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Coronavirus live blog, September 27, 2020: Illinois could see 10,000 deaths from COVID-19 this year

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

The latest

Illinois’ coronavirus-related death toll surpasses 8,600

Gov. J.B. Pritzker listens to speakers at an event joined by state and community leaders on Sept. 16, 2020.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Gov. J.B. Pritzker declared Aug. 29 a “solemn day” after Illinois health officials reported more than 8,000 people had succumbed to the coronavirus.

Nearly a month later, the state reached another troubling milestone.

Illinois’ coronavirus death toll surpassed 8,600 on Sunday, with state health officials announcing an additional 14 deaths.

Perhaps even more concerning is should the state’s average daily death toll continue, Illinois could see more than 10,000 people die of the respiratory virus by the end of this year.

This month, Illinois is averaging about 21 coronavirus-related deaths each day — up from the roughly 17 fatalities the state averaged in August. Should that current average continue, Illinois is on track for more than 10,500 deaths by Dec. 31, 2020.

Sunday’s fatalities — half of which were reported in Cook County — brings the state’s total 8,601 deaths. Almost 45% of those deaths occurred to people 80 years of age or older.

State health officials also announced 1,604 new coronavirus cases, bringing the state’s total to 287,930.

Read the full story from Madeline Kenney here.


News

12:35 p.m. Fact-check: Durbin’s claim about COVID-19 effect on U.S. economy vs. rest of the world off by a factor of wrong

Following last month’s Democratic National Convention, Sen. Dick Durbin said Democrats would better handle the coronavirus and the nation’s economy if they take control of the Senate next year.

“We have a worse economy than any other country in the world that’s going through COVID-19 by a factor of three,” the Illinois Democrat said on the “Connected to Chicago” podcast hosted by WLS-AM’s Bill Cameron.

While the U.S. economy has been struggling in the aftermath of shutdowns caused by the pandemic, the Aug. 23 claim drew a very stark comparison between the U.S. and the rest of the world that we had never heard. So we decided to check it out.

Asked repeatedly to provide records, studies or any other support to back up the claim, Durbin’s staff did not respond.

So we turned to experts and myriad data collected by economists to compare the U.S. economy to other countries. Experts we interviewed agreed the most effective measure is gross domestic product, or GDP.

“I don’t think it’s true that our economy is worse than any other country by a factor of three,” said Harry Holzer, a Georgetown University public policy professor who has studied the effects of COVID-19 on the economy.

Read the full story here.

11:55 a.m. Military suicides increase by as much as 20% this year compared to same period in 2019

WASHINGTON — Military suicides have increased by as much as 20% this year compared to the same period in 2019, and some incidents of violent behavior have spiked as service members struggle under COVID-19, war-zone deployments, national disasters and civil unrest.

While the data is incomplete and causes of suicide are complex, Army and Air Force officials say they believe the pandemic is adding stress to an already strained force.

And senior Army leaders — who say they’ve seen about a 30% jump in active duty suicides so far this year — told The Associated Press that they are looking at shortening combat deployments. Such a move would be part of a broader effort to make the wellbeing of soldiers and their families the Army’s top priority, overtaking combat readiness and weapons modernization.

The Pentagon refused to provide 2020 data or discuss the issue, but Army officials said discussions in Defense Department briefings indicate there has been up to a 20% jump in overall military suicides this year. The numbers vary by service. The active Army’s 30% spike — from 88 last year to 114 this year — pushes the total up because it’s the largest service. The Army Guard is up about 10%, going from 78 last year to 86 this year. The Navy total is believed to be lower this year.

Army leaders say they can’t directly pin the increase on the virus, but the timing coincides.

“I can’t say scientifically, but what I can say is - I can read a chart and a graph, and the numbers have gone up in behavioral health related issues,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said in an AP interview.

Read the full story here.

