Coronavirus live blog, June 26, 2020: Raindrops, reps and relief on first day of Illinois’ Phase 4 reopening

Here’s what we learned about how COVID-19 is impacting Chicago and Illinois. Follow here for live updates.

SHARE Coronavirus live blog, June 26, 2020: Raindrops, reps and relief on first day of Illinois’ Phase 4 reopening

The first day of Phase 4 of the reopening was greeted with excitement for many Chicagoans. Restaurants, health clubs, pools, bowling alleys, skating rinks and movie theatersall opened up again.

There was a slight bump in the numbers of deaths and infections, but are still on par with numbers from Thursday, when that day’s 894 new cases was the most on any day since June 6, but still far short of the numbers reported during the peak month of May.

Here’s what happened in the fight against the coronavirus in Chicago and around the state.

News

8 p.m. Raindrops, reps and relief on first day of Illinois’ Phase 4 reopening

George’s Gyros owner Elaine Sakellariou (with mask) pictured with staff on Friday, the first day of Illinois’ Phase 4 reopening.

George’s Gyros owner Elaine Sakellariou (with mask) pictured with staff on Friday, the first day of Illinois’ Phase 4 reopening. | Mitchell Armentrout/Sun-Times

Mitchell Armentrout/Sun-Times

Relief.

That’s all Elaine Sakellariou felt as she seated her first customers in three months Friday morning at George’s Gyros, 3445 S. Halsted St.

“It just brings back life to this place,” said Sakellariou, who owns the restaurant her father opened more than 40 year ago.

She’d been able to get through the heart of the coronavirus pandemic with gift card sales and takeout orders from loyal customers, but Illinois’ Phase 4 reopening couldn’t come soon enough for the Bridgeport joint — or any of the thousands of other restaurants across the state that are now allowed to seat customers inside at 25% capacity.

“It’s a good thing I saved,” Sakellariou said.

Read the full story by Mitchell Armentrout and Mitch Dudek here.

5:40 p.m. Illinois loses another 39 to COVID-19 as state advances to next phase of reopening

As the state moved into Phase 4 of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s reopening plan — and a number of states see upticks in coronavirus cases — public health officials on Friday said another 39 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois.

Another 857 newly confirmed cases were also reported by the Illinois Department of Public Health. In total, the state has seen 140,291 positive cases. The preliminary seven-day positivity rate is at 3%. That’s a metric being used to monitor any major increases in cases.

Friday also marked the second day Illinois saw more than 30,000 test results. The state has performed nearly 1.5 million tests since the pandemic began.

The additional deaths and infections are on par with numbers from Thursday, when that day’s 894 new cases was the most on any day since June 6, but still far short of the numbers reported during the peak month of May.

Read the full story by Tina Sfondeles here.


4:24 p.m. Coronavirus task force holds briefing — but not with Trump, not at White House

WASHINGTON — There was no presidential appearance and no White House backdrop Friday when the government’s coronavirus task force briefed the public for the first since April — in keeping with an administration effort to show it’s paying attention to the latest spike in cases but not on a wartime footing that should keep the country from reopening the economy.

The briefing at the Department of Health and Human Services was held as the number of confirmed new coronavirus infections per day in the U.S. soared to an all-time high of 40,000 — higher even than during the deadliest stretch in April and May. In light of the new surge, task force briefers chose their words carefully to update the public about COVID-19, which has become both a public health and political issue.

Vice President Mike Pence had the most delicate line to walk. He acknowledged a surge in new cases across the South and West, while backing the president’s desire to get the economy up and running without mentioning that it will also help the prospects for reelection.

Read the full story by The Associated Press here.

2:55 p.m. Florida’s new COVID-19 cases reported Friday more than double Illinois’ highest single-day total

While greatly expanded testing probably accounts for some of the increase, experts say other measures indicate the virus is making a comeback. Daily deaths, hospitalizations and the percentage of tests that are coming back positive have also have been rising over the past few weeks in parts of the country, mostly in the South and West.

On Friday, Florida’s health department reported a record 8,942 new infections identified over the course of 24 hours, according to the Tampa Bay Times. That more than doubles Illinois’ highest single-day case total of 4,014 reported by the state health department on May 12.

Other states that set single-day case records this week include Arizona, California, Nevada, Texas and Oklahoma.

In the past few weeks, the nation’s daily death toll has actually dropped markedly even as cases climbed, a phenomenon that may reflect the advent of treatments, better efforts to prevent infections at nursing homes, and a rising proportion of cases among younger adults, who are more likely than their elders to survive a bout with COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Illinois has seen cases steadily decreasing and entered Phase 4 of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s reopening plan Friday. But Pritzker asserted Thursday that if the state’s current “trajectory of success” reverses, he’s not afraid to return to more restrictions.

“I’m not afraid to protect the people of Illinois by moving a region back to an earlier phase if we see a surge,” Pritzker said at a Chicago news conference. “Ours will not be one of the states that takes no action in response to a return to the peak.”

Read the full national report here.

2:05 p.m. University of Chicago to assist with COVID-19 vaccine study

University of Chicago researchers will help test people in an upcoming government-funded study of an experimental vaccine for COVID-19.

The vaccine research is being led locally by University of Illinois at Chicago, part of a nationwide 30,000-patient study. In Chicago, researchers hope to test at least 1,000 people.

