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Coronavirus live blog, Oct. 24, 2020: Illinois shatters daily coronavirus case record again with 6,161 new infections

Here’s what we learned Saturday about the continuing spread of coronavirus and its ripple effects in Chicago and Illinois.

On Saturday, a record-shattering coronavirus case continued the recent upward trajectory of pandemic. Death tolls have been gradually increasing along with the surging cases. The state is averaging 42 deaths per day over the last week, double the rate this time last month.

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

News

9 p.m. Illinois shatters daily coronavirus case record again with 6,161 new infections

People get tested for COVID-19 at the drive-thru testing site at Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy, 2850 W. 24th Blvd., in Little Village, Thursday afternoon, Oct. 14, 2020. Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Illinois coronavirus resurgence took another severe, record-breaking step up Saturday as public health officials announced 6,161 more people have tested positive for the coronavirus statewide.

The stunning case count — which smashed Illinois’ previous daily record by more than 1,200 cases, set just two days earlier — was confirmed among 83,517 tests.

That means 7.4% of the latest tests submitted to the Illinois Department of Public Health came back positive, the highest proportion of infections confirmed in a single day since the beginning of June.

And it sent the statewide average seven-day testing positivity rate up half a percentage point to 6.1%. That number, which indicates how rapidly the virus is spreading, hadn’t topped 6% in over four months.

Read the full story here.

8 p.m. 18-year-old University of Dayton student from La Grange dies of COVID-19

A University of Dayton student from west suburban La Grange died Thursday of complications from COVID-19, according to the university.

Michael Lang, 18, was a first-year student in the College of Arts and Sciences and a graduate of Lyons Township High School. He left campus in Dayton, Ohio, on Sept. 13 to return home for remote learning, the university said in an email Friday to students, faculty and staff.

Read the full story here

6:45 p.m. Confirmed coronavirus infections are continuing to soar in many parts of the U.S. and Europe

Confirmed coronavirus infections continued to soar Saturday in many parts of the U.S. and Europe. In some cases, so did anger over the restrictions governments put in place to try to stem the tide.

Oklahoma, Illinois, New Mexico and Michigan were among states announcing new record highs in daily confirmed cases Saturday, a day after a nationwide daily record of more than 83,000 reported infections, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan’s chief medical executive, said it’s “now more important than ever that people take this seriously.” The 3,338 new COVID-19 cases in her state topped the old record by more than 1,300.

Read the full story here.

4 p.m. Surging coronavirus colors White House race in closing days

President Donald Trump assured supporters packed shoulder to shoulder Saturday that “we’re rounding the turn” and mocked challenger Joe Biden for raising alarms about the pandemic. Meanwhile, Biden bemoaned to a smaller gathering the need to campaign at a distance but said he understood the public health reasons behind it.

With coronavirus infections reaching their highest peak of the pandemic just as the election headed into the home stretch, Trump and Biden took starkly different approaches to the public health crisis in appealing for votes in battleground states.

Read the full story here.

12:43 p.m. If restaurants are COVID super spreaders, owners ask, where’s the proof?

Scott Weiner, who runs 20 restaurants in Chicago, feels like a scapegoat in a pandemic.

Like other operators, he sees a real possibility that the city’s bars and restaurants may be forced to completely shut down because of the rising number of COVID-19 cases. He’d also like to see proof that his businesses, which include Roots Handmade Pizza and West Town Bakery, are contributing to the problem.

“On top of poor data, you get the feeling people are making decisions without really knowing,” said Weiner, co-owner of the Fifty/50 Restaurant Group.

Government data are at the center of confusion about safety of restaurants and bars as coronavirus cases are on the rise. On Friday, a defensive Gov. J.B. Pritzker said “bars and restaurants are super spreader locations,” a term that makes those in the industry cringe because they say there is no conclusive proof. Pritzker has shut down indoor restaurant dining in DuPage, Kane and Will Counties as well as other parts of the state.

