clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Coronavirus live blog, April 10, 2020: Jussie Smollett donating $5,000 for face masks in Cook County

Here’s what we learned Friday about the continuing spread of coronavirus and its ripple effects in Chicago and Illinois.

As the third week of Illinois’ stay-at-home order came to a close, Cook County president Toni Preckwinkle went into self-isolation after a member of her security team tested positive for coronavirus. At City Hall, a member of Lightfoot’s team also tested positive for the virus.

Here’s what else happened Friday in Chicago and around the state as the battle against the coronavirus pandemic continued.


News

8:57 p.m. Jussie Smollett donating $5,000 for face masks in Cook County

“Empire” actor Jussie Smollett walks out of the Leighton Criminal Courthouse after pleading not guilty to a new, six-count indictment
Flanked by attorneys and supporters, former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett walks out of the Leighton Criminal Courthouse after pleading not guilty to a new, six-count indictment charging him with falsely reporting he was the victim of a hate-crime attack near his Streeterville apartment in January 2019, Monday morning, Feb. 24, 2020. | Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Jussie Smollett is back.

But not in Chicago.

Sneed has learned the former “Empire” actor is donating $5,000 to purchase 3,000 face masks for the Cook County Health Foundation — the hospital’s charitable arm — to battle Chicago’s COVID-19 pandemic.

Smollett is also in the process of enlisting friends to up the ante and is sending 1,000 PPE (personal protective equipment) masks to Harlem Hospital in New York.

“I lived in Chicago for five years and know many essential workers driving buses, working in childcare, or working in grocery stores — are black,” stated Smollett via a written statement to Sneed.

Columnist Michael Sneed has the scoop. Read her full column here.

8:21 p.m. Need something fun to do with your kids while you’re quarantined? Try a few ideas from this list.

Gov. Pritzker’s stay-at-home-order is set to stay in place until April 30, and Mayor Lightfoot has warned that CPS students may not be back in their classrooms right away.

For parents, that means playing teacher, entertainer and parent all at once, and there are only so many episodes of Paw Patrol a kid can watch.

If your kids crave entertainment — be it exercise, knowledge or social interaction — here’s a list of fun and enriching activities you can do with your kids while you’re at home.

  • Want to see an item from the Field Museum’s collection? Just tweet at them. The Field Museum is taking requests for photos of items from the its many collections. Send in your request (what’s Sue the T.rex been up to while the museum’s closed, anyway?) and get a photo back.
  • Access over 30,000 ebooks right away with SimplyE. The New York Public Library’s app, SimplyE gives hungry readers access to books in just about any genre. If your child needs to keep up with school reading, this app can save you an Amazon purchase.

Get more ideas here.

7:48 p.m. The brothers of Jeffrey Pendelton, who died of COVID-19 while in Cook County Jail detainee, say treatment was excessive

Donnell Todd (left) and Warren Pendleton say the shackling of their brother, Jeffery Pendleton, at Stroger Hospital was excessive, and are suing the Cook County Jail to stop the practice.
Donnell Todd (left) and Warren Pendleton say the shackling of their brother, Jeffery Pendleton, at Stroger Hospital was excessive, and are suing the Cook County Jail to stop the practice.
Provided photo

Cook County Jail detainee Jeffery Pendleton suffered “cruel punishment” while being treated for COVID-19 at Stroger Hospital, his brother says.

Pendleton was immobile, with a breathing tube inserted down his throat, but was still shackled hand and foot to the hospital bed.

He died Sunday — making him the first detainee of Cook County Jail to die of COVID-19.

His brothers, Donnell Todd and Warren Pendleton, say the shackling was excessive, and are suing the jail to stop the practice.

“He was treated like an animal,” Todd said. “I don’t think anyone deserves that treatment. He was sick and needed help. And to still have him shackled by hand and foot, with a guard — that’s too extreme.”

The brothers have filed a federal lawsuit against Sheriff Tom Dart and Cook County, alleging they violated their brother’s constitutional rights by shackling him to a hospital bed. The lawsuit alleges the shackling policy “was excessive, caused gratuitous pain, and violated his rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.”

Read the full story by David Struett.


7:38 p.m. COVID-19 tests: What it feels like to have one

Government and health officials are talking a lot about coronavirus testing. So what does it feel like to undergo one of the not-yet-widely-available nasal swab tests for COVID-19?

With testing still limited, we can’t offer a firsthand report. But Dr. Jayant Pinto can.

