Coronavirus in Illinois updates: 8,922 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases and 140 more fatalities reported as state passes grim milestone of 11,000 deaths

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Illinois’ COVID-19 death toll topped 11,000 on Wednesday, already meeting a projection the state’s top public health official recently gave for the entire year.

Officials reported 140 additional deaths of people with COVID-19, raising the state-reported death toll to 11,014 over the course of the pandemic.


Officials also reported 8,922 newly diagnosed and probable coronavirus cases, the first time the daily statewide case tally has dipped below 10,000 since Nov. 5. That sent the statewide known and probable case count past 600,000, with 606,771 cases reported throughout the course of the pandemic.


Just ahead of the busiest shopping season of the year, retailers will be under a 25% capacity limit, down from the current 50%. A 50% capacity limit will remain for grocery stores, but big-box chains such as Walmart and Target that include groceries will be subject to the lower limit.

“This is not a stay-at-home order,” he said. “But the best way for us to avoid a stay-at-home order is to stay home.”

The new measures do not affect schools, and decisions will continue to be left up to local districts. Chicago Public Schools Tuesday announced that it will continue to provide classes through remote learning until after the winter break, but then plans to begin bringing students back on Jan. 11.

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

5:51 p.m.: COVID-19 now third leading cause of death in Illinois, officials say, as toll surpasses 11,000

Illinois’ COVID-19 death toll since the pandemic began topped 11,000 on Wednesday, and the disease is now the third-leading cause of death in the state, behind heart disease and cancer, according to state public health officials.

The 140 additional deaths of people with COVID-19 reported Wednesday pushed the total to 11,014, already meeting a projection state public health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike gave in late October when she said the state was “on a path to see more than 11,000 COVID deaths in Illinois this year.” Read more here. — Jamie Munks and Dan Petrella

4:36 p.m.: A surge in COVID-19 cases has Chicago retailers facing new restrictions, just as holiday shopping season hits

Retailers were starting to see shoppers return to stores this fall. Now, a surge in COVID-19 cases has brought new restrictions, just as Chicago-area stores were gearing up for the busiest shopping season of the year.

Starting Friday, Illinois retailers and malls will be limited to 25% of their usual capacity, down from 50%. Grocery stores and pharmacies will be able to operate at half capacity, but big box chains selling some grocery and pharmacy items will also face the tighter limits.

The changes follow stay-at-home advisories announced last week in Chicago and Cook County urging residents to voluntarily remain home as much as possible, which some small business owners worry could become mandatory. Read more here. — Lauren Zumbach and Robert Channick

4:30 p.m.: Warren Township High School District officials skeptical in-person classes will resume Jan. 5; ‘We want to follow the data as it is’

With COVID-19 cases on the rise throughout Illinois, and Gov. J.B. Pritzker announcing the state will be moving back to its Tier 3 mitigation plan, Warren Township High School District 121 still tentatively plans to welcome students back for in-person classes for the second semester on Jan. 5.


However, Superintendent John Ahlgrim and members of the Board of Education suggested this week that chances of that happening are highly unlikely.

”There’s a lot of districts that have already announced that they’re not even going to attempt the two weeks after winter break, just with traveling and then having to quarantine upon return,” board member Tony DeMonte said at the virtually held regular board meeting on Tuesday. “Is (Jan. 5) even realistic? Or is it two weeks from there that’s the more realistic date?”

The meeting was held the same day that Pritzker announced the new mitigation plan, which limits the amount of people that can be in retail spaces, health and fitness centers, offices, bars and restaurants. Read the full story. — Erin Yarnall, Lake County News-Sun

4:27 p.m.: Aurora surpasses 10,000 COVID-19 cases, 150 deaths

Aurora this week surpassed 10,000 cases of COVID-19 and 150 related deaths since the pandemic started, new city data shows.

