Meanwhile, President Trump staged a dramatic return to the White House Monday night after leaving the military hospital where he has been receiving an unprecedented level of care for COVID-19. He immediately ignited a new controversy by declaring that despite his illness the nation should not fear the virus that has killed more than 210,000 Americans — and then he entered the White House without a protective mask
Also on Monday, the CDC said that the coronavirus can spread more than 6 feet through the air, especially in poorly ventilated and enclosed spaces. But agency officials maintained that such spread is uncommon and current social distancing guidelines still make sense.
Here’s what’s happening Monday with COVID-19 in the Chicago area and Illinois:
5:05 p.m.: Nearly one-third of COVID patients in Chicago-area study had an altered mental state
Nearly a third of hospitalized COVID-19 patients experienced some type of altered mental function — ranging from confusion to delirium to unresponsiveness — in the largest study to date of neurological symptoms among coronavirus patients in a U.S. hospital system.
And patients with altered mental function had significantly worse medical outcomes, according to the study, published Monday in Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology. The study looked at the records of the first 509 coronavirus patients hospitalized, from March 5 to April 6, at 10 hospitals in the Northwestern Medicine health system in the Chicago area.
These patients stayed three times as long in the hospital as patients without altered mental function.
After they were discharged, only 32% of the patients with altered mental function were able to handle routine daily activities like cooking and paying bills, said Dr. Igor Koralnik, senior author of the study and chief of neuro-infectious disease and global neurology at Northwestern Medicine. In contrast, 89% of patients without altered mental function were able to manage such activities without assistance.
Patients with altered mental function — the medical term is encephalopathy — were also nearly seven times as likely to die as those who did not have that type of problem.
4:40 p.m.: St. Viator Catholic school moves to all-remote after ‘several’ positive COVID-19 cases over weekend
St. Viator High School in Arlington Heights is shifting from all-onsite learning to all-remote following an uptick in positive novel coronavirus cases in recent days, school officials said Monday.
School officials told Pioneer Press Monday that the decision was made after several positive COVID-19 test results “among those in the school” Saturday and Sunday.
Officials declined to say whether those testing positive were students or staff, or to provide additional information.
“While we had experienced only a few isolated instances since returning to school on August 24, in the past few days the number of reports exceeded what we feel allows us to provide a safe environment for our faculty, staff and students,” school President Brian Liedlich said in a statement.
4:15 p.m.: CDC now says coronavirus can spread more than 6 feet through the air in updated guidance
The top U.S. public health agency said Monday that the coronavirus can spread more than 6 feet through the air, especially in poorly ventilated and enclosed spaces. But agency officials maintained that such spread is uncommon and current social distancing guidelines still make sense.
However, several experts faulted the updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance. They said the virus can spread more easily than the CDC seems to be indicating, and suggested that the public should wear masks even in prolonged outdoor gatherings when they are more than 6 feet apart.
The virus “is traveling through the air and there is no bright line. You’re not safe beyond 6 feet. You can’t take your mask off at 6 feet,” said Dr. Donald Milton of the University of Maryland School of Public Health.
For months, the CDC has said that the virus spreads mainly through small airborne droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Most CDC guidance about social distancing is built around that idea, saying that 6 feet is a safe buffer between people who are not wearing masks.
In interviews, CDC officials have also acknowledged growing evidence that the virus can sometimes spread on even smaller particles called aerosols that spread over a wider area.
In the update posted on its website, the agency again acknowledged recent research showing people with COVID-19 infected others who were more than 6 feet away or shortly after an infected person left an area. CDC officials called those “limited, uncommon circumstances.”
In those cases, spread occurred in poorly ventilated and enclosed spaces where people were doing activities that caused heavier breathing, like singing or exercise, CDC officials said.
People can protect themselves by staying at least 6 feet away from others, wearing a mask, washing their hands, cleaning touched surfaces and staying home when sick.
3 p.m.: Facing $1.2 billion shortfall, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot schedules Oct. 21 budget address
Mayor Lori Lightfoot will unveil her 2021 budget and explain how she intends to fill a $1.2 billion deficit on Oct. 21, according to her administration.
