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Metra hopes sanitizing stations, air purifiers and mask mandates will boost ridership amid COVID-19 fears (LIVE UPDATES)

Cleaning crews stand near a Metra train at Metra’s Western Avenue Coach Yard at 2801 W. Grand Ave. Tuesday morning, Sept. 15, 2020. Metra launched a campaign Tuesday that informs riders about the steps they are taking to keep their trains clean and their passengers safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Cleaning crews stand near a Metra train Tuesday at Metra’s Western Avenue Coach Yard, 2801 W. Grand Ave. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

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Metra hopes sanitizing stations, air purifiers and mask mandates will boost ridership amid COVID-19 fears

Cleaning crews stand near a Metra train at Metra’s Western Avenue Coach Yard at 2801 W. Grand Ave. Tuesday morning, Sept. 15, 2020. Metra launched a campaign Tuesday that informs riders about the steps they are taking to keep their trains clean and their passengers safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Pat Nabong/Sun-Times
Cleaning crews stand near a Metra train Tuesday at Metra’s Western Avenue Coach Yard, 2801 W. Grand Ave.

Metra is launching an ad campaign to convince people it is safe to ride its trains.

Its rail cars that have been outfitted with hand sanitizing stations, “hospital grade” air filters, mask requirements, frequent deep cleaning efforts and air circulation that replaces the air in each car once every four minutes, Metra officials said at a news conference Tuesday.

Staggered seating aims to keep train cars from exceeding 70 passengers — or half full.

“We stand ready with open doors to welcome riders back and invite new riders in,” Metra President Jim Derwinski said.

Metra’s daily ridership is about 25,000 passenger trips a day, less than 10% of the 270,000 trips daily before the pandemic.

Read the full story from Mitch Dudek here.


News

9:23 a.m. Big Ten reverses course, announces plan to play football beginning Oct. 23-24 weekend

Big Ten is going to give fall football a shot after all.

Less than five weeks after pushing football and other fall sports to spring in the name of player safety during the pandemic, the conference changed course Wednesday and said it plans to begin its season the weekend of Oct. 24. Each team will have an eight-game schedule.

The Big Ten said its Council of Presidents and Chancellors voted unanimously Tuesday to restart sports. The emergence of daily rapid-response COVID-19 testing, not available when university presidents and chancellors decided to pull the plug on the season, helped trigger a re-vote.

“From the onset of the pandemic, our highest priority has been the health and the safety of our students. The new medical protocols and standards put into place by the Big Ten Return To Competition Task Force were pivotal in the decision to move forward with sports in the conference,” Morton Schapiro, Chair of the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors and president of Northwestern University, said in a statement. “We appreciate the conference’s dedication to developing the necessary safety procedures for our students and the communities that embrace them.”

Read the full story here.

9:19 a.m. Hinsdale South football player tests positive for COVID-19

Hinsdale South officials have confirmed that a football player tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week.

The student was participating in a football camp at the school. The Illinois High School Association recently allowed sports not currently in-season to conduct 20 days of workouts supervised by coaches.

Arwen Pokorny Lyp, the Hinsdale South principal, sent a letter to families in the football program on Monday.

“We are coordingating our efforts with the DuPage County Health Department to promptly identify and monitor individuals who have had recent contact with this student to prevent further spread within our school and community,” Lyp wrote. “ We will be suspending all football-related activities for 14 days and requiring all students and staff who participated in the camp to quarantine through September 24.”

There have been a handful of rallies to bring back football, other fall sports and in-person learning in the Hinsdale community over the past week.

More rallies are scheduled all over the area this week, including one at the Thompson Center on Saturday that is expected to bring a large crowd.

Read the full story from Michael O’Brien here.

8:13 a.m. Experts worry as US virus restrictions are eased or violated

State and local officials around the U.S. are rolling back social-distancing rules again after an abortive effort over the summer, allowing bars, restaurants and gyms to open. Fans are gathering mask-free at football games. President Donald Trump is holding crowded indoor rallies.

While some Americans may see such things as a welcome step closer to normal, public health experts warn the U.S. is setting itself up for failure — again.

“Folks are becoming very cavalier about the pandemic,” said Mark Rupp, professor and chief of infectious diseases at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Nebraska’s governor ended nearly all of his state’s restrictions on Monday, even with new cases of the coronavirus on the rise.

“I think it is setting us up for further transmission and more people getting ill and, unfortunately, more people dying,” Rupp said.

The virus is blamed for more than 6.5 million confirmed infections and 195,000 deaths in the U.S., by far the highest totals of any country, according to the count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Read the full report here.


New Cases


Analysis & Commentary

8:25 a.m. Remote learning is largely on track, but some Chicago schools have a ways to go

There’s good news, and some alarmingly bad news, with respect to remote learning in Chicago’s public schools this fall.

After the dismal showing last spring, Chicago Public Schools made an extra effort to get students logged on for digital learning. Attendance-taking would be mandatory. A major back-to-school campaign was launched, with a massive barrage of phone calls, text messages, emails, radio ads and other outreach to parents.

So far, it’s largely paying off.

According to CPS data released this weekend, 84.2% of students logged on to the learning platform on the first day of school last week. That’s a major improvement over the 59% figure last spring.

And by the end of the week, attendance had risen to 90.2%,

But there can be no letting up on the ultimate goal: To get every one of the district’s 355,000 students engaged in remote learning, the only educational option available until the city curbs the spread of COVID-19.

Read the full column here.



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