COVID-19 in Illinois updates: Here’s what’s happening Wednesday

After weeks of defending a proposal to reopen Chicago Public Schools this fall, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS CEO Janice Jackson announced Wednesday that the new school year will begin with remote learning instead.

They said the decision was based on public health guidelines and feedback from parents, and that the district will aim to move to a hybrid model, with schools reopened, in the second quarter.

The switch to an all-remote learning plan comes as teachers union leaders were planning to convene the organization’s House of Delegates next week and consider a process that eventually could lead to a strike if CPS didn’t agree to start the school year with full remote learning, sources said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Illinois health officials Wednesday reported 1,759 new known cases and 30 additional fatalities. The total number of known infections in Illinois now stands at 186,471 and the statewide confirmed death toll is 7,573.

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

8:22 p.m.: Where things stand in high-level Washington talks on the huge coronavirus response bill

After more than a week’s worth of meetings, at least some clarity is emerging in the bipartisan Washington talks on a huge COVID-19 response bill. Negotiators are still stuck, but still trying.

A combative meeting Wednesday involving top Capitol Hill Democrats and the postmaster general and a souring tone from both sides indicate that a long slog remains, and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows threatened afterward that President Donald Trump is exploring options to use executive authority to extend a partial eviction ban and address unemployment benefits.

After some movement Tuesday in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s direction on aid to states and local governments and unemployment insurance benefits, Wednesday’s session offered no breakthroughs or major progress, participants said afterward.

“If we can reach a compromise on these big issues, I think everything else will fall into place. If we can’t reach an agreement on these big issues then I don’t see us coming to an overall deal,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said after the two-hour meeting. “And then we’ll have to look at the president taking actions under his executive authority.”

Multiple issues remain, but some areas of likely agreement are coming into focus.

7:36 p.m.: Central Illinois Republican US Rep. Rodney Davis says he’s tested positive for COVID-19

U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, a central Illinois Republican locked in a tough battle for re-election, said he tested positive Wednesday for COVID-19 after holding recent in-district constituent events.

Davis, 50, a four-term congressman from Taylorville, said he had been having his temperature checked twice daily. After his temperature was recorded at 99 degrees, he said he and his wife Shannon took coronavirus tests. He tested positive and his wife did not, he said.

“Other than a higher-than-normal temperature, I am showing no symptoms at this time and feel fine,” Davis said. He said that staff members he worked with this week received negative tests and that his office is contacting people with whom he met during the previous 48 hours, according to Centers for Disease Control guidelines.

“My wife is a nurse and a cancer survivor, which puts her in an at-risk category like so many Americans,” he said in a statement. “My office and I have always followed and will continue to follow CDC guidelines, use social distancing, and wear masks or face coverings when social distancing cannot be maintained.”

Davis said he would quarantine at home and canceled public events until he receives a negative test. District offices, he said, would remain open to serve constituents.

6:20 p.m.: Pritzker warns of ‘extraordinarily painful’ cuts, job losses if Washington doesn’t provide pandemic relief funding to states

Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker warned Wednesday that the state faces “extraordinarily painful” budget cuts if the federal government fails to provide states with relief funding to make up for tax revenue shortfalls caused by efforts to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Illinois’ budget for the year that began July 1 is heavily dependent upon federal aid, which would be used to pay back borrowing of up to $5 billion under a special program through the Federal Reserve. In addition, the shift of the state’s income tax deadline to July 15, which was in line with federal action, caused a revenue deficit for the previous budget year, which ended June 30.

But the issue of federal relief to state and local governments has been caught in a political stalemate in Washington between House Democrats, Senate Republicans and the White House amid negotiations that also include the extension of special unemployment benefits that ended in July.

6:13 p.m.: Chicago nurses join national day of action over PPE, federal assistance

Joining hundreds of protests by unionized nurses across the country, nurses marched at two Chicago hospitals Wednesday to demand full personal protective equipment in their facilities and action from the federal government.

