Coronavirus live blog, August 7, 2020: Are Pritzker’s proposed ‘common sense’ masking rules really ‘a slap in the face?’

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

SHARE Coronavirus live blog, August 7, 2020: Are Pritzker’s proposed ‘common sense’ masking rules really ‘a slap in the face?’

The statewide COVID-19 rebound continued with the latest 2,084 new cases confirmed by the Illinois Department of Public Health — the first time the state has topped 2,000 cases in a day since May 24

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced a new set of proposed rules that would offer local officials more leeway to dish out warnings and reprimands,

The proposal was met with swift condemnation from the Illinois Retail Merchants Association.

Also, Cook County officials announced that residents who are behind on paying rent can apply for assistance through a new program that is expected to provide households impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic with up to $4,500 each. The program starts next week.

And the Cubs’ weekend series with the St. Louis Cardinals was postponed because of newly discovered COVID-19 cases with the Cardinals.

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


9 p.m. Illinois’ new COVID-19 cases top 2,000 — but are Pritzker’s proposed ‘common sense’ masking rules really ‘a slap in the face?’

Gov. J.B. Pritzker claps during a July 31 news conference in Little Village.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

In an effort to slow the rise in Illinois coronavirus cases, Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday announced a new set of proposed rules that would offer local officials more leeway to mete out warnings and reprimands — before resorting to fines — for businesses that run afoul of the state’s public masking and social distancing guidelines.

Pritzker issued a statewide masking mandate May 1, but the new rules would give local health and police departments more options to enforce it without revoking a business’ license.

And as the statewide COVID-19 rebound continued with the latest 2,084 new cases confirmed by the Illinois Department of Public Health — the first time the state has topped 2,000 cases in a day since May 24 — Pritzker said his rules “will help ensure that the minority of people who refuse to act responsibly won’t take our state backward.”

The governor pitched the new measures as “common sense” steps to protect the state, but one leading business group blasted them as “a slap in the face” to the state’s struggling retailers.

Read the full story by Stefano Esposito here.

8:40 p.m. US reports show racial disparities in kids with COVID-19

Racial disparities in the the U.S. coronavirus epidemic extend to children, according to two sobering government reports released Friday.

One of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports looked children with COVID-19 who needed hospitalization. Hispanic children were hospitalized at a rate eight times higher than white kids, and Black children were hospitalized at a rate five times higher, it found.

The second report examined cases of a rare virus-associated syndrome in kids. It found that nearly three-quarters of the children with the syndrome were either Hispanic or Black, well above their representation in the general population.

The coronavirus has exposed racial fractures in the U.S. health care system, as Black, Hispanic and Native Americans have been hospitalized and killed by COVID-19 at far higher rates than other groups.

Read the full story here.

8 p.m. IHSA moves football to the spring

There will not be any high school football in Illinois this fall.

That announcement was expected to come from the Illinois High School Association on Wednesday afternoon. But Gov. J.B. Pritzker used his COVID-19 news conference to scoop the IHSA and announce new restrictions and guidelines for youth, high school and adult recreational sports.

It took IHSA executive director Craig Anderson by surprise. Anderson had been in regular contact with Deputy Gov. Jesse Ruiz over the last week and a half.

“The governor was originally going to speak at 2:30, not noon,” Anderson said. “We were in the middle of [the IHSA board meeting] when I got a text saying the governor moved his press conference up.”

Read the full story by Michael O’Brien here.

7:15 p.m. Harleys everywhere, masks nowhere: Sturgis expects crowd of 250,000

Thousands of bikers poured into the small South Dakota city of Sturgis on Friday as the 80th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally rumbled to life despite fears it could lead to a massive coronavirus outbreak.

The rally could become one of the largest public gatherings since the pandemic began, with organizers expecting 250,000 people from all over the country to make their way through Sturgis during the 10-day event. That would be roughly half the number of previous years, but local residents — and a few bikers — worry that the crowds could create a “super-spreader” event.

Many who rode their bikes into Sturgis on Friday expressed defiance at the rules and restrictions that have marked life in many locales during the pandemic. People rode from across the country to a state that offered a reprieve from coronavirus restrictions, as South Dakota has no special limits on indoor crowds, no mask mandates and a governor who is eager to welcome visitors and the money they bring.

Read the full story here.

6:35 p.m. With City Hall hit hard by pandemic, big TIF balances could be a tempting source of cash

While Chicago city government’s finances flail in the face of a pandemic liable to blast a billion-dollar hole in City Hall’s budget, one part of its treasury is flush with cash — specially designated money that Mayor Lori Lightfoot might see as tempting to tap as she tries to balance the budget.

According to reports filed with the state, at the close of 2019 the city’s 140 tax-increment financing districts, known as TIFs, held a combined $1.79 billion — far above what city officials had projected.

The districts are a quilt of zones across the city where some property tax revenue is set aside for public improvements or to subsidize private development benefiting a neighborhood.

Budget officials are working to determine how much of a TIF surplus Lightfoot can declare for 2021, when she’ll need all the help possible to avert tax hikes, service cuts and layoffs.

Read the full story by David Roeder and Elvia Malagón here.

5:55 p.m. Cubs’ series in St. Louis postponed after Cardinals player tests positive for COVID-19

What felt like an inevitable outcome for the Cubs earlier in the week has now become an unfortunate reality.

According to reports, the Cubs’ series against the Cardinals was postponed Friday after at least one Cardinals player tested positive for COVID-19. The latest positive test comes just a week after St. Louis was hit by MLB’s second outbreak, with 13 members of its traveling party testing positive for coronavirus.

Read the full story by Russell Dorsey here.

