Coronavirus live blog, Nov. 17: Nightly COVID-19 hospitalizations topped 5,000 for a full week as 12,601 new cases are reported Tuesday

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Calling it a crucial step to avoid a statewide stay-at-home order, Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday announced a coronavirus crackdown for all of Illinois that includes closure of museums and casinos and capacity limits on major retail stores.

There’s a lot happening in coronavirus-related news. Find out more below.


News

8:55 p.m. 12,601 more Illinois coronavirus cases, 97 more deaths

A test site worker handles test samples from residents in vehicles at the COVID-19 testing site at Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy at 2850 W 24th Blvd in Little Village, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Public health officials on Tuesday announced 12,601 more coronavirus cases have been identified across Illinois as a massive Midwest resurgence sends unprecedented numbers of COVID-19 patients into hospitals statewide.

The latest cases were detected among 94,205 tests submitted to the Illinois Department of Public Health, keeping the seven-day average testing positivity rate at 12.5%.

But more than 300 more hospital beds were taken up by coronavirus patients by Monday night compared to the previous night, reaching yet another record high of 5,887.

Nightly COVID-19 hospitalizations have now topped 5,000 for a full week. The state passed that mark on only one night during the first wave of the pandemic in May.

Other critical hospital metrics have been getting worse by the day for a full month, too, with 1,158 patients currently requiring intensive care and 545 using ventilators.

Read the full story here.


5:21 p.m. Aldermen support reining in online restaurant delivery fees

Chicago aldermen agreed Tuesday to rein in restaurant delivery fees to throw a lifeline to neighborhood restaurants fighting for survival while being forced to close to indoor patrons for the second time since the pandemic.

One day after mayoral allies introduced the 10% cap, a joint City Council committee approved it. That sets the stage for the two-thirds vote by the full Council needed to offer some immediate help to restaurant owners like Beverly Kim.

Kim is the James Beard Award-winning chef-owner of the Michelin-starred restaurant Parachute in Avondale. She was a 2011 contestant on the popular Bravo TV cooking show who opened a second restaurant, Wherewithall, with her husband, Johnny Clark.

On Tuesday, Kim likened restaurant delivery fees to “payday loans.” She pleaded with the Committees on License and Finance to rein them in.

Reporter Fran Spielman has the full story.

3:47 p.m. Thanksgiving Day dinners available for carryout from Chicago-area restaurants

Thanksgiving Day dinner plans look a little different for many of us this year as the coronavirus pandemic continues across the country. You may be limiting your typical large family gathering to a smaller meal with your immediate family (and struggling to scale down your stuffing recipe that makes 20 servings), or your high-risk loved ones may be sitting this one out — which means their signature dishes will be absent from your dinner table, too.

At the same time, many of us are actively seeking opportunities to help support beloved local restaurants that have been hard-hit financially by the virus.

Luckily, Chicago-area restaurants are busy making holiday meals that can picked up or delivered for the holiday, so you can enjoy all of your favorite traditional dishes even if your family gathering this year is being hosted by Zoom instead of grandma.

Read the full story here.

2:36 p.m. Big box store capacity to be limited, casinos, museums closed under Pritzker’s latest coronavirus crackdown

Calling it a crucial step to avoid a statewide stay-at-home order, Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday announced a coronavirus crackdown for all of Illinois that includes closure of museums and casinos and capacity limits on major retail stores.

Large stores, such as Walmart or Target, will have their capacity limited to 25%, while typical grocery stores will remain under the 50% capacity limits that have been in place since March.

Though gyms will remain open, group fitness classes will be canceled. Services, such as facials, that require the removal of a mask are suspended under the new mitigations.

The new restrictions technically mark a statewide return to Tier Three of Pritzker’s COVID-19 plan, but the governor said it boils down to a simple idea:

“If you don’t need to do it, don’t.”

The mitigations “pause a number of indoor activities,” such as museums, theaters and casinos, “where the science shows us this virus can most easily spread,” Pritzker said.

The governor announced the new restrictions during his afternoon COVID-19 briefing. They are scheduled to take effect statewide at 12:01 a.m. Friday.

Read the full story here.

12:53 p.m. Seven more Chicago residents die of COVID-19 as city’s caseload keeps climbing

Chicago health officials on Tuesday announced seven more deaths from the coronavirus, as the city’s new case numbers, and positivity rate, continue to climb.

The city conducted 15,891 daily tests over the last seven days, 8% more than the 14,707 it did a week ago. Health officials also reported a 31% increase in new cases, to 2,296 up from 1,749.

The positivity rate for those tests was 16% which is also up from last week 12.9%.

Last week, as she warned that up to 1,800 more Chicagoans could die by year’s end, Mayor Lori Lightfoot had issued a 30-day stay-at-home “advisory” and slapped a mandatory, 10-person lid on social gatherings to control a second surge of coronavirus cases that’s worse than the first.

The mayor implored Chicagoans to shake off “COVID fatigue,” avoid unnecessary travel, order small turkeys and resist the temptation to open their homes to extended family.

Illinois Public health officials on Tuesday announced 12,601 more coronavirus cases have been identified across the state. Those latest cases were detected among 94,205 tests submitted to the Illinois Department of Public Health, keeping the seven-day average testing positivity rate at 12.5%.

Read the full story here.

12:44 p.m. Feds crack down on Illinois woman granted $150K coronavirus relief loan while awaiting prison for wire fraud

Dirksen Federal Courthouse

Dirksen Federal Courthouse. | File photo
Sun-Times file

Before a federal judge sentenced her in December to more than four years in prison, Crystal Lundberg said her federal wire fraud conviction had changed her life for the better — she had become legitimately employed and had “definitely changed mentally, emotionally.”

