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Coronavirus live blog, Sept. 12, 2020: Illinois logs second straight day of 2,000 or more COVID-19 cases

Here’s what we learned Saturday about the continuing spread of coronavirus and its ripple effects in Chicago and Illinois.

On Saturday, the caseload marked the 13th time Illinois has logged 2,000 or more cases in a single day since Aug. 7, following a two-month stretch without topping that mark. But the state has also seen a dramatic increase in testing capacity.

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


9 p.m. Illinois tallies 2,121 more coronavirus cases, but testing positivity rate drops

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Public health officials on Saturday announced another 2,121 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Illinois, the second straight day the state logged 2,000 or more cases.

But they were confirmed among 56,594 tests, lowering the statewide testing positivity rate over the last week to 3.7%. That’s the number experts focus on to gauge how rapidly the virus is spreading.

The Illinois Department of Public Health also announced 22 more COVID-19 patients have died, raising the state’s pandemic death toll to 8,295. The latest victims included a Cook County man in his 30s and another in his 40s.

Of nearly 4.7 million COVID-19 tests administered statewide over the last six months, 259,909 people have tested positive.

Read the full story from Mitchell Armentrout here.

8:30 p.m. Harshmallow: Coronavirus prompts pause for Peeps holiday treats

Peeps treats are going on hiatus for several months — another consequence of the coronavirus pandemic.

Just Born Quality Confections said it won’t be producing the popular marshmallow sweets for Halloween, Christmas or Valentine’s Day as the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania-based company prepares for next Easter, reports.

Production of the holiday-shaped candies was suspended in the spring as the coronavirus spread across the state. Limited production resumed in mid-May with protocols in place to protect employees, Just Born said.

Read the full story here.

7:15 p.m. Big Ten presidents to discuss starting football during pandemic: source

Big Ten university presidents will meet Sunday to hear a presentation about playing a fall football season after all — maybe as soon as late October — amid pressure from parents, players, coaches and even the president to kick off.

A person with direct knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press the Big Ten’s Return to Competition Task Force met Saturday. The medical subcommittee, comprised of athletic directors, doctors and athletic training staffers, made a presentation to a subgroup of presidents and chancellors. The presentation included improvements in the availability of rapid, daily COVID-19 testing.

Read the full story here.

6 p.m. Dakotas lead US in coronavirus growth as both reject mask rules

Coronavirus infections in the Dakotas are growing faster than anywhere else in the nation, fueling impassioned debates over masks and personal freedom after months in which the two states avoided the worst of the pandemic.

The argument over masks raged this week in Brookings, South Dakota, as the city council considered requiring face coverings in businesses. The city was forced to move its meeting to a local arena to accommodate intense interest, with many citizens speaking against it, before the mask requirement ultimately passed.

Amid the brute force of the pandemic, health experts warn that the infections must be contained before care systems are overwhelmed. North Dakota and South Dakota lead the country in new cases per capita over the last two weeks, ranking first and second respectively, according to Johns Hopkins University researchers.

Read the full story here.

3:15 p.m. Trump’s coronavirus debate: Project strength or level with public

In times of crisis — wars, hurricanes, pandemics — effective leaders strike a balance between inspirational rhetoric and leveling with the public about the tough times ahead.

Facing the coronavirus, Trump chose a different path, acknowledging that from early on he was intentionally “playing down” the threat from an outbreak that has gone on to kill more than 190,000 Americans. His rosy assessment of the peril confronting the nation spotlights the struggles he has faced in trying to steer the United States through the challenge of a pandemic.

Read the full story here.

2:15 p.m. DuPage County gets coronavirus ‘warning’ as Illinois logs 2,145 new cases: ‘We need to take this seriously’

A broad swath of Chicago’s western suburbs hit a COVID-19 warning level Friday as public health officials announced 2,145 more people have tested positive for the deadly virus statewide.

The latest daily caseload was slightly above Illinois’ two-week average of about 2,022 new cases per day, and they were confirmed among 56,661 tests to raise the state’s rolling testing positivity rate to 3.9%.

The Illinois Department of Public Health also announced the virus killed 32 more people, the most in a single day since the beginning of the month. The state has averaged about 20 COVID-19 deaths per day over the last two weeks.

It was an increase in COVID-19 deaths that helped land DuPage County on the state’s updated list of counties considered to be at a viral “warning level.” Six deaths were reported in the west suburban county last week, up from four the previous week.

Read the full story from Mitchell Armentrout here.

1:40 p.m. Oxford, AstraZeneca resumes coronavirus vaccine trial

Oxford University announced Saturday it was resuming a trial for a coronavirus vaccine it is developing with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, a move that comes days after the study was suspended following a reported side-effect in a U.K. patient.

In a statement, the university confirmed the restart across all of its U.K. clinical trial sites after regulators gave the go-ahead following the pause on Sunday.

“The independent review process has concluded and following the recommendations of both the independent safety review committee and the U.K. regulator, the MHRA, the trials will recommence in the U.K.,” it said.

Read the full story here.

