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Coronavirus live blog, Oct. 30, 2020: Illinois surpasses 400,000 COVID-19 cases since pandemic began

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

The state passed another grim milestone on Friday, 400,000 cases, as the pandemic worsens throughout Illinois. The average coronavirus testing positivity rate reached its highest point in five months Friday as public health officials announced a second straight record-breaking day of 6,943 new infections statewide.

It’s the fourth time in a week that the daily caseload has topped 6,000 — a number that far exceeds anything seen in the state’s previous COVID-19 peak in May.

Here’s what we learned today in the fight against coronavirus in Chicago, the state and the nation.

News

9 p.m. Illinois surpasses 400,000 COVID-19 cases since pandemic began

COVID-19 testing area at University of Chicago Hospital in March. Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

Illinois’ average coronavirus testing positivity rate reached its highest point in five months Friday as public health officials announced a second straight record-breaking day of 6,943 new infections statewide.

The soaring tally came along with a record-high 95,111 tests submitted to the Illinois Department of Public Health, raising the statewide average testing positivity rate over the last week to 7.3%.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s health team uses the average testing positivity rate to gauge how rapidly the virus is spreading — and it has more than doubled over the last month.

With yet another record-breaking case count, the state has surpassed 400,000 cases over the course of the pandemic. Since March, 402,401 people have tested positive for the virus, or about 3.2% of Illinois’ population.

Officials also announced 36 more deaths have been attributed to the virus, raising the death toll to 9,711. The latest fatalities included a Cook County man in his 40s and 12 other Chicago-area residents.

Read the full report from Rachel Hinton and Mitchell Armentrout here.

8:10 p.m. Illinois early votes already more than half 2016 turnout; polling officials say they’re ready for next COVID-19 test

New pandemic precautions are being put to the test.

Chicago’s big stadiums are opening up for residents to throw their support behind candidates instead of sports teams.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has the police preparing for a worst-case scenario of citywide unrest.

But the most radical part of this election unlike any other might already be more than halfway over — for Illinois voters anyway.

That’s because, as of Friday, more than 3 million Illinois voters had cast their ballots — with four days remaining before Tuesday’s election. That represents about 53% of the nearly 5.7 million total voters in 2016.

Read the full story by Mitchell Armentrout here.

6:05 p.m. Loyola, Northwestern to allow more students on campus in January despite COVID spike

Loyola University and Northwestern University both plan to bring more students back for the winter term despite the ongoing coronavirus spike that has led to increased restrictions in Chicago and the suburbs.

Both schools announced their plans Wednesday, the same day the state reported 6,110 newly confirmed cases of the virus ― the second-highest daily tally ever. Along with rising cases, Illinois hospitals are treating the most coronavirus patients they’ve seen since June 4, with 2,861 beds occupied. Bans on indoor dining and caps on gatherings in eight of the state’s 11 regions under the governor’s plan have been implemented as a result.

Read the full story by Adam Mahoney here.

5:15 p.m. UIC studies COVID-19 experimental therapy Trump touted as a cure

A team of University of Illinois Chicago researchers plan to study an experimental biological therapy to see if it can help prevent COVID-19 infections.

The study aims to test at least 25 people, comparing those who receive four shots of treatment with those who receive a solution with no medicine. The therapy uses a combination of lab-engineered antibodies, which are immune system proteins that fight viruses and infections.

Different from a vaccine, UIC scientists want to see if the therapy, developed by biotech company Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, can stop the spread of the virus in the body even if individuals are exposed to others who are infected.

Read the full story by Brett Chase here.

4 p.m. 1 more Cook County judge, 5 juvenile detention center residents test positive for COVID-19

Another judge and one more employee in the office of the chief Cook County judge have tested positive for COVID-19, along with five additional residents at the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center.

The judge works in the courthouse in Bridgeview and the employee is a probation officer at the Cook County Juvenile Center, according to Mary Wisniewski, spokesperson for the offfice of the chief judge.

The judge’s office has informed anyone who may have come into contact with the people who recently tested positive, Wisniewski said.

Read the full story here.

2:47 p.m. Illinois restaurant workers blast ban on indoor services

Indoor service at Chicago bars and restaurants was suspended Friday by the state in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Outdoor service is allowed, but it must end at 11 p.m.

Restaurant association representatives said they plan to meet next week with Gov. J.B. Pritzker. The association launched a petition drive asking the governor to lift the dining restrictions.

The group contends banning indoor service will result in a larger spread of the virus by driving people into “uncontrolled, unmonitored private gatherings.” They’re asking the state to reconsider the mitigations and to re-offer financial support packages and PPE to restaurants, a program that was vital for businesses during the initial spread last spring.

“We want to work with the state to offer a different path. One that addresses the surges we’re seeing while protecting the livelihood of industry workers and restaurant owners across Illinois,” said Sam Toia, president of the Illinois Restaurant Association.

Read the full story here.

1:20 p.m. Chicagoans divided on outdoor winter dining as restaurant restrictions take effect

We asked Chicagoans: Now that bars and restaurants can only serve people outdoors, will you continue frequenting your favorite places while bundled up in a coat, gloves and hat? Some answers have been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

“Nothing as fun as outdoor dining in the middle of a Chicago winter! I’ll bring my own snow shovel, and, instead of putting out a chair for parking dibs, I’ll just sit in the chair!” — Pete Kurasz

“Nope! I refuse to sit outside when it’s this cold. It was snowing this morning!” — Melanie Schmidt

“If it’s not completely miserable — and they have heaters — I will wear a coat and hat and deal with it. If it is, we will order takeout.” — Sarah Marren

“If weather permits, I will continue to patronize restaurants in my neighborhood. Many restaurants in Portage Park have had to get creative. If I can’t dine outdoors, I will order for pickup.” — Erika Garcia

Read the full story from Alice Bazerghi here.

