Latest coronavirus news: July 4, 2020 live blog

Latest coronavirus news: July 4, 2020 live blog

The Latest

10 more Illinois coronavirus deaths mark lowest daily toll in 3 months

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Health officials on Saturday announced 10 more Illinois deaths have been attributed to COVID-19, the state’s lowest number of coronavirus deaths announced in a single day since March 30.

The virus has claimed 7,014 lives since the state’s first death was confirmed March 17, but Illinois has seen some of its lowest daily tolls over the last two weeks as the state’s pandemic curve appears to be flattening while outbreaks in other states flare to record highs.

Illinois’ worst coronavirus day came May 13 with 192 deaths, the apex of a peak month that saw an average of about 100 COVID-19 deaths per day. The death rate was about half that in June.

Read the full story by Mitchell Armentrout here.


News

6:30 p.m. Kansas newspaper’s post equates mask mandate with Holocaust

TOPEKA, Kan. — A weekly Kansas newspaper whose publisher is a county Republican Party chairman posted a cartoon on its Facebook page likening the Democratic governor’s order requiring people to wear masks in public to the roundup and murder of millions of Jews during the Holocaust.

The cartoon on the Anderson County Review’s Facebook page depicts Gov. Laura Kelly wearing a mask with a Jewish Star of David on it, next to a drawing of people being loaded onto train cars. Its caption is, “Lockdown Laura says: Put on your mask … and step onto the cattle car.”

The newspaper posted the cartoon on Friday, the day that Kelly’s mask order aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus took effect. It’s drawn several hundred comments, many of them strongly critical.

Publisher Dane Hicks, who is also Anderson County’s GOP chairman, told The Associated Press on Saturday that he would answer emailed questions about the cartoon once he could reach a computer. His newspaper is based in the county seat of Garnett, about 65 miles (105 kilometers) southwest of Kansas City and has a circulation of about 2,100, according to the Kansas Press Association.

Read the full story by The Associated Press here.

5 p.m. Illinois opening more centers to support small businesses suffering from COVID-19 aftermath

Seven new state-run centers will open this summer to support Illinois small businesses.

The Small Business Development Centers set to launch in July or already opened are in Chicago, Elgin and Joliet. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Development said the $11.5 million effort brings the total of centers statewide to 42.

“With many Illinois businesses currently facing unprecedented burdens as a result of COVID-19 and recent civil unrest, our SBDC community partners can be a lifeline for businesses working to reopen safely,” said Michael Negron, acting director of the department.

Business owners can get one-on-one confidential advice and assistance at the centers on many topics including education, training and business planning.

Read the full story here.

2:45 p.m. How to watch Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Picnic as it moves online because of coronavirus

SPICEWOOD, Texas — Willie Nelson’s annual Fourth of July Picnic is going ahead this year, but to reduce concerns about the coronavirus, the event will be virtual.

Fans can tune in to the nearly 50-year-old music bash Saturday via luck.stream and williepicnic.com. Tickets for the picnic are on sale at williepicnic.com.

Other performers expected to play include Sheryl Crow, Ziggy Marley, Steve Earle and Nelson’s fellow Texas-based singers Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen and Kinky Friedman.

Some of the artists will perform at Nelson’s Luck Ranch in Spicewood, northwest of Austin. Others will stream live from elsewhere.

Read the full report here.

1:11 p.m. Pritzker urges bars, restaurants to follow guidelines as officials announce 18 more coronavirus-related deaths

As the state announced 18 more coronavirus-related deaths Friday and more than 800 new cases, Gov. J.B. Pritzker urged bars and restaurants to continue to follow health guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus.

Residents were also urged to remember to wear masks, social distance and wash their hands during the Fourth of July weekend.

“The virus is not taking the holiday weekend off, and neither can we,” Pritzker said in a statement. “Letting our guard down now would fly in the face of the progress we’ve made over many months. We have seen that mitigation measures have worked in our state and we’ve seen too many other states rapidly lose ground in the fight against the virus.”