8:41 a.m. Update: Falcons’ positive test won’t stop Bears game

ATLANTA — Falcons cornerback A.J. Terrell became the first NFL player ruled out for a game because of a positive test for the coronavirus Saturday, but it won’t cost the Bears a chance at their third win Sunday.

The Falcons put Terrell on the reserve/COVID list Saturday and conducted contact tracing to determine whether they have an outbreak. The team did not produce any more positive results in testing that was returned both Saturday and Sunday, sources confirmed to the Sun-Times.

That means the Bears will play the Falcons as scheduled: at noon at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Terrell, 22, appears to be asymptomatic. He was the Falcons’ first-round pick in the spring and might have started Sunday.

The Bears flew to Atlanta after meetings Saturday at Halas Hall and proceeded as if the game would start as planned. Coach Matt Nagy has changed the team’s travel schedule for road games this season to minimize the amount of time spent in hotels.

Read the full story here.

7:15 a.m. Rapid, cheap home tests: Companies attempt to make coronavirus tests widely available

Nearly two months after federal regulators unveiled rules for at-home coronavirus tests, no company has federal approval to sell these fast and cheap tests even though the technology is ready.

Molecular PCR tests processed at medical labs remain the standard of accurate testing, but they are more expensive and results can take days to process.

Antigen tests are less expensive, plentiful and deliver results in minutes. Three companies gained Food and Drug Administration authorization to sell antigen testing instruments to labs or clinics. A fourth company, Abbott Laboratories, won approval to market a $5 rapid, credit card-sized test administered by a health care professional.

Read the full story here.

7:03 a.m. Tiny airborne particles may pose a big coronavirus problem

At a University of Maryland lab, people infected with the new coronavirus take turns sitting in a chair and putting their faces into the big end of a large cone. They recite the alphabet and sing or just sit quietly for a half hour. Sometimes they cough.

The cone sucks up everything that comes out of their mouths and noses. It’s part of a device called “Gesundheit II” that is helping scientists study a big question: Just how does the virus that causes COVID-19 spread from one person to another?

It clearly hitchhikes on small liquid particles sprayed out by an infected person. People expel particles while coughing, sneezing, singing, shouting, talking and even breathing. But the drops come in a wide range of sizes, and scientists are trying to pin down how risky the various kinds are.

Read the complete story here

7 a.m. Chicago sees slight decline in positivity rate due to booming coronavirus testing

State health officials on Saturday announced 2,441 new coronavirus cases and 25 additional deaths.

The new infections were found among the latest batch of 65,217 tests reported to the Illinois Department of Public Health in the last day. That keeps the state’s seven-day positivity rate — a figure experts use to gauge how rapidly the virus is spreading — at 3.6%, which is a slight uptick from last weekend when that number checked in at 3.5%.

Saturday marked the 10th day this month Illinois recorded a 2,000-plus daily caseload. This month, Illinois is averaging about 1,973 cases per day. Meanwhile, the state averaged a daily caseload of about 1,812 new infections last month — a large increase from the 1,150 new cases reported on average each day in July.

While the state’s daily caseload average has continued to rise over the last three months, positivity rates have sunk across most of Illinois, thanks to a statewide increase in testing capacity. Illinois has processed more than 1.3 million tests this month.

Read the full story here.


New cases


Analysis & Commentary

7:02 a.m. Even before any second COVID wave, many Chicagoans are still in need from the first one

The calls come daily to state Rep. Lindsey LaPointe’s office on the Northwest Side from people who need help navigating the state bureaucracy.

They call about unemployment benefits, housing assistance and food stamps. They call about utility bills, problems with state licenses and support for their small businesses.

Many of the callers these days are in tears, not knowing where to turn. Some can’t pay the rent. Others are worried about feeding their families.

Yet what’s striking to LaPointe’s chief of staff, Jessica Genova, is how apologetic many of the callers are, as if they’re feeling guilty about their predicament and needing help.

“I’ve never done this before,” they say.

Read Mark Brown’s full column here.