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Coronavirus live blog, Sept. 3, 2020: Illinois reports 1,360 new COVID-19 cases

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

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.

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


8:59 p.m. Illinois sees fewest new coronavirus cases in three weeks, slight dip in testing positivity rate

Faculty members from Washington State University Health Sciences Spokane administer COVID-19 tests to students.
Geoff Crimmins/The Moscow-Pullman Daily News via AP (file photo)

Public health officials on Thursday announced 1,360 more people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Illinois, marking the smallest daily caseload in more than three weeks amid a summertime resurgence statewide.

Illinois last dipped below 1,400 daily cases Aug. 10 and has averaged 1,859 new cases per day since then — almost triple the state’s running rate in early July.

The newest cases were confirmed among 40,795 tests reported, lowering the state’s testing positivity rate over the last week to 4.4%. That number indicates how quickly the virus is spreading — and it has ticked up almost 2 full percentage points over the last two months.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday pointed to other states such as Florida and Texas that “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.”

That’s why the Democratic governor said he has banned indoor dining in the Will-Kankakee county region and downstate Metro East, which are both floating around 9% positivity.

Read the full story here.

8:06 p.m. Stephanie Izard’s Girl & the Goat, other restaurants to lay off hundreds

Celebrity chef Stephanie Izard’s four Chicago restaurants intend to lay off hundreds of workers later this month, according to filings with the state of Illinois.

The layoff notices, required by state law, say 55 people will lose their jobs permanently at Izard’s flagship Girl & the Goat, with another 96 layoffs at spinoff diner/bakery Little Goat.

The Chinese restaurant Duck Duck Goat will shed 42 workers, and another 85 will be laid off by the company running her Cabra cevicheria as well as two other restaurants in the Hoxton hotel.

Darel Jevens has the full report.

4:55 p.m. Some experts worry that Nov. 1 vaccine date could mean a rush through clinical trials

The federal government has told states to prepare for a coronavirus vaccine to be ready to distribute by Nov. 1.

The timeline raised concern among public health experts about an “October surprise” — a vaccine approval driven by political considerations ahead of a presidential election, rather than science.

In a letter to governors dated Aug. 27, Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said states “in the near future” will receive permit applications from McKesson Corp., which has contracted with CDC to distribute vaccines to places including state and local health departments and hospitals.

Several vaccine and public health experts pointed out that final stage trials of experimental vaccines are still recruiting, and are at best halfway through that process. The vaccines are two doses, and each is given a month apart. Several experts told the AP they did not understand how there could be adequate data on whether the vaccines work and are safe before Nov. 1.

Read the full story here.

2:08 p.m. City’s proposed 2021 budget will erase $1.2 billion shortfall — and without more federal help, top mayoral aides say

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s 2021 budget will erase a $1.2 billion shortfall without assuming any replacement revenue from Washington — but with hundreds of millions of dollars in tax increases and budget cuts that include a mix of layoffs, furlough days and pay cuts, top mayoral aides said Thursday.

Chief Financial Officer Jennie Huang Bennett and Budget Director Susie Park said a property tax increase is “last on our list” as homeowners and business owners struggle to pay their mortgages and stave off foreclosure.

But it must remain on the table, they said, because it is the most broad-based and reliable source of revenue to help erase a shortfall of historic proportions. For the same reason, a sales tax increase also is possible but would require authorization by state lawmakers.

“Increasing taxes in this difficult economic environment does not create a stimulative environment. But we also have to balance that with the fact that we have to make revenues match expenses and have a balanced budget,” the CFO said Thursday.

Read the full story from City Hall reporter Fran Spielman here.

10:03 a.m. Critics: Eviction ban may only delay wave of homelessness

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.

Critics call it everything from an empty stall tactic to an outright political ploy.

“My first reaction was, ‘Thank God,’” said Matthew Hill, an attorney with the Public Justice Center in Baltimore. But he noted that tenants will be expected to repay their rent when the moratorium expires on Jan. 1, and without some kind of rental assistance, “we are just going to be kicking the can down the road.”

Read the full story here.

8:22 a.m. ‘Dangerous and irresponsible’ behavior at UIUC could lead to end of in-person semester after COVID-19 cases spike, officials warn

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.

New Cases

Analysis & Commentary

7:55 p.m. EDITORIAL: Trump ‘October surprise’ coronavirus vaccine will be a hard sell with a wary public

For months, scientists have predicted that a vaccine against COVID-19 could be available, in a best-case scenario, sometime early next year.

Now the Trump administration is signaling that a vaccine will be ready months before that. But no matter how weary Americans surely are of this pandemic, we don’t expect many folks to breathe a sigh of relief and make plans to get a shot.

Instead, what we’re seeing is a lot of raised eyebrows about the news that Robert Redfield, head of the Centers for Disease Control, has sent a letter to all governors asking them to fast-track plans to distribute a vaccine by Nov. 1.

An “October surprise” vaccine? Ready to distribute two days before Election Day?

The timing is just too perfect, coming as it does from a Trump administration that has badly botched its handling of this deadly pandemic from the start. And, more telling yet, coming from a president who’s trailing in the polls just 61 days before the Nov. 3 election.

Read the full opinion from the CST Editorial Board.

8:18 a.m. Fearing a Labor Day coronavirus surge

In a letter to the Sun-Times editors, Rosemary Callahan of Uptown writes...

When it came to suppressing COVID-19, the United States really, to put it lightly, botched Memorial Day. While most of the blame falls on to state and federal officials, many individuals could have taken extra precaution and followed simple guidelines. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people were seen at pool parties and barbeques. People crowded into bars and entertainment venues. And beaches were cramped. A couple of weeks after these Memorial Day gatherings, states started to see spikes in COVID-19, and then the cases spun out of control.

Many, if not all, Americans are experiencing pandemic fatigue and burnout, but we cannot afford another surge anywhere in this country. Let’s use the lessons we learned from Memorial Day and apply them to Labor Day. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Social distance.

Read this and more letters to the Sun-Times editors here.