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Coronavirus live blog, Sept. 10, 2020: Dipping COVID-19 numbers put Illinois in ‘decent position,’ but Pritzker urges staying the course: ‘We can’t outrun this virus’

Here’s Thursday’s news on how COVID-19 is impacting Chicago and Illinois. Follow here for live updates.

Even as public health officials announced another 1,953 Illinoisans have contracted COVID-19, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Thursday he’s “pleased” with the way the state’s coronavirus numbers have trended over the last week.

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


News

8:54 p.m. Dipping COVID-19 numbers put Illinois in ‘decent position,’ but Pritzker urges staying the course: ‘We can’t outrun this virus’

An elderly lady walks across the usually busy Columbus Drive that splits Chicago’s Grant Park in half, on the first work day since Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker gave a shelter in place order last week, Monday, March 23, 2020.
An elderly lady walks across the usually busy Columbus Drive that splits Chicago’s Grant Park in half, on the first work day since Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker gave a shelter in place order last week, Monday, March 23, 2020, photo, in Chicago. Gov. J.B. Pritzker says Illinois is not receiving enough medical supplies in its fight against the coronavirus. Pritzker tells CNN’s “State of The Union” that Illinois got a recent supply but it was a fraction of what was requested from the federal government. The comments prompted angry tweets from President Donald Trump who says governors should not be “blaming the federal government for their own shortcomings.”(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast) ORG XMIT: ILCA101
AP Photos

Even as public health officials announced another 1,953 Illinoisans have contracted COVID-19, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Thursday he’s “pleased” with the way the state’s coronavirus numbers have trended over the last week.

That’s because with a booming increase in testing, positivity rates have gone down in most regions — despite the state logging some of its largest-ever daily case numbers last weekend.

The latest caseload is about average for the state over the last month, with roughly 1,957 new coronavirus cases reported per day by the Illinois Department of Public Health since Aug. 12.

They were confirmed among 48,982 tests, raising the statewide seven-day positivity rate by a tenth of a percentage point to 3.8%. On Wednesday, that number, which indicates how rapidly the virus is spreading, fell below 4% for the first time in almost two months.

Reporter Mitch Arementrout has the full story.


7:56 p.m. Ex-Bears WR Josh Bellamy charged with coronavirus loan fraud

Former Bears receiver Josh Bellamy was arrested Thursday has been charged by the U.S. Department of Justice for allegedly participating in a scheme to receive more than $24 million from the Paycheck Protection Program through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Securities act.

Bellamy, who is injured and was cut by the Jets this week, was charged with wire fraud, bank fraud and conspiracy to commit both in a federal criminal complaint filed in the Southern District of Florida.

Bellamy allegedly received a PPP loan worth $1,246,565 for his company, Drip Entertainment LLC, and spent it on Dior and Gucci items, as well as jewelry. He allegedly spent $62,774 in PPP loan money at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in South Florida, and withdrew more than $302,000 more.

Reporter Patrick Finley has the full story.

6:27 p.m. The ‘Quarantine 15’ weight gain is real — some tips on how to fight it

If your life these days is anything like mine, a pre-pandemic routine that included regular exercise and disciplined eating has probably given way to sedentary evenings, binge-watching TV while guzzling ice cream or mac ’n’ cheese.

Doctors say many of their patients are struggling to maintain healthy habits amid the anxiety of the pandemic. “The Quarantine 15” — pounds, that is — is a real phenomenon.

The challenge of protecting our health while battling unhealthy temptations “is a struggle everyone is dealing with,” says Dr. David Kilgore, director of the integrative medicine program at the University of California-Irvine.

Well before COVID-19, more than 40% of U.S. adults were obese, which puts them at risk for the worst outcomes. But even people accustomed to physical fitness and good nutrition are having trouble breaking bad habits they’ve developed since the pandemic.

Read the full report here.

5:03 p.m. Grant funding for urban, Downstate farmers targets nutrition crisis worsened by COVID-19

Stephanie Dunn (l), owner of Star Farm in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood, and Johari Cole-Kweli, owner of Iyabo Farms in Pembroke Township, are among 27 Illinois farmers that recently received $250,000 in grants to meet skyrocketing demand for local food spurred by the pandemic. Cole-Kweli regularly drives up to deliver eggs and produce to Dunn.
Stephanie Dunn, owner of Star Farm Chicago, at 934 W. 50th Place in Back of the Yards, and Johari Cole-Kweli, owner of Iyabo Farms in Pembroke Township, Ill., pose for a photo at Star Farm Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 9, 2020. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Johari Cole-Kweli grew up in the West Side K-Town neighborhood, got her microbiology degree from Michigan State University, then worked for pharmaceutical firms before realizing Big Pharma couldn’t solve nagging health disparities in the Black community.

Her solution? The 50-acre Iyabo Farms she owns in Pembroke Township, an hour and a half south of Chicago.

The 28-year-old farm run with her husband and two children is among 27 statewide recently awarded $250,000 in grants from the Illinois Stewardship Alliance, to meet skyrocketing demand for local food spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic. Demand has grown nationwide.

