Coronavirus live blog, August 22, 2020: How does coronavirus spread at a concert? Germans do a test

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

SHARE Coronavirus live blog, August 22, 2020: How does coronavirus spread at a concert? Germans do a test

On Saturday. the Illinois Department of Public Health announced 2,356 new cases of COVID-19, the state’s largest caseload in three months and the sixth day so far in August reporting 2,000 or more cases. Previously, Illinois hadn’t topped that mark since May 24, when the state logged more than 2,500 cases during the initial peak of the pandemic.

Here’s what happened today in the fight against the coronavirus in Chicago, the state and the nation.


9 p.m. How does coronavirus spread at a concert? Germans do a test


Participants wearing FFP2 protective face masks take part in the RESTART-19 Covid transmission risk assessment study in a concert setting during a break for concessions at an indoor arena during the coronavirus pandemic on August 22, 2020 in Leipzig, Germany. The study, organized by the University Hospital of Halle (Saale), simulates a live concert venue with several thousand audience members in three different scenarios in order to develop risk reduction measures for large events. Participants wear tracer devices to track their movements and sensors measure aerosol currents in the arena. All participants had to undergo a Covid-19 test within the last 48 hours and test negative in order to take part.

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Germany held a pop concert Saturday to see how those attending could spread coronavirus if they had it.

German researchers studying COVID-19 packed part of a Leipzig arena with volunteers, collecting data in a “real life” simulation of a pop concert but one with strict health and safety controls.

About 1,500 people took part in the experiment run by the University Hospital in Halle, each taking a coronavirus test ahead of time, testing negative, and having to wear protective masks throughout the day’s testing.

Researchers equipped each volunteer with contact tracers to record their routes in the arena and track the path of the aerosols — the small particles that could carry the virus — they emitted as they mingled and talked. Fluorescent disinfectants were used to highlight which surfaces at the mock concert were touched most frequently.

Read the full story here.

7:35 p.m. Dozens of WWII veterans to gather in Hawaii amid coronavirus pandemic

Several dozen aging U.S. veterans, including some who were in Tokyo Bay as swarms of warplanes buzzed overhead and nations converged to end World War II, will gather on a battleship in Pearl Harbor next month to mark the 75th anniversary of Japan’s surrender, even if it means the vulnerable group may be risking their lives again amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The 75th anniversary was meant to be a blockbuster event, and the veterans have been looking forward to it for years. There were to be thousands of people watching in Hawaii as parades marched through Waikiki, vintage warbirds flying overhead, and gala dinners to honor the veterans.

Now, most in-person celebrations have been canceled over fears the virus could infect the veterans, who range from 90 to 101. But about 200 people, mostly veterans, their families and government officials, will still commemorate the milestone on the USS Missouri, which hosted the surrender on Sept. 2, 1945, in Tokyo Bay.

Read the full story here.

5:30 p.m. Illinois officials hope testing can control coronavirus on campus

University of Illinois officials expect confirmed cases of the coronavirus to rise as classes begin Monday in Champaign-Urbana but they hope routine testing and other precautions can keep spread of the virus under control on campus.

Models developed by the university predict a few hundred confirmed cases of COVID-19 cases during the first weeks of the fall semester, officials said in a statement this week.

Saliva testing developed at the school has already been used to test 60,000 staff and students since July.

Read the full story here.

3:05 p.m. St. Rita switches to remote learning after 2 students test positive for COVID-19

St. Rita of Cascia High School on the Southwest Side made it only a few days before it was forced to temporarily shift classes online after two students tested positive for the coronavirus.

After classes started Monday, St. Rita administrators sent an email Thursday informing families that two students had contracted the contagious respiratory virus, and several others had been in close contact with them outside of school.

School officials said they don’t think the virus was contracted on campus, and that exposure would’ve been minimal due to the safety precautions set in place. They’ll revert to e-learning until at least Sept. 8.

“As we move on we will continue to adjust to make this the safest and most productive experience possible,” officials said in the email. “Our teachers have worked hard throughout the summer to improve the quality of our remote learning.”

St. Rita is thought to be the first Catholic school in Chicago to switch solely to online learning.

Read the full story by Madeline Kenney here.

2:15 p.m. Five miles away, but a different world: There was high school football in Indiana Friday night

Lake Central high school is just five miles from the Illinois state line and only 20 miles from Gately Stadium, but on Friday night it felt like a different world.

There was high school football in the midst of a global pandemic, while all the high school stadiums in Illinois sat silent.

Led Zeppelin and country music blared during the pregame warm-ups an hour before kick off against visiting rival Munster. Athletic secretary Cheryl Fulk was busy setting up the gate to allow visiting fans inside and check in media members. There was a sign that said masks were required, but no temperature checks.

“Ticket sales were decent,” Fulk said. “There are people that want to come and people that are fighting for there to be no game. Everyone has an opinion. We’re just trying to do it the right way.”

