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Coronavirus live blog, April 24, 2020: Gifts from alumni at South Side Catholic high school become ‘a lifeline’

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

Officials on Friday said another 108 people have died from the coronavirus in Illinois, as the state recorded both the highest number of new cases and highest number of test results.

Here’s what else happened around the state as the coronavirus pandemic continued.


News

8:57 p.m. Gifts from alumni at South Side Catholic high school become ‘a lifeline’

Darryl Tabernacki, father and spouse to faculty at Leo High School, gives food to a students parent outside Leo High School, Friday, April 24, 2020.
Darryl Tabernacki, father and spouse to faculty at Leo High School, gives food to a students parent outside Leo High School, Friday, April 24, 2020.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

A couple of weeks ago, Nikia Bell, a single mother of four, waited in a line that stretched for four blocks — holding onto a resume and the fragile hope of work.

Three hours later, nearing the front of the line, Bell was told that she’d have to come back another day to the job-finding service. And now, the 42-year-old’s car is on the fritz. Her increasingly dire situation brought Bell to tears Friday.

“I kind of got overwhelmed because I was just thinking about what am I going to do when it’s all over,” said Bell, referring to the coronavirus shutdown.

But Bell, who lives in the Woodlawn neighborhood, was thankful for at least one thing Friday — the folks at Leo Catholic High School on the South Side, where her son Kendale Anderson is a senior. For the last three weeks, the school has been handing out boxed meals and gift cards [for groceries and other necessities] to parents in need, which is most of them. The school has also been offering tuition deferments, meaning parents won’t have to pay while they’re out of work.

Reporter Stefano Esposito has the full story.


8:16 p.m. Chicago Police Department reports 13 more COVID-19 cases

Chicago police announced Friday 13 more cases of COVID-19, bringing the number of cases in the department to 393.

Of the confirmed cases, 374 are officers and 19 are civilian employees, police said.

A total of 394 employees have reported positive tests but the department’s medical section has yet to confirm one of those cases, police said.

Read the full wire story here.

7:49 p.m. Coronavirus deaths more than double at Illinois nursing homes, data shows

The state’s count of coronavirus cases and deaths in long-term care facilities has more than doubled, according to numbers published Friday after a major nursing-home operator’s CEO warned they would reflect a “surge in new cases and more heartbreaking deaths.”

But the numbers, published weekly, appear to be a lagging indicator of what is actually happening around the state — meaning the actual count could be higher. For example, one South Side nursing home has publicized far higher numbers than reported by the state Friday. A spokeswoman for Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the numbers released earlier by the individual nursing homes are reliable.

The new numbers reflect 4,298 coronavirus cases and 625 deaths in nursing homes across the state, according to a count by the Chicago Sun-Times. Pritzker’s office first released nursing home numbers last week, which showed 1,860 residents and staff members had tested positive. Of those, 286 had died.

Reporter Jon Seidel has the full story.

7:22 p.m. Record testing leads to record case count: 2,724 new Illinois coronavirus cases, 108 more deaths

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at an April 20 news briefing.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Thursday announced an extension of the state’s stay-at-home order until the end of May.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Officials on Friday said another 108 people have died from the coronavirus in Illinois, as the state recorded both the highest number of new cases and highest number of test results.

With 108 additional deaths, the state has lost 1,795 to COVID-19. Another 2,724 people tested positive for the virus, but the state received 16,124 test results Thursday — a record high for the state’s testing capacity, according to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office.

In total, there have been 39,658 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Illinois, with more than 173,000 tests performed. Pritzker has said his goal is to run 10,000 tests a day.

Pritzker’s office said hospitalization numbers remain level, a key indicator that the virus’ spread may be slowing down. The number of deaths, however, indicates the state is experiencing its peak in terms of fatalities, officials said.

Read the full report from Tina Sfondeles here.


6:45 p.m. U. of I. still planning on-campus instruction this fall, asks new students to commit by May 1

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is planning for students to return to its campus next fall, but is offering options for students who can’t return or would prefer to take online classes instead.

In a letter to current and potential students sent this week, Andy Borst, director of undergraduate admissions at the state’s largest public university, said the school is “doing all we can to provide an on-campus learning experience for our students in the fall. We are planning for in-person classes to begin as scheduled.”

