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Latest coronavirus news for July 7, 2020: Live updates

Here’s what we know today about the continuing spread of the coronavirus and its ripple effects in Chicago and Illinois.

The latest

Slight rise in coronavirus deaths, and dip in new cases as Illinois avoids sharp spikes seen elsewhere (LIVE UPDATES)

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Another 37 people have died of the coronavirus in Illinois, raising the state’s pandemic death toll to 7,063, health officials said Tuesday.

That’s the highest number of Illinois deaths announced in a single day since June 26, when the state reported 39 lives lost as more businesses were allowed to resume operations with the fourth phase of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s reopening plan.

It’s also more than the number of deaths announced over the previous three days combined, which included Illinois’ two lowest daily death tolls in more than three months — six deaths each reported Sunday and Monday.

And just shy of two weeks since the latest reopening phase kicked in, Illinois so far has apparently avoided a major case spike like those seen in other states. The rise in parts of the South and West has prompted Mayor Lori Lightfoot to impose a two-week quarantine order for anyone arriving to Chicago from more than a dozen COVID-19 hotspots.

Read the full story by Mitchell Armentrout here.


News

9 p.m. President Trump ‘flexible’ on size of convention as lawmakers shy away

WASHINGTON — With coronavirus cases surging in Florida, President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he’s “flexible” on the size of the Republican National Convention in Jacksonville.

The president spoke as a growing number of Senate Republicans said they’d skip the event, and even as the White House tried to tamp down nationwide concern about the virus’s spread.

Asked in an interview Tuesday whether he’d want to limit the gathering if the state’s coronavirus cases continue to rise, Trump replied that the decision “really depends on the timing.”

“We’re always looking at different things,” Trump said during an interview on Gray Television’s “Full Court Press with Greta Van Susteren.”

“When we signed a few weeks ago, it looked good,” the president continued. “And now, all of a sudden, it’s spiking up a little bit. And that’s going to go down. It really depends on the timing. Look, we’re very flexible.”

Read the full story here.

8:15 p.m. Suburban movie theaters to temporarily close again after 3 weeks of social distancing

Suburban movie theaters in the Classic Cinemas chain, which reopened 11 days ago, will close again temporarily after the end of business on Thursday.

“Unfortunately, the lack of new movies and the extra costs have made our current business model unsustainable,” the company said in a statement Tuesday.

Classic Cinemas operates the York Theatre in Elmhurst, the Luxury 6 in North Riverside, the Charlestowne 18 in St. Charles, the Cinema 12 in Carpentersville, the Cinema 7 in Sandwich, the Elk Grove in Elk Grove Village, the Fox Lake in Fox Lake, the Paramount Theatre in Kankakee and the Woodstock in Woodstock, as well as locations in Beloit, Wisconsin, and Freeport.

Read the full story here by Darel Jevens.

7:30 p.m. Kanye West and Reese Witherspoon clothing lines, artist Jeff Koons, singer Tim McGraw — all got PPP loans

The government’s small business lending program has benefited millions of companies, with the goal of minimizing the number of layoffs Americans have suffered in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Yet the recipients include many you probably wouldn’t have expected.

Clothing lines by Kanye West and Reese Witherspoon. The sculptor Jeff Koons. Law firms and high-dollar hedge funds. The Girl Scouts. Political groups on both the left and right.

All told, the Treasury Department’s Paycheck Protection Program authorized $520 billion for nearly 5 million mostly small businesses and nonprofits. On Monday, the government released the names and some other details of recipients who were approved for $150,000 or more.

That amounted to fewer than 15% of all borrowers. The Associated Press and other news organizations are suing the government to obtain the names of the remaining recipients.

Read the full story here.

6:40 p.m. Another PPE shortage? Protective gear for medical workers begins to run low again

The personal protective gear that was in dangerously short supply during the early weeks of the coronavirus crisis in the U.S. is running low again as the virus resumes its rapid spread and the number of hospitalized patients climbs.

A national nursing union is concerned that gear has to be reused. A doctors association warns that physicians’ offices are closed because they cannot get masks and other supplies. And Democratic members of Congress are pushing the Trump administration to devise a national strategy to acquire and distribute gear in anticipation of the crisis worsening into the fall.

“We’re five months into this and there are still shortages of gowns, hair covers, shoe covers, masks, N95 masks,” said Deborah Burger, president of National Nurses United, who cited results from a survey of the union’s members. “They’re being doled out, and we’re still being told to reuse them.”

