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

Illinois health officials on Thanksgiving announced 12,022 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 and 131 additional fatalities, bringing the total number of known infections in Illinois to 697,489 and the statewide confirmed death toll to 11,963 since the start of the pandemic.

“We don’t want anybody’s Thanksgiving dinner to turn into a COVID-19 superspreader event,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said. “Our goal is to protect and not infect those that we love and care for.”

Ezike said the first sign of a post-Thanksgiving wave of coronavirus infections would arise in cases within the next week or two. That could be followed by a new surge in hospitalizations and, ultimately, deaths, she said.

The holiday comes at a precarious time for Chicago and Illinois in the battle against the virus, although increases in both new cases and positivity rates have leveled off in recent days after rapid gains throughout October and early November.

Officials on Wednesday painted a dire picture of what could happen if Illinois residents don’t skip traditional Thanksgiving gatherings amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

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

1 p.m.: Health officials report 12,022 new confirmed and probable cases and 131 more deaths Thursday

Illinois health officials on Thanksgiving announced 12,022 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 and 131 additional fatalities, bringing the total number of known infections in Illinois to 697,489 and the statewide confirmed death toll to 11,963 since the start of the pandemic.

12 p.m.: Americans risk traveling over Thanksgiving despite warnings

Millions of Americans took to the skies and the highways ahead of Thanksgiving at the risk of pouring gasoline on the coronavirus fire, disregarding increasingly dire warnings that they stay home and limit their holiday gatherings to members of their own household.

Those who are flying witnessed a distinctly 2020 landscape at the nation’s airports: plexiglass barriers in front of the ID stations, rapid virus testing sites inside terminals, masks in check-in areas and on board planes, and paperwork asking passengers to quarantine on arrival at their destination.

While the number of Americans traveling by air over the past several days was down dramatically from the same time last year, many pressed ahead with their holiday plans amid skyrocketing deaths, hospitalizations and confirmed infections across the U.S.

Some were tired of more than eight months of social distancing and determined to spend time with loved ones.

“I think with the holidays and everything, it’s so important right now, especially because people are so bummed out because of the whole pandemic,” said 25-year-old Cassidy Zerkle of Phoenix, who flew to Kansas City, Missouri, to visit family during what is traditionally one of the busiest travel periods of the year.

11:14 a.m.: Dead mink infected with a possible mutated form of COVID-19 resurface from graves after burial in Denmark

Some of the thousands of mink culled to minimize the risk of them re-transmitting the new coronavirus to humans have risen from their shallow graves in western Denmark after gases built up inside the bodies, Danish authorities said Thursday.

“The gases cause the animals to expand and in the worst cases, the mink get pushed out of the ground,” Jannike Elmegaard of the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration said. He said it affected “a few hundred” animals.

10 a.m.: Virus surge, once in the nation’s middle, gains steam all around

What started as a Midwestern surge has grown into coast-to-coast disaster.

Over the last two months, rural counties and midsize cities in the Great Plains and Upper Midwest have been the main drivers of the dizzying growth in U.S. coronavirus cases.

But the virus appears to have entered a new phase in recent days: The reason the country is continuing to break case records has less to do with North Dakota and Wisconsin than it does with swift resurgences of the virus in cities like Baltimore, Los Angeles, Miami and Phoenix and with first-time spikes in smaller cities away from the nation’s middle, like Cumberland, Maryland.

“Our people are tired,” said Maggie Hansen, chief nursing executive at Memorial Healthcare System in south Florida. “They’re tired, and they don’t see an end in sight.”

9 a.m.: Their teeth fell out. Was it another COVID-19 consequence?

Earlier this month, Farah Khemili popped a wintergreen breath mint in her mouth and noticed a strange sensation: a bottom tooth wiggling against her tongue.

Khemili, 43, of Voorheesville, New York, had never lost an adult tooth. She touched the tooth to confirm it was loose, initially thinking the problem might be the mint. The next day, the tooth flew out of her mouth and into her hand. There was neither blood nor pain.

Khemili survived a bout with COVID-19 this spring, and has joined an online support group as she has endured a slew of symptoms experienced by many other “long haulers”: brain fog, muscle aches and nerve pain.

