Coronavirus in Illinois updates: For first time in more than 2 months, over 2,000 new COVID-19 cases reported; Gov. Pritzker announces new emergency rules for mask requirements

Chicago News USA

Public health officials said Friday 2,084 new cases were logged during the last 24-hour period, and another 21 people with COVID-19 had died. The last time the newly confirmed case number surpassed 2,000 was May 24, when the state reported 2,508 cases. Officials also placed 13 of the state’s 102 counties at coronavirus “warning level.”

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Businesses that don’t comply will be given a written notice warning. If they don’t voluntarily comply, businesses will then be given an order for patrons to leave the property “as needed to comply with public health guidance and reduce risks,” Pritzker’s office said. If businesses still do not comply, they can receive a class A misdemeanor, subject to a fine of $75 to $2,500.

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

6:37 p.m.: CPS delays release of remote learning plan but CEO promises more live instruction and accountability

Chicago Public Schools on Friday delayed the release of its plan for remote learning in the fall, days after the district announced it would start the new school year virtually rather than with the hybrid reopening model it first proposed.

The district now plans to issue its final reopening framework “in the days ahead,” according to an email to families Friday.

“We believe an improved remote learning model that engages students for the full school day is the right way to begin the new school year based on both the evolving public health situation and feedback from our families,” CPS CEO Janice Jackson and Chief Education Officer LaTanya McDade said in the email. “… We are taking additional time to work with school leaders and labor partners to ensure the plan we finalize for the new school year is thorough and thoughtful, and we will be sharing those guidelines as soon as they are ready.”

6:27 p.m.: While CPS pivots to remote learning, Catholic schools in Chicago and suburbs stand by plans to reopen fully as teachers and parents fret

While Chicago Public Schools has pivoted to a remote learning start for fall, area Catholic schools are moving ahead with plans for a full return to in-person classes five days a week.

Even as city and state officials struggle to contain the spread of COVID-19 and warned in recent days about the upward direction of infection numbers, the Archdiocese of Chicago reiterated its plans to reopen schools later this month. The decision has upset some parents, who are worried and dissatisfied with remote learning alternatives for those who opt out, and some teachers, one of whom is leaving the job rather than return to the classroom.

The Chicago Archdiocesan school system — which educates more than 70,000 students in Cook and Lake counties, a fraction of the size of CPS spread out over a much larger geographic area —announced reopening plans in early July, calling for a full return to in-person learning, paired with proper safety measures. The dioceses of Joliet and Rockford have unveiled similar plans.

5:45 p.m. (update): Cubs-Cardinals series in St. Louis will be postponed after another positive COVID-19 test

The Chicago Cubs’ three-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium will be postponed, sources said.

Another positive COVID-19 test from a Cardinals player led to the postponement of the first series between the longtime rivals. Friday’s game was postponed to “allow for additional testing and to complete the contact tracing process,” the league said in a statement.

The Cubs were preparing to fly home to Chicago for four off days before their next scheduled game on Tuesday in Cleveland.

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4:55 p.m.: Inside Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Chicago Public Schools’ fall pivot

In the days and hours before she gave up on in-school learning at Chicago Public Schools this fall, Mayor Lori Lightfoot was getting squeezed from the outside and the inside.

Coronavirus cases continued their seemingly implacable rise despite her constant entreaties to residents to wear masks and follow social distancing rules.

Her political nemeses in the Chicago Teachers Union repeatedly accused Lightfoot of putting students and teachers at risk, even as the rumblings about an impending strike vote grew louder.

Within her administration, CPS CEO Dr. Janice Jackson desperately was trying to maintain some kind of face-to-face instruction. Thousands of disadvantaged Chicago children count on schools for education, but also for safety, encouragement, structure, meals and “a lot of other things some people take for granted,” Jackson said as the district opted out of having students in classrooms to start the new academic year.

Meanwhile, the city’s coronavirus point person planted her flag publicly on the idea that the hybrid model with kids going in to school two days per week could work despite rising case counts. Public health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady told reporters that “with the appropriate procedures in place, I honestly do not think the risk of spread is significant” inside schools if the virus is under control.

And Lightfoot herself was eager to show Chicago could reopen the right way even as other big cities across the U.S. struggled not to get overwhelmed by the disease.

In the end, with many school districts locally and nationally opting to keep their students at home, Lightfoot said she was “guided by the science” and shelved until at least November the hybrid model that would have sent kids to school two days per week.

