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Coronavirus live blog, Sept. 9, 2020: Public health officials announce 1,337 newly diagnosed cases of COVID-19 statewide

Here’s Wednesday’s news on how COVID-19 is impacting Chicago and Illinois.

Late-stage studies of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate are on temporary hold while the company investigates whether a recipient’s “potentially unexplained” illness is a side effect of the shot.

Meanwhile in Illinois, public health officials announced another relatively low batch of 1,337 newly diagnosed cases of COVID-19 statewide, offering some rare signs of optimism toward the end of a resurgent summer.

Here’s what else made headlines in coronavirus pandemic news in Chicago and across the state.


News

9:04 p.m. More dips in summer COVID-19 roller coaster: State’s daily caseload and positive test rates down after week of climbs

A staff member of Community Organized Relief Effort’s (CORE) COVID-19 testing facility at Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy in Little Village gets a mouth swab from someone who just got tested Friday afternoon, Sept. 4, 2020. The site offers free COVID-19 tests.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Public health officials announced another relatively low batch of 1,337 newly diagnosed cases of COVID-19 statewide on Wednesday, offering some rare signs of optimism toward the end of a resurgent summer.

The latest cases — the smallest caseload in a month — were confirmed among 48,029 coronavirus tests submitted to the Illinois Department of Public Health, meaning about 2.8% of those who were tested received positive results. That’s the lowest proportion of positive tests the state has seen in a single day in almost two months, since July 18.

And it was enough to lower the statewide testing positivity rate over the last week to 3.7% — the first time that key indicator of transmission has dipped below 4% since the end of July.

The state recorded some of its highest case tallies since May last week, averaging more than 2,400 positive tests per day. Since Sunday, Illinois has averaged about 1,378 new cases per day.

Read the full story from Mitchell Armentrout here.


7:36 p.m. ‘Many more’ CPS child care sites to come after the first 6 open this week

Chicago Public Schools officials are operating child care services at six schools across the city for families who are strained by the return to remote learning this fall.

So far there are 111 students registered for the program, with children who are 14 or younger, homeless or facing other economic hardship receiving first priority, officials said. “Many more sites” are set to open Sept. 21, schools chief Janice Jackson said this week.

“We’re going to serve thousands of families, I think that’s important,” Jackson said. “But Mayor [Lori] Lightfoot wanted to make sure we had something ready on day one.”

The district surveyed families’ needs in the weeks leading up to the school year as the details of the plan continue to be worked out on the fly. The priority deadline was Sept. 1 for the survey through which families could indicate interest in the service, but it’ll remain open for additional sign-ups — though space could run out.

Reporter Nader Issa has the full story.

5:21 p.m. Chicago’s Halloween 2020 doesn’t look like much of a treat

Like so many other things during the coronavirus pandemic, Chicago’s Halloween celebration will not be the same.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot made that clear on Wednesday.

The mayor didn’t come right out and say she’s planning to ban the treasured tradition of door-to-door trick-or-treating by costumed kids under the watchful eye of their parents. The last thing she wants to do is sound like the Grinch who stole Christmas.

But she sure hinted at it.

“Obviously, it is a very different time. And I don’t expect to see mass crowds trick-or-treating like we have in years past,” the mayor said.

Reporter Fran Spielman has the full story.

3:26 p.m. Chicago’s Halloween 2020 doesn’t look like much of a treat

Like so many other things during the coronavirus pandemic, Chicago’s Halloween celebration will not be the same.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot made that clear on Wednesday.

The mayor didn’t come right out and say she’s planning to ban the treasured tradition of door-to-door trick-or-treating by costumed kids under the watchful eye of their parents. The last thing she wants to do is sound like the Grinch who stole Christmas.

But she sure hinted at it.

“Obviously, it is a very different time. And I don’t expect to see mass crowds trick-or-treating like we have in years past,” the mayor said.

“It’s not safe for the children. It’s not safe for the adults.”

Read the full story here.

3:08 p.m. Kerri Walsh Jennings posts on Instagram that she went shopping without mask: ‘A little exercise in being brave’

Three-time Olympic beach volleyball gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings began an Instagram post caption with “This going to be a long post & it’s going to upset some people.”

Walsh Jennings wrote how she did not wear a mask while shopping over the weekend, which she referred to as “a little exercise in being brave.”

“I read a quote the other day that shook me - - THIS HAS NOT BEEN ENFORCED, IT’S BEEN CONSENTED TO,” Walsh Jennings wrote. “This statement woke me up & the truth of it has had me obsessing on the matter of how I can mindfully & compassionately stand up for my rights & for the freedoms our constitution has granted us all WITHOUT being reckless or putting anyone else in danger.”

More than 188,000 U.S. deaths have been caused by COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The consensus among public health experts is that wearing a mask is a preventive measure amid the coronavirus pandemic. Walsh Jennings said she empathized with those who have lost a loved one, but also wrote “KNOW your immune system is designed to support you through any illness – we must work support our entire system. I want people to stop living in fear and start living in a way that strengthens themselves body, mind and spirit.”