Pritzker said he wouldn’t hesitate to close establishments that won’t follow occupancy limits laid out under Phase 4 of his reopening plan.

The warning comes a day after a Clay County judge ruled against Pritzker in a lawsuit brought by Rep. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia over the governor’s executive orders to slow the spread of the virus.

In his order, Judge Michael McHaney ruled that emergency powers provided under the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act lapsed on April 8, and any executive orders relating to the virus in effect after that date were determined to be void.

The state has said it will appeal the ruling.

Read the full report from Matthew Hendrickson here.

11:51 a.m. ‘People aren’t stupid’: Pence’s virus spin tests credibility

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence has long played the straight man to Donald Trump, translating the president’s bombast into more measured, calming language.

His job has become even more difficult. As coronavirus cases spike across large parts of the country despite months of lockdown, Pence has spent the past week trying to convince the American public that things are going very well, even though they’re not.

“Make no mistake about it, what you see today is that America is going back to work and the American people are finding a way every day to put this coronavirus farther in the past,” he told CNBC the same day the country reported more than 55,000 new virus cases, a daily record.

For public health experts, the optimism has been unmoored from reality.

“It’s almost laughable because it doesn’t pass any test of credibility when we’re seeing spikes in cases, spikes in hospitalizations,” said Larry Gostin, who specializes in public health at Georgetown University Law School. “The American people aren’t stupid. They can see spin when there is spin.”

The most important thing Pence can do, Gostin said, “is to be honest with the American public. … They need to be told the truth and then they need to be told what America is going to do to turn this around.”

It’s not the first time Pence has been forced to put his own credibility on the line as he serves as Trump’s most loyal soldier. It may be the most consequential.

Read the full report here.

11:16 a.m. Coronavirus pandemic should spur family talk about financial planning, too

The coronavirus pandemic that’s hit Black and Latinx families especially hard has forced an uneasy conversation about death and dying. But it should also include a conversation about what happens after the worst happens. Are wills — and more importantly — trusts in place? What happens to a family home, for example?

Families who prepare for the worst can keep their homes out of probate and avoid the lengthy time, expense and bureaucracy it can entail. And there are affordable or free resources available to help everyone navigate the financial planning landscape.

Englewood resident Earline Alexander said the recent COVID-19 deaths of her father-in-law and his brother within two weeks heightened her awareness of getting her affairs in order.

“Even though they were in their 80s and had underlying health conditions, had this pandemic not come along, I believe they’d still be with us,” said Alexander, who retired from a career as a director and manager of nonprofit and government agencies.

Having a last will-and-testament will not keep your estate out of what can be a long, costly and complicated probate process. To keep the family home out of probate court, with its potential for family feuds, homeowners must set up an alternative planning tool like a trust or a Transfer on Death Instrument, or TODI.

Read the full report from Sandra Guy here.

10:40 a.m. Much of US scales back on holiday, but Trump plans to go big

WASHINGTON — As coronavirus cases spike, public health officials are pleading with Americans to avoid large crowds and hold more muted Independence Day celebrations, but subdued is not President Donald Trump’s style, and he aimed to go big, promising a “special evening” in Washington that could bring tens of thousands to the National Mall.

Trump’s “Salute for America” celebration on Saturday evening was to include a speech from the White House South Lawn that he said would celebrate American heritage, as well as a military flyover over the city and an enormous fireworks display that could pack people downtown.

The president kicked off the holiday weekend by traveling to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota for a fireworks display Friday night near the mountain carvings of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. In his remarks, he accused protesters who have pushed for racial justice of engaging in a “merciless campaign to wipe out our history.”

In a presidential message Saturday on the 244th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, Trump acknowledged that “over the past months, the American spirit has undoubtedly been tested by many challenges.”

His Democratic rival, Joe Biden, said in a statement that the U.S. “never lived up” to its founding principle that “all men are created equal,” but that today “we have a chance to rip the roots of systemic racism out of this country.’’