11:52 a.m. Music professors invent protective COVID gear for students

Alice Dade, an associate professor at the University of Missouri, recommends using clip-on devices for flutes called “wind guards,” which shield the lip plate of the flute from wind when playing outdoors. The ventilated design helps limit condensation and interference with the player’s air stream. Amid the pandemic, some flutists now use them with surgical masks on top to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Alice Dade, an associate professor at the University of Missouri, recommends using clip-on devices for flutes called “wind guards,” which shield the lip plate of the flute from wind when playing outdoors. The ventilated design helps limit condensation and interference with the player’s air stream. Amid the pandemic, some flutists now use them with surgical masks on top to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Provided

Trombonist Jerrell Charleston loves the give-and-take of jazz, the creativity of riffing off other musicians. But as he looked toward his sophomore year at Indiana University, he feared that steps to avoid sharing the coronavirus would also keep students from sharing songs.

“Me and a lot of other cats were seriously considering taking a year off and practicing at home,” the 19-year-old jazz studies major from Gary said.

His worries evaporated when he discovered that music professor Tom Walsh had invented a special mask with a hole and protective flap to allow musicians to play while masked.

Students also got masks for the ends of their wind instruments, known as bell covers, allowing them to jam in person, albeit six feet apart.

“It’s amazing to play together,” Charleston says. “Music has always been my safe space. It’s what’s in your soul, and you’re sharing that with other people.”

The act of making music powered by human breath involves blowing air — and possibly virus particles. One infamous choral practice in Washington state led to confirmed diagnoses of COVID-19 in more than half of the 61 attendees. Two died.

Read the full story here.

9:33 a.m. Ask the Doctors: Flu shots especially important in COVID-19 era

Dear Doctors: I’m 23 years old and hardly ever get sick, not even a cold. I usually skip getting a flu shot, but my dad keeps telling my brother and me that it’s really important to get one this year. Can you explain why? Is it going to protect us against the coronavirus?

A. A flu shot won’t safeguard against the novel coronavirus. But it will add an important measure of protection during a particularly perilous flu season.

There can be a lot of overlap in symptoms between flu and COVID-19. Symptoms for each can include fever, chills, body aches, shortness of breath, sore throat, headache, cough, chest congestion, difficulty breathing and fatigue. And both can lead to pneumonia, hospitalization and even death.

Even when it’s not life-threatening, the flu guarantees a week or two of misery. A flu shot reduces the risk of becoming infected with the influenza virus or can mean milder symptoms and shorter illnesses than for those who go unvaccinated.

Read the full Q&A here.

8:28 a.m. IHSA will defy Gov. Pritzker, says basketball season can start on schedule

According to several sources, the Illinois High School Association will announce Wednesday that the basketball season can start as scheduled. It’s a totally unexpected move that directly contradicts the guidelines Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health outlined on Tuesday.

Pritzker and the IDPH put winter sports on an indefinite hold and moved basketball from a medium-risk sport to a higher-risk sport in the IDPH guidelines.

‘‘As with sports in the fall, nothing is ‘canceled,’ just put on hold until we’re through the thick of this pandemic,’’ Pritzker said in a statement.

According to the IHSA calendar, basketball practices are scheduled to start on Nov. 16 and the first games can be played on Nov. 30

“After diligent discussion, the Board has made the decision today to follow the recommendation of the IHSA SMAC as it relates to basketball,” IHSA spokesperson Matt Troha wrote in an email to athletic directors. “The Board remains considerate of rising COVID-19 cases in Illinois and understand the importance of adhering to safety guidelines for the good of all citizens. However, the Board has not been presented any causal evidence that rising COVID-19 cases make basketball more dangerous to play by the IDPH or any other health organization nationally or internationally.”


New Cases

  • Illinois’ average coronavirus testing positivity rate reached its highest point in five months Friday as public health officials announced a second straight record-breaking day of 6,943 new infections statewide.
  • The soaring tally came along with a record-high 95,111 tests submitted to the Illinois Department of Public Health, raising the statewide average testing positivity rate over the last week to 7.3%.

Analysis & Commentary

6:45 p.m. Why Chicago couldn’t avoid the state’s indoor dining restrictions

For generations now, Chicago has had its own separate set of state laws for just about every topic under the sun. The city’s mayor is allowed to appoint the school board, Chicago has its own “working cash fund” law, the state’s mayoral veto law does not apply to the city and Chicago has a unique exemption allowing it to deduct money from worker paychecks.

From big to archaic, the list is almost endless.

So, when you’ve grown accustomed to doing it your own way for a century or so, you may start thinking you’re a special case in literally everything. And that seems to be what happened last week.

Read the full column by columnist Rich Miller here.

7:11 a.m. During pandemic, DuPage Board should put residents’ health first

Sun-Times reader Mike Malone of Glen Ellyn writes:

During the Oct. 27 meeting of the Finance Committee of the DuPage County Board, a proposal to offer grants totaling $2.5 million to restaurants and bars to help them get through the pandemic was discussed. A common-sense amendment was offered that would ask those bars and restaurants applying for public dollars to certify that they were abiding by all state and county rules regarding occupancy, indoor dining, mask mandates, social distancing, etc.

In a total abdication of this duty, the GOP-dominated board voted down the amendment, with Republican board members spouting the same old talking points about regulations, allowing businesses to regulate themselves, and finally, unbelievably, that the reason we can’t ask businesses to certify they are following the law before we reward them with our tax dollars … it’s just too hard to enforce.

The first duty of any public governing body is to protect the health and safety of the citizens it represents. If this is too hard to do for some County Board members, perhaps they should be replaced on Nov. 3.

Read this and more letters to our editorial board here.