Meanwhile, as COVID-19 hospitalizations have risen to unprecedented levels in Illinois and other states, the same questions from the spring surge are reemerging: Will Illinois hospitals run out of beds? And if they do, where and when?

Last week, the Pritzker administration released projections from two sets of researchers that estimated the future number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients, including those in intensive care units. These models don’t directly address when beds might run out, but a Tribune analysis of the more pessimistic projections suggests that, if trends don’t improve, all of the state’s currently available ICU beds could be in use by early December.

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

3:40 p.m.: Black Friday is going to look different. Here’s what to expect if you’re shopping this week.

Black Friday, the traditional kickoff to the holiday shopping season, used to draw swarms of deal-hunting shoppers to stores. This year is going to look different.

With COVID-19 cases surging, Chicago and Cook County have issued stay-at-home advisories, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended shopping online for Black Friday deals and using curbside pickup.

Retailers began offering discounts earlier than ever, and several big chains say none of their deals require a trip to the store.

While 66% of consumers have already started holiday shopping, 20% plan to start during the long weekend, according to a consumer survey by Adobe Analytics.

Online sales in November are already up 32% compared with last year and online sales on Black Friday are expected to hit $10.3 billion, up nearly 40% from last year, Adobe said.

Communities also have urged consumers to support local businesses, hit especially hard during the pandemic.

3:10 p.m.: Walmart shifts 6 drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites in Chicago area to curbside pickup as winter approaches

Walmart is changing six Chicago-area drive-thru coronavirus testing sites to curbside pickup in time for colder weather.

Patients have been self-administering the nasal swab tests inside their vehicle with guidance of a pharmacist. Now, patients are required to make an appointment online to pick up test kits to perform at home and ship to a Quest Diagnostics lab, which screens and processes the results.

One of the main purposes for drive-thru testing sites is to reduce interaction between those administering the test and people who may have COVID-19.

With the onset of winter and the possibility of near zero-degree weather, some health systems have said they plan to move their COVID-19 testing sites indoors to keep workers warm. Others have said they plan to add heaters to their outdoor drive-thru testing locations.

1:45 p.m.: Chicago City Council approves Lightfoot’s ‘pandemic budget’

Chicago’s City Council approved Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s $12.8 billion budget for next year.

Aldermen voted 28-22 in support of Lightfoot’s $94 million property tax increase. Lighfoot’s budget also passed 29-21.

Lightfoot’s spending plan includes a $94 million property tax hike with a provision to raise property taxes annually by an amount tied to the consumer price index. It also includes a 3-cent gas tax hike and relies on an increase in fines and fees collection, including a plan to boost revenue by ticketing residents who are caught going 6 mph over the limit by speed cameras.

In addition, Lightfoot is asking to refinance $501 million in city debt for the 2021 budget, which would provide a jolt of new revenue next year but likely cost taxpayers more down the road. Similar borrowing tactics under Mayors Richard M. Daley and Rahm Emanuel drew deep criticism, but the Lightfoot administration said the city’s current financial disaster makes such a move appropriate.

Lightfoot has spent weeks lining up the 26 votes needed to pass what she calls her “pandemic budget” through the City Council, with aldermen pushing back hardest on the property tax increase.

1:05 p.m.: Some Catholic schools in the Chicago area will shift to remote learning after Thanksgiving

After a fall surge of coronavirus infections, more Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic schools will temporarily transition to e-learning next week.

Catholic elementary schools were scheduled to shift to remote learning for two weeks at the beginning of next year, but “escalating COVID-19 rates within the general population” prompted the Office of Catholic Schools to modify its original plan, spokesman Manuel Gonzalez said.

The decision also comes after the archdiocese surveyed stakeholders at all 162 schools in Cook and Lake counties to measure their comfort with in-person learning during the holiday season.

The survey measured parent satisfaction, preference for in-person or remote learning, and stress and workload considerations among teachers, Gonzalez said.

“The results were that 80% of the schools needed no, or minimal, alteration of our current procedures,” he said. “The other 20% were candidates for more extensive adjustments, and it is for those schools we will be constructing individual (virtual learning) plans.”

12:45 p.m.: Illinois VA launches investigation of deadly coronavirus outbreak in LaSalle ahead of Senate committee hearing

The Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs is launching an independent investigation of a coronavirus outbreak that has torn through the state-run veterans home in LaSalle this month, infecting dozens of residents and staff members and resulting in the deaths of more than two dozen veterans.

The announcement of the probe came less than two hours before a state Senate committee was set to begin a hearing on the outbreak, which appears to have slowed over the past few days.

As of Monday, 105 residents and 95 employees at the veterans home, located just a few miles from Starved Rock State Park, had tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began. All but a handful of the cases were part of the current outbreak, which was first reported to residents and families Nov. 1 when a resident who was hospitalized tested positive.

As of Tuesday, 27 veterans have died. To date, 38 residents and 76 staff have recovered, according to the state.