In Chicago, nurses represented by National Nurses United marched at Jesse Brown VA Medical Center and by the University of Chicago Medical Center. They said they wanted to see full personal protective equipment in their hospitals, including respirators, eye protection, hair and shoe coverings, and gloves and gowns.

5:56 p.m. Parent opposition helps tip CPS towards an all-remote start

The criticism from the Chicago Teachers Union was to be expected, since its leaders came out against reopening schools even before the district proposed it.

But parents around the city, though more split on whether they wanted in-person classes to begin again, also emerged as a significant bloc of opposition in the last week — ultimately helping push Chicago Public Schools to start the year remotely instead.

In announcing their switch to an all-remote plan for the start of school, CPS officials cited parent hesitation to reopening as a key motivator, along with the recent uptick in the number of new daily COVID-19 cases in the city.

Parent frustrations seem to reach a tipping point when CPS initially asked families to indicate by the end of this week whether their children would opt into the hybrid proposal, which would have rotated smaller groups of children into schools two days per week. Some parents said they felt constrained to pick the hybrid option because of the lack of details on remote learning.

Dissatisfied with the amount of information from official CPS sources, parents resorted to digging for details themselves as an influx of new members join a CPS parents Facebook group. As concerns mounted, there were a dozen posts a day trying to piece together information — on issues ranging from how CPS would control viral transmission on public transportation to supports for children in special education programs.

Wednesday’s sudden pivot to an all-remote start for the new school year renders that decision moot, for now — leaving some parents relieved but exhausted, if not even more confused on how officials plan for the fall.

5:32 p.m.: Kane, DuPage counties warn of increase in COVID-19, caution they could reinstate restrictions

Kane and DuPage county officials are warning residents about “concerning increases” in COVID-19 activity and said they could take action to limit the spread of the virus, including reinstating limits on some business and social activities.

Officials from the two counties said Wednesday they are meeting most of the COVID-19 targets the state has set. However, both counties are at what the state considers a warning level for the number of new cases per 100,000 people — DuPage is reporting 73 new cases per 100,000 residents and Kane is reporting 66, while the state’s target is 50 — and health department officials are concerned about recent upticks in COVID-19 metrics, they said in a statement.

They are “proactively” evaluating future action, which could include restricting the size of social gatherings, reducing capacity at businesses, or scaling back operations such as indoor dining, bars, salons and personal care services, which pose a higher risk of transmission, they said.

5:19 p.m.: ‘I am feeling that this is the end of my career.’ Millions of US jobs are gone for good.

Stark evidence of the damage the resurgent viral outbreak has caused the U.S. economy could come Friday when the government is expected to report that the pace of hiring has slowed significantly after a brief rebound in the spring.

As the coronavirus continues to transform a vast swath of the economy, it’s becoming evident that millions of Americans face the prospect of a permanent job loss that will force some to seek work with new industries or in new occupations. If so, that would lead to a slower recovery in the job market than if restaurants, hotels, bars and retail shops were able to fully reopen and recall all their laid-off employees. Few expect that to happen.

4:46 p.m.: Alternative school options see surge of interest as COVID-19 prompts districts, including CPS, to go remote

Laura Reber, founder and CEO of Chicago Home Tutors, has been fielding calls from nervous parents around the clock in recent weeks, as uncertainty over fall schooling sent many searching for alternative options.

Reber, whose firm of 100 tutors has served Chicagoland students for eight years, said she understands parents’ frustrations. Her reassurances to them focus on the fact that, while it might not be an ideal year for education, their students — and their peers across the country — will get through it.

“The whole nation is going to be in the same boat,” she said. “Not that that’s a huge comfort, but if you move to a private school or another district, there’s really no guarantee that they’re not going to change their plan.”

“The whole nation is going to be in the same boat,” she said. “Not that that’s a huge comfort, but if you move to a private school or another district, there’s really no guarantee that they’re not going to change their plan.”

