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Coronavirus live blog, Sept. 23, 2020: Illinois sees additional 22 deaths from COVID-19 and 1,848 new cases

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

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Illinois set a new high for testing over the weekend, reporting more than 74,000 tests in a one-day period, making the state one of the first states to pass a total of 5 million tests.

That’s not all that went down in coronavirus-related news. Here’s what else happened in Chicago and around the state.


8:57 p.m. Pritzker touts state’s COVID-19 testing as best ‘between the two coasts,’ but warns of looming trouble for Rockford, Galena area

A staff member of Community Organized Relief Effort’s (CORE) COVID-19 testing facility at Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy leads people to the registration area in Little Village Friday afternoon, Sept. 4, 2020. The site offers free COVID-19 tests.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Gov. J.B. Pritzker patted the state on back Wednesday for hitting new records in testing for COVID-19, but wagged a warning finger at northwestern Illinois for its stubborn climb toward troubling numbers.

“At this point we are by far the best testing state in the Midwest, and the best testing state between the two coasts,” Pritzker said.

Pritzker said the state set a new high for testing over the weekend, reporting more than 74,000 tests in a one-day period, making Illinois one of the first states to pass a total of 5 million tests.

The announcement came as Illinois saw an additional 22 deaths from COVID-19 and 1,848 new cases, bringing the state’s death toll to 8,508 and the total number of cases to 279,114.

The governor said the state’s aggressive testing means it’s had “the lowest positivity rate among all of our neighboring states for the last few months.”

Read the full story here.

4:16 p.m. Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce calls for state ad campaigns to include more Black-owned media companies

The Illinois State Black Chamber of Commerce Wednesday said there’s a lack of state spending on Black-owned media outlets, public relations firms and advertising firms, particularly in Illinois’ effort to convey health information about the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 campaigns focused on the black community are going to white firms, Larry Ivory, who heads up the chamber, said at a news conference.

Ivory called on Gov. J.B. Pritzker to ensure spending follows state law that establishes an “aspirational goal” of awarding 20% of contracts to businesses owned by people of color, women, and individuals living with disabilities.

“The state spends several billion dollars on media — advertising and marketing — when you take a look at the spending on Black media, it’s less than 1%,” Ivory said.

Ivory announced the ISBCC is launching the Coalition for Black Media Equity to bring attention to the disparity and demand fair and equitable awarding of state contracts to Black-owned businesses.

Ivory is seeking information on state spending and the state’s strategy to meet its minority spending goals, but couldn’t immediately provide figures.

Read the full story here.

2:48 p.m. Deadline to renew expired driver’s licenses pushed back to 2021

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White has extended the deadline to renew expired driver’s licenses and state ID cards to Feb. 1, 2021, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sun-Times Media

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White has extended the deadline to renew expired driver’s licenses and state ID cards until early next year amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The previous Nov. 1 deadline has been pushed back to Feb. 1, 2021, according to a statement from the secretary of state’s office.

The extension also applies to licenses with expiration dates in October, November, December and January, officials said.

“Extending expiration dates until February 1 means people with an expired driver’s license and ID card do not need to visit a Driver Services facility immediately,” White said in the statement. “During this pandemic, we continue to think creatively to serve the public as efficiently as possible, while making public health and safety our top priority.”

Read the full story here.

1:49 p.m. Wisconsin re-joining Chicago’s 14-day travel advisory

Wisconsin will return to the list of states on Chicago’s COVID-19 travel advisory.
AFP/Getty Images

You might want to cancel that Sunday drive to Wisconsin to see the fall colors.

For the second time in less than two months, Wisconsin is going back on Chicago’s 14-day quarantine list.

Wisconsin’s return to Chicago’s travel advisory list comes one week after Chicago Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady warned the state it had one week to get its act together.

It didn’t happen. That means Wisconsin is rejoining a list that is triggered by averaging more than 15 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents over a seven-day period. Also joining the list are Montana, Idaho, Minnesota and Puerto Rico.

“Unfortunately, Wisconsin is currently in very poor control when it comes to COVID,” Arwady told a City Hall news conference on Tuesday.

“Over the last 14 days, they’ve had an increase of more than 130 percent in their cases of COVID. And their positivity rate is up to an average now of approximately 15 percent. They’re averaging 31 ... daily cases-per-100,000. Which puts it at more than twice the rate of what we require for quarantine. And in fact, it’s the state that is currently worst in the country after North and South Dakota in terms of cases-per-population that’s still on the way up.”

Meanwhile, Illinois officials on Tuesday announced 1,531 new cases of COVID-19 along with 30 additional deaths.

That brings the state’s totals to 277,266 cases and 8,486 deaths, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. The state’s positivity rate remained at 3.5%.

Read the full story from Fran Spielman here.

9:29 a.m. US averaging close to 770 COVID-19 deaths a day as death toll topped 200,000 Tuesday

The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus topped 200,000 Tuesday, by far the highest in the world, hitting the once-unimaginable threshold six weeks before an election that is certain to be a referendum in part on President Donald Trump’s handling of the crisis.

“It is completely unfathomable that we’ve reached this point,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, a Johns Hopkins University public health researcher, eight months after the scourge first reached the world’s richest nation, with its state-of-the-art laboratories, top-flight scientists and stockpiles of medical supplies.

The number of dead is equivalent to a 9/11 attack every day for 67 days. It is roughly equal to the population of Salt Lake City or Huntsville, Alabama.

And it is still climbing. Deaths are running at close to 770 a day on average, and a widely cited model from the University of Washington predicts the U.S. toll will double to 400,000 by the end of the year as schools and colleges reopen and cold weather sets in. A vaccine is unlikely to become widely available until 2021.

“The idea of 200,000 deaths is really very sobering, in some respects stunning,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious-disease expert, said on CNN.

The bleak milestone was reported by Johns Hopkins, based on figures supplied by state health authorities. But the real toll is thought to be much higher, in part because many COVID-19 deaths were probably ascribed to other causes, especially early on, before widespread testing.

Trump said it was “a shame” the U.S. reached that number but argued the toll could have been much worse.

Read the full story here.

New Cases

On Tuesday, the state health department reported 30 additional coronavirus deaths, as well as 1,531 new confirmed coronavirus cases.

Analysis & Commentary

9:30 a.m. As a parent of a Big Ten college student, I’ll blame the Big Ten if my child gets COVID-19

My child attends a Big Ten school, and I was severely disappointed to see that the conference caved to the demands of those who value football over the health and safety of their children, other students and the community.

My child’s life and future are just as important as the lives and future of collegiate football players. But my child does not play a sport, so I guess my child doesn’t count as much to the Big Ten, because neither of us had a voice in this decision.

Football players attend class. Football players attend parties. Football players go to bars. The decision to play football inherently increases the risk to all students, not just the players.

Read this and more letters to the Sun-Times editors here.