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Latest coronavirus news for Sept. 21, 2020: Illinois’ progress on COVID-19 still not enough for fall sports, Pritzker says

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Illinois hits three new milestones in COVID-19 testing, still not enough for high school football, Gov. Pritzker says

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker lowers his head as Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike announces seven additional deaths due to COVID-19 during a press conference Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Springfield, Ill.
Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP

Illinois is doing very well in testing for the coronavirus — just not well enough to allow high school football players back on the field, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Monday.

Pritzker announced the state had hit three new testing milestones and touted Illinois as a national leader in this area, trailing only California and New York, but said financial and safety barriers still prevent certain high school sports from resuming.

“I want fall sports. I want fall football, in high school, to play. I do,” Pritzker said. “But what I want most of all is to keep these kids and their parents and their grandparents and their neighbors safe.”

While some high school sports are being played, Pritzker said those “that are high-contact and likely to result in the exchange of sweat and saliva,” such as football, are not viable for the foreseeable future. He applauded college and professional football teams for their coronavirus measures but said high schools can’t afford the intensive testing measures needed to keep athletes safe.

Also Monday, the state health department reported seven additional coronavirus deaths, as well as 1,477 new confirmed coronavirus cases. In all, since the start of the pandemic, Illinois has had of 275,735 cases, including 8,457 deaths, in 102 counties. The statewide positivity rate is at 3.5%.

Read the full story here.


2:45 p.m. Lawry’s The Prime Rib cites coronavirus in closure announcement

Lawry’s The Prime Rib, which has been a River North staple for nearly half a century, is shutting its doors at the end of this year.

Ryan Wilson, CEO of Lawry’s Inc., said the beloved steakhouse, located at 100 E. Ontario St., is closing due to a confluence of unfortunate events, including the coronavirus pandemic, civil unrest and an expiring lease.

Wilson said discussions about potentially closing Lawry’s in Chicago have been going on for weeks. Staffers were notified of the news Saturday.

“We’ve done everything we can to hold on, but as things continue to — I don’t want to say drag on, but as the pandemic and closures get longer, we’re playing the long game here,” Wilson told the Sun-Times in a phone interview Sunday. “[We] decided we need to hit pause for our time right now in Chicago and our time at 100 E. Ontario.”

Read the full report from Madeline Kenney here.

12:16 p.m. Europe adopts tougher COVID-19 restrictions amid outbreaks

LONDON — As the U.S. closed in on 200,000 coronavirus deaths Monday, the crisis deteriorated across Europe, with Britain working to draw up new restrictions, Spain clamping down again in Madrid and the Czech Republic replacing its health minister with an epidemiologist because of a surge of infections.

The growing push to reimpose tough new measures in Europe to beat back a scourge that was seemingly under control in the spring contributed to a sharp drop on Wall Street in the morning. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 900 points, or 3.4%, and the S&P 500 was down 2.6%.

In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson later this week is expected to announce a round of restrictions designed to act as a “circuit breaker” to slow the spread of the disease. British Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty warned that cases are doubling every seven days, and the experience in other countries shows that will soon lead to a rise in deaths.

“We have, in a very bad sense, literally turned a corner,” after weeks of rising infections, Whitty said.

In France, where infections reached a record high the weekend with over 13,000 new cases in 24 hours, health authorities opened new testing centers in the Paris region to reduce lines and delays.

And the Norwegian capital of Oslo banned crowds of more than 10 people in private homes after a spike in cases and strongly urged people to wear face masks when traveling on public transportation amid a strike by bus drivers that forced many commuters to take the tram instead.

Read the full story here.

10:43 a.m. Families destroyed by COVID forced to find a way forward

Just four months had passed since Ramon Ramirez buried his wife and now, here he was, hospitalized himself with COVID-19. The prognosis was dire, and the fate of his younger children consumed him. Before ending his final video call with his oldest, a 29-year-old single mother of two, he had one final request: “Take care of your brothers.”

Before long, he was added to the rolls of the pandemic’s dead, and his daughter, Marlene Torres, was handed the crushing task of making good on her promise. Overnight, her home ballooned, with her four siblings, ages 11 to 19, joining her own two children, 2 and 8.

The emotional and financial demands are so overwhelming that Torres finds herself pleading to the heavens. “Please help me,” she begs her parents. “Guide me.”

As the U.S. approaches the milestone of 200,000 pandemic deaths, the pain repeats: An Ohio boy, too young for words of his own, who plants a kiss on a photo of his dead mother. A New Jersey toddler, months ago the center of a joyous, balloon-filled birthday, now in therapy over the loss of her father. Three siblings in Michigan who lost both parents, thrusting the oldest child, a 21 year old, into the role of parent to his sisters.

With eight in 10 American virus victims age 65 and older, it’s easy to view the young as having been spared its wrath. But among the dead are an untold number of parents who’ve left behind children that constitute another kind of victim.

Read the full story here.

10:25 a.m. We asked: How has the pandemic affected you financially?

When the pandemic came, it hit them hard.

Some lost their full-time work, or the second or part-time jobs they counted on for income, or their 401(k) match amid the coronavirus shutdowns that wreaked havoc on the economy and on their personal finances, too.

Now, they’re carefully considering every dollar they spend, making sure the lights are shut off, turning to food banks to ensure they’ll have enough for their families’ next meal.

Some are having tough conversations with family, friends or employers, asking for help with rent or other bills. Others are rethinking their retirement plans, figuring they’ll have to work a couple of more years to make up for what they’ve lost in the year of the coronavirus.

Others were lucky, able to keep their jobs and work from home during the shelter-in-place. They, too, worry about what’s to come but feel fortunate to be in the position they’re in.

About half of Chicago households surveyed for a recent poll done by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health said the impact of COVID-19 has left them facing serious financial problems, with Black and Latino families particularly hard-hit.

So we asked Sun-Times readers: How has the pandemic affected you financially? Many wrote in and agreed to follow-up interviews.

Read their stories here.

7:39 a.m. Suburban athletes show up for Let Us Play protest, but city turnout is small

Saturday’s Let Us Play protest at the Thompson Center was designed to be a show of force and numbers to put pressure on Gov. J.B. Pritzker to change his mind and allow all fall sports, especially football, to be played now instead of in the spring.

That isn’t how it turned out. An estimated 400-500 people showed up, the overwhelming majority wearing apparel from Lincoln-Way East, Loyola and Batavia. There wasn’t a single Chicago school with a significant presence. Brother Rice coach Brian Badke was on hand with three players and there was a coach or two in attendance from about 10 Public League teams.

Read the full story by Michael O’Brien here.

New Cases

State health officials on Sunday announced 1,402 new coronavirus cases and 14 additional deaths.

Analysis & Commentary

8:07 a.m. Thanks for lifting our spirits, Sox and Cubs, and for playing with class in strange times

A great way to follow baseball through a Chicago summer is to dip in and dip out, to come and go.

We might listen to a game on the radio outdoors, after mowing the lawn or while walking the dog. We might slip back inside to catch a big moment on TV.

Baseball’s our summer soundtrack, our daily diversion, our companion.

This summer, baseball has been a little less of all that, due to a shortened season and an eerie emptiness at ballparks because of the pandemic. But the game has also meant all the more to us for just the same reason.

We are stuck at home. We are stuck in our lives. We can’t do this and we can’t do that. A Saturday is not much different than a Wednesday when there is no weekend concert, no getting together with friends at a restaurant, no family gathering.

But there is baseball. And here in Chicago, the baseball’s been good — and it’s not over yet.

Read the full editorial here.