It was a late-arriving crowd but there wound up being a large Lake Central student section. Even visiting Munster’s side had a student section, although only a few dozen adults.

There were plenty of parents in the Lake Central stands. It was senior night, which is odd for the first game of the season.

“We want to play the whole year but we are playing each day like it is our last so we wanted to get that in,” Lake Central football coach Tony Bartolomeo said.

Read the full story by Michael O’Brien here.

1:20 p.m. 2,356 new Illinois coronavirus cases after record testing day

Illinois’ monthlong coronavirus case rise took another step up Saturday — but so did the state’s soaring testing capacity.

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced 2,356 new cases of COVID-19, the state’s largest caseload in three months and the sixth day so far in August reporting 2,000 or more cases. Previously, Illinois hadn’t topped that mark since May 24, when the state logged more than 2,500 cases during the initial peak of the pandemic.

But the new cases were confirmed among a record-high 56,766 tests submitted to the state, the fourth straight day Illinois set a new testing record. Earlier this week, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he’s hopeful a “game-changing” new rapid, saliva-based COVID-19 test in development at the University of Illinois could soon take testing to more dramatic heights.

That’ll be key to lowering the statewide seven-day testing positivity rate, which has inched upward from 2.5% in early July to 4.3% Saturday. Experts say that shows the virus is spreading more rapidly.

Read the full story by Mitchell Arementrout here.

1:15 p.m. A fifth of state at COVID-19 ‘warning level’ due to bare faces, failure to social distance — and indifference: ‘What’s in it for me?’

As public health officials announced nearly a fifth of all Illinois counties are at a coronavirus “warning level,” the state on Friday reported 2,208 new cases of COVID-19 — the fifth time in the last two weeks that Illinois has amassed 2,000 cases or more in a single day.

Illinois hadn’t seen such a cluster of high coronavirus caseloads since its initial peak month of May — and it follows a 33-day stretch from June to July in which Illinois never surpassed more than a thousand new diagnoses in a day.

More than 37,000 people have been diagnosed with the virus over the first three weeks of August, compared to 22,925 in all of June. That’s as the state has averaged more than 1,800 new cases per day over the last two weeks, almost triple the state’s running rate at the end of June.

Still, Illinois’ latest cases were confirmed among 51,736 tests submitted to the state, marking a third straight day of record-high testing numbers for the state and lowering the statewide testing positivity rate over the last week to 4.3%.

But positivity rates have increased in seven of the state’s 11 regions over the last week, including the downstate Metro East region which is now at 9.4% positivity — after Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s health team forced officials there to scale back capacities and operating hours at bars and restaurants.

Read the full story from Mitchell Armentrout here.

12:55 p.m. Schools face shortages on critical supplies needed for online learning

Schools across the United States are facing shortages and long delays, of up to several months, in getting this year’s most crucial back-to-school supplies: the laptops and other equipment needed for online learning, an Associated Press investigation has found.

The world’s three biggest computer companies, Lenovo, HP and Dell, have told school districts they have a shortage of nearly 5 million laptops, in some cases exacerbated by Trump administration sanctions on Chinese suppliers, according to interviews with over two dozen U.S. schools, districts in 15 states, suppliers, computer companies and industry analysts.

As the school year begins virtually in many places because of the coronavirus, educators nationwide worry that computer shortfalls will compound the inequities — and the headaches for students, families and teachers.

“This is going to be like asking an artist to paint a picture without paint. You can’t have a kid do distance learning without a computer,” said Tom Baumgarten, superintendent of the Morongo County School District in California’s Mojave Desert, where all 8,000 students qualify for free lunch and most need computers for distance learning.

Baumgarten was set to order 5,000 Lenovo Chromebooks in July when his vendor called him off, saying Lenovos were getting “stopped by a government agency because of a component from China that’s not allowed here,” he said. He switched to HPs and was told they would arrive in time for the first day of school Aug. 26. The delivery date then changed to September, then October. The district has about 4,000 old laptops that can serve roughly half of students, but what about the rest, Baumgarten asks rhetorically. “I’m very concerned that I’m not going to be able to get everyone a computer.”

Read the full story here.

11:37 a.m. College students demand tuition cuts amid plans to keep classes virtual

As more universities abandon plans to reopen and decide instead to keep classes online this fall, it’s leading to conflict between students who say they deserve tuition discounts and college leaders who insist remote learning is worth the full cost.

Disputes are flaring both at colleges that announced weeks ago they would stick with virtual instruction and at those that only recently lost hope of reopening their campuses. Among the latest schools facing pressure to lower tuition are Michigan State University and Ithaca College, which scrapped plans to reopen after seeing other colleges struggle to contain coronavirus outbreaks.

