Illinois’ latest 1-day statewide COVID-19 positivity rate dips below 9% (LIVE UPDATES)

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Fifty-one more coronavirus deaths announced in Illinois, with positive tests continuing to come in below 20%

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A medical worker collects a nasopharyngeal swab sample to test for the coronavirus for a woman at the lab’s drive-thru testing site in the parking lot of St. Rosalie Catholic Parish in Harwood Heights, Chicago.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Chicago Sun-Times

Illinois health officials announced Sunday another 51 deaths attributed to coronavirus, bringing the state’s pandemic death toll to 4,177.

The Illinois Department of Public Health also announced it processed 20,295 tests Saturday and identified 1,734 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the state’s total case count —although many have since recovered —to 94,191.

Sunday’s numbers include several encouraging signs. The 8.5% statewide positivity rate Sunday falls well below the 15% positivity rate recorded over the past seven days, reflecting both increased testing availability and a possible flattening of the curve.

The northeast region had an 18.3% positivity rate Sunday, marking the fourth consecutive day that region, which includes Chicago and its suburbs, has hit an important benchmark.

In Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s reopening plan, each region of the state must have a positivity rate below 20% for 14 consecutive days to advance to the third phase. That phase would permit some non-essential businesses, like salons and barbershops, to reopen with precautions.

Read the full story here.


News

5:07 p.m. New COVID-19 test site to open in Rosemoor

Alderman Anthony Beale (9th) announced Sunday that Walgreens would be opening a free coronavirus test site in Rosemoor on the South Side.

The drive-thru test site at 347 E. 95th St. will be open seven days a week and be by appointment only, Beale’s office said in a statement. Appointments can be madeonline.

“I am delighted that Walgreens has agreed to turn their former 95th Street store into a testing site,” said Alderman Beale. “The health and well-being of our residents is my number one priority and our community is among the hardest-hit, so we must mobilize every asset and community partner to do whatever we can to lessen the tremendous burden on our residents.”

Patients can expect their results two or three days after taking the test, Beale’s office said.

— Sam Kelly

3:45 p.m. U.S., European leaders weigh reopening risks without a vaccine

NEW YORK — On a weekend when many pandemic-weary people emerged from weeks of lockdown, leaders in the U.S. and Europe weighed the risks and rewards of lifting COVID-19 restrictions knowing that a vaccine could take years to develop.

In separate stark warnings, two major European leaders bluntly told their citizens that the world needs to adapt to living with the coronavirus and cannot wait to be saved by a vaccine.

“We are confronting this risk, and we need to accept it, otherwise we would never be able to relaunch,” Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said, heeding a push by regional leaders to allow restaurants, bars and beach facilities to open Monday, weeks ahead of an earlier timetable.

In the U.S., images of crowded bars, beaches and boardwalks suggested some weren’t heeding warnings to safely enjoy reopened spaces while limiting the risks of spreading infection.

Read the full story here.

2:35 p.m. ‘COVID toes,’ other rashes latest possible rare virus signs

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This April 3, 2020 photo provided by Northwestern University shows discoloration on a teenage patient’s toes at the onset of the condition informally called “COVID toes.”

AP Photos

Skin doctors suddenly are looking at a lot of toes — whether by emailed picture or video visit — as concern grows that for some people, a sign of COVID-19 may pop up in an unusual spot.

Boston dermatologist Esther Freeman expected to see skin complaints as the pandemic unfolded — various kinds of rashes occur when people get very ill from other viruses.

“But I was not anticipating those would be toes,” said Freeman of Massachusetts General Hospital, who has viewed via telemedicine more toes in the last several weeks than in her entire career.

They’re being called “COVID toes,” red, sore and sometimes itchy swellings on toes that look like chilblains, something doctors normally see on the feet and hands of people who’ve spent a long time outdoors in the cold.

Don’t race to the emergency room if toes are the only worry, said the American Academy of Dermatology.

Earlier this month, it issued advice that a telemedicine check is the first step for people wondering if they have “COVID toes” and who have no other reason for urgent care. Doctors then should decide if the patient should stay in home isolation or get tested.

Read the full report here.

