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Coronavirus live blog, Oct. 22, 2020: Mayor Lightfoot restricting bars and restaurants again as cases surge in Chicago

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

For the third time in a week, Illinois broke its record for new coronavirus cases on Thursday as public health officials announced 4,942 more people have tested positive for COVID-19 statewide.

Here’s what else happened in Chicago and Illinois as the pandemic continued.


News

8:54 p.m. Mayor Lightfoot restricting bars and restaurants again as cases surge in Chicago

On Thursday, Mayor Lightfoot announced additional restrictions on bars, restaurants and other non-essential businesses in Chicago amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Chicago on Friday is reimposing restrictions on bars, restaurants and nonessential businesses in an attempt to stem a tide of rising COVID-19 cases, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Thursday.

Bars are back to outdoor seating only — no drinking indoors.

Restaurants must close at 10 p.m.

Other non-essential businesses will be under a 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew.

Read the full story for details on the new restrictions.


7:11 p.m. Food fight: Pritzker vows to crack down on restaurants ‘helping to spread this disease’ through dining defiance

As Illinois smashed another daily record with 4,942 new coronavirus cases reported Thursday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker threw down the gauntlet to suburban bar and restaurant owners threatening to flout his latest restrictions on indoor drinking and dining.

The Democratic governor issued his harshest warning yet to potential scofflaws before his indoor dining ban goes into effect Friday in Will, Kankakee, Kane and DuPage counties, where COVID-19 infection rates are soaring to new highs.

But some owners say they will still seat customers inside, arguing the latest rollback means a “death sentence” for their businesses after months of struggling to stay afloat while following guidelines and avoiding outbreaks.

“If people are going to force us, because they won’t follow the mitigations, and they’re going to let people get sick in their business, then we’re going to take this very seriously,” Pritzker said at a downstate coronavirus briefing. “If we have to stop them from doing business because they’re helping to spread this disease and get people sick, then that’s what we’re going to do.”

“We are now seeing the entire state is moving up in terms of hospitalizations, in terms of ICU beds, ventilators and death,” Pritzker said, pointing to “dozens of studies” showing bars and restaurants have proven to be fertile grounds for COVID-19 transmission.

Reporter Mitch Armentrout has the full story.

5:31 p.m. More than 6 million U.S. households missed their rent or mortgage payment in September

Persistent layoffs are slowing momentum in the labor market, which bodes poorly for the broader U.S. recovery as millions of out-of-work Americans delay their mortgage and rent payments.

More than 6 million households failed to make their rent or mortgage payments in September, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Research Institute for Housing America — a sign that the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic is weighing on jobless Americans as Congress stalls on relief measures.

In the third quarter, the percent of homeowners and renters behind on their payments fell slightly from the prior quarter. Still, the overall amount remains high, experts say

Over the summer, rent and mortgage payment collections improved as states resumed business reopenings and more Americans returned to work. High unemployment, though, continues to place hardships on millions of U.S. households.

The unemployment rate fell to 7.9% from 8.4% in August, the Labor Department said earlier this month. Overall, the economy is still regaining jobs in outsize fashion after shedding a record 22.1 million in early spring, but the recovery is slowing.

Read the full report here.

3:10 p.m. Illinois to begin releasing data on coronavirus outbreaks in schools

The Illinois Department of Public Health will begin releasing data on coronavirus outbreaks connected to schools, department spokesperson Melaney Arnold confirmed Thursday.

Outbreaks are tracked internally by IDPH through their Outbreak Reporting System, and are defined as two or more cases connected to a single location.

Arnold said Thursday that the school-level data will include “number of cases and outbreaks” and that officials “look forward to having that live in the coming weeks.”

IDPH has been publicly providing data on “youth cases,” or cases in individuals under 20 years old, in order for school and local health officials to make decisions on e-learning. But the state previously has not disclosed any data connected to specific schools.

Reporter Caroline Hurley has the full story.

1:35 p.m. Lightfoot says Bears have presented a ‘good plan’ to keep fans safe at Soldier Field

When and if Chicago gets a handle on its “second surge” of the coronavirus, the Bears just might be playing their home games before a limited live audience at Soldier Field.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Thursday the Bears have presented the city with a plan detailed enough to make her comfortable that fans can safely return to the stands at Soldier Field.

But not yet.

For more details on when fans might be allowed at games, read the full story from Fran Spielman.

