Coronavirus live blog, August 9, 2020: Illinois records 1,382 new cases of coronavirus

Here’s what we learned about how COVID-19 is impacting Chicago and Illinois.

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Pritzker defends proposed changes to mask rules as state sees 1,382 new COVID-19 cases, 8 more deaths


Gov. J.B. Pritzker unveils a new mask awareness campaign called “It Only Works If You Wear It” on August 3, 2020.

Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Sunday defended his proposed new rules for “modest” changes to the way the current statewide mask mandate is enforced, saying politicians shouldn’t use a public health crisis for political gain.

The new emergency rules, which were filed Friday by the Illinois Department of Public Health, offer local officials more leniency to give out warnings before fining businesses that don’t follow the state’s public masking and social distancing guidelines. It also would require businesses and schools to enforce the state’s mandatory mask mandate.

Pritzker, who was joined Sunday by a group of doctors and public health officials who shared support for his proposed new emergency rules, said he believes the rules are “fair.”

“Many, many businesses are doing the right thing, but it’s not fair to those businesses when their competitors are not doing the right thing,” Pritzker said. “And so, we think it’s fair to hold everybody accountable, to hold everybody to the same standard and we’re doing it in a way that should allow businesses to get it right.”

Pritzker said having rules requiring masks and proper social distancing makes “common sense.” But his new rule changes were met with some opposition.

Read the full story here.


5:09 p.m. State offering $5,000 grants for tenants struggling to pay rent amid pandemic. Here’s how to apply

Illinoisans struggling to make rent can apply Monday to qualify for a $5,000 grant in a $150 million program targeting residents hurt financially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program, funded by the federal CARES Act, will offer rental assistance to about 30,000 renters across the state.

The application portal is expected to come online at 9 a.m. Monday and remain open until Aug. 21, a day before the state’s eviction moratorium is set to expire. Another state program offering $150 million in federally funded grants to homeowners will accept applications between Aug. 24 and Sept. 4.

Kristin Faust, executive director of the Illinois Housing Development Authority, the agency administering the grants, said the state is “really trying to prevent a huge eviction or foreclosure crisis” as the economy continues to falter in the face of the pandemic.

Read the full story here.

3:15 p.m. Shootings, protests and COVID-19: Why the CPD had to change its plans

For Chicago Police Supt. David Brown, the situation on the ground changed as soon as he arrived in town.

On April 2, the day Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced she’d selected Brown to be the next leader of the department, the CPD reported the first coronavirus-related death of an officer — that of veteran undercover cop Marco DiFranco. Two more officers have since died of of the virus, while more than 700 have tested positive.

A global pandemic, surging gun violence and widespread civil unrest quickly revealed that the ongoing structural reorganization of the department — put into motion by Brown’s predecessor, interim Supt. Charlie Beck — would need changing.

Read the full story here.

1 p.m. City takes new steps to deter gatherings at Montrose Beach after Lightfoot slams ‘reckless’ lakefront party

After Mayor Lori Lightfoot slammed revelers for ignoring city rules and social distancing guidelines and crashed their party Saturday at Montrose Beach, officials quickly installed new fencing and limited vehicle access to the area to prevent others from gathering on the closed-off lakefront.

On Sunday, Chicago Park District spokeswoman Michele Lemons said the fencing along the lakeshore was specifically put in place Saturday night “to deter large gathering like those observed yesterday.”

The move came after Lightfoot tweeted a stark warning Saturday evening alongside a photo that showed dozens of people congregating on a grassy patch near the water.

“It’s called a pandemic, people,” Lightfoot wrote. “This reckless behavior on Montrose Beach is what will cause us to shut down the parks and lakefront. Don’t make us take steps backwards.”

Read the full story here.

12:27 p.m. ‘Don’t they care about their health?’ - Europeans alarmed as U.S. surpasses 5 million confirmed COVID-19 cases

ROME — With confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. hitting 5 million Sunday, by far the highest of any country, the failure of the most powerful nation in the world to contain the scourge has been met with astonishment and alarm in Europe.

Perhaps nowhere outside the U.S. is America’s bungled virus response viewed with more consternation than in Italy, which was ground zero of Europe’s epidemic. Italians were unprepared when the outbreak exploded in February, and the country still has one of the world’s highest official death tolls at over 35,000.

But after a strict nationwide, 10-week lockdown, vigilant tracing of new clusters and general acceptance of mask mandates and social distancing, Italy has become a model of virus containment.

“Don’t they care about their health?” a mask-clad Patrizia Antonini asked about people in the United States as she walked with friends along the banks of Lake Bracciano, north of Rome. “They need to take our precautions. ... They need a real lockdown.”

Read the full story from the Associated Press here.

10:58 a.m. Success of 2020 election hinges on U.S. Postal Service

WASHINGTON — Mail piling up. Constant attacks from the president. Cuts to overtime as record numbers of ballots are expected to pass through post offices this fall.

The success of the 2020 presidential election could hinge on a most unlikely government agency: the U.S. Postal Service. Current signs are not promising.

The Postal Service already was facing questions over how it would handle the expected spike of mail-in ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic, but several operational changes imposed by its new leader have led to mail backlogs across the United States as rumors of additional cutbacks swirl, fueling worries about the November vote.