This week, the governor’s office provided a chart showing that in August and September 2,300 confirmed coronavirus patients had visited a restaurant or bar in the previous two weeks. While those establishments make up the largest category of places visited by those infected during that two-month period, the numbers don’t definitively say that those people contracted the virus at a specific bar or restaurant. State officials say one of the problems in compiling data is how hard it is to trace infections back to an exact location, an assertion also made by some local health departments.

Read the full story here.

10:55 a.m. Colleges scramble to help students adjust to COVID-19 restrictions

It’s a major life milestone, the first time many U.S. teens have ever been on their own. Even in normal times, freshman year in college can be a jumbled mix of anticipation, uncertainty and emotional highs and lows.

In these hardly normal times, when the quintessential college experience exists only in catalogs, freshmen are being challenged like never before.

Amid pandemic restrictions aimed at keeping students safe and healthy, colleges are scrambling to help them adjust. But many are struggling.

Social distancing requirements, mask mandates and daily temperature checks. Quarantine and isolation. Online learning glitches. Campus Black Lives Matter protests. Anxiety over whether to join partiers or hole up in dorm rooms or at home to stay safe.

This is freshman year 2020 for many college students nationwide.

“There is a lot of stress and distress among students now,” said Mary Ann Takemoto, interim vice president of student affairs at Cal State Long Beach near Los Angeles, where most classes are online.

Freshmen in particular “feel a little more fragile” than usual. “They feel overwhelmed by a lot of things going on as we approach this election. There’s this increasing national anxiety,’’ she said.

Read the full story here.

7:52 a.m. Land of tears: ‘Desperate’ Illinois health care workers ‘seeing history repeat itself’

Ugly case numbers, busy hospitals, shuttering businesses, mounting death tolls and a deadly virus traveling through the air from face to maskless face.

Seven months into the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s beginning to feel a lot like March again in the Land of Lincoln.

The state’s top doctor fought back tears Friday while making her most impassioned plea yet for residents to follow basic health guidelines as Illinois’ autumn coronavirus resurgence means many front-line health care workers “are seeing history repeat itself.”

“Excuse me, please,’ Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said, turning her back and pausing for nearly 40 seconds during the daily briefing, as Gov. J.B. Pritker and others offered her tissues.

Ezike apologized when she resumed, acknowledging the difficulty in running a race “when you can’t actually see the endpoint.”

“If you’re talking about COVID fatigue from having to keep wearing a mask, think about the COVID fatigue for health care workers, respiratory therapists, who are going to have to go through this whole episode again of trying to fight for people’s lives, because we couldn’t figure out how to control this virus by doing some of the simple measures that have been prescribed,” Ezike said.

Read the full story by Mitchell Armentrout here.


New Cases


Analysis & Commentary

7:55 a.m. The simple math of ‘excess mortality’ — this pandemic kills

Just how deadly is COVID-19?

The answer to that question should guide every decision our nation makes as to how to keep ourselves and others safe, yet it has proven maddeningly difficult to nail down and agree upon.

In part, the problem has been one of science. Estimated mortality rates from COVID-19 have been revised, up and down, as scientists and health professionals have collected and analyzed new data and devised better medical treatments.

The problem has also been one of politics. From the very beginning, there has been desire by many political leaders, mostly on the right and most obviously President Trump, to downplay the deadliness of the virus. They have found it more expedient to denigrate the science of the disease than to take the bold measures required — actions derided by anti-government conservatives and libertarians — to slow and contain the spread of the disease.

The basic argument made by those who seek to minimize the dangers of COVID-19 is that most people killed by the virus are quite old and already quite sick and on the verge of death anyway. And if a younger person who has the virus were to jump out of a plane and his parachute failed to open, the skeptics joke, some liberal doctor would record the cause of death as COVID-19.

Given this disagreement and doubt, it’s important to stress that there is, in fact, an emerging gold standard for measuring the deadliness of COVID-19 — something researchers call “excess deaths.” And by that sturdy standard, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control, the virus actually is more deadly than most news reports would suggest.

That’s a profoundly important message, from what traditionally has been one of our nation’s most trusted research institutions, at a time when rates of COVID-19 are surging again in the United States, including in Illinois.

Read the full editorial here.