Coronavirus live blog, July 24, 2020: Pritzker’s tiered reopening plan: Explained

Here’s what we happened in the continued fight against the coronavirus and its ripple effects in Chicago and Illinois.

SHARE Coronavirus live blog, July 24, 2020: Pritzker’s tiered reopening plan: Explained

Another quadruple-digit case count for Illinois on Friday has Gov. J.B. Pritzker concerned about a possible coronavirus surge

Specifically, Pritzker is worried four downstate counties — Adams, LaSalle, Peoria and Randolph — that are at a “warning level” after officials traced outbreaks to lax masking requirements at bars, youth sports and other high-risk gatherings.

In Chicago, Friday was the first day for the new restrictions by Mayor Lori Lightfoot that ends indoor service at bars.

There’s still no relief bill from Congress that could continue the $600 weekly unemployment payments to American that have been put out of work by the pandemic. Those current payments will expire at the end of July unless Congress reauthorizes them.

And finally, McDonald’s will soon join the restaurants and stores that will require a face mask to enter.

Here’s what happened today in the fight against the coronavirus in Chicago, the state and the nation.


9 p.m. Pritzker’s tiered reopening plan: Explained

Lan Phan, left, and Jun Phan, center, follow along with Anthony Marquez owner and head coach at EFK Martial Arts, 5951 N. Clark St., during a boxing class on the first day of Illinois’ Phase 4 reopening, Friday, June 26, 2020.

Lan Phan, left, and Jun Phan, center, follow along with Anthony Marquez owner and head coach at EFK Martial Arts, 5951 N. Clark St., during a boxing class on the first day of Illinois’ Phase 4 reopening, Friday, June 26, 2020.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

On July 15, Gov. J.B. Pritzker unveiled a new plan to mitigate the continued spread of COVID-19 in Illinois, splitting up the state into 11 regions instead of the four regions outlined in his original Restore Illinois plan.

The new guidelines aim to take a more granular approach to coronavirus mitigation, targeting smaller areas than the original plan did and separating Chicago into its own region.

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On our Coronavirus Data page, you’ll find a collection of graphs, charts and maps tracing the spread of the virus, tracking test results and plotting the impact on individual counties. Check back daily for updated totals.

The plan outlines three tiers of actions that officials can take to slow the spread of coronavirus. If a region surpasses certain thresholds — metrics include percentage of people testing positive, hospital capacity, and rising hospital admissions — then officials can choose to tighten restrictions from a “menu” of options outlined in the new tiered-system.

Municipalities, such as Chicago, can set their own restrictions, as long as they are no less stringent than the governor’s benchmarks.

Read the full explanation from Caroline Hurley here.

8:30 p.m. US Supreme Court denies Nevada church’s appeal of coronavirus rule

RENO, Nev. — A sharply divided U.S. Supreme Court denied a rural Nevada church’s request late Friday to strike down as unconstitutional a 50-person cap on worship services as part of the state’s ongoing response to the coronavirus.

In a 5-4 decision, the high court refused to grant the request from the Christian church east of Reno to be subjected to the same COVID-19 restrictions in Nevada that allow casinos, restaurants and other businesses to operate at 50% of capacity with proper social distancing.

Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley argued that the hard cap on religious gatherings was an unconstitutional violation of its parishioners’ First Amendment rights to express and exercise their beliefs.

Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberal majority in denying the request without explanation.

Read the full story here.

7:10 p.m. No virus bill yet: White House, GOP at odds over jobless aid

WASHINGTON — Negotiations over a new COVID-19 rescue bill were in flux Friday after the White House floated cutting an unemployment benefits boost to as little as $100 and President Donald Trump turned to a new priority, adding money to build a new FBI headquarters.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sent senators home, promising a Republican proposal would be ready on Monday. Outraged Democrats warned that time was being wasted on GOP infighting as the virus worsens, jobless aid expires and the death toll rises.

“We call upon Leader McConnell to get serious,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer in a statement.