12:25 p.m. Unemployment system ‘glitch’ publicized private data: report

State officials blamed a “glitch” in Illinois’ new system for processing unemployment benefits for making the private information of some applicants public online.

An Illinois Department of Employment Security website showed claimants’ Social Security numbers and other details, according to WBEZ. The information belonged to independent contractors, who became eligible for jobless aid this year.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said the error made information public for a “short time” and was immediately fixed.

“A full investigation is under way to assess exactly what happened and how many people were impacted,” Abuddayeh said in a statement. “Those who were impacted will be notified.”

Read the full story here.

11:09 a.m. While state remains shut down, Illinois residents head to neighboring states to shop, eat out

In the first weekend that bordering states Indiana and Wisconsin largely were open for business, many Illinoisans, feeling confident they won’t get sick and tired of being sheltered in their homes, crossed state lines to patronize stores, restaurants and bars.

As protesters stood in front of the Thompson Center downtown Saturday calling on Gov. J.B. Pritzker to “reopen” Illinois, Chicagoans Roberto Mangione and Giovanna Gianfortone browsed shops on the main street of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

“It’s too bad we can’t go to our Lakefront and that the shops downtown are closed,” Gianfortone said.

The couple said they drove to the popular Wisconsin town 90 miles away to get out for the day and were not concerned about catching the coronavirus.

Lat week, the Wisconsin state Supreme Court struck down Gov. Tony Evers extended stay-at-home order, leaving it up to business owners to decide how and when to reopen, though a number of local governments - Milwaukee and Madison, among other places - quickly restored some restrictions in their areas.

Still, many businesses in Lake Geneva and other parts of the state were open Saturday. Some, like the town’s movie theater, remained shuttered, while others had signs asking patrons to social distance and limited how many people can be inside.

Read the full story here.

9:25 a.m. Prognosis for COVID-19’s hit on Cook County finances plagued by ‘unknown unknowns’

No one knows when the pandemic will end. No one knows when different areas will be able to re-open. And no one knows just how big an economic hit it will all take on governmental budgets.

But what is known is that COVID-19 has already killed over 4,000 people in Illinois and cost Cook County and others hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue. Another known reality is that all of the very activities that governments depend on for revenue – shopping, travel, filling gas tanks – have been either put on hold or severely disrupted.

And everyone knows the fiscal future is grim – even if no one knows the full extent.

“It’s worse than a hurricane, it’s worse than 9/11, it’s worse than the 2008 economic … downturn because this is a comprehensive stopping of the economy, a threat to public safety that forces total disruption of most traditional, economic activities,” said Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation, a non-partisan government research organization.

Already facing a $200 million shortfall due to usual revenue sources drying up, Cook County could be faced with an even larger budget shortfall ahead thanks to the pandemic. The depth and width of that hole will likely be unveiled next month as the county begins its 2021 budget season in earnest, though it could grow depending on how long the pandemic stretches on.

Read the full report from Rachel Hinton here.

8:15 a.m. ‘Steady decrease’ in coronavirus cases at Cook County Jail, officials say

Fewer people have tested positive for the coronavirus over the past month at Cook County Jail, officials announced Friday.

The rate of positive COVID-19 tests has gone from 97% to less than 10% since March, Cook County Health officials said in a statement.

Since May 8, most of the new cases have come from detainees entering the jail, rather than people who were already in custody, officials said.

They credited the decline to interventions implemented since the beginning of the year, including opening unused divisions to accommodate social distancing, converting available cells to single-occupancy and enhanced testing.

“As we watched this pandemic approach Cook County, we understood the potential impact it could have at the jail and worked with our public safety partners to release non-violent offenders,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said in the statement. “This was both the right thing to do for these individuals and the right thing to do to mitigate spread inside the jail.”

Read the full report from Carly Behm here.

7:05 a.m. Bittersweet e-ceremony for UIC grad: ‘I didn’t really get to say goodbye’

Edith Mendez watched a slideshow of photos from her college experience, read a Spanish quote she handpicked to thank her family and listened to a speech delivered by her college dean Saturday.

But the 2020 graduate from the University of Illinois at Chicago did so from the backyard of her family’s Berwyn home, not on campus with the momentous ceremony she’d always imagined.

