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Coronavirus in Illinois updates: Here’s what happened Oct. 23 with COVID-19 in the Chicago area

Friday, October 23, 2020
Chicago Tribune

For the latest updates, click here for our weekend live blog.

The Illinois health department placed half of the state’s 102 counties on a warning list for a resurgence of COVID-19 on Friday, as officials reported another 3,874 newly diagnosed cases statewide and 31 additional deaths.

The county warning list, which the state Department of Public Health issues weekly, includes Kane, McHenry and Will counties, which all came under stricter state regulations Friday aimed at slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Officials also reported 82,256 new tests in the last 24 hours. The seven-day statewide positivity rate is 5.6%.

As the coronavirus continues to surge in Illinois, and with the state now averaging more than 4,000 positive diagnoses a day over the past week, on Thursday the state anounced a new record high number of newly confirmed daily cases.

That case count of 4,942 tops the previous record of 4,554 new cases set just six days earlier and came as new restrictions, including a renewed prohibition on indoor dining and bar service, took effect in southern Illinois and a wide swath of suburban Chicago.

Meanwhile, days after threatening to roll back restrictions on Chicago businesses if COVID-19 cases continue to spike, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday by imposed a 10 p.m. curfew on all nonessential city businesses.

In addition, the city will again prohibit indoor service at traditional taverns and brewery taprooms that don’t have food licenses, and asked residents to cap any social gatherings at six people starting Friday.



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

8:25 p.m.: Illinois hits another sad COVID-19 milestone — 5,000 deaths in long-term care — as cases rise

Illinois long-term care facilities are experiencing their biggest jump in COVID-19 cases in months, as the state passed a tragic milestone: 5,000 deaths among residents.

In the past week, Illinois recorded more than 1,400 new COVID-19 infections among residents in nursing homes, assisted living centers and other large, congregate-care facilities, according to the weekly data released by the state.

That’s the highest one-week tally since early June. The weekly tally was also notably larger than the roughly 1,100 new cases seen the week prior, and the nearly 650 cases in the week before that.

Deaths of residents climbed too: another 131 in the past week. That followed tallies the past two weeks of 96 and 95 deaths, respectively, which already was much higher than the 55 deaths seen three weeks ago.

The latest spike put the death toll in long-term care facilities at 5,019, accounting for more than half of the total statewide toll of 9,418 COVID-19 fatalities, as of Friday.

Read more here. —Joe Mahr

7:10 p.m.: CPS, teachers union both say other side won’t engage on school reopening plans

The Chicago Teachers Union, which has raised serious concerns about plans to resume in-person classes next quarter, has filed a new unfair labor practice charge, accusing Chicago Public Schools and Mayor Lori Lightfoot of illegally refusing to bargain over reopening and safety protocols.

“Our youngest and most medically vulnerable students deserve safety, yet that is exactly what CPS refuses to take steps to document or guarantee,” said CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates on Friday.

District spokeswoman Emily Bolton, however, said CPS is working with the union and will continue to do so “in the hopes they engage as productive partners and help us lift up the students and families who need our collective support.”

“We are disheartened that CTU continues to obstruct and mislead the public about the necessary planning measures needed to prepare for a potential return to safe in-person learning,” Bolton said.

As tension builds over the murky plan for next quarter, the union and the district still seem far apart. Can they find common ground?

Read more here. –Hannah Leone

6:35 p.m.: Lake Forest High School teachers say county health department’s COVID-19 warning being ignored by school board

Despite the Lake County Health Department’s recommendation that schools return to remote learning due to a surge in COVID-19 cases, Lake Forest High School is currently scheduled to continue delivering some in-person instruction to freshmen and sophomores.

The Thursday decision by District 115 board members to keep the high school open for some in-person instruction was swiftly lambasted by Lake Forest teachers, who expressed dismay that officials were not following the recommendation of the Lake County Health Department that all public and private schools in the county shift to remote learning because of growing COVID-19 infection rates.

“This is about the safety of our students, our staff and our community,” said Becca Schwartz, president of the Lake Forest teachers union, in a Friday statement.

The District 115 board is likely to meet again Oct. 29, officials said. School Board President David Lane on Thursday did not rule out a further expansion of remote learning.