In the wake of those rising numbers, Mayor Richard Irvin made an emotional plea Tuesday night for residents to take the virus seriously. Read more here. — Steve Lord and Sarah Freishtat, Aurora Beacon-News

3:18 p.m.: Overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases, hospitals start converting chapels, cafeterias, parking garages: ‘We’re in trouble’

Overwhelmed hospitals are converting chapels, cafeterias, waiting rooms, hallways, even a parking garage into patient treatment areas. Staff members are desperately calling around to other medical centers in search of open beds. Fatigue and frustration are setting in among front-line workers.

Conditions inside the nation’s hospitals are deteriorating by the day as the coronavirus rages across the U.S. at an unrelenting pace.

“We are depressed, disheartened and tired to the bone,” said Alison Johnson, director of critical care at Johnson City Medical Center in Tennessee, adding that she drives to and from work some days in tears.


The number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 in the U.S. has doubled in the past month and set new records every day this week. As of Tuesday, more than 76,000 were hospitalized with the virus.


1:30 p.m.: Mental health issues more likely to affect communities of color during the holidays: ‘This is the time where people can bottom out’

Public stressors created by the pandemic often worsen for people in the communities most impacted, said Dr. Aderonke Bamgbose Pederson, instructor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Data has shown that people of color for example are more likely to get the coronavirus.

“When we look at this year, racial trauma is a compound stressor,” she said. “You have multiple different stressors in terms of the pandemic that disproportionately affects these communities already at greater risk.”

Multigenerational family households are also more common in Black and Hispanic communities, she said. The pandemic adds pressure in families with members at high risk, creating different levels of burden.

1:15 p.m.: Mayor Lori Lightfoot to launch new COVID-19 testing site at Midway Airport

Mayor Lori Lightfoot will launch a new COVID-19 testing site at Midway Airport as part of the city’s effort to fight the ongoing surge of coronavirus cases.

The city also will be moving a testing site at Dr. Jorge Prieto Math and Science Academy on the Northwest Side to Charles A. Prosser Career Academy. Lightfoot also will work with Curative, a testing company, to provide materials to make it easier to do testing during cold weather.

The city’s current 7-day rolling average is 2,351, up from 1,853 a week ago. The number of tests administered has gone up to 16,259 from a 7-day rolling average of 14,795.

The city has awarded $14 million in grants to community groups to expand testing and contact tracing, and the city has provided 40,000 rapid tests to community health centers, officials said.

Lightfoot’s testing site at Midway will be open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon to 6 p.m., and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., officials said. Other testing sites will remain open at Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy and Gately Park.

“Chicago is setting new testing records every day and it is our highest priority to ensure that testing remains equitably accessible and available to Chicago’s most vulnerable residents,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “We will continue to work with partners and direct resources to the communities who have been hit the hardest by this pandemic.”

—Gregory Pratt

1:13 p.m.: Illinois surpasses 11,000 COVID-19 deaths as officials report another 140 fatalities and 8,922 newly confirmed and probable cases

Illinois’ COVID-19 death toll topped 11,000 on Wednesday, already meeting a projection the state’s top public health official recently gave for the entire year.

Officials reported 140 additional deaths of people with COVID-19, raising the state-reported death toll to 11,014 over the course of the pandemic.

On Oct. 26, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said the state was “on a path to see more than 11,000 COVID deaths in Illinois this year.”

Officials also reported 8,922 newly diagnosed and probable coronavirus cases, the first time the daily statewide case tally has dipped below 10,000 since Nov. 5. That sent the statewide known and probable case count past 600,000, with 606,771 cases reported throughout the course of the pandemic.

The new and probable cases reported Wednesday come from a batch of 103,569 tests. The seven-day statewide positivity rate for cases as a share of total tests was 11.9% for the period ending Tuesday, a slight decline from a day earlier.

The state public health department reported a 12.5% positivity rate on both Monday and Tuesday. The rate surpassed 13% late week after climbing steadily for weeks. A month ago, the statewide positivity rate for cases was 5.3%, and it was 8% as of Nov. 1.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 continues to rise. As of Tuesday night, 5,953 people across the state were in the hospital with the illness, with 1,146 in intensive care units and 547 on ventilators.

