Coronavirus in Illinois updates: 1,373 new known COVID-19 cases and 5 more deaths reported; Chicago behind schedule on contact tracing program

Chicago News USA

Illinois health officials Monday announced 1,373 new known cases of COVID-19 and 5 additional fatalities, bringing the total number of known infections in Illinois to 262,744 and the statewide death toll to 8,314 since the start of the pandemic.

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Lightfoot first announced plans this spring to try and train hundreds of people to track the spread of the coronavirus and warn Chicagoans who’ve had contact with someone who’s carrying the disease, an effort officials have said is necessary in the city’s pandemic recovery efforts. The initiative, originally announced in May, was supposed to have hundreds of workers trained by now.

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

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6:35 p.m.: IHSA waives two-game limit for winter, spring and summer sports, but denies exemption to play high school and club or travel at same time

The Illinois High School Association tweaked its guidelines for returning to play at its regularly schedule board meeting Monday, clearing the way for expanded winter, spring and summer seasons but also creating a possible hurdle for spring and summer athletes.

The board waived restrictions for the 2020-21 season that would have limited winter, spring and summer sports to no more than two games per week. Those seasons will once again follow IHSA bylaws.

5:50 p.m.: Feds ‘commandeered’ COVID-19 testing supplies ordered by Loyola and Illinois State to detect virus on campus, Sen. Dick Durbin says

At least two Illinois colleges that ordered COVID-19 testing materials from the federal government didn’t receive the supplies because they were abruptly reallocated, curtailing the schools’ ability to provide in-person classes and maintain campus safety, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said at a news conference Monday.

Durbin said Loyola University Chicago and Illinois State University were expecting COVID-19 testing kits and equipment from the manufacturer Quidel this summer, but the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services redirected the materials to other entities under the Defense Production Act, a form of executive power.

“We’re not arguing the merits of where these tests were sent,” the Democratic senator from Illinois said. “Many were sent to nursing homes and that’s clearly a high priority. … But it really reflects the lack of planning ahead of time.”

In response to a Tribune inquiry, HHS did not address questions about the schools but provided details about its program to prioritize the country’s 14,000 nursing homes. HHS said it was working with Quidel and another vendor to deliver rapid antigen tests and equipment to nursing homes through September.

4:15 p.m.: 57% of Illinois voters approve of Pritzker’s handling of pandemic, poll finds

Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s handling of the pandemic, criticized by some Republicans and rural lawmakers and challenged by lawsuits, had the approval of 57% of Illinois voters at the end of August, according to a survey conducted by a consortium of universities that was released Monday.

The COVID-19 Consortium for Understanding the Public’s Policy Preferences Across States survey also showed Illinois voter approval of President Donald Trump’s handling the pandemic at 29.4%, a drop from nearly 40% in April, with 57% not approving.

Pritzker’s approval has declined from a high of 63% in late April, when the consortium began its polling. The governor’s approval rating was at 54% in early May, 52% in late May, 58% in late June, and back down again to 52% in late July.

A total of 29.4% of voters disapproved Pritzker’s handling of COVID-19 last month, the survey said.

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3:10 p.m.: Tribune writer Rick Kogan on when he almost died of COVID-19

The Tribune’s Rick Kogan had the unusual chance to read his own obituary, recently, following a harrowing hospitalization in the early days of COVID-19 in Chicago. Read more here.

2:12 p.m.: Wells Street Market will close, for keeps this time, on Friday

Wells Street Market, which reopened July 6 after weathering the first three months of the coronavirus shut down (and was the first Chicago food hall to resume service) announced it will close for keeps on Friday.

“From all of us at the Wells Street Market, it has been an honor and a joy to serve Chicagoans every day,” the company said in a release. The food hall made its debut, at 205 W. Wacker Drive, in June 2018.

In its final week, the food hall’s Grand Central Bar will be open noon-7 p.m., offering drink specials and wholesale deals on unopened liquor bottles. On Friday, the last day, Fry the Coop will treat guests to a free sandwich, fries and soft drink. More details can be found at wsmchicago.com.

Wells Street Market held out some hope of a return, in some way, at some point, saying, “We hope to one day bring back the excitement that was first created when we opened our doors.”

The food hall was one of several to open in Chicago in recent years, part of a mini boom in that format. Only one other food hall has reopened since the March pandemic shutdown, Time Out Market, which opened in August.

—Phil Vettel

1:46 p.m.: Chicago behind schedule on contact tracing program as Lightfoot announces plan to work with community groups to hire workers

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday announced the city would work with 31 community organizations to hire individuals for an expanded contact tracing program, though the city is far behind the goals Lightfoot laid out when she initially unveiled her plan nearly four months ago.

Lightfoot first announced plans this spring to try and train hundreds of people to track the spread of the coronavirus and warn Chicagoans who’ve had contact with someone who’s carrying the disease, an effort officials have said is necessary in the city’s pandemic recovery efforts. The initiative, originally announced in May, was supposed to have hundreds of workers trained by now.