“It’s not comfortable, I’ll just be honest,” says Pinto, a University of Chicago Medicine otolaryngologist who’s had similar tests done on himself. “There’s a little discomfort. It’s not long-lasting. It’ll sting for a minute.”

It isn’t pain like you feel from a shot. Instead, think about how it felt if you’ve gotten chlorinated water up your nose in a swimming pool.

Read more about what it’s like to get a coronavirus test from reporter Stephanie Zimmermann here.

7:00 p.m. Willie Nelson hosting virtual Farm Aid with Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews

Farm Aid, the annual concert that’s raised money and awareness for family farms since 1985, is airing on a TV screen near you this weekend.

Willie Nelson, Farm Aid president and co-founder, announced earlier this week plans to broadcast “At Home With Farm Aid,” a virtual concert benefiting farms impacted by COVID-19.

He’ll be joined by Farm Aid board members Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews, as well as Nelson’s sons, Lukas and Micah.

The program airs at 7 p.m. Saturday on AXS TV. SiriusXM will broadcast the hour-long show on Dave Matthews Band Radio (Ch. 176) and Willie’s Roadhouse (Ch. 59). Viewers can also tune in via farmaid.org or AXS TV social media channels.

Read the full story on how Farm Aid plans to help farmers affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

6:37 p.m. Cubs, White Sox set up emergency relief funds for game-day employees, but is it enough?

The Cubs and White Sox each set up a $1 million emergency relief fund to aid ballpark employees who are out of work due to the coronavirus pandemic, but some workers say that’s not nearly enough.

Both teams this week informed eligible staffers — including some who are employed by companies other than the clubs, such as Levy Restaurants and United Services Companies — that they can apply for a one-time, non-taxable grant of $500 to help relieve some short-term financial stress.

More than 2,000 Sox employees and 3,000 Cubs employees could be helped with these funds, the teams said, adding that some have already received checks this week.

Read why some ballpark workers believe the grant isn’t enough.

6:00 p.m. ‘Friends’ reunion not happening in time for HBO Max launch due to coronavirus

LOS ANGELES — The “Friends” reunion won’t be here for us as soon as expected.

Production on the special has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic that’s brought movie and TV making to a standstill.

The special, featuring the entire original “Friends” cast, was to be part of the May launch of the new HBO Max streaming service. No taping was done before the health crisis hit, the company said Friday.

Read the full report here.

5:30 p.m. Chicago Police Department COVID-19 cases now at 170

Chicago police announced Friday 19 more confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the number of cases in the department to 170.

Of the confirmed cases, 163 are officers and seven are civilian employees, police said.

A total of 237 employees have reported positive test results, but the department’s medical section has yet to confirm 67 of those cases, police said.

The newly confirmed cases come as officials announced the death of a second officer from complications of the virus.

Read the full report here.

5:02 p.m. Apple, Google to harness phones for coronavirus infection tracking

Apple and Google launched a major joint effort to leverage smartphone technology to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

New software the companies plan to add to phones would make it easier to use Bluetooth wireless technology to track down people for who may have been infected by coronavirus carriers. The idea is to help national governments roll out apps for so-called “contact tracing” that will run on iPhones and Android phones alike.

The technology works by harnessing short-range Bluetooth signals. Using the Apple-Google technology, contact-tracing apps would gather a record of other phones with which they came into close proximity. Such data can be used to alert others who might have been infected by known carriers of the novel coronavirus, although only in cases where the phones’ owners have installed the apps and agreed to share data with public-health authorities.

Read the full report here.

2:42 p.m. 68 more die in Illinois from the coronavirus, but hospital capacity still ‘manageable’

Illinois health officials on Friday said another 68 people have died from the coronavirus, a day after Gov. J.B. Pritzker voiced some optimism that the state might be bending the curve as residents continue abiding by a stay-at-home order.

Officials said there were 1,465 new positive cases of the virus, which has now been confirmed in 83 of 102 counties. In total, 596 people have died in Illinois from the outbreak, among 17,887 who have tested positive.

There were 6,679 new tests administered Thursday, and nearly 81,100 overall.

Pritzker’s office on Friday said it appeared hospital capacity is remaining steady and manageable in the face of the growing patient pool.

Even so, Dr. Nick Turkal, the executive director of the field hospital set up at McCormick Place, said he has assembled a team of 400 health care workers for the alternate care site, aimed at treating COVID-19 patients when — and if — hospitals overflow. Turkal said they’ll be prepared to take in patients by next week

Read full story by Tina Sfondeles.

