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Coronavirus live blog, Oct. 21, 2020: Illinois records 15th consecutive day with 2,000 or more new COVID-19 cases

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

Deaths from coronavirus may be on the rise again in Illinois.

Here’s what you need to know about Chicago and the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.


News

8:55 p.m. 69 more Illinois coronavirus deaths, most in a day since June

A staff member of Community Organized Relief Effort’s (CORE) teaches a person how to administer a COVID-19 mouth swab test in the parking lot of Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy in Little Village Thursday afternoon, Oct. 15, 2020
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The coronavirus claimed more lives than it has on any other day in Illinois over the past four months, as public health officials Wednesday attributed 69 additional deaths to COVID-19.

The previous high was 84 deaths recorded June 17, as the state was coming down from its initial peak of the pandemic.

More than 2,900 people have died with the virus statewide since then, and Illinois’ overall pandemic death toll stands at 9,345 with the state facing a “new wave” of surging coronavirus cases, according to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s health team.

“These figures represent lives, parents, grandparents, coworkers who will not be with us at Thanksgiving,” Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said Tuesday. “We have a deadly virus that is still prevalent throughout the state of Illinois. Let’s please get together, band together, because none of us can do this alone. individualism won’t get us through this pandemic.”

6:11 p.m. CTA to offer PPE vending machines at some L stations

In a move to keep its patrons stocked with defenses against the coronavirus, the Chicago Transit Authority will install vending machines with personal protective equipment for sale.

The vending machines will contain hand sanitizer, disposable face masks, sanitizing wipes and disposable gloves, the CTA announced Wednesday after the measure was approved by its board.

Six machines, expected to be installed later this year, will contain items that cost between $3.75 and $10.

Reporter David Struett has the full story.

4:05 p.m. Chicago Century Club cyclists celebrate community, Black-owned businesses

Chicago Century Club founder Xaver Walton wanted to start a bike club amid the COVID-19 pandemic with the purpose of changing the narrative surrounding Chicago’s marginalized communities.

“This past summer, I found some people riding bikes, and I did rides with them, and on Thursdays in the month of July and August I started putting together what we will call ‘unofficial rides’ with friends,” Walton said. “We were visiting different ice cream shops in the city of Chicago on Thursdays and Black-owned businesses.”

While the group’s membership rises by the week, Walton, an educator and AAU basketball coach, curates ride themes — cycling to the stadiums of Chicago’s six major sports teams, for example — with a central topic in mind: empowerment.

“I started thinking: ‘OK, this is good — I started getting a lot of people showing up, and then I came up with the idea at the beginning of August to see if people want to try to venture off and do 100-mile rides,” said Walton, who says the group has 103 members who’ve completed 100-mile rides. “To have seen so many people of color buy into it gives me chills.”

Read the full story here.

1:28 p.m. Lightfoot’s pandemic budget includes annual increase in property taxes tied to inflation rate

The city of Chicago’s 2021 Budget Overview and 2021 Budget Recommendations city on a desk in the Chicago City Council chambers shortly before Mayor Lori Lightfoot delivers the budget address at City Hall, Wednesday morning, Oct. 21, 2020.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Chicago homeowners and business owners struggling to hold onto their property will have to endure not only a $94 million property tax increase, but also an annual property tax hike every year forward tied to the rate of inflation.

That was among the unpleasant surprises Wednesday as Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s $12.8 billion “pandemic budget” for 2021 landed like a thud in an otherwise empty City Council chambers.

Lightfoot called the property tax increase “modest” in her prepared remarks.

“Some had predicted that this budget would be predicated on hundreds of millions of dollars in new property taxes. Not so. And for the average Chicago home valued at $250,000, you will pay just $56 additional dollars a year. That’s right, just $56 new dollars per year. “

Chicago aldermen weren’t in their seats to show their discontent. Who knows how they would have reacted to a budget that rivals former Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2015 plan to raise property taxes by $588 million for police and fire pensions and school construction?

“During this horrible pandemic, every time that we have shown strength as a city is when we have worked together as partners, making shared sacrifices and facing the challenges head on, together,” the mayor said in her prepared remarks.

The shutdown forced by COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the economy, creating an $800 million gap in this year’s budget and a $1.2 billion hole in the city’s 2021 budget.

Read the full story here.

11:35 a.m. Football players get a leg up from BOOM

Cameron Pickett is the kind of football player who could easily be overlooked by college recruiters.