With Mayor Lori Lightfoot announcing Wednesday that the new school year will begin with remote learning instead of a hybrid plan in Chicago, parents are figuring out how to move forward with the option that best fits their individual, and incredibly varied, needs.

Reber’s tutoring business isn’t alone in experiencing a spike of interest. Amid a turbulent time in their students’ education, parents across the region are pondering a variety of alternative schooling options.

4:35 p.m.: Pritzker warns he could order Illinois schools closed to in-person learning if COVID-19 cases continue on upward trajectory

Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the Chicago Public School’s decision to start the year with all remote learning was a local one and in line with the state’s policy of letting school districts control over how to deal with the coronavirus pandemic with public health guidance from the state.

But he warned that if cases and positivity rates continued on an upward trajectory in the state, it was possible he would order schools closed to in-person learning statewide as he did on April 17.

“That could happen, yes. I don’t want it to happen,” Pritzker said during an afternoon news conference  in Chicago.

“You’ve seen me travel the state encouraging everybody to wear a mask, encouraging local city councils and mayors to impose mitigations locally so that we can bring down the infection rate, bring down the positivity rate because I don’t want to go to those statewide, more extreme measures,” he said. “If it continues to rise and if we don’t keep our positivity rate down, we obviously would have to consider more serious mitigations.”

3:53 p.m.: New U. of C. center will collect thousands of X-rays, CT scans to aid with COVID-19 research

University of Chicago Medicine will be home to a new, massive database of medical images from COVID-19 patients that researchers can use to better understand and fight the illness, with support from a $20 million federal grant.

The images — such as X-rays and CT scans — will be collected at the University of Chicago and be open source, meaning they’ll be available to researchers around the world. The mainly virtual center created under the contract with the National Institutes of Health expects to collect more than 10,000 images in its first three months.

The database will speed up the sharing of research on COVID-19 and could help answer questions about how COVID-19 presents in the lungs as well as potential resurgences of the illness, said Maryellen Giger, a professor of radiology and medical physics at University of Chicago.

“We want to make available as much data as possible in the quickest amount of time,” Giger said. “Nothing like this exists yet.”

3:28 p.m.: From child care stipends to flexible schedules, companies aim to help parents juggle remote learning and work again this fall

When the state issued its stay-at-home order in March, Gina LaMonica, 39, a partner with Chicago law firm Perkins Coie, had just returned from a work trip.

Overnight, the COVID-19 pandemic turned her Park Ridge home into an office and a school as she and her husband juggled their careers and the care of their two young daughters. Worlds collided, work shifted to all hours of the day and night, and somehow, they made it to the summer, exhausted and fully employed.

“It was very difficult,” LaMonica said. “Those were long days.”

For working parents like LaMonica, the pending start of the school year, which brings the anxiety of new teachers, schedules and courses under even the best of circumstances, is looming as a major source of stress.

A growing list of companies are pushing office reopenings to 2021 and many school districts, including Chicago Public Schools, are nixing even a part-time return to the classroom, portending an ongoing work-life family mashup that threatens to derail both career and childhood development.

“It is not sustainable to monitor their schooling at the same time that you’re working full time,” said Cornelia Grumman, education director at the McCormick Foundation, which focuses on funding support for early childhood development programs.

With most child care centers closed during the pandemic — some perhaps permanently — companies are offering everything from nanny stipends to online activity clubs to keep employees’ kids engaged and parents productive. Flexible work schedules have become the new norm, as parents shift between their caregiver, math helper and rainmaker roles throughout the extended day.

2:22 p.m.: Cook County teen added, then removed from statewide COVID-19 death toll, highlighting corrections in daily data release

A teenager from Cook County was added Tuesday to the statewide total number of deaths reported by the Department of Public Health, suggesting he was one of more than 4,900 Cook County residents who have died from coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.

But the teen didn’t die from COVID-19. He was added to the list erroneously, representatives of both state and local agencies said Wednesday, one of about 100 instances of deaths that at first were wrongfully attributed to the coronavirus, then removed from state data after further review, according to officials.

