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Coronavirus live blog, Sept. 17, 2020: Illinois reports 2,056 new COVID-19 cases as testing capacity remains high

Read the latest news on how COVID-19 is impacting Chicago and Illinois.

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Illinois sees high numbers in both daily COVID-19 caseload and testing, so key positivity rate remains low

A health worker performs a COVID-19 test at a Test Iowa site at Waukee South Middle School in Waukee, Iowa.
Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo

Public health officials on Thursday announced Illinois logged more than 2,000 new coronavirus cases for the third time in a week, but the state’s high testing capacity suggests that apparently high number isn’t cause for alarm.

The latest 2,056 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed among 57,800 tests. lowering the state’s average testing positivity rate over the last week to 3.6%, as low as it’s been since late July.

On average, more than 2,000 people have tested positive statewide each day over the last two weeks. Nearly 2,300 new cases were being confirmed each day during the worst two-week stretch of the pandemic in mid-May.

Only about 20,100 tests were being administered each day back then, though. Roughly 54,300 people have been tested daily on average over the last two weeks.

Read the full story here.


3:25 p.m. When COVID-19 and surging gun violence collide

Marisol Carranza-Arroyo’s uncle, Florentino Carranza, was shot multiple times while on a sidewalk in the 4000 block of West 26th Street, in Little Village on June 30 — a victim of gunfire intended for another man who was standing nearby and was shot and killed, police say.

Carranza’s death is especially tragic because he had been living through what has been a one-two punch for residents of Little Village and other predominantly Latino neighborhoods in Chicago: COVID-19 has been ravaging those areas as gun violence is on the rise.

The federal government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has cited a wide range of reasons for coronavirus spikes in Latino neighborhoods both in Chicago and across the country, from income and social inequities that lead to limited to access to health care to the fact that many Latinos have “essential” jobs that require exposure to others, thereby increasing the risk of catching the virus.

At the same time, Chicago is experiencing levels of violence not seen in more than two decades: 524 people had been murdered in the city through Sept. 6, with many of those crimes happening on the South and West sides, including in neighborhoods that are predominantly Latino. Carranza’s murder remains unsolved.

Read the full report from Emmanuel Camarillo here.

1:09 p.m. As MLB plays on, businesses around the ballparks that rely on baseball fight for survival

As MLB sprints through two months trying to provide a small semblance of normalcy to its fan base and much-needed fresh content to its broadcast partners, the businesses in the neighborhoods surrounding the stadiums that rely so heavily on thousands making their way through the turnstiles 81 times a year are struggling, their futures murky.

The bars and restaurants in Wrigleyville managed fine during a World Series drought that lasted a century. But some might not make it to the other side of the pandemic.

“We rely on that 40,000-fan-a-game foot traffic and seasonal tourism each year in order for us to be successful, and unfortunately all of us right now are witnessing what life is like on the polar opposite side of that,” said Cristina McAloon, director of retail for Wrigleyville Sports.

Read the full story here.

11:14 a.m. Toilet paper back on shelves but maybe not your usual, as stores turn to foreign brands

Toilet paper is back on store shelves. But you might not recognize some of the brands.

Demand has been so high during the coronavirus pandemic that stores, trying to keep their shelves stocked, have been buying up foreign toilet paper brands, mostly from Mexico. — names like Regio, Petalo, Hoteles Elite and Daisy Soft.

There’s also Vogue, whose label says in Spanish it smells like chamomile.

Major chains including CVS, Safeway, 7-Eleven and others are carrying the international brands.

The stores say they needed to get creative during the pandemic and started working with new suppliers to get shoppers what they needed.

But don’t worry about popular U.S. brands like Cottonelle and Charmin — they aren’t going to disappear. Supply chain experts expect the Mexican and other foreign-made rolls to be on store shelves only temporarily, until U.S. manufacturers catch up with demand.

Read the full story here.

10:38 a.m. 42 Wisconsin players and staff test positive for coronavirus

MADISON, Wis. — Forty-two players and staff with the Wisconsin football team have tested positive for COVID-19 as the Big Ten makes plans to get the season started.

Public Health Madison & Dane County says the 42 people tested positive since June when athletes and staff returned to campus. Twenty-nine of the positive tests were from Sept. 1 through Sept. 15.

Health officials in Madison and Dane County are urging fans not to gather to watch football games when the Badgers begin their season in October.

“Of course it’s disappointing that something as well-loved as gathering to watch Badger football games can’t happen this year,” Janel Heinrich, director of Public Health Madison & Dane County, said in a statement.

Read the full story here.

7:38 a.m. 8 CPS workers dead, another 250 COVID-positive since start of pandemic

Eight Chicago Public Schools workers have died of the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic and another 250 have tested positive, with about half of those cases leading to a pause in operations at their schools.

The latest figures released by the school system this week are about triple the total number of cases reported by the beginning of May, a month and a half after schools shut down, when two workers had died among 85 total confirmed cases.

In all, CPS officials said they now know of 258 staffers, service vendors or charter school employees who have tested positive for COVID-19 between March and Sept. 9. Those include workers who are at home as well as ones who are reporting to work in person.

Of those cases, 123 have been deemed “actionable,” meaning operations at the school were paused because the infected person had been in or around the building.

Another 33 cases are believed to have been part of a cluster in which more than one possibly related cases were found at a school within a two-week period, CPS said, with 21 of those cases coming in the spring.

Read the full story from Nader Issa here.

New Cases

Analysis & Commentary

7:46 a.m. Remote learning compounds longstanding challenges facing bilingual students like me

This next generation of English learners will face the same challenges on top of everything the pandemic brings with it this school year. Now it’s not just about parents not knowing how to help with English homework. Remote learning means students will need help with internet and computer skills.

To bridge the digital divide that has made remote learning difficult, Chicago Public Schools granted free access to high-speed internet service for students in need.

Oralia Villanueva, a bilingual teacher at Little Village Academy, said internet access was the start of remote learning challenges back in March.

“Some parents were struggling with getting their internet set up at home,” she said. “Some didn’t know how to connect a router, others didn’t know what a router was.”

Read the full column from Ismael Perez here.