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Coronavirus live blog, Nov. 13, 2020: Illinois’ public health officials announce 15,415 more people have tested positive for COVID-19

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

Friday the 13th was anything but lucky for Illinois. The state broke another record high for the number of daily coronavirus cases.

Here’s what else happened Friday in coronavirus news.


News

8:55 p.m. Stay-at-home order looms as Illinois shatters record again with 15,415 more coronavirus cases

COVID-19 testing area at University of Chicago Hospital in March. Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

Illinois’ exponential coronavirus explosion took yet another record-breaking step up Friday as public health officials announced 15,415 more people have tested positive for COVID-19.

That’s almost 3,000 more infections than were reported a day earlier, and it’s the fourth straight day the state has reported an all-time high case count. Eight months into the pandemic, the state’s 25 highest daily caseloads have all come in the past four weeks.

The latest cases were confirmed among 106,540 tests submitted to the Illinois Department of Public Health, raising the average statewide testing positivity rate over the past week to 13.2%.

That number has almost tripled over the last month, suggesting the virus is spreading more rampantly than it has since the state weathered its first — much smaller — peak of the pandemic in mid-May.

While leaders in Chicago and suburban Cook County have issued stay-at-home advisories amid the violent viral flareup, Gov. J.B. Pritzker has said a full-on stay-at-home order for the entire state “seems like where we are heading.”

Read the full story here.


6:08 p.m. Illinois driver facilities closing through early December because of COVID-19

Illinois driver service facilities will close for weeks because of the worsening COVID-19 pandemic.

The facilities will close Nov. 17 and are expected to reopen Dec. 7, according to Secretary of State Jesse White’s office.

Expiration dates for driver’s licenses and ID cards have been extended to June 1 as a result of the ongoing coronavirus crisis, the office said.

Read the full report here.

3:11 p.m. UIC, DePaul halt in-person classes, but other Illinois colleges take different tack as coronavirus cases spike

Illinois colleges have opted to follow their own COVID-19 plans as the state’s caseload continues its meteoric rise.

This week the University of Illinois at Chicago and DePaul University chose to suspend in-person student activities, while the University of Chicago, Southern Illinois University Carbondale and the Universities of Illinois at Springfield and Urbana-Champaign will continue in-person activities under their individual protocols.

In an update shared by the University of Illinois at Chicago on Wednesday, the school announced that all in-person classes would be suspended by the end of this week and moved to online platforms until the end of the fall semester. The school had 135 employees and students test positive last week, according to its COVID-19 dashboard.

Reporter Adam Mahoney has the full story.

1:00 p.m. Chicago hospitals brace for biggest COVID-19 surge yet

Tents for expanded emergency admittance at the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Science at 1740 W. Taylor in the Illinois Medical District, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Chicago hospitals are preparing for an onslaught of COVID-19 cases amid predictions that a new surge is going to be bigger than any seen yet during the pandemic.

Hospitals are recruiting additional nurses, reconfiguring and adding spaces to separate a growing number of virus patients from others and, in some cases, frantically trying to prevent reaching capacity. Some are limiting procedures that aren’t urgent.

As of Tuesday, more than three quarters of the city’s 9,500 hospital beds were full, according to city figures. COVID patients are using nearly 20% of intensive care beds and more than 10% of the rest.

But that’s rising rapidly.

The hospital at University of Illinois at Chicago has seen its COVID cases jump from single digits late last month to more than 60 this week, said Susan Bleasdale, UIC’s chief quality officer and an infectious disease doctor. It’s a trend she worries will continue, overtaking a spring peak when the West Side hospital recorded 90 virus cases at one point. This week, the hospital reached its capacity.

“Our hospital is packed. Our emergency room is packed,” Bleasdale said. “We hit a point where we didn’t have any beds available.”

UIC is preparing to reactivate three outdoor tents as early as next week to handle almost 40 patients as hospital officials fear they’ll run out of room. The hospital is testing as many as 800 patients a day and seeing more than 20% positivity rates, higher than the city average, she said.

“I’m worried we’re going to see a much worse wave than before,” Bleasdale said.

Read the full story here.

12:28 p.m. FOP: City, CPD not doing enough to protect cops from COVID-19

The union representing rank-and-file Chicago police officers alleges the city and Chicago Police Department are endangering officers’ safety by disregarding COVID-19 protocols during training sessions.

In a court filing Thursday evening, the Fraternal Order of Police said officers who attend mandatory in-service training “have the potential of becoming superspreaders of the virus because the CPD is not taking the necessary precautions that have been issued by the city of Chicago Commissioner of Health to avoid a resurgence in community cases of the virus.”

The in-service training sessions — seminars in which departmental policies and procedures are reviewed — sometimes see as many as 40 officers sitting in close proximity to each other, with insufficient personal protective and sanitation equipment provided and face coverings not required, according to the FOP.