Under the initial plan, hiring of the tracers would be phased, with 150 in place by Aug. 1, and the other 300 hired by Sept. 15, according to the city’s bid document.

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But on Monday, officials said the city and its partners have about 150 conditional offers of employment out.

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12:09 p.m.: 1,373 new known cases and 5 more deaths reported

Illinois health officials Monday announced 1,373 new known cases of COVID-19 and 5 additional fatalities, bringing the total number of known infections in Illinois to 262,744 and the statewide death toll to 8,314 since the start of the pandemic.

—Chicago Tribune staff

10:30 a.m.: Some northwest suburban parents are calling for District 214 high schools to reopen for in-person instruction

Township High School District 214 school board members heard in person from more than 20 speakers during the public comment portion of the recent board meeting, with nearly all of the speakers urging a quick and complete return to in-person schooling for the district’s 12,000 students.

“Open schools tomorrow,” was the message from parent Tony Roselli, who told board members he represented Re-Open D214, a private group on Facebook with, he said, about 750 members.

He also called on district leaders to form a subcommittee composed of parents to work with administrators “to bring kids back safely.”

Randi Carlson, whose son attends Hersey High School in Arlington Heights, criticized the district’s choice of COVID-19 metrics as too conservative. She recommended the district use data from the eight towns within District 214 boundaries.

9:54 a.m.: The bubble athlete. The beer vendor. The cheerleader. The tailgaters. A snapshot of life in sports during 6 months of COVID-19.

When the NBA suspended its season March 11, it created a ripple effect that quickly shut down the rest of the sports world, perhaps the first clear hint in the U.S. that the coronavirus was about to upend nearly every way of life.

America never fully grasped control of the pandemic, and six months later it remains unchecked in many parts of the country. Yet sports are nearly back in full swing, offering at once a sense of comfort and familiarity while representing a clear picture of how life has been altered as we knew it.

The stands are empty, athletes are separated from their families in bubbles or traveling around the country in isolation, no beer vendors are needed and the NFL season began without tailgating while some college conferences opened their seasons while most others postponed theirs with safety in mind.

Here are 10 snapshots of life in sports during the pandemic.

6:45 a.m.: Officials to announce Chicago contact tracing and resources hub

Mayor Lori Lightfoot was scheduled to announce Monday the details of a city contact tracing program alongside health officials and the head of a state- and locally funded organization that works to place unemployed people in jobs.

Lightfoot, Chicago Health Commissioner Dr Allison Arwady and Karin Norington-Reaves, the head of the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, were expected to announce details of the contact tracing program at the nonprofit’s West Side headquarters.

In July, the organization and the city announced the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership was to be the recipient of a $56 million grant to create 600 contact-tracing jobs. The program was to be created in cooperation with the University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Public Health, NORC at the University of Chicago, Malcolm X College and Sinai Urban Health Institute, according to a release at the time.

Check back for updates. —Chicago Tribune staff

6:30 a.m.: City fund for small business, nonprofit grants opens for applications

A city fund that will award grants of up to $250,000 to small businesses and nonprofit groups was set to open its application process Monday, according to the city.

The Chicago Neighborhood Opportunity Fund application process was scheduled to open applications Monday, according to a news release from the mayor’s office. The application process runs through November.

The program, started in 2016, puts “zoning fees from downtown construction projects toward commercial corridor improvement projects on the West, Southwest, and South Sides,” according to the city. “Grants may be applied toward costs including building rehabilitation, new construction, design, site acquisition and preparation, technical services, local hiring subsidies, and other expenses.”

The city’s Planning Department was scheduled to hold two online information sessions, one in English on Tuesday and one in Spanish on Friday, according to the city.

Chicago Tribune staff

5 a.m.: Pritzker, Ezike and Arwady talk about the COVID-19 pandemic at 6 months, and look ahead to what might be next

Six months after he first issued a disaster proclamation tied to the coronavirus pandemic, followed quickly by a stay-at-home order that shut down businesses and kept people inside for months, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he wouldn’t hesitate to act in similar fashion if COVID-19 cases bloom exponentially this fall.

“We were the second state in the United States by a few hours, I think, to put a stay-at-home order in and if we needed to do that, the answer is, it worked,” Pritzker told the Tribune in an interview earlier this month about the state’s response to the pandemic at its six-month mark. “It works, and so if we had to do that, and again we’re not there, but if we had to do that, I would not hesitate.”

Since the public health crisis began, more than a quarter-million Illinois residents have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and the virus has been connected to more than 8,200 deaths, according to state-reported totals as of Friday. Illinois’ economy has suffered deep wounds: Businesses have struggled and shuttered, and so many people filed for unemployment benefits that the demand crippled the state’s filing system.

Looking back, the first-term Democratic governor remains angry over the federal government’s response to the pandemic, while the top state and city of Chicago public health officials say they were surprised early on that there was so much pushback on measures such as mandates to wear masks in public.

Looking forward, those same health officials are worried about how the seasonal flu could further complicate the ongoing pandemic.

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