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COVID-19 in Illinois updates: Here’s what’s happening Monday

The step backward in reopening in the Metro East comes as the state on Monday reported 1,773 newly confirmed coronavirus cases and 12 deaths of people with COVID-19. The state has now logged 207,854 cases overall, and has reported 7,756 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic

Meanwhile, five Chicago restaurants and bars were closed down over the weekend after investigators from the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection found them to be in violation of reopening requirements. All of the businesses were closed for one night.

Here’s what’s happening Monday with COVID-19 in the Chicago area and Illinois:

7:25 p.m.: Bears announce they currently are not planning to have fans at games at Soldier Field this season

The Chicago Bears are not planning to have fans at games at Soldier Field this season because of concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, the team announced Monday.

After discussing a plan with Chicago health officials, the Bears and the city agreed that health data showed it is not safe to host fans at games as of now. The Bears will put a plan in place “once it is deemed safe and appropriate,” according to the statement.

The Bears open their season on the road against the Detroit Lions on Sept. 13, and their home opener is scheduled for Sept. 20 at noon.

6:48 p.m.: Multiple COVID-19 cases reported at Chicago fire academy

The Chicago Fire Department has temporarily suspended training at the Quinn Fire Academy after multiple cases of coronavirus were reported, according to the department. It did not specify the number of people who tested positive.

“The health and safety of Chicago’s firefighters, paramedics and recruits are our utmost priority,” Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said in a statement. The department plans to clean and disinfect the facility, including all work areas and equipment used.

The current class of recruits will continue to train via remote learning, Langford added. Those who tested positive for COVID-19 will remain in isolation and close contacts of those affected will quarantine.

No individuals who have tested positive have required hospitalization, according to the Fire Department.

6 p.m.: Postal Service warns last-minute Illinois ballot requests may not be turned around fast enough to be counted

The U.S. Postal Service has warned Illinois state election officials that there’s a “significant risk” voters who make late requests for mail-in ballots for the Nov. 3 election won’t get them in time to be counted.

Election authorities said the timing issue is not new and that voters who want a mail-in ballot have always been urged not to wait until the final days before an election to make their request.

But some privately expressed concerns that the Postal Service notice of “delivery standards” and recommendations could be an attempt by the agency to inoculate itself from criticism if ballots are late arriving and can’t be counted.

The Postal Service’s warnings to states, along with concerns about equipment changes, cuts to overtime and the speed of mail delivery, prompted U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to call the chamber into session this week to consider legislation to return postal operations to the status quo.

5:50 p.m.: Wilmette boys nurture garden, and friendship, with 81-year-old neighbor during COVID-19 pandemic: ‘You’ve got to let stuff grow’

When Wilmette resident Barbara Offenberg gifted a few hosta plants to a neighbor earlier this summer, the conversation between the 81-year-old master gardener and the young mother who lives across the street was overheard by two curious 11-year-old boys.

With the COVID-19 pandemic scuttling their summer youth baseball team, and now with plenty of free time on their hands, rising sixth graders Evan Rick and Jensen Knox wandered over to Offenberg’s house later that afternoon and politely inquired, “How can we start a garden?”

Two months later, Evan and Jensen are nurturing a flourishing perennial garden along with a growing friendship with their octogenarian neighbor, who they call Barb.

“I was very much surprised, because at their age, most boys are interested in video games, not starting a garden,” said Offenberg, a retired church office manager.

“When they asked me for help in starting a garden, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh … these boys are so polite!’ There just couldn’t be anything better than this,” Offenberg said.

Before long, Evan, Jensen, and Evan’s 7-year-old brother, Owen, trundled over to Offenberg’s backyard, pulling a red wagon loaded with gardening tools, and anxious to start digging.

4:15 p.m.: Illinois orders stricter rules for bars in Metro East area outside St. Louis in effort to slow surge in COVID-19 positivity rate

The Metro East region outside St. Louis on Tuesday becomes the first in Illinois to be put back under stricter rules meant to slow the spread of COVID-19 after surpassing a state positivity rate threshold.

The step backwards in reopening in the Metro East comes as the state on Monday reported 1,773 newly confirmed coronavirus cases and 12 deaths of people with COVID-19.

The statewide totals now stand at 207,854 known cases and 7,756 deaths throughout the course of the pandemic.

The restrictions that take effect in the Metro East region on Tuesday include an 11 p.m. closing time for bars, capping gathering sizes at the lesser of 25 people or 25% of a room’s capacity and a requirement for no seating or congregating at a bar.

4:13 p.m.: Chicago closes 5 more restaurants and bars for COVID-19 guideline violations

Five businesses were closed down over the weekend after investigators from the City of Chicago’s department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection found them to be in violation of reopening requirements.

