Coronavirus live blog, August 13, 2020: Pritzker urges precautions, patience and prayers as Illinois’ case tally from ‘insidious virus’ passes 200,000

Here’s what we learned on Thursday about how COVID-19 is impacting Chicago and Illinois.

SHARE Coronavirus live blog, August 13, 2020: Pritzker urges precautions, patience and prayers as Illinois’ case tally from ‘insidious virus’ passes 200,000

Illinois passed another grim coronavirus milestone on Thursday — 200,000 cases have now been counted in the state. Gov. J.B. Pritzker continued to urge caution among state residents. Nationally, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden called for a national face-mask wearing mandate.

The state continued to struggle to regain its lost economic footing as well. Seven new state-run centers have opened this summer to further support Illinois small businesses. And a long-standing restaurant in the West Loop, La Sardine, announced its closing.

Here’s what we learned in the fight against the coronavirus in Chicago, the state and the nation.

News

Pritzker urges precautions, patience and prayers as Illinois’ case tally from ‘insidious virus’ passes 200,000

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Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

More than 200,000 people have now tested positive for COVID-19 over the last five months in Illinois — about 1.6% of the state’s population — as health officials on Thursday announced the latest batch of 1,834 new coronavirus cases.

Since early March, a total of 200,427 people have been confirmed to be carrying the virus, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. The state has about 12.7 million residents.

Health officials also announced 24 more residents with COVID-19 have died, raising the statewide pandemic death toll to 7,696. About 95% of the state’s coronavirus patients have recovered.

Read the complete story by Mitchell Armentrout here.

News

9 p.m. La Sardine, a West Loop institution, permanently closes because of coronavirus

After a 22-year run, La Sardine, the noted French bistro in the West Loop, will close because of the coronavirus.

The restaurant, located at 111 N. Carpenter, called COVID-19 “and extinction event for restaurants.” Without outdoor seating or parking, La Sardine struggled with the coronavirus restrictions. The closing announcement was posted Thursday on Facebook.

“It has been a true blessing serving you all, and we are so honored that you chose to spend so many of your life’s special moments with us. Truly.”

Read the full story by John Silver here.

8 p.m. More US churches sue to challenge COVID-19 restrictions

Churches in California and Minnesota, backed by a conservative legal group, filed lawsuits this week against the governors of their states challenging restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus outbreak that they contend are violations of religious liberty.

They’re the latest in a long series of legal challenges, many of them in California, pitting clerics and houses of worship who believe they should be exempt from certain restrictions on public gatherings against governors who insist the measures are needed to rein in the pandemic. Most of the suits have been rebuffed; some have succeeded.

In Minnesota, a lawsuit was filed Thursday in federal court challenging Gov. Tim Walz’s executive orders requiring 6-foot social distancing and the wearing of face masks at worship services.

Read the full story here.

7:10 p.m. NCAA cancels fall championships as major football marches on

The NCAA called off fall championship events — a move Thursday that does not effect major college football — because not enough schools will be competing in sports such as men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball during the first semester.

NCAA President Mark Emmert made the announcement in a video posted on Twitter, but it has been clear this was coming as more and more conference canceled fall sports seasons because of the coronvirus pandemic.

“Sadly, tragically that’s going to be the case this fall. Full stop,” Emmert said. “That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t and can’t turn toward winter and spring and say, ‘How can we create a legitimate championship for those students?’ There are ways to do this. I am completely confident we can figure this out. If schools and conferences want to move forward … let’s do it.”

Read the full story here.

6:20 p.m. Illinois opens additional centers to support small businesses

Seven new state-run centers opened this summer to further support Illinois small businesses.

The additional Small Business Development Centers are in Chicago, Elgin and Joliet. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity said the $11.5 million effort brings the total number of centers statewide to 42.

“With many Illinois businesses currently facing unprecedented burdens as a result of COVID-19 and recent civil unrest, our SBDC community partners can be a lifeline for businesses working to reopen safely,” said Michael Negron, acting director of the department.

Read the full story here.

5:35 p.m. Trump admits he’s blocking postal cash to stop mail-in votes

President Donald Trump frankly acknowledged Thursday that he’s starving the U.S. Postal Service of money in order to make it harder to process an expected surge of mail-in ballots, which he worries could cost him the election.