Natalia Derevyanny, a spokeswoman for the Cook County medical examiner’s office, said that five months into the global pandemic, this is the first time she’s had to phone Melaney Arnold, a spokeswoman for the state department of public health, about a death being mistakenly added to the running total.

“This is the first time it’s happened,” Derevyanny said.

As of Wednesday, Cook County has had 4,904, deaths attributable to coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, including 2,793 in Chicago. As of Wednesday, the state has confirmed 7,573 people have died from the coronavirus statewide.

2:15 p.m.: ‘I am feeling that this is the end of my career.’ Millions of US jobs are gone for good.

Stark evidence of the damage the resurgent viral outbreak has caused the U.S. economy could come Friday when the government is expected to report that the pace of hiring has slowed significantly after a brief rebound in the spring.

As the coronavirus continues to transform a vast swath of the economy, it’s becoming evident that millions of Americans face the prospect of a permanent job loss that will force some to seek work with new industries or in new occupations. If so, that would lead to a slower recovery in the job market than if restaurants, hotels, bars and retail shops were able to fully reopen and recall all their laid-off employees. Few expect that to happen.

1:52 p.m.: What we know now about remote learning in Chicago Public Schools this fall

With only weeks before the start of the school year, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson announced Wednesday that all schools across CPS will begin the year with remote learning. The decision, which they said was based on public health guidelines and feedback from parents, poises the district to aim toward a hybrid model in the second quarter.

CPS said it’s also setting out “enhanced standards” for remote learning.

12:57 p.m.: Second stimulus check updates: Where things stand in high-level Washington talks on the huge coronavirus response bill

After more than a week’s worth of meetings, at least some clarity is emerging in the bipartisan Washington talks on a huge COVID-19 response bill.

An exchange of offers Tuesday and a meeting devoted to the U.S. Postal Service on Wednesday indicates a long slog remains, but the White House is offering some movement in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s direction on aid to states and local governments and unemployment insurance benefits. Multiple issues remain, but some areas of likely agreement are coming into focus.

12:55 p.m.: Touchless entry, ionizing HVAC: In the time of COVID-19, these 3 new luxury residences are making sure they’re outfitted for pandemic life.

It was a happy accident that Parkline Chicago, a forthcoming 26-story complex in the Loop, will feature a “touchless experience” for residents upon entry. As they walk through the front doors, onto the elevator and into their apartment or condo, they won’t touch a thing.

It’s one of the features that Parkline and two other new luxury residential developments in Chicago might have planned as a neat detail prior to 2020, but find to be much more vital in a world grappling with COVID-19. Co-working space, rooftop gardens teeming with produce and other amenities are increasingly considered essential for people who are spending more time at home for social distancing reasons.

In the cases of Parkline Chicago, Porte and The Orchard, COVID-19 actually sped up project completion, because most construction was considered essential during the stay-at-home order, developers said. Now or soon to be on the market, these apartments, condos and town homes are a glimpse at what new developments might look like in the time of COVID-19.

12:24 p.m.: Illinois Holocaust Museum to hold annual fundraiser online this fall because of COVID-19

The Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie announced Wednesday it plans to host its annual soiree virtually this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The event is free and scheduled for Sept. 2, according to a news release. The museum’s Women’s Leadership Committee plans to stream it live from a studio and feature a musical performance by Katie Kadan, a Chicago native who was a 2019 finalist on NBC’s The Voice, among others.

”While we are sad that we cannot gather in person this year, we are excited to take the event virtual and feel it is the best way to continue raising funds to support the museum’s important work,” the committee’s president, Juliet Gray, said in the release.

The benefit is the museum’s signature event and aims to raise funds “to combat hatred, prejudice, and indifference,” and to inspire others to “speak out for what’s right — turning powerful lessons of history into positive actions today,” according to the release. The museum recommends donations of $200 at the soiree.

