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Coronavirus live blog, Nov. 8, 2020: Illinois reports 3rd straight day with 10,000-plus new COVID-19 cases

Here’s the latest news about the continuing spread of coronavirus and its ripple effects in Chicago and Illinois.

The Latest

Illinois reports 10,000-plus coronavirus caseload for 3rd consecutive day

People walk in downtown Evanston, Ill., Friday, Nov. 6, 2020.
Nam Y. Huh/AP Photo

State health officials announced 10,009 new confirmed and probable cases, marking the third consecutive day Illinois has recorded a five-figure caseload.

Illinois is averaging about 9,710 new infections each day this month, up sharply from October’s daily average of 3,777.

The new infections, which brings the state’s total to 487,987 cases over the last nine months, were detected among the latest batch of 90,757 tests reported to the Illinois Department of Public Health in the last day, raising the seven-day average testing positivity rate to 10.6% — up from 8% one week ago.

The rise in that number is worrisome to health experts who use that figure as a way to gauge how rapidly the virus is spreading.

As case numbers continue to skyrocket statewide, Gov. J.B. Pritzker again reminded Illinoisans to wear masks, wash their hands and maintain proper social distancing.

“Spread the faith, not the virus,” he tweeted after Sunday’s new numbers were released. “I know we’ll get through this — we just have to listen to the doctors. Let’s go all in, Illinois.”

Read the full story here.


News

1:35 p.m. What a 2020 census undercount means for Illinois

The U.S. Census Bureau has wrapped up its nationwide head count and is now finalizing the data that will affect federal funding and political representation for the next decade.

The bureau is racing to deliver data on the apportionment of congressional seats to President Donald Trump by the Dec. 31 deadline — a target it is unlikely to meet.

Before counting for the 2020 census even began, thanks to years of population loss, Illinois had been expected to lose one of its 18 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives — and with it, one of its votes in the Electoral College.

But now that’s looking like a best-case scenario. The effect of the pandemic on the census could mean an undercount that could cost Illinois a second congressional seat, said James Lewis, an expert on legislative redistricting.

A single congressional district represents approximately 700,000 people on average. Some state districts could expand to make up for population loss and as a result can dilute the political power of some communities that were miscounted.

“I think there is a strong possibility of an undercount in Illinois, and we can lose two seats,” said Lewis, a researcher at Rob Paral & Associates. “I don’t think it’s game over yet, and we have to wait to see the numbers, but it’s a concern.”

Read the full story here.

11:47 a.m. Coronavirus cases surge within nursing home facilities

WASHINGTON — Despite Trump administration efforts to erect a protective shield around nursing homes, coronavirus cases are surging within facilities in states hard hit by the latest onslaught of COVID-19.

An analysis of federal data from 20 states for The Associated Press finds that new weekly cases among residents rose nearly four-fold from the end of May to late October, from 1,083 to 4,274. Resident deaths more than doubled, from 318 a week to 699, according to the study by University of Chicago health researchers Rebecca Gorges and Tamara Konetzka.

Equally concerning, weekly cases among nursing home staff in surge states more than quadrupled, from 855 the week ending May 31, to 4,050 the week ending Oct. 25. That rings alarms because infected staffers not yet showing symptoms are seen as the most likely way the virus gets into facilities. When those unwitting staffers test positive, they are sidelined from caring for residents, raising pressures on remaining staff.

The administration has allocated $5 billion to nursing homes, shipped nearly 14,000 fast-test machines with a goal of supplying every facility and tried to shore up stocks of protective equipment. But the data call into question the broader White House game plan, one that pushes states to reopen while maintaining that vulnerable people can be cocooned, even if the virus rebounds around them.

“Trying to protect nursing home residents without controlling community spread is a losing battle,” said Konetzka, a nationally recognized expert on long-term care. “Someone has to care for vulnerable nursing home residents, and those caregivers move in and out of the nursing home daily, providing an easy pathway for the virus to enter.”

Read the full story here.

10:36 a.m. Bears put OL Lachavious Simmons on reserve/COVID-19 list

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — There was one more issue on the Bears offensive line Sunday. A group already depleted by positive tests for coronavirus and injuries will play without backup Lachavious Simmons against the Titans.

The team put Simmons on the reserve/COVID-19 list and promoted Aaron Neary from the practice squad to replace him. Simmons’ test result from Saturday came back positive and was confirmed early Sunday. He had traveled with the team, so is safety quarantining away from the Bears. He’s working with the league on what to do next.

There were no high-risk contacts, meaning that the Bears won’t have to bench anyone else.

