Coronavirus live blog, April 3, 2020: For families of kids with complex medical needs, the stakes have never been higher

Here are the headlines from April 3, 2020, about the novel coronavirus COVID-19 and its ripple effects in Chicago and Illinois.

SHARE Coronavirus live blog, April 3, 2020: For families of kids with complex medical needs, the stakes have never been higher

McCormick Place is officially ready to become a field hospital. Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot toured the facility today as the number of cases in the state topped 8,900.

Around Chicago and the state, residents, businesses and officials worked to combat the virus and the many ripple effects it’s causing. Here’s what else happened as the city and state continued the fight against the coronavirus.

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8:55 p.m. For families of kids with complex medical needs, the stakes have never been higher

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Letty Young, 12, videochats with her speech therapist while waiting out the coronavirus pandemic at home. The Ogden International student uses her fingers to spell words, but is trying to get better communicating on an iPad so everyone can understand what she’s saying.

Provided

Every winter, Emma Fedor goes on lockdown, trying to hide from germs. Even before coronavirus and COVID-19 became everyday terms, that was just how the 14-year-old and her family learned to ride out flu season so she wouldn’t end up in a hospital.

Emma is prone to seizures and medically fragile. She needs machines just to eat, communicate and breathe at night.

What’s a sniffle for someone else can be a seriously illness for her. So her mom, dad and sister are experts in the germ-killing practices now seen as essential in staving off the rapidly spreading novel coronavirus.

In their family, hands have always gotten washed and washed, classes have been missed and schoolwork done at home and routine appointments pushed off until after the danger has passed.

Now, packages sit in the basement for a day, the nurses who help care for Emma don masks, and all other visitors have been banned from their Norwood Park home — including those who help with therapy.

In the face of the spreading global pandemic, others are getting a small taste of what life normally is like in homes like Emma’s.

“I don’t wish that on anybody,” Emma’s mother Christina Fedor says, “to realize how fragile people are. I just hope we can get through this without an ICU admission.”

Read the full story from Lauren FitzPatrick.

8:11 p.m. Bleak picture for restaurant and hotel industries among hardest hit by the pandemic

Trade groups representing two industries hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic offered a bleak forecast on Friday of the economic aftermath.

Sam Toia, president of the Illinois Restaurant Association, said up to 25 percent of the roughly 7,500 restaurants that have made Chicago one of the food capitals of the world may never re-open.

Without dine-in customers, restaurant revenue is down 71 percent. And 40 percent of all restaurants aren’t even doing pick-ups and deliveries.

“It’s not a pretty picture,” Toia told the Sun-Times.

Read more of Fran Spielman’s interview with Toi here and check out more of The Fran Spielman Show here.

7:39 p.m. UChicago students threaten tuition strike, want rate cut 50% during coronavirus pandemic

Students at the University of Chicago are threatening to withhold their spring quarter tuition unless the university agrees to negotiate with them on tuition rates and offer students a look at the university’s budget.

The group, UChicago for Fair Tuition, is demanding a 50% reduction in tuition and the elimination of student fees for as long as the coronavirus pandemic continues, the group said in a statement Friday.

“As everyone knows, unemployment is reaching record levels and that is clearly affecting students and their families,” Julia Attie, an organizer of the campaign, said Friday.

The group said that as of Friday morning, more than 1,100 students had signed a petition calling on the university to negotiate with the group and more than 650 students are considering withholding their spring tuition money, due on April 29, if the negotiations fail.

A spokeswoman for the university was not immediately available for comment Friday evening.

Reporter Matthew Hendrickson has the full story,

7:10 p.m. Rahm Emanuel hits the road to feed critical workers during pandemic

Last week, Rahm Emanuel — once known as the Rocketman for his energetic mojo — headed to Manny’s legendary downtown deli — where he and his pals like to nosh.

That’s when Emanuel became the Serviceman.

  • To wit: After collecting eight trays of sandwiches and cookies, Emanuel and Amy put on their gloves and personally delivered the yummies to health care providers at four major Chicago hospitals.
  • First stop in the family car: Mount Sinai Hospital “because that is where my father, a doctor, and my mother, who was a nurse, met,” said Emanuel.

“My parents were always about being ‘of service,’” said Emanuel, who parked outside a designated hospital door where he loads food onto rolling tray carts with gloved hands.

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

6:42 Chicago Police Department reports 89 cases of COVID-19

Chicago police Friday announced 13 more confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the department, bringing the number of cases to 89.