Walsh Jennings ended her post with a quote attributed to Thomas Jefferson: “I PREFER DANGEROUS FREEDOM TO PEACEFUL SLAVERY.”

Fellow beach volleyball player Jennifer Kessy commented, “I can’t believe how selfish this entire post is.” Walsh Jennings’ own sister, Kelli Mezzetti, said “You are better than this,” per the San Jose Mercury News.

Read the full story here.

1:47 p.m. COVID-19 vaccine study paused after participant’s ‘potentially unexplained’ side effect

Prime Minister Scott Morrison Announces Deal With AstraZeneca To Supply Potential COVID-19 Vaccine
AstraZeneca in Sydney, Australia. File photo.
Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

Late-stage studies of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate are on temporary hold while the company investigates whether a recipient’s “potentially unexplained” illness is a side effect of the shot.

In a statement issued Tuesday evening, the company said its “standard review process triggered a pause to vaccination to allow review of safety data.”

AstraZeneca didn’t reveal any information about the possible side effect except to call it “a potentially unexplained illness.” The health news site STAT first reported the pause in testing, saying the possible side effect occurred in the United Kingdom.

An AstraZeneca spokesperson confirmed the pause in vaccinations covers studies in the U.S. and other countries. Late last month, AstraZeneca began recruiting 30,000 people in the U.S. for its largest study of the vaccine. It also is testing the vaccine, developed by Oxford University, in thousands of people in Britain, and in smaller studies in Brazil and South Africa.

Read the full report here.

11:34 a.m. Read the label carefully: What to look for in a hand sanitizer

With so many options of hand sanitzers flooding online retailers and returning to brick-and-mortar store shelves, what should you look be looking for on those product labels?

Pick one that contains mostly alcohol, and has few other ingredients.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says hand sanitizers should be at least 60% ethyl alcohol or 70% isopropyl alcohol. Other approved ingredients may include sterile distilled water, hydrogen peroxide and glycerin, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

You should avoid anything with methanol or 1-propanol, both of which can be highly toxic. The FDA also warns people to watch out for hand sanitizers packaged in food and drink containers, since accidentally ingesting them could be dangerous.

Read the full story here.

8:57 a.m. Bradley University quarantines entire student body

Bradley University in central Illinois is requiring its entire student body to quarantine for two weeks because of clusters of COVID-19 on campus and is reverting to remote learning, officials announced Tuesday.

Officials of the private university said they have linked a spike of the coronavirus to off-campus gatherings. The Peoria university is requiring students to limit nonessential interactions, stay in their off-campus apartments, residence halls and take classes remotely beginning Tuesday.

The university said it has tallied about 50 COVID-19 cases so far, adding emergency measures are needed to respond to the outbreak without disrupting academic progress.

“Although it may seem extreme, this move to temporary remote learning and a two-week, all-student quarantine allows us to focus on the continuity of the educational experience for all of our students while giving us time to gather data on the full extent of the spread of the virus and assess the best way to proceed as a community,” Bradley President Stephen Standifird said in a message to students.

Read the full report here.

7:44 a.m. Appeals court upholds most of federal judge’s order to curb coronavirus at Cook County Jail

A state appeals court Tuesday upheld most of federal judge’s order in the spring that mandated wide-ranging coronavirus-prevention policies at the Cook County Jail but tossed out a key requirement to socially distance detainees.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeal’s ruling will likely not have have a significant impact on measures undertaken by the authorities to stop the spread of the virus at the jail, Sheriff Tom Dart’s spokesman Matthew Walberg said.

While the ruling allows holding two detainees in the same cell or in group housing, social distancing policies previously implemented at the jail will continue, Walberg said,

“Today’s decision affirms what we have been saying all along: We have gone to great lengths to protect our staff and detainees during this unprecedented crisis and we will continue to do so,” Walberg said. “Given the success we have achieved, we will continue to do everything we can to maintain and expand the protections we have put in place to protect our staff and detainees from COVID.”

Read the full report from Matthew Hendrickson here.


New Cases


Analysis & Commentary

7:48 a.m. Pandemic or not, state prisons must accept inmates from Illinois county jails

The easiest way to handle the COVID-19 pandemic is to let someone else deal with it.

Unfortunately, as far as prisons are concerned, that’s pretty much the philosophy the Pritzker administration adopted last spring when it announced without warning that the state’s prisons no longer would accept people convicted of crimes. Instead, sheriffs in all 102 counties, who had their own COVID-19 issues, were told they would have to shoulder the burden of keeping convicted criminals in their own facilities.

It is easy to see how that helped state prisons reduce the risk of coronavirus outbreaks. It didn’t help county jails, though. They are just as concerned as the state about maintaining as low a COVID-19 positivity rate as possible.

It would have been better to work out this issue collaboratively. Instead, the sheriffs sued, and on Aug. 3, the state started accepting convicts. When an appellate court revised the ruling later in August, though, the state reportedly slowed down the number of prisoners it would accept.

Read the full Sun-Times editorial here.