Coronavirus live blog for November 3, 2020: Pritzker targets social gatherings amid ‘COVID storm’

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks to medical personnel during a visit to a mobile COVID-19 testing station at Edward Coles School in the South Chicago neighborhood in July.

| Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Gov. J.B. Pritzker warned local officials across the state to enforce restrictions on social gatherings or take responsibility for an even greater surge of COVID-19 infections that overwhelm hospitals and lead to more deaths.

“People all across the state need to stand up and make sure that they are doing everything they can locally — state’s attorneys, sheriffs, law enforcement and elected leaders — to enforce the rules here so we don’t end up with a terrible nightmare of a health care situation and people dying because they can’t even get treated in their local hospital,” Pritzker said at a Tuesday briefing.

The governor made his comments regarding parties and banned indoor gatherings at bars and restaurants as the pandemic showed no sign of slowing down. State health officials reported 6,516 new cases of COVID-19 and 68 additional deaths.

The numbers mark the seventh day in a row the state has recorded more than 6,000 new cases.

The number of deaths was the highest reported since Oct. 21 and showed that deaths were spread out over 29 counties across the state.

“We are in the middle of a COVID storm that appears to be sweeping the entire nation and our trajectory is only getting worse,” Pritzker said.

Read the full story from Brett Chase here.


7:51 p.m. As COVID numbers climb, Pritzker says ‘Every region is going the wrong direction’

The pandemic showed no sign of slowing down Tuesday as state health officials reported 6,516 new cases of COVID-19 and 68 additional deaths.

The numbers mark the seventh day in a row the state has recorded more than 6,000 new cases.

The number of deaths was the highest reported since Oct. 21 and showed that deaths were spread out over 29 counties across the state.

“Every region is going the wrong direction,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Monday. He added even rural areas of the state are now seeing an impact from the virus.

In Cook County, seven deaths were recorded, all men except for a woman in her 70s. The men ranged in age from their 50s to 90s.

Outside the Chicago area, Winnebago County, which includes Rockford, reported eight deaths.

On Wednesday, the entire state will be operating under COVID-19 restrictions that include bans on indoor dining and drinking at restaurants and bars.

Read the full report with the latest numbers here.

3:16 p.m. NFL discusses expanding playoff field to 16 as COVID-19 contingency plan

NFL officials continue to plan and explore scheduling scenarios and contingency plans amid the coronavirus pandemic. One of the discussions taking place involves expanding the playoff field to 16 teams in the event that COVID-19 cases force the cancelation of additional games and leave the league with no time to make them up without moving back the Feb. 7 date for Super Bowl LV.

The NFL’s competition committee discussed the scenario on a conference call Monday, a person with knowledge of the situation confirmed to USA TODAY Sports. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because discussions remain ongoing and the NFL had not made any official announcement.

League officials remain hopeful that the entire 17-week regular season will take place as scheduled, and they continue to operate with the understanding that flexibility is key.

So far, the NFL has avoided canceling games. The league has had to shuffle some contests and bye weeks as COVID-19 cases have forced teams to temporarily quarantine. But bye weeks are beginning to evaporate, and after Week 13, the final bye week on the schedule), the NFL would have to look for other alternatives.

Read the full story here.

1:56 p.m. NFL makes changes to sideline to discourage coronavirus spread

In an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus on game day, the NFL is expanding each team’s bench area to run between both 20-yard lines to encourage social distancing.

The league sent a memo to teams Tuesday requesting that players wear masks while standing on the sideline — and requiring all players to wear masks while jogging off the field at the end of the game.

Face-to-face interactions between players on both teams after the game are higher-risk than anything that happens on the field of play, said Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer.

“What we are trying to convey and say is, masks can prevent you from becoming a high-risk contact, which is our goal,” Sills said.

Read the full report here.

1:04 p.m. Crucial but murky week ahead for Chicago Fire

The final week of the Fire season is a perfect microcosm of 2020. The Fire need results, but can’t be entirely sure of how many games they’ll actually play.

And like everything else, it’s the coronavirus pandemic at the root of all the complications.

As of Tuesday, the Fire’s match Wednesday at Minnesota United (8-5-6, 30 points) was still scheduled. The game is in question because United’s contest last Sunday against Sporting Kansas City was cancelled Saturday due to the confirmation of a second Minnesota player in four days testing positive for COVID-19.

“I think we are just going to prepare as if we’re going to play Minnesota on Wednesday,” Fire defender Mauricio Pineda said. “I think that’s all we could do, just control what we can control, and if we have the game, that’s not really up to us. So we’ll just prepare as well as we can for that and just see what happens with the league.”

Ironically, the Fire-Minnesota match was originally scheduled for October 14 but postponed due to a suspected MNUFC positive. What the Fire (5-9-7, 22 points) would like to avoid is a repeat of what happened last month, when they traveled up to Minnesota the same day as the match per COVID-19 safety protocols, but went home without playing due to the postponement a few hours before kickoff.

Read the full story here.

12:35 p.m. For each critically ill COVID-19 patient, a family is suffering, too

The weeks of fear and uncertainty that Pam and Paul Alexander suffered as their adult daughter struggled against COVID-19 etched itself into the very roots of their hair, leaving behind bald patches by the time she left the hospital in early May.