There’s no rigorous evidence yet that the infection can lead to tooth loss or related problems. But among members of her support group, she found others who also described teeth falling out, as well as sensitive gums and teeth turning gray or chipping.

7 a.m.: No Thanksgiving reunion for couple after man barred from U.S. visit by Customs officers at O’Hare

They were a long-distance couple hoping to reunite for the holiday season.

An African man and an American woman who fell in love during a religious mission trip.

Nkosinathi Gama is a 29-year-old man from Eswatini, a country in southern Africa that was formerly known as Swaziland. Rachel Perkins is a 24-year-old seminarian student at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago.

They thought everything would go smoothly. Why wouldn’t they?

Gama had his visa, a return ticket and a negative COVID-19 test. Plus, Gama had visited the U.S. last year without a problem.

5:15 a.m.: COVID-19 outbreak at Chicago homeless shelter points to coronavirus surge dangers, advocates say

A homeless shelter on Chicago’s West Side is grappling with an outbreak of COVID-19 cases, prompting concerns from advocates and organizations as the coronavirus surges nationwide.

The Franciscan Outreach shelter, 2715 W. Harrison St. in Lawndale, had 55 of its 140 guests test positive for the virus last week, according to Richard Ducatenzeiler, executive director of Franciscan Outreach.

A majority of those who tested positive are asymptomatic, and about 20 of the most vulnerable people were transferred to an isolation wing set up by A Safe Haven, Ducatenzeiler said. The rest were isolated in the shelter’s southern dormitory.

“We’re not designed to serve as an isolation center, so it’s definitely not a perfect setup,” Ducatenzeiler said. “They’re still having to walk through common spaces in order to go to the restroom or take a shower, and trying to control that at all times becomes difficult.”

5 a.m.: Chicago State’s Lance Irvin, a 2-time cancer survivor, isn’t coaching in person this season because of the health risks COVID-19 presents

Chicago State basketball coach Lance Irvin was supposed to be in Champaign on Wednesday for the season opener.

Instead he was home in Chicago, watching the Cougars take on Ohio on television and taking notes.

As a two-time cancer survivor, Irvin decided to step back this season, understanding that coaching during the COVID-19 pandemic raises health risks he isn’t comfortable taking.

“I’ve been through a lot,” Irvin said. “I’m trying to be smart. What I’m doing is for the health and well-being of myself and my family. I’m going with the advice of my doctor. I’m in such good shape, but we don’t want to see, if I get a serious virus, how my body will deal with it.

“It wouldn’t be smart. I was in the room when they said, ‘He’s got a 50% chance of making it.’ “

12 a.m.: Splitting 5 to 4, Supreme Court blocks New York coronavirus restrictions on houses of worship

As coronavirus cases surge again nationwide the Supreme Court late Wednesday barred New York from enforcing certain limits on attendance at churches and synagogues in areas designated as hard hit by the virus.

The justices split 5-4 with new Justice Amy Coney Barrett in the majority. It was the conservative’s first publicly discernible vote as a justice. The court’s three liberal justices and Chief Justice John Roberts dissented.

Have a question about COVID-19? University of Chicago’s Dr. Emily Landon will answer readers’ questions Dec. 2 on Facebook Live.

The number of COVID-19 cases is rising, along with worries and concerns: Am I doing all that I can to stay safe from the coronavirus? Why did I test positive if I wore a mask and isolated? I haven’t been infected though I’m not taking any precautions, so is this even real? It can be hard to keep up with the news with so many new developments.

That’s why the Chicago Tribune is partnering with the University of Chicago to answer readers’ questions with a Facebook Live event Dec. 2. I’ll be asking readers’ questions to University of Chicago Medicine infectious diseases expert Dr. Emily Landon in hopes of quelling some of those concerns. If you have a question you haven’t been able to find an answer to, now is your chance to be heard.

The link to the Facebook Live stream will go live on our Facebook page Dec. 2. Also, our written Q&A is continuously updated, so if you have a question that we haven’t answered yet there, send it to the Tribune here.

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