In an interview on Fox Business Network, Trump explicitly noted two funding provisions that Democrats are seeking in a relief package that has stalled on Capitol Hill. Without the additional money, he said, the Postal Service won’t have the resources to handle a flood of ballots from voters who are seeking to avoid polling places during the coronavirus pandemic.

“If we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money,” Trump told host Maria Bartiromo. “That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting; they just can’t have it.”

Read the full story here.

4:50 p.m. AMC Theatres to offer 15-cent tickets on first day of reopening.

AMC Theatres, the nation’s largest movie theater chain, will reopen in the U.S. on Aug. 20 with retro ticket prices of 15 cents per movie.

AMC Entertainment, which owns the chain, said Thursday that it expects to open the doors to more than 100 cinemas — or about a sixth of its nationwide locations — on Aug. 20 with throwback pricing for a day.

See which Chicago-area locations will be open here.

4 p.m. Biden calls for nationwide mask mandate to fight coronavirus

Joe Biden is calling for a nationwide protective mask mandate, citing health experts’ predictions that it could save 40,000 lives from coronavirus over the next three months.

”Wearing the mask is less about you contracting the virus,” Biden said. “It’s about preventing other people from getting sick.”

The Democratic presidential candidate also responded to those who push back against such mandates.

“This is America. Be a patriot. Protect your fellow citizens. Step up, do the right thing.”

Read the full story here.

2:45 p.m. UIC workers to take strike vote over pay raise, PPE

Thousands of workers at the University of Illinois at Chicago are preparing to take a strike vote over working conditions and increased pay.

About 4,000 clerical, professional, service, maintenance and technical workers are calling for access to personal protective equipment, increased staffing levels and a raised minimum hourly wage of $15. Starting next week, SEIU Local 73, which represents the workers, will open a vote on whether to approve a strike.

“Workers are ready to strike for their lives,” union president Dian Palmer said at a news conference Thursday. “Every job and every worker matter. We will use our collective power to win for our families and communities.”

Read the full story by Clare Proctor here.

12:30 p.m. How many restaurants will Illinois lose to pandemic shutdowns?

Illinois Restaurant Association President Sam Toia on Wednesday painted a bleaker-than-ever picture of a restaurant industry decimated by the stay-at-home shutdown triggered by the coronavirus pandemic and thrown for a loop yet again by two rounds of looting.

In a virtual address to the City Club of Chicago, Toia ticked off devastating statistics telling the heartbreaking story of restaurant owners who are “barely hanging on” now — and will have trouble doing even that when warm weather ends and outdoor dining isn’t possible:

• Restaurant sales are down 80% across the board — even with 25% indoor capacity—and at least 20% of Illinois’ 24,000 restaurants “will never reopen.”

• The statewide restaurant industry has laid off or furloughed 321,000 employees, 54% of its total workforce.

• 86% of restaurant operators say they are “unlikely” to turn a profit within the next six months.

Restaurants suffered yet another devastating blow this week when a second round of looting swept through downtown, River North and Lincoln Park. Toia said windows were “shattered,” dining rooms “left in shambles” and food and beverages stolen.

Read the full story from Fran Spielman here.

10:22 a.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. The saliva samples will be analyzed in the school’s pathology lab on campus. People are required to have a negative test result before they attend on-campus events or classes.

About 1,700 students will live on campus this fall and have to receive regular testing, cut in half from the typical 3,400 students who normally live in the dorms, according to McGinnis Gonzalez.

Students living off campus who aren’t athletes or in performing arts are currently not being tested as a part of this program, McGinnis Gonzalez said, though the university plans to expand the program in coming weeks.

Read the full report here.

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

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.


New Cases


Analysis & Commentary

8:05 p.m. Trump finally admits it: He’s weakening the postal service to sway elections

We’ve long said President Donald Trump is purposely sabotaging the U.S. Postal Service in a desperate attempt to steal the November election.

Now there is proof. And it comes straight from the president himself.

In a FOX Business interview Thursday, Trump admitted he is blocking the postal service from receiving $25 billion in coronavirus stimulus money because some of the funds would be used to expand mail-in voting during the pandemic.

He’s also standing in the way of an additional $3.6 billion in pandemic funding that states would get to bolster election security and mail-in voting.

Read the full editorial by the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board here.

8:21 a.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 Sun-Times editorial board here.

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