4:23 p.m.: 2 dead at Marion federal prison during COVID-19 surge despite restrictive conditions, say inmates and family members

A second coronavirus-related death following a weekend surge of positive COVID-19 cases at the Marion federal prison has inmates with medical conditions worried about their health in a prison that is not allowing them to distance, family members and inmates told the Tribune.

The Bureau of Prisons, which was reporting 72 positive cases July 31 at Marion in southern Illinois, reported 133 positive cases Monday. On Tuesday, the number went down to 88, with 49 inmates reported recovered, and then to 84, including four prison employees, on Friday. The number of positives reported fluctuates based on new cases being added and resolved cases being removed, federal prisons spokesperson Emery Nelson said in an email.

Federal officials announced Monday that one inmate at Marion had died after testing positive for the coronavirus. Late Wednesday, the mother of a second prisoner who had been hospitalized because of COVID-19 told the Tribune he had died. After the man was listed in the Bureau of Prisons inmate directory as having died Wednesday, officials confirmed late Thursday the man, Taiwan Davis, had died after testing positive for the coronavirus.

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Experts who have been studying rates of COVID-19 in prisons say the infection rate, death rate and growth rate are significantly higher in prison than in the general population. Between April and June, the mean daily case growth rate was 8.3% in prisons. In the general population, it was less than half that, according to one study. The age-adjusted rate for COVID-19-related deaths was three times the rate in the general population.

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Three inmates the Tribune communicated with complained this week about other decisions the prison administration has made in recent weeks, such as banning the use of phones and email, using isolation rooms for inmates needing to quarantine, and, for several days, keeping those who tested positive all together in a recreation room. Thursday, phones were turned back on, according to inmates.

And although low-security inmates typically are able to go outside for most of the day, the prison administration has stopped allowing this for weeks.

“What really worries everybody is now that we have (COVID-19 in the prison), once you get it again, it’s going to get worse,” if someone has it and then develops symptoms a second time, said an inmate.

4:07 p.m.: Cook County to provide $20 million in CARES Act money to rental aid for suburban households, but Preckwinkle stresses additional federal funds needed

Cook County government will give out $20 million in federal CARES Act funds to suburban residents struggling to pay rent during the coronavirus pandemic, officials announced Friday while emphasizing the need for a slow-moving Congress to advance a second stimulus package.

Households earning under 80% of the area median income, about $72,000 for a family of four, can apply for grants that will cover overdue or future rent, Rich Monocchio, executive director of the Housing Authority of Cook County, said at a news conference in Oak Park. Up to $4,500 is available per household to pay between one to three months of rent.

”When this pandemic ravaged Cook County and so many working families experienced hardship, we knew that we had to do more,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said. “The need remains critical and urgent.”

Suburban residents can apply at www.cookcountyil.gov/recovery from Aug. 10 to 18. The program is only available to suburban Cook County residents.

Because officials anticipate the demand will exceed their available funds, applicants will be randomly chosen before awards go out to landlords, Monocchio said.

One-quarter of the $20 million will go to places bearing the brunt of the economic devastation from the coronavirus pandemic. Monocchio estimates the maximum number of households benefiting from the program will be about 7,000.

”It only stands to reason that during a period like this, the county would have a program that helps the most vulnerable renters stay in their homes and weather out this pandemic,” Monocchio said.

Updated 3:45 p.m.: Last-ditch coronavirus relief talks collapse in Washington, no new aid for jobless

A last-ditch effort by Democrats to revive collapsing Capitol Hill talks on vital COVID-19 rescue money ended in disappointment on Friday, making it increasingly likely that Washington gridlock will mean more hardship for millions of people who are losing enhanced jobless benefits and further damage for an economy pummeled by the still-raging coronavirus.

“It was a disappointing meeting,” declared top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer, saying the White House had rejected an offer by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to curb Democratic demands by about $1 trillion. He urged the White House to “negotiate with Democrats and meet us in the middle. Don’t say it’s your way or no way.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said, “Unfortunately we did not make any progress today.”

With the collapse of the talks, he said President Donald Trump was now likely to issue executive orders on home evictions and on student loan debt.

2:05 p.m.: The Paycheck Protection Program ends Saturday, and many small businesses are ‘looking for a Round Two’

Small businesses are in limbo again as the coronavirus outbreak rages and the government’s $659 billion relief program draws to a close.

Companies still struggling with sharply reduced revenue are wondering if Congress will give them a second chance at the Paycheck Protection Program, which ends Saturday after giving out 5.1 million loans worth $523 billion. While the program that began April 3 has gotten mixed reviews, business owners still need help as the virus continues to spread and hamstring the economy.

