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Latest coronavirus news for April 1, 2020

Here is the latest news about the novel coronavirus COVID-19 and its ripple effects in Chicago and Illinois.

The death count in Illinois officially surpassed 100 people today as the state’s tally of case numbers reached almost 7,000.

Here’s what happened in Chicago and around the state as residents, government officials and public health officers continued to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

News

8:55 p.m. Here’s where CPS families can still get free food during spring break, beyond

Edith Quinones, the lunchroom manager, packs a bag of three days of free breakfast and lunch meals for students at William P. Nixon Elementary School, 2121 N. Keeler Ave., March 19, 2020.
Edith Quinones, the lunchroom manager, packs a bag of three days of free breakfast and lunch meals for students at William P. Nixon Elementary School, 2121 N. Keeler Ave., Thursday morning.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file photo

Chicago families will be able to pick up free food for their kids as long as city schools are closed due to the coronavirus — but the number of schools where meals are available will soon be cut in half.

Chicago Public Schools said Wednesday it would consolidate its food distribution effort, which has already provided 2.8 million meals, to focus on the schools that have seen the most demand.

Starting Monday, the first day of CPS’ spring break, lunchroom workers will hand out food at 136 schools from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. through Thursday. Staff will be given the day off for Good Friday.

Reporter Nader Issa has more. Read his full report and check out the full list of grab-and-go-meal sites.

7:53 p.m. Census Day jump-start goes on despite COVID-19 concerns: ‘Stakes are too high’

A convoy of cars paraded around Little Village on Wednesday, blasting music and shouts from a bullhorn urging residents to complete their census forms on the nationally recognized “Census Day.”

Under normal circumstances, these organizers would be knocking on doors to raise awareness about the 2020 Census, but these aren’t normal times.

“We still need to promote the census, but obviously with COVID-19 we have to now adapt to what’s happening,” said Katiria Diaz, census coordinator for the nonprofit Enlace Chicago, one of the parade organizers. “We can’t be door-knocking or interacting one-on-one with people, but we still want to be out in the streets getting the message out.”

The caravan through Little Village was organized by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Enlace Chicago and Taller de Jose – each group with roots in community. More than a dozen cars were decorated with posters and window paint encouraging residents to visit 2020census.gov to complete their census forms.

Reporter Manny Ramos has the full story.

7:05 p.m. Musician Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne dies of coronavirus complications

Musician Adam Schlesinger, a co-founder of the group Fountains of Wayne and an Emmy winner for his contributions to TV’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” has died as a result of coronavirus complications, Variety reported Thursday.

He was 52.

Fountains of Wayne member Adam Schlesinger, who’s best known for 2003 pop-rock hit “Stacy’s Mom,” has been hospitalized with coronavirus.

Schlesinger, 52, had entered a New York hospital last week. His family revealed the COVID-19 diagnosis on Tuesday.

Reporter Darel Jevens has the full story.

6:16 p.m. CPS to receive $205M in federal coronavirus relief funding, state estimates

Chicago Public Schools is set to receive $205 million in federal emergency coronavirus relief, accounting for more than 40% of the total funding Illinois will get for education, according to preliminary estimates from state officials.

The funds will come from the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed last week by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump, which includes $13.5 billion that was set aside for K-12 education.

As part of the education package, Illinois will receive an estimated $565.5 million, 90% of which officials are required to distribute among the state’s 860 public school districts.

Allocations to each state are based on how much they currently get through federal Title I funding, which prioritizes giving money to states with more low-income students. States then distribute those funds to districts in the same way.

Nader Issa has the full report.

5:32 p.m. CHA residents get rent reprieve until April 30; Lightfoot urges private landlords to do the same

Chicago Housing Authority tenants will get a reprieve from paying rent through the end of the month, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Wednesday, urging private landlords to do the same during the statewide stay-at-home order.

The mayor issued her plea when asked two difficult questions: What about laid-off tenants who can’t afford to pay rent due Wednesday? And what more can be done to help landlords who need that money to pay property taxes, mortgages and utilities and don’t want their tenants to become homeless?