“We hope not to do it, but if the numbers continue to be troubling, we might have to do it,” Lane said.

Meanwhile, teachers are continuing to put pressure on officials.

“The medical professionals are saying it’s not safe to stay open. We told the administrative team that the (Lake Forest Educators Association) would expect the district to listen to the county recommendation,” Schwartz said.

In response to Schwartz’s statements, Lane stood by the board’s approach.

“As a board, we represent the majority of members of our community in their desire to safely keep as many students in our schools as possible. Our students and staff have adhered to rigorous and thorough risk mitigation protocols,” Lane said in the statement. "This has resulted in no known in-building transmissions of the virus and proven that it can be done ... "

Read more here. —Karen Ann Cullotta and Daniel I. Dorfman

5:15 p.m.: New Trier High School to spend up to $1.3 million on COVID-19 saliva screenings for students, staff

In an effort to minimize the spread of the coronavirus and help keep New Trier High School open for in-person instruction, school officials said Friday they will pay up to $1.3 million to conduct COVID-19 saliva screenings for students and staff.

The no bid contract, which officials say is allowed under state code due to the urgency of the services needed during the pandemic, was awarded to Safeguard Screening, LLC, said New Trier Assistant Superintendent Chris Johnson. The screenings are currently scheduled to start in mid-November.

Students and staff participating in the voluntary screenings at New Trier will receive kits including small tubes, plastic baggies, bar code stickers and instructions for collecting saliva samples at home, Johnson said.

The high school’s campuses in Winnetka and Northfield reopened briefly under a hybrid learning plan earlier this month before shutting down again due to COVID-19 concerns. The school is expected to remain closed next week, Johnson said.

The quick screening process, which is considered non-diagnostic, involves spitting into a tube, placing the tube in a bag and sanitizing the bag before returning it to a drop-off box at the high school, Johnson said.

While the screenings are voluntary, they will be required for any students planning to participate in athletic and in-person extra curricular activities, Johnson said.

Read more here. —Karen Ann Cullotta

4:31 p.m.: On the worst day of the pandemic, the US reported 75,687 new COVID-19 cases. The nation is almost there again.

July 16.

That day, arguably the worst of the pandemic in the United States to that point, set records nationwide. By the end of that 24-hour period, a staggering 75,687 new cases had been reported around the country, the highest count on a single day over the past seven months.

Now the nation is approaching that record once more.

Read more here. —The New York Times

4:14 p.m.: The price for not wearing masks: Perhaps 130,000 lives through next spring, scientists say

Universal mask use could prevent nearly 130,000 deaths from COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, in the United States through next spring, scientists reported Friday.

The findings follow an assertion by Dr. Scott Atlas, the president’s science adviser, that masks are ineffective, in a tweet later taken down by Twitter for spreading misinformation. On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance recommending mask use in public settings, including public transportation.

A surge of infections, driven in part by neglect of safety precautions, has begun to overwhelm hospitals in much of the nation. More than 75,000 new cases were reported in the United States on Thursday, the second-highest daily total nationwide since the pandemic began. Eight states set single-day case records.

Read more here. —The New York Times

3:39 p.m.: Pandemic fatigue could make cold-weather COVID spike worse. Want a better 2021? Resist risky holiday gatherings.

As people weigh the risks and rewards of getting together with family to celebrate the holidays, experts warn that without significant changes, Chicagoans could be in for a grim winter.

City residents who flocked outside Thursday afternoon to enjoy a warm, sunny day worried about the coming months and talked of scaled-down holiday dinners and traditions that will likely be impossible to follow this year.

“It just feels really bleak, looking ahead at a whole winter and thinking about the holidays,” Landon said. “It just feels really tough, and it is really tough — there’s no way to sugarcoat that.”

Landon and others use the term pandemic fatigue to refer to people tired of hearing and thinking about the dangers of COVID-19 and all the associated changes the virus has thrust on them. Fatigue has reached a point that even experts admit feeling a general malaise after months of hypervigilance.

Read more here. —Katherine Rosenberg-Douglas and Madeline Buckley

3:09 p.m.: Walgreens lowers age for COVID-19 testing to children 3 and older

Walgreens is expanding COVID-19 testing for children age 3 and older across its 36 testing sites in Illinois.