Barba Yianni (4761 N. Lincoln Ave.) was closed and issued two citations for having more than 80 people inside, operating after midnight, and violating social distancing and face covering guidelines Juanita’s Restaurant #2 (6539-6541 W. 63rd St.) was closed and issued two citations for having more than 70 people inside, operating after midnight, and violating social distancing and masking guidelines Retro Cafe and Restaurant (3246 N. Central Ave.) was closed and issued two citations for operating after midnight and violating social distancing and masking guidelines La Estrella Blanca Nightclub (3049 N. Cicero Ave.) was closed and issued two citations for allowing guests to drink alcohol inside without a retail food license and for violating masking guidelines Second Time Around (8303 W. Irving Park Road) was closed and issued two citations for operating after midnight

All of the businesses were closed for one night.

3:47 p.m.: What you need to know about heading back to school, from pre-K to college

Much like everything else, back-to-school has a very different feeling in 2020. The excitement about starting a new school year has been overshadowed by changes and restrictions prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic. From remote learning to gap years and everything in between, our 2020 back-to-school guide will help you navigate this unprecedented return to school.

1:52 p.m.: Little Beans Cafe closes Chicago location in hopes of keeping Evanston play space afloat. ‘We need this to work.’

With more and more schools starting the year with virtual learning, working parent-friendly child care has never been more in demand.

That should be good news for Little Beans Cafe, which Shannon Valko launched a decade ago after making the rounds of kids’ play spaces with her oldest child and failing to find one that didn’t make parents feel like an afterthought — especially working parents.

But now, restrictions designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have limited their business so much that Valko said she and her brother Rob Spengler, Little Beans Cafe’s co-owner, have no choice but to close the North Side play space where Little Beans Cafe began in hopes of keeping their second site, in Evanston, afloat.

“We want to get to the other side of this because it’s so important for families,” said Valko, who has never been more worried for kid-oriented businesses like hers — even competitors.

“It would be a shame to see us all leave,” she said. “If everything fun for kids ends, why raise kids in the city?”

At Little Beans Cafe, kids can take classes or explore a child-size village with a grocery store and firehouse, or play with blocks, puzzles and ride-on cars. Parents can join in or get work done in the cafe.

In March, when Little Beans Cafe decided to close for two weeks as a precaution, staff members cracked open Coronas and told each other it would be a well-deserved break. Valko had no idea it would be the last time she saw kids playing in the Chicago location she considers Little Beans Cafe’s “heart and soul.”

1:15 p.m.: Staff, instructors at City Colleges of Chicago vote no confidence

An overwhelming majority of unionized instructors, clerical workers and adjunct faculty at the City Colleges of Chicago have issued a vote of no confidence in the school’s administration, contending its plan to keep some facilities open during the coronavirus pandemic is misguided.

Tony Johnston, president of the Cook County College Teachers Union, said Monday that 96 percent of his members and those of Local 1708, which represents clerical and technical employees, said they had no confidence in the leadership of Chancellor Juan Salgado.

Though largely symbolic, the vote marked the first time since 2015 that faculty members sent this forceful of a message to leaders of the city’s seven-campus community college network. Among many issues, the unions object to the need for some college advisors and support staff to work in person at campus buildings, which began Aug. 3.

“We are here again today to urge the City Colleges administration to return to full remote student support immediately, and more importantly, halt the reopening of the City Colleges to our students and our communities,” Johnston said.

A spokeswoman for City Colleges said only a limited number of in-person services are being offered during the peak enrollment period and the school’s operational plan has been approved by public health experts. Classes, about 80 percent of which are virtual, begin Aug. 24.

“This is an unprecedented time, and we share our unions’ concerns for the health and safety of our staff, faculty, students, and community,” spokeswoman Katheryn Hayes said in an emailed statement.

After Aug. 21, when the busiest enrollment period has ended, all student services will revert to remote delivery, though computer labs and some in-person tutoring will remain available, according to CCC. College buildings will also be open as study spaces and for technology and Internet needs.

But right now, Local 1708 President Delores Withers said the network’s safety precautions are inadequate. Withers said the installment of plexiglass barriers is sporadic and the administration has denied requests to purchase face shields for staff interacting with students.

About 96 percent of adjunct faculty and adult education instructors also voted for no confidence in Salgado, according to their unions.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot cast President Donald Trump and Republicans as “enemies of democracy” who are mounting a “full-out assault” on the integrity of the November election by undermining the U.S. Postal Service and making it more difficult for people to vote by mail amid a pandemic.

“Every day the importance of this fall’s election grows and grows, and every day unfortunately, we see increasing evidence that this administration is mounting a full out assault on every pillar of our democracy, including the integrity of our elections,” Lightfoot said. “This is real folks. It’s not an exaggeration. It’s not a conspiracy theory.”