Still, old habits die hard. And now prosecutors say Lundberg has since squandered thousands from a $150,000 COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan on travel and legal bills, electronics, clothing and other items, all while putting off her surrender date with the Federal Bureau of Prisons that had originally been set for Jan. 20, 2020.

The feds say expenditures from the account where Lundberg received the loan included $1,446 on SnapTravel, $1,088 at Towne Place Suites and $649 at Home2 Suites. They also said purchases were made “at or near the Mall of America” after Lundberg asked a judge for permission to take a relative to the Mayo Clinic.

Read the full story from Jon Seidel here.

12:09 p.m. Zoom drops time limit for Thanksgiving as services push free videoconferencing

For those of us stuck sharing Thanksgiving Day moments with family over the internet this year, Zoom is removing at least one logistical hurdle for non-paying users: the company’s time limit imposed on free meetings.

All Zoom gatherings on Thanksgiving will be allowed to run past the usual 40-minute limit imposed on free meetings. The company says the free window will run from 11 p.m. CT on Wednesday, Nov. 25 through 5 a.m. on Nov. 27.

Zoom’s decision comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns Americans to limit holiday gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic. Nationwide case numbers have surged in recent weeks and now total more than 11 million since the start of the outbreak in the spring, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The popularity of Zoom and other video streaming apps boomed over the last 10 months as many events and meetings moved online. The company offers annual paid plans ranging from $150-200 per year for unlimited access. Without a plan, free meetings are usually cut off after 40 minutes.

Read the full story here.

11:32 a.m. Shedd Aquarium voluntarily reclosing until January amid new pandemic mitigation efforts

The Shedd Aquarium, which had reopened to the public in July following mandated shutdowns that began in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is once again closing its doors to the public out of an abundance of caution.

Amid newly announced city and state mitigation efforts, the aquarium will close at 5 p.m. Tuesday with a reopening date scheduled for Jan. 2, 2021. Despite limited capacity attendance and mandatory facial mask requirements in place, aquarium officials on Tuesday decided on a proactive approach that will offer visitors a virtual experience for the time being.

“While the aquarium’s doors may physically close, Shedd’s mission has never been more alive and open. We remain committed to creating meaningful moments of learning, joy, engagement, and respite and to do our part to continue to support the recovery and healing of our city and state,” said said president and CEO Bridget Coughlin.

Essential staff will remain site as usual to maintain the care and well-being of the 32,000 “residents” of the aquarium.

Read the full story here.

11:29 a.m. Another Daley Center judge tests positive for COVID-19

Another Cook County judge has tested positive positive for the coronavirus, raising the total number of judges to test positive for the virus to 11.

The judge works in traffic court at the Daley Center, and hasn’t been to the building in a month, the chief judge’s office said in a statement.

On Monday, the office said another judge at the Daley Center tested positive for COVID-19.

Four employees of the chief judge also tested positive for the virus.

They include two juvenile probation department employees, an employee who works in the pre-trial unit in the social service department at the Rolling Meadows Courthouse, and a court interpreter who last worked at the Cook County Juvenile Center and the Daley Center.

Read the full story here.

8:04 a.m. Holiday plans? Pritzker urges coronavirus caution — says he hopes to spend his Thanksgiving in Illinois

Already feeling the pain from the fall coronavirus explosion, Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday urged Illinois residents to rethink crowded Thanksgiving dinners or the state could “expect much worse.”

A little over a week before a holiday that typically sees people feasting indoors with family, the governor and Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the head of the Illinois Public Health Department, urged caution to avoid ovetaxing the state’s health care apparatus.

“Our hospitals are on their way to being overwhelmed — our doctors, nurses and health care workers are already being stretched beyond their limits,” Ezike said. “I don’t know how else to express the importance of personal responsibility.”

The governor urged people to ask themselves “if it’s worth it to spread the virus at any upcoming gatherings.” Though there’s “real hope for possible widespread distribution” of a vaccine by early spring, that’s still months away, Pritzker said.

For his part, Pritzker said he won’t be hosting friends who can’t go home for the holiday as he usually does. But asked whether or not he’d be in the state for Thanksgiving, the governor was noncommittal, saying “that is my hope, but I’ll let you know.”

Reporters Rachel Hinton and Brett Chase have the full story.


New cases


Analysis & Commentary

7:12 a.m. Step up to the plate for pandemic safety on Thanksgiving

This is a year to be home for the holidays — as in staying at home.

Medical experts are telling us to limit Thanksgiving festivities to immediate household members. No one outside the quarantine bubble should show up, as much as we would love to see them. Let’s heed the professionals’ wise advice, even as the Moderna company on Monday announced a second vaccine that early data show to be 94.5% effective.

A recent Ohio State University survey disturbingly showed 38% of respondents planned holiday get-togethers of more than 10 people, and that many of those people aren’t planning to wear masks or engage in other protective measures.

Shrugging off the pandemic is a huge mistake. COVID-19 is surging everywhere. A million U.S. cases were recorded in just the past week. Illinois has 10% more hospitalizations than last spring’s peak. Hospitals are devoting more beds and wings to COVID-19 patients, but there are only so many nurses, respiratory therapists, doctors and other health care professionals. Last spring, Illinois was able to bring in health professionals from out of state, but now those other states are experiencing their own surges.

Read the CST Editorial Board’s full remarks.

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