“They’ve exhausted their funds and are looking for a Round Two,” says Molly Day, a spokeswoman for the National Small Business Association, an advocacy group.

1:12 p.m.: 13 Illinois counties now at COVID-19 ‘warning level’

The Illinois Department of Public Health placed 13 of the state’s 102 counties at coronavirus “warning level” on Friday, meaning at least two key metrics signal a resurgence of highly contagious COVID-19.

Some of the 13 counties were on the department’s warning list a week earlier, while others were new additions.

Cass, Jackson, Perry, Saline and St. Clair counties all made the warning list for two weeks in a row.

In addition, Coles, Grundy, Iroquois, Monroe, Tazewell, Union, Williamson and Winnebago are considered at warning level.

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Other counties that were on the list last week, when 11 counties were warned, were taken off the list. Those counties are Jo Daviess, Sangamon, Gallatin, Johnson, Randolph and White.

According to the state Department of Public Health, cases and outbreaks in these areas have been traced to businesses, long-term care facilities, large social gatherings and out-of-state travel.

The state is monitoring a range of metrics to determine whether there’s a coronavirus resurgence in a given community, including deaths, hospital admissions, new cases per 100,000 people, weekly test positivity and ICU availability.

—Jamie Munks

12:28 p.m.: Tonight’s Cubs-Cardinals game in St. Louis is postponed after another positive COVID-19 test for the Cardinals

The opener of the Chicago Cubs’ three-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium Friday has been postponed.

Another positive COVID-19 test from the Cardinals clubhouse led to the postponement, MLB announced. The game was postponed to “allow for additional testing and to complete the contact tracing process,” the league said in a statement.

12:04 p.m.: 2,084 new known COVID-19 cases reported, the highest number in more than two months

For the first time in more than two months, the statewide count of newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 surpassed 2,000 in Illinois.

Public health officials said Friday 2,084 new cases of coronavirus were logged during the last 24-hour period, and another 21 people with COVID-19 had died.

The last time the newly confirmed case number surpassed 2,000 was May 24, when the state reported 2,508 cases during a 24-hour period.

The new daily tally brings the statewide count of known cases to 190,508. There have been 7,613 deaths of people with COVID-19 in Illinois since the pandemic began earlier this year.

The state reported nearly 2,000 cases on Thursday, when there were 1,953 cases, as the state continues to see consistently higher case numbers than it did through much of June and early July. The seven-day statewide average positivity rate is 4.1%. The rate was 2.5% on July 7.

The state remains in the fourth phase of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s reopening plan, but Pritzker has repeatedly warned that in regions where there is a resurgence in COVID-19, as evidenced by a range of public health metrics, stricter rules meant to slow the spread could be reimposed.

—Jamie Munks

11:29 a.m.: Postal Service loses $2.2 billion in 3 months as coronavirus woes persist

The U.S. Postal Service says it lost $2.2 billion in the three months that ended in June as the beleaguered agency — hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic — piles up financial losses that officials warn could top $20 billion over two years.

“Our financial position is dire, stemming from substantial declines in mail volume, a broken business model and a management strategy that has not adequately addressed these issues,’’ Louis DeJoy, the new postmaster general, said Friday in his first public remarks since taking the job in June.

“Without dramatic change, there is no end in sight,’’ DeJoy told the postal board of governors at a meeting Friday.

9:43 a.m.: Gov. Pritzker issues rule to penalize businesses that don’t enforce mask requirements with fines up to $2,500

Gov. J.B. Pritzker, declaring Illinois is at a “make or break” moment in fighting the coronavirus pandemic, issued new emergency rules to require businesses and schools to enforce his mandatory face mask rules or face the prospect of being fined.

Pritzker said individuals are not subject to penalties for not complying with the mask mandate.

Businesses that don’t comply with the mask mandate will be given a written notice warning. If they don’t voluntarily comply, businesses will then be given an order for patrons to leave the property “as needed to comply with public health guidance and reduce risks,” Pritzker’s office said.

If businesses still do not comply, they can receive a class A misdemeanor, subject to a fine of $75 to $2,500.

Pritzker issued a mask mandate May 1 for most people in most public settings, but enforcement has been an issue.