Tisha Holt had been transferred by ambulance from a smaller hospital outside Nashville, Tennessee, to Vanderbilt University Medical Center on April 14, when her breathing suddenly worsened. Doctors suspected COVID-19.

Within days, her diagnosis had been confirmed, her oxygen levels were dropping, and breathing had become so excruciating that it felt like her “lungs were wrapped in barbed wire,” as Holt describes it.

Vanderbilt doctors put the 42-year-old on a mechanical ventilator, and the next few weeks passed in a blur for her parents, who waited helplessly for the next update about the eldest of their three children.

“That’s when it got really, really bad,” Pam Alexander said. “We were not allowed to see her, to go, to talk to her — not anything. I would call. And I might get somebody, and then again I might not.”

Read the full story here.

12:00 p.m. Wisconsin cancels game with Purdue due to COVID-19 outbreak

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin has canceled Saturday’s home game against Purdue, the second straight game the 10th-ranked Badgers have called off as COVID-19 cases within their team continue to rise.

School officials announced Tuesday that three more players and two additional staffers have tested positive since Saturday, bringing the program’s total number of active cases to 27. That includes 15 players and 12 staffers.

The Badgers canceled last week’s game against Nebraska because of the outbreak. Neither game will be rescheduled, and all team-related activities remain paused indefinitely.

“I share in the disappointment of our student-athletes and staff,” athletic director Barry Alvarez said in a statement. “We have seen a level of improvement in our testing numbers, but not enough to give us confidence to resume normal activities and play our game on Saturday. We will continue to test regularly, take the proper health-related precautions and look forward to getting our team back on the field as soon as possible.”

Read the full story here.

11:42 a.m. College basketball scheduling chaotic as beginning of season approaches

The NCAA’s announcement of a college basketball start date led to huge scramble as schools tried to fill out schedules altered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead of getting easier with time, the task of building schedules has become more difficult as the season’s start date nears.

Travel is an issue. So is finding common testing protocols. Restrictions in every state are all different and constantly changing with virus cases on the rise. The cancellation of several multiteam events left huge holes. Even sorting out officiating has presented challenges.

It’s been like trying to simultaneously build 353 separate puzzles with overlapping and sometimes-missing pieces — and time is running out.

“We don’t know a lot of things,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “But we know we’re going to have March Madness. We know we’re going to have a regular season. We just don’t know much about both — and it’s a hell of a way to run a railroad.”

Read the full story here.

10:17 a.m. Sources: Survey reveals fewer than 34 high schools are sure they will start basketball in November

An Illinois Athletic Directors Association Zoom call on Monday revealed the initial number of Illinois high schools planning to play high school basketball in November, according to several sources.

The purpose of the call was to gauge how many schools think they will be able to start the basketball season on Nov. 16.

The IHSA announced Wednesday that the basketball season can start as scheduled. It was a totally unexpected move that directly contradicted the COVID-19 guidelines Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health have outlined. Pritzker and the IDPH have said basketball can’t start until the spring.

The disagreement between the IHSA and the governor/IDPH means the final decision will come down to individual school districts. Many school officials believe going against the state government’s health guidelines would open the schools up to tremendous liability.

One Alton area athletic director confirmed that on Monday, saying that “insurance providers are not giving schools in the south a green light to play basketball.”

Brent Grisham, the Assistant Principal for Activities at Pleasant Plains, tweeted out the results of the IADA Zoom call.

Read the full story here.

9:02 a.m. COVID-19 fact-checker: No, cold weather does not affect coronavirus’ spread outdoors

Does cold weather affect the spread of the coronavirus outside? Not the weather — but potentially the way it keeps people indoors.

The World Health Organization says the virus can be transmitted in any kind of weather and that there is no reason to believe cold weather can kill it.

The United Nations’ health agency says the virus is spread mainly from person to person.

Rain and snow might dilute traces of the virus on benches or other outside objects, but fomite transmission — from surfaces — isn’t believed to be much of a contributor to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Scientists say the real concern about winter is that people stay indoors more — potentially in more crowded spaces, where the virus can spread more easily.

Studies have shown that a significant percentage of spread happens within households when someone who’s infected shares common areas like kitchens and bathrooms with family members or others.

Read the full story here.

7:49 a.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.

New Cases

  • The pandemic showed no sign of slowing down Tuesday as state health officials reported 6,516 new cases of COVID-19 and 68 additional deaths.
  • The numbers mark the seventh day in a row the state has recorded more than 6,000 new cases.
  • The number of deaths was the highest reported since Oct. 21 and showed that deaths were spread out over 29 counties across the state.

Analysis & Commentary

8:17 a.m. Blame virus, not our leaders, for lockdowns

In a letter to the Sun-Times editors, Ted Z. Manuel, of Hyde Park, writes...

Because COVID-19 is so relentless, mayors and governors would be poor leaders if they ignored how deadly it is and did not lock down events and sites where people traditionally gather to stop the spread. Yet many Illinoisans want to demonize Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and others for ordering it.

Granted, lockdowns deal what may be a fatal blow to the survival of many small businesses, and in turn damage our economy generally; but aren’t lives more important? Is spending a jovial time in a bar, risking death, more important than staying healthy and alive, sequestered? Don’t blame our leaders. Blame the virus. Wherever on the planet normal socializing activity has resumed, the virus takes over again and people die in droves.

Read this and more letters to our Editorial Board here.

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