Afternoon Edition: March 17, 2020

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

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Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

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Afternoon Edition

Chicago’s most important news of the day, delivered every weekday afternoon. Plus, a bonus issue on Saturdays that dives into the city’s storied history.

It’s a beautiful day to go out and vote: today’s forecast boasts sunny skies and a high near 50 degrees this afternoon. Tonight, some clouds will move in as we drop to a low of 35 degrees. Tomorrow will be significantly less pleasant: rainy with a high near 43 degrees.

Top story

As Election Day limps out of the gate, Chicago election board rips governor for not postponing whole thing

Polls that failed to open. Election judges that failed to show. Promised bottles of hand sanitizer that failed to arrive. And low voter turnout.

With the coronavirus on the loose, Chicago’s elections today are looking like a shaky affair.

Barely 31⁄2 hours after the polls opened in Chicago, city election officials ripped Gov. J.B. Pritzker for refusing last week to reschedule the whole thing. And, lashing back, Pritzker’s office contended that it had offered Chicago reinforcements — including National Guard troops to work as election judges — but the city failed to take the state up on the offer.

As voters brave emergency conditions to cast their ballots, we’re bringing you live updates from the polls.

City election board spokesman Jim Allen revealed today that the city last week had urged Pritzker’s office to cancel in-person voting in favor of mail-in ballots, but was told by the governor’s legal team to proceed as planned.

“It was a snowball we could all see coming down the hill,” Allen complained to reporters, referring to the city’s struggles in the last week to be ready for elections in the face of the coronavirus crisis.

Allen said the city requested that today’s primary elections be postponed mere hours after a global pandemic being announced by the World Health Organization. But, he said, that suggestion was “rejected.”

In a tweet shortly after Allen aired his complaints, Anne Caprara, Pritzker’s chief of staff, shot down Allen’s account: “This is a lie,” Caprara tweeted. “And frankly, given what we are dealing with in this moment, I’m disgusted that Jim Allen would lie like this.“

Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana and Ohio moved in recent days to postpone their presidential primary elections after declaring a state of emergency due to the spread of the coronavirus. But yesterday, Pritzker said he didn’t see that as an option for Illinois.

As Chicago sees one of its most unusual elections yet, our reporters are working around the clock to bring you live updates from the field.

If you’re voting this afternoon, our voting guide has everything you need to know about the races and candidates, all in one place.

More news you need

  1. Chicago Public library employees are accusing Mayor Lori Lightfoot of putting their health and the health of library patrons in jeopardy by keeping all 80 public libraries open during the coronavirus pandemic. Why Lightfoot says it’s important they stay open.
  2. For the second time this school year, Chicago families face an uncertain future as all schools close today. It’s not yet clear whether school can resume at the end of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s mandated two-week closure March 31.
  3. Chicago has seen a rise in violence this year — with a 43% increase in the number of killings so far in 2020 compared with 2019. Frank Main explains why that’s not the full picture.
  4. President Donald Trump wants the government to send checks to Americans in the next two weeks in an effort to curb the economic cost of the coronavirus outbreak. The White House is asking Congress to approve the massive emergency rescue package.
  5. Today is St. Patrick’s Day, and that means a big party in this town! Except, please, not this year, writes our Editorial Board.
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A bright one

During what is without a doubt a stressful time for many Chicagoans, a 29-year-old circus performer has made it his mission to cheer up his neighbors.

As of yesterday, Illinois has 105 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with 12 new cases in two new counties. Schools are closed, and so are restaurants and bars, as many work from home and practice “social distancing” to curb the spread of COVID-19.

To lighten the mood, Joe Lobeck has started practicing his act outside his apartment in Logan Square, Block Club Chicago reports.

Lobeck juggles all sorts of stuff: balls, bowling pins, cigar boxes and hats. He also has a handmade bar that he balances on for handstands and other contortions. Some people have stopped and sat in the grass to watch him, while others who are self-quarantining watch from their windows.

“I’ll just come out here and train and do this everyday and make people happy,” he told Block Club.

Read the full story from Block Club Chicago.

From the press box

A day after adding Jimmy Graham, the Bears turned to the defense this morning by agreeing to a five-year, $70 million contract with two-time Pro Bowl pass rusher Robert Quinn. The move marks the end of former first-round pick Leonard Floyd’s time in Chicago after a disappointing four seasons. 

The NFL quarterback carousel also heated up, with two former league MVPs on the move: Tom Brady, who announced he’s leaving the Patriots, and Cam Newton, who’s on his way out of Carolina after the Panthers agreed to sign Teddy Bridgewater. Let’s add Newton to the list of potential solutions for the Bears’ QB problem.

Your daily question ☕

Is the coronavirus stopping you from voting in today’s elections? Tell us why you did or did not vote today.

Email us (please include your first name and where you live) and we might include your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday, we asked you if you’re working from home, and if you’re able to stay productive while you do. Most of us here at the Sun-Times are working remotely. Here’s a photo, tweeted by reporter Tina Sfondeles, of our newsroom yesterday:

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