Coronavirus live blog, Nov. 20, 2020: 6,111 people hospitalized around the state with COVID-19, 1,196 patients in intensive care units and 604 patients on ventilators

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

SHARE Coronavirus live blog, Nov. 20, 2020: 6,111 people hospitalized around the state with COVID-19, 1,196 patients in intensive care units and 604 patients on ventilators

November has averaged more than 10,821 new cases each day — or a new infection roughly every 8 seconds. It’s a shocking statistic.

Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic in Chicago and around Illinois.


8:55 p.m. State logs another 13,012 new cases of COVID-19, 126 deaths


Illinois Department of Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike attends a press conference where Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that he is enforcing tier three mitigations in Illinois to curb the spread of COVID-19 at the James R. Thompson Center in the Loop, Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 17, 2020. Starting Friday, new restrictions will be placed on retail stores, gyms, restaurants and bars, hotels, offices, social gatherings, and indoor recreation centers.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

State public health officials reported 13,012 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 and 126 deaths Friday, the first day of new, statewide restrictions aimed at curbing a resurgence of the coronavirus.

As of Thursday night, 6,111 people were hospitalized around the state with COVID-19. Of that number, 1,196 patients were in intensive care units and 604 patients were on ventilators.

The state reported performing more than 116,000 tests within the last 24 hours.

On Thursday, health officials reported 14,612 new cases, the second-highest daily case count the state has seen since the pandemic began. There were also 168 deaths, the third-highest death toll for the state.

Illinois reported a record 15,415 new patients on Nov. 13, which is more new cases than any other state had logged in a single day since the pandemic began more than eight months ago.

One week before the Thanksgiving holiday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the state was beginning to see “a hint of leveling” in new coronavirus cases and test positivity rates, but cautioned residents shouldn’t take that to mean it is safe to have Thanksgiving dinner with guests from outside their households.

Read the full story here.

6:04 p.m. By the time you finish reading this article, another 15 Illinois residents will be infected with the coronavirus

Illinois reported another 13,012 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 infections on Friday, pushing the state’s total number of cases diagnosed in November to 216,422.

That means the first 20 days of this month saw nearly as many cases as the entire first seven months of the pandemic.

November has averaged more than 10,821 new cases each day — or a new infection roughly every 8 seconds.

Friday’s daily caseload – the state’s third highest since the first Illinois case was reported in late January – came on a day when 126 deaths were also reported. That’s down a bit from the fatality counts of the previous two days but up sharply from October’s mortality counts.

Friday also marked the first day of new statewide restrictions aimed at curbing the resurgence of the coronavirus.

Reporter Rachel Hinton has the full story.

3:56 p.m. Two more employees in Cook County chief judge’s office test positive for coronavirus, bringing total to 171

Two more employees at the Cook County chief judge’s office have tested positive for COVID-19, the judge’s office reported Friday.

One employee works at the juvenile probation department, while the other works for the adult probation department in Bridgeview.

That brings the total number of cases among employees to 171 since the start of the pandemic, with 73 of those employees working at the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, the judge’s office said.

Read the full story here.

1:21 p.m. With coronavirus spiking in U.S., Canada won’t let Raptors play in Toronto

TORONTO — The Canadian government denied a request by the NBA and the Raptors to play in Toronto amid the pandemic, and the team says it will start the season next month in Tampa, Florida.

“Ultimately, the current public health situation facing Canadians, combined with the urgent need to determine where we will play means that we will begin our 2020-21 season in Tampa, Florida,” the team said in a statement Friday.

An official familiar with the federal government’s decision told The Associated Press there is too much COVID-19 circulating in the United States to allow for cross-border travel that is not essential.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity and not authorized to talk publicly about the matter, said there’s a chance that at some point next year the decision could be reviewed.

The Canadian government had been reviewing a proposal from the NBA and the Raptors. The team had said it needed to know this week with training camp less than two weeks away.

The Raptors and the NBA needed an exemption to a requirement that anyone entering Canada for nonessential reasons must isolate for 14 days. The U.S.-Canada border remains closed to nonessential travel.

Read the full story here.

1:01 p.m. CTA holiday train and bus to return, but no riders allowed

The CTA’s holiday train and bus will resume their annual journeys around Chicago this season, but commuters will have to enjoy the festivities from afar due to new safety measures against the coronavirus pandemic.

“Santa and his elves will stay socially distanced this holiday season, meaning that customers won’t be able to board the CTA Holiday Train or the CTA Holiday Bus,” the transit authority said in a statement. “Instead, the CTA Holiday Fleet will run along each rail line and multiple bus routes, spreading holiday cheer across the city.”

The six-car holiday train — decorated with thousands of lights, holiday scenes and a flatbed carrying Santa Claus and his reindeer — is a staple of the season in Chicago. It will begin service Nov. 27, the day after Thanksgiving, the CTA said.

The bus, which will feature “Ralphie the Reindeer” and Santa Claus,” takes off Dec. 1, the CTA said.