12:05 p.m.: 1,759 new known COVID-19 cases, 30 additional deaths

Illinois health officials Wednesday reported 1,759 new known cases and 30 additional fatalities. The total number of known infections in Illinois now stands at 186,471 and the statewide confirmed death toll is 7,573. Within the past 24 hours, officials report 46,668 tests completed.

11:01 a.m.: New University of Chicago imaging center will aid COVID-19 research

University of Chicago Medicine plans to create a massive database of medical images of COVID-19 patients — such as X-rays and CT scans — that researchers can use to help them better understand and fight the illness, with support from a $20 million federal grant.

The images will be collected at a new center at the University of Chicago and be open source, meaning the material will be available to researchers around the world. The center expects to collect more than 10,000 images in its first three months.

”This will speed up the sharing of new research on COVID-19, answering questions about COVID-19 presentation in the lungs, the efficacy of therapies, associations between COVID-19 and other co-morbidities, and monitoring for potential resurgence of the virus,” Maryellen Giger, a professor of radiology at University of Chicago, said in a news release.

Giger will lead the center along with leaders from the American College of Radiology, the Radiological Society of North America and the American Association of Physicists in Medicine.

11 a.m.: CDC warns coronavirus measures could disrupt detection of rare, paralyzing polio-like disease in children

Health experts once thought 2020 might be the worst year yet for a rare paralyzing disease that has been hitting U.S. children for the past decade.

But they now say the coronavirus pandemic could disrupt the pattern for the mysterious illnesses, which spike every other year starting in late summer.

Scientists say it’s possible that mask wearing, school closures and others measures designed to stop spread of the coronavirus may also hamper spread of the virus suspected of causing the paralyzing disease.

Dr. David Kimberlin, a researcher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, called it “the million-dollar question.”

“We just simply don’t know right now,” said Kimberlin, who is co-leader of a national study to gather specimens from children who develop the paralyzing condition.

The pandemic is dominating public health work right now, but officials are trying to draw attention to the polio-like condition they call acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday made a public call for parents and doctors to watch for it, and act.

10:55 a.m.: Joe Biden won’t travel to Milwaukee for 2020 Democratic National Convention because of concerns over the coronavirus

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden will not travel to Milwaukee to accept his party’s White House nomination because of concerns over the coronavirus.

That’s according to a Democrat with knowledge of the decision who spoke to The Associated Press on Wednesday on condition of anonymity to discuss planning.

The move is the latest example of the pandemic’s sweeping effects on the 2020 presidential election and the latest blow to traditional party nominating conventions that historically have marked the start of fall general election campaigns.

10:45 a.m.: Northwestern football workouts still on hold after a player tests positive for COVID-19, while Illinois will start camp Thursday

Northwestern football remains in pause stemming from a player’s positive COVID-19 test late last week, a school official told the Tribune on Wednesday.

As a result of its own strict protocols, Northwestern officials used contact tracing to determine that more than two dozen players needed to be quarantined. They will need to test negative to be released and cleared for workouts.

The Wildcats hope to return to the field by Friday, which is the allowable start date for a contact practice per NCAA rules.

NU is one of six Big Ten schools that has paused its football workouts, joining Ohio State, Maryland, Rutgers, Indiana and Michigan State.

9 a.m.: Chicago Public Schools shelves hybrid reopening plan, as officials announce remote learning plan for new school year

After weeks of defending a proposal to reopen Chicago Public Schools this fall, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS CEO Janice Jackson announced Wednesday that the new school year will begin with remote learning instead.

They said the decision was based on public health guidelines and feedback from parents, and that the district will aim to move to a hybrid model, with schools reopened, in the second quarter.

“The decision to begin the 2020-2021 CPS school year remotely during the first quarter is rooted in public health data and the invaluable feedback we’ve received from parents and families,” Lightfoot said in a release. “As we build out this remote learning model and seek to establish a hybrid learning model in the second quarter, we will continue to support and collaborate with parents and school leaders to create safe, sustainable learning environments for our students.”

