Coronavirus in Illinois updates: Here’s what happened Oct. 7 with COVID-19 in the Chicago area

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Officials reported 58,820 new tests in the last 24 hours, as the state surpasses 6 million total COVID-19 tests. The seven-day statewide positivity rate is 3.5%.

The new statewide numbers come as Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday that the gains that most regions in Illinois had been making in bringing down COVID-19 positivity rates in recent weeks have “cooled off a bit.” The governor noted specifically that the northeastern region that includes Lake and McHenry counties has seen a reversal after a period of decline.

“That progress has cooled off a bit, across Illinois,” Pritzker said. “We are seeing changes in positivity averages around the state level off, with three regions that were decreasing last week now sitting at a stable level.”

Here’s what’s happening Wednesday with COVID-19 in the Chicago area and Illinois:

7:15 p.m.: CPS says clerks must report to work in person, despite labor ruling that questions COVID-19 protections in schools. CTU says the action ‘threatens jobs.’

Despite an arbitrator’s ruling that certain Chicago Public Schools employees should be allowed to work from home when feasible during remote learning, the district is continuing to require them to work in person.

An email from Chief Talent Officer Matt Lyons sent late Tuesday told clerks, clerk assistants and technology coordinators that the expectations have not changed.

“As critical members of our school community, you are integral in our collective work communicating and supporting families, staff, and students,” the email states. “This means you will continue to be expected to report to work in person, unless you have an approved or pending request for a leave of absence or accommodation.

“You may have received conflicting information recently on this reporting requirement,” the email continued, “but we are writing today to confirm CPS’ expectation and directive to report to work onsite.”

Without a leave of absence or accommodation request approved or pending, employees are not allowed to work from home, according to the email, which states that if employees don’t show up in person, “CPS will consider your absence unauthorized and proceed accordingly.”

The Chicago Teachers Union is interpreting the email as a threat of discipline and an attempt “to strongarm workers into schools in defiance of the ruling.” The union also claims CPS is stalling on bargaining over remedies.

6:55 p.m.: The Purple Pig employees hold protest over concerns of coronavirus safety negligence

After spending much of Tuesday night calling colleagues at The Purple Pig, Ryan Love felt upbeat about the five people who committed to picketing the Chicago restaurant Wednesday morning.

The protest, which ended up being four people greeting passersby with signs saying, “211K Americans dead. Tapas anyone?” and “No transparency, no accountability,” was inspired by frustration over the perceived actions of restaurant chef and owner Jimmy Bannos Jr. and other members of management. Love contends they did not take appropriate steps to keep employees and guests safe after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19 on Sept. 24.

Love, a lead server and bartender, said a full week had passed before the restaurant was deep-cleaned and staff was notified about the employee who tested positive. And management didn’t act until pushed, he said. He heard the news that a staff member had tested positive from other colleagues during his shift Sept. 26 and emailed management Sept. 28. There was no all-staff announcement before Love sent his email, he said.

“That was basically the confirmation that they’re not taking this seriously and it is a serious situation,” Love said. “I was really, really mad that they would be so careless.”

6:35 p.m.: Notre Dame’s president faces an angry campus after getting the coronavirus

As college leaders deliberated whether to bring students back to campus, none led the charge for reopening more forcefully than the president of the University of Notre Dame.

The Rev. John I. Jenkins, the university’s president and a 66-year-old Catholic priest with degrees in philosophy and divinity, was among the first to invite students back for dorm life, intercollegiate sports and face-to-face classes, arguing in a New York Times op-ed in May that the college had a moral obligation to not be crippled by fear. He also seemed humble about the challenge: When he forgot social distancing rules as he posed for pictures with students returning to campus in August, he issued a public apology.

But all the humility in the world might not have spared Jenkins from the storm of protest he now faces over the latest news from South Bend: that he not only violated his own health rules — appearing without a mask at a White House reception last month for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a Supreme Court nominee and former Notre Dame Law School professor — but also is infected with the coronavirus himself.

Students have petitioned for his resignation, angry over what they consider his hypocrisy as well as the rising tide of infections on campus. Others have reported him to a coronavirus hotline for violating his own mask mandate. The student newspaper called the affair “embarrassing” in an editorial. And the faculty senate stopped one vote short Tuesday night of considering a vote of no confidence in his leadership.

“I haven’t seen people this outraged in my whole career and I’ve been here since 2001,” Eileen Hunt Botting, a political science professor, said.

Neither Jenkins nor the school spokesman, Paul Browne, responded to requests for comment.

