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Coronavirus live blog, Sept. 2, 2020: ‘Dangerous and irresponsible’ behavior at UIUC could lead to end of in-person semester after COVID-19 cases spike, officials warn

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

As we move closer to Labor Day weekend, public health officials urged residents to follow social distancing guidelines as people prepare to gather. Gov. J.B. Pritzker cautioned against listening to the “virus deniers.”

“Their new argument is, ‘It’s just new cases that are rising — not deaths — and the hospitals are fine so we don’t have to worry,’” Pritzker said. “As the White House’s own Dr. [Deborah] Birx said [Tuesday], Florida, Texas, Arizona and other southern sunbelt states thought that their increasing infection rates were unimportant and then, in no time at all, their hospitals were overrun. When that happens, a lot more people die. I won’t let that happen here.”

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


9 p.m. ‘Dangerous and irresponsible’ behavior at UIUC could lead to end of in-person semester after COVID-19 cases spike, officials warn

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus. File Photo. Sun-Times file photo

Students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign could be suspended for not following the school’s quarantine guidelines, officials said after a spike in COVID-19 cases since the semester began.

More than 400 people have tested positive at UIUC since the first day of classes Aug. 24, and about 800 people are currently quarantining, according to a Wednesday press release. If the current trends continue, the school will have double the number of COVID-19 cases every week, per the release, leading to as many as 8,000 cases fall semester.

School administration says parties and other large gatherings over the weekend are to blame for the high number of students testing positive for the virus, as well as disregarding guidance to self-isolate after testing positive or being exposed to someone who tests positive. Two students have been suspended, and 100 more are facing school discipline.

Read the full story by Clare Proctor here.

8:30 p.m. Critics: Eviction ban may only delay wave of homelessness

BOSTON — Housing advocates say the Trump administration’s surprise national moratorium on evictions only delays a wave of crushing debt and homelessness, and an attorney representing landlords questions whether the measure is aimed at voters ahead of the November election.

The White House announced Tuesday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would act under its broad powers to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The measure would forbid landlords from evicting anyone for failure to pay rent, providing the renter meets four criteria.

Read the full story here.

6:35 p.m. College football embarks on uncertain season of COVID-19

A most overused coaching cliche has never been so relevant as college football embarks on a season of COVID-19: Take it one day at a time.

With so much uncertainty, trying to figure how this will go is impossible. But there will be games, including a few this weekend, though the usual Labor Day grand opening has been scrapped.

The 2020 season will be a story about what was lost, what was salvaged and what was gained in reaction to all the disorder. This also could be the first of two over the next eight months.

Read the full story here.

5:45 p.m. Depression, anxiety spike amid coronavirus outbreak and turbulent times

Mental health therapists’ caseloads are bulging. Waiting lists for appointments are growing. And anxiety and depression are rising among Americans amid the coronavirus crisis, research suggests.

In the latest study to suggest an uptick, half of U.S. adults surveyed reported at least some signs of depression, such as hopelessness, feeling like a failure or getting little pleasure from doing things. That’s double the rate from a different survey two years ago, Boston University researchers said Wednesday in the medical journal JAMA Network Open.

The study did not ask about any diagnosis they might have received, and for many people, the problem is mostly angst rather than full-blown psychiatric illness. But experts say the feeling is genuine and deserving of professional help.

Read the full story here.

3:20 p.m. Health officials worry nation not ready for COVID-19 vaccine

Millions of Americans are counting on a COVID-19 vaccine to curb the global pandemic and return life to normal.

While one or more options could be available toward the end of this year or early next, the path to delivering vaccines to 330 million people remains unclear for the local health officials expected to carry out the work.

“We haven’t gotten a lot of information about how this is going to roll out,” said Dr. Umair Shah, executive director of Texas’ Harris County Public Health department, which includes Houston.

Read the full story here.

2:30 p.m. COVID-19 death tied to Sturgis Rally reported in Minnesota

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A Minnesota man who attended the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota last month has died from COVID-19, Minnesota health officials reported on Wednesday.

The death is the first reported from the biker rally that drew hundreds of thousands of people. Infections linked to the event have been reported among people in states spanning coast to coast. The rally went forward despite fears it could become a super-spread event, with South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem welcoming bikers and the tourist dollars they spend.

Rallygoers crowded into bars and rock shows, mostly ignoring social distancing recommendations. Few wore masks.

