Coronavirus live blog for October 31, 2020: Nearly 8,000 more people test positive for COVID-19 across Illinois

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October has ended, but the coronavirus pandemic is far from over.

The count of new COVID-19 cases for the month surpassed all the totals logged in April and May combined, when the state rose and fell from its initial pandemic peak. The newest cases raised the seven-day average positivity rate to 7.5%. Experts use that number to gauge how rapidly the virus is spreading. It’s doubled over the last three weeks, and hasn’t been this high since the end of May.

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


9 p.m. ‘Numbers going through the roof’ with record-breaking 7,899 new COVID-19 cases in Illinois


Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

An astounding 7,899 more people have tested positive for COVID-19 across Illinois, public health officials said Saturday, taking the state’s coronavirus resurgence to new heights for a third consecutive day and shattering the previous daily record for new cases by nearly 1,000.

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced the latest dizzying numbers while reporting 46 more deaths have been attributed to the respiratory disease that’s tearing through states across the Midwest this fall.

More than 117,000 people contracted the virus across Illinois in October, accounting for more than a quarter of the 410,300 cases that have piled up over the last eight months.

October’s count surpassed all the cases logged in April and May combined, when the state rose and fell from its initial pandemic peak.

But the peak of this surge is still nowhere in sight.

“Every day we now see these numbers going through the roof,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Friday. “This is an extraordinarily dangerous time, and as a result, we must do everything in our power to keep down the infection rate. That means reminding everybody not to have parties in your home, to make sure that you’re keeping your bubbles small.”

Read the full story by Mitchell Armentrout here.

7:10 p.m. COVID-19 protocols will prevent Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence from playing vs. No. 4 Notre Dame

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence will not play for the top-ranked Tigers at No. 4 Notre Dame next week after testing positive for COVID-19.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said Lawrence would miss his second straight week because of the virus. Swinney was informed Thursday of Lawrence’s test and ACC protocol requires at least a 10-day isolation period, plus medical testing post-isolation.

Freshman backup DJ Uiagalelei will make his second college start with Lawrence sidelined. The Tigers beat Boston College 34-28 on Saturday without Lawrence.

Read the complete story here.

6:20 p.m. Obama: Trump failed to take pandemic, presidency seriously

FLINT, Mich. — Calling Joe Biden his “brother,” Barack Obama on Saturday accused Donald Trump of failing to take the coronavirus pandemic and the presidency seriously as Democrats leaned on America’s first Black president to energize Black voters in battleground Michigan on the final weekend of the 2020 campaign.

Obama, the 44th president, and Biden, his vice president who wants to be the 46th, held drive-in rallies in Flint and Detroit, predominantly Black cities where strong turnout will be essential to swing the longtime Democratic state to Biden’s column after Trump won it in 2016.

Read the full story here,

4:15 p.m. Indiana reports 3,000-plus new COVID-19 cases for third day

Indiana reported more than 3,000 new coronavirus cases for a third straight day Saturday as the state’s new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continued to surge.

The Indiana State Department of Health also reported 46 newly recorded COVID-19 deaths, raising the state’s pandemic death toll to 4,332, including confirmed and presumed coronavirus infections.

Read the complete story here.

2:24 p.m. Candy chutes and drive-thru treats: Chicagoans get creative for COVID-19 Halloween

Halloween looked a little different this year thanks to the pandemic, but the virus didn’t do much to wipe out the spooky spirit.

Drive-thru treats, homemade candy chutes and masks instead of face paint — those are just some of the ways Chicagoans got creative Saturday as they tried to make the most of the candy-grabbing and costume-wearing celebration despite a variety of restrictions with COVID-19 cases surging statewide.

After Mayor Lori Lightfoot decided not to cancel Halloween, some neighborhoods and schools hosted weekend events as a way to let families safely celebrate the holiday.

At “Halloween on Catalpa” hosted by the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce, hundreds of ghosts, goblins and other characters stopped at spaced-out tents for candy and other goodies over the course of the six-hour event, including the Walzer family.

Halloween is second to only Christmas as the Walzer family’s favorite holiday. They originally planned to go to a friend’s house in the suburbs to trick-or-treat, but with cases on the rise, they opted to stay close to home.

“It doesn’t seem like a great idea right now,” said Jennifer Walzer, who lives in Rogers Park. “[We’re] probably not going to do traditional trick-or-treating... We might do a scavenger candy hunt instead.”

Read the full story here.

1:45 p.m. Illinois election officials: We’re ready for next COVID-19 test on Tuesday

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.

11:19 a.m. Minority US contact tracers bridge cultural divides and build trust in diverse cities nationwide

SAN DIEGO — When a contact tracer called the Iraqi woman to say her 18-year-old daughter tested positive for the coronavirus and could quarantine for free in a hotel, the woman panicked — recalling the family’s terror of risking separation forever during their flight from Baghdad after a bomb killed her brother.

The contact tracer, Iraqi immigrant Ethar Kakoz, had made a similar harrowing journey using smugglers to get out of Iraq after her parents were told she could be kidnapped. So Kakoz came up with a safe way for the teen to isolate herself at home in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon, knowing the mother couldn’t bear to be away from her daughter.

Kakoz is among a growing legion of ethnically and racially diverse contact tracers hired by local health departments to help immigrants, refugees and minorities protect themselves during a pandemic that has disproportionately affected people of color. One call at a time from Southern California to Tennessee, the contract tracers are trying to build confidence in America’s public health system.

They have fluency in a multitude of languages, helping them bridge cultural divides and knock down misinformation about the virus circulating among immigrant, Black and Hispanic communities. The challenges include President Donald Trump downplaying it and his declaration that top government scientists are “idiots.”

Contact tracers like Kakoz who are able to connect with people mark a rare success in a contact tracing effort that has largely been a failure nationwide.

While many rich countries like South Korea use extensive contact tracing to contain the virus and reopen their economies, the U.S. has no national program, and local efforts have struggled to get people to cooperate and keep up with all the cases.

Concerns about privacy abound among many Americans, but an inherent distrust of government in communities of color is a compounding factor.

Read the full story here.

8:43 a.m. Danielle Colaprico hosts camp to help athletes whose recruitment was derailed by COVID-19

When Danielle Colaprico was being recruited to play Division I soccer, she had a slew of options.

After narrowing it down to seven schools, she decided on Virginia.

When she reflects on that time in her career, she remembers being full of excitement because of her opportunities. The players she trains when she’s not in the midfield for the Red Stars remind her of how different it would be trying to earn a scholarship now.

That was the inspiration for her two-day identification camp this weekend at De La Salle.

“From what I’ve seen and experienced, unless you’re on a top club and going to elite tournaments, it’s really hard to get seen by coaches,” Colaprico said. “That’s a huge reason why women stop playing and a reason I wanted to host this camp.”

Colaprico’s camp will feature 50 players ages 14-18 who will be showcasing their skills in front of coaches from NAIA, junior college, Division II and Division III programs.

Read the full story here.

7:35 a.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.

7:10 a.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.

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

7:15 a.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.

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