But Borst also told students they will be allowed the option of taking courses online in the fall and switch to on-campus instruction for a subsequent semester.

Students were also given the option of delaying their start at the school by up to two semesters after they’ve been accepted, Borst said. But students will not be allowed to take classes at other colleges during that time — including community colleges — if they defer. Students have until August to decide.

Still, whether the state will even allow students to return to campuses in the fall is an open questions — and if they can, whether they should.

Read the full report from Matthew Hendrickson here.

6:10 p.m. Melrose Park police officer dies from COVID-19

A Melrose Park police officer died Friday from the coronavirus, officials said.

Officer Joseph Cappello died at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital from complications of COVID-19, a spokesperson for the Melrose Park Police Department said.

“Always dependable and trustworthy, Officer Cappello worked hard to build relationships in the community,” Melrose Park Director of Police Sam Pitassi said in a statement. “He served the people of Melrose Park with integrity and will be remembered as a dedicated public servant.”

Read the full report here.

5:42 p.m. Minority-, women-owned firms may have lost out on Chicago’s coronavirus contracts

Minority- and woman-owned and operated companies may have lost out on city business as Chicago waited weeks to learn whether enforcing its affirmative-action contracts program would jeopardize federal reimbursements for millions of dollars in COVID-19 spending.

In early April, city officials asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency whether Chicago was complying with federal contract rules about reimbursement.

“We started sounding the alarm,” the mayor’s office says.

Federal rules ban preferences for contractors being required to be from a particular place, which is intended to prevent corruption.

But Chicago’s MBE/WBE program, which stands for minority-business enterprises and women’s-business enterprises — has such a “local preference.” That means those businesses must be based in Cook County or surrounding counties to qualify.

Read the full report from Frank Main and Lauren Fitzpatrick here.

3:31 p.m. City Council approves emergency powers ordinance

By a roll call vote reminiscent of Council Wars, Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Friday got the expanded spending and contracting authority she says she needs to respond on a dime to the coronavirus pandemic.

Two days after a handful of aldermen called it a “power grab” and used a parliamentary maneuver to temporarily block it, the City Council easily approved the mayor’s ordinance by a vote of 29 to 21. That’s the same roll call produced repeatedly during the 1980’s power struggle known as Council Wars that saw 29 mostly white aldermen thwart then-Mayor Harold Washington’s every move.

Prior to the final vote, several aldermen pleaded with their colleagues not to relinquish their role as a co-equal branch of government charged with appropriating city funds.

They argued Lightfoot alone should not be allowed to decide how to spend the avalanche of federal stimulus money pouring into Chicago.

Read the full report from Fran Spielman here.

2:37 p.m. County braces for $200 million revenue gap from COVID-19 — and prepares for ‘how bad this could get’

The coronavirus pandemic has blown a hole in the Cook County budget, with preliminary outlooks projecting a shortfall of $200 million.

That hole is largely due to decreased revenue from the county’s sales tax and other home rule taxes, such as the hotel accommodations tax.

But no one knows the depth of that hole and how long it will take to fill it.

“We’re not going to get a handle on this until we have a vaccine, and that’s a minimum of 18 months away,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said.

For the county’s general fund, which covers the sheriff’s and state’s attorney offices and others, the revenue shortfall is around $200 million. The shortfall was first reported by WBEZ.

Read the full report from Rachel Hinton here.

2:05 p.m. Rogers Park man battling coronavirus wakes up in hospital to learn that wife, son have died of the disease

Twenty-year-old Luis Tapiru II became one of the youngest casualties of COVID-19 in the Chicago area when he was found dead on the couch of his family’s Rogers Park condo on April 14.

His parents, Josephine and Luis Sr., already stricken with the disease, were fighting for their lives at AMITA Health St. Francis Hospital in Evanston when their son died at home alone.

Four days after her son’s death, Josephine, 56, who worked as a nurse at a nursing home, died.

It wasn’t until Thursday that Luis Sr. was informed of their deaths. Doctors waited until he was off a ventilator before telling him.

