Coronavirus live blog, Dec. 7, 2020: Tunney apologizes for defying COVID-19 order with indoor restaurant service

Here’s Monday’s news on how COVID-19 is impacting Chicago and Illinois. Follow for live updates.

SHARE Coronavirus live blog, Dec. 7, 2020: Tunney apologizes for defying COVID-19 order with indoor restaurant service

Illinois health officials reported 8,691 new and probable cases of the coronavirus Monday, as well as 90 additional deaths.

Here’s what else happened today in coronavirus-related news.


8:55 p.m. Ald. Tom Tunney served restaurant customers indoors, defying state and city orders


Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) speaks during a press conference about supporting restaurants amid a rise in COVID-19 cases in Chicago at City Hall Thursday afternoon, Nov. 5, 2020.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) acknowledged Monday he “made a mistake” by allowing some of his regular customers to dine inside his Ann Sather Restaurants in defiance of state and city orders banning indoor dining.

In late October, Gov. J.B. Pritzker ordered Illinois restaurants to close their dining rooms for a second time since the pandemic to stop a second surge of coronavirus cases that was worse than the first.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot initially voiced her concern about the devastating impact on Chicago restaurants, then came away from an hourlong meeting with the governor resigned to the rollback.

On Monday, “Second City Cop,” a blog devoted to police issues, disclosed that Tunney has been thumbing his nose at the governor’s order.

The item referred to Tunney’s restaurants as “Stan Rather’s” and included photographs of plates of food on indoor tables. On one table, there was a copy of the Dec. 3 Wall Street Journal along with a slice of bacon in the corner of the photo.

On Monday, Tunney openly acknowledged having defied the governor’s order.

Read the full story here.

5:50 p.m. With holidays looming, Pritzker says Illinois has ‘a long way to go to move away from ... the danger zone’ of COVID-19

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Monday the bulk of Thanksgiving-related hospitalizations for the coronavirus likely still lie ahead — as he warned that hospitals have “limited leeway” to handle another surge as the state moves into the winter holiday season.

Pritzker said the two seven-day average positivity rates that public health officials watch have remained around 10% and 12%, and while officials haven’t seen positivity rates start to creep back up — which is a good sign — those metrics also haven’t fallen substantially — which is not a good sign.

The governor said that may be because of mitigations he put in place last month, but “we won’t know that for sure for at least two more weeks.”

“Our COVID-19 hospitalization total statewide is still 14% higher than our spring peak,” Pritzker said, explaining that the ability of the state’s hospitals to handle another surge is “tighter than it was last spring.

“It’s likely too early for us to have yet seen the bulk of Thanksgiving-related hospitalizations, yet,” Pritzker said. “These next four weeks may be the most crucial month of this entire pandemic. We quite literally have very limited leeway in our hospital systems to manage another surge. So mask up, keep your distance and plan smaller, more intimate holidays this year.”

Read the full story here.

5:03 p.m. Nearly half a million in state will lose unemployment benefits without new federal aid package

April Ibanez didn’t expect to be out of work for long when she was furloughed from her Downtown restaurant job at the start of the pandemic.

The single mother thought it would be temporary, just until the curve was flattened, and she would be back serving people with her gracious smile. Then the call came: She’d been laid off.

Like many, she filed for unemployment. That also would be temporary, she thought. She’d find work.

Eight months later, she still hasn’t.

Now, she is at risk of losing the $260 biweekly unemployment check she has depended on to help with rent, groceries and other essentials for herself and her 3-year-old daughter, Ruby.

That money runs out the day after Christmas.

She isn’t alone. According to the Illinois Department of Employment Security, over 447,000 Illinoisans will lose unemployment benefits the day after Christmas if a new federal stimulus package with safeguards for the unemployed isn’t passed by then. An additional 40,000 workers will likely exhaust their aid by the end of January.

Read the full story from Manny Ramos here.

