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Coronavirus live blog, Nov. 2, 2020: Surging COVID-19 numbers spark Election Day concerns for polling places

Here’s Monday’s news on how COVID-19 is impacting Chicago and Illinois.

It’s the day before Election Day, and the coronavirus is surging through the state of Illinois.

Here’s what to know about the pandemic before heading to the polls.


News

8:55 p.m. Surging COVID-19 numbers spark Election Day concerns for polling places

Hand sanitizer and stickers are set up at a First Ward polling place on Tuesday. James Foster/Chicago Sun-Times file

A surge in coronavirus cases across the country, including in key presidential battleground states, is creating mounting health and logistical concerns for voters, poll workers and political parties ahead of Election Day.

In Wisconsin, Gov. Tony Evers sought to assure voters in the critical swing state that going to the polls would not be risky, even as officials announced more than 5,000 new confirmed coronavirus cases on Friday.

“For those who are voting in person now, I believe it’s safe,” Evers said, adding that polling places have adequate supplies to protect voters.

Across the country, Republicans worked to downplay any concerns that health risks will keep some of their voters home, after Democrats heavily promoted mail-in and early in-person balloting to their voters.

Read the full story here.


7:49 p.m. Despite record case counts, Pritzker says he’s not considering another statewide stay-at-home order, at the moment

Despite record high daily COVID-19 case counts in recent days, Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday said he’s not considering issuing another stay-at-home order — at the moment, anyway.

“We’re not currently looking at a stay at home order, I mean, obviously that’s something that lurks in the background,” Pritzker said at a Monday afternoon news conference. “If we believe these tiered mitigations ultimately are ineffective, if people choose not to wear masks and if the spread of the virus continues to go unabated, in a kind of community spread, we would obviously have to consider, you know, more significant mitigations.”

He didn’t provide specific numbers on what might be the threshold that triggers such a drastic step.

“The virus is spreading and every region of the state is suffering from it’s insidious, invisible, contagion,” he said.

Reporters Rachel Hinton and Mitch Dudek have the full story.

6:21 p.m. Your holiday flight might be fuller than you’d expect, thanks in part to pandemic fatigue

Planning to fly somewhere for Thanksgiving or Christmas? Your flights might be fuller than you’d expect during a pandemic.

Airline after airline has reported encouraging holiday booking signs the past few weeks — a welcome boost during a year of devastating financial losses.

And airline executives appear confident ticket sales won’t dive like they did in early July amid an increase in cases of the coronavirus.

Budget carrier Allegiant Air told investors the blows from COVID-19 spikes have decreased throughout the year, a trend reported by other airlines, including giant Southwest.

“Based both on what our customers are saying and what our customers are doing, we see a clear divergence in terms of their attitudes toward the pandemic and their intentions towards leisure air travel,’’ said Scott DeAngelo, Allegiant’s chief marketing officer. “Customers believe the situation may once again be getting worse, but their leisure travel activity or their travel booking intent remains largely unchanged.’’

United CEO Scott Kirby said bookings have “flatlined a little bit’’ due to rising case counts and travel restrictions but that he still expected ”pretty strong’’ holiday travel.

Read the full report here.

4:18 p.m. State health officials report 6,222 new COVID-19 cases, 20 deaths

State public health officials announced Monday 6,222 people tested positive for COVID-19 and 20 people have died as the state grapples with a second surge of the deadly virus.

The new cases bring the state’s total case count to 423,502. There have been 9,810 deaths in Illinois.

The preliminary seven-day statewide case positivity rate is 8.1%.

As of Sunday night, 3,371 people in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of that number, 722 patients were in intensive care and 298 patients were on ventilators.

The new cases were confirmed through 68,118 tests.

Reporter Rachel Hinton has the full story.

12:54 p.m. COVID-19 recruiting tips for high school basketball players

Times have abruptly changed in the basketball recruiting world. Here are a few Covid Recruiting 101 tips, reminders and reasoning.