As of Friday, parents can schedule an appointment online for children to receive a nasal swab test. Parents need to provide electronic consent and must accompany any minor to Walgreens testing locations, where pharmacy workers will guide them on how to administer the test to the child.

Adolescents have the option to administer the test for themselves.

Patients can expect to receive results within 24 to 72 hours, depending on lab capacity, Walgreens said.

Previously, the Deerfield-based pharmacy retailer offered testing to people 18 and older.

The expansion is part of Walgreens' plan to ramp up its testing program and offer parents and guardians more options as school administrators continue to bring students back to classrooms.

Read more here. —Abdel Jimenez

3:06 p.m.: Supporters crowd New Lenox restaurant in defiance of governor’s COVID-19 restrictions

Vehicles in search of open spaces on Friday morning circled a crowded Laraway Road parking lot serving a shopping center that is home to Gina’s Teardrop Café in New Lenox.

Customers stood in line under an awning as a steady rain fell, waiting for seats to become available inside, where every table was packed with people.

New restrictions from Gov. J.B. Pritzker intended to slow the spread of COVID-19 took effect Friday. They prohibit indoor dining in Will County and other places where numbers of infections are rising.

The restrictions are designed to improve public health and safety by reducing crowds. But on Friday at Gina’s, they appeared to have the opposite effect. A throng of customers showed up.

“We’ve got to support our local businesses,” said Don Smith of New Lenox, who was dining at the counter. “They’re either going to open for business, or they’re going to close permanently.”

Read more here. —Ted Slowik

2:27 p.m.: ‘My students are struggling’: Joint pain, migraines, vision impairment and mental health are impacting student wellness during remote learning.

Remote learning has been a challenging adjustment for many students, teachers and parents since the COVID-19 pandemic started in March. But for students who are spending an inordinate amount of time in front of screens to learn, on top of managing the general anxieties that come with being an adolescent, overall wellness — whether mental, emotional or physical — has, in some cases, been negatively impacted.

According to a recent nationwide study on teacher and student wellness during the COVID-19 pandemic, 46% of teachers reported encountering student mental health concerns such as anxiety, depression, academic stress, trauma and grief more often than they did before the pandemic.

Teachers also noted their students' concerns for their external surroundings, such as food and housing insecurity, and fears that loved ones would be harmed or contract COVID-19, the study said. Physical issues from prolonged desk-sitting are also ailing some students.

Read more here. —Christen A. Johnson

2:01 p.m.: Chicago-area grocers stock up to ward off shortages as COVID-19 cases rise. ‘We’re always chasing one thing to the next.’

After being wiped clean of goods like toilet paper, canned food and hand sanitizer at the start of the pandemic, Chicago-area grocery stores and suppliers are stocking up to avert shortages as coronavirus cases rise in Illinois.

On Thursday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a 10 p.m. curfew on all nonessential city businesses and a prohibition on indoor service at bars without food licenses. Gov. J.B. Pritzker also announced stricter rules for some counties, including DuPage, Kane, Will and Kankakee.

Grocers and food suppliers are leaning on lessons learned from the spring to make sure they can meet demand from customers who may once again be preparing to hunker down at home.

If the virus doesn’t get under control, the city could see a second stay-at-home order, Lightfoot warned Thursday.

Read more here. —Katie Surma

1:16 p.m.: Illinois places half of the state’s 102 counties at ‘warning level’ for coronavirus resurgence

The Illinois health department placed half of the state’s 102 counties on a warning list for a resurgence of COVID-19 on Friday, as officials reported another 3,874 newly diagnosed cases statewide and 31 additional deaths.

The county warning list, which the state Department of Public Health issues weekly, includes Kane, McHenry and Will counties, which all came under stricter state regulations Friday aimed at slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The Illinois Department of Public Health uses a range of metrics to assess whether counties are placed at the warning level, including new cases per 100,000 people, weekly hospital admissions and emergency room visits and the number of deaths. If a county reaches two of the state-set metrics, it’s placed on the warning list.