The FOP is asking U.S. District Judge Robert M. Dow, who oversees the CPD’s consent decree, to allow the union to intervene in the case because the in-service training protocols directly relate to several officer wellness provisions of the consent decree.

Read the full story here.

11:10 a.m. Stay-at-home advisory issued for Cook County as coronavirus cases surge

Cook County health officials on Friday issued a stay-at-home advisory urging residents to limit their activity as COVID-19 infections soar to record highs across Illinois.

The suburban guidance follows a Chicago advisory issued a day earlier by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, while Gov. J.B. Pritzker has said a full-on stay-at-home order for the entire state “seems like where we are heading.”

Cook County’s advisory, which takes effect at 6 a.m. Monday and lasts at least 30 days, cautions residents to “refrain from any nonessential activities and stay home.” Among the activities considered essential are work, school, coronavirus testing, getting a flu shot and shopping for groceries.

Read the full story here.

10:31 a.m. María Cerda, first Latina on Chicago Board of Education, dead of coronavirus at 86

In 1969, when María Cerda became the first Latino member of the Chicago school board, some news stories called the University of Chicago-trained social worker a “housewife” who would advocate for “Latin” students.

Mrs. Cerda not only lobbied fiercely for the Latino community, but she also adroitly navigated City Hall with her strategic alliances and powerful speeches.

Mayor Richard J. Daley put her on the Board of Education.

She was an early supporter of Harold Washington and sometimes warmed up crowds before his speeches. When he was elected mayor, he made her director of the Mayor’s Office of Employment and Training.

Mrs. Cerda died Sunday at Northwestern Memorial Hospital of complications from the coronavirus, according to her children Marta and David Cerda. She was 86.

Her daughter and her husband of 60 years, David Cerda, 93, who was the first Hispanic judge in Illinois and the first Hispanic judge on the Illinois Appellate Court, also have been infected.

“I have COVID, my father has COVID,” their daughter said. “So we have to do just an outside burial. It’s very sad that we can’t have a memorial right now. It is cruel.”

Read Maureen O’Donnell’s full story here.

9:09 a.m. Now-closed McCormick Place COVID-19 hospital cost taxpayers $15M to staff, run

As the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers raced to build a $66 million emergency COVID-19 field hospital inside McCormick Place last spring, state and city officials scrambled to find the staff, equipment and supplies to run it.

The tab for all of that was another $20.3 million, records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times show, though state officials say two vendors returned a total of $5.2 million of “unspent funds.”

That brought the total cost of building and staffing the short-lived, makeshift coronavirus hospital to about $81.1 million.

State and city officials say they expect most of the costs for the McCormick Place hospital to be covered by the federal government.

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency spent $19 million to staff and operate the hospital. City Hall put in another $1.3 million for materials and supplies.

The McCormick Place field hospital, built by Walsh Construction, one of Chicago’s most politically well-connected contractors, opened in mid-April. It was shut down only weeks later, on May 8, as the demand for hospital beds for coronavirus patients eased, and it was deemed by state and city officials to no longer be needed.

Read the full story here.


New Cases

  • Public health officials announced 12,702 more people have tested positive while hospitals across the state remain packed with the most COVID-19 patients they’ve ever seen.
  • Peter Giannikopoulos, one of the suitors vying for Tayshia Adams’ hand on the current season of ”The Bachelorette,” announced Tuesday that he had tested positive for COVID-19

Analysis & Commentary

10:29 a.m. He went to the hospital in the morning. By mid-afternoon, he was dead from COVID-19.

John Sprinkle of Evergreen Park observed his 36th birthday Nov. 4.

He didn’t celebrate because he had been feeling sick. But he went on Facebook the following day to thank everyone for wishing him well.

The next morning, having trouble breathing, he called 911 to take him to the hospital. He was able to walk to the ambulance and waved to a neighbor.

A couple of hours later, he texted his sister from the emergency room, saying he was feeling better.

At 3:38 that afternoon, Sprinkle was dead from acute respiratory failure caused by COVID-19.

Just like that.

The toll from the coronavirus pandemic is mounting again, much like it was in the spring, and I’ve decided to return to what I was doing then: telling the stories of the victims.

Read Mark Brown’s column here.

9:14 a.m. Should I or should I not get tested for COVID-19?

I have not.

I have not taken.

I have not taken a COVID-19 test.

I don’t know why that feels like a shameful confession.

Maybe it’s because so, so many people have died worldwide from this pandemic — 1.28 million according to the “Our World in Data” website.

Or maybe what I’m really feeling is survivor’s guilt.

I am, after all, in a group considered high-risk for catching the virus.

I’m Black. I’m a senior citizen. I have a compromised immune system.

Read Mary Mitchell’s full column here.