WBEZ’s Rundown Of Today’s Top News: 15,415 new COVID-19 cases in Illinois

Free COVID-19 testing site in Chicago
At Dr. Jorge Prieto Math and Science Academy (2231 N. Central Ave.), one of the City of Chicago's free COVID-19 testing sites, the line of cars circled the block on Friday, Nov. 13. 2020. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
Free COVID-19 testing site in Chicago
At Dr. Jorge Prieto Math and Science Academy (2231 N. Central Ave.), one of the City of Chicago's free COVID-19 testing sites, the line of cars circled the block on Friday, Nov. 13. 2020. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

WBEZ’s Rundown Of Today’s Top News: 15,415 new COVID-19 cases in Illinois

WBEZ brings you fact-based news and information. Sign up for our newsletters to stay up to date on the stories that matter.

Good afternoon! It’s Friday, Nov. 13, 2020 — and you know what that means. Here’s what you need to know today.

1. Hospitals are filling up as coronavirus surge continues

For more than a week, Illinois has been leading the nation in the number of new COVID-19 cases, as a second surge of the virus spreads to every corner of the state. By several metrics, this surge already appears to be more severe than the initial outbreak in the spring — and data suggest the peak is still a long way off.

Statewide, there were only 28% of ICU beds left as of Thursday, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Patients who have COVID-19 are occupying just over a quarter of all ICU beds, which means other people who are critically ill are using most of them.

As of Thursday, 72% of all ventilators in Illinois were available, according to state data. Of those in use, around 31% of the breathing machines were being used by patients with COVID-19. [WBEZ]

The news comes as Illinois health officials today reported 15,415 new COVID-19 cases — breaking the record for daily cases for the fourth consecutive day. The previous high was the 12,702 cases reported yesterday. The state also reported 27 more coronavirus-related deaths. The state has averaged 61 deaths per day over the past week. [Chicago Tribune]

In Chicago, the weekly average of daily coronavirus cases is now at 2,008 — up 40% from the previous week. The city’s positivity rate is at 14.5%. [WBEZ]

And Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle today issued a stay-at-home advisory. Mayor Lori Lightfoot issued a similar advisory for the city yesterday.

Gov. JB Pritzker hinted that the local advisory could be superseded by a state order: “If things don’t take a turn in the coming days, we will quickly reach the point when some form of a mandatory stay-at-home order is all that will be left.” [Chicago Sun-Times]

2. Biden wins Georgia, Trump wins North Carolina

Georgia was finally called today for President-elect Joe Biden, who finished with 306 Electoral College votes, surpassing the 270 needed to secure his bid for the White House. President Donald Trump today was declared the winner of North Carolina, bringing his total to 232 votes. Trump won both states in 2016. [New York Times]

As Trump remains defiant in the face of defeat, the far-flung elector defection gambit seems unlikely to succeed. [New York Times]

Meanwhile, a few economists are predicting that Biden could be the beneficiary of pandemic savings. According to one estimate, millions of Americans have paused spending due to stay-at-home orders that put an end to activities such as dining out, drinking at bars and buying gym memberships.

The savings add up to $2 trillion, or roughly 10% of the economy. With a successful vaccine, all that money could pour out, says economist Ian Shepherdson, ushering in what he calls the “Biden Boom” by the time spring arrives. “President-elect Biden is arriving in Washington at the right time,” said Shepherdson, the chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics. [NPR]

Finally, more than 130 Secret Service officers connected to Trump’s campaign travel are infected with the coronavirus or quarantining. [Washington Post]

3. The mayor plays hardball to pass controversial budget

As Mayor Lightfoot lobbies aldermen for the 26 votes she needs to pass her 2021 city budget, sources tell the Chicago Tribune that her message amounts to a threat: If you vote against my spending plan, good luck getting the needs of your ward prioritized.

Lightfoot’s plan includes a $94 million property tax increase this year and annual hikes after that, massive city employee layoffs and a gas tax bump. The budget also relies on more revenue from fines and fees, including ticketing people caught by electronic speed cameras going 6 mph over the limit.