“My hope is that we will give each other grace. I understand that landlords have mortgages and they have other bills to pay. But in this time where a lot of renters are really being pressed, I would absolutely urge, if it all possible, to forego this month’s payment, just to give people a little bit of peace of mind and a cushion in really, really tight financial circumstances,” the mayor said.

Read the full story from Fran Spielman

5:02 p.m. Call for virus volunteers yields army of health care workers

NEW YORK — The work is exhausting and dangerous, the situation bleak. But an army of health care workers heeded New York’s call for help reinforcing hospitals overwhelmed by the coronavirus pandemic.

So far, at least 82,000 people have volunteered for the state’s reserve force of medical workers — a group that includes recent retirees returning to work, health care professionals who can take a break from their regular jobs and people between gigs, according to health officials.

Few have made it into the field yet as hospitals and state regulators vet enlistees and decide how to deploy them. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that’s about to change. By Thursday, hospitals expect to hire about 1,500 volunteers to rescue a medical workforce that needs relief, particularly in New York City.

Health care workers who have hit the ground already, many brought in by staffing agencies, discovered a hospital system in danger of being overwhelmed.

The Associated Press has the full report.

4:50 p.m. Chance the Rapper praises Lightfoot’s coronavirus response

Chance the Rapper performs at “Chance the Rapper’s Parade to the Polls” at Grant Park’s Petrillo Music Shell in 2016.
Chance the Rapper performs at “Chance the Rapper’s Parade to the Polls” at Grant Park’s Petrillo Music Shell in 2016.
Santiago Covarrubias/Sun-Times

First the memes. Then the PSA. Now a “kudos” from a favorite local rapper.

Mayor Lightfoot’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic in Chicago got a seal of approval from Chance the Rapper, who tweeted his appreciation for the mayor’s work Wednesday.

Chance’s tweet falls in line with how other Americans feel about their own state and local governments.

A new survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research showed that more than half of Americans, including 56% of Democrats and 65% of Republicans, say their states are managing the outbreak well.

State and local governments have much of the power to shape the response in their locales, determining what businesses remain open, how long schools will be shuttered and what penalties there are, if any, for those who violate stay-at-home or similar orders.

— Alison Martin and The Associated Press

4:20 p.m. State Department halts passport services for travelers unless it’s a family emergency

In an effort to the slow the spread of coronavirus, the U.S. Department of State has temporarily halted its passport services with the exception of travelers who have a “qualified life-or-death emergency.”

The reduced services went into effect March 20 after the department raised a global travel advisory warning Americans not to leave the country.

Citizens who qualify for a passport must have a family emergency that requires them to travel outside the country within 72 hours. Qualified emergencies include serious illnesses or deaths of immediate family members such as a parent, child, spouse or sibling, aunt or uncle.

These travelers will be required to provide proof of the emergency which can be a death certificate or a signed letter from a hospital or medical professional. They will also be asked to show proof of international travel such as an airline ticket.

Read the full story here.

3:59 p.m. Metra conductor tests positive for the coronavirus

A conductor who works on the Metra SouthWest Service Line has tested positive for COVID-19, the commuter rail service announced Wednesday.

The employee has been home since becoming sick March 25, Metra said in a statement.

“Other employees who had direct contact with that conductor have been self-isolating since that date, and all cars currently in use on the line have been cleaned and disinfected,” Metra said.

Earlier this week, three other Metra field workers tested positive for the disease, Metra said. Those workers don’t have contact with the public, and have been self-isolating since March 20.

Reporter David Struett has the full story

3:08 p.m. Orland Park college student marshals peers to shop for and deliver groceries to seniors

Ten days ago, Orland Park native Michael Arundel — home from college because of the coronavirus — offered in a Facebook post to grocery shop for seniors in the area and deliver free of charge.

He only asked to be reimbursed for the groceries.

The calls started coming in. His oldest and closest friends joined in the effort.

Then, dozens of other college kids reached out to help.