Dr. David Pitrak, chief of infectious diseases and global health at University of Chicago Department of Medicine, said the Hyde Park researchers will test about half of the people in the local study.

UIC previously said Hyde Park was one of the areas where it hopes to draw volunteers for the research. A goal of the study is to recruit heavily in both African-American and Latino communities in Chicago as those populations have been disproportionately affected by the virus, said Dr. Richard Novak, who is heading the clinical trial at UIC.

Read the story by Brett Chase here for more.

1:16 p.m. Texas shuts down bars, tubing as coronavirus cases surge

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott shut down bars in Texas again on Friday and scaled back restaurant dining, the most dramatic reversals yet as confirmed coronavirus cases surge.

Abbott also ordered rafting and tubing outfitters on Texas’ popular rivers to close and said outdoor gatherings of 100 people or more must be approved by local governments. The abrupt actions reflect how Texas is now scrambling to contain an outbreak less than two months after an aggressive reopening that was one of the fastest in the U.S.

“At this time, it is clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars,” Abbott said. “The actions in this executive order are essential to our mission to swiftly contain this virus and protect public health.”

He did not say when bars might reopen again.

Read the full story here.

11:35 a.m. 16 NBA players test positive for coronavirus as season restart approaches

The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association say 16 players tested positive for coronavirus in the first wave of mandatory tests done in preparation for the restart of the season.

Those 16 players were part of a pool of 302 tested on Tuesday. Tests are continuing for all 22 teams that will be participating in the restart at the Disney campus near Orlando, Florida, next month. The player names were not disclosed; some, such as Malcolm Brogdon of Indiana and Sacramento teammates Jabari Parker and Alex Len have publicly acknowledged they have recently positive.

That was a 5.3% rate of positive tests leaguewide. The league did not announce results of testing on staffers and other members of team travel parties, all of whom are also part of the mandatory testing program.

Read the full story here.

9:55 a.m. Layoffs, tax hikes possible as Cook County braces for one-two punch of budget holes for this year and the next

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said Thursday “everything is on the table” as county officials brace for a budget gap the COVID-19 crisis has stretched to nearly $281 million for the rest of the fiscal year and possibly as much as $409 million for next year.

That could mean new taxes, furloughs and layoffs. Seventy positions have already been cut, and about 35 people laid off at the county’s health system over the past week, Andrea Gibson, Cook County Health’s interim chief business officer, said Thursday.

“This is the largest budget gap we’ve seen in almost a decade, so we’re going to be looking at holdbacks, we’re going to be looking at delaying purchases, renegotiating contracts with our vendors, a variety of strategies to meet the challenge that we face,” Preckwinkle said.

How many workers will ultimately need to be laid off is still “to be determined,” the board president said.

County officials laid out their preliminary budgets for the rest of the 2020 fiscal year and projections for 2021 on Thursday, painting a grim fiscal picture for the county’s pocketbook in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Read the full story from Rachel Hinton here.

8:12 a.m. Illinois ready to step forward into Phase 4, but Pritzker unfazed about tugging it back if COVID-19 cases surge

With all regions of the state set to advance to Phase 4 of reopening on Friday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker vowed that while Illinois has seen a “trajectory of success,” he’s not afraid to return to more restrictions should COVID-19 cases see a drastic uptick.

“I’m not afraid to protect the people of Illinois by moving a region back to an earlier phase if we see a surge,” Pritzker said at a Chicago news conference. “Ours will not be one of the states that takes no action in response to a return to the peak.”

Asked whether that could mean reinstating a stay-at-home order, the governor said, “I’m not afraid to move us backward to the things that we’ve done in the past.” He also cited once again prohibiting elective surgeries to make more space for hospital beds — as Texas has done — as another option for the state should cases go up.

Pritzker’s warning came as his public health department announced another 894 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases and 41 additional deaths – more evidence of the state’s improving situation, although the daily case number is the highest in nearly three weeks.

Read the full story by Tina Sfondeles here.


New cases


Analysis & Commentary

8:40 a.m. ‘I’ll have the Post-Pandemic Special please’

What began as a practical necessity for travelers — the stagecoach stops for the night, the innkeeper carves off some mutton and draws a mug of ale — now has assumed magnified importance, ingrained in our lives.

Chicago, and Illinois, opening restaurants Friday for indoor dining should be a milestone in our civic recovery from COVID-19. V-E Day, Victory in Eating.

Instead it seems more like a dilemma, almost a trap.

At least to me. Which is surprising. You’d think Restaurant Boy would be in a sprinter’s crouch, napkin tied around my neck like a bib, knife and fork in each hand, waiting for the gun to spring out of the blocks.

But I’m not.

Read Neil Steinberg’s full column here.

The Latest
“He said there are a lot of things that happen in Chicago, you see so many kids lose their lives at early ages ... He couldn’t even make it to 17,” the boy’s mentor said.
The last time Delle Donne played a full season was 2019, when she won her second MVP award and led the Mystics to a WNBA championship.
Ald. Gilbert Villegas slammed the new map, saying it is fitting that his 36th Ward now resembles a snake: “You had some of my colleagues that were, I guess, self-portraits of snakes that were drawing a snake to memorialize the back-stabbing that took place.”
The pop superstars have added kinetic dance floors and energy-storing stationary bikes to their latest world tour, encouraging fans to help power the show as they dance or spin.