“It seems like they’re just trying to turn customers away from the post office,” said Jim Sizemore, president of the American Postal Workers Union chapter in the Cincinnati region. He said his offices are behind on deliveries because of new rules specifying when mail can go out.

The pandemic has forced states to expand voting by mail as a safe alternative to in-person polling places. Some states are opting to send ballots to voters or allowing people to use fear of the virus as a reason to cast an absentee ballot. That’s led to predictions of an an unprecedented amount of mail voting in the presidential election.

Trailing in the polls, President Donald Trump has been sowing public distrust in the Postal Service’s ability to adequately deliver ballots and has, without evidence, said allowing more people to vote by mail will result in rampant corruption.

Read more from the Associated Press here.

7:40 a.m. How safe is voting by mail? It’s a ‘leaky pipeline’ in many states

BOSTON — Brace yourself for what’s expected to be the first U.S. presidential election conducted mostly by mail. It could be messy.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, voting by mail in a contactless and socially distant way seems like a no-brainer. States have made the option widely available — only 10 now require voters to provide an excuse beyond fear of COVID-19 when requesting a ballot by mail — and some three in four Americans are expected to embrace the option for the Nov. 3 presidential election, up from one in four in the 2018 contest.

But running a vote-by-mail election is surprisingly complicated, and there’s a lot of room for things to go wrong. Validating and counting a deluge of posted ballots in an open and accountable way presents a major challenge, one that only about a half dozen states are fully prepared for.

Read the full story from the Associated Press here.

7:36 a.m. Trump bypasses Congress, signs executive orders to extend unemployment benefits, defer payroll tax

Seizing the power of his podium and his pen, President Donald Trump on Saturday bypassed the nation’s lawmakers as he claimed the authority to defer payroll taxes and replace an expired unemployment benefit with a lower amount after negotiations with Congress on a new coronavirus rescue package collapsed.

At his private country club in Bedminster, New Jersey, Trump signed executive orders to act where Congress hasn’t. Not only has the pandemic undermined the economy and upended American lives, it has imperiled the president’s November reelection.

Perhaps most crucially, Trump moved to continue paying a supplemental federal unemployment benefit for millions of Americans out of work during the outbreak. However, his order called for up to $400 payments each week, one-third less than the $600 people had been receiving. Congress allowed those higher payments to lapse on Aug. 1, and negotiations to extend them have been mired in partisan gridlock, with the White House and Democrats miles apart.

Read more from the Associated Press and the Sun-Times here.

7 a.m. Illinois announces 2,190 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday

Illinois logged more than 2,000 new coronavirus cases for a second straight day Saturday, once again ratcheting up concerns of a severe viral resurgence across the state.

Over the last 10 days, the state has recorded six of its highest daily caseloads since Memorial Day weekend, with the latest 2,190 additional cases confirmed by the Illinois Department of Public Health setting yet another two-month high.

Illinois has averaged 1,733 new cases per day over the first eight days of August — almost a thousand more cases per day than the state averaged over the first eight days of July.

The newest cases were confirmed among more than 48,000 tests, raising the statewide positivity rate over the last week to 4.2%. More than 3 million people have been tested overall.

Read more from Mitchell Armentrout here.

New Cases

  • Illinois logged more than 2,000 new coronavirus cases for a second straight day Saturday and the virus has killed 18 more residents, raising Illinois’ toll to 7,631.
  • Cubs plan workouts to stay sharp with weekend series postponed due to COVID-19.
  • Newly reopened schools in Mississippi, Indiana and Georgia have already reported infections just days into the academic year.

Analysis & Commentary

10:47 a.m. Hope alone is not a success strategy

Two questions.

First, regarding Lebanese officials who ignored warnings about the 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse in Beirut: Was it smart to do nothing?

Were they right to just leave the explosives sitting there? Considering the bother of disposing of 5 million pounds of fertilizer. The cost. And when you’ve gone to all the trouble, what would you have to show for it? An unblown-up city. The same thing they started with.

Inaction worked, for a while. For six years, nothing blew up.

Given that, would doing something have been worth it? I’d say yes, but then I am a cautious sort, by nature. Cope with explosives before they blow up, that’s my motto.

To the second question:

The Archdiocese of Chicago is sending 70,000 Catholic students back to school this fall, to in-person classes, in the face of the raging COVID-19 epidemic: Is that a good idea?

Maybe it is. New York City, the largest school district in the nation, seems to think so. Like disposing of explosives, keeping kids at home is difficult, on both parents and children. The former have to care for the latter, or pay for them to be cared for, or leave them unsupervised. Education suffers.

Read more from Neil Steinberg here.

7:45 a.m. In praise of Bud Billiken, banished in 2020 by COVID-19

Saturday was Bud Billiken Day. This year, “The Bud” was banished.

Since 1929, the annual Bud Billiken Parade has been the apex of Chicago’s sunny, sultry summers, an iconic South Side celebration of Black children as they head back to school.

This year, the largest African American parade in the United States was cancelled, for the first time in 91 years, called off by the merciless restrictions of COVID-19.

In 1929 Robert S. Abbott, founder and publisher of the legendary Chicago Defender newspaper, launched the parade to celebrate childhood and the joys of summer. It was sponsored by the Chicago Defender Charities.

According to the parade’s website, in the 1900’s, a Billiken “was a charm doll embodiment of good luck and fortune and was also regarded as the guardian of children.”

Read more from Laura Washington here.

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