—Jamie Munks

11:17 a.m.: Naperville council tells city staff to draft rules making face masks mandatory

A citywide face mask mandate could be in the hands of the Naperville City Council for review as soon as Dec. 1.

Mayor Steve Chirico on Tuesday asked the council if they would consider requiring masks as a means of tamping down the rising number of coronavirus cases.

Council members directed City Attorney Michael DiSanto to gather documentation to be presented at the Dec. 1 meeting on regulations that could be drafted requiring all residents and visitors in Naperville to wear a mask in public.

Chirico said local COVID-19 numbers are staggering, and if face-covering regulations will help reduce it, he’s all for it.

8:33 a.m.: Not again: Toilet paper limits, empty shelves return as COVID-19 surges

Looking for toilet paper? Good luck.

A surge of new coronavirus cases in the U.S. is sending people back to stores to stockpile again, leaving shelves bare and forcing retailers to put limits on purchases.

Walmart said Tuesday it’s having trouble keeping up with demand for cleaning supplies in some stores. Supermarket chains Kroger and Publix are limiting how much toilet paper and paper towels shoppers can buy after demand spiked recently. And Amazon is sold out of most disinfectant wipes and paper towels.

6:54 a.m.: Chicago holds online classes to remind businesses, workers about job protections for those with COVID-19

Chicago’s Office of Labor Standards was set to hold online classes Wednesday and Thursday about job protections for people who stay home from work because of having COVID-19, according to the mayor’s office.

The city’s Anti-Retaliation Ordinance and coronavirus-related public health orders, city residents are required to stay home from work if they have COVID-19 or symptoms of the disease, according to a news release. Employers are barred from “firing, demoting or retaliating in any way against” a worker for being absent from work because of having the coronavirus.

Wednesday and Thursday’s online classes will explain employers’ responsibilities and workers’ rights under the city’s regulations. The classes are being offered in Spanish and English, and are set for 10 a.m. Wednesday and 2 p.m. Thursday.


—Chicago Tribune staff

6 a.m.: Pfizer says its COVID-19 vaccine 95% effective, will seek approval for emergency use from FDA

Pfizer says that more interim results from its ongoing coronavirus vaccine study suggest the shots are 95% effective and that the vaccine protects older people most at risk of dying from COVID-19.

The announcement, just a week after Pfizer first revealed promising preliminary results, comes as the company is preparing within days to formally ask U.S. regulators to allow emergency use of the vaccine.

Pfizer initially had estimated its vaccine, developed with German partner BioNTech, was more than 90% effective after 94 infections had been counted. With Wednesday’s announcement, the company now has accumulated 170 infections in the study — and said only eight of them occurred in volunteers who got the actual vaccine rather than a dummy shot. One of those eight developed severe disease, the company said.

The company has not yet released detailed data on its study, and results have not been analyzed by independent experts.

In 2019, a Chicago producer and live-event specialist named Denise McGowan Tracy staged a self-authored holiday show at the Greenhouse Theater Center. The kid-centered production, “Eleanor’s Merry Christmas Wish — The Musical,” played in a theater seating 175 people. It struggled to compete with many other long-established holiday shows in Chicago. The holiday season traditionally is very lucrative but it’s also highly competitive.

For this year, “Eleanor” has returned and expanded her reach. Big time.

She is also on the 2020 holiday docket at the McCain Auditorium in Manhattan, Kan., the Mother Lode Theatre in Butte, Mont., the Appell Center in York, Penn., the Weill Center in Sheboygan, Wisc., and many other locales from Texas to Maine.

How is this possible? Are Eleanor and her friends hitting the road? No. What McGowan Tracy has done is to take a filmed version of last year’s show — recorded at the Greenhouse Theater Center — and created an online package to sell this year. The idea is that product-starved arts centers can then offer their subscribers this holiday attraction as, in essence, one of their own creations. It’s a win-win-win in that McGowan Tracy gets to sell her show all across the country, the pandemic-stricken arts centers get a cut of the box office without incurring many expenses, and the actors and crew get paid all over again just when they need the cash.

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