The coronavirus has been raging in LaSalle County outside the veterans home. As of Nov. 15, the most recent date for which figures were available, the county had 961 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents, up from 390 cases per 100,000 residents on Nov. 1.

12:25 p.m.: As these Chicago doctors do battle in a COVID-19 unit, their friendship has become a lifeline

A few things keep Dr. Khalilah Gates and Dr. Michelle Prickett walking into Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s intensive care unit, where they treat severely ill COVID-19 patients.

A sense of duty. A passion for their profession. And their friendship, honed over more than a decade and which they’ve always counted on for shared humor that punctuates hectic, hard days in their work as pulmonary and critical care specialists.

“You dig deep and you face the ICU for another day,” Gates said, “knowing that you’ve got Prickett.”

These ICU doctors’ friendship has always been strong. But this year, it’s been a lifeline, as they work to keep each other safe and sane while treating COVID-19 patients.

Gates and Prickett share a get-it-done, no-drama mentality. Their bond was solidified by sharing stories of being born and raised in Chicago and how they chose to stay here, raise families here and practice medicine here.

12:05 p.m.: 9,469 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases, 125 additional deaths reported

Illinois health officials on Tuesday announced 9,469 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 and 125 additional fatalities, bringing the total number of known infections in Illinois to 674,089 and the statewide death toll to 11,677 since the start of the pandemic. Officials also reported 97,323 new tests in the last 24 hours.

11:10 a.m.: Cubs owners would get to defer infrastructure payment under city proposal

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Wrigleyville’s alderman on Tuesday proposed letting the Chicago Cubs put off the team’s annual $250,000 payment into a fund to pay for infrastructure upgrades around their historic North Side ballpark because the team played without fans in the seats this year due to the pandemic.

The “CubFund Project” payment would instead be made in 2024 under the ordinance Lightfoot introduced to the City Council.”

We understand they played without fans, and lots of businesses are suffering,” Ald. Tom Tunney said. “But they still have to make the payment. Instead of this year, it will be made in 2024.”

The payments are part of a 2013 deal when the Ricketts family was asking for City Council approval to undertake massive renovations around Wrigley Field.

10:45 a.m.: Our Lady of Guadalupe festival canceled because of COVID-19

Citing concerns with COVID-19, the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Tuesday cancelled its winter pilgrimage that every year prompted thousands in the Chicago area to brave the December cold and walk by foot to Des Plaines to pay homage to a Mexico icon of Catholicism.

The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the Shrine was originally scheduled for Dec. 11 and 12 and typically involves the participation of more than 200,000 devotees from different Chicago churches, making this area the largest celebration after Mexico City’s.

But with COVID-19 surging across Illinois, officials from the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe determined keeping devotees safe wouldn’t be possible this year. Instead, they’ll be live streaming services and are encouraging people to celebrate the feast day from their own homes or their home parishes.

Read more and see a slide show of past festivals here. —Kelli Smith

10:42 a.m.: Lightfoot proposes delay of business licenses, sidewalk cafe permits expirations to help offset COVID-19 hits

The city of Chicago will delay business license and sidewalk cafe expirations and allow expanded outdoor service to continue into next year as part of a plan Mayor Lori Lightfoot introduced Tuesday to give businesses a boost during COVID-19.

Lightfoot is proposing expanding a program allowing every business and public vehicle license with expiration dates between March 15, 2020, and June 15, 2021, to extend until 2021, without the hassle of a license renewal, her office said.

Lightfoot also is proposing to allow all sidewalk cafe permits issued in 2021 the option to extend in front of a neighboring establishment and receive a 75% reduction in permit fee. Sidewalk cafe permits that are set to expire in February 2021 will be extended until June 1 without needing to renew, the mayor’s office said.

In addition, Lightfoot’s proposal will continue allowing outdoor service for bars and restaurants in private parking lots, on the sidewalk or in closed streets as part of her Expanded Outdoor Dining Program.

9:05 a.m.: An early coronavirus mutation may have made the pandemic more difficult to stop, new evidence suggests

As the coronavirus swept across the world, it picked up random alterations to its genetic sequence. Like meaningless typos in a script, most of those mutations made no difference in how the virus behaved.

But one mutation near the beginning of the pandemic did make a difference, multiple new findings suggest, helping the virus spread more easily from person to person and making the pandemic harder to stop.

The mutation, known as 614G, was first spotted in eastern China in January and then spread quickly throughout Europe and New York City. Within months, the variant took over much of the world, displacing other variants.

For months, scientists have been fiercely debating why. Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory argued in May that the variant had probably evolved the ability to infect people more efficiently. Many were skeptical, arguing that the variant may have been simply lucky, appearing more often by chance in large epidemics, like Northern Italy’s, that seeded outbreaks elsewhere.

But a host of new research — including close genetic analysis of outbreaks and lab work with hamsters and human lung tissue — has supported the view that the mutated virus did in fact have a distinct advantage, infecting people more easily than the original variant detected in Wuhan, China.

