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Coronavirus live blog for November 15, 2020: Statewide COVID-19 outbreak continues with 10,631 new cases Sunday

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

The latest

Illinois’ fall COVID-19 surge continues as state announces 10,631 new cases, another 72 deaths

A worker tests a resident at a drive-up COVID-19 test site on November 13, 2020 in Aurora, Illinois.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Illinois surpassed 10,000 coronavirus cases for the 10th consecutive day on Sunday as state health officials announced 10,631 new coronavirus infections and an additional 72 fatalities.

Sunday’s new cases accounted for roughly 12.5% of the more than 84,800 tests reported to the Illinois Department of Public Health in the last 24 hours.

The state’s seven-day statewide positivity rate — a figure experts use to understand how rapidly the virus is spreading — reached 12.8% Sunday, up from 8% at the start of the month, the state public health department reported.

The surge in cases has led to Illinois hospitals treating the most COVID-19 patients they’ve ever had. As of Saturday night, 5,474 beds were taken up by COVID-19 patients in Illinois hospitals, with 1,045 of those patients in intensive-care units and 490 on ventilators, officials said.

Cook County accounted for 21 of Sunday’s 72 fatalities. Only 16 of those deaths reported statewide were among people under the age of 70, and only six were under 60.

Read the full story from reporter Madeline Kenney here.


News

1:29 p.m. Biden’s science advisers to meet with vaccine makers in coming days

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden’s scientific advisers will meet with vaccine makers in coming days as the presidential transition remains stalled because of President Donald Trump’s refusal to acknowledge that he lost the election. That delayed handoff is especially problematic during a public health crisis, the government’s top infectious disease expert said.

“Of course it would be better if we could start working with them,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who has been through multiple presidential transitions during 36 years of government service. He likened the process to runners passing on the baton in a relay race. “You don’t want to stop and then give it to somebody,” he said. “You want to just essentially keep going.”

The president-elect’s outreach to the vaccine manufacturers comes as the coronavirus pandemic in the United States has entered perhaps its most dangerous phase. The seven-day rolling average for new daily cases stood at 145,400 on Saturday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. That means the U.S. is adding about 1 million new cases a week, and deaths averaged 820 a day as of Saturday, a 33% increase in just two weeks.

“We’re going to start those consultations this week,” said Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, citing Pfizer and other pharmaceutical companies.

Read the full story here.

9 a.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.

Read the full story here.

7 a.m. 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.


Analysis & Commentary

10 a.m. Feeding the hungry grows all the more harder during a pandemic

The coronavirus has put food banks throughout the United States in a nightmare position. They are dealing with higher demand, declining financial donations and fewer people who can volunteer.

Locally, the Greater Chicago Food Depository is bracing for a loss of volunteers because of this fall’s big surge in COVID-19 cases and the city’s new stay-at-home advisory.

In the fiscal year that ended on June 30, the food depository distributed more than 93 million pounds of food, the equivalent of 77.5 million meals. It was by far the most food the depository has distributed in its 41-year history.

“There is an increase in need,” Greg Trotter, spokesman for the depository, told the Sun-Times. “With winter coming and the pandemic raging on, we are very worried.”

The Greater Chicago Food Depository serves a network of more than 700 food kitchens, shelters and pantries, organizations that this fall are providing food to 50% more people each month than they were in January.

Read the full story here.

6 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.