When the crisis first exploded in March and April in hot spots such as New York City, the situation was so desperate that nurses turned plastic garbage bags into protective gowns. The lack of equipment forced states and hospitals to compete against each other, the federal government and other countries in desperate, expensive bidding wars.

In general, supplies of protective gear are more robust now, and many states and major hospital chains say they are in better shape. But medical professionals and some lawmakers have cast doubt on those improvements as shortages begin to reappear.

Read the full story here.

5:55 p.m. Further testing delays push back start of Cubs’ Tuesday workouts

Maybe it’s nothing. Could be it’s merely the slightest blip, here one moment and gone from the radar screen the next. For all we know, it won’t impede the Cubs’ progress in the slightest.

“This isn’t a huge deal,” manager David Ross said.

But late is late. And Tuesday at Wrigley Field, the latest round of COVID-19 test results was late. Again.

Major League Baseball is having a problem staying on top of testing. Some — namely the league itself — would say it’s a shrinking problem, that the Fourth of July weekend gummed up the shipping-and-delivery works on merely a temporary basis. Others might be more skeptical and see a growing problem, with players around the game voicing concern and frustration at tests coming less frequently than expected and results repeatedly delayed.

Take Cubs star Kris Bryant, who sounded off Monday about the state of things at Cubs camp, where no player had yet tested positive, an extreme rarity in the league. But players were not being tested every other day, as agreed to in 11th-hour negotiations with the league prior to the opening of camps, and results were, in some cases, several days late.

In comments that echoed around the sport like a home run hit into empty bleachers, Bryant said he didn’t feel safe at work and wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised if the season were canceled.

Read the full story by Steve Greenberg here.

3:05 p.m. Wellness checks and lines as Cook County courthouses open, hold more in-person hearings

Although more in-person hearings were held at Cook County courthouses Monday, there was more activity outside some buildings with lines and tents set up for wellness checks for those waiting to go inside.

At the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, sheriff’s deputies stationed outside questioned judges, lawyers, employees and others seeking to enter the courthouse about potential COVID-19 symptoms they may have.

Those without symptoms then went on to walk through a sectioned-off tent — designed to ensure social distancing — before they could pass through the front doors with face masks.

There were some lines to get inside the Daley Center, with a wait time that averaged 20 minutes, according to a spokeswoman for Chief Judge Timothy Evans.

Read the full story by Ben Pope here.

1:57 p.m. United warns employees of job losses

United Airlines, its plans for a business recovery upended by a surge in coronavirus cases, has begun notifying tens of thousands of employees about potential layoffs or furloughs starting Oct. 1.

The carrier has authorization for $5 billion in grants or loans under the federal CARES Act, but the measure’s protections against job reductions expire Sept. 30. United already has announced its intention to cut 3,400 of its managers, about 30% of its total, a move expected to take a chunk out of its Chicago headquarters.

Just a week ago, United said an increase in bookings would allow it to triple its August schedule, bringing it to 40% of its level from a year ago. But in a presentation to employees Monday, United said cancellations have risen again as state and local governments, including Chicago, issue quarantine orders covering travelers from coronavirus hot spots.

A United executive confirmed a Wall Street Journal account of the presentation and its warning of tens of thousands of layoffs or furloughs, with some notices going out this week. The exact number couldn’t be determined. The airline’s parent company, United Airlines Holdings, said at the end of 2019 it had 96,000 employees.

Read the full report here.

12:18 p.m. How safe is it to eat at a restaurant right now?

How risky is dining out during the COVID-19 pandemic?

There is some risk, but health officials say there are precautions you can take to minimize the chances you’ll be exposed to the virus.

Ordering takeout or delivery is still the safest option for getting restaurant food, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If you decide to eat at a restaurant, it’s best to opt for outdoor seating where tables are at least 6 feet apart, the agency says. Dining inside a restaurant that hasn’t reduced its capacity or safely distanced tables poses the most risk, it says.

The coronavirus spreads through droplets that are emitted when people talk, laugh, sing, cough or sneeze. Indoor spaces are more risky than outdoor spaces because it might be harder to keep people apart and there’s less ventilation, the CDC says.

Diners should assess what other safety steps the restaurant is taking.

For example, servers should be wearing masks and the restaurant should have a process to ensure people are not congregating too closely while waiting for a table, says Dr. Susan Casey Bleasdale, an infectious disease expert at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Read the full story here.

10:50 a.m. Which Illinois businesses scored PPP loans?