4 p.m. Head of LaSalle Veterans Home out after COVID-19 outbreak

The administrator of a downstate veterans home where 32 veterans have died of the coronavirus was fired Monday, following investigations into the deadly COVID-19 outbreak at the state-run home.

Angela Mehlbrech, the administrator of the LaSalle Veterans Home, was fired after the release of two reports that detailed problems in the home, including ineffective hand sanitizer, employees showing up for work after testing positive for the coronavirus and inadequate “hand hygiene” practiced by employees. News of her firing was first reported by WBEZ.

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs said in a statement the personnel change follows the announcement of an independent investigation into the outbreak at the home led by the Acting Inspector General of the Illinois Department of Human Services.

Acting Assistant Director Anthony Vaughn will serve as the interim Administrator as the department searches for a permanent replacement.

Read the full story here.

2:35 p.m. CTU files challenge to delay CPS reopening next month

The Chicago Teachers Union is making its second legal attempt in as many months to put Chicago Public Schools’ reopening plans on hold, accusing the district of illegally refusing to negotiate health and safety conditions before ordering teachers back into classrooms.

The union returned to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board with the new charge Monday, less than a month before teachers are expected to start returning to schools for the first time during the pandemic.

The CTU is seeking an injunction that would force the district to negotiate in good faith and reach agreements with the union on several issues before schools reopen, which the union says CPS has not done.

Following that process could delay the anticipated Jan. 4 return for preschool and special education cluster program teachers and staff and could afford the union a closer look at the district’s health protocols during a deadly pandemic before sending its members back to schools.

Read the full story here.

12:40 p.m. State reports 8,691 new COVID-19 cases, 90 deaths Monday

Illinois health officials reported 8,691 new and probable cases of the coronavirus Monday, as well as 90 additional deaths.

Those new cases come from a batch of 77,569 tests done in the past 24 hours. Sixty-three of the deaths reported Monday were recorded in Cook County, including 13 deaths of men in their 80s.

As of Sunday night, 5,190 people were hospitalized statewide with the virus. Of that number, 1,123 patients were in intensive care units and 648 patients were on ventilators.

The state reported 7,598 new cases of the virus and 76 deaths Sunday, breaking a five-day streak of triple-digit daily death tolls.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said last week the state is still “in a precarious place” and none of the state’s 11 regions will be removed from the stricter coronavirus mitigations he put in place last month as officials evaluate any potential Thanksgiving effect on the state’s caseload.

Read the full story here.

11:40 a.m. Canada to get vaccine by end of year

TORONTO — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday Canada will get up to 249,000 doses of the vaccine developed by American drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech before the end of December.

The vaccine is expected be approved by Health Canada as soon as Thursday.

Trudeau had come under criticism from opposition parties for saying Canadians won’t be among the first to get a vaccine against COVID-19 because the first doses will likely go to citizens of the countries they are made in. Canada doesn’t have mass vaccine-production facilities.

Read the full story here.

11:21 a.m. Food insecurity on rise as many Americans turn to food banks for 1st time

The deadly pandemic that tore through the nation’s heartland struck just as Aaron Crawford was in a moment of crisis. He was looking for work, his wife needed surgery, then the virus began eating away at her work hours and her paycheck.

The Crawfords had no savings, mounting bills and a growing dread: What if they ran out of food? The couple had two boys, 5 and 10, and boxes of macaroni and cheese from the dollar store could go only so far.

A 37-year-old Navy vet, Crawford saw himself as self-reliant. Asking for food made him uncomfortable. “I felt like I was a failure,” he says. “It’s this whole stigma ... this mindset that you’re this guy who can’t provide for his family, that you’re a deadbeat.”

Hunger is a harsh reality in the richest country in the world. Even during times of prosperity, schools hand out millions of hot meals a day to children, and desperate elderly Americans are sometimes forced to choose between medicine and food.

Read the full story here.