8:47 a.m.: Drug and alcohol use has spiked during pandemic, prompting Chicago’s recovery community to find new ways to reach out

The pandemic has proven to be a difficult time for addicts. With persisting unemployment rates and surging reports of anxiety and depression nationwide, alcohol consumption and opioid use have skyrocketed among users who have found themselves stuck inside day after day.

But support is still available. Over the past few months, recovery groups and treatment centers throughout the Chicago area have learned to adapt their services to the shifting restrictions of the pandemic.

Katie Minarcik, a manager at the Chicago service office of Alcoholics Anonymous, said about 100 socially distanced in-person AA meetings have gradually returned to the Cook County area.

The vast majority of members from their more than 2,900 weekly meetings, though, have adjusted to convening virtually by Zoom or phone call.

8:37 a.m.: Chicago Urban League to hand out $100,000 to Black-owned businesses after Ford Fund grant

The Chicago Urban League plans to provide $100,000 to Black small business owners through the Emergency Capital Access Program, a new initiative that plans to help companies through small grants, technical assistance and advisory services.

The program, announced Thursday, was launched in partnership with Ford Motor Company’s Ford Fund, which planned to provide grants of about $2,000 to $5,000 to about 20 Black-owned small businesses, according to a news release. Company owners can apply to the program through the league’s COVID-19 Community Help Center website beginning Aug. 17.

Chicago Urban League President and CEO Karen Freeman-Wilson said in the release the new initiative will “help us make a difference for more local, Black-owned businesses and the communities they serve.”

”Over the past few months, our Help Center has worked with hundreds of small business owners to assist them in recovering from interruption caused by the pandemic, and the need is still great,” Freeman-Wilson said.

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Funding priority would be given to businesses located in areas with greater than 25% Black residency, and qualified applicants would be required to “participate in non-grant counseling services to access short-term needs,” the release said.

Chicago was one of six National Urban League affiliates to receive $100,000 from Ford for the program. Ford created the initiative to “provide a stabilizing influence” for communities hard hit by COVID-19.”

Small businesses are a cornerstone of the African American community and play a vital role in their economic success,” Pamela Alexander, Ford’s director of community development, said in the release. “The impact of the COVID pandemic has created economic uncertainty that necessitates immediate action. Our long-term partnership with the National Urban League allows us to quickly mobilize an initiative such as the Emergency Capital Access Program to get immediate assistance to those businesses in need.”

—Kelli Smith

6:30 a.m.: Gov. Pritzker to announce new COVID-19 guidelines

Gov. J.B. Pritkzer and “industry leaders” were scheduled to announce new guidelines Friday morning “to help prevent the spread of COVID-19,” according to the governor’s office.

Details of the new policies were expected to be released at a morning news conference.

Check back for updates.

—Chicago Tribune staff

6:15 a.m.: Some lakefront restaurants reopening Friday

Beachside establishments must adhere to the same COVID-19 safety guidelines that pertain to other businesses and restaurants in the city. The Park District is working with each concession on its health and safety plans and owners can open as early as this week, with some allowed to open as early as Thursday, according to the Park District.

Chicago beaches are still closed.

—Chicago Tribune staff

6:15 a.m.: Preckwinkle to announce new coronavirus-related rental assistance program

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle was set to announce Friday a new rental assistance program for people who live suburban Cook County who are “experiencing financial insecurity” because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Preckwinkle’s office.

Preckwinkle and other county elected officials were scheduled to join county housing and economic development officials at an announcement late Friday morning in Oak Park regarding the program.

Check back for updates.

—Chicago Tribune staff

5 a.m.: ‘Kids do best when they know what’s coming’: How parents can navigate back-to-school anxiety, whether students are in class or learning remotely

The decision of how children will learn this fall is stressful for parents, who have been under enormous stress already — with many trying to work and simultaneously help teach children at home in the spring, and reckoning with an extended period of COVID-19 restrictions.

Now, they must anticipate what school will look like in the fall.

5 a.m.: Internet slowing down as mom works, kids learn? Here’s how to speed it up.

Nothing kills work-from-home motivation like slow internet. It’s an issue some in the Chicago area are facing for the first time as the COVID-19 pandemic sent them out of the office and into remote workspaces at home.

With the recent announcement of all-remote learning for students in Chicago Public Schools this fall, and many other districts opting for some degree of e-learning, a torrent of video calls and downloads from multiple family members could test the mettle of even the hardiest internet connections. And for families with limited income, it can seem like high-speed internet is out of reach financially.

For Chicagoans looking for ways to improve their connection or get their homes hooked up for the first time, here’s some advice.

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