Is a college football season worth it? (LIVE UPDATES)Sun-Times staffon July 31, 2020 at 5:06 pm

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Is a college football season worth it?

The Big Ten will eliminate nonconference football games this season.Jacob Hannah/Lincoln Journal Star via AP

If college football somehow makes it to the field, all we’ll get is a shell of a season.

Fewer games. Conference bubbles. A limited number of fans in the stadiums — or maybe none at all.

Is it really worth risking the health of players, coaches and boosters for this?

The mighty Southeastern Conference, which has produced 10 of the last 14 national champions, delivered the grimmest signal Thursday that this will be a season like no other, if there’s actually a season amid a raging pandemic that shows no signs of fading away.

Following drastic moves already instituted by the Big Ten, Pac-12 and Atlantic Coast Conference, the SEC announced a 10-game, conference-only schedule that won’t begin until late September. The Big 12 will likely have to follow suit, despite making an aggressive push to play a full, 12-game schedule even as the pool of potential non-league opponents dries up.

The reduced, bubble-like schedules are effectively a Hail Mary to save a season that, frankly, may not be worth saving at this point.

Read the full column here.


11:31 a.m. What Chicagoans think of Lori Lightfoot tightening COVID rules on bars, restaurants, gyms

We asked Chicagoans: What do you think of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s decision to tighten restrictions on bars, restaurants and gyms after the COVID-19 spike among young people? Some answers have been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

“She’s been given no other choice. She needs to keep the citizens safe. I’m not thrilled but thankful it’s not worse.” — Brice Notardonato Ellett

“Excellent! She follows the science, and that’s what keeps us safe. I really trust her.” — Chris Rutledge

Read more reader responses here.

9:18 a.m. Chicago jazz icon calls early days of quarantine ‘the worst moment that I can ever remember’

Until March, Chicago-based jazz pianist Erwin Helfer was playing shows at the Hungry Brain in Lakeview every Tuesday night and offering piano lessons.

Then, the pandemic hit. Within weeks, he was hospitalized — not from COVID-19 but from what experts say is likely to become a significant side-effect of the pandemic. Helfer fell into a deep and debilitating depression.

“Along came the pandemic, and, at that moment, my life became very difficult,” he says.

On March 10, he played his last gig at the Hungry Brain.

Then, Helfer, who lives alone and, because of his age, is in a high-risk group for the coronavirus, began quarantining at his Lincoln Park home.

The absence of social interaction brought on by the stay-at-home order almost immediately began taking a toll on his mental health.

A close friend, Ivan Handler, picked him up at his home on May 8 and took him to Rush University Medical Center’s psychiatric ward, where Helfer was admitted. Diagnosed with severe depression, he remained there for six weeks.

“In the first three days I was there, I was looking for a window to jump out, seriously. I was taking a certain amount of drugs, I don’t know what they were, and I wasn’t getting much better.”

Read the full story from Caroline Hurley here.

8:02 a.m. Coronavirus-stricken woman gets lung transplants after mother travels to Chicago to say ‘goodbye’

Mayra Ramirez described her worst moment — when she was close to death and her mother had been told to catch the first flight to Chicago to come say goodbye.

As Ramirez spoke Thursday, her mother sat a few feet away, silent, most of her face and her outward emotions hidden behind a surgical mask.

“What hurts the most is knowing everything my family went through during the time I was intubated,” said Ramirez softly, as she appeared with the team of Northwestern Memorial Hospital doctors who ensured her mother never had to utter that awful word, “Goodbye.”

Ramirez, 28, of Chicago, and Brian Kuhns, a 62-year-old mechanic from Lake Zurich were both Northwestern patients who made history: They were the first in the nation to receive double-lung transplants after the coronavirus destroyed those organs.

Ramirez, a paralegal who moved to the city from North Carolina six years ago, told reporters that she’d been careful when the pandemic swept through. She stayed home mostly, but still got sick. In April, she called her doctor after she lost her sense of taste and smell — and felt excessively tired. When she had fainting spells later that same month, she came to Northwestern’s emergency room.

“I was asked who would be making my medical decisions for me,” Ramirez explained. Her mother, she said. A few minutes later, she was being hooked up to a ventilator. The next few weeks were a blur with Ramirez often unable to distinguish reality from her frequent nightmares.

Get the full story from reporter Stefano Esposito here.

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Analysis & Commentary

8:04 a.m. Toilet troubles worsened by COVID crisis

Tim Pyle, executive director of the American Restroom Association, recently got an urgent email from Wichita alerting him that the bathroom at the bus station downtown was closed to the public; could the ARA help?

While the Baltimore-based group is not intended to address individual shuttered toilets across this great land, Pyle responded sympathetically.

“Municipalities and governments have dropped the ball in the past 20 years, and have abdicated their responsibilities to store owners, gas stations, and eateries,” he wrote. “Now that COVID has hit, it is more important than ever for ‘public’ facilities to do their part and keep them open.”

Which is separate from the issue of whether people should even go into public restrooms that are open. Public bathrooms are perfect virus spreaders. Strangers gather in the smallest space possible. They perform functions that are then rendered into whirling vortexes of airborne contamination, thanks to flushing toilets, and blasted through the room by hand dyers.

Two related problems then: keeping bathrooms open, and improving their safety.

Read Neil Steinberg’s full column here.

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