11:25 a.m. Red Stars are back in action, though there are risks

The Red Stars return to game action Saturday, but the safety provided while playing in the NWSL Challenge Cup bubble is gone.

The team opens the NWSL Fall Series on the road against the Washington Spirit, which meant two commercial flights and a one-night hotel stay.

While players had flown in and out of their team’s cities at the beginning of the season and again after the Challenge Cup, travel is a concern for players and coach Rory Dames.

“I’m not sure the logic of ‘well, players are already flying on commercial flights, so it’s OK to do’ carries a lot of weight with me,” Dames said. “But I do understand the reality of the situation we’re in, and what teams can and cannot afford to do is real.”

Dames went on to say across the league no one is being forced to play in the four-game Fall Series. As someone who falls into the high-risk category, Dames, who has asthma, feels the organization would support him if he chose to opt out of traveling. But that’s not something he’s considering.

“As a coach, even if one of your players is going, you feel obligated to go,” Dames said.

Read the full story from Annie Costabile here.

10:08 a.m. Nurses launch seven-day strike at University of Illinois Hospital

University of Illinois at Chicago nurses followed through with a planned strike Saturday morning, demanding limits on the number of patients under each nurse’s care and better personal protection equipment.

More than 800 nurses walked off the job at 7 a.m., after the previous three-year contract between the Illinois Nurses Association members and the University of Illinois Hospital expired on Monday.

Downpour rain didn’t stop about 300 nurses from gathering outside the Near West Side hospital, where the medical professionals — all wearing blue T-shirts under rain ponchos and jackets — lined the sidewalks near the hospital’s emergency room entrance at 1740 W. Taylor St. Some carried signs that read “Safety in Numbers” and “Protect our Patients.”

Motorists — including several CTA train conductors — laid on their horns in a show of support for the striking nurses, who are planning to gather for seven consecutive days, or until their demands are met.

Read more from Madeline Kenney and Jermaine Nolen here.

8:47 a.m. 16-inch softball carries on in suburbs as pandemic shuts down park district leagues

In a city that proudly clutches to the staples of its culture, it’s going to take more than a global pandemic to cancel a 16-inch softball season.

The slow-pitch, gloveless game is synonymous with Chicago — up there in the cultural pantheon with house music, Malört and arguments over which Harold’s is best. And while the coronavirus forced the Chicago Park District to cancel the majority of their leagues, the top teams play on in nearby suburbs.

“It’s difficult, I’m not going to lie, but the people who love the game, we’re figuring it out little by little,” said George Bliss, a lifelong softball player who helps run the 16-inch Softball Hall of Fame. “If we have to play all the way to November or December when it’s snowing, we’re going to do it because we have to make up for lost time.”

The softball leagues operating in suburbs like Forest Park, Schaumburg, Cicero and Melrose Park are looking to the state for guidance as to whether it’s safe to play, Bliss said. Once Illinois entered Phase 4 of its coronavirus reopening plan, which allows for gatherings of 50 people or fewer, it was game on.

Read the full story from Sam Kelly here.

7:44 a.m. CPS students log on at much higher rates than the spring, but attendance down from previous years

About four of every five Chicago Public Schools students logged on for the first week of school, a markedly higher rate than in the spring despite first-day attendance still dipping from previous years in a sign of the continued challenges of remote learning, figures released Friday by the district show.

The early engagement levels are a promising start for a school system in which barely half of students attended online classes three or more days per week after the coronavirus pandemic forced buildings to close in the spring.

Yet the first week was a mixed bag, with dozens of schools drawing better attendance than previous years’ district-wide average, while a handful of schools still had less than half their students log on.

The results reflect a varying degree of success in bridging a stubborn technology gap and creating an online learning plan that is achievable for working-families who are juggling students’ classes with parents’ jobs.

Read the full story from Nader Issa here.

New Cases

Analysis & Commentary

7:47 a.m. No Big Ten? That’s just one of the big 10 storylines as college football gets cooking

Big Ten football is dead.

For a little while longer, anyway.

Someday, we’ll look back and laugh at the self-righteous fuss that was made — from Lincoln, Nebraska, to the Deep South; from Columbus, Ohio, to the White House — over the Big Ten’s “break” from college football during a pandemic. Or we’ll look back and cry. Either way, the SEC, ACC and Big 12 won’t have waited for the Big Ten and Pac-12 to arrive at the table before digging into the 2020 season.

Indeed, the fractured state of college football is storyline No. 1 this season.

Meanwhile, first-year commissioner Kevin Warren is under heavy fire as presidents and chancellors around the Big Ten prepare to vote on a new proposed plan for when games could start. Ohio State coach Ryan Day complained that communication from the league has been “disappointing and often unclear.” Penn State coach James Franklin publicly questioned Warren’s leadership.

So much — for now — for the league’s preseason rankings in the AP Top 25: Ohio State 2, Penn State 7, Wisconsin 12, Michigan 16, Minnesota 19 and Iowa 24.

But the show goes on without the Big Ten. And as national storylines go, here’s the rest of the big 10 (where 10 actually means 10):

Read Steve Greenberg’s top 10 college football storylines here.