He’s a junior wide receiver at Brooks, which finished 3-5 in the Public League’s Illini Heartland conference last season. The Eagles don’t play any suburban schools, though they did face two of the better city programs (Taft and Kenwood) last season.

But for Pickett to get his name out in the COVID-19 era — when summer college camps were canceled and CPS teams aren’t allowed fall contact days —he needed some help.

That’s where Midwest BOOM Football comes in.

“Since I go to a smaller profile CPS school, I get an opportunity to play against kids I wouldn’t be able to play in the (high school) regular season,” Pickett said. “Going with BOOM, it gives me an opportunity to get in more reps and keep perfecting my craft.”

Indeed. Since the 7-on-7 club’s founding nine years ago by three-time college All-American JR Niklos and Elliott Ivory, BOOM has emerged as the preferred destination for the area’s top college prospects. It offers the chance to compete against — and beat — teams from football hotbeds in the Sun Belt.

Read the full story here.

10:58 a.m. Chilly dinner: Indoor dining nixed in south, west suburbs as COVID-19 numbers rise — and temperatures drop

Inside dining was the norm Tuesday evening at Nando’s Peri-Peri Chicken in Naperville’s city center. Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced his public health team’s latest restrictions on establishments in Will, Kankakee, Kane and DuPage counties at a Tuesday afternoon coronavirus briefing.
Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Indoor service is being taken off the menu for bars and restaurants across many of Chicago’s south and western suburbs as COVID-19 testing positivity rates shoot up statewide.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday announced his public health team’s latest restrictions on establishments in Will, Kankakee, Kane and DuPage Counties beginning Friday — and warned such “mitigations” could be on tap for even more of the metro area if the coronavirus keeps surging past levels not seen in Illinois since mid-May.

“There is no easy fix for the effects of this virus on our economy and on our public health, but we can and we will manage through this,” the Democratic governor said during the first of his rebooted daily coronavirus briefings. Pritzker had put that practice on hold since the end of May, when infection rates were falling from the initial peak of the pandemic and Illinois was entering its third reopening phase.

“We are seeing a national surge of cases that is affecting every state around us in a dramatic way, and in Illinois we are seeing the numbers go up literally all across the state,” Pritzker said.

Read the full story here.

9:22 a.m. How ventilation and air filtration play key roles in preventing COVID-19’s spread indoors

How can you know whether going back to the office or putting your kids back in classrooms is safe? We asked experts how to improve indoor air quality and what questions to ask your boss or school administrator.

“Often, indoors, people are the source of contaminants,” says Dr. Shelly Miller, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Your chances of being infected depend on the size of the room and the number of people in it who might be infected with COVID-19.

“When they talk, talk loudly, when they breathe, small respiratory aerosols are released,” Miller says.

If you’re in a classroom, office or other enclosed space, these aerosols can build up over time.

“It’s like if you’re in a smoky bar,” Miller says. “When it opens, there’s not a lot of smoke. But the more people smoke, it becomes a cloudy room. You can think of virus being released like that.”

Read the full story here.


New Cases

The average statewide testing positivity rate climbed to 5.5% with the latest 3,714 new cases of the disease confirmed among 59,077 tests submitted to the Illinois Department of Public Health. That’s as high as it’s been since early June, and up from just 3.3% on Oct. 4.


Analysis & Commentary

9:26 a.m. No easy decisions about school, sports in pandemic, but students need seat at table

Let me start with this axiom: Nobody wants teenagers around.

Oh, we tolerate them and even cheer for them at certain times and events.

But do we want them hanging around with pals in our houses, malls, restaurants, backyards or basements?

Not a chance.

Now we can add schools to the places where teens aren’t wanted.

And there’s a simple reason nobody wants them hanging out: They’re not kids and they’re not adults, but they can cause kid trouble, do adult damage, make foolish decisions and reproduce.

And spread viruses.

Forget all the good things they can do.

I thought about this because I was particularly moved by a recent letter to the editor in the Sun-Times written by a 16-year-old girl named Tova Kaplan. She’s a student at Whitney Young.

In the letter, Tova decried the way teens and their opinions and needs are casually dismissed by city and state leaders who make all the plans during a crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘‘Any discussions on schools are held as if those schools are devoid of students, as if the only opinions that matter are those of parents, teachers unions, the school board and the governor,’’ she wrote.

Read the full column here.