Read more here. —Jamie Munks

12:04 p.m.: 3,874 new known COVID-19 cases and 31 additional deaths reported

Illinois health officials on Friday announced 3,874 new known cases of COVID-19 and 31 additional fatalities, bringing the total number of known infections in Illinois to 364,033 and the statewide death toll to 9,418 since the start of the pandemic. Officials also reported 82,256 new tests in the last 24 hours. The seven-day statewide positivity rate is 5.6%.

—Chicago Tribune staff

7:15 a.m.: Some suburban counties go back under coronavirus restrictions

DuPage, Will and Kane counties were scheduled Friday to go back under more stringent restrictions designed to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The rollback of reopening came after multiple days in a row of high COVID-19 test positivity rates, sparking concern from restaurant and business owners and pleading by public health and elected officials for residents to take precautions. The changes come a day after much of southern Illinois joined the northwestern part of the state under similar restrictions.

Beginning Friday, bars and restaurants in those counties will not be allowed to offer indoor service and gatherings will be capped at the lower of 25 people or 25% of room capacity instead of the 50 people that had been allowed, among other restrictions, Pritzker said at a press conference Tuesday.

The announcement comes as Pritzker and state health officials warned of increasing COVID-19 positivity rates and hospital admissions across the state. Justin Macariola-Coad, the interim chief medical officer at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, said Kane County and the surrounding area are likely experiencing the beginning of the second wave of COVID-19.

Chicago Tribune staff

6:54 a.m.: Some Will County restaurants say they will defy new COVID-19 restrictions: ‘We’re not on a fair playing field’

As restaurants in Will County face another round of COVID-19 restrictions shutting down indoor dining and bar service beginning Friday, some took to Facebook to tell customers their dining rooms would stay open.

Restaurants such as the Stagecoach in Lockport and JBD White Horse Inn in New Lenox both posted messages saying they planned to continue offering indoor dining. The restaurant owners said they were not making the decision out of spite, but out of necessity. They also said they follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on social distancing and mask wearing to provide a safe, clean environment for customers.

“Closing our doors is not an option,” a statement from JBD White Horse Inn read.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker Tuesday announced restrictions banning indoor dining and bar service in Will, Kankakee, DuPage and Kane counties as a result of increasing test positivity rates for COVID-19. Pritzker said Thursday he may use the Illinois State Police to issue citations for violators and that he would, if necessary, seek to revoke liquor and gaming licenses for noncompliant restaurants.

Read more here. —Alicia Fabbre, Daily Southtown

5 a.m.: 10-year-old boy survives severe inflammatory syndrome associated with COVID-19

First the otherwise healthy 10-year-old boy complained of a headache and no appetite, followed by a high fever that wouldn’t subside with pain relievers.

A few days later, the whites of his eyes turned an eerie shade of red and he became so weak he could no longer walk on his own.

About 2 a.m. April 28, an ambulance rushed Joshua Smith to University of Chicago Medicine’s Comer Children’s Hospital, where he would be diagnosed with a Kawasaki-like illness — an uncommon disease marked by a high fever and swelled blood vessels — that had recently surfaced in kids residing in COVID-19 hot spots in Europe and New York.

Joshua’s mother recalled praying for her son as she drove behind the ambulance, its flashing red and blue lights intermittently filling the darkness beyond her windshield. No clinician could immediately explain what had made Joshua grow so ill so quickly.

Read more here. —Angie Leventis Lourgos

5 a.m.: As temperatures drop and COVID-19 cases rise, gyms turn to virtual memberships

When the coronavirus pandemic forced gyms and fitness studios to close in March, the owners of indoor cycling studio Spynergy rented out bikes that would otherwise have sat idle, bought audio and video equipment and started figuring out how to teach online.

A camera sits among the bikes, and instructors talk to virtual participants they can see on a screen in addition to riders in the room, said Liza Ritter, who owns Spynergy’s Wicker Park studio. Her mother and aunt own the Winnetka location.

Spynergy’s virtual classes have helped supplement limited in-person capacity during the pandemic, but Ritter says she’s hoping to grow the online business even once those limits lift.

Read more here. —Lauren Zumbach

Breaking coronavirus news

Stay up to date with the latest information on coronavirus with our breaking news alerts.

In case you missed it

Here are five stories from Thursday related to COVID-19:



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