8:57 a.m.: Will movie theaters survive? Cinemark lost $170 million last quarter, but it’s optimistic.

The third largest movie theater company in the world has taken a nearly $230 million hit this year amid the coronavirus pandemic, but leadership at Cinemark and analysts are optimistic about the prospects of reopening theaters.

Plano, Texas-based Cinemark posted a loss of $170 million for the three-month period that ended June 30, telling investors Tuesday that it’s “been working diligently to prepare for reopening our theatres within this new operating environment.”

The company’s second quarter results reveal just how deeply the coronavirus pandemic has threatened the movie theater industry.

8:30 a.m.: US companies pulled back on hiring in July, ADP payroll report says

U.S. businesses sharply reduced hiring last month, suggesting that resurgent COVID-19 infections slowed the economic recovery as many states closed parts of their economies again and consumers remained cautious about spending.

U.S. firms added just 167,000 jobs in July, payroll processor ADP said Wednesday, far below June’s gain of 4.3 million and May’s increase of 3.3 million. July’s limited hiring means that according to ADP the economy still has 13 million fewer jobs than it did in February, before the viral outbreak intensified.

ADP’s figures suggest that the job market’s recovery is stalling and will likely fuel concerns that the government’s jobs report, to be released Friday, will show a similar slowdown.

7:27 a.m.: Virgin Atlantic, 49% owned by Delta, files for US bankruptcy protection

Virgin Atlantic, the airline founded by British businessman Richard Branson, filed Tuesday for protection in U.S. bankruptcy court as it tries to survive the virus pandemic that is hammering the airline industry.

The airline made the Chapter 15 filing in U.S. federal bankruptcy court in New York after a proceeding in the United Kingdom.

A spokeswoman for Virgin Atlantic said the bankruptcy filing is part of a court process in the United Kingdom to carry out a restructuring plan that the airline announced last month. The process is supported by a majority of the airline’s creditors, and the company hopes to emerge from the process in September, she said.

A Virgin Atlantic lawyer said in a court filing that the company needs an order from a U.S. court to make terms of the restructuring apply in the U.S.

6:35 a.m.: Lightfoot, schools and health officials expected to make announcement on public schools

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Chicago Public Schools chief Janice Jackson and city Health Commissioner Allison Arwady were scheduled to make an announcement Wednesday morning regarding the 2020-2021 school year, according to the mayor’s office.

The Tribune reported Tuesday that CPS planned to announce as soon as Wednesday that the school district would start the school year with all-remote learning. The move comes as the Chicago Teachers Union planned to hold a meeting of its House of Delegates next week, in preparation for a possible strike if the Chicago Board of Education were to go through with a plan to begin school in-person, while allowing parents to opt for remote learning.

6 a.m.: As COVID-19 keeps university fall plans in doubt, community colleges see boost as affordable option closer to home

In some ways, community colleges are better equipped to weather the coronavirus pandemic than traditional four-year universities. Unlike larger institutions, community colleges don’t rely on revenue from residence halls — which will plummet if students don’t return to campus for fear of getting sick.

And local two-year colleges could become more appealing to families who don’t want to pay top-dollar tuition for virtual instruction. Very few universities are discounting the cost of attendance despite offering most classes online.

Over the summer, several community colleges in Illinois — including College of Lake County, Harper College in Palatine and College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn — reported upticks in enrollment. Now, the colleges are watching to see if that trend continues for fall.

Madeleine Rhyneer, vice president and dean of enrollment at the education research firm EAB, said the numbers will likely fluctuate until classes start next month and students are forced to make final decisions.

“If a bunch of students who are committed to four-year schools in the next three weeks say, ‘You know what? I’m just not doing that. I’m going to defer for a year … or I’m going to withdraw and reapply a year from now or six months from now,’ then I think we definitely could see a bump in community college enrollments,” Rhyneer said.

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