“It was a little bit strange — maybe, in some ways, disappointing,” said Mendez, a first-generation college grad. “Just because I didn’t get to walk across the stage.”

She joined more than 5,000 UIC students — and tens of thousands more at other Illinois schools — left with no choice but to celebrate their graduation with an online ceremony in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

UIC still plans to hold an in-person commencement for their 2020 class sometime later this year, but with the state’s stay-at-home order banning large gatherings, the virtual stand-in will have to do for now.

Read the full story by Ben Pope here.


New cases


Analysis & Commentary

1:28 p.m. Keeping it safe for legislators and democracy in Springfield this week

Two ignorant lawmakers say they don’t know if they’ll wear face masks when the Illinois Legislature meets in Springfield this week.

They have been asked by their legislative leaders to wear masks. Even a cursory understanding of how COVID-19 spreads should make it obvious to them that they should wear masks. And they’ll be putting others at risk if they do not.

“It boils down, in my book, to a matter of personal choice,” state Rep. Brad Halbrook, R-Shelbyville, told the Sun-Times, talking foolishly. Halbrook might just as well argue that it’s his “personal choice” to drive the wrong way down a one-way street.

“If someone doesn’t want to wear a mask, then they’re simply taking the risk themselves,” said state Rep. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, equally foolishly. The threat is to himself, no doubt — but to everybody else as well.

When the Legislature reconvenes on Wednesday, for a session expected to last through Friday, a very real concern among lawmakers is that they will face a heightened risk of contracting the coronavirus and that angry demonstrators could physically attempt to intimidate them.

Read the Sun-Times’ full editorial.

10:30 a.m. Everything must be on the table as city, state fight back from financial devastation

Washington to cities and states: You’re on your own.

For months, the Trump administration has failed to take the lead in fighting the coronavirus pandemic, punting responsibility to the states. Now the president and his Republican Party are looking to do the same when it comes to helping states and cities survive the pandemic’s financial devastation.

A $3 trillion stimulus package passed Friday by the Democratic-controlled House looks dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled Senate, and President Donald Trump is making clear he would never sign such a bill.

Why? Because the package to rescue drowning cities, suburbs, states, small businesses and unemployed Americans would be fiscally imprudent, they claim.

We couldn’t disagree more. And, yes, this is the same Senate and president who rewrote the federal tax code in 2017 to give billions of dollars in tax cuts to the wealthiest one percent of Americans, ballooning the federal deficit.

So what does all this mean for Illinois and Chicago, as well as for towns and counties statewide?

Exactly what it means for hundreds of other states and cities, some of which already are making tough decisions: In the absence of federal aid and leadership, Illinois, Chicago and other governments will have to take painful and unpopular measures, possibly including service cuts, furloughs, layoffs and changes in public pensions.

Everything must be on the table.

Read the full Sun-Times’ editorial here.

7:33 a.m. COVID-19 scales back youth sports. That’s a win for many kids

My heart will break for older teens if they don’t get to play sports in Illinois this summer, or maybe this fall, because of the coronavirus. Most are nearing the end of their competitive sports days, and you hate to see them robbed.

For younger kids, I see a silver lining. It’s a chance for them to do more bike riding. They can learn to rollerblade or skateboard. Maybe they can join their parents for runs or walks.

They could get a much-needed break from an over-scheduled life, especially when it comes to sports.

Or, maybe not. In Missouri, a 40-team youth baseball tournament was held last weekend by GameTime Tournaments. You won’t see this in Illinois right now because of the stay-at-home order to curb the spread of the virus. But, at least one Illinois team, the Black Sox from central Illinois, made the trip, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

GameTime instituted social distancing guidelines, including no high-fives, and sanitized the ball often. But some things can’t be helped in baseball: The catcher always will be positioned behind the batter. Players bump into each other on some plays. Out of habit, coaches are bound to get close to players to give instruction.

After being at home for weeks, the games had to be a relief for the players and parents who watched. But 40 teams? That’s downright irresponsible, even if permissible by Missouri’s looser restrictions related to the virus.

Fewer games, or no games for a year, could be a very good thing for kids.

Read the full column from Marlen Garcia here.

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