“He was in shock. He was in tears. He couldn’t believe it,” said the family’s other son, Justin Tapiru, 28, who helped deliver the news via FaceTime from Canada, where he lives.

COVID-19 has dealt a terrible blow to thousands of families around Chicago, but it has been particularly cruel to the Tapirus, a hardworking immigrant family deeply committed to their faith.

Read the full story from Mark Brown.

1:35 p.m. Federal budget deficit to reach $3.7 trillion in economic decline, CBO says

A recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic and a government spending spree on testing, health care and aid to businesses and households will nearly quadruple the federal budget deficit to $3.7 trillion, the Congressional Budget Office said Friday.

Among the legacies of the outbreak, a CBO report says, is a pile of trillions of dollars of debt, amassed by a political system that has proved incapable of taking even small steps to constrain this problem.

The 2020 budget deficit will explode after four coronavirus response bills passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump promise to pile more than $2 trillion onto the $24.6 trillion national debt in just the remaining six months of the current fiscal year, according to the report.

That’s more than double the deficit record set during President Barack Obama’s first year in office.

Read the full report here.

1:03 p.m. Don’t let coronavirus relief check disappear into your debts

Federal relief payments meant to help consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic are starting to arrive. But some consumers could be in for disappointment if they have outstanding debts.

Although the payments can’t be seized for taxes or federal student loan debt, they can be diverted if you’re facing a private debt collection action. If you owe child support, the stimulus payment may be collected toward that debt.

Here’s how your relief money could be diverted, and how to prepare.

12:10 p.m. Michelle Obama urges African Americans to stay home to prevent the spread of COVID-19

Former first lady Michelle Obama urged African Americans to stay home to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in public service announcements released Friday.

“Our communities are among the hardest hit by the coronavirus,” Obama said in one of her two PSAs. “And we’ve got to do everything we can to keep each other safe.

“And that means staying home, because even of we are not showing any symptoms we can still spread the virus to others. Let’s keep each other safe by just staying home. Thank you so much and God bless.”

Listen to the 60-second and 30-second radio PSAs here.

11:40 a.m. Trump signs $484B coronavirus relief bill designed to aid businesses, hospitals

President Donald Trump signed a $484 billion bill Friday to aid employers and hospitals under stress from the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 50,000 Americans and devastated broad swaths of the economy.

The bill is the latest effort by the federal government to help keep afloat businesses that have had to close or dramatically alter their operations as states try to slow the spread of the virus. Over the past five weeks, roughly 26 million people have filed for jobless aid, or about 1 in 6 U.S. workers.

Read the full story.

11:23 a.m. FDA warns of risks of treating coronavirus with Trump-promoted malaria drug

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning doctors against prescribing a malaria drug widely touted by President Donald Trump for treating the new coronavirus outside of hospitals or research settings.

In an alert Friday, regulators flagged reports of serious side effects and death among patients taking hydroxychloroquine and the related drug chloroquine. The drugs, also prescribed for lupus, can cause a number of side effects, including heart rhythm problems, severely low blood pressure and muscle or nerve damage.

In one such report, doctors at a New York hospital said that heart rhythm abnormalities developed in most of the 84 coronavirus patients treated with hydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic azithromycin, a combo Trump has promoted.

Read the full story.

10:10 a.m. Struggling entrepreneurs count losses as Pritzker extends stay-at-home order: ‘It is doing a tremendous amount of damage to my business’

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to send shockwaves through the American economy, Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s decision to extend Illinois’ stay-at-home order has left some small business owners counting their losses and considering whether they will ultimately have to close for good.

Jorge Rios and his wife, Vanessa Diaz, a couple who own Chicago’s Best barbershop and beauty salon in Logan Square, have accrued roughly $30,000 in debt as they continue to pay for leases and utilities for the properties while earning nothing.

“It is doing a tremendous amount of damage to my business,” Rios said. “Something that I’ve worked hard for day in and day out — many hours, many long sleepless nights — that has been successful over the years can be completely crumbled and taken away in a matter of a few months due to forcing me to be closed and the debt accumulating.”

The couple has applied for government loans but hasn’t received any money yet, Rios said. Now, they’re left mulling whether to continue to sink money into their once promising dream.