5:15 p.m. New Cook County rental assistance program to offer up to $4,500 per household hit hard by COVID-19

Starting next week, Cook County residents behind on rent can apply for assistance through a new program that is expected to provide households impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic with up to $4,500 each, Cook County officials announced Friday.

The $20 million program will take applications starting Monday through Aug. 18. It’s expected to provide financial relief of up to three months of rent — or up to $4,500 — to as many as 7,000 suburban households, said Richard Monocchio, the executive director of the Housing Authority of Cook County.

The assistance is part of federal funds provided to the county from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

Read the full story by Elvia Malagón here.

4:29 p.m. A positive and negative COVID-19 test in same day? How can this happen?

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s positive-then-negative test results for the coronavirus are a reminder that no test is definitive.

The governor tested positive using a rapid test Thursday, before testing negative later in the day using a more sensitive laboratory-developed test. He was tested because he was going to meet with President Donald Trump during his visit to the state.

No test for coronavirus infection is perfect, and test results can be affected by a variety of factors, including the type of test used, the quality of the sample and when it was taken during the course of any infection.

Read the full story here.

3:15 p.m. Last-ditch virus aid talks collapse; no help for jobless now

A last-ditch effort by Democrats to revive collapsing Capitol Hill talks on vital COVID-19 rescue money ended in disappointment on Friday, making it increasingly likely that Washington gridlock will mean more hardship for millions of people who are losing enhanced jobless benefits and further damage for an economy pummeled by the still-raging coronavirus.

“It was a disappointing meeting,” declared top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer, saying the White House had rejected an offer by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to curb Democratic demands by about $1 trillion. He urged the White House to “negotiate with Democrats and meet us in the middle. Don’t say it’s your way or no way.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said, “Unfortunately we did not make any progress today.”

With the collapse of the talks, he said President Donald Trump was now likely to issue executive orders on home evictions and on student loan debt.

Read the full story here.

1:30 p.m. How the pandemic is reshaping the way we date

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.

Zoom calls, socially distanced picnics and straying from “hook-up culture” characterize dating in a pandemic. Some of these shifts, experts argue, are here to stay.

Alexandra Solomon— a relationship therapist and professor at Northwestern University — said even before the pandemic, many people were critical of sex-driven relationships, where emotional connections take lower priority.

“The pandemic has flipped the switch,” Solomon said. “Long term, the pendulum may swing back, with more friendship and mutual caretaking that happens earlier, and sex gets pushed a bit later.”

Read the full story from Clare Proctor here.

12:37 p.m. Cubs-Cardinals game postponed after another St. Louis player tests positive for coronavirus

Friday’s Cubs-Cardinals game at Busch Stadium in St. Louis has been postponed after another member of the St. Louis tested positive for COVID-19.

The Athletic first reported the postponement.

The teams were to play a three-game series this weekend.

The Cardinals haven’t played a game since July 29 after 13 members of its organization tested positive for COVID-19.

On Tuesday, the Cardinals put six players on the COVID-19 injured list. St. Louis, with permission from the players, announced that Yadier Molina, Paul DeJong, Junior Fernandez, Kodi Whitley, Edmundo Sosa and Rangel Ravelo tested positive for the virus.

Read the full report here.

10:18 a.m. State unemployment extended as claims remain historically high

The Illinois Department of Employment Security announced Thursday that 20 weeks of state extended benefits are available to those who exhaust the allotted 26 weeks of regular state unemployment and the additional 13 weeks of federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits.

IDES encouraged those with unemployment questions to visit first before calling the unemployment hotlines, which continue to receive a high volume of calls.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday that there were 24,712 first time unemployment claims filed in Illinois during the week ending Aug. 1, a decrease of more than 8,500 from the previous week.

The number of continued unemployment claims in the state remained historically high at 629,814 despite a decrease of nearly 19,000 from the previous week.

Read the full report here.

8:06 a.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.

New cases

Analysis & Commentary

3 p.m. Preschool programs forge ahead during the COVID-19 pandemic but raise a warning flag

It’s been seven weeks now since the Carole Robertson Center for Learning reopened its early childhood education programs in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it hasn’t been easy.

There were new safety procedures for staff, extra responsibilities for everyone plus added costs for protective equipment, cleaning and staffing requirements.

On three occasions, someone contracting the virus necessitated the closing of an entire classroom, requiring all students and teachers in the class to stay home for two weeks.

When that happens, other families often choose to keep their children home for a while, too. Government funding that’s tied to enrollment and attendance dwindles as a result.

Read the full column by Mark Brown here.

1:34 p.m. Go ahead and laugh, but maybe the Bears’ approach to COVID-19 will help during the season

The Bears are very proud of their response to the pandemic, with players dutifully wearing masks and avoiding each other like the … coronavirus. They also think their approach to COVID-19 might be a competitive advantage this season.

My initial response: That’s such a Bears thing to think. Over the years, I’ve railed against the franchise’s preoccupation with things that are secondary (team history, practice facilities, etc.) and its failure at things that should be primary (winning games). I’ve criticized coach Matt Nagy for praising quarterback Mitch Trubisky for his leadership skills, his devotion to football and his desire to be great.

What about, you know, his ability to play quarterback, we’ve asked and asked. Any news on that front, coach?

So when Nagy gushed the other day about the team’s response to the coronavirus, my antennae immediately started vibrating. Was Nagy really going there? Was he saying the Bears would have a competitive advantage in 2020 because their devotion to masks would make an epidemiologist cry tears of joy?

Yes, he was. And maybe he was right to say it.

Read the full column from Rick Morrissey here.

8:07 a.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.

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