“Don’t come to me for s*** for the next three years” if you don’t support the budget, two aldermen recalled her saying. [Chicago Tribune]

“We were all floored,” an alderman in one of the mayor’s closed-door meetings said to the Chicago Sun-Times. “You’re telling us that you’re not gonna represent certain areas because they don’t vote for you and or they don’t vote for your budget? That ain’t right.” [Chicago Sun-Times]

The mayor is also linking a measure that would block Chicago police from cooperating with federal immigration agents — an important protection for immigrants — to passage of her budget. [WTTW]

Meanwhile, the hard legislative work churns on. Here are five takeaways from the past two weeks of virtual budget hearings. [WBEZ]

4. Eight of Illinois’ 10 largest school districts sticking with remote learning

Among Illinois’ 10 largest school districts, eight have paused plans to reopen school buildings or reverted to virtual learning amid a spike in COVID-19 cases. That accounts for more than a quarter of Illinois’ public school students, or almost 500,000 students.

Many school districts across the state had proposed to offer the youngest students some in-person instruction later this month. With cases on the rise — even higher than when schools closed in March — the plan no longer seems possible.

Only Elgin and Rockford, the state’s second and third-largest districts respectively, have brought students into school buildings. At the beginning of the school year, Rockford allowed hybrid learning for students and Elgin brought in pre-K to second grade students this week.

Chicago Public Schools, the state’s largest district, has not yet set a return date for pre-kindergartners and special education students, who were supposed to return later this month. [Chalkbeat Chicago]

In suburban Cook County, health authorities are recommending that all schools return to remote learning, but districts in north suburban Bannockburn and west suburban Addison are saying “no.” [WBEZ]

5. Major League Baseball has its first female general manager

Kim Ng became the highest-ranking woman in baseball operations in the major leagues when she was hired today as general manager of the Miami Marlins. Believed to also be the first female general manager for a men’s team in a major professional sport in North America, Ng broke into MLB as an intern.

A graduate of the University of Chicago, the 51-year-old Indianapolis native has 21 years of experience in the front offices of the Chicago White Sox (1990-96), New York Yankees (1998-2001) and Los Angeles Dodgers (2002-11). [AP]

In other happy sports news, Chicago White Sox slugger Jose Abreu won the American League MVP award. [ESPN]

Here’s what else is happening

  • The independent watchdog group for utility customers has been accused of serving as “ComEd’s lapdog.” [WBEZ]

  • Flash floods hit North Carolina. [New York Times]

  • The QAnon conspiracy theory goes international. [Washington Post]

  • Turkmenistan’s president memorialized his dog with a 19-foot-high statue. [New York Times]

Oh, and one more thing …

The first volume of former President Barack Obama’s memoir is coming out Nov. 17, two weeks after Election Day. Titled A Promised Land, the 768-page book will cover his historic rise to the White House and his first term in office.

The reviews are already rolling in. Novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, writing in the New York Times, says:

“For all his ruthless self-assessment, there is very little of what the best memoirs bring: true self-revelation. So much is still at a polished remove. It is as if, because he is leery of exaggerated emotion, emotion itself is tamped down. He writes exhaustively about the nuts and bolts of passing his landmark Affordable Care Act, but with an absence of any interiority. ‘I love that woman,’ he says of Nancy Pelosi, after a phone conversation about the only way to bypass a Republican filibuster in the Senate — by passing the Senate version of the bill in the House. But we do not get anywhere near a measure of what emotional or even intellectual price he has paid for the many malicious Republican roadblocks which made that phone conversation necessary in the first place.” [New York Times]

If you can’t wait until Tuesday, now would be a good time to listen again to Making Obama, a seven-episode podcast that tells the surprisingly gripping story of his ascension through the ranks of local Chicago politics. [WBEZ]

Tell me something good …

I’ve decided I want some holiday cheer right now, so I’m decorating my house for Christmas this week. Are you looking forward to a holiday tradition or celebration as 2020 comes to a close? Or perhaps trying something new this year?

Ali writes:

Yippee Kai Yay Merry Christmas: A Die Hard Christmas Musical Parody is my one of my FAVORITE parts of both the holiday season and living in Chicago. It is exactly as the title suggests — a laugh until your stomach hurts musical parody of the great 80s Christmas movie Die Hard, starring Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman — and it is proof of how incredibly talented the Chicago theater scene is. … This year, as live theater isn’t an option and we’re all stuck at home, Yippee Kai Yay will be released on Youtube and we’re planning our own virtual watch party.”

And Whitney LaMora writes:

“My partner Chef Zoe Schor and I have developed a cooking class series called Off the Table, and we’re doing a Hanukkah edition! On Dec. 13 we’ll lead the class through learning how to cook potato latkes and matzo ball soup. We have physical meal kits or digital packages available so you don’t have to be in Chicago to participate. We can’t wait for community and good food!”

Have a nice night! If you like what you just read, you can subscribe to the newsletter here and have it delivered to your inbox.