Lowest COVID-19 positivity rate in weeks, but Pritzker and Ezike worry about holiday ‘super-spreader events’

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

State public health officials reported 8,322 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 Monday as well as 47 additional deaths.

As of Sunday night, 6,171 people with the virus were reported to be in the hospital, 1,206 patients were in intensive care units, and 635 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.

The 8,322-daily caseload, while still higher than in previous months, was the lowest since Nov. 4 and only the seventh time this month that the daily figure was below 10,000.

And the latest cases were detected among almost 91,562 tests, lowering the statewide average testing positivity rate to 10.9%, the lowest it’s been since Nov. 8.

As part of the state’s tier three resurgence mitigations, Gov. J.B. Pritzker asked people who work in office settings to work from home if possible, and he followed his own guidance Monday, allowing his employees to work from home and appearing virtually for his daily briefing on the virus.

Read the full story here.


9:15 a.m. Wedding panners: Naperville mayor gets cool reception for going to Florida for daughter’s nuptials

Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico found himself in an online family feud of sorts after attending his daughter’s wedding in Florida just a week after warning his suburban constituents that a mask mandate might be in order to combat a surge of the coronavirus.

The suburban mayor was publicly shamed by his niece, a former BuzzFeed personality, who tweeted that she was “fuming” after learning her uncle traveled to Naples, Florida, to attend the wedding, which she said included at least 50 guests.

“I can’t believe I have to say this but if you are HAVING A WEDDING THIS WEEKEND WITH UNMASKED PEOPLE IN ATTENDANCE something is wrong with you!!!!” Kristin Chirico tweeted Saturday.

A photo allegedly of the mayor and others at the wedding also appeared on Twitter. None of the people in it were wearing masks.

The father of the bride pushed back against the wedding zinger.

“My family and I all took COVID tests and tested negative prior to traveling to Florida this weekend for my daughter Jenna’s wedding,” Mayor Chirico said in a statement issued Sunday. “It was an outdoor wedding and reception with a total of 53 guests. Upon my return to Naperville, I will be quarantining and testing again.”

Read the full story here.

New cases

Analysis & Commentary

9:23 a.m. Why I am asking you to support one of the most painful budgets in Chicago’s history

I want to speak directly to Chicagoans about our city’s budget, which will come up for a vote before the full City Council today.

Long before I formally introduced this budget in October, it became clear that our economic path out of the COVID-19 pandemic would require us to make some extraordinarily difficult decisions. It was a matter of when, not if, these decisions would be made, and how we would make them — all while holding firm to our core values of equity, inclusion and transparency.

COVID-19 has not only upended all our lives from a health perspective, it also has devastated significant parts of our economy. This has resulted in an $800 million loss of revenues for the 2020 budget and a significant $1.2 billion deficit for next year, 65% of which is directly tied to COVID-19.

Dealing with a $1.2 billion gap means there were no easy decisions. None. And while the prospect of better times comes closer into view, particularly because of a new partner in the White House, along with the prospect of a nationwide COVID-19 response plan rooted in science and data, we must face the reality in front of us right now.

To put it bluntly, this is likely the most painful budget we have ever faced as a city. And it comes after the many difficult and painful choices we’ve already had to make over the last eight months. So, if there were a responsible way to close our budget gap that didn’t involve raising taxes or requiring some level of furloughs for our City employees, we would have already taken it. But among the many thing this pandemic has taken from us is our ability to make decisions without sacrificing something in return.

Read Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot’s full column here.

9:17 a.m. Vaccine news highlights racial disparities in COVID-19 cases

America got more good news about a COVID-19 vaccine last week, the second potential vaccine shown to be at least 90% effective against the disease in early data from clinical trials.

If the Food and Drug Administration grants emergency use authorization to one or both vaccines, doses could be distributed beginning in late Decembe,r and the country will have its most powerful tool yet against the pandemic.

But no vaccine, no matter how effective it is or how quickly it becomes available, will be a powerful tool against the pandemic if too few people — especially African Americans, who are among the most vulnerable to severe illness or death from COVID-19 — get the shot.

And as the Sun-Times’ Brett Chase reported Sunday, distrust of a COVID-19 vaccine runs deep among Black Americans. They’re less likely to volunteer for clinical trials to test vaccine safety and effectiveness. Public opinion polls, too, have consistently shown African Americans are less likely to say they would take a coronavirus vaccine.

The health care system has a lot of work to do to get past that lingering distrust. As states and the federal government plan public education campaigns to urge people to take a vaccine, extra effort must be made to reach the African American community, get people vaccinated and save lives.

Read the full editorial here.

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