The $2 trillion federal CARES Act — the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act — passed by Congress in March included funds to create the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP.

The financial lifeline was intended to help employers keep people on the payroll and pay some overhead expenses. If used as intended, the loans do not have to be repaid.

The Chicago Sun-Times has compiled a database of Illinois businesses receiving loans of $1 million or more.

Click here to see our searchable database of companies.

9:43 a.m. Yeezy clothing line, artist Jeff Koons, The Girl Scouts, political groups — all got PPP loans

The government’s small business lending program has benefited millions of companies, with the goal of minimizing the number of layoffs Americans have suffered in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Yet the recipients include many you probably wouldn’t have expected.

Kanye West’s clothing line. The sculptor Jeff Koons. Law firms and high-dollar hedge funds. The Girl Scouts. Political groups on both the left and right.

All told, the Treasury Department’s Paycheck Protection Program authorized $520 billion for nearly 5 million mostly small businesses and nonprofits. On Monday, the government released the names and some other details of recipients who were approved for $150,000 or more.

That amounted to fewer than 15% of all borrowers. The Associated Press and other news organizations are suing the government to obtain the names of the remaining recipients.

Economists generally credit the program with preventing the job market meltdown this spring from becoming even worse. More than 22 million jobs were lost in March and April. But roughly one-third of them were regained in May and June — a faster rebound than many analysts had expected.

Click to read about seven unlikely PPP recipients.

7:53 a.m. As temperatures stay high, Lightfoot orders Park District to open splash pools, but beaches, swimming pools stay closed

With temperatures continuing to rise well into the 90s, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday she has ordered the Chicago Park District to open its splash pools, but keep beaches and other swimming pools closed.

Ever since she partially reopened the lakefront — for transit and exercise only — Chicagoans chomping at the bit to take a dip in Lake Michigan or dive into a pool to get some relief from the summer heat have been asking whether beaches and pools would be next.

The answer came Monday during a City Hall news conference called to tout a utility bill relief program included in the mayor’s 2020 budget.

“We don’t see the beaches opening up any time soon,” the mayor said.

“The challenge with the beaches — and with swimming pools, let’s just add that in — is that they are ripe for congregate gathering and not social distancing. … Given where we are — which is progress, but we have some concerns — we’re not gonna take any steps that could tip us ... backwards. So, for now, the beaches and swimming pools will remain closed.”

Chicago has endured a steady string of days with temperatures soaring into the 90s. More of the same is forecast before temperatures finally break on Saturday.

“We’ve got cooling centers that we’ve opened up. We’ve got cooling buses that are gonna be available. We’re gonna be opening up the splash pools in the parks so that adults and children can get some relief,” Lightfoot said.

“But I don’t see a circumstance yet because I don’t think the public health metrics will allow for it where we’re gonna be opening up the beaches or swimming pools.”

Read the full report from Fran Spielman here.


New cases


Analysis & Commentary

11:39 a.m. Working moms, not dads, will be more likely to quit as the pandemic lingers on

Millions of American families are finding themselves in a jam, with their jobs requiring them to return to work on site and plans from their local school districts calling for children to spend less time in classrooms. At the same time, child care is becoming less available and, in many cases, more costly.

Many working parents with young or school-age children may have to quit their job to stay home as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on. As a sociologist who studies parenthood, gender and labor market inequality, I expect that more women than men will leave their jobs.

In 2019 — before this new disease upended life as we know it — 72% of all U.S. women with children under 18 were working or looking for work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The situation was very similar for mothers with spouses and those without them: 70% versus 77%. With nearly all married fathers employed or looking for work, in 64% of families with two parents, both were breadwinners.

Read the full opinion piece by Joyce Misra here.

7:14 a.m. Beware of those going ‘nose commando’ during COVID-19 pandemic

By my count, 44 percent of the American people who wear face masks believe they do not have to be worn over the nose. That is using the same statistical base President Trump used to calculate that 99 percent of coronavirus cases are harmless.

While waiting for takeout at my favorite restaurant, I looked into the kitchen and saw at least two cooks wearing their masks over their mouths but pulled below their nose.

A manager was standing about five feet away and said nothing to them.

Neither did I.

I am COVID-inhibited, meaning I think anyone crazy enough not to wear a mask, or wear it properly, is willing to kill family members and friends and therefore should not be confronted.

It would be like stopping someone on State Street who is screaming and gesturing wildly to ask if they are a madman or simply a stock trader having a bad day.

Yet, someone should say something.

Read the full column from Phil Kadner here.