Of the cases, 87 are officers and two are civilian employees, Chicago police said.

On Thursday, officials announced the first death of an officer from complications of the coronavirus, and his death will be considered on-duty.

Read the full report from the Sun-Times staff here.

6:00 p.m. Pritzker announces 52 more Illinois coronavirus deaths from press conference at McCormick Place field hospital

Health officials on Friday announced 52 more deaths across Illinois have been attributed to the coronavirus, another record daily high that raises the statewide death toll to 210 since the pandemic first hit.

The state’s case tally now stands at 8,904, with another 1,209 newly confirmed cases, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Nearly three quarters of the cases have been reported in Cook County, which accounted for 33 of the latest deaths, officials said.

But it has spread to nearly two-thirds of the state map, with cases confirmed in 64 of 102 counties.

The latest numbers were announced as Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot were set to unveil the first phase of a massive field hospital being set up with the help of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at McCormick Place East.

Three exhibition halls at the convention center are being converted into medical wings, one of which was set to have 500 beds ready to use Friday.

Our Frank Main broke down how the McCormick Place is being transformed into a massive field hospital for COVID-19 patients.

Another 2,500 beds will be installed in stages to meet what officials say could be a peak in coronavirus diagnoses in Chicago around mid-April. The buildout is being paid for with $15 million in federal emergency funding.

People with varying degrees of coronavirus complications will be housed in each of the three converted exhibition halls.

Read the full story from reporter Tina Sfondeles.

5:30 p.m. Trump recommends — but won’t wear — face masks in public

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says his administration is encouraging many Americans to wear face masks in public, though he stresses that the recommendation is optional and is conceding that he will not be complying with it.

Though some people already have begun acquiring or creating face masks on their own, the administration’s new guidance could test the market’s ability to accommodate a surge in demand. It was expected to be limited to people in areas of the country hit hard by the coronavirus, not nationwide, as some health experts had urged.

The new guidelines, to be announced Friday, will encourage people to use more rudimentary covering like T-shirts, bandannas and non-medical masks. And President Donald Trump himself suggested scarves could be an good alternative to masks.

The new recommendations are set to be announced at a time when states are bracing for critical shortfalls like those that other parts of the world have experienced. They’re scrambling to stockpile all manners of equipment.

Read the full Associated Press report here.

5:00 p.m. High school theater performances cut short, canceled statewide due to coronavirus

The day after students at Benet Academy opened their spring musical, “The Addams Family,” their directors sat them down to talk.

What was going to be a seven-day run of their production would now be just two, teachers Lauren Butera and Brian Wand, who directed the show, told them. That evening, they’d be closing the show for good.

“I knew it was going to be a closing chapter anyway, but I’m sad it came sooner than expected,” said Claire Ann Santos, a senior at Benet.

Their closing night became March 13 — the same day Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that all schools would be closed to stop coronavirus from spreading.

“There’s a song in the show called ‘Happy-Sad,’ so we talked about that as our motivation for the day; we were happy that we got to do one more, and sad that we wouldn’t get the others,” Wand said.

Read the full story by Ella Lee here.

4:30 p.m. Chef Jenner Tomaska launches live auction to benefit Hyde Park first responders, restaurant employees

A James Beard Award-nominated Chicago chef is leveraging his social media presence in order to assist the people who’ve been on the frontlines during the coronavirus pandemic.

Chef Jenner Tomaska, a rising star Beard finalist in 2016 and 2017, has launched a 24-hour Instagram Live auction for a private, in-home dinner prepared by him. The auction proceeds will be shared between a relief fund for employees at Virtue Restaurant — a Hyde Park eatery that specializes in Southern cuisine— and donations to first responders.

Tomaska, who has 69,500 Instagram followers, started the auction at noon Friday.

Read how the auction works here.

3:56 p.m. Can’t pay mortgage due to coronavirus? What you need to know, where to turn for help.

What should you know and where can you turn for help if you’re among the record 10 million U.S. workers filing unemployment claims in the past two weeks and struggling to pay your mortgage?

The $2 trillion federal CARES Act — that’s the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act — passed by Congress offers relief to about 70 percent of those with home mortgages. And there are options for other borrowers.

Our Stephanie Zimmermann answers to your questions and a guide for finding assistance here.

3:29 p.m. World Vision donates food, diapers to families affected by COVID-19

A Christian nonprofit organization donated food and diapers to families in need Friday outside a Near West Side Church.