2:05 p.m. Mayor Lightfoot reveals staff member in her office tests positive for COVID-19

Mayor Lori Lightfoot revealed that one of her extended staff members has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Lightfoot made the announcement during a briefing while touring the alternate care facility at McCormick Place on Friday.

The Mayor did not reveal the identity of the staff member, but said he or she hasn’t not been into the office since April 1 and is doing well.

While this is the first case announced In Lightfoot’s office, other city and local government offices have already been touched by COVID-19. Cook County president Toni Preckwinkle is self-isolating after a member of her protection detail contracted COVID-19, her office announced Wednesday.

The member of Preckwinkle’s detail was last in the Cook County Building and in a vehicle operated by the security team on March 27, Preckwinkle said in a statement.

— Sun-Times Staff

1:47 p.m. Coronavirus test samples stolen from lab tech’s vehicle at South Side gas station

Police are searching for two people who stole COVID-19 test samples Thursday from a lab employee’s car at a South Side gas station.

The 42-year-old woman left work with frozen samples stored in the trunk, and stopped at a gas station shortly before 7 p.m. at 55th and Wells streets, Chicago police said.

As she entered the station, the pair entered and drove off with her car, police said. The vehicle had been left running and unlocked.

Five frozen test tube samples to be tested for COVID-19 are missing, according to a law enforcement source.

Read the full story from reporter David Struett.

1:28 p.m. Coronavirus worldwide deaths top 100,000

he worldwide death toll from the coronavirus hit 100,000 as Christians around the globe marked a Good Friday unlike any other — in front of computer screens instead of in church pews — and some countries tiptoed toward reopening segments of their battered economies.

Around the world, public health officials and religious leaders alike warned people against violating the lockdowns and social distancing rules over Easter and allowing the virus to come storming back. Authorities resorted to roadblocks and other means to discourage travel.

In Italy, officials employed helicopters, drones and stepped-up police checks to make sure residents didn’t slip out of their homes. On Thursday alone, police stopped some 300,000 people around Italy to check whether they had permission to travel. About 10,000 were issued summonses.

Read the full story by The Associated Press.

12:14 p.m. Home for developmentally disabled has become coronavirus ‘hot spot’ in south suburbs

Two people have died and more than 50 have tested positive for the coronavirus at the Elisabeth Ludeman Center, an enormous state-run facility for adults with severe disabilities in Park Forest that’s become a virus “hot spot” in the south suburbs.

The majority of cases are residents who live at the facility, but more than a dozen staff members have been infected, Park Forest Mayor Jonathan Vanderbilt said Friday.

And two male residents, ages 50 and 67, died this week from the virus, Vanderbilt said.

Vanderbilt is imploring the public to donate personal protective gear to the facility.

Read more from reporter Mitch Dudek.

11:37 a.m. Harvard study suggests air pollution may be linked to higher COVID-19 mortality

A new nationwide study out of Harvard University looked at data from approximately 3,000 counties in the United States, and found an increased mortality rate among COVID-19 patients in areas with more air pollution.

The data was collected through April 4 and compared average, long-term air pollution statistics in each county with COVID-19 deaths, adjusting for variables including population size, hospital beds, number of individuals tested, weather, as well as behavioral factors like obesity and smoking.

The study concluded that “a small increase in long-term exposure to [air pollution] leads to a large increase in COVID-19 death rate, with the magnitude of increase 20 times that observed for [air pollution] and all-cause mortality.”

A panel of current and former Environmental Protection Agency employees based in the Midwest are hosting a “teach in” at noon Friday via Facebook Live to discuss the study’s findings in the context of U.S. environmental policy. Click here to watch.

— Lizzie Schfifman Tufano

10:46 a.m. Printers Row Lit Fest postponed

Chicago’s annual Printers Row Lit Fest has been postponed until September, it was announced Friday. The announcement came a day after Gov. J.B. Pritzker suggested that event organizers should “think seriously about canceling any large summer events.”

The literary extravaganza, which usual takes place in June each year and attacts more than 100,000 visitors, will now take place on Labor Day Weekend, Sept. 5-6. The move was necessitated by the statewide mandate on social distancing and ban on gatherings of more than 10 persons.

Headlining this year’s fest will be best-selling author Ta-Nehisi Coates (“The Beautiful Struggle,” “We Were Eight Years in Power”), this year’s recipient of the Harold Washington Literary Award. Coates will be featured at a ceremony at 10 a.m. Sept 5 at the Harold Washington Library to officially kick off the festival. In addition, the gala award ceremony for Coates has been moved to 6 p.m. Sept. 3. Information/tickets available at thenspb.org.

Printers Row organizers noted the postponement was made out of an “an abundance of caution, and prioritizing the safety and wellbeing of its guests, authors and vendors.”

The free festival, the largest outdoor literary showcase in the region — boasting 100 events with local and national bestselling authors, booksellers, chef demos, writing workshops, children’s events and spoken-word performances — will take place 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily, along Dearborn Street from Polk Street north to Ida B. Wells Drive.

Visit printersrowlitfest.org for more information/updates in the months ahead.

Miriam Di Nunzio

9:29 a.m. Attorney general’s office fields more than 1,200 price-gouging complaints

More than 1,200 complaints related to price-gouging have been filed across the state with the Illinois attorney general’s office, officials say.

Investigators have found businesses were unfairly inflating the price of water, toilet paper, hand sanitizers, disinfectant wipes and sprays, surgical masks and other medical equipment.

Businesses found to be marking up their prices have been asked to sign agreements with the attorney general’s office not to engage in further gouging.

“We have not yet needed to take enforcement action as businesses are being responsive to us,” said Annie Thompson, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Kwame Raoul.

Frank Main

8:35 a.m. How you can help Chicagoans struggling during pandemic

Many people have struggled with issues resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. Even if you are fortunate to be healthy and have a job, the chances are there are people around you who are struggling.

Unemployment has spiked, finances are stretched, food insecurity is on the rise, and vulnerable populations have struggled in their daily life. But the crisis also has provided opportunities for Chicagoans to help each other.

You could donate money to a worthy cause or give of your time. There are lots of opportunities to get away from sheltering at home and do something for the benefit of others.

There are many organizations seeking assistance. Here’s everything you need to know about when, where and how to help.

John Silver

8:01 a.m. Facing coronavirus, we’re all in this together, Chicagoans say: ‘I see hope happening’

Fire officials have been moved by how the public is helping them.

“We’re always looking for more equipment, always looking for N95s,” CFD spokesman Larry Langford said. “In these times, they’re in short supply. We’re always looking for donations. We found a lot of nail salons, construction companies, auto painting shops.”

The Ford Motor Company sent face shields to the department. Koval Distillery in Ravenswood has sent hundreds of gallons of hand sanitizer. A medical equipment company sent cases of gloves.

“We’re getting a lot of help,” said Langford, noting that the fire department, in turn, is prepared to give equipment to hospitals if the need arises. “We’re ready to turn our stuff over to medical facilities if it comes to that. It’s all a chain, and we’re part of it.”

For every big change, there are a thousand small, personal ones.

“People who were standoffish are now coming up,” said Alvin Carter, an Evanston resident who has driven a school bus for 29 years. “I see togetherness the past two months. Ever since this thing came around, we come together.”

Read Neil Steinberg’s full story.

7:28 a.m. UIC medical students to graduate early amid COVID-19 pandemic

Nearly 200 medical students at the University of Illinois at Chicago will graduate early Friday to help meet demand for health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A third of the 192 early graduates have already been matched to residency programs in Illinois, according to a statement from the University of Illinois College of Medicine. They will still have to work directly with their residency programs to determine whether they’ll be able to start work early.

The early graduates represent about two thirds of UIC Medicine’s 2020 graduating class and met all of the college’s graduation requirements, including completing required course and clinical rotation objectives, officials said.

“This is a very dynamic time for these graduates to be entering into the medical profession,” Dr. Robert Barish, vice chancellor for health affairs at UIC, said in the statement.

Read the full story here.

6:57 a.m. Near North Side retiree sews face masks for other seniors as her part in the ‘pandemic war’

During the 1960s, Jeliner Jordan moved from making shoes to making helmet liners for soldiers in the Vietnam War.

“I remember thinking I had to do a good job and I was dramatic in my mind because I knew our soldiers needed them,” Jordan, 76, said.

With the country now battling coronavirus pandemic, Jordan is again part of a battle. But now, instead of helmet liners, it’s face masks that she’s making for her neighbors at the Chicago Housing Authority’s Zelda Ormes Apartments, a community for seniors.

“We may not be in the Vietnam War any more, but we are at one now, a pandemic war,” she said.

Read more about Jeliner Jordan in Manny Ramos’ story.

5:46 a.m. Parents, advocates urge Pritzker to release inmates as prison coronavirus cases skyrocket

Parents and advocates of people incarcerated for violent crimes in Illinois prisons urged Gov. J.B. Pritzker during a virtual news conference Thursday to release their loved ones as cases of the coronavirus skyrocket.

