front lines of the pandemic, improvising masks, making “Hazmat Suits” out of lawn garbage bags. Later, we see Bowen choking up as he laments how many lives might have been saved if someone had listened to him.

Read the full story from Richard Roeper here.

8:55 a.m. Runners participate virtually in Chicago Marathon amid pandemic

There was no clamoring at the start line Sunday morning for 43rd annual Chicago Marathon.

It had been canceled in June in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

Instead, the storied race that typically starts downtown and snakes through some of Chicago’s neighborhoods was relegated to the digital realm. While some runners still took to the streets, many others tackled the 26.2-mile challenge elsewhere and shared their experiences on social media.

“I am sad that we cannot be together in person, but I am inspired by your determination to cross your own finish line, and I am grateful that we can stay together virtually,” Carey Pinkowski, executive director of the marathon, said in a tweeted statement on Sunday.

Despite the official race being nixed, participants could still purchase packages that included medallions and personalized bibs. What’s more, a makeshift “start line” was set up near Monroe Street and Columbus Drive. And the Chicago Area Runners Association also designated four spots along the lakefront trail to offer participants support and fluids as they trotted past.

Read the full story here.


New cases

Illinois’ average positivity rate continued to rise Sunday as health officials announced another 2,727 people have tested positive for the coronavirus.

The Illinois Department of Public Health also reported nine more deaths attributed to COVID-19, raising the state’s pandemic death toll to 8,984.


Analysis & Commentary

8:58 a.m. We young people have been devastated by COVID-19

Tova Kaplan of Lincoln Park writes:

It is no secret that COVID-19 has had a devastating impact. Young people have been especially crushed, since schools and youth programs were among the first places to close, and the last to reopen.

For our whole lives, young people have been told to look forward to certain experiences — prom, sports events, graduation, college — that we may now never get the chance to have. These are pivotal milestones. You are only a teen for so long, and then you never have the chance to be one again.

Young people have also had to deal with terrible mental health outcomes, social isolation, lost jobs, even lost parents, and heartbreaking pessimism as we realize that the adults we rely on have failed us.

Yet despite this disproportionate impact, young people have been sidelined in crucial conversations about the pandemic.

Read this and more letters to the Sun-Times editors here.