The former federal prosecutor then went on to hammer the Trump administration and Republicans for draconian cuts at the Postal Service that have disrupted the delivery of mail in recent days.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association’s plan for high school football calls for a modified schedule — six games with every team making the playoffs. Every player has his own water bottle and they can spread out on the sidelines by watching from the 15-yard line. Practices have less physical contact. And games essentially have eight quarters because there’s a two-minute mini-break built in, the idea being linemen should not breathe on each other for such extended periods.

Are all the players being tested for COVID-19? Nope. That is deemed too expensive.

Contrast all that with the Big Ten Conference, a financial behemoth where Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin combined to produce $427 million in football revenues in 2018-19.

Wait, which is the group that’s not playing in 2020?

And sticking with college football, how come Iowa State has not canceled football but Iowa has? Why is Notre Dame practicing but not Purdue?

It’s no wonder parents are seeking answers, and many players want the Big Ten’s decision to be overturned.

9:30 a.m.: Edie’s Cafe opens today, bringing a new working space and cafe to River North, a rarity these days

During a time when public gathering areas are at a premium, a new restaurant is trying to restore at least one such space in the Wells Street corridor.

Edie’s All Day Cafe and Bar opens Monday in the former Limitless Coffee space on Wells Street in River North. The project comes in part from Limitless founder Matt Matros, who approached co-founder Arturo Gomez about helping Matros convert one of his existing storefront locations to something different.

The result is an all-day cafe that follows COVID-19 safety protocols. Edie’s boasts a 55-seat outdoor patio, plus indoor seating for up to 30 socially dstanced patrons. The space boasts a flexible daytime menu featuring brunch and snacks, plus a beverage program that includes beer, wine and cocktails, plus Matros’ coffee.

6:40 a.m.: For Illinois delegates, a ‘totally bizarre’ Democratic convention from the couch

When the 2020 Democratic National Convention gets underway Monday, no delegates will be traveling to Milwaukee Wisconsin for it, with the coronavirus pandemic still coursing through the country. Neither will any of the speakers. Not even Joe Biden will accept the party’s nomination in the key swing state’s largest city.

Instead, virtually all of the convention will be held remotely — four nights of solely -for-TV festivities, capped by Biden’s speech on Thursday night.

For the 182 Illinois delegates and 13 alternates, the social event will be attempted virtually by the state party on a nightly basis before the two-hour national prime-time festivities. There will be no raucous nightly parties, no lunches paid for by special interest groups and no morning breakfast rallies where guest speakers and surrogates from the national campaign aim to put the state’s delegates in a rallying mood.

6:30 a.m.: Coronavirus brings unlikely classroom: A 56-story apartment tower in Streeterville

A 56-story apartment tower in the Streeterville neighborhood plans to convert some of its office space to small classrooms, betting that frazzled families will seek space outside the home to conduct remote learning amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The 490-unit Optima Signature, a skyscraper at 220 E. Illinois St. known for its bright red lower levels, is no ordinary schoolhouse.

Yet with many parents working from home since March amid COVID-19, and with many schools planning to conduct classes virtually this fall, the building’s owner believes there will be a demand for learning pods. So-called “pandemic pods” and “micro-schools” allow small groups of kids from close-knit families to study together in person with a teacher, tutor or parent.

Glencoe-based architecture and development firm Optima, which completed the Streeterville high-rise in 2017, last week began marketing four of its 25 office suites for educational purposes.

6:15 a.m.: Can little kids really social distance? Lessons from child care centers that have stayed open during the pandemic, and why it might not work in schools

Earlier this summer, when Chicago Public Schools still planned to reopen in September, Chicago’s top public health official said even elementary-age children are capable of following measures to fight the spread of COVID-19, such as social distancing and wearing face masks.

“I have nieces and nephews this age, and when you model this behavior for children and set it as an expectation, they actually do very well with it in my experience,” Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the city’s Public Health Department, said at a July news conference.

Some parents and teachers — otherwise the biggest believers in their kids and students — were less optimistic. They said social distancing goes against the very nature of very young children.

Although CPS has since reverted to all remote learning at least until November, the decision will undoubtedly send more Chicago children into day care or other group settings, and many private and suburban schools still intend to open their doors. CPS leaders have also said it’s likely schools will reopen before a vaccine is developed and completely rolled out.

So the question still remains: Even if kids sometimes slip up in following public health guidelines, how can we keep them safe?

Here are three stories from the weekend about COVID-19.

Illinois puts 14 counties on COVID-19 warning list, blames local officials for failing to enforce social distancing and isolation orders.

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