“If the debt continues to accumulate, at what point do you look at it and say, well how many years is it going to take to pay this down?” said Rios.

Read the full story from Tom Schuba and Manny Ramos.

8:51 a.m. Lysol issues warning against injecting disinfectants after Trump raises the idea

The parent company of Lysol and another disinfectant warned Friday that its products should not be used as an internal treatment for the coronavirus after President Donald Trump wondered about the prospect during a White House briefing.

Trump noted Thursday that researchers were looking at the effects of disinfectants on the virus and wondered aloud if they could be injected into people, saying the virus “does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that.”

That prompted a strong warning from the maker of disinfectants Lysol and Dettol, which said it was issuing a statement to combat “recent speculation.”

Improper use of Disinfectants:

Due to recent speculation and social media activity, [parent company Reckitt Benckiser Group] (the makers of Lysol and Dettol) has been asked whether internal administration of disinfectants may be appropriate for investigation or use as a treatment for coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2).

As a global leader in health and hygiene products, we must be clear that under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion, or any other route). As with all products, our disinfectant and hygiene products should only be used as intended and in line with usage guidelines. Please read the label and safety information.

Researchers are testing the effect of disinfectants on virus-laden saliva and respiratory fluids in the laboratory, said William Bryan, of the Department of Homeland Security. They kill the virus very quickly, he said.

“And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning,” Trump said. “Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that. So, that, you’re going to have to use medical doctors with. But it sounds — it sounds interesting to me.”

Read the full story.

8:01 a.m. Lightfoot outlines plan for post-pandemic recovery

Standing outside the Water Tower Thursday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a COVID-19 Recovery Task Force co-chaired by the mayor along with her longtime friend Sam Skinner.

The task force the mayor has assembled is a virtual who’s-who of Chicago power brokers.

It will be divided into five working groups: Policy and Economic Stimulus; Mental and Emotional Health; Marketing and Business Development; Regional Coordination; and Economic Change Study.

The Regional Coordination group includes Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who was swamped by Lightfoot in the 2019 mayoral runoff and has had a frosty relationship with the mayor ever since.

Preckwinkle applauded Lightfoot for her “strong leadership” and said it makes sense for a city and county that “share labor markets and supply chains” to work together.

She stressed the need for a recovery focused heavily on “the devastating impact” the virus has had on “black and brown communities.”

Read the full report from Fran Spielman here.

6:58 a.m. Poland sending COVID-19 medical team to Chicago, White House says

Poland is sending a nine-member medical team to Chicago as the city battles the COVID-19 pandemic, a White House official told the Chicago Sun-Times on Thursday.

The team is being provided by the Polish Ministry of National Defense and is expected to arrive in Chicago on Thursday afternoon and remain until May 2.

“The primary goal of the team is to share and exchange experiences in fighting COVID-19,” the White House said.

The Polish medical team came to Chicago as part of the Illinois National Guard’s longstanding State Partnership Program with the Polish military.

“The Polish military’s support to us here in Illinois during a global pandemic is a testament to the depth and commitment on both sides of our State Partnership with Poland,” said Brig. Gen. Richard R. Neely, the adjutant general of the Illinois National Guard in a statement.

Read more from reporter Lynn Sweet here.

6:21 a.m. Latest sign of the coronavirus times: drive-thru wakes

In the late 1980s, Lafayette Gatling started offering drive-through visitations via TV screen at Gatling’s Chapels in Chicago and South Holland. He thought it would allow mourners with disabilities to get to wake and also benefit people working in the building trades who didn’t have time to clean up before entering a funeral parlor. Gatling’s lets people in Chicago drive up to a canopy and “attend” viewings in South Holland and vice-versa.

With the pandemic, there’s been renewed interest in the drive-thru visitations, Gatling said, because people “don’t have to be six feet apart.”

Drive-thru wakes and similar innovations are expected to increase, according to John Wenig of the National Funeral Directors Association in Brookfield, Wisconsin. “This is a way to give people the opportunity to say their visual goodbyes,” Wenig.

