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Coronavirus live blog, Sept. 4, 2020: Test reporting backlog leads to Illinois’ highest-ever daily COVID-19 caseload: 5,368

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

Suburban Cook County worked its way off the “warning level” list that it had landed on a week earlier, but north suburban Lake County was added as the result of two “risk indicators:” a rate of 95 cases per 100,000 residents — over the target rate of 50 cases — and a sizable increase in COVID-19 deaths over the previous week.

Here’s what else happened in Chicago and around Illinois as officials and residents continued the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.


8:57 p.m. Test reporting backlog leads to Illinois’ highest-ever daily COVID-19 caseload: 5,368

Access Family Health Center in Englewood started providing coronavirus testing in May. Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

Public health officials on Friday blamed a slowdown in Illinois’ coronavirus test reporting system for the state’s largest-ever batch of new COVID-19 cases reported in a single day: 5,368.

The unprecedented caseload was confirmed among a whopping 149,273 tests reported by the Illinois Department of Public Health, the result of a backlog that officials say they discovered earlier this week.

Labs submit their test results electronically to the state every day, but the state’s data processing system began working “slower than normal” on Tuesday, according to Derek Lindblom, head of the state’s testing team.

By the time the delay was cleared Thursday afternoon, a testing backlog of up to two days had piled up, Lindblom said.

“Even a short delay of a day or a day and a half in processing will lead to a significant increase in test reporting,” Lindblom said.

Friday’s daily case count soared past the previous high of 4,014 new cases reported at Illinois’ initial height of the pandemic May 12. And the test count dwarfed the state’s previous high of 56,766 tests reported Aug. 22.

Reporter Mitchell Armentrout has the full story.

7:03 p.m. Cook County sheriff and state prisons at odds over inmate transfers during the pandemic

Aqueelah Ali should have been freed right away. She’d served more time in the custody of the Cook County sheriff than her one-year sentence for driving drunk on a revoked license.

In the past, someone in her situation would immediately go through a one-day “turnaround. She’d be taken to a prison, fingerprinted, photographed and released by the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Instead, she remained in the Cook County sheriff’s electronic-monitoring program, confined to home for more than two weeks.

Tuesday, the sheriff’s office sent the state prison system a stinging letter about her circumstances. On Friday, Ali finally was transferred and processed out.

Brad Curry, chief of staff for Sheriff Tom Dart, said Illinois prison officials have put up roadblocks to transfers of people from county jails to the prison system. In addition to seven turnaround inmates waiting to be processed by the state, 431 inmates are in the sheriff’s custody who should be in prison to start their sentences or because they violated parole, according to Curry.

Reporter Frank Main has the full story.

4:16 p.m. Half of U.S. adults report some signs of depression in new survey

File photo.

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 this week in the medical journal JAMA Network Open.

At Cityscape Counseling in Chicago, the new client caseload jumped from 95 to 148 over the past two months, said executive director Chelsea Hudson. The group’s 17 therapists see about 500 clients a week, and Hudson said she has hired two more therapists to deal with the increased demand.

“We see a lot of single young professionals. I think it’s been especially tough on them. The isolation, lack of connection, often enhances depression,” she said.

Hudson said many clients are distressed about social justice issues. With more free time, she said, they are paying more attention to the news, and Chicago has been hit by vandalism and protests over killings by police.

She said there is “a general consensus in the mental health field on our need to be ready to brush up on our trauma training. Right now people are still in a state of shock.”

Read the full story here.

3:07 p.m. Lake County added to “warning list” for coronavirus cases

Suburban Cook County worked its way off the “warning level” list that it had landed on a week earlier, but north suburban Lake County was added as the result of two “risk indicators:” a rate of 95 cases per 100,000 residents — over the target rate of 50 cases — and a sizable increase in COVID-19 deaths over the previous week.

Far southwest suburban Will County remained on the list a week after Gov. J.B. Pritzker banned indoor dining in the region due to soaring positivity rates. Along with Kankakee County, its regional positivity is at 8.7%

The other “warning level” counties span Illinois but are largely clustered downstate: Boone, Bureau, Clinton, Coles, Cumberland, Edgar, Effingham, Fayette, Greene, Henry, Jasper, Jefferson, Jersey, Lake, Lawrence, Madison, McLean, Monroe, Pulaski, Randolph, Rock Island, Shelby, Stark, St. Clair, Union, Wabash, Warren and Williamson.

Read the full story from Mitchell Armentrout here.

11:06 a.m. What outdoor activities have you been able to enjoy while social distancing? What Chicagoans say.

As summer comes to an end, we asked Chicagoans: What activities have you been able to enjoy outside while respecting social distancing guidelines? Some answers have been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

“Exploring my community while walking my dog. Reading and having tea on my balcony with my dog.” — Sylvia Bridges

“Campfires and s’mores with friends in our back yard and hiking at the nature preserves. Our kids went zip-lining for the first time.” — Melissa McGillivray Johnson

“My love and I go for lots of walks and little picnics in the parks. We set up where we know there won’t be so many people walking past us. I still don’t even sit on patios at restaurants. Seats are normally too close together for my comfort.” — April Lewis

Read the full story from Alice Bazerghi here.

8:06 a.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.

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.