11:10 a.m. DePaul cancels 4th straight basketball game due to COVID-19

The start of the DePaul men’s basketball season hit another snag Sunday as the school canceled its matchup against Iowa State under COVID-19 protocols. It’s the fourth consecutive game that the school has called off after members of the program tested positive for the virus last month.

The Blue Demons’ season was supposed to start Nov. 25 against Chicago State, but school officials canceled that game as well as two others – Nov. 28 vs. Alcorn State and Dec. 3 vs. Northern Illinois – after multiple tests from members of the program came back positive in mid-November.

Read the full report here.

10 a.m. ‘Obamacare’ defender tapped to lead coronavirus response in Biden administration

President-elect Joe Biden has picked California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to be his health secretary, putting a defender of the Affordable Care Act in a leading role to oversee his administration’s coronavirus response.

Separately, Biden picked a Harvard infectious disease expert, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, to head the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And he announced a new advisory role for Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert.

If confirmed by the Senate, Becerra, will be the first Latino to head the Department of Health and Human Services, a $1 trillion-plus agency with 80,000 employees and a portfolio that includes drugs and vaccines, leading-edge medical research and health insurance programs covering more than 130 million Americans.

Becerra, a former senior House Democrat, said that in Congress he helped pass the Affordable Care Act and as California’s attorney general he has defended it. “As Secretary of Health and Human Services, I will build on our progress and ensure every American has access to quality, affordable health care — through this pandemic and beyond,” he tweeted on Monday.

Read the full report here.

8:25 a.m. Illinois driver facilities to stay closed through early January

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White announced Friday that driver services facilities will stay closed until Jan. 5, 2021, as the coronavirus continues to rage across the state.

White initially planned to reopen the facilities Monday but decided the current conditions have made it too dangerous, as thousands of Illinois residents continue to test positive for COVID-19 each day.

“Unfortunately, face-to-face transactions potentially increase the further spread of the virus, and protecting the health and safety of our residents is my top priority,” White said in a statement.

The deadline for renewing expiring driver’s licenses and IDs has already been extended to June 1, 2021. Those services and others can also be facilitated online, at

Read the full report here for more.

New Cases

Analysis & Commentary

11:45 a.m. Reopening Chicago’s schools during the peak of the pandemic is a dangerous folly

Chicago’s public schools are planning an especially ill-timed and ill-conceived partial reopening this January, right in the midst of what every expert forecasts will be the peak of the most horrendous three-month surge of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and fatalities of the entire pandemic.

The disease is raging out of control throughout Illinois and the nation, but we have yet to feel the full impact of the Thanksgiving surge when millions of Americans ignored good advice and took to the air to join family gatherings.

And this will soon be followed by the Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/New Year’s surge.

Though a vaccine will be available early in the new year, it will not be administered to enough people to make a difference until spring at the earliest.

The planned reopening of Chicago’s schools will be voluntary on the part of parents — the majority of whom are unlikely to participate, according to surveys. They will opt for remote classes for their children during what also will be the peak of Chicago’s ferocious winter.

Read the full commentary from Don Rose here.

8:16 a.m. LETTERS: State prisoners should be among those who get pandemic vaccine quickly

Letter submitted by Ted Pearson, Co-Chairperson, Emeritus - Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression:

I agree that hospital and other health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities should get priority for receiving the new COVID-19 vaccine. But let us not forget the 40,000 people crammed into Illinois prisons and the prison staff, plus the thousands more in county jails all over the state.

Illinois has abolished the death penalty but these men and women are facing death from this pandemic; it is raging through facilities where social distancing is not a choice they can make, and where testing, masking, and cleaning supplies are not readily available.

This is not only a moral and human rights crisis. It’s a public health crisis. Prison staff go home every day carrying whatever they have contracted inside. Prisoners are released at the end of their sentences every day and are cast out into a world that is hostile to them, often with little or no available health care or social services. Employment, housing and medical care are not assured and some become homeless.

From both a public health and a humanitarian perspective, prisons and prisoners should be near the top of the list of those to receive the new vaccines.

Read the full edition of Letters to the Editor here.

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