Read the full story here.

12:46 p.m. Pfizer files for emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine in U.S.


Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Pfizer said Friday it is asking U.S. regulators to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine, starting the clock on a process that could bring limited first shots as early as next month and eventually an end to the pandemic — but not until after a long, hard winter.

The action comes days after Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech announced that its vaccine appears 95% effective at preventing mild to severe COVID-19 disease in a large, ongoing study.

The companies said that protection plus a good safety record means the vaccine should qualify for emergency use authorization, something the Food and Drug Administration can grant before the final testing is fully complete. In addition to Friday’s FDA submission, they have already started “rolling” applications in Europe and the U.K. and intend to submit similar information soon.

“Our work to deliver a safe and effective vaccine has never been more urgent,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement.

With the coronavirus surging around the U.S. and the world, the pressure is on for regulators to make a speedy decision.

“Help is on the way,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert said on the eve of Pfizer’s announcement, adding that it’s too early to abandon masks and other protective measures. “We need to actually double down on the public health measures as we’re waiting for that help to come.”

Read the full story here.

12:41 p.m. Convicted fraudster ordered into prison after feds allege new COVID-19 scheme

Insisting that “enough is enough,” an agitated federal judge ordered a convicted fraudster into prison Friday after the feds say she squandered thousands from a $150,000 COVID-19 loan.

Prosecutors said Crystal Lundberg used the money — meant for small businesses struggling through the pandemic — on travel and legal bills, electronics, clothing and other items. She would have done it all while putting off her surrender date with the Federal Bureau of Prisons originally set for Jan. 20, 2020.

U.S. District Judge Elaine Bucklo sentenced Lundberg last December to more than four years in prison for wire fraud. Since the feds leveled their new allegations earlier this week, she has been held in custody at the downtown Metropolitan Correctional Center, records show.

Lundberg’s attorney, Andrea Gambino, told Bucklo during a hearing Friday she would not “take any position” regarding the latest claims against her client, insisting she didn’t want to commit Lundberg to answers “before she’s been charged with anything.” Still, she acknowledged Lundberg’s answers about her criminal history on an application seeking the loan were “incomplete.”

Read the full story here.

10:46 a.m. Former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz tests positive for coronavirus

COLUMBIA. S.C. — Lou Holtz has tested positive for the coronavirus.

The 83-year-old former college football coach confirmed the test Thursday to Columbia TV station WOLO.

“I don’t have a lot of energy right now,” Holtz told the ABC station.

Holtz led Notre Dame to the 1988 national title in a Hall of Fame career. He has worked for ESPN and campaigned for President Donald Trump. Holtz is set to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Trump.

Read the full story here.

8:56 a.m. Chicago Park District suspends in-person programming as new COVID-19 restrictions take hold

The Chicago Park District is suspending all in-person programming as new statewide COVID-19 restrictions are set to take effect, officials announced Thursday.

All in-person programming will halt Friday until further notice as the state moves into Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Tier 3 mitigation plan, spokeswoman Michele Lemons said. That includes daytime child care services offered at certain facilities.

The Park District will, however, continue to offer virtual programs “to keep families active and engaged at home,” according to a statement.

Read the full story here.

8:53 a.m. Coronavirus vaccines will face a deep distrust in the Black community

As part of a network of Black pastors, the Rev. Floyd James is working with Rush University Medical Center to establish more coronavirus testing on the West Side.

James, the pastor of Greater Rock Missionary Baptist Church in North Lawndale, also has been trying to put doctors in touch with community members to help answer questions about COVID-19, which has spread aggressively in Black communities on the West Side and South Side.

Hospitals like Rush, one of Chicago’s biggest, have been trying desperately to recruit people of color for vaccine research to help ensure the therapies are safe and effective in the most vulnerable populations.

But that’s a tough sell, according to James, who — along with two dozen family members — came down with the virus earlier this year and says it left him feeling “like Mike Tyson’s punching bag.”

He’s uncertain about whether many West Sider residents will get a shot once the vaccines are available, let alone take part in the studies making sure they work.

Read the full story here.

New cases

Analysis & Commentary

8:55 a.m. Making threats of violence undermines our self-government

Making threats of violence against our governor’s family should simply not happen in Illinois.

Unfortunately, such threats are growing more common across the nation. It’s up to the rest of us to tamp down any suggestion of violence whenever we run across it.

On Tuesday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said his family received a series of “hateful and threatening” messages after a debunked photo went viral purporting to show his daughter eating at a Chicago restaurant. Pritzker said the threats affected his family’s Thanksgiving plans.

“Hateful and threatening” messages? Over something that didn’t even happen? Such threats eat away at the cohesion that holds our city, state and nation together.

It’s not just Illinois. Across the nation, store employees are threatened when they ask customers to wear masks. Health care workers are threatened when they encourage pandemic safety measures.

Read the full Sun-Times editorial here.

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