1. There are more significant reasons why you don’t have a scholarship than from just not being seen.

With fewer than 20 Division I and Division II commitments, there are fewer players who will be signing letters-of-intent in November than ever before.

There are parents griping that shutting things down “has ruined my son’s scholarship chances.”

While many will single out the lack of opportunities to be seen by college coaches as the primary reason, it’s not wholeheartedly true. There is way more to it than that.

A couple of weeks ago it was announced all players in NCAA Division I basketball will be given an additional year of eligibility due to the pandemic. Essentially any player, including current seniors, will have a chance to come back for an extra year. This leaves college coaches in complete limbo in trying to structure their roster.

Read Joe Henricksen’s full column here.

11:35 a.m. Hospitals strain to find new nurses as COVID-19 rates rise

FENTON, Michigan — As the coronavirus pandemic surges across the nation and infections and hospitalizations rise, medical administrators are scrambling to find enough nursing help — especially in rural areas and at small hospitals.

Nurses are being trained to provide care in fields where they have limited experience. Hospitals are scaling back services to ensure enough staff to handle critically ill patients. And health systems are turning to short-term travel nurses to help fill the gaps.

Adding to the strain, experienced nurses are “burned out with this whole (pandemic)” and some are quitting, said Kevin Fitzpatrick, an emergency room nurse at Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Michigan, where several left just in the past month to work in hospice or home care or at outpatient clinics.

“And replacing them is not easy,” Fitzpatrick said.

As a result, he said, the ER is operating at about five nurses short of its optimal level at any given time, and each one typically cares for four patients as COVID-19 hospitalizations surge anew. Hospital officials did not respond to requests for comment.

Read the full story here.

10:46 a.m. 10 more chief judge’s employees test positive for the coronavirus, including 7 at juvenile detention building

Ten more employees of Cook County’s Office of the Chief Judge have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Seven of those employees worked at the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center on the Near West Side, according to a statement from the chief judge’s office.

There were no new cases reported among juvenile detainees.

So far, 60 staff and 45 detainees of the juvenile center have tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began.

Ten more employees of Cook County’s Office of the Chief Judge have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Seven of those employees worked at the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center on the Near West Side, according to a statement from the chief judge’s office.

There were no new cases reported among juvenile detainees.

So far, 60 staff and 45 detainees of the juvenile center have tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began.

At the Office of the Chief Judge, 131 employees and six judges in the chief judge’s office have tested positive for COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.

Read the full report here.

8:38 a.m. All 11 Illinois regions to be under COVID-19 restrictions starting Wednesday

As COVID-19 cases continue to surge in Illinois at an unprecedented rate, Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Sunday announced new restrictions for North-Central Illinois.

Pritzker will be imposing a ban on indoor service at bars and restaurants, among other restrictions, this week for Region 2 — which covers 20 North-Central counties, including Rock Island, Kendall and Knox counties — after the area saw an average positivity rate above the 8% positivity threshold for three consecutive days.

That means, starting Wednesday, all 11 of the state’s regions will be operating under the governor’s COVID-19 restrictions.

Pritzker, who hinted last week the peak of this outbreak is still nowhere in sight, said the mitigation measures are being put in place to help limit the spread of the virus.

“As cases, hospitalizations and deaths are rising across our state, across the Midwest and across the nation, we have to act responsibly and collectively to protect the people we love,” Pritzker said in a statement.

Read the full story here.


New Cases

  • Ten more employees of Cook County’s Office of the Chief Judge have tested positive for the coronavirus. The new cases include a court reporter assigned to the Bridgeview Courthouse; an interpreter in the Cook County Juvenile Center and a court reporter assigned to 69 W. Washington St. who has not been in the workplace since August.
  • Last week, the chief judge’s office said 11 more employees and three residents of the Juvenile center tested positive.
  • COVID-19 protocols will prevent Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence from playing vs. No. 4 Notre Dame.
  • 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.