COVID-19 in Illinois updates: Here’s what’s happening this weekend – Chicago Tribune

Illinois Public Health officials on Sunday reported 1,893 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 and six additional deaths.

That brings the state’s total to 220,178 cases and 7,880 fatalities. There were 54,351 tests reported, a day after the state set another testing record with 56,766 tests.

If Illinois doesn’t bring its steadily rising coronavirus numbers down quickly, it is among the areas of the country facing a “perfect storm” of risk factors for transmitting the highly contagious disease this fall, according to a Philadelphia medical research center that is tracking COVID-19 in hundreds of counties nationwide.

Meanwhile, the Illinois Department of Public Health acknowledged Friday that the agency did not investigate nursing home complaints of neglect and abuse for nearly 3½ months during the coronavirus pandemic. The announcement came a month after the the agency fire the state’s top nursing home regulator without explanation and disciplined another.

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

If Illinois doesn’t bring its steadily rising coronavirus numbers down quickly, it is among the areas of the country facing a “perfect storm” of risk factors for transmitting the highly contagious disease this fall, according to a Philadelphia medical research center that is tracking COVID-19 in hundreds of counties nationwide.

The combination of some schools returning to in-person instruction, Labor Day travel and cooler fall weather would all be piled on top of a steady uptick in Illinois’ statewide test positivity rate over the last several weeks, said Dr. David Rubin, director of the PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

“What worries me is if you have that big reservoir of circulating cases and then you get some of those colder fall days that start to come, and then you’re also returning kids to universities and schools and the mixing goes up in the community, it’s just kind of like a perfect storm,” Rubin said in an interview with the Chicago Tribune. “You set yourself off on the wrong foot as we go into what’s going to be a difficult fall and winter.”

Rubin’s warning about the fall and winter echoes what other experts have been predicting for months. The state has endured a late summer uptick in a number of metrics, with daily case counts topping 2,000 several times in August, for the first time since late May. The statewide seven-day average test positivity rate stood at 4.3% as of Thursday, only a month after it had been whittled down to 3%.

That uptick could be particularly poorly timed heading into fall, when Rubin predicts the wave of the pandemic in the U.S. will shift back north. Read more here. —Jamie Munks

 President Donald Trump on Sunday announced emergency authorization to treat COVID-19 patients with convalescent plasma — a move he called “a breakthrough,” one of his top health officials called “promising” and other health experts said needs more study before it’s celebrated.

The announcement came after White House officials complained there were politically motivated delays by the Food and Drug Administration in approving a vaccine and therapeutics for the disease that has upended Trump’s reelection chances.

On the eve of the Republican National Convention, Trump put himself at the center of the FDA’s announcement of the authorization at a news conference Sunday evening. The authorization makes it easier for some patients to obtain the treatment but is not the same as full FDA approval.

The blood plasma, taken from patients who have recovered from the coronavirus and rich in antibodies, may provide benefits to those battling the disease. But the evidence so far has not been conclusive about whether it works, when to administer it and what dose is needed.

In a letter describing the emergency authorization, the chief scientist for the FDA, Denise Hinton, said: “COVID-19 convalescent plasma should not be considered a new standard of care for the treatment of patients with COVID-19. Additional data will be forthcoming from other analyses and ongoing, well-controlled clinical trials in the coming months.”

But Trump had made clear to aides that he was eager to showcase good news in the battle against the virus, and the timing allowed him to head into his convention with momentum. He and aides billed it as a “major” development and used the White House briefing room to make the announcement. Read more here. —The Associated Press

Great Wolf Gurnee water and adventure park reopening with masks requirements, temperature checks

With a smaller staff, half the capacity and new safety measures, Gurnee’s Great Wolf Lodge is set to reopen Monday, allowing families into its water park and adventure area for the first time in five months after the coronavirus forced it to close.

“With all of the guidance that the government and CDC has given, we feel confident that we’re able to open safely to our pack and our guests,” said Nadine Miracle of Grayslake, the Gurnee location’s general manager.

In addition to the advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the resort and indoor water park can learn from the experience of sister properties and observations of other facilities in the region.

Nearby Six Flags Hurricane Harbor, an outdoor water park, opened about a month ago with thermal imaging scans and masks required outside of the pools and waterslides. The Six Flags Great America theme park remains closed. In Wisconsin Dells, where Great Wolf has another location, the well-known Noah’s Ark Waterpark, which is outdoors, closed after two employees tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a story published by The Associated Press. It will not reopen until next year, according to the park’s website.

