Coronavirus live blog, Aug. 21, 2020: The definitive guide to flu shots during the COVID pandemic

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

SHARE Coronavirus live blog, Aug. 21, 2020: The definitive guide to flu shots during the COVID pandemic

Health officials in Illinois are still grappling with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but they’re already warning the public about another health problem in the making — flu season.

Here’s what else happened Friday as the pandemic continued to make headlines around the state.


News

8:57 p.m. Flu shots during the COVID pandemic: everything you need to know

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Original: Barrington 11/10/09 Rylan Lamp, 1.5, of Lake Zurich, receives the H1N1 Flu Vaccine, at Good Shepherd Hospital, in Barrington, on Tuesday, November 10, 2009. (Ruthie Hauge/Staff Photographer) Published: Rylan Lamp, 1, of Lake Zurich, receives the H1N1 Flu Vaccine, at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital earlier this month. (Ruthie Hauge/Staff Photographer)

The message to vaccinate hasn’t been lost on Americans already calling their doctors and pharmacists to schedule a flu shot appointment before the start of the 2020-2021 influenza season.

Experts say it’s especially important this year, amid the coronavirus pandemic, to get vaccinated against the flu, whose symptoms can be similar.

It’s hard to predict how COVID-19 will mix with this year’s flu season. Will mask-wearing and social distancing help limit flu transmission as it’s meant to do with SARS-CoV-2? Or will both viruses simultaneously wreak havoc on the nation even as some schools reopen for in-person learning?

“This fall, nothing can be more important than to try to increase the American public’s decision to embrace the flu vaccine with confidence,” says Dr. Robert R. Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ”This is a critical year for us to try to take flu as much off the table as we can.”

Read the full guide to getting flu shots during the COVID-19 pandemic.

6:56 p.m. One in five Illinois counties now at COVID-19 ‘warning level,’ 2,208 new cases reported — and some in Will Co. say, ‘So what?’

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Nurse practitioner Capri Reese talks to a Chicago Fire Department EMT in the Emergency Department at Roseland Community Hospital, Tuesday afternoon, April 28, 2020. During Reese’s 12-hour shift Tuesday, she responded to five code blues and three patients suffering from COVID-19 died. | Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

As public health officials announced nearly a fifth of all Illinois counties are at a coronavirus “warning level,” the state on Friday reported 2,208 new cases of COVID-19 — the fifth time in the last two weeks that Illinois has amassed 2,000 cases or more in a single day.

Illinois hadn’t seen such a cluster of high coronavirus caseloads since its initial peak month of May — and it follows a 33-day stretch from June to July in which Illinois never surpassed more than a thousand new diagnoses in a day.

More than 37,000 people have been diagnosed with the virus over the first three weeks of August, compared to 22,925 in all of June. That’s as the state has averaged more than 1,800 new cases per day over the last two weeks, almost triple the state’s running rate at the end of June.

Still, Illinois’ latest cases were confirmed among 51,736 tests submitted to the state, marking a third straight day of record-high testing numbers for the state and lowering the statewide testing positivity rate over the last week to 4.3%.

But positivity rates have increased in seven of the state’s 11 regions over the last week, including the downstate Metro East region which is now at 9.4% positivity — after Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s health team forced officials there to scale back capacities and operating hours at bars and restaurants.

Reporter Mitch Armentrout has the full story.

5:19 p.m. Layoffs hit World Business Chicago

World Business Chicago, the public-private agency that promotes regional job growth, is facing the same funding pressures as other organizations and businesses and has laid off some staff, its president and CEO said Friday.

Andrea Zopp said the group has laid off five people and eliminated four open positions, leaving it with a staff of 30. “We are expecting revenue impacts related to COVID-19 and we felt it was important to better align our expenses with those expectations,” she said.

Zopp said she and other top staff at WBC have taken pay cuts she declined to specify. The laid-off staffers received severance, she said.

Reporter David Roeder has the full story.

3:24 p.m. Catholic school teachers demand fully remote learning: ‘Outbreaks are inevitable’

The Rev. C.J. Hawking with Arise Chicago, speaks to reporters outside the offices of the Archdiocese of Chicago, demanding that the Archdiocese of Chicago reverse in person learning in Chicago area schools and go to remote learning amid the Coronavirus pandemic, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

The Rev. C.J. Hawking with Arise Chicago said the interfaith workeres’ rights organization has heard from hundreds of teachers terrified to return to school in-person.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

A group representing hundreds of teachers and parents with the Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic Schools Thursday called for all fall classes at the parochial school system to be held online.

“Now is the wrong time to gather hundreds of human beings into enclosed spaces,” James Cahill, a history and religion teacher at Wilmette’s St. Francis Xavier School, said at a news conference outside the archdiocese’s downtown offices, at 835 N. Rush St.

In an email to families earlier this month, Catholic Schools Supt. Jim Rigg said the archdiocese is starting the school year with full-time in-person learning, saying it’s “in the best interests of children and our mission.”

The “Arch Teachers for a Safe Return” group, which represents hundreds of teachers, is giving the archdiocese until Tuesday to respond.

Read the full story from Clare Proctor here.

2:11 p.m. Athletes’ parents hold protest at Big Ten headquarters

Parents of Big Ten football players, upset over the process that led to the postponement of the fall season, held a protest near the conference’s Rosemont headquarters Friday while an attorney in Nebraska demanded Commissioner Kevin Warren turn over material illustrating how the decision was made.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 announced Aug. 11 that health and safety concerns over the coronavirus led them to shut down football this fall. The other three major conferences, the Atlantic Coast, Big 12 and Southeastern, are planning to play.

Groups of player parents from several Big Ten schools have complained that Warren was not forthcoming in explaining the process that led to the school presidents’ decision. A more detailed explanation Warren offered in an open letter this week was not to their satisfaction.

“We’ve got a voice. We want to use it,” said Jay Kallenberger, father of Iowa offensive lineman Mark Kallenberger. “Our kids may not be comfortable speaking out or the programs may say, ‘Hey, just sit back, there’s not a lot you can say right now.’ Transparency, that’s what we want.”

Randy Wade, father of Ohio State cornerback Shaun Wade, organized the protest. About two dozen parents representing Iowa, Illinois, Ohio State and Wisconsin showed up. A few carried “Let Them Play” signs and the group chanted, “Let us play!”

Read the full report here.

1:10 p.m. Instead of exploring COVID-19 effects, ‘Love in the Time of Corona’ does drive-bys

With apologies to Gabriel Garcia Marquez — so many apologies — a show called “Love in the Time of Corona” seemed inevitable.

Too soon?

Judging by the evidence of the four-episode limited dramaseries (airing Saturday and Sunday on Freeform, then on Hulu), the answer is yes.

Perhaps the most intriguing thing about it is how it was shot — with remote cameras, in the homes of the actors. The scripted series, which stars real-life couples like Leslie Odom Jr. (“Hamilton”) and Nicolette Robinson quarantining together, manages to shoehorn in almost every facet of how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected our lives, in glossy soap-opera fashion.

The series looks at the lives of four groups of people, each affected in their own way by the pandemic. Oscar (Tommy Dorfman) is a gay man living with his best friend Elle (Rainey Qualley), a straight woman; Dorman is married in real life but he and Qualley are friends and have been quarantining together.

Read the full review here.

11:31 a.m. What’s been the hardest thing about wearing a mask for you? What Chicagoans say

With face masks looking like they’ll be with us for the foreseeable future thanks to coronavirus, we asked Chicagoans: What’s been the hardest thing about wearing a mask for you? Some answers have been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

“I absolutely freaking hate it! It causes my glasses to fog. Sometimes, I feel I can’t breathe when I’m in a store or the library places like that.” — Jackie Waldhier

“Nothing. It’s super easy to do and fun to make them myself. When it’s hot, it may be a little uncomfortable, which honestly just encourages me to get back inside much faster.” — Lia Crawford

“My skin conditions flaring up. But I still wear it.” — Andrea Gorman

“The breakouts on my cheeks and the severe congestion I get from wearing them for 12 hours straight at work. But those are minor things just glad to be healthy and safe.” — Tanay Watson

Read the full story by Alice Bazerghi here.

7:37 a.m. 1 in 5 nursing homes short on PPE and staff in coronavirus rebound

One in five U.S. nursing homes faced severe shortages of protective gear like N95 masks this summer even as the Trump administration pledged to help, according to a study released Thursday that finds facilities in areas hard-hit by COVID-19 also struggled to keep staff.

Significantly, there was no improvement from May to July in the shortages of personal protective equipment, known as PPE, or in the staffing shortfalls, according to the analysis of federal data by academic researchers. The summer has seen the coronavirus surge across the South, and much of the West and Midwest.

People living in long-term care facilities represent less than 1% of the U.S. population, but account for 43% of coronavirus deaths, according to the COVID Tracking Project. Similar glaring disparities have been seen with nursing home residents in other countries, but in the U.S. the issue has become politically sensitive for President Donald Trump, who is trying to hang on to support from older voters in his reelection bid.

Read the full story here.


New cases

  • Five Notre Dame football players test positive for COVID-19.
  • Health officials on Thursday announced 1,832 more people have tested positive for COVID-19 across Illinois, another four-digit caseload that has become the norm as the virus flares back up statewide.
  • Illinois has reported an average of 1,807 new cases per day over the last two weeks, up from an average of 1,063 cases per day this time last month.

Analysis & Commentary

6:07 p.m. Fun and flavor of political conventions fade amid pandemic

It’s no longer a circus.

The big top is different, not gone. But the traditional political grub fests once held outside our national political conventions have disappeared, jettisoned by a pandemic.

What fun they were ... if the pickings were good.

Outside the political wigwam was the juicy steak of journalism: private venues feeding a press hungry for news not available under the convention tent. Party havens for hustlers, glad handers, gadflies, lugubrious leakers, hustlers and hucksters — they were delicious.

These coveted private, invitation-only “after-parties,” tossed by celebs, charities, pols, major firms, and media groups, once buzzed with deals and appeals — where drinks flowed and handshakes were under the table or in a quiet corner of the room.

To a journalist, an invite to an after-party was creme; a place where scoops were netted, scores were settled; and new sources formed.

No more. For now.

Read more of Michael Sneed’s pre-pandemic convention memories.

7:51 a.m. Chicago needs sensible plan to get the lead out of water

Chicago, a leader in so many ways, has not done a good enough job of protecting its residents from lead in its decades-old water pipes.

As other cities turned to safer alternatives, our city kept requiring that service lines be made of lead — until Congress made the city stop in 1986. Even tiny amounts of lead can damage children’s brains, and the heavy metal has been tied to other health problems as well, such as kidney failure, heart disease, learning disabilities and impaired hearing.

The problem is compounded by the number of Chicagoans who were working in buildings with lead-free water before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, but who are now at home drinking out of tainted pipes.

The city is looking for a way to fix this problem. It needs to get it right this time, with input from all the stakeholders.

Read the full editorial from the Sun-Times Editorial Board here.

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