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Coronavirus live blog for November 14, 2020: Virus claimed 166 more lives across Illinois as state’s severe flareup continues

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

Latest

Illinois coronavirus storm rages on: 166 more deaths, 11,028 new cases, hospitalizations climbing

The coronavirus has claimed 166 more lives across Illinois and 11,028 more people have tested positive amid the state’s severe COVID-19 flareup, public health officials announced Saturday.

That ended a four-day streak of record-breaking daily tallies, capped by Friday’s mammoth caseload 15,415, the highest reported by any state across the nation throughout the pandemic.

In a similarly slight potential sign of encouragement, the latest cases were detected among a record-high 114,370 tests submitted to the Illinois Department of Public Health, meaning that for the first time since Nov. 3, less than 10% of tests came back positive.

That lowered the average statewide testing positivity rate over the last week to 12.6%, though that number, which indicates how rapidly the virus is spreading, is still up from 4.6% a month ago.

Read the full story here.


News

2:16 p.m. How college students coming home at Thanksgiving can quarantine, keep families safe

Claire Daffada has her re-entry home from college in the age of COVID-19 all planned out.

The 20-year-old University of Wisconsin-Madison sophomore will be coming home to Evanston from a state facing a far worse spread of coronavirus so far than Illinois — with a 34.4% test positivity rate over the past week compared to 12.6% in Illinois and 14.1% in Chicago.

So, to keep her family safe just in case she’s been exposed and doesn’t know it, Daffada has begun hunkering down alone. And she plans to stay away from other people as much as possible until her dad comes to pick her up to come home for Thanksgiving.

She’s also planning to get tested — twice — before she leaves campus.

“I’m gonna lay low these two weeks before I go home,” says Daffada, who has managed to avoid the virus despite its spread on campus. “I’m escaping. I think I’m going to run out the clock.”

Read the full story here.

1:40 p.m. Biden faces challenging choice: back a short-term national lockdown or not

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden faces a decision unlike any other incoming president: whether to back a short-term national lockdown to finally arrest a raging pandemic.

For now, it’s a question the president-elect would prefer to avoid. In the week since he defeated President Donald Trump, Biden has devoted most of his public remarks to encouraging Americans to wear a mask and view the coronavirus as a threat that has no regard for political ideology.

But the debate has been livelier among members of the coronavirus advisory board Biden announced this week. One member, Dr. Michael Osterholm, suggested a four- to six-week lockdown with financial aid for Americans whose livelihoods would be affected. He later walked back his remarks and was rebutted by two other members of the panel who said a widespread lockdown shouldn’t be under consideration.

That’s a sign of the tough dynamic Biden will face when he is inaugurated in January. He campaigned as a more responsible steward of America’s public health than President Donald Trump is and has been blunt about the challenges that lie ahead for the country, warning of a “dark winter” as cases spike.

But talk of lockdowns are especially sensitive. For one, they’re nearly impossible for a president to enact on his own, requiring bipartisan support from state and local officials. But more broadly, they’re a political flashpoint that could undermine Biden’s efforts to unify a deeply divided country.

“It would create a backlash,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security who added that such a move could make the situation worse if people don’t comply with restrictions. “Lockdowns can have consequences that diminish the value of such an approach.”

Read the full story here.

1:38 p.m. Coronavirus ‘running rampant’ in Illinois with 15,415 new cases — most ever reported by any state in the U.S.

A test site worker gives instructions for the self test at the COVID-19 testing site at Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy at 2850 W 24th Blvd in Little Village, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Illinois reported more new coronavirus cases on Friday — 15,415 — more than any other state in the nation has ever logged in a single day throughout eight months of the pandemic.

The jaw-dropping count marked the fourth straight daily record-breaking rise in an exponential explosion of infections with COVID-19 “running rampant through our communities,” according to Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has not yet handed down a statewide stay-at-home order like the one that helped bend the curve of the springtime peak, but he’s suggested a new edict could come soon.

Either way, the only hope for Illinois to come down from its current “crisis level” is for residents to take precautions more seriously, the Democratic governor said.

“There’s got to be some personal responsibility that gets taken by not only people for wearing masks in their communities, and asking their neighbors and friends who are not wearing masks to wear them, but also the local leaders, as I’ve said, who are taking no responsibility,” Pritzker said. “That is the conspiracy that is working against the people of the state of Illinois.”

Read the full story by Mitchell Armentrout here.

7:55 a.m. Nursing home workers give notice: if no deal reached, they strike Nov. 23

Workers at 11 nursing homes in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs announced their strike date Friday afternoon as contract negotiation for hazard pay and improved working conditions have stalled in recent weeks.

About 700 workers at Infinity Nursing Homes voted to strike and will do so on Nov. 23 if an agreement isn’t reached before then.

Union members say the nursing home operators have refused to offer hazard pay and protect employees during the coronavirus pandemic. Workers gathered outside City View Multicare Center, 5825 W. Cermak Rd. in Cicero, which has had difficulties containing the spread of coronavirus.

“It is simply unacceptable for essential workers — who are serving on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic and risking our lives just by showing up to our jobs — to be asked to work for poverty wages,” said Shantonia Jackson, a certified nursing assistant at City View. “Infinity continues to put our residents and coworkers at risk by inconsistent testing for COVID-19 or just not releasing testing results in a timely manner.”

Read the full story by Manny Ramos here.


New Cases

  • Illinois reported more new coronavirus cases on Friday — 15,415 — than any other state in the nation has ever logged in a single day throughout eight months of the pandemic.
  • Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak on Friday said he has tested positive for COVID-19.
  • 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

10:13 a.m. What to do about colleges getting hammered by COVID-19

The news that the University of Illinois System stands to lose $270 million this year because of COVID-19 should come as no surprise.

The pandemic has pummeled every sector of the economy, with higher education no exception. Colleges and universities nationwide expect to lose up to $120 billion this year.

If there’s one place the burden of that financial hardship must not fall, though, it’s on the shoulders of middle-class families and young people in the form of ever-higher tuition bills.

The pandemic, truth be told, is forcing American higher education to reckon with a longstanding problem of escalating college costs. More than 40 million Americans were buried under $1.6 trillion in student loan debt before anyone ever heard of COVID-19.

There’s no quick fix. But responsibility for making higher education more affordable should fall squarely on the shoulders of the federal government and colleges and universities.

Read the CST Editorial Board’s story here.

8:01 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.