As of Thursday afternoon, 134 inmates and 86 prison staff have tested positive for the virus. Two inmates have died from COVID-19 so far and two dozen more are hospitalized.

Illinois is one of 16 states that doesn’t allow incarcerated people to earn parole. That means most of the 36,000 people incarcerated in Illinois — 20% of whom are age 50 or older — are at risk of having their criminal sentence turn into a death sentence if they contract the coronavirus inside prison and don’t recover.

“Our calls for release must include everyone, including those who’ve served many years after having been convicted of violent crimes and are ready to return home,” said Alex Ding, an organizer with Parole Illinois, a criminal justice group that hosted Thursday’s news conference.

Reporter Carlos Ballesteros has the full story.


New Cases


Analysis & Commentary

7:34 p.m. Illinois is hurting. Red states and blue states are hurting — and desperate for a real federal rescue

The coronavirus pandemic is a stress test of our nation’s most fundamental systems, institutions and safety nets, just as the Great Depression was during the 1930s.

And while the $2 trillion federal stimulus package approved last month marked the beginning of a national response, Americans must face the fact that it’ll take a massive, sustained — and far more expensive — federal effort to truly set things right again.

The pandemic has exposed deep pre-existing vulnerabilities and inequities. In just weeks, the virus has thrown 17 million people out of work in an economy that already had been tough on low-wage workers.

Our nation’s poor and unemployed have been left particularly vulnerable because of a health care system that already was unfairly skewed toward better care for the middle class and wealthy.

Now, on top of this, comes the news that the first federal stimulus package won’t begin to set things right, certainly not for Chicago or the state of Illinois. A massive second stimulus package already is necessary — and it needs to go further to help state and local governments.

Here’s why: The first stimulus is to be spent only on COVID-19-related matters — and not be used to narrow budget gaps. This effectively handcuffs governors and mayors who are desperately in need of flexibility when it comes to spending.

Read more from the Sun-Times Editorial Board here.

1:17 p.m. Gov. Pritzker, please call this man at MIT. His technology could help end the pandemic.

Ramesh Raskar has a plan with a reasonable chance of controlling the COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone in Illinois can help make it happen. But Gov. J.B. Pritzker needs to make a call first.

Raskar, a former Google and Facebook technologist who holds nearly 100 patents, heads a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that has developed a digital contact tracing app. Called PrivateKit: SafePaths, it’s available free from the iPhone and Android app stores.

Contact tracing is essential to stopping COVID-19. It’s one of what Pritzker calls the “three T’s” — testing, tracing and treatment. The head of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says we need to do it.

Traditional contact tracing is slow and tedious. When someone tests positive for a dangerous virus, you find out everyone they’ve been in contact with for as long as they’ve been contagious — in COVID-19’s case, at least 14 days.

Read full story by Ed Zotti.

7:31 a.m. As a doctor, how do I tell a black family of five, struck by the virus, to ‘social distance’ in a two-bedroom apartment?

I’m an African-American emergency room physician in Chicago. Recently, a friend called asking about his grandmother who lives on the South Side in a two-bedroom apartment with five family members, one of whom recently was diagnosed as COVID-19 positive.

He asked, “What can I do?”

When I told him to quarantine the infected family member from the grandmother and any other family members with underlying health conditions, my friend reminded me that their apartment has only two bedrooms. He also pointed out that the infected person still has to go to work.

I found myself at a loss for words. And then I started thinking about the larger factors that have now put African-Americans at the epicenter of the corona virus crisis, accounting for 70% of the deaths in a city in which we are just 30 percent of the population. So far, the response from governments at all levels is far short of what is needed.

Read the full letter from Dr. Garth Walker here.

6:12 a.m. Suspend the Freedom of Information Act? Even during a pandemic, that’s a horrible idea

It is never a good idea to restrict the public’s right to information.

Not even — or perhaps, especially — during this pandemic. At a time of crisis, the public depends even more on the media for accurate, timely information.

Many times, that information is obtained via the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

So we were glad to hear Thursday that the Illinois Municipal League and Mayor Lori Lightfoot lost their bid to suspend FOIA deadlines during the time Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order is in effect.

There’s no reason in the world that government bodies and the media — and others who formally request public information — can’t continue to resolve FOIA disputes informally, as they have always done. It’s a matter for honest dialogue, not anti-democratic rule changes.

Read the full Sun-Times editorial here.