Health officials on Saturday announced another 1,639 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Illinois, the latest four-digit daily tally as Gov. J.B. Pritzker warns the state is on the precipice of a dangerous viral resurgence.
The new cases were confirmed among 39,809 tests received by the Illinois Department of Public Health, keeping the state’s testing positivity rate over the last week at 3.9%.
That number has risen from 2.6% over the course of a month. Illinois closed out the final two weeks of June averaging about 682 new cases per day.
The state has averaged 1,419 new cases per day since mid-July, while Friday’s total of 1,941 was Illinois’ highest caseload since May 24.
Read more from Mitchell Armentrout here.
12:30 p.m. No spring in their step: Football players transferring out of state to play in fall
The IHSA plans to play football in the spring, but at least three high-profile local players already have opted out.
Defensive end Ryan Keeler and center Domenic Virelli, two returning starters from Nazareth’s Class 7A runner-up team, won’t be with the Roadrunners when practice is scheduled to start in February.
Keeler said in a text message Wednesday he expects to transfer out of state to play this fall or finish his high school graduation online. Either way, he plans to graduate after the first semester in order to enroll in college early.
Virelli announced on Twitter Wednesday he is transferring to Dowling Catholic in West Des Moines, Iowa, and plans to play there this fall.
Also heading out of state is Montini offensive lineman Brett Kuczynski, who said Thursday on Twitter he is transferring to New Smyrna Beach in Florida.
Keeler said he was “saddened” by the IHSA’s decision to move football to the spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I would love to stay at Nazareth and do everything I can to help my team and coach (Tim) Racki win another state title,” Keeler said.
Read more from Mike Clark here.
12:00 p.m. Cardinals-Brewers postponed after more positive test results
The Cardinals-Brewers game in Milwaukee on Saturday was postponed after one more player and three staff members with St. Louis tested positive for the coronavirus, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press.
The Miami Marlins received no new positive results in their latest round of coronavirus testing, a different person familiar with that situation said, but second baseman Isan Diaz opted out of the season.
The Philadelphia Phillies, meanwhile, said they had no new positives from tests a day before. Players were permitted to access Citizens Bank Park for staggered workouts beginning in the afternoon.
The people with knowledge of the Cardinals’ and Marlins’ situations spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the tests had not been released publicly.
Read more from the Associated Press here.
7:40 a.m. Hang-ups, lies and wrong numbers: Contact tracers’ uphill fight against COVID-19
A woman in Little Village sobs after learning she is the latest member of her family to test positive for COVID-19. She fears she won’t be able to take care of her grandson.
A worker at a West Side food-processing company explains how no precautions are taken to protect employees who are herded into a small room to punch timecards.
A young woman is frustrated that the customers at her small Lake County store won’t social distance or wear masks.
These are stories told to contact tracers, the people who investigate interactions between those infected with COVID-19 and their family, friends or anyone else potentially exposed to the virus. The aim: to identify and isolate infected people before they spread the virus.
Hundreds of millions of dollars of federal money is being funneled to health departments across Illinois, including those in Chicago and Cook County, to hire hundreds of contact tracers. The state says robust contact tracing of at least 90 percent of reported cases within 24 hours of a diagnosis is necessary to be able to safely reopen. But officials admit that’s not happening in suburban Cook County, for example. And it’s not clear which local health departments are meeting that goal.
Read the full report from Brett Chase and Tom Schuba here.
7:30 a.m. When pandemic hit, a Chicago jazz icon’s world fell apart. Friends helped put it together again.
On his 1975 album “Boogie Piano Chicago Style,” Erwin Helfer taps out a tune on the piano called “Rubbish Boogie,” an upbeat, toe-tapping melody. Another track, “Inside,” is more plodding, clipping along at a slower tempo, a musical version of what it feels like to be sad. Not depressed, just a little sad.
“There’s a difference between being depressed and between being sad,” says Helfer, sitting in his backyard on the North Side. “But the thing is you have to have all of those emotions in order to play music. You know, it’s part of what music is about.”
At 84, Helfer has experienced a lifetime of joy and sadness, more than enough to fill 10 albums of his piano music and jazz festivals and other gigs he’s played in Chicago and overseas.
Growing up in the 1950s in the north suburbs, the Chicago piano legend spent much of his time on the South Side learning from jazz piano great Jimmy Yancey and later accompanying blues singer Estelle “Mama” Yancey. As a young man, he traveled with and made recordings of jazz and blues piano greats including Doug Suggs, Speckled Red and Billie Pierce.
Until March, Helfer was playing shows at the Hungry Brain in Lakeview every Tuesday night and offering piano lessons.
Then, the pandemic hit. Within weeks, he was hospitalized — not from COVID-19 but from what experts say is likely to become a significant side-effect of the pandemic. Helfer fell into a deep and debilitating depression.
Read the full story from Caroline Hurley here.
Analysis & Commentary
7:40 a.m. Boss Trump can’t suspend elections, but Congress can do more to protect them
Oh, goodness, he’s finally done it.
The ultimate weapon of every autocrat is to suspend elections, denying the people a fair chance to throw the bum out, and Donald Trump finally has gone there.
On Thursday, Trump dared to float the idea of delaying the November elections because — and this is nonsense — the pandemic would make fair elections impossible.
Just the day before he had insisted, once again, that mail-in voting during the pandemic inevitably would be rife with fraud — again based on nothing. And earlier in the week, Trump’s postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, contributed to this desperate, last-minute attempt to subvert the democratic process by announcing that he’s going to shut down post offices.
Because if the integrity of mail-in elections can, in fact, be trusted now, Trump and lackeys want to do their best to destroy that integrity and trust.
Read the full column here.