Read more here. —The New York Times

5:10 p.m.: ‘Wisconsin is what happens when you politicize public health,’ Mayor Lori Lightfoot says

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot blamed Wisconsin Republicans for that state’s recent spike in coronavirus cases, saying “Wisconsin is what happens when you politicize public health.”

Lightfoot made her comments after Wisconsin health officials announced Wednesday that a field hospital will open next week at the state fairgrounds near Milwaukee as a surge in COVID-19 cases threatens to overwhelm hospitals.

Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has repeatedly clashed with Republicans in that state over measures to curb the coronavirus.

Referring to the field hospital, Lightfoot said, “The fact that, in October, a state is having to open up a field hospital because of the stress on the healthcare system, because of the explosion in cases requiring hospitalizations, is a disgrace.”

And alluding to the clashes between Evers and Republicans, Lightfoot said, “Public health should never be politicized.”

Only 16% of the state’s 11,452 hospital beds were available as of Tuesday afternoon, according to the DHS. The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients had grown to 853, its highest during the pandemic according to the COVID Tracking Project, with 216 in intensive care.

4:40 p.m.: Pritzker says state’s recent progress on COVID-19 has ‘cooled off a bit’

The gains that most regions in Illinois had been making in bringing down COVID-19 positivity rates in recent weeks have “cooled off a bit,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday, noting specifically that the northeastern region that includes Lake and McHenry counties has seen a reversal after a period of decline.

Pritzker said last week that there were “promising declines in nearly every region of the state,” with the exception of the northwest region, where the state imposed more strict rules over the weekend due to the positivity rate there surpassing a threshold that triggers a scaled-back reopening.

“That progress has cooled off a bit, across Illinois,” Pritzker said Wednesday during a virtual news conference, as he continued to quarantine after one of his staff members tested positive for COVID-19. “We are seeing changes in positivity averages around the state level off, with three regions that were decreasing last week now sitting at a stable level.”

3:24 p.m.: Wisconsin activates field hospital as surge in COVID-19 cases threatens to overwhelm hospitals

Wisconsin health officials announced Wednesday that they’ve opened a field hospital at the state fairgrounds near Milwaukee as a surge in COVID-19 cases threatens to overwhelm hospitals.

Wisconsin has become a hot spot for the disease over the last month, ranking third nationwide this week in daily new cases per capita. Health experts have attributed the spike to the reopening of colleges and K-12 schools as well as general fatigue over wearing masks and socially distancing.

“We hoped this day wouldn’t come, but unfortunately, Wisconsin is in a much different, more dire place today and our healthcare systems are beginning to become overwhelmed by the surge of COVID-19 cases,” said Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. “This alternative care facility will take some of the pressure off our healthcare facilities while expanding the continuum of care for folks who have COVID-19.”

1:08 p.m.: Eli Lilly asks for emergency approval of COVID-19 antibody drug

Eli Lilly is asking the federal government for emergency approval of an antibody drug it says has shown success in early trials stopping some COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms from later needing hospitalization.

The Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical giant said Wednesday it would petition the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization, which could make the treatment more widely available to patients at high-risk for serious COVID-19 complications.

Its drug is similar to one that President Donald Trump received on Friday from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. These medicines supply concentrated versions of specific antibodies to help the immune system clear the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. They’re given as a one-time treatment through an IV.

12:10 p.m.: 6 million total COVID-19 tests conducted; 2,630 new known COVID-19 cases and 42 additional deaths reported

Illinois has now conducted more than 6 million COVID-19 tests since the pandemic began earlier this year, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced on Wednesday.

The state passed the 6 million mark after recording 58,820 tests during the latest 24-hour period, which resulted in 2,630 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19. The state also reported 42 additional deaths of people with COVID-19.

The testing total is now 6,033,289. Illinois has seen a total of 307,641 known cases of coronavirus to date, and the state is reporting 8,878 deaths of people with COVID-19.

The state’s seven-day positivity rate is currently 3.5%. The rate was 4.2% a month earlier.

As of Tuesday night, 1,679 people with COVID-19 were hospitalized in Illinois. Of those patients, 372 patients were in an intensive care unit, and 165 were on ventilators.

12 p.m.: 900 children in suburban Cook County public housing to get free laptops as remote learning continues to present digital barriers

Hundreds of school-age children in suburban Cook County public housing will get free laptops paid for by federal coronavirus stimulus money starting Wednesday, as part of an ongoing effort to ensure digital access after the COVID-19 pandemic upended in-person learning.

