Coronavirus live blog, Oct. 19, 2020: Second surge in coronavirus cases prompts stern message from Lightfoot: ‘This is a warning sign’

Here’s Monday’s news on how COVID-19 is impacting Chicago and Illinois. Follow here for live updates.

SHARE Coronavirus live blog, Oct. 19, 2020: Second surge in coronavirus cases prompts stern message from Lightfoot: ‘This is a warning sign’

A fresh round of coronavirus restrictions may be in the future for Chicago.

Here’s what you need to about the coronavirus pandemic in Chicago and around Illinois.


News

8:56 p.m. Lightfoot warns COVID restrictions could be tightened again: ‘This is a call to action’

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A “second surge” in coronavirus cases in Chicago has Mayor Lori Lightfoot warning she will not hesitate to impose the tougher restrictions that were in place earlier this year.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

With over 500 cases being reported daily — the highest since the tail end of the first wave of cases earlier this year — the mayor on Monday declared: “Make no mistake: We are in the second surge.”

That means the potential for reimposing Phase 3 restrictions. Among other things, that would end indoor dining at restaurants and reduce the size of social gatherings to 10 people or less.

“This is a warning sign,” Lightfoot said at a City Hall news conference. “This is a call to action. ... We don’t want to see us have to go back to the kind of restrictive measures we say in March, April and May. But, if we have to, we will,.”

Read the full story from Fran Spielman here.


6:11 p.m. Purdue coach Jeff Brohm will miss opener against Iowa after 2nd positive COVID-19 test

Purdue coach Jeff Brohm started feeling abnormally fatigued late last week. By Saturday, the symptoms worsened.

Two positive COVID-19 tests Sunday confirmed what Brohm suspected.

On Monday, Brohm announced he had contracted the virus and would not be on the sideline for Saturday’s season-opener at home against Iowa. Instead, offensive coordinator Brian Brohm will replace his older brother and will continue calling plays.

“It’s not going to be very fun and it’s bad timing,” Jeff Brohm said on his weekly Zoom call. “You work all year long for a season, it’s an abbreviated season, I’d like to be there, be with the team. But I don’t think one person makes the team whether it’s a coach or a player. I think our team will respond and play well.”

Brohm isn’t the first coach facing this predicament.

Read the full report here.

3:26 p.m. Wisconsin judge reimposes order limiting indoor venues to 25% capacity

MADISON, Wis. — A Wisconsin judge on Monday reimposed an order from Gov. Tony Evers’ administration limiting the number of people who can gather in bars, restaurants and other indoor venues to 25% of capacity.

The capacity limits order was issued Oct. 6 by Andrea Palm, secretary of the state Department of Health Services, in the face of surging coronavirus cases in Wisconsin. A judge blocked the order on Oct. 14 after it was challenged by the Tavern League of Wisconsin, which argued it amounted to a “de facto closure” order for the bars and restaurants it represents.

But Barron County Judge James Babler on Monday put the capacity limits back into effect. He declined a request from the Tavern League to keep the capacity limit order on hold while the lawsuit is pending and declined to stay his ruling while the Tavern League and others appeal his decision.

“This critically important ruling will help us prevent the spread of this virus by restoring limits on public gatherings,” Evers said in a statement, while encouraging people to stay at home, limit gatherings and wear a mask when in public.

Wisconsin last week set new daily records for positive coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations. To date, the state has more than 173,000 positive cases and 1,600 deaths.

Read the full story here.

2:49 p.m. Lightfoot’s ‘pandemic’ budget: 500 layoffs, $94 million property tax hike

Raising Chicago’s nickel-a-gallon tax on gasoline to 8 cents and imposing a $94 million property tax increase that will cost the owner of a home valued at $250,000 an extra $56-a-year.

Eliminating 1,000 vacant city jobs, 450 of them police officers, and laying off up to 500 city employees, but delaying the pink slips until March to give the new Congress a chance to ride to the rescue.

Refinancing $500 million in city debt and raiding Chicago’s $900 million in reserves, but only by $30 million to avoid another drop in Chicago’s already shaky bond rating.

Declaring a record $350 million tax-increment-financing surplus to generate a $189 million windfall for the Chicago Public Schools, but snatching back $55 million of that money by shifting pension and crossing guard costs from the city to CPS.

Requiring thousands of city employees that don’t belong to union to take five unpaid furlough days.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot wasn’t kidding when she talked about the “impossible choices” she would need to make to balance what she calls Chicago’s “pandemic budget.”

A property tax increase was her “last resort.” Layoffs and furlough days were “second-to-last.” Yet she is resorting to both those options to plug the gap without federal help.

Read the full story from Fran Spielman here.

11:46 a.m. If someone votes early but dies before Election Day will their vote count?

ATLANTA — At 90 years old and living through a global pandemic, Hannah Carson knows time may be short. She wasted no time returning her absentee ballot for this year’s election.

As soon as it arrived at her senior living community, she filled it out and sent it back to her local election office in Charlotte, North Carolina. If something were to happen and she doesn’t make it to Election Day, Carson said she hopes her ballot will remain valid.

“I should think I should count, given all the years I have been here,” she said.