Rosemarie Santilli’s visitation was the second drive-thru wake for Jon Kolssak, a third-generation funeral director. The first, on April 17, was for William Hein, a former Wheeling village president who died of the coronavirus on April 10 at 80. About 60 vehicles took part, according to his son William.

A celebration of Mr. Hein’s life will be held once the pandemic eases, his son said. But in the meantime, he said, “It gave the family closure, and it gave his friends closure.”

Read the full story from Maureen O’Donnell here.


New Cases


Analysis & Commentary

5:51 p.m. Portraits of Corona

Grim Reaper —

Across these states, doctors orders they are defyin’. But it won’t be long. Soon they will be cryin’. Dyin’. Sickness risin’. Coronavirus lyin’ in wait to claim ignorance that hisses at the lessons of history and science.

Arrogance defiantly spitting in the face of fact and truth and irrefutable proof about this plague that already has claimed tens of thousands of lives. Infecting millions worldwide. Staking its deadly claim like the Grim Reaper. Peace Breacher. Invisible Angel of Death. Irrespective of people — white or black. Or yellow. Or brown.

Hear the sound: Of a cresting river of mourning. Amid this affliction. Amid this hell storm of sickness that shall inevitably run its full course. With such catastrophic force of which historians will someday write.

Read the column by John W. Fountain here.

12:39 p.m. Got the COVID-19 blues? Take a bike ride along the Chicago River

Tired of being cooped up in the house for the pandemic, my wife and I put on our best train-robber masks and went for a bike ride along the Chicago River. It was just what we needed.

If you’re thinking the coronavirus might mean the end of city living as we know it, an hour on the river will convince you: We’ll figure out a way to make this all work.

Our destination wasn’t downtown and the Riverwalk. Mayor Lightfoot probably wouldn’t have let us on that anyway.

Instead, we headed out along mostly deserted Belmont Avenue to the North Branch and rode north from there on the riverside trail for nearly a mile before having to detour back to city streets.

That might not seem like much of an achievement. But it wouldn’t have been possible a year ago. An important segment of the trail, the 1,000-foot-long Riverview Bridge connecting Clark Park at Addison Street to California Park at Grace Street, wasn’t completed till last fall.

Read Ed Zotti’s full column here.

8:46 a.m. Chicago dance studio wants small business PPP loan: 100,000 are ahead in line

Congress sent another $320 billion to a wildly popular, quickly depleted COVID-19 loan program Thursday, though it’s a long shot the Glenwood Dance Studio in East Rogers Park will get any of the cash.

Sandra Verthein, the dance center board president, submitted an application on April 9, three days after Chase opened its PPP website, requesting a very small loan, $5,750. That represents payments for 2.5 months to the 10 part-time dance instructors. She lost a few days because of difficulties applying online.

On April 19, Verthein got an e-mail from Chase, which she shared with me. Chase noted the PPP funding was exhausted. Even if more came through, “We want you to know there are more than 100,000 applications ahead of you at Chase, based on when you submitted your inquiry.”

Banks determine who gets help in swiftly completing and submitting an application. That gives the lenders considerable sway over PPP distribution.

Verthein told me, “My feeling is if we are that far down the line for someplace we applied on April 9, what’s the point of doing an application now with some other bank where we will be further down the line?”

Read Lynn Sweet’s full column here.

6:18 a.m. Day 19,432 of the lockdown: Kidding, it only feels that way

My mother and I talk every day. Boulder, Colorado, which offered so much when my parents retired there, geez, more than 30 years ago, isn’t quite the jubilee it was. Now in their mid-80s, they aren’t charging up the trail to Wonderland Lake anymore.

It can be a frustrating conversation. Particularly when my mother is planning to go to the store. “Ma!” I’ll say, “don’t risk your life for coconut shrimp!” Or, when that doesn’t work, “Ma! You’re going to die alone, surrounded by strangers in masks.”

My father is sometimes watching television when I phone — CNN, thank God, not Fox — and my mother will mention something on the screen, the latest aftershock from our president’s daily twirl in the limelight, like some demented ballerina on the music box in an insecure girl’s nightmare.

“Don’t watch TV news mom,” I’ll say. “I never do.”

Read Neil Steinberg’s full column here.