9:03 a.m.: Waukegan factory churns out germ-zapping robots that kill COVID-19 virus in hospitals, hotels and on ‘Chicago Med’

In the ongoing battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, add the names of Mark, Rowan, Dorian and Jabba to the list of front-line heroes quietly toiling away to vanquish the virus.

The four are germ-zapping robots, recruited by Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights to do one job: kill the virus and other pathogens by sweeping rooms with pulsating beams of high-intensity UV light.

Last month, the 3½-foot-tall robots, which bear a striking resemblance to R2-D2, the plucky droid from “Star Wars,” disinfected nearly 700 rooms at the hospital.

“Every COVID room gets treated when the patient is discharged,” said Kris York, director of hospitality services at the hospital. “The robots didn’t get much of a break.”

The four are part of a growing army of LightStrike robots, $125,000-a-pop machines that fire powerful UV blasts at surfaces where SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, may be lurking.

There is such great demand for their services that Xenex, the Texas-based company behind the robots, announced a $20 million deal last month with aerospace manufacturer Astronics to build hundreds of them at a Waukegan factory.

9 a.m.: Starting next year, international flyers may need proof of COVID-19 vaccinations

International air travel could come booming back next year but with a new rule: Travelers to certain countries must be vaccinated against the coronavirus before they can fly.

Encouraging news about vaccine development has given airlines and nations hope they may soon be able to revive suspended flight routes and dust off lucrative tourism plans. But countries in Asia and the Pacific, in particular, are determined not to let their hard-won gains against the virus evaporate.

In Australia, the boss of Qantas, the country’s largest airline, said that once a virus vaccine becomes widely available, his carrier will likely require passengers use it before they can travel abroad or land in Australia.

Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce said he’s been talking to his counterparts at other airlines around the world about the possibility of a “vaccination passport” for international travelers.

7:15 a.m.: Lightfoot to introduce measures to extend COVID-19 regulation changes

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration planned to introduce measures at Tuesday’s City Council meeting to “extend critical regulatory relief measures for businesses” affected by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a release from the mayor’s office.

Among the measures being introduced are ” delaying business and public vehicle license expiration dates until July 15, 2021, expanding critical sidewalk café reforms to last throughout the 2021 café season and extending” the city’s expanded outdoor dining program through the end of 2021, according to a news release from the mayor’s office.

Monday, the City Council capped “third-party delivery fees,” holding fees for delivery at 10 percent of purchase prices and total fees to restaurants at 15 percent, according to the release. — Chicago Tribune staff

6 a.m.: Will Illinois run out of hospital beds? Available data suggests a grim winter if trends don’t change.

The city of Tulsa, Oklahoma, briefly ran out of intensive care beds earlier this month. For a time, just 11 ICU beds were free across all of North Dakota. And last week, availability in some parts of Minnesota was down to single digits.

In Illinois, the state health director warned last week that some hospitals have already reported running low on beds amid the state’s second massive COVID-19 surge.

“We are not at the point where we are going to have anybody just flailing in the hallway because we can’t get them a bed … (but) that is a real possibility,” Dr. Ngozi Ezike told reporters Friday. “That has happened in other parts of this country, in other parts of this world. We’re not going to let that happen in Illinois, but it takes all of us to make sure that that doesn’t happen.”

As COVID-19 hospitalizations have risen to unprecedented levels in Illinois and other states, the same questions from the spring surge are reemerging: Will Illinois hospitals run out of beds? And if they do, where and when?

Last week, the Pritzker administration released projections from two sets of researchers that estimated the future number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients, including those in intensive care units. These models don’t directly address when beds might run out, but a Tribune analysis of the more pessimistic projections suggests that, if trends don’t improve, all of the state’s currently available ICU beds could be in use by early December.

6 a.m.: Local chefs have been cooking for those in need since the pandemic began. Now with holidays approaching, donations are down.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began last spring, Evanston area chefs answered the call to feed those who were suddenly low on money or food as a result of the economic hardships that came with the quickly-spreading disease.

As cases surge again this fall, those same organizations said they are answering more and more calls for help. But this time, the money that previously sustained their efforts is drying up.

That leaves many organizations planning Thanksgiving dinners, but wondering what will happen after the holiday ends.

“In the past two weeks we have picked up a substantial amount of seniors and families,” said Evanston’s Chef Q. Ibraheem, who owns her own catering business. “I don’t know what happened in the past 12 days. But every single day my phone, especially seniors, my phone has just been ringing.”

Since March, she has served more than 20,000 meals to those in need, free of charge. Her efforts, however, have run into an unpleasant reality. On Nov. 13, “I found out that my funding was cut 50%,” Ibraheem said.

Ibraheem, whose meals especially cater to healthy food for intergenerational families with school-age children, is not the only organization taking a hit.

At Evanston-based Meals on Wheels Northeastern Illinois, Executive Director Debi Morganfield said they’re experiencing the same spike in demand, but without the additional donations that aided the organization when COVID-19 first struck.

Here are some recent stories related to COVID-19:



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