Lightfoot initially planned to give her budget speech on Oct. 14, but pushing it back gives her more time to prepare her spending plan.
Citing the “catastrophic collapse of our local and national economy” because of COVID-19 and damage to local businesses from civil unrest, Lightfoot in August laid out a $1.2 billion shortfall for what she called Chicago’s “pandemic budget” in 2021.
She has since declined to provide specifics about how the city will close its yawning deficit, saying officials were working on plans and awaiting feedback from residents.
1:01 p.m.: Brian Kelly pledges Notre Dame football ‘will be even more vigilant’ after a COVID-19 outbreak involving 39 players
In normal times, coaches warn players about excessive celebrations to avoid a 15-yard penalty.
Now? The penalty could be more serious — getting sick, missing games and imperiling teammates.
“Nothing has been normal the last couple of weeks,” Kelly said.
12:11 p.m.: Why Morton Arboretum decided to make its ‘Illumination’ holiday lights experience drive-thru this year
It isn’t immediately obvious why Morton Arboretum would make “Illumination,” its holiday lights experience, drive-thru for the first time this year.
CDC guidelines suggest that outdoor, socially distanced activities are relatively safe in the COVID-19 pandemic. And the three other big end-of-year bulb displays — at Lincoln Park Zoo, Brookfield Zoo and Chicago Botanic Garden — are all sticking with the boots-on-the-ground model.
But the Lisle tree park’s decision to have people stay in their cars this year, when “Illumination” debuts Nov. 20, boils down to two things: a hedge against the uncertainty of a winter season with the virus still coursing through American communities, and perhaps getting worse thanks to folks being forced indoors; and a simple matter of giving the people what they said they want.
12:07 p.m.: 1,853 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 14 additional deaths reported
Illinois public health officials reported Monday they had logged 1,853 newly diagnosed cases and 14 additional confirmed deaths of people with COVID-19, raising the statewide tally to 303,394 known cases and 8,805 deaths.
9:51 a.m.: You’re worried about a pandemic, the election and a safe Halloween. Are you ready to start holiday shopping?
Generations of families have kicked off the holiday season in Chicago with a trip to Macy’s —formerly Marshall Field’s — store on State Street, peeking at animated window displays before visiting the 45-foot-tall, 3,000-pound decorated tree at the center of the Walnut Room restaurant.
The coronavirus pandemic won’t stop a tradition that began 113 years ago: The Walnut Room, closed since March, opens Nov. 7. But where diners used to stand in a rope line to wait for a table, this year, they will need to plan ahead.
Macy’s is requiring reservations and will start taking bookings on OpenTable this week. To limit crowds, only groups having a meal will be able to visit the tree.
Consumers have a lot on their plates as they deal with a global health crisis, job losses, pay cuts, a contentious presidential election and whether their kids can safely celebrate Halloween. Retailers face those same worries as they grapple with the all-important question for the fourth quarter: How to get people in a holiday spending mood?
9 a.m.: Goose Island shifting first Bourbon County release to United Center drive-thru event due to COVID-19
Like Chicago’s basketball and hockey teams, the city’s oldest brewery will call the United Center home, albeit temporarily, as COVID-19 forces Goose Island to release the first of its 2020 Bourbon County beers in a multi-day drive-thru operation at the West Side arena.
Instead of the brewery’s usual in-person beer release called Proprietor’s Day, Goose Island will stage a tweaked version called Proprietor’s Days across weekends in November, during which beer drinkers will be able to pick up several of the brewery’s barrel-aged stouts without getting out of their vehicles.
7:11 a.m.: Free ride over for Metra UP commuters as ticket verification begins at Ogilvie station
The free ride may be over for Chicago commuters on Metra’s three Union Pacific lines with the installation of manned ticket verification booths at the Ogilvie Transportation Center.
Beginning Monday, commuters on the UP North, Northwest and West Metra lines will have to show a valid ticket or their Ventra app when boarding or disembarking at the Chicago station. Union Pacific employees will verify fares behind new Plexiglas booths on the train platforms.
