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Coronavirus live blog for Sept. 13, 2020: Illinois sees significant drop in daily caseload Sunday

Here’s the latest news about the continuing spread of coronavirus in Chicago and Illinois.

Latest

Illinois records 1,462 new COVID-19 cases, 14 additional deaths

After two consecutive days of logging 2,000 or more new coronavirus cases, Illinois saw a significant drop in its daily caseload Sunday as public health officials announced another 1,462 people have tested positive for the virus.

The newest infections, which bring the state’s total to 261,371 cases over the last seven months, were detected among 46,890 tests processed in the last day, keeping the state’s seven-day positivity rate to 3.7%.

After seeing daily caseloads dip significantly in June and the early part of July following the peak month of May, Illinois has grappled with a second wave of the virus.

The state averaged about 1,812 new infections each day in August, up sharply from July’s daily average of 1,150. In September, Illinois is averaging about 2,026 new COVID-19 infections each day, though that number is slightly skewed due to the state’s record-setting 5,368 caseload on Sept. 4 that officials attributed to a testing backlog.

Illinois has also seen a dramatic increase in testing capacity. In total, Illinois has processed more than 4.7 million COVID-19 tests since the pandemic began.

Illinois’ positivity rate — the figure health officials use to gauge how quickly the virus is spreading — dipped below 4% this week for the first time since July 31. Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he was “pleased” with the way numbers have trended following a mid-summer resurgence.

However, officials warned the state’s fight against the virus continues and urged residents to keep taking precautions seriously.

Read the full story here.


News

3:02 Illinois tallies 2,121 more coronavirus cases, but testing positive rate drops

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/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.

12:18 p.m. Crews continue to battle wildfires that have killed at least 33 victims from California to Washington state

SALEM, Ore. — Nearly all of the dozens of people reported missing after a devastating blaze in southern Oregon have been accounted for, authorities said, as crews continued to battle wildfires that have killed at least 33 victims from California to Washington state.

The flames have destroyed neighborhoods, leaving a barren, gray landscape in their wake, driven tens of thousands of people from their homes and cast a shroud of smoke over the region.

The crisis has come amid the coronavirus outbreak, the economic downturn and nationwide racial unrest that has led to protests in Portland for more than 100 days.

“What’s next?” asked Danielle Oliver, who had to flee her home outside Portland. “You have the protests, coronavirus pandemic, now the wildfires. What else can go wrong?”

Late Saturday, the Jackson County Sheriff’s office said that four people had died in the wildfire that burned in the Ashland area. Authorities earlier this week said as many as 50 people could be missing from the blaze. But they said the number of people unaccounted for is now down to one.

At least 10 people have been killed in the past week throughout Oregon. Officials have said more people are missing from other blazes, and the number of fatalities is likely to rise. Twenty-two people have died in California, and one person has been killed in Washington state.

Read the full story here.

9:57 a.m. States brace for worsening teacher shortages as pandemic forces some to opt out

INDIANAPOLIS — With many teachers opting out of returning to the classroom because of the coronavirus, schools around the U.S. are scrambling to find replacements and in some places lowering certification requirements to help get substitutes in the door.

Several states have seen surges in educators filing for retirement or taking leaves of absence. The departures are straining staff in places that were dealing with shortages of teachers and substitutes even before the pandemic created an education crisis.

Among those leaving is Kay Orzechowicz, an English teacher at northwest Indiana’s Griffith High School, who at 57 had hoped to teach for a few more years. But she felt her school’s leadership was not fully committed to ensuring proper social distancing and worried that not enough safety equipment would be provided for students and teachers.

Add the technology requirements and the pressure to record classes on video, and Orzechowicz said it “just wasn’t what I signed up for when I became a teacher.”

Read the full story here.

7:50 a.m. Big Ten presidents to discuss starting football: 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.

The person, speaking on condition of anonymity because the Big Ten was not planning to make any announcements about its efforts to return to play, said it was a “positive meeting” that led to the scheduling of a presentation to the full group of presidents and chancellors Sunday.

The presentation with include, medical, television and scheduling for football, the person said. A vote to start a season is not guaranteed to be conducted Sunday but could happen in the coming days.

The news was first reported by Yahoo! Sports

Read the full story here.

7:45 a.m. Harshmallow: Coronavirus prompts pause for Peeps holiday treats

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — 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, PennLive.com 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.

“This situation resulted in us having to make the difficult decision to forego production of our seasonal candies for Halloween, Christmas and Valentine’s Day in order to focus on meeting the expected overwhelming demand for Peeps for next Easter season, as well as our everyday candies,” the company said.

Read the full story here.


New Cases


Analysis & Commentary

7:51 a.m. Pritzker must get tough with Exelon to keep nuclear plants from closing

Gov. Pritzker needs to play hardball with Exelon. The energy provider is threatening to close its Byron and Dresden nuclear power plants, claiming they no longer are profitable. Prizker wants the company to be more transparent with its finances first; Exelon is reluctant to open its books.

To avoid shutting down the plants, Exelon is asking the state for more Zero Emission Credits. The inclusion of ZECs in the 2016 Future Energy Jobs Act saved Exelon’s Clinton and Quad Cities nuclear power plants and prevented Illinois from becoming more reliant on fossil fuels. Nevertheless, ZECs have their drawbacks.

According to the Future Energy Jobs Act, utilities in Illinois must purchase ZECs equivalent to 16% of the megawatt-hours they sold in 2014. The utilities then distribute the ZECs to approved power plants and recoup the costs by raising rates. In terms of preserving the state’s clean energy infrastructure, ZECs make sense. But now, more than ever, officials should worry about rate increases.

First, the economic impact of COVID-19 has left many Illinois residents devastated. A year ago, a modest increase in energy costs would be trivial. Now, keeping energy costs low is essential for a robust economic recovery.

Read the full Letter to the Editor here.