He tapped savings from his summer job as an emergency medical technician for a private ambulance firm to pay Facebook to spread the message.

Read Mitch Dudek’s story here.

2:40 p.m. 42 more die in Illinois from coronavirus as state patient tally approaches 7,000

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at the Thompson Center in Chicago during the daily update on the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, Monday, March 30, 2020.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Illinois health officials on Wednesday said another 42 people have died from coronavirus, a second straight record daily spike bringing the state’s death toll to 141.

There are now 6,980 new confirmed cases of coronavirus, with 986 new cases reported. Ten of those newly confirmed cases are inmates at Stateville Correctional Center, according to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office. There are now 42 inmates with confirmed cases at the maximum security prison.

The Illinois National Guard is sending 30 service members to help with medical care at the Crest Hill prison, where one inmate has died from the coronavirus.

A majority of the new reported deaths — 34 of 42 — were in Cook County, officials said. The death toll has risen for days, and Wednesday marks the highest number of lives lost in a day due to the spreading virus.

Read the full story from Tina Sfondeles.

2:30 p.m. Somber Lightfoot announces first death of city worker to coronavirus

A somber Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Wednesday that the first city employee has died from the coronavirus.

“This is a sad day for all of us in city government. It’s with a heavy heart that I’m here to announce that Chicago has lost one of our own city employees to COVID-19,” the mayor said.

“While I can’t provide and will not any personal details, I can say that the employees was longstanding, beloved by family and co-workers. I personally reached out to offer sincere condolences and support. Our hearts go out to everyone who has been a part of this individual’s life.”

Lightfoot refused to identify the employee or the department where the victim worked. She asked reporters to refrain from publishing any personal details they might “receive or learn” until “all family members have been “contacted and notified of the sad circumstance.”

“This sobering moment should remind us that the numbers that we report every day are not mere statistics. They are people whose lives have been forever changed,” she said.

Read the full story from reporter Fran Spielman.

2:10 p.m. Mayor Lightfoot and Gov. Pritzker announce ‘Arts for Illinois’ relief initiative

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday announced a new relief program to provide financial assistance to the city’s creative scene and cultural organizations impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Arts for Illinois Relief Fund, which has raised about $4 million from the public and private sector, is a partnership between the city and the state, along with the local philanthropic community.

Through the relief fund, the city’s creatives — stage and production members and part-time cultural workers — can apply for one-time grants of $1,500 distributed by 3Arts, an organization that supports artists of color, disabled artists and women artists.

Evan F. Moore has the story.

1:30 p.m. Census Day continues despite COVID-19 concerns: ‘Stakes are too high’

Cook County leaders looked forward to a series of events Wednesday to raise awareness of “Census Day” and the national head count.

But the coronavirus outbreak happened and those events were canceled because of the social distancing needed to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

“The coronavirus pandemic has shifted our priorities and changed our lives, but I urge our residents not to forget to complete the 2020 census,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said Wednesday.

“Even in the midst of this crisis we have to remember the census is still taking place, and we have to remember the stakes are too high not to fill out your census form.”

For over a year the county, its partners and the U.S. Census Bureau’s regional office have relied on person-to-person interaction to help people learn about the census, but COVID-19 hampered those efforts during the census’s most pivotal time. The effectiveness of their month-long efforts of door knocking, community events and town halls will be tested in the coming days as the census is in full swing.

Preckwinkle said people can stay home and complete the census online, over the phone (in numerous languages) or by mail.

Read more from reporter Manny Ramos.

12:32 p.m. Illinois National Guard medics headed to Stateville as inmate coronavirus cases rise

The Illinois National Guard is sending 30 service members to help with medical care at Stateville Correctional Center, where one inmate has died from the coronavirus and at least 32 more have tested positive.

The service members are medics from the Illinois Army National Guard’s 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team based in Urbana and will be setting up medical tents, triaging and providing medical care for inmates at the Crest Hill-based correctional center, according to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office.

Read more from reporters Carlos Ballestros and Tina Sfondeles.

11:50 a.m. Durbin: Pritzker aiming to organize an airlift of COVID-19 supplies from China to Illinois

Speaking from his backyard deck in Springfield, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Wednesday that Gov. J.B. Pritzker is calling the CEOs of major airlines to organize an airlift to haul personal protection equipment from China to Illinois.

Durbin also said Pritzker told him about an Illinois company with COVID-19 supplies to sell — yet was “playing hard to get” while seeking a better price from another state for this equipment now referred to in shorthand simply as PPE.

For weeks now, Pritzker and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo have been publicly outraged that states are competing against themselves — and the federal government — in bidding for desperately needed masks, gowns, ventilators and other supplies as the coronavirus pandemic spreads.

Read the full report from Washington Bureau Chief Lynn Sweet.

10:15 a.m. Richard Roeper’s must-watch list for today’s trying times

In these extraordinary, quarantined times, many of us are watching more streaming series, more original movies and more beloved favorite films than ever before. With that in mind, the latest “Best Movies…” podcast featuring yours truly and radio host Roe Conn is all about feel-good films, from comedies and musicals to biopics to sports films — even some heavy dramas and scary movies.

Richard Roeper & Roe Conn are rounding up and ranking the movies we need now — The Best Feel-Good Movies — in their Best Movies podcast. This episode dives into comedies and musicals.

Listen to Episode 1 of “The Best Feel-Good Movies” here.

9:40 a.m. MLB cancels Cubs-Cardinals series in London

Major League Baseball has canceled a two-game series in London between the Cubs and the Cardinals because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The teams had been scheduled to play at Olympic Stadium on June 13-14.

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred made the announcement in a memorandum sent to MLB employees on Wednesday. MLB said March 19 that it had scrapped series in Mexico City and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Read more here.

8:32 a.m. A look inside a triage tent in Chicago

While Michael Dolan sat in a makeshift room in a cold tent on the sidewalk waiting for a lung X-ray, he was surrounded by five women gasping for air, he said, all facing each other in other bays with no privacy. At one point, one of the women collapsed off her chair and was carted away.

“I marveled at the humanity of sitting there, as a sick person, and feeling guilty that I wasn’t as sick as they were and there should be somebody else in my chair,” he said.

Dolan’s doctor told him he had an acute upper respiratory infection and was developing pneumonia. A nurse gave him a Z-pak, which is used to treat basic cold or flu symptoms and hadn’t been prescribed by the doctor.

The doctor started apologizing for the lack of order and the unavailability of tests that caused Dolan to get to this point — and also started crying.

Read the full story from Nader Issa and Tom Schuba.

7:10 a.m. U. of I. engineers share free prototype of low-cost, easy-to-build ventilator

A diagram of the Illinois RapidVent developed by engineers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign shows how the product would function when attached to a patient to help them breath. Provided

Engineers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have created an easily-manufactured, disposable and portable emergency ventilator they hope can be quickly put into production to help hospitals deal with a surge of COVID-19 patients.

Engineers at the university’s Grainger College of Engineering in collaboration with Carle Health in Urbana worked to create a prototype that has run for more than 75 hours — about 125,000 breathing cycles — and works as well as a commercial model, the school announced.

Following successful testing, the components and design of the prototype — called the Illinois RapidVent — have been posted for anyone to download for free at the college’s website. The university will not receive royalties from the design nor benefit financially from production of the ventilators, according to Rashid Bashir, the college’s dean and a professor of bioengineering.

If a company began producing the ventilators now, they could get into the hands of physicians in as little as 4-6 weeks because of the simplicity of the design, which could plug into a hospital’s oxygen supply or be connected to an oxygen tank, he said.

Read the full story from reporter Matthew Hendrickson.

5:58 a.m. Company hustled to make face shields to fight coronavirus but can’t find buyers

About a week after Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a stay-at-home order, Eric Zuckerman and his workers retooled a small plant on the Northwest Side to make face shields needed by health care workers and others with prolonged exposure to the public.

Mission accomplished, or so he thought. He said his company, Pac Team Group, can make about 750 shields a day. But there’s a problem. Zuckerman said Tuesday he can’t get through to any state or city agency to coordinate a sale. And he said he’s got 1,000 shields in inventory ready to go.

So he listens to government officials on the news begging for protective equipment and he’s flummoxed.

“We want to get this equipment out to people who need it, but we haven’t found the right people to take it,” said Zuckerman, president of Pac Team. “All the agencies are so inundated right now. Getting their attention is quite difficult.”

Reporter David Roeder has the full story.


New cases


Analysis and Commentary

3:28 p.m. America’s lack of pandemic preparedness is unforgivable

In the movies, this all goes very differently. In Hollywood’s version of events, the federal government had been building a secret bunker in the limestone cliffs of Missouri to house a million people in the expectation of an extinction-level-event.

Or the entire executive and legislative branches were relocated to an underground facility in Virginia where continuity of government could be preserved, and, I suppose, lawmakers weren’t still using the public gym during a pandemic.

Even in the all-too-real scripted version of coronavirus-the-movie, “Contagion,” the CDC has identified a stadium that can be turned into a triage facility — on Day 12 of the outbreak.

If only this were one of those movies.

Read S.E. Cupp’s full column here

3:05 p.m. Hero worship, stars’ COVID-19 tests, Tommy John surgery and our role in all of it

When famous athletes, entertainers and moguls ponder heaven, some surely see a separate, velvet-roped area meant just for them. That would be a logical extension of how they see life and how they expect to be treated wherever they go. If they’re going to be touched, it’s going to be by an angel, not by the likes of you and me.

But the better question is how we think those celebrities should be treated inside the pearly gates. Going by society’s worship of them, the answer, sadly, is probably the same. Perhaps Michael Jordan will deign to sign a few autographs up there, too.

Although I’m angered by star athletes’ elective surgeries during the coronavirus outbreak and upset that famous people have access to COVID-19 tests when regular people don’t, we produced this, didn’t we? We’ve elevated these people with our adoring gazes. They expect things. We expect things for them.

Read Rick Morrissey’s full column here.

11:37 a.m. Shuttered soup kitchens make life even tougher for homeless: ‘No sandwiches. No dinners. No nothing.’

The coronavirus crisis has made a challenging way of life even more challenging for Chicago’s homeless residents.

Columnist Mark Brown spoke to some of the city’s homeless residents on Monday night at Catholic Charities.

They filled him in about some of the soup kitchens that have closed up or pared back in the last few weeks because of the coronavirus.

“No sandwiches. No dinners. No nothing,” one homeless man said.

That has made the dependable evening meals at Catholic Charities’ LaSalle Street site all the more valuable. Different churches and organizations take turns serving up the food.

Read Mark Brown’s column here.

7:57 a.m. April Fools’ Day is every day nowadays

Wednesday is April 1, April Fools’ Day. Were I on my game, this might be a prank column to underscore some ridiculous aspect of our locked-down social-distancing moment. America at full stop, waiting for the crunch of the iceberg.

Hats off to whoever pulls off the feat today. I’m not that guy.

Frankly, reality impoverishes parody lately. You don’t need me. If you want a sick joke, turn on the television this afternoon, and you’ll find reality that beggars the imagination. Compared to the daily presidential pratfall, I got nothin’. Every day is April Fools’ Day.

Read Neil Steinberg’s column here.

6:41 a.m. Ignore the mixed messages and wear that mask

In a democracy, government officials must always tell it straight — especially during a pandemic — and never hide behind a mask of misinformation.

Yet it appears the American people have been fed misleading advice from many sources, including the federal government, downplaying the protection face masks can provide against COVID-19.

The best advice now, as best as we can suss out, is that you should consider wearing a mask, even of the homemade variety, whenever you must venture out into a public space, even if you believe you are healthy. It may provide at least some marginal protection.

That’s not the official advice of the federal government — not yet — but the official advice has not been consistent or trustworthy. We’re just telling you what we would do. We would wear a mask.

Read the full editorial here.