“We feel this is the safest way to help with fair collection, but also protect our employees and the commuters,” said Kristen South, a Union Pacific spokeswoman.
Metra and Union Pacific have been at odds over fare collection since June, when UP refused to allow conductors into the aisles to punch tickets on its three Metra lines, citing coronavirus safety concerns. That essentially created a no fare policy, which has been costing the commuter rail system $1 million a month in lost ticket revenue, Metra said.
7:10 a.m.: State board of education and teachers unions team up to mentor, instruct new teachers during COVID-19 pandemic
New teachers hired during the coronavirus pandemic will be paired with mentors and online instructional coaches “to help guide them through this most unique first year of teaching” under a partnership between the state Board of Education and Illinois teachers unions, according to a news release.
Every year, about 4,000 new public school teachers are hired in Illinois, and many were unable to complete their usual student teaching this spring because of the pandemic-forced shift to online learning, according to the release.
The Illinois Virtual Instructional Coach and Building Mentor Program is being funded with a $6.5 million grant from the federal coronavirus relief bill. The program will give the new teachers an online instructional coach to give them support for online teaching, a mentor to help them connect with their school community and an online library of resources, according to the release. The program also will help connect teachers with other first-year teachers and give them “support and feedback through one-on-one and small group virtual coaching sessions,” according to the release.
5 a.m.: Older people will soon receive health coverage in Illinois regardless of immigration status under first-in-nation program: ‘It’s a relief’
When Ananias Ocampo, 76, learned that in December he’ll finally have access to health care coverage even though he lacks legal immigration status, he smiled and managed to get up from the chair next to his ice cream cart despite his trembling and extreme knee pain because of arthritis.
“Enserio, no lo puedo creer, que alivio!” cried out Ocampo while selling ice cream on the corner of 18th and Paulina streets, as he has done every day during the summer despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
He is at a high risk of contracting the virus because of his advanced age and health conditions, including diabetes. But because of his immigration status, Ocampo does not qualify for Medicare, Social Security, or any sort of federal assistance, despite paying taxes for decades.
But in December, Ocampo will be one of hundreds of older immigrants eligible for Medicaid-like coverage in Illinois for low-income immigrants age 65 and older regardless of their immigration status. Initially, between 400 and 2,000 people are expected to sign up for the program, which was part of the state budget passed this spring.
5 a.m.: In the final days of the census, outreach workers struggle with apathy and distrust
Working at food pantries in Chicago this summer, 17-year-old Lizbeth Vidal walked up and down lines of families, trying to get them counted for the 2020 census.
It was not an easy job, even though many of the people she approached came from some of the neediest neighborhoods in Chicago and stood to lose the most if not counted for a census that will determine billions of dollars in federal resources for the next 10 years.
One day, she stood next to a family of 13 as they waited at a pantry, chatting with them all the way to the end when they finally agreed to complete a census questionnaire. She is constantly telling people how filling out the form will make their parks, libraries and schools better for their children.
“A lot of us are learning from home and … that money is going to be helpful for us,” Vidal told residents near her home in West Englewood. “I know not everyone has computers. … That’s the way we get computers, books.”
Still, response rates remain low in many areas across the South and West sides, with some neighborhoods reporting rates around 30%. The same areas have poverty rates of 30% and 40%, according to data gathered by the University of Illinois at Chicago.
“The reason people are hard to count is because they don’t trust the system,” said state Rep. La Shawn Ford, who has been involved in census efforts on the West Side. “People don’t believe they should participate because our communities suffer, and they believe they are never going to spend the money on our neighborhoods anyways.”
The pandemic put up new barriers. The original deadline of July 31 was extended to Oct. 31 because it was harder to reach homes or gather people for events. The Trump administration abruptly moved up the deadline to Sept. 30, but a federal judge has ruled the deadline should remain the end of this month to guarantee an accurate count.
Here are four things that happened over the weekend related to COVID-19: