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Coronavirus live blog, Aug. 11, 2020: Pritzker’s expanded mask rules survive committee vote

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

Travelers returning to Chicago from Iowa, Kansas and Utah will no longer be ordered to quarantine for two weeks under an upcoming update to the Department of Public Health’s coronavirus quarantine list.

Here’s what else happened today as the fight against the coronavirus pandemic continued in Chicago and around Illinois.


News

8:58 p.m. Pritzker wins mask face-off: Enforcement rule for businesses survives challenge as state reports 1,549 more COVID-19 cases

Gov. J.B. Pritzker adjusts his face mask after a press conference in the Lawndale Plaza parking lot on the West Side.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s expanded masking enforcement rules for businesses survived a challenge in Springfield Tuesday as health officials announced another 1,549 people have tested positive for COVID-19 across Illinois.

The new rules announced by the Democratic governor’s office last week give local authorities leeway to fine businesses up to $2,500, or hit them with a misdemeanor charge, if they don’t enforce Pritzker’s statewide face covering mandate or social distancing guidelines.

Six state lawmakers on the bipartisan Joint Committee on Administrative Rules voted to suspend the rules they complain offer “extraordinary discretion,” two votes shy of wiping Pritzker’s rules off the books.

The governor said his edict will “provide multiple opportunities for compliance before any penalty is issued and will help ensure that the minority of people who refuse to act responsibly won’t take our state backward.

“These rules will ensure that there is a commonsense way to enforce public health guidelines with an emphasis on education first so that Illinois can continue to make substantial progress in our fight against COVID-19,” Pritzker said in a statement.

Read the full story here.


5 p.m Iowa, Kansas, Utah removed from Chicago’s COVID-19 quarantine list

Travelers returning to Chicago from Iowa, Kansas and Utah will no longer be ordered to quarantine for two weeks under an upcoming update to the Department of Public Health’s coronavirus quarantine list.

The changes, which go into effect Friday, will leave 20 states and territories on the city’s order: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin.

A state is put on the quarantine list if its daily COVID-19 case load rate is higher than 15 per 100,000. Nebraska and Wisconsin have posted numbers below that threshold in recent days and could be removed from the list next week if that continues, according to health officials.

Travelers returning from any state on the quarantine list must isolate for 14 days from the last point of contact in the identified state.

Chicagoans heading east should also take note that Illinois has been added to the quarantine lists in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

— Satchel Price

3:12 p.m. Global COVID-19 cases top 20 million, doubling over last 6 weeks

It took six months for the world to reach 10 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus. It took just over six weeks for that number to double.

The worldwide count of known COVID-19 infections climbed past 20 million on Monday, with more than half of them from just three countries: the U.S., India and Brazil, according to the tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.

The average number of new cases per day in the U.S. has declined in recent weeks but is still running high at over 54,000, versus almost 59,000 in India and nearly 44,000 in Brazil.

The severe and sustained crisis in the U.S. — over 5 million cases and 163,000 deaths, easily the highest totals of any country — has dismayed and surprised many around the world, given the nation’s vaunted scientific ingenuity and the head start it had over Europe and Asia to prepare.

South Africa, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Argentina, Russia and the Philippines round out the list of the top 10 countries contributing the most new cases to the global tally since July 22, according to an Associated Press analysis of Johns Hopkins data through Monday.

Read the full story here.

2:45 p.m. Big Ten cancels football season due to pandemic

The Big Ten will not play football in the fall with “the possibility of competition in the spring” due to health concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic. the conference said Tuesday.

After a dramatic few days full of meetings among coaches, athletics directors and university presidents, the stunning decision marks a potential tipping point for the Bowl Subdivision to play a season amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“The mental and physical health and welfare of our student-athletes has been at the center of every decision we have made regarding the ability to proceed forward,” Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said in a statement.

“As time progressed and after hours of discussion with our Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee, it became abundantly clear that there was too much uncertainty regarding potential medical risks to allow our student-athletes to compete this fall.”

Read the full story here.

12:07 p.m. Russia approves 1st coronavirus vaccine, but scientists uneasy

MOSCOW — Russia on Tuesday became the first country to approve a coronavirus vaccine, a move that was met with international skepticism and unease because the shots have only been studied in dozens of people.

President Vladimir Putin announced the Health Ministry’s approval and said one of his two adult daughters already was inoculated. He said the vaccine underwent the necessary tests and was shown to provide lasting immunity to the coronavirus, although Russian authorities have offered no proof to back up claims of safety or effectiveness.