The scourge has killed more than 175,000 people in the United States. Worldwide, the confirmed death toll hit 800,000 on Saturday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, and cases were nearing 23 million.

In petitions started at dozens of universities, students arguing for reduced tuition say online classes fail to deliver the same experience they get on campus. Video lectures are stilted and awkward, they say, and there’s little personal connection with professors or classmates.

Read the full story here.

10:32 a.m. World hits 800,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths, nearly 23 million confirmed cases

NEW YORK — The world hit a grim coronavirus milestone Saturday with 800,000 confirmed deaths and close to 23 million confirmed cases.

That’s according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. Governments have been attempting to balance public health with economic health.

Officials believe the true numbers are far higher because of a lack of testing and reporting. In the U.S., the nation with the most infections, health officials believe there may be 10 times more cases than the confirmed 5.6 million. The U.S. also leads the world in deaths, with more than 175,000.

Read the full story here.

10:07 a.m. High school swimming, cross-country alter competitions due to COVID-19

Illinois’ first high school sports season in the COVID-19 era will be missing a lot.

Several sports, including football, have been postponed till spring. Relays in swimming are out. Big invitationals in cross-country won’t happen. Paper scorecards in golf have been replaced by a virtual equivalent.

But given the alternatives, the prevailing attitude is the glass is half-full rather than half-empty.

“We’re really lucky we get to compete again,” Evanston senior swimmer Erin Long said. “In the summer, a lot of people were thinking we weren’t going to get a season at all. We’re grateful that we’re getting what we get.”

Six sports will go on this fall: boys and girls cross-country, boys and girls golf, girls tennis and girls swimming.

Some will look much the same as before the pandemic. Other than marking balls to limit contact with opponents, tennis will proceed pretty much as usual.

Golf, socially distanced by its nature, also requires few adjustments. One is an IHSA requirement that players wear masks except when playing a shot, and another is the switch to iWanamaker, a scoring app that replaces manual scorecards.

That means no more huddling around a scoreboard post-match, waiting for results to be posted.

Read the full story here.

8:19 a.m. COVID-19 hanging over Fire home debut

Slightly more than five months after it was supposed to happen, the Fire are scheduled to play a home game at Soldier Field. And like so much else in 2020, this event will have another COVID-19 subplot.

The Fire announced Friday night that a first-team player has tested positive for COVID-19. Per a statement, all other players and club members have returned consecutive negative tests. Tuesday night’s lakefront debut against FC Cincinnati is still scheduled.

Previously, the Fire had no positive tests.

According to the Fire, the player is asymptomatic and self-isolated under a “strict and detailed” protocol. The unnamed player did not travel with the Fire for Thursday’s game at Columbus, and will stay in isolation until being cleared. The Fire medical staff is monitoring the player, who is being tested daily.

Read the full story here.

7:27 a.m. Craft distillers see sales evaporate amid pandemic

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — For five months, no rum has flowed for visitors at Jaime Windon’s distillery in Maryland, drying up a crucial part of her revenue stream. Windon’s tasting room remains shuttered by the coronavirus, another victim of the pandemic’s devastating impact on the world economy.

Like other craft distillers, Windon Distilling relied heavily on sales from people who ventured in to learn a bit about making spirits, sample the products and take home a bottle or two. But small, independent producers — who have carved out a sizable niche in the country’s spirits sector — have been hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak, according to a new study.

The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States found that nationally, craft distillers will see an estimated 41% of their sales — worth more than $700 million — evaporate because of the pandemic.

The distillers furloughed nearly one-third of their employees, its study estimated.

Read the full story here.

New Cases

  • Health officials announce Friday nearly a fifth of Illinois is at a “warning level” after 2,208 new COVID-19 cases are reported.
  • Chicago Fire player tests positive for COVID-19
  • More than 37,000 people have been diagnosed with the virus over the first three weeks of August, compared to 22,925 in all of June.
  • Five Notre Dame football players test positive for COVID-19.

Analysis & Commentary

7:29 a.m. Fun and flavor of political conventions fade amid pandemic

It’s no longer a circus.

The big top is different, not gone. But the traditional political grub fests once held outside our national political conventions have disappeared, jettisoned by a pandemic.

What fun they were ... if the pickings were good.

Outside the political wigwam was the juicy steak of journalism: private venues feeding a press hungry for news not available under the convention tent. Party havens for hustlers, glad handers, gadflies, lugubrious leakers, hustlers and hucksters — they were delicious.

These coveted private, invitation-only “after-parties,” tossed by celebs, charities, pols, major firms, and media groups, once buzzed with deals and appeals — where drinks flowed and handshakes were under the table or in a quiet corner of the room.

To a journalist, an invite to an after-party was creme; a place where scoops were netted, scores were settled; and new sources formed.

No more. For now.

Read more of Michael Sneed’s pre-pandemic convention memories.

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