About $270,000 of CARES Act money allocated to the Housing Authority of Cook County will be used to purchase laptops for 900 students who live in the public housing complexes to keep and otherwise would struggle to complete remote learning. The giveaway is part of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s efforts to address long-standing racial inequities that have intensified under the grip of the coronavirus.

11:25 a.m.: Trump has COVID, but many supporters still eschew masks: ‘The far-left liberals are causing this’

On the day that President Donald Trump defiantly left the hospital where he was being treated for a coronavirus infection and returned to a White House that appears to be one of Washington’s most contagious hot spots, backers of the president in rural Pennsylvania showed no signs of questioning their own defiance of experts’ advice on how to limit the virus’s spread.

In the Lebanon Valley east of Harrisburg, where support for Trump remains particularly strong, the president’s failure to protect his family and inner circle from the virus was not seen as a reflection on his inability to protect Americans, as the death toll passed 210,000.

On the contrary, Trump loyalists echoed misinformation that the president has spread for much of the year, as he has sought to minimize the threat of the virus to aid his reelection.

11:01 a.m.: How much would Trump’s coronavirus treatment cost most Americans?

President Donald Trump spent three days in the hospital. He arrived and left by helicopter. And he received multiple coronavirus tests, oxygen, steroids and an experimental antibody treatment.

For someone who isn’t president, that would cost more than $100,000 in the American health system. Patients could face significant surprise bills and medical debt even after health insurance paid its share.

Across the country, patients have struggled with both the long-term health and financial effects of contracting coronavirus. Nearly half a million have been hospitalized. Routine tests can result in thousands of dollars in uncovered charges; hospitalized patients have received bills upward of $400,000.

Trump did not have to worry about the costs of his care, which are covered by the federal government. Most Americans, including many who carry health coverage, do worry about receiving medical care they cannot afford.

10:37 a.m.: Second stimulus check updates: After calling off negotiations in a tweet, Trump tries to pick and choose parts of COVID-19 relief

As part of a barrage of tweets and retweets, Trump pressed for passage of these chunks of assistance, an about-face from his abrupt and puzzling move on Tuesday afternoon to abandon talks with a longtime rival, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The California Democrat has rejected such piecemeal entreaties all along.

Trump’s tweets amounted to him demanding his way in negotiations that he himself had ended.

He called on Congress to send him a “Stand Alone Bill for Stimulus Checks ($1,200)” — a reference to a preelection batch of direct payments to most Americans that had been a central piece of negotiations between Pelosi and the White House.

10:34 a.m.: Illinois gambling tax revenues fell 13.4% due to pandemic shutdown

When Illinois passed sweeping legislation last year to expand gambling in the state, it was envisioned as a way to generate increased tax revenue.

But the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a much different result, with gambling tax revenue down by 13.4% for the first full year under the new law.

The state’s gambling tax revenue fell by nearly $200 million to $1.2 billion for fiscal year 2020, which ended June 30. Everything from horse racing to bingo took a hit, according to an annual wagering report by the state.

Illinois was on pace for a modest annual increase in tax revenues until gambling operators were shut down in mid-March, said Eric Noggle, a senior analyst with the state’s Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability who co-authored the study.

7:20 a.m.: County officials to announce program to distribute laptops for children still in need of online learning help

Cook County officials were scheduled Wednesday morning to announce a program to give laptops to school-age children who still need devices for online learning.

County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and the Housing Authority of Cook County were to distribute laptops Wednesday morning at the Richard Flowers Apartments in Robbins as part of Digital Inclusion Week, according to a release from Preckwinkle’s office.

Digital Inclusion Week seeks to increase online literacy, widen internet access to people with lower incomes and increase media literacy.

5 a.m.: Coronavirus outbreak flares again at Jacksonville prison

A COVID-19 outbreak at Jacksonville Correctional Center that had remained stable for weeks is growing again.

Eight prisoners at the facility tested positive between Saturday and Monday, taking the total prisoner infections to 225. Fourteen staff members at the prison also have tested positive since the outbreak began.

A reinfection also was noted in a resident of Aperion Care in Jacksonville, where another resident also tested positive, according to a daily briefing by the Morgan County Department of Public Health, Jacksonville/Morgan County Emergency Management, Memorial Health System, county commissioners and the city of Jacksonville.

There have been 305,011 known coronavirus cases and 8,836 confirmed deaths in Illinois since the start of the pandemic.

Marco Cartolano, Jacksonville Journal-Courier, via Tribune Content Agency

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