Latest coronavirus news for August 31, 2020: Live updates

The latest

Mask ask: Cook County urges residents to cover their faces — or face consequences of COVID-19’s ‘second surge’

Customers eat and drink at the Brat Stop, a popular bar, restaurant and tourist attraction about 5 minutes from the Illinois border on May 15, 2020 in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Scott Olson/Getty Images (file photo)

Facing the beginning stages of a second surge of COVID-19 in suburban Cook County, officials said Monday they’re launching a campaign to urge people to “mask up, so we don’t have to close up.”

The campaign, called “mask up Cook County,” was unveiled Monday, just days after Gov. J.B. Pritzker added the suburban portion of the county to his list of areas at a “warning level.” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said last week that designation put the county “at a crossroads,”

Dr. Rachel Rubin, one of the co-leaders of the Cook County Department of Public Health, said Monday the county continues to “see a rise in the rate of new cases diagnosed each day.” The county has also started to see a rise in deaths.

Dr. Kiran Joshi, a co-leader of the Cook County Department of Public Health, said the surge in new cases are spread throughout suburban Cook County, although they have not yet seen a rise in hospitalizations,

“I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but we are now in the beginning stages of a second surge, and some schools are open, and colder weather and flu season are coming,” Joshi said. “Now is not the time to take our foot off the gas. … Mask up and back up to protect yourselves, your family and your communities.”

Read the full story from Rachel Hinton here.


News

7:29 p.m. Illinois sees 1,668 new COVID-19 cases, ending August with average daily caseload more than twice that of June

The month of August averaged 1,812 coronavirus cases per day, not quite back to where Illinois was at during the peak month of May, when the state averaged more than 2,100 cases per day — but definitely backing up officials’ concerns that the state is trending in the wrong direction.

On Monday, the last day of August, state health officials reported 1,668 new COVID-19 cases and seven additional deaths.

That ends the month with a caseload shy of May’s alarming average, but more than twice the daily case average of 764 in June, and up sharply from the 1,150-daily average in July.

Thankfully, deaths are not again on the rise — as cases in recent weeks have been traced to younger and more resilient age groups. But public health officials have been predicting a spike in fatalities is looming.

The daily death count during the peak month of May was 98. June saw 51 deaths a day. There were 19 per day in July. And in August, there were 17 deaths per day.

Reporter Mitch Dudek has the full story.

3:17 p.m. COVID-19 and crime drastically transforming downtown Chicago

Managers of downtown office buildings report their properties have about 5% to 10% of their population on a typical workday. They expect a little more activity after Labor Day, but how much could depend on school situations.

“There are days I see more boat traffic on the river than cars on the streets,” said Lance Knez, vice president of Hines Interests and president of the Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago, which has worked closely with the city to make sure health guidelines are followed and properties are ready for more people.

For Knez, the bottom line is this, “For people to come back to work, employers and employees must first feel safe.” That applies both to office cleaning regimens and to what’s going on outside.

Vicki Noonan, managing principal at Cushman & Wakefield, said she hopes more tenants will populate buildings after Labor Day, at least gradually. Some employers have talked about putting people on an alternate-day schedule for working from home, she said.

A June survey by the real estate firm CBRE of its national, big-company client base addressed the changing character of work. In it, 61% of 126 senior-level executives said all employees will be able to work outside the office at least part time. It also found only 10% of companies are considering leaving high-density urban cores, although satellite offices or flexible space deals may figure more prominently.

So don’t expect downtown or other business centers to roar back to life soon. The implications for Chicago’s commercial health and for our feelings about living here are enormous. The problems of the pandemic and violence are woven in the public mind.

Read the full column from David Roeder here.

2:42 p.m. Bleak fall outlook should have families planning for Thanksgiving over Zoom, experts say

As the Summer of COVID draws to a close, many experts fear an even bleaker fall and suggest that American families should start planning for Thanksgiving by Zoom.

Because of the many uncertainties, public health scientists say it’s easier to forecast the weather on Thanksgiving Day than to predict how the U.S. coronavirus crisis will play out this autumn. But school reopenings, holiday travel and more indoor activity because of colder weather could all separately increase transmission of the virus and combine in ways that could multiply the threat, they say.

Here’s one way it could go: As more schools open for in-person instruction and more college students return to campuses, small clusters of cases could widen into outbreaks in late September. Public fatigue over mask rules and other restrictions could stymie efforts to slow these infections.

A few weeks later, widening outbreaks could start to strain hospitals. If a bad flu season peaks in October, as happened in 2009, the pressure on the health care system could result in higher daily death tolls from the coronavirus. Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has said that scenario is his biggest fear.

Read the full story here.

11:15 a.m. Detroit turns public park into memorial garden to honor COVID-19 victims

DETROIT — An island park in Detroit has become an extraordinary memorial garden, with cars packed with families slowly passing hundreds of photos of city residents who have died from COVID-19.

Mayor Mike Duggan declared Monday Detroit Memorial Day to honor the 1,500-plus city victims of the pandemic. Hearses escorted by police led solemn all-day processions around Belle Isle Park in the Detroit River after bells rang across the region at 8:45 a.m.

Radio station WRCJ, which plays classical music and jazz, added gospel to its playlist and read the names of the deceased.

“It is our hope that seeing these beautiful faces on the island today … will wake people up to the devastating effect of the pandemic,” said Rochelle Riley, Detroit’s director of arts and culture.

The “memorial was designed to bring some peace to families whose loved ones didn’t have the funerals they deserved,” Riley said. “But it may also force us to work harder to limit the number of COVID-19 deaths we’ll endure in the coming months.”

Read the full story here.

7:51 a.m. State and local officials make accommodations to ensure voters are safe

The coronavirus has upended everyday life in ways big and small. What happens when those disruptions overlap with voting? Thousands of state and local election officials across the U.S are sharing ideas and making accommodations to try to ensure that voters and polling places are safe amid an unprecedented pandemic.

Some are finding ways to expand access to voter registration and ballot request forms. Others are testing new products, installing special equipment or scouting outdoor voting locations.

Here are virus-related obstacles voters could face during this unprecedented presidential election year along with some of the solutions being tried:

Check out voting obstacles and solutions here.


New Cases


Analysis & Commentary

8:11 a.m. Pritzker did not handle Metro East pandemic mitigation well

When Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the state COVID-19 “mitigation” plan for the Metro East on Aug. 16, he said it was done in conjunction “with local officials in the Metro East region and across the border in St. Louis.”

Last week, though, the governor admitted the cross-border arrangement to try to contain the virus’ spread was a “mistake.”

Man, was it ever.

Instead of sticking to the state’s original mitigation plan, which would’ve included things like reducing indoor restaurant capacity and shutting down all indoor bar service, Pritzker only ordered bars and restaurants to close at 11 p.m., which was in line with what St. Louis was planning at the time.

Read the full column by Rich Miller here.