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Coronavirus live blog, August 6, 2020: ‘Devastated’ Chicago college students opt to stay home after last-minute shifts to all online classes, strict COVID-19 restrictions

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

The numbers of coronavirus cases continued to rise on Thursday. Public health officials announced Illinois’ largest coronavirus caseload in over 10 weeks, with 1,953 more people testing positive for COVID-19 across the state. The latest jump comes a week after Illinois logged 1,941 cases, which had been the highest since more than 2,500 cases were reported May 24 when the state was coming down from its initial pandemic peak.

The fallout from various school closings continued with college students dealing with beginning their college experience at home. Loyola University Chicago announced the dorms would be closed during the fall semester.

And Chicago’s first jury trial of pandemic ends with guilty verdict.

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

News

9 p.m. ‘Devastated’ Chicago college students opt to stay home after last-minute shifts to all online classes, strict COVID-19 restrictions

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Eli Stone, of Lake View, was ready for the “normal college experience” and set to start his freshman year this fall at Brandeis University outside Boston.

But when Brandeis released its reopening plans, Stone, 18, said he couldn’t imagine finding new friends or developing new relationships when he was living in a single dorm and taking all his classes online. So earlier this summer, he deferred his enrollment for at least a semester.

“If I was going this year, I’d really only have three years of a college experience because I don’t think spring will be normal,” either, Stone said. “Starting college during a pandemic would have been really hard for me.”

Faced with almost completely online schedules and strict COVID-19 protocol, students across Chicago who realize they won’t enjoy the traditional college campus experience are choosing to live at home or defer their education altogether. Some students’ plans have literally been upended in the past several days as many universities announced fewer and fewer — if any — in-person classes and strict rules for living in the dorms or even being on campus.

Read the full story by Clare Proctor here.

8:30 p.m. Loyola University Chicago closes all dorms for fall semester due to COVID-19

No Loyola University Chicago students will live in on-campus housing this fall, the university announced Thursday.

Citing COVID-19 health conditions and future uncertainty, the university announced the decision to close all residence halls for the upcoming semester, according to an email sent to the school community. The school had previously planned to put all on-campus students in single dorm rooms, with some living in the nearby Hampton Inn to allow for social distancing.

“We simply cannot put our on-campus residential students in harm’s way and risk further disruption to them and their families if they needed to move home mid-semester because of an outbreak in one of our residence halls or as a result of the state and city reverting back to Phase 3,” Thursday’s email read.

Read the full story by Clare Proctor here.

8 p.m. After recovering from coronavirus, Placido Domingo vows to clear name from sexual misconduct allegations

SALZBURG, Austria — Placido Domingo is back in Europe to receive a lifetime achievement award after a bout with the coronavirus, vowing in an interview with a top Italian daily newspaper to clear his name from allegations of sexual misconduct.

The opera legend’s appearance Thursday to accept the award from the Austria Music Theater will be his first in public since recovering from the virus at his home in Acapulco, Mexico. Domingo, 79, told La Repubblica that his illness made him ‘’no longer afraid to speak out’’ about the allegations reported by The Associated Press that virtually ended his performance career in both the United States and his native Spain.

‘’When I knew that I had COVID, I promised myself that if I came out alive, I would fight to clear my name,’’ Domingo said. ‘’I never abused anyone. I will repeat that as long as I live. ‘’

In AP stories last year, multiple women accused Domingo of sexual harassment and abusing his power while he held management positions at LA Opera and Washington National Opera, with dozens of people saying his behavior was an open secret in the opera world. Most of the women spoke on condition of anonymity.

Read the full story here.

7:20 p.m. ‘Chivalry will come back’: Pandemic could shift dating trends away from hook-up culture

Ofmar Ofrozan spent a Friday night in mid-March at Nighthawk, a bar in Albany Park, with a woman he met on Tinder. The pair connected over a common love of sports, holding nothing but a vague awareness of the novel coronavirus that would soon shutter bars and restaurants for months.

The date concluded with an elbow bump, said Ofrozan, 30, of Avondale, decidedly safer than a hug or kiss.

Ofrozan hasn’t seen her since.

“We only went on one date,” Ofrozan said. “Is it really worth the time and effort to continue pen pal-ing when we only met once?”

Many single Chicagoans took a hiatus from dating when the pandemic hit in mid-March, anticipating a return to the status quo in a matter of weeks. Weeks turned into months, shifting what’s considered normal in how people meet and date. Video calls on Bumble are up 70%, and people are having longer messaging conversations on Tinder, according to representatives from each app.

Read the full story by Clare Proctor here.

6:45 p.m. Chicago’s first jury trial of pandemic ends with guilty verdict — and praise from jurors

Chicago’s first jury trial since the start of the coronavirus pandemic ended Thursday when federal jurors, clad in face masks, convicted an Ottawa man of threatening an FBI task force officer and others.