During a head-spinning week of start-and-stop efforts, McConnell abruptly halted the rollout of the Republicans’ $1 trillion plan, which was supposed to provide a counter-offer to the Democrats’ $3 trillion bill in an opening bid for negotiations. Trump was forced to abandon his push for a payroll tax break, which his party opposed, and the White House turned to new priorities.

Read the full story here.

6:07 p.m. McDonald’s customers must wear masks at all U.S. restaurants starting Aug. 1

Joining retailers attempting to control the coronavirus, McDonald’s said Friday it will require in-store customers to wear face masks at all of its 14,000 retailers across the country. But the Chicago-based company won’t eject those who refuse to comply.

McDonald said the nationwide mask mandate will take effect Aug. 1. Customers without a mask will be offered one. If they don’t accept it, their order will be expedited and they will be directed to a pickup location safely distant from others.

Or, in the words of a joint statement from McDonald’s USA President Joe Erlinger and Mark Salebra, chair of the National Franchise Leadership Alliance, “we’ll put in place additional procedures to take care of them in a friendly, expedited way. Additionally, we will provide training for our restaurant staff to ensure they are prepared to address this new policy in a friendly and positive way.”

Read the full story by David Roeder here.

5:10 p.m. 26 deaths in three US convents, as nuns confront the coronavirus pandemic

LIVONIA, Michigan — At a convent near Detroit, 13 nuns have died of COVID-19. The toll is seven at a center for Maryknoll sisters in New York, and six at a Wisconsin convent that serves nuns with fading memories.

Each community perseveres, though strict social-distancing rules have made communal solidarity a challenge as the losses are mourned.

Only small, private funeral services were permitted as the death toll mounted in April and May at the Felician Sisters convent in Livonia, Michigan — a spiritual hardship for the surviving nuns.

“The yearnings, throughout the pandemic, were to be with our dying sisters and hold our traditional services, funeral Mass and burial, to comfort each other,” said Sister Mary Christopher Moore, a leader of the Felician Sisters of North America.

Read the full story here.

4:05 p.m, NFL, union closer to agreement on coronavirus changes

The NFL and its players union moved closer to an agreement that will set the protocols — and financial ramifications — of the most unusual season in league history. Gone would be preseason games, replaced by a strength and conditioning program at the start of training camp that would prevent full practices until mid-August.

The NFL Players Association Executive Committee voted unanimously on Friday to recommend Collective Bargaining Agreement changes to its 32 team representatives. If they approve the changes, they will be set.

The NFL and NFLPA have bargained for weeks about changes in the wake of the coronavirus, from testing to salary cap smoothing to how to get players in shape in time for the regular season.

Read the full story by Patrick Finley here.

3 p.m. Midlothian DMV closes till August after worker tests positive for COVID-19

The Midlothian Drivers Services Facility will remain closed until Aug. 5 after an employee there tested positive for COVID-19.

All employees at the south suburban facility at 14434 S. Pulaski Rd. will self-quarantine for two weeks while the facility undergoes cleaning, the according to a Friday statement from Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White’s office.

Read the full story by David Struett here.

2:15 p.m. ‘Risky behavior’ in four downstate counties prompts warnings as Illinois reports 1,532 new coronavirus cases.

Another 1,532 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Illinois, health officials announced Friday, the latest four-digit daily caseload that has Gov. J.B. Pritzker worried the state is on the brink of a dangerous coronavirus resurgence.

The new cases were confirmed among 44,330 tests received by the state, keeping Illinois’ testing rolling positivity rate at 3.4% over the last week.

That rate has increased from 2.5% two weeks ago, a gradual increase that Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike has stressed is not due to the state’s massive uptick in testing capacity this month.

“We have seen an increase in cases,” she said at a news conference earlier this week. “Some will say it’s just because of more testing — actually, if you do more testing, your positivity should go down. So, yes, we’re seeing increased transmission.”

Read the full story by Mitchell Armentrout here.