Read the full story here.

1:40 p.m. Illinois sees 2,128 new coronavirus cases, 27 deaths

The Illinois Department of Public Health on Wednesday announced another 2,128 residents have tested positive for COVID-19 and 27 dying from the virus.

As of Wednesday, the state’s positivity rate was 4.5%, according to the IDPH. As of Tuesday night, 1,596 people in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19; of those, 347 patients were in intensive care and 142 were on ventilators.

Since the pandemic first took hold, 8,091 Illinoisans have died from the virus. The state has seen 238,643 cases.

Read the full story by Stefano Esposito here.

12:05 p.m. Why Chicago’s music venues are glowing red

America’s live event industry, like many other industries, continues to take a devastating hit due to COVID-19. The live event industry is normally an $877 billion industry, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Allstate Arena, the Chicago Theatre, Wintrust Arena, the Aragon Ballroom and more live music and event venues across Chicago glowed red Tuesday night as part of #WeMakeEvents’ Red Alert campaign, a nationwide effort to motivate Congress to pass the Reviving the Economy Sustainably Towards A Recovery in Twenty-twenty (RESTART) Act, a bill that guarantees loans to small businesses hit hard by COVID-19.

The bill aims to provide assistance to venues, which can be used for payroll, rent, bills, and personal protective equipment to would-be recipients that have less than 500 full-time employees and endured a revenue decline of at least 25%.

#WeMakeEvents, the event’s sponsor, is encouraging supporters to contact their local representatives via its website and post red-tinted photos (via LunaPic) of themselves at their favorite venue to their social media platforms utilizing the #RedAlertRESTART hashtag.

Read the full story from Evan F. Moore here.

11:34 a.m. United plans to furlough 16,000 workers, fewer than expected

United Airlines said Wednesday it plans to furlough 16,370 employees in October, down from an earlier target of 36,000 after thousands of workers took early retirement, buyouts or long-term leaves of absence with the industry facing a slow recovery from the pandemic.

Airline officials said the final number could come down further before Oct. 1, when a prohibition on furloughs ends. They said the furloughs would be postponed if Washington approves another $25 billion to help passenger airlines cover payroll costs.

Flight attendants will bear the brunt of the cuts, with 6,920 getting furlough notices. About 2,850 pilots, 2,010 maintenance workers and 1,400 management and support staff would also lose their jobs.

The level of cuts, however, is 55% lower than the number of layoff warnings that United sent to employees in July. The reduction was possible because 7,400 employees took buyouts or early retirement, and up to 20,000 more accepted reduced work schedules or took voluntary leaves lasting up to 13 months.

Read the full report here for more details.

8:26 a.m. Apple, Google team up to alert you — via cell phone — if you’ve been exposed to COVID-19

Apple and Google teamed up to develop push notifications that let iOS and Android users know if they might have been exposed to COVID-19.

The companies announced the news on Tuesday and the effort is called Exposure Notifications Express. It’s an opt-in based system that lets your local public health agency alert you to potential coronavirus exposure via a notice on your smartphone. It’ll also allow the agency to guide residents on actions to take if they’ve been exposed, according to Apple and Google.

The development picks up where the company’s other collaborative effort left off. They previously worked together to create Bluetooth technology that helped health agencies develop mobile apps that can identify people who’ve been near with someone infected with the coronavirus.

Constant digital surveillance raises a number of questions regarding privacy: Will your location data be sold? How will it be used, and who has access to it?

Read the full report here.

New Cases

Analysis & Commentary

8:40 a.m. If you, an ‘essential’ worker, have been treated poorly — get organized

On March 20, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot held a joint news conference, which I listened to on the radio, to announce the shutdown of the state and city due to COVID-19.

I was struck by their matter-of-fact tone in regards to their ability to shut down the state and the city, but also in regards to their ability to decide who would be able to work and who wouldn’t.

And I became quite uneasy with their use of the word “essential.”

That uneasy feeling stayed with me as I read various articles (including some in this newspaper) that gave advice on how to work from home. I found such advice to be shallow, smirky, and a bit smug, and I wondered if a shift were underway in how we view work, a shift favoring those who do, or could, work from home at the expense of “essential” workers who can’t.

Such an attitude suggests a category of worker that stands in opposition to an essential worker: a privileged worker.

Read the full guest column from John Vukmirovich here.