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Coronavirus live blog, August 23, 2020: Illinois surpasses 220,000 total COVID-19 cases

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The Latest

Illinois records 1,893 new coronavirus cases, 6 more deaths

A nurse disinfects her respirator using bleach wipes after tending to a COVID-19 patient in California.
Jae C. Hong/AP Photo (file photo)

Illinois surpassed 220,000 coronavirus cases Sunday as health officials announced 1,893 new coronavirus infections.

Since March, Illinois has recorded a total of 220,178 COVID-19 cases. Only five other states — California, Texas, Georgia, Florida and New York — have registered more cases than Illinois, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Illinois has seen an increase in coronavirus cases over the last month. Sunday marked the 33rd consecutive day Illinois has recorded a four-digit daily caseload. On Saturday, the state saw its largest caseload in three months, recording 2,356 new COVID-19 infections.

The state is averaging about 1,797 new infections each day this month, up sharply from July’s daily average of 1,150.

The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity rate from Aug. 17 through Aug. 23 is 4.2% — a slight uptick from a week ago when the positivity rate stood at 4.1%.

The vast majority of COVID-19 patients — about 95% — have recovered, officials said.

Read the full story from reporter Madeline Kenney here.


News

4:48 p.m. Trump authorizes unproven plasma treatment for coronavirus

WASHINGTON — After expressing frustration at the slow pace of approval for coronavirus treatments, President Donald Trump announced Sunday the emergency authorization of convalescent plasma for COVID-19 patients.

The announcement came after days of White House officials suggesting there were politically motivated delays by the Food and Drug Administration in approving a vaccine and therapeutics for the disease that has upended Trump’s reelection chances.

On the eve of the Republican National Convention, Trump issued the emergency order — it would make it easier for some patients to obtain the treatment — in a news conference Sunday evening, according to White House officials.

The blood plasma, taken from patients who have recovered from the coronavirus and rich in antibodies, may provide benefits to those battling with the disease. But the evidence has been inconclusive as to how it works or how best to administer it.

Many scientists and physicians believe that convalescent plasma might provide some benefit, but it is far from a breakthrough. It is rich in antibodies that could be helpful in fighting the coronavirus, but the evidence so far has not been conclusive about whether it works, when to administer it and what dose is needed.

Read the full story here.

2:58 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

2:07 p.m. Mexico’s COVID czar slams Coca-Cola, calls it pandemic’s ‘bottled poison’

MEXICO CITY — While touring southern Chiapas state last month, Mexico’s coronavirus czar took aim at a local vice he considers culpable for the country’s ongoing pandemic problems: rampant Coca-Cola consumption.

Health undersecretary Hugo López-Gatell connected soda consumption with COVID-19 deaths, blaming sugar for causing comorbidities such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension — maladies common in Mexico, where almost three-quarters of the population is overweight, according to a study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

“Why do we need bottled poison in soft drinks?” López-Gatell asked. “Health in Mexico would be very different if we stopped being deceived by these lifestyles sold on television and heard on radio and which we see on adverts — as if this was happiness.”

As COVID-19 cases mount in Mexico and the death toll soars — Mexico only trails Brazil and the United States in total pandemic fatalities – López-Gatell and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador have increasingly pinned Mexico’s pandemic problems on its poor nutrition habits — soda consumption chief among them.

Read the full story here.

10:24 a.m. As local Catholic schools begin in-person classes, teachers, parents feel the tension

The Coleman family has a plan for after-school pickups this fall.

Alraynita Coleman will drive from her South Shore home to De La Salle Institute in Bronzeville with a change of clothes for her son, Alexandre’. He’ll immediately change clothes in the minivan’s third row and spray Lysol on himself — his 51-year-old mother, a heart attack survivor with myocarditis, is at high-risk for COVID-19.

“I said a bold prayer this morning,” Coleman said Thursday, the day of her son’s junior year orientation at the Catholic high school. “I just need to teach more prevention, to be more proactive about what’s going on.”

Monday and Tuesday mark the start of the school year for many Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic schools. Some already have started.

While Chicago Public Schools and some suburban districts will start the year fully online, most Catholic Schools will meet in person. Supt. Jim Rigg earlier this month said the archdiocese believes it’s “in the best interests of children and our mission.”

Read the full story from Clare Proctor here.

9:41 a.m. Bears move practice after 9 false positive coronavirus tests

The Bears moved their morning practice to the afternoon Sunday after they said league testing produced nine positive tests among players and staff. The Bears said all nine have been proved to be false positives.

“[Sunday] morning we learned yesterday’s Covid-19 testing identified nine players/staff as positive,” the team said in a statement. “We followed additional NFL-NFLPA testing protocol and confirmed all nine results as false positives. Out of an abundance of caution, we postponed this morning’s practice to this afternoon at 1:30pm.”

The NFL singled out the BioReference laboratory in New Jersey for irregular results, though the Bears have said they use a similar lab in Minnesota.

Multiple teams altered their morning practice schedules.

Read the full story from Patrick Finley here.

9:27 a.m. Governors across the U.S. ignore emails over state reopening plans

As South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster prepared to announce the end of a coronavirus stay-at-home order, his top staff received an email from the state health department.

The message, highlighted in bold, was clear: Wait longer before allowing customers back inside restaurants, hair salons and other businesses where people will be in close contact.

Instead, McMaster pressed ahead with a plan written by the state restaurant association to resume inside dining on May 11. The guidelines made masks optional for employees and allowed more customers inside than the health agency had advised.

A few days later, the Republican governor opened the doors to salons, fitness centers and swimming pools. He did not wait to gauge the effect of the restaurant reopening on the virus, as public health officials had suggested. Like many states, South Carolina later experienced a surge in infections that forced McMaster to dial back his reopening plan.

He was hardly alone. Thousands of pages of emails provided to The Associated Press under open-records laws show that governors across the U.S. were inundated with reopening advice from a wide range of industries — from campgrounds in New Hampshire to car washes in Washington. Some governors put economic interests ahead of public health guidance, and certain businesses were allowed to write the rules that would govern their own operations.

As job losses accelerated, the pressure to reopen intensified.

Read the full story here.

7:15 a.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.

7 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.


New Cases

  • 2,356 new Illinois coronavirus cases after record testing day on Saturday.
  • 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.