1:36 p.m. Greenhouse Theater Center’s general manager resigns in protest over live show’s opening during pandemic

Derek Rienzi Van Tassel, the general manager of the Greenhouse Theater Center, has resigned his post in protest over what he calls the “foolish and dangerous” decision by the company to open a live theater show this weekend.

Via Facebook on Thursday, Van Tassel made public his July 18 decision to exit the job: “The theater is in the epicenter of the virus, Lincoln Park, and [owners William and Wendy Spatz] have not thoroughly addressed their safety precautions. Reopening right now in the middle of this pandemic will only spread the virus further, cause another lockdown, and put more theater artists out of work. This is unacceptable.”

Reached Thursday by phone, William Spatz said he had hired a new general manager and that the show would open as planned. “Filled the job in an hour. I could have found 100 people to do it. All that person has to do is sit in the box office behind plexiglass. It’s not a dangerous job. It’s not a strenuous job.”

Veteran stage and television star Alexandra Billings was among those on social media calling for the cancellation of the production. In one Facebook post, Billings wrote: “Theaters were designed to spread a joyful noise, not a contagious virus.”

Read the full story here.

11:04 a.m. Downstate counties sue, seeking declaration there is no public health emergency

Residents in six central and southern Illinois counties, including the state capital’s home, filed lawsuits Thursday against Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s restrictions on social interaction prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The actions taken in Bond, Clay, Clinton, Edgar, Richland and Sangamon counties seek court orders declaring there is no public health emergency as defined by Pritzker’s Public Health Department. Springfield, the state capital, is in Sangamon County.

Plaintiffs in each case seek injunctions against the disaster declaration Pritzker’s using to justify restrictions on public interaction to limit transmission of the virus. The state has reported 7,367 deaths among 167,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus — mostly in Chicago and Cook County.

“You can’t put a county that has had nine confirmed cases and no one pass away under the same rules and restrictions as counties like Cook,” said Thomas DeVore, a Greenville attorney representing the plaintiffs.

Read the full report here.

8:10 a.m. Skyrocketing cases prove summer, heat are no barrier to COVID-19

Any hopes that summer’s high temperatures might slow the spread of the coronavirus were smashed in June and July by skyrocketing cases across the country, especially in some of the warmest states.

Colin Carlson wasn’t a bit surprised that summer heat failed to curb the virus that causes COVID-19, which has claimed more than 140,000 lives in the U.S. That notion, no matter how many times it was repeated, was never supported by science, said Carlson, an assistant research professor at Georgetown University who studies the relationship between climate change and infectious disease.

The optimistic, though inaccurate forecast was among several persistent misconceptions about heat and light, and other issues related to the spread of the virus, that leave epidemiologists like Carlson increasingly frustrated. They see and hear mixed messages and miscommunications all the time, whether it’s in social media, their circle of friends and family, hastily assembled research papers or the White House.

Read the full story here.

New cases

Analysis & Commentary

8:19 a.m. What’s really ‘out of control’ in Donald Trump’s America? The pandemic

President Donald Trump has a point. People are being injured. The property damage runs into the millions. Things are out of control. Local governments are not able to handle this on their own. It demands a federal response. When sacred things are desecrated, it takes a toll on the national spirit.

Trump thinks this applies to rioters and protesters in Portland and other cities. He thinks the sacred things are Confederate monuments. In truth, it’s the coronavirus that demands a response — and when it comes to that, the president is AWOL.

COVID-19 has now been registered in 193 countries around the globe. That’s why it’s called a pandemic. The only places that have escaped infection thus far are remote islands like Samoa and Tonga and mountainous enclaves like Turkmenistan. And it will reach those redoubts eventually.

By denying the dire threat, Trump discouraged a systematic response from the departments and agencies tasked with public health. When he did eventually turn his gaze toward the problem, he saw hospitals struggling to cope with shortages of masks, gloves and testing materials, and tens of thousands of Americans dying, and he shrugged, saying governors should handle it. “We’re not a shipping clerk.”

Now, the average daily rate of new infections is 60,000, on the way to a predicted 100,000.

Read the full column from Mona Charen here.

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