Coronavirus live blog, Aug. 12, 2020: ‘Concern is growing’ in Illinois after 1,635 new COVID-19 cases

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

SHARE Coronavirus live blog, Aug. 12, 2020: ‘Concern is growing’ in Illinois after 1,635 new COVID-19 cases

State officials have released $46 million in grants to 2,655 small businesses in the first round of a program to assist owners affected by the COVID-19 shutdowns, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday.

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


8:57 p.m. Illinois at ‘make-or-break moment?’ Despite high COVID-19 caseloads, troubling positivity rates, Pritzker says, ‘We can lick this thing’


Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, delivers the latest numbers for the COVID-19 pandemic during Illinois Governor JB Pritzker’s daily press briefing on COVID-19 in his office at the Illinois State Capitol, Thursday, May 21, 2020

Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP

Another 1,645 people have contracted COVID-19 across Illinois, testing positivity rates are up across much of the state — and “concern is growing each day about the direction our numbers are going,” the state’s top doctor said Wednesday.

“Remember that numbers increasing actually represents people infected with this new virus,” Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said. “Those people infected with the new virus can go on to get sick, and those people who are sick can go on to be hospitalized, and those people who are hospitalized can go on to have very severe complications up to death.”

The latest cases were confirmed among 42,098 tests, keeping the state’s positivity rate over the last week at 4.1%.

That number has floated over 4% for the past week after nearly two months without eclipsing that mark, and it’s up from 2.5% a month ago.

Positivity rates have increased or stayed the same in nine of Illinois’ 11 regions over the last week, a red flag for a state that’s reached a “make-or-break moment” with the coronavirus on the rebound, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said.

Read the full story here.

7:12 p.m. A small business tip sheet for tough times

Small businesses have been hit especially hard by the pandemic. Here are some key sources for funding and advice for small businesses amid the pandemic.

—Make friends with a banker. Need a place to start? Try the Illinois state treasurer’s list of institutions participating in its COVID-19 relief program, available here.

—Solicit ideas and impartial advice from a Small Business Development Center in your area. Further information is here.

—Get a briefing on state government programs for business by calling (800) 252-2923 or emailing

Reporter David Roeder has more tips here.

6:05 p.m. State issues $46 million in grants to small businesses victimized by shutdowns

State officials have released $46 million in grants to 2,655 small businesses in the first round of a program to assist owners affected by the COVID-19 shutdowns, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday.

The awards under the Business Interruption Grant program, or BIG, included 1,165 grants worth $20.5 million to recipients in Chicago. Awards range from $10,000 to $20,000.

“Overall, the BIG program will support thousands of small businesses who have suffered losses due to the COVID pandemic, with a substantial allotment set aside for childcare providers — an essential underpinning of our workforce for countless working families,” Pritzker said.

The money comes from the state’s allotment under the federal CARES Act and calls for an ultimate outlay of $540 million. The state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity said another funding round is expected to be announced soon.

Read the full story here.

5:10 p.m. More than half of global COVID-19 cases are in U.S., India, Brazil

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.

The real number of people infected by the virus around the world is believed to be much higher — perhaps 10 times higher in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — given testing limitations and the many mild cases that have gone unreported or unrecognized.

Read the full report here.

3:55 p.m. UIC to require weekly COVID-19 testing for on-campus students, staff and athletes

The University of Illinois at Chicago is implementing mandatory weekly COVID-19 testing for thousands of students and employees.

All students and staff living on campus; all athletes and athletic staff; and all performing arts students and staff will have to be tested weekly, starting Aug. 17, according to an announcement Wednesday. The saliva-based tests, which will be free for students, faculty and staff, should provide results within 24 hours. People with COVID-19 symptoms, however, aren’t eligible for the test and instead “should be referred to a healthcare provider for evaluation.”

These targeted groups make up about 2,000 people who will be tested on a weekly basis, said Sherri McGinnis Gonzalez, a university spokeswoman.

People are required to have a negative test result before they attend on-campus events or classes.

Read the full story here.

2:14 p.m. Coronavirus spending spawns record $2.81 trillion US budget deficit

SILVER SPRING, Md. — The U.S. budget deficit climbed to $2.81 trillion in the first 10 months of the budget year, exceeding any on record, the Treasury Department said Wednesday.

The nation’s budgetary shortfall is expected to eventually reach levels for the fiscal year more than double the largest annual deficit on record.

The federal government rang up a $63 billion deficit in July, the department reported. That’s a relatively modest amount compared to red ink that spilled in the spring months when the government tried to revive an economy that all but ground to a halt due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Last month’s deficit was sharply lower than June’s $864 billion, in part because the government collected a record amount tax revenue in July — $563 billion — after extending the filing deadline to July 15. That extension allowed Americans more time to sort through the economic havoc wrought by the pandemic.