12:25 p.m. Illinois logs another record-high 4,942 new COVID-19 cases

For the third time in a week, Illinois broke its record for new coronavirus cases on Thursday as public health officials announced 4,942 more people have tested positive for COVID-19 statewide.

The latest staggering caseload was confirmed among 80,977 tests, the third-highest total ever submitted to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

That kept the state’s seven-day average testing positivity rate at 5.7%, but that key indicator of transmission still has jumped from 3.3% earlier this month.

For more details on the rise in cases, read the full story here.

9:09 a.m State’s deadliest day in months called sad result of ‘new wave’ of COVID-19 cases: ‘You will get to more deaths’

The coronavirus claimed more lives than it has on any other day in Illinois over the past four months, as public health officials on Wednesday attributed 69 additional deaths to COVID-19.

It’s the most in a single day since the 84 deaths recorded June 17, back when the state was coming down from its initial peak of the pandemic.

More than 2,900 people have died with the virus statewide since then, and Illinois’ overall pandemic death toll stands at 9,345 with the state facing a “new wave” of surging coronavirus cases, according to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s health team.

“We should understand that that’s always the pattern: A certain number of cases will go on to be hospitalizations, a certain number of hospitalizations will go on to be deaths,” Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said. “The more cases, eventually you will get to more deaths, and so the spike in cases that we’ve been seeing over the last six weeks, yes, unfortunately, it is turning into additional mortalities.”

Read Mitchell Armentrout’s full story.

8:17 a.m. CTA to offer PPE vending machines at some L stations

In a move to keep its patrons stocked with defenses against the coronavirus, the Chicago Transit Authority will install vending machines with personal protective equipment for sale.

The vending machines will contain hand sanitizer, disposable face masks, sanitizing wipes and disposable gloves, the CTA announced Wednesday after the measure was approved by its board.

Six machines, expected to be installed later this year, will contain items that cost between $3.75 and $10.

Reporter David Struett has the full story.


New Cases

The average statewide testing positivity rate climbed to 5.5% with the latest 3,714 new cases of the disease confirmed among 59,077 tests submitted to the Illinois Department of Public Health. That’s as high as it’s been since early June, and up from just 3.3% on Oct. 4.


Analysis & Commentary

9:08 a.m. A Chicago budget full of hard calls for hard times

For those expecting a hard times city budget for 2021 from Mayor Lori Lightfoot, she did not disappoint.

The mayor’s proposed $12.8 billion plan seeks to fill an expected $1.2 billion deficit with layoffs, massive city debt refinancing and a sure-to-be-contentious $94 million property tax hike that would increase annually by the rate of inflation.

There’s also a proposed three-cents-per-gallon gas tax hike that won’t make anybody happy.

And though violent crime is an obvious top concern for most Chicagoans, the budget calls for 618 vacant sworn police openings — enough officers to staff two police districts around the clock — to be left unfilled.

“This budget is tough,” Lightfoot told the Sun-Times editorial board. “It’s painful.”

Yes, but so are the times in which our city and the whole country find themselves. COVID-19 continues to imperil the economy and lives, and the likelihood — which this city budget presumes — is that Washington, D.C. won’t be riding to the rescue anytime soon. Negotiations for an additional federal stimulus bill continue to go nowhere.

If Lightfoot’s proposed budget is approved in its present form, the year ahead will tell if it sufficiently rises to the occasion.

Read the full editorial here.

8:02 a.m. No easy decisions about school, sports in pandemic, but students need seat at table

Let me start with this axiom: Nobody wants teenagers around.

Oh, we tolerate them and even cheer for them at certain times and events.

But do we want them hanging around with pals in our houses, malls, restaurants, backyards or basements?

Not a chance.

Now we can add schools to the places where teens aren’t wanted.

And there’s a simple reason nobody wants them hanging out: They’re not kids and they’re not adults, but they can cause kid trouble, do adult damage, make foolish decisions and reproduce.

And spread viruses.

Forget all the good things they can do.

I thought about this because I was particularly moved by a recent letter to the editor in the Sun-Times written by a 16-year-old girl named Tova Kaplan. She’s a student at Whitney Young.

In the letter, Tova decried the way teens and their opinions and needs are casually dismissed by city and state leaders who make all the plans during a crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘‘Any discussions on schools are held as if those schools are devoid of students, as if the only opinions that matter are those of parents, teachers unions, the school board and the governor,’’ she wrote.

Read the full column from Rick Telander here.