His participation in big gatherings comes as many communities have decided to scrap fireworks, parades and other holiday traditions. The goal is to try to prevent further spread of the coronavirus, which large gatherings could spur. Confirmed cases are climbing in 40 states, and the U.S. set another record Friday with 52,300 newly reported infections, according to the tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Read the full story here.

7:24 a.m. High school sports moves into new phase of Return-to-Play on Monday

High school athletes will be able to participate in sport-specific activities starting on Monday.

The Illinois Department of Public Health has approved the Illinois High School Association’s next phase of return-to-play. It’s called Phase 4 to match the state’s Restore Illinois plan, which is also in Phase 4.

Athletes were previously limited to conditioning workouts in groups of 10. In Phase 4, groups of 50 are allowed to workout together and balls and other gear can be used. High school coaches will be allowed 20 contact days with their team that must be used before Aug. 9.

“Safety remains at the forefront of everything that the IHSA is doing as we move into Phase 4 and beyond,” IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said. “Our focus now shifts to continuing to work with state leadership to determine how to provide the safest environment possible for fall sports.”

Read the full report from Michael O’Brien here.


New cases


Analysis & Commentary

5:55 p.m. There’s a decent chance the final score will be COVID-19, Baseball 0

If the baseball season sat on an examining table, gulped and asked the doctor for its odds of survival, what would he say? Seventy-five percent? Fifty?

Or would he shake his head grimly and mumble something about a summer of golf being a nice option?

It’s not good when ‘‘wing’’ and ‘‘prayer’’ are the two words that come to mind when pondering Major League Baseball’s chances of playing its 60-game season. But there are still too many unknowns with COVID-19, and no amount of best practices, due diligence and rosary beads is going to change that.

I don’t want to kill your buzz. Like you, I want something to watch other than my fingernails. Baseball games, a full season of them, would be a beautiful distraction from the pandemic. And I certainly don’t mean to pick on baseball. The same doubts nipping at MLB’s heels are dogging the NBA, the NFL, the NHL and college football. I’ve wondered in print how sweating, bleeding, frothing football players are going to stay virus-free. Hint: They’re not.

Read the full column by Rick Morrissey here.

7:05 a.m. Wild West competition for face masks has eased; Illinois stockpiling PPE for a second wave

If Illinois experiences a resurgence of COVID-19 later this year, as many expect, state officials say they should be much better prepared from the standpoint of having the necessary medical supplies this time around.

Deputy Gov. Christian Mitchell said the state has stockpiled tens of millions of face masks and other personal protective equipment — gowns, gloves and shields — in anticipation of a possible second wave.

“I feel we are pretty well-positioned at this point,” said Mitchell, who found himself in the eye of the storm in early spring as the governor’s point man on PPE procurement.

Back then — just three months ago, though Mitchell said it feels like three years — I told you about the Wild West world of emergency PPE procurement in which governments competed for equipment to respond to the pandemic.

Not only were states and cities vying with each other, they also were up against our federal government and foreign nations to locate and purchase face masks and other supplies.

Officials ended up bidding up prices as they fought over scarce inventory, much of it located in China, which posed its own complications because of the Trump administration’s antagonistic relationship with the Chinese. Special flights had to be arranged to bring in materials.

It got so crazy at one point that an Illinois state comptroller’s employee drove a $3.5 million check from Springfield to a McDonald’s restaurant in Dwight to hand it off to a Chicago area moving company owner to beat a deadline to close the deal on an order of face masks from China.

“The dust has settled,” said Arnold Park, a Chicago lawyer who shifted his family’s beauty-supply business into medical supplies during the early days of COVID-19 and later landed two state contracts for PPE.

The need for supplies remains. But the urgency has eased, according to Park, whose Alicia International Inc. used its Chinese relationships to make the switch.

Read Mark Brown’s full column here.

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