Great Wolf Lodge Illinois in Gurnee will be limited to about 50% of its capacity, with only 208 rooms in use at the 414-room property. Read more here. —Karie Angell Luc, Lake County News-Sun

Unemployment benefits: Here’s who will get Trump’s $300 boost in coronavirus aid and when

Two weeks have passed since President Donald Trump announced that he would sidestep a congressional stalemate to deliver $400 in extra weekly benefits to tens of millions of unemployed Americans — a short-term fix meant to replace the $600-a-week emergency federal supplement that expired last month.

Since then, as more details of the plan — known as Lost Wages Assistance — have emerged, so have problems with finding the funding and getting it to the hands of those who need it. What is now clear is that the federal supplement is $300 a week, not $400. And by Thursday, only one state, Arizona, had started paying out.

The Chicago Bears pushed back Sunday’s morning practice to the afternoon after Saturday’s COVID-19 tests indicated nine players or staff members were positive — results that later proved to be false positives.

“This morning we learned yesterday’s Covid-19 testing identified nine players/staff as positive,” the club said in a statement. “We followed additional NFL-NFLPA testing protocol and confirmed all nine results as false positives. Out of an abundance of caution, we postponed this morning’s practice to this afternoon.”

The team was scheduled to begin practice at 9:20 a.m. An updated schedule indicates practice will now start at 1:30 p.m. The team is scheduled to have a day off from practice on Monday. About an hour after a security guard at the front of Halas Hall turned away media after 8 a.m., the league released a statement revealing testing irregularities for other teams. Read more here. —Brad Biggs

Shuttered during the weeks that are typically the busiest of warm weather fishing season, Lake Michigan charter boat captains are still hoping to recapture revenue lost to COVID-19 before the cool weather arrives.

“People were afraid to call,” said charter captain Rich Boren of Wadsworth who operates Renegade Charters at North Point Marina in Winthrop Harbor, located in Illinois Beach State Park. “People were afraid to come fishing.”

May is typically the busiest month of their fishing season, but the pandemic created by the coronavirus changed that. And Winthrop Harbor-based captains said it was especially hard because they couldn’t even access their boats when Illinois Beach State Park closed for social distancing safety measures imposed by state order, said charter captains Josh Slawkin of Hinsdale and Caleb Weiner of Kenosha, Wisconsin. Read more here. —Karie Angell Luc, Lake County News-Sun

House approves bill to reverse USPS changes, send $25 billion to boost agency ahead of election

With heated debate over mail delays, the House approved legislation in a rare Saturday session that would reverse recent changes in U.S. Postal Service operations and send $25 billion to shore up the agency ahead of the November election.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi had recalled lawmakers to Washington over objections from Republicans who dismissed the action as a stunt. President Donald Trump railed against mail-in ballots, including in a Saturday tweet, and urged a no vote. He has said he wants to block extra funds for the Postal Service.

“Don’t pay any attention to what the president is saying, because it is all designed to suppress the vote,” Pelosi said at the Capitol.

Pelosi called the Postal Service the nation’s “beautiful thread” connecting Americans and said voters should “ignore” the president’s threats.

The daylong session came as an uproar over mail disruptions puts the Postal Service at the center of the nation’s tumultuous election year, with Americans rallying around one of the nation’s oldest and more popular institutions. Millions of people are expected to opt for mail-in ballots to avoid polling places during the coronavirus pandemic.

17 additional deaths and 2,356 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday

Illinois health officials on Saturday announced 2,356 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 17 additional fatalities and the statewide death toll to 7,874 since the start of the pandemic.

Officials reported 56,766 new tests in the last 24 hours. That total represents another statewide testing record. The statewide seven-day positivity rate stands at 4.3%.

Naperville reports bumps in cases, hospitalizations

Naperville had 198 active cases of COVID-19 on Aug. 19, the highest number reported since the pandemic started in March, according to data on the city’s coronavirus dashboard.

The number eclipsed the record 164 active cases registered on May 24 and had remained below that number until this month, data shows. The low point was June 28, when there were just 47 known active cases.

Since then, however, the active case numbers have been going back up, breaking the record on Aug. 14 when there were 177 cases and topping it again two days later with 198, data shows.

Active cases are those in which the person has had the virus for 14 days or less, meaning they are believed to be infectious and able to pass it to others, according to the dashboard.

The number of patients being treated for the virus at Edward Hospital in Naperville has also been slowly creeping back up. After having just four people hospitalized for treatment on July 27, the number was 14 on Aug. 21, the hospital reported.

According to the most recent data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, DuPage County is seeing a 4.4% test positivity rate and Will County is seeing 7.1% test positivity.

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