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Afternoon Edition: April 15, 2020

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

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

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.

Who knew we’d wake up to a winter wonderland today? And it’s not over: We’ll get more snow this afternoon as the high reaches a chilly 37 degrees. Tonight’s low will be near 29 degrees. Tomorrow, a warmup is in the forecast: The high will be near 45 degrees, but some rain and yes… snow, are likely in the evening.

Top story

Chicago making strides against coronavirus, data shows; Lightfoot says ‘we’re not where we need to get’

Chicago made significant progress to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the first month since the disease upended life here and across the country, but the continued spread of the virus means Mayor Lori Lightfoot is not ready to return the city to normal.

That’s the message delivered by City Hall as it publicly released new data related to the virus today, including numbers that show how well Chicagoans are sticking to Illinois’ stay-at-home order based on “anonymous” data from potentially hundreds of thousands of mobile devices.

While there are some reasons for optimism, Lightfoot and Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady told reporters they are still waiting to see the number of new coronavirus cases level out and decline before revisiting the stay-at-home order. For now, they said, the virus is still on an upward trajectory.

The new data revealed that roughly 40% of the beds in Chicago’s intensive care units are currently occupied by coronavirus patients, while the overall capacity of the city’s ICUs has grown by about 200 beds since the start of the pandemic. It also shows a quarter of the city’s ventilators are being used by coronavirus patients. Overall, half of the city’s ventilators are still available.

We’re making our vital coronavirus coverage free for all readers. See the latest news here.

Even as the number of hospitalized coronavirus patients increased, Chicago’s ICU capacity has kept pace and not been overwhelmed like in other cities. On average, ICU beds have been 74% occupied over the last four weeks. Arwady said that hospitals in Chicago have been able to maintain the ICU occupation rate by converting spaces into additional ICU beds and halting elective surgeries.

On the whole, the city has gone from doubling its coronavirus cases every two days back in March to now doubling its cases only every 12 days. The effect is a crucial flattening of the coronavirus “curve” needed to help protect the health care system from being overwhelmed.

The data also suggest the virus slowed as a result of Pritzker’s stay-at-home order, which went into effect March 21, as well as the city’s closure of its parks five days later. Had it stayed on its previous trajectory, the city might now have seen as many as 62,464 coronavirus cases and 2,000 coronavirus deaths, according to City Hall. Instead, as of Tuesday, the city had 9,666 coronavirus cases and 347 deaths.

Read the full story from Jon Seidel and Caroline Hurley.

More news you need

  1. A second member of the Chicago Fire Department has died from the coronavirus, the department announced today. Firefighter Edward Singleton, 55, worked at the firehouse at Midway Airport.
  2. Nearly 60 vehicles crashed in a massive pileup this morning on the Kennedy Expressway near North Avenue, sending over a dozen people to hospitals with injuries. State police reported dozens of additional crashes on Chicago-area expressways that were “covered in sheets of ice.”
  3. Illinois health officials today said another 80 people have died from the coronavirus, with 1,346 new cases reported. But Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration says both the new hospitalization and death rates remain flat.
  4. Some grocery stores have started to remove limits on certain items put in place to curb hoarding during the pandemic. The lifting of restrictions varies from store to store.
  5. The first virtual City Council meeting in Chicago history, held today, lasted only 37 minutes and came off almost without a hitch. Fran Spielman has a play-by-play of what went down.
  6. The next great new streaming comedy is here, and it’s “#blackAF,” writes critic Richard Roeper in his latest. Read his full review of this “brilliant, biting, edgy, hilarious, poignant and multi-layered” sitcom and watch the trailer.

A bright one

To mark the occasion of its 1,000th COVID-19 patient discharged this week, hospital system Advocate Aurora Health gave us a peek inside the celebratory sendoffs its doctors and nurses are offering recovering patients as they head home after treatment.

At hospitals in Chicago and its surrounding suburbs, medical staff line the halls to clap and cheer for patients on their way out after battling the coronavirus. Our video shows patients pumping their fists, waving and smiling behind their face masks while offering messages of gratitude.

At Advocate Trinity Hospital on the South Side, Paul Richards, 69, a retired Chicago firefighter and a Vietnam veteran, headed home amid a standing ovation, passing handmade posters that read “#GOINGHOME” after he spent two weeks on a ventilator.

“It was like being in Vietnam,” Richards said. “Everyone responded with no hesitation. Everyone stepped up to do what they had to do and put their lives on the line to care for me.”

Read the full story from Lizzie Schiffman Tufano.

From the press box

“The Last Dance,” ESPN’s upcoming documentary on Michael Jordan and the ‘97-98 Bulls, doesn’t debut until Sunday night, but the early reviews are raving.

“Not only were the Bulls a team for the ages, they also gave us a sports soap opera for the ages,” Richard Roeper wrote in a review of the first eight episodes.

Columnist Rick Telander was similarly effusive after watching the series, telling fans to “buckle up” for “something the likes of which we never saw before and assuredly will never see again.”

Your daily question ☕

How are your pets doing during the stay-at-home order? Send us photos along with your answers, we’d love to see your four-legged friends!

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 to tell us about a small thing that’s bringing you joy during the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s what some of you said…

“Time with my 7-year-old daughter. Normally, I travel two to three weeks a month and miss her terribly. It will be hard to go back to that schedule again.” — Kristine Hulce Romano

“Knowing that when push comes to shove, people really are kind to one another.” — Anna Baer Poskonka

“Converting a big chunk of our backyard into a second vegetable garden. We are so excited to grow even more of our own food this summer.” — Deanna Swedish Fritzinger

Want to see what else is making Chicagoans happy during the pandemic? Here’s more. And if you’re still feeling down, check out our list of little things in life that spark joy for some inspiration.

Thanks for reading the Chicago Afternoon Edition. Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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