“I know it has proven efficient and forms a stable immunity,” Putin said. “We must be grateful to those who made that first step very important for our country and the entire world.”

However, scientists in Russia and other countries sounded an alarm, saying that rushing to offer the vaccine before final-stage testing could backfire. What’s called a Phase 3 trial — which involves tens of thousands of people and can take months — is the only way to prove if an experimental vaccine is safe and really works.

Read the full story here.

11:15 a.m. State and local public health officials are fleeing their posts across the country: report

Vilified, threatened with violence and in some cases burned out, dozens of state and local public health officials around the country have resigned or have been fired amid the coronavirus outbreak, a testament to how politically combustible masks, lockdowns and infection data have become.

The latest departure came Sunday, when California’s public health director, Dr. Sonia Angell, quit without explanation following a technical glitch that caused a delay in reporting virus test results — information that was used to make decisions about reopening businesses and schools.

Last week, New York City’s health commissioner was replaced after months of tension with the Police Department and City Hall.

A review by the Kaiser Health News service and The Associated Press finds at least 48 state and local health leaders have resigned, retired or been fired since April across 23 states. The list has grown by more than 20 people since the AP and KHN began tracking departures in June.

As of Monday, confirmed infections in the United States stood at over 5 million, with deaths topping 163,000, the highest in the world.

The departures of so many top leaders around the country make a bad situation worse, at a time when the U.S. needs good public health leadership the most, said Lori Tremmel Freeman, CEO of the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

Read the full report from Kaiser Health News service and the Associated Press.

10:42 a.m. Navy Pier could be shut down, says private operator facing $20 million loss

Navy Pier Inc. said Monday it expects to lose $20 million this year and plans to decide by month’s end whether to close the popular tourist attraction whose business has been devastated by the coronavirus.

But Payal Patel, a spokeswoman for the private operator of the government-owned pier, said the company “is not going out of business. Navy Pier is not going bankrupt. They’re looking at full closure, partial closure.”

Patel said the not-for-profit company has no plans to walk away from the pier, which it began leasing in 2011 under a $1-a-year lease from the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, whose board is appointed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

The coronavirus shutdown orders closed the pier from March 17 until June 10, but the usual crowds have yet to return since it reopened. Many restaurants and vendors are open. But popular attractions including the Ferris wheel, the Chicago Children’s Museum and the Chicago Shakespeare Theater remain closed.

Patel said all are receiving rent relief — another hit to the pier’s revenues, which topped $60 million last year.

Read the full report from Tim Novak here.

7:24 a.m. Illinois sees only one new COVID-19 death, but daily caseload again tops 1,000

State health officials on Monday announced 1,319 new coronavirus cases and one additional death.

It’s the 20th straight day of four-digit daily caseloads, but only the second day since late March with just one additional fatality, a woman in her 90s from downstate Cumberland County.

The daily case count has mostly fluctuated between 1,000 and 2,000 in the last four weeks — an uptick from a string of days in June and early July when daily case counts were mostly in the hundreds.

The daily count rose over 2,000 in Illinois for two consecutive days on Friday and Saturday.

But the last time Illinois recorded only a single additional COVID-19 death was on July 26.

Reporter Mitch Dudek has the full story.


New Cases


Analysis & Commentary

8:29 a.m. Americans pay price as Trump fails to lead

Donald Trump’s ignorance and incompetence have cost American lives in the pandemic. Now his failure of leadership will add to the misery of millions of Americans force onto unemployment, the hunger of children at risk, the homelessness of families facing eviction. At a time when bold action is imperative, the president offers posturing and gestures. Having failed to produce a deal on a much needed rescue program, he issues a showtime executive order and series of memoranda that will do more to foster confusion than to aid those in distress.

“The Lord and the Founding Fathers created executive orders because of partisan bickering and divided government,” White House economic adviser Peter Navarro said on NBC News on Sunday. But don’t blame the Lord for the absence of leadership.

A forceful leader would have convened the leaders of the House and Senate in his office and forced an agreement before letting them go home.

By all accounts, they were close enough to get a deal. Democratic leaders Pelosi and Schumer had offered a compromise in the middle between the bill the House passed that would cost about $3.4 trillion and the bill Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell cobbled together that would cost $1 trillion and that he couldn’t get his own caucus to support. No bill could pass without Democratic votes in the House and the Senate, yet Trump’s representatives wouldn’t even go halfway.

Read the full column from Jesse Jackson here.