In North Carolina, a ballot cast by someone who subsequently dies can be set aside if a challenge is filed before Election Day with the county board of elections.

Questions over whether ballots will count if someone votes early but dies before Election Day are especially pressing this year, amid a coronavirus outbreak that has been especially perilous for older Americans. People 85 years and older represent nearly one in three deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. As an election looms, the odds against older people who contract the virus are on the minds of the elderly and their family members.

Seventeen states prohibit counting ballots cast by someone who subsequently dies before the election, but 10 states specifically allow it. The law is silent in the rest of the country, according to research by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Read the full story here.

10:43 a.m. Has Indiana been too passive or too aggressive in coronavirus containment efforts?

2020 High School Football Season Kicks Off in Indiana

Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb hears lots of criticism over how he’s led Indiana during the coronavirus pandemic over the past seven months.

The two challengers to Holcomb’s reelection bid split on whether he’s been too passive in attacking the virus spread or that he’s trampled people’s rights with the statewide stay-at-home order early in the outbreak and the mask mandate first issued in July.

Holcomb has huge campaign fundraising and organization advantages over Democrat Woody Myers and Libertarian Donald Rainwater that he’s built leading the Republican-dominated state government without a well-known election foe.

While Indiana has seen recent sharp increases in COVID-19 hospitalizations and new infections, Holcomb’s message has gone between chastising those who resist wearing masks and touting his actions.

Read the full report here.

10:22 a.m. Lawmakers pen letter to Lightfoot, CPS asking for remote learning improvements, stronger safety measures before return to classes

A group of elected officials has written an open letter to Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools asking for improvements to remote learning and stronger safety measures at schools before a return to in-person classes.

The letter — signed by a group of 15 Chicago aldermen from across the city, 26 state legislators, including Rep. LaShawn Ford (D-8th) and Rep. Kam Buckner (D-26th), and Cook County commissioners Brandon Johnson, Dennis Deer and Alma Anaya — comes days after CPS announced plans to phase students back to in-person learning next month, starting with preschoolers and some special education students. Other students may start returning as soon as January.

“So far the Mayor and CPS have been tight-lipped on the specifics of how they plan to return to in-person instruction, cutting students, parents, Aldermen and other elected officials, and our labor partners out of this very necessary planning process,” Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th), who signed the letter, said in a statement. “We should be working together to find the best solutions to create safe learning environments for students, teachers and staff.”

The group claims that spotty internet connections have impaired students’ learning and that seven hours of screen time per day is harmful to students.

“We implore you to revamp the screen schedule and increase opportunities for non-screen learning and physical activity,” the letter reads. “Other cities have made the shift, and we think the same should be done here.”

Read the full story here.

7:48 a.m. 4,245 new COVID-19 cases reported in Illinois as positivity rate continues climbing

Illinois health officials Sunday reported 4,245 new cases of COVID-19 as the state’s positivity rate continued its climb for the 14th consecutive day.

That is only 309 cases fewer than the record-breaking tally of 4,554 cases announced Friday by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The state has now reported a daily caseload of more than 4,000 in three of the last four days. The latest cases were confirmed among 79,296 tests, raising the positivity rate, which indicates how rapidly the virus is spreading, to 5.3% from 5.2% the previous day.

Public health officials Sunday also attributed 22 more deaths to the coronavirus, for a total of 9,214 since the pandemic began.

Health experts have warned Illinois is approaching a new peak that could be severe if people don’t adhere to recommended guidelines.

On Sunday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker accused “Trump allies in our state” of contributing to the spike in Illinois COVID-19 infections by encouraging people to flout the rules in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Read the full story here.


New cases

Illinois public health officials on Sunday attributed 22 more deaths to the coronavirus, for a total of 9,214 since the pandemic began.

The state reported 4,245 new cases of COVID-19 at the weekend’s close as the state’s positivity rate continued its climb for the 14th consecutive day.

That is only 309 cases fewer than the record-breaking tally of 4,554 cases announced Friday by the Illinois Department of Public Health.


Analysis & Commentary

8:20 a.m. Pandemic vs. ambition: how one company is adjusting plans for growth

West Monroe sees a scenario in which its office usage increases rather than decreases. Many of its experts used to work on the road at clients’ sites. “Monday through Thursday used to be pretty light days at the office. Fridays were busiest as people were back home and checked in with one another,” Hulsebosch said.

“We have to do things a little differently. Clients are realizing we can still deliver value and be remote. They’re also realizing that it’s nice not to have to pay our peoples’ expenses.”

The new office opens officially Monday and has adopted some of the design elements now common. Workstations have been thinned out, corridors marked as one-way routes to keep people from bumping into each other, and hand sanitizer is everywhere. Beyond that, Hulsebosch said, is a greater use of technology to keep teams coordinated and to manage who comes back to the office and when.

“We’re seeing that the technology we used pre-COVID, telecommunications, video conferencing, was poor. What we’ve discovered is that with Zoom and other tools for remote collaboration, the experience has been great. It’s meeting the organization’s needs better compared to work that’s partially office, partially remote,” he said.

Read the full column from David Roeder here.

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