Three of the 27 are in Chicago: Catatumbo Cooperative Farm, at 2232 S. Marshall Blvd.; Closed Loop Farms, at 1400 W. 46th St.; and Star Farm Chicago, at 934 W. 50th Place.

Along with Cole-Kweli’s farm and Broadview Farm and Gardens in Marengo, those three are among the five owned/operated by persons of color, whose grants are seeded by a new Fresh Food from Farmers of Color Fund established by the Illinois Department of Human Services, with federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) monies.

Read the full column from Maudlyne Ihejirika here.

3:15 p.m. Doctors emphasize importance of flu shot for children amid COVID-19 pandemic

Doctors from the Chicagoland Children’s Health Alliance, a system of pediatric experts, met virtually Thursday to share the importance for children to get a flu shot by the end of October, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With the pandemic this year, it puts an extra layer of concern across the Chicagoland area,” said Dr. Frank Belmonte, co-chief medical officer of CCHA and chief medical officer at Advocate Children’s Hospital.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 188 flu-related deaths were reported among children under the age of 18 during the 2019-2020 flu season. Illinois has seen more than 250,000 positive cases of COVID and over 8,000 deaths.

Dr. Michael Caplan, co-chief medical officer of CCHA and a pediatric doctor at NorthShore University Healthsystem, said going into the fall months means doctors will see patients with both the coronavirus and the flu.

Read the full report here.

12:40 p.m. Poll finds 1 in 3 Chicagoans have emptied their savings to survive coronavirus hardships

The coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating effect on the nation’s economy, with half of Chicago households surveyed in a recent poll reporting they’re facing serious financial problems because of it. More than half of Black and Latino families surveyed said they were particularly hard-hit.

That’s according to a new poll, published Wednesday, by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The poll, which was conducted from July 1 through Aug. 3, received responses from more than 3,400 people in four major U.S. cities, including 529 adults living in Chicago.

During the pandemic, many Chicagoans have experienced job or wage losses, which has made it difficult to make ends meet.

As a result, more than 1 in 3 Chicagoans report using up all or most of their savings, according to the poll. Still, many have fallen behind in rent and mortgage payments, with 1 in 4 Chicagoans reportedly having trouble paying their rent or mortgages. And about 20% of people reported skipping or delaying major bill payments to ensure everyone had food to eat.

Read the full report from Madeline Kenney here.

10:01 a.m. We asked Chicagoans how the first day of school went. Here’s what you said

In a first day back unlike any other, Chicago Public Schools students, parents and teachers launched the school year remotely on Tuesday. We asked Chicagoans how it went. Some answers have been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

“No real issues but very stressful. It was impossible to work from home at the same time, especially with four kids having to be logged in and on camera all at once. Luckily, I had my dad here to help, but not sure how long that will last.” — Joey Lynn Battaglia-Pinaglia

“Stressful. I work at a learning center. I had three students, three different age groups, three different schools, three different electronic devices, three different portals/apps. Most links worked. Others didn’t. I’m emotionally drained.” — Jennifer Landin Hurt

“Three kids, I’m working remote, and I only got interrupted once by my fourth-grader. I call that a success.” — Bri Yount

“Pretty good. I encouraged him to get up in between classes to stretch his legs. It was a bit more difficult to get him back in his seat afterwards.” — Shelly Rachal Estrada

Read the full story by Alice Bazerghi here.

7:36 a.m. ‘Many more’ CPS child care sites to come after the first 6 open this week

Chicago Public Schools officials are operating child care services at six schools across the city for families who are strained by the return to remote learning this fall.

So far there are 111 students registered for the program, with children who are 14 or younger, homeless or facing other economic hardship receiving first priority, officials said. “Many more sites” are set to open Sept. 21, schools chief Janice Jackson said this week.

“We’re going to serve thousands of families, I think that’s important,” Jackson said. “But Mayor [Lori] Lightfoot wanted to make sure we had something ready on day one.”

The district surveyed families’ needs in the weeks leading up to the school year as the details of the plan continue to be worked out on the fly. The priority deadline was Sept. 1 for the survey through which families could indicate interest in the service, but it’ll remain open for additional sign-ups — though space could run out.

Reporter Nader Issa has the full story.


New Cases


Analysis & Commentary

8:34 a.m. Are video arcades more dangerous than casinos during a pandemic?

Casinos and video arcades, both of which feature rows of electronic games that people use in close proximity to each other, pose similar risks of COVID-19 transmission. Yet in Massachusetts, casinos have been open for two months, while video arcades remain closed under an order that Gov. Charlie Baker originally issued in March.

Like many of the distinctions drawn by the COVID-19 lockdowns that all but a few governors imposed last spring, this one makes no medical sense. A federal lawsuit filed last week argues that Baker’s discrimination against video arcades is unconstitutional because it is scientifically indefensible.

Baker originally included video arcades in Phase III of his reopening plan, which took effect on July 6, but changed course without explanation on July 2. In response to a state legislator’s inquiry, the governor offered nothing but boilerplate about “the latest science” and “input from public health experts.”

Read the full column from Jacob Sullum here.