Newsletter: A “Make-Or-Break” Moment For Illinois

Pritzker wants to crack down on businesses that flout face mask rules as Illinois surpasses 2,000 cases for the first time since May. That story and more are in today’s Rundown.

Illinois covid
A sign announces to maintain social distance and wear mask during the COVID-19 pandemic at Vernon Hills Athletic Complex in Vernon Hills, Ill., Thursday, July 30, 2020. Nam Y. Huh / AP Photo
Illinois covid
A sign announces to maintain social distance and wear mask during the COVID-19 pandemic at Vernon Hills Athletic Complex in Vernon Hills, Ill., Thursday, July 30, 2020. Nam Y. Huh / AP Photo

Newsletter: A “Make-Or-Break” Moment For Illinois

Pritzker wants to crack down on businesses that flout face mask rules as Illinois surpasses 2,000 cases for the first time since May. That story and more are in today’s Rundown.

Hey there, it’s Friday! And it’s August? When did that happen? Here’s what you need to know today. (PS: You can have this delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.)

1. Illinois surpasses 2,000 new COVID-19 cases for first time since May

State officials today announced 2,084 new cases and 21 additional deaths. The last time Illinois saw more than 2,000 cases was May 24, when 2,508 cases were reported. According to The New York Times, the seven-day average of new cases is 1,662 as of yesterday, an increase of 28% from two weeks ago. [Chicago Tribune]

The news comes as Gov. JB Pritzker today proposed rules to enforce his face mask mandate.

“This is a make-or-break moment for the state of Illinois,” the governor said.

Under Pritzker’s proposal, businesses and organizations could be punished for not enforcing face masks and not limiting gatherings to no more than 50 in a room, reports WBEZ’s Tony Arnold. Violators will now first get a warning, and if the problem persists, the business could face misdemeanor charges and fines up to $2,500. These rules only apply to businesses and not individuals, Pritzker said.

The proposal now goes before a bipartisan state panel that is expected to meet next week. [WBEZ]

Meanwhile, Mayor Lori Lightfoot tested negative for COVID-19 after an alderman she attended a recent press conference with disclosed he tested positive. Lightfoot will not self-quarantine because “she was not in close proximity with the alderman for an extended period of time,” her office said. [Chicago Tribune]

2. Democrats and White House remain at impasse over federal relief despite today’s jobs report

The U.S. added 1.8 million jobs last month even as a surge in COVID-19 infections saw many states revive restrictions on businesses. And the unemployment rate for July fell to 10.2%.

But the increase in hiring, reported today by the Labor Department, is much smaller than in June, when employers added a record 4.8 million jobs. Some economists believe the pace of hiring is slowing down and will begin affecting other parts of the economy.

“There are still a lot of people on the sidelines,” said Sarah House, a senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities. “That’s going to have a big impact on what we see in terms of consumer spending over the coming months.” [NPR]

The possibility appears slim that today’s jobs report will help break the stalemate between the White House and congressional Democrats over a new coronavirus relief package. That’s because the jobs report offers both sides new talking points.

Republicans can point to the better than expected job gains as a sign that the federal government can scale back federal aid. Democrats, meanwhile, say the hiring slowdown boosts their argument for a more expansive relief package, which would include the extension of enhanced jobless benefits that expired a week ago. [New York Times]

3. COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. could reach nearly 300,000, researchers estimate

The country could see as many as 137,000 people die between now and December, according to a recent forecast from researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

About 160,000 Americans have died so far from COVID-19. If the researchers’ projections come true, it would mean that the coronavirus will likely be the third leading cause of death in the U.S. for the year. [NPR]

Meanwhile, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, warned that Chicago is among local areas across the country that are seeing troubling signs.

In a private call this week with state and local officials, Birx said that while Chicago, Boston, Detroit and Washington, D.C. are doing relatively well, officials have to “get on top of it.” She also said Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia are “concerning.” [The Center for Public Integrity]

4. China wants Trump defeated while Russia denigrates Biden, says top U.S. intelligence official

Beijing views President Donald Trump as “unpredictable” and prefers to not see him reelected, according to a statement released today by William Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center.

But potential interference in the 2020 election doesn’t end with China. Evanina said Russia is “is using a range of measures to primarily denigrate former vice president Biden and what it sees as an anti-Russia ‘establishment.’ ” [Washington Post]

The assessment comes as relations between the U.S. and China continue to sour. The Trump administration says it will sanction officials in China and Hong Kong who have undermined Hong Kong’s autonomy. [BBC]

5. Another month, another federal corruption charge in the Chicago area

“The mayor of southwest suburban Crestwood on Friday joined the long list of Chicago-area politicians accused of corruption in a wide-ranging federal investigation,” reports WBEZ’s Tony Arnold and Dan Mihalopoulos.

Federal prosecutors say Lou Presta was involved in a bribery scheme with a red-light camera company, and he allegedly took an envelope containing $5,000 in cash. When the feds confronted Presta about the envelope, he “falsely stated that there was no money in the envelope,” authorities say. [WBEZ]

Here’s what else is happening

  • Chicago businesses are conducting their own contact tracing as the state falls behind. [WBEZ]
  • Lebanese President Michel Aoun said he knew for nearly three weeks of the massive amounts of ammonium nitrate stored in Beirut’s port before it exploded. [AP]
  • Oprah Winfrey set up 26 billboards about Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky. [AP]
  • The Matrix trilogy is a “trans metaphor,” says co-director Lilly Wachowski. [BBC]

Oh, and one more thing …

Whew, it has been a week. Here’s something that’s been popular on Twitter today: Two teenagers discovered Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight,” and their pure joy in stumbling across a great song is just what I needed to end this week on a happy note. Enjoy!

Tell me something good …

I need book recommendations. What’s a good book you recently read?

Becca Payne tweets:

“I recently finished The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett and it was expertly written and very compelling. I’ve also read Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston twice during this pandemic because it continues to bring me so much gay joy!”

Patricia writes:

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead. He’s the author of Pulitzer Prize-winning The Underground Railroad, one of the best books I’ve read in a very long time.”

And Walker writes:

“I just picked up a copy of Gate of the Sun by Beirut’s own Elias Khoury at The Dial. Thinking of that great city today and reminding myself that the tragedy it faces is more than matched by the ability of its people to survive and overcome. Until I am able to walk the Corniche again, I’ll settle for the shelves at the Dial and contributing to fundraisers like this one.”

Thank you so much for all the responses this week. I’m sorry I couldn’t get to all of them, but it was nice hearing from y’all.

Thanks for reading and have a nice night! I’ll see you on Monday!