That trial played out amid the “new normal” that also includes hand sanitizer and constant social distancing, though. So after the trial ended, a few jurors offered their own verdict on the new safety protocols for jury trials at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse.

“I felt like they were extremely thorough,” Elizabeth Reihl said. “I think they walked through the juror experience from the very beginning — from where you park. I can tell that they looked through the full process and did every checkpoint.”

Under the new jury trial plan at Dirksen, jurors have been spread out beyond the traditional jury box, and they’ve been allowed to take breaks and deliberate in a separate courtroom. Public seating has been limited, and witnesses have been asked to wipe down the witness stand when their testimony ends. Jurors have also been given plastic bags filled with supplies.

Read the full story by Jon Seidel here.

5:45 p.m. MLB tightens coronavirus protocols, including requiring masks in dugouts

Major League Baseball is cracking down on coronavirus safety protocols, mandating that players and staff wear face coverings at all times, including in the dugouts and bullpens, except for players on the field of play.

The league sent a memo to teams Wednesday outlining changes to its 2020 operations manual after outbreaks on the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals led to 21 postponements in the first two weeks of a shortened 60-game season.

The memo, obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday night, says that repeated or flagrant violators of the protocols could be banned from participating in the 2020 season and postseason.

That includes those who don’t wear face coverings while watching from the dugout. Although such measures were suggested in MLB’s operations manual before Wednesday, some players have continued to not wear face masks, offer high fives, spit and violate the protocols in other ways during games.

Read the full story here.

5 p.m. City Colleges considering strike over coronavirus concerns

Days after the Chicago Teachers Union threatened to strike over concerns about returning to schools during the coronavirus pandemic, the unions representing workers at the City Colleges of Chicago are trying a similar tactic.

“It’s certainly a good indication that when an administration or district comes up against reality, in this case [Chicago Public Schools] made the right decision. We’re wanting the City Colleges to do the same thing,” said Tony Johnston, president of Cook County College Teachers Union, which represents a total of about 1,900 faculty members, student advisors and other employees across the seven City Colleges.

Another 500 or so clerical staff could also potentially go on strike if the workers’ demands aren’t met. Although classes don’t begin until Aug. 24 — and most of them are being taught online in the fall — some employees returned to work Monday, including student advisors.

Read the full story by Stefano Esposito here,

3:50 p.m. Virginia the first state to roll out COVID-19 pandemic app from Apple, Google

RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia has rolled out a smartphone app to automatically notify people if they might have been exposed to the coronavirus, becoming the first U.S. state to use new pandemic technology created by Apple and Google.

But hopes for a nationwide app that can work seamlessly across state borders remain unrealized, and there are no known federal plans to create one. State officials say their new app won’t work as well outside Virginia, at least until a group of coordinating public health agencies gets a national server up and running and other states join in.

Virginia’s free Covidwise app is available in Apple and Android app stores as of Wednesday. State officials, who repeatedly emphasized its privacy-protection features, announced the launch of a statewide public information campaign encouraging people to download and use it.

Read the full story here

3:05 p.m. US rescinds global ‘do not travel’ coronavirus warning

he Trump administration on Thursday rescinded its warnings to Americans against all international travel because of the coronavirus pandemic, saying conditions no longer warrant a blanket worldwide alert.

The State Department lifted its level-four health advisory for the entire world in order to return to country-specific warnings. That move came shortly after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised its COVID-19 travel advisory information. The CDC lifted “do not travel” warnings for about 20 locations but advised staying away from the vast majority of the world.

“With health and safety conditions improving in some countries and potentially deteriorating in others, the department is returning to our previous system of country-specific levels of travel advice in order to give travelers detailed and actionable information to make informed travel decisions,” the State Department said in a statement.

Read the full story here.

2 p.m. Illinois’ average daily COVID-19 caseload more than doubled over past month as ‘virus continues to ravage people of all ages’

Public health officials on Thursday announced Illinois’ largest coronavirus caseload in over 10 weeks, with 1,953 more people testing positive for COVID-19 across the state.

The latest jump comes a week after Illinois logged 1,941 cases, which had been the highest since more than 2,500 cases were reported May 24 when the state was coming down from its initial pandemic peak.

But since Illinois cases fell to a valley in mid-June, a deluge of outbreaks among young people have fueled a steady COVID-19 rise that has the state on the verge of a full-blown resurgence, according to Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.

“If we don’t take further steps to reduce the spread of the virus, our numbers will continue to go up, and we will be right back where we were just a few months ago,” Ezike said Wednesday. “Anyone who thinks that wearing a mask or keeping their distance doesn’t help — you are just wrong. Both of those incredibly simple actions have been shown to slow the spread of the virus and decrease the number of cases.”

Read the full story by Mitchell Armentrout here.

11:30 a.m. Beaches, parking lots still closed as lakefront restaurants reopen

Chicagoans will soon be able to enjoy a chilled beverage and delicious meal at their favorite beachfront restaurants. It’s welcome news for Reggie’s on the Beach, one of at least five beachfront eateries that have announced plans to open their doors for the first time this summer.

But the beaches themselves remain closed, as do lakefront parking lots, which Reggie’s on the Beach’s owner Robby Glick said he fears might deter some customers from coming.

“Our parking lots aren’t going to be open, so it’s going to be a challenge for people to get here, but I think we’ll still do good,” he said. “I think people will still find a way and it is really beautiful at our spot, so it’ll be worth the trek.”

Reggie’s is offering a shuttle service from its South Loop location to the beach to help ease the burden on some Chicagoans. He also said people can ride their bikes on the Lakeshore Trail or park in the lot on the west side of Lake Shore Drive and then walk to the beach.

We already lost half the season, so it’s better than nothing,” Glick said. “And we’re just grateful that they listened to us and are letting us open.”

Read the full story from Madeline Kenney here.

10:29 a.m. Chicago Catholic schools will stick with in-person learning as CPS goes online for the fall

As Chicago Public Schools change course for this fall, announcing Wednesday that the school year will begin with remote learning, the Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic Schools said it’s moving forward with its plan to return to the classroom next month.

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

Rigg called in-person learning “essential” for students to grow not only intellectually and emotionally but also in their faith.

Under the archdiocese’s current reopening plan, which was designed with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Chicago Department of Public Health along with other state health officials and infectious disease experts, everyone over the age of 2 inside the school will have to wear masks. Students will undergo daily wellness checks when they arrive at school. Those exams will include a temperature check and a series of questions.

The archdiocese is also adopting a “cohort” model for the upcoming school year. Students and staff will be grouped by their homeroom class and will remain with those same classmates throughout the day.

Read the full story here for more information.

8:21 a.m. Coronavirus ‘rages on’ in Illinois, prompting Pritzker to warn locals to take action — or the state ‘will be forced to step in’

Health officials on Wednesday announced another 1,759 people have tested positive for COVID-19 across Illinois, marking the third-highest daily caseload in two months and the 15th straight day the state has reported 1,000 or more cases.

Over the last four weeks, Illinois has had 23 days with four-digit caseloads — following a full month without hitting that level.

The Illinois Department of Public Health also reported 30 more people suffering from COVID-19 have died, just the second time the state has tallied 30 or more deaths in almost a month.

Experts predict a spike in deaths during the next few weeks, the grim result of Illinois’ steady increase in cases since late June and an uptick in hospitalizations over the last two weeks.

Read the full story by Mitchell Armentrout here.


New cases


Analysis & Commentary

1:45 p.m. Men have long shunned protective gear

Albert G. Spalding was a fine specimen of a man: 6-foot-1 with dark hair and a thick mustache. He was also a heck of a pitcher: 47 wins, 12 losses for the Chicago White Stockings in 1876.

That’s a lot of games. Most teams only had one pitcher. Unsurprisingly, Spalding’s hands were beat up with “severe bruises.”

So Spalding noticed that Boston first baseman, Charles C. Waite. wore something on his hand — a leather glove that matched his skin tone because he was “ashamed to wear it” and hoped fans wouldn’t notice. Men were aghast at the idea of protective equipment. In his 1911 book on baseball, Spalding notes the first catcher’s mask was ridiculed as “babyish” and “cowardly.”

Spurning personal protective equipment didn’t begin with COVID-19. When you look at the history of PPE, the current uproar over wearing cotton face masks is simple to understand: it’s a guy thing.

Read the full column by Neil Steinberg here.

8:20 p.m. Vote with your face? Masks one more thing voters will get to decide on Election Day

Chicago election officials plan to “strongly encourage” but will not require voters to wear face masks to their polling places this fall.

They say their decision was made in accordance with current COVID-19 guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Illinois Department of Public Health — neither of which mandate the use of face coverings for voting.

Election officials in suburban Cook, DuPage and Lake counties told me they are awaiting updated guidance from the state before finalizing their own face mask policies.

But a statement Wednesday from Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office gave no indication he will recommend any further restrictions before early voting begins in October.

“Under the Governor’s executive order, face coverings are required any time a person is unable to maintain social distance of six feet. The administration encourages local election officials to plan for and ensure as much social distancing as possible during the voting process and also encourages those voting on election day to ensure they use a face covering,” said press secretary Jordan Abudayyeh.

Please note the operative word is “encourages” — same as in Chicago election officials’ plans.

It’s the strength of that encouragement that could lead to problems.

Read the full column by Mark Brown here.