One hundred families received a food kit of nonperishable items like rice, pasta and canned goods, donated by World Vision and loaded into families’ cars by the organization’s workers outside Soul City Church at 1150 W. Adams St.

”We’re super excited to start this process today, and we hope we can do this many more times,” saidJaryl Pool, a program director for Washington-based World Vision, adding that the food kits were designed to last a week for a family of five.

World Vision worked with Chicago Public Schools to identify 100 families to received the donations, he said.

The food kits and diapers, brought over from World Vision’s warehouse on the West Side, were loaded into the families’ vehicles through a “no-touch distribution model,” Pool said. Cars, vans and truck idled at stations outside Soul City Church and workers loaded the items directly into their trunks.

The organization plans to do similar drive-up donations once a week for the upcoming months at 12 different locations across the city.

— Sun-Times Staff

2:57 p.m. Coronavirus test site on NW Side expands to seniors with underlying medical issues

A drive-thru test site for COVID-19 on the Northwest Side will begin expanded testing Saturday morning.

The Harwood Heights community testing site, 6959 Forest Preserve Dr., will open at 7:30 a.m. to anyone 18 and older showing symptoms and anyone over 60 with underlying medical issues, regardless of symptoms, the Chicago Fire Department announced Friday.

The site, open seven days a week, will issue 500 tests per day.

Reporter David Struett has the full report.

1:46 p.m. Cook County’s chief architect of COVID-19 response is out

The chief operating officer for the Cook County Department of Public Health, who was the face of the county’s efforts to battle the coronavirus, is out, sources told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Dr. Terry Mason joined Cook County Health as the health system’s Chief Medical Officer before transitioning into the role of Chief Operating Officer of the Cook County Department of Public Health in 2013.

Read this developing story from Rachel Hinton here.

1:42 p.m How McCormick Place is being transformed into a massive field hospital for COVID-19 patients

Construction is currently underway at McCormick Place, which is being turned into an “alternative care facility” for coronavirus patients.

Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, commanding general of the Army Corps of Engineers, is in charge of assembling the massive field hospital. He’s a three-star general whose jobs have included building up the Afghan police and armed forces, restoring electricity to war-torn Iraq and helping states recover after devastating hurricanes.

Three exhibition halls at the convention center are being converted into medical wings, one of which will have 500 beds ready to use by the end of the day, Semonite said. Another 2,500 beds will be installed in stages to meet what officials say could be a peak in coronavirus diagnoses in Chicago around mid-April.

People with varying degrees of coronavirus complications will be housed in each of the three converted exhibition halls.

Pritzker said he has toured the hospital being built at McCormick Place: “I didn’t know you could build something like that in five days.”

“You should all feel very, very proud of the work that’s been done so quickly,” Pritzker said, calling the carpenters, National Guardsmen and other workers at McCormick Place “patriotic.”

“They know they are doing something that’s going to save people’s lives.”

Read more about the project in Frank Main’s report.

1:34 p.m. COVID-19 test site closes at Northlake Walmart

A drive-thru COVID-19 test site in a north suburban Walmart parking lot will close Friday afternoon after less than two weeks of operation.

The Northlake test center at 137 W. North Ave. will be consolidated with another coronavirus test site at a Walmart in Joliet, Northlake police said in a statement.

The Joliet site, 2424 W. Jefferson St., will remain open to first responders, health care workers and people 65 or older with symptoms, police said.

A Walmart spokesperson said the Northlake site was closed in response to the opening of a state-run test site at 6959 Forest Preserve Dr. on the Northwest Side of Chicago.

Read the full report from David Struett here.

1:12 p.m. Chicagoans honor Mayor Lightfoot’s plea to say indoors during sunny spring day

Only the pigeons appeared to flout the rules about congregating Friday as warmer temperatures and blue skies teased a city ordered to stay home.

Two kayakers floated on the glistening waters of the otherwise empty Chicago River near the Franklin Street Bridge. Runners, mostly solo, jogged up and down a Michigan Avenue dotted with boarded-up storefronts.

“What a beautiful day!” a young woman announced to no one in particular. And everywhere, masks covered faces.

From Irving Park to North Avenue, the squirrels, robins and other scavenging creatures had the lakefront to themselves.

But a familiar, warm scent still wafted from the Blommer Chocolate Co. building on Kinzie Avenue. A trio of young women stretched and leaned — at a safe distance apart— in