To take his place, the Bears promoted Aaron Neary, the practice squad player they signed early this week. He’s appeared in one career game.

Simmons was not expected to start, but the Bears were relying on him for depth and possibly some special teams work.

It’s been a brutal week on the offensive line. The team lost starting right tackle Bobby Massie to a knee injury against the Saints, and his backup, Jason Spriggs, tested positive for coronavirus the next day.

Read the full story here.

7:57 a.m. Some veteran teachers skip wave of coronavirus pandemic-era retirements

FARMINGTON, N.M. — At age 86, agriculture teacher Gerald Bonds, of Farmington, New Mexico, has seen plenty of crises during his career. He sees no reason to call it quits over the coronavirus pandemic.

Bonds is in his 58th year of teaching at Farmington High School and, like most teachers in his state, has been instructing his students remotely — an arrangement he despises.

“I hate it. I want to see the students face to face and talk to them,” Bonds said in a video interview.

Confronted with the technology headaches of distance learning and the health risks, some teachers have retired early or taken leave from work. But many veteran instructors like Bonds are sticking it out.

New Mexico is tied with Maine for having the oldest teachers in the country, with one in four older than 55, according to a 2018 National Center for Education Statistics survey of teachers and principals. And almost 6% of New Mexico’s teachers and teaching assistants are 65 or older, according to data from the New Mexico Public Education Department.

With few exceptions, New Mexico’s schools have been providing only distance learning, which so far has spared many teachers from having to consider the health risks that could come from being in classrooms with students.

“We are prioritizing health and safety. We have said that those teachers who do fall into those high-risk categories can ask for a low-contact or no-contact teaching assignment for this year,” said New Mexico Education Secretary Ryan Stewart. “It’s going to pose some pretty intense challenges in terms of staffing and being able to return (to in-person learning) in some districts.”

Read the full story here.

6 a.m. COVID-19 soars to another dizzying height in Illinois: 12,438 new cases

As an election widely viewed as a referendum on the federal handling of the coronavirus pandemic appeared to come to a resolution on Saturday, Illinois’ stunning COVID-19 resurgence continued unabated as public health officials announced a third straight record-shattering day of 12,438 new confirmed and probable cases statewide.

That’s 2,000 more cases than were reported a day earlier by the Illinois Department of Public Health, and more than triple the state’s springtime daily high of 4,014 cases reported in mid-May, during Illinois’ first peak. Friday was also the first day state health officials began including probable cases in their daily tallies.

But positivity rates and hospital figures leave no doubt the virus has rebounded with a vengeance since the start of October, with Illinois steadily deteriorating into one of the nation’s most severe hot-spot states.

The new cases were confirmed among 98,418 tests, meaning about 12.6% of the latest tests submitted to the state came back positive — the highest proportion of positives in a single day since May 14.

Read the full story here.


New Cases

  • Cody Whitehair on reserve/COVID-19 list, but Germain Ifedi cleared to play vs. Titans.
  • Saturday, Illinois’ public health officials announced a third straight record-shattering day of 12,438 new confirmed and probable cases statewide.
  • Gov. J.B. Pritzker tested negative for the virus, his office announced Saturday.

Analysis & Commentary

8:00 a.m. Heed the dire toll of COVID-19 in Illinois as the holidays approach

Nerve-wracking anxiety about the presidential election has overshadowed a more immediate frightening fact: A second surge of COVID-19 is sweeping Illinois and the nation, and it’s already worse than the first.

With no light yet at the end of the tunnel.

“Each day, we are losing more and more of our neighbors to this virus,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Thursday, when Illinois passed a sobering milestone of over 10,000 deaths from COVID-19. “That’s not a trend that’s going to turn around.”

Indeed, the numbers show Illinois soon could be forced to endure another stay-at-home order. And the odds of that grow every day we fail to suppress our stir-craziness and follow public health guidelines meant to curb the virus.

Read the full editorial by the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board here.

7:40 a.m. Kids belong in school — the real thing — and Chicago can make it work

Educators across the country are warning about a ‘lost year’ for public school education because of the coronavirus pandemic, and let’s consider for a minute what a disaster that would be.

A lost year, with children in Chicago and elsewhere staring at electronic screens for hours — if they engage in school work at all — instead of learning in person with their classmates and teachers.

A lost year, without the presence of counselors and social workers, who traditionally are among the first caring adults to detect and flag signs of child abuse or other trauma. Calls to local child abuse hotlines have plummeted during the pandemic.

A lost year without the therapeutic services that children with special needs cannot get online.

It doesn’t have to be this way, and it should not.

Read the full Sun-Times editorial here.