So far this budget year, government receipts total $2.82 trillion, off just 1% from the same period last year, Treasury officials said, crediting the “income replacement” provided by various government aid packages. In other words, unemployment benefits and other aid are still taxable.

Read the full report here.

2:11 p.m. Big 12 decides to play football this fall

The Big 12 Conference reaffirmed its decision to press on with college football and other fall sports Wednesday, joining the Atlantic Coast and Southeastern conferences in taking the field amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The move came one day after the Big Ten and Pac-12 announced they would not be participating this fall. There is a chance the other two Power Five leagues will push their seasons to the spring, but that remains to be determined.

In the meantime, the Big 12 board of directors approved a plan to begin fall sports after Sept. 1 with football playing a schedule in which each team can play one non-conference game before league play begins Sept. 26. The schools will all play each other to give them 10 total games with the Big 12 title game scheduled for Dec. 12.

Read the full report here.

2:09 p.m. Big Ten football coaches and players needed to be saved from themselves

College football players’ voices are rarely heard by the people who make decisions about their lives. If their voices were heard, they might be walking around campus with more money in their pockets. That extra money would be siphoned from the ocean of cash that universities and TV networks make off them.

For once, though, I’m happy that their opinions have been disregarded. The Big Ten has shut down football because of the pandemic, despite fervent pleas from players and coaches who want to do what they love to do. But when football can lead to sickness or death, it follows that football needs to take a long vacation. Hence the Big Ten’s stunning decision.

Players and coaches across the nation had mounted #WeWantToPlay and #WeWantToCoach Twitter campaigns, hoping to sway the university presidents who would be deciding their football fate. In the case of the Big Ten and the Pac-12, the presidents did the right thing, choosing to protect their athletes from the effects of COVID-19.

Before you attack me with your foam Ohio State No. 1 hand, I am not generally in favor of depriving people of the thing that brings them joy. But I know football players, and I know football coaches. And they can’t always be trusted to make healthy decisions.

Read more from Rick Morrissey here.

1:58 p.m. Pandemic parody of ‘Goodnight Moon’ children’s book is coming in October

A popular online spoof of the children’s favorite “Goodnight Moon,” reworked for the age of the coronavirus and widespread working from home, will be coming out In Octoberl.

“Good Morning Zoom,” written by Lindsay Rechler and illustrated by June Park, is scheduled for Oct. 6, according to publisher Penguin Random House’s Philomel Books imprint.

Currently self-published, “Good Morning Zoom” ($14.99) takes Margaret Wise Brown’s beloved bedtime story for young kids and turns it into a narrative about Zoom, bread baking, home schooling and other familiar parts of life during the pandemic.

Rechler is a banking executive and mother of two who lives in Manhattan. Park is a graphic designer and illustrator who lives in Brooklyn.

According to the publisher, the net author proceeds will be donated to coronavirus relief charities.

“COVID-19 is a difficult topic, especially for young children,” Rechler said. “I wanted to tell my children a relatable story — a story that would help them become familiar with their new everyday lives and, within that story, touch upon what was happening in the outside world. I thought a lot about the contrast between quarantining safely inside versus what was happening outside my window.”

Read the full story here.

8:01 a.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’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.

New Cases

Analysis & Commentary

7:49 p.m. Better to build trust than to be first when it comes to a COVID-19 vaccine

Early next year, scientists tell us, Americans can expect to hear that a safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19 soon will be available.

When that happens — and the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has said he is cautiously optimistic on the timeline for 2021 — it will be the best news possible for our pandemic-weary country.

All of us are waiting for a breakthrough that will allow daily life to return to some semblance of normal once again: to go back to movies, ball games and concerts or host dinner parties without fear of catching or spreading the coronavirus.

Life may not be completely “normal” for a long time, but a reliable vaccine is essential to the fight. Masks and social distancing can do only so much. “A vaccine will be the strongest thing we have against the disease,” as Dr. Karen Krueger of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine told us.

Read the full editorial from the CST Editorial Board here.

8:16 a.m. Teachers are ‘scared’ or feel ‘in danger’ as they ponder return to classroom

Printing letters has gone the way of pounding out copy on a manual typewriter. Just as well, it was mostly a summertime strategy for work-averse columnists to dispatch their duties without much effort.

However. My column Monday discussing the wisdom of the Archdiocese of Chicago holding in-person classes during an epidemic drew insights from a number of school personnel.

So I picked three, condensing for space and scrubbing their messages of any track-’em-down-and-fire-’em details that vindictive school administrators — are there any other kind? — could use to go after them.

From a CPS social studies teacher:

I am befuddled by the school systems that are disregarding the pandemic. It seems the reopeners fall into three groups, people who believe: 1. COVID is not a real crisis, 2. If we just go back to normal everything will go back to normal, or 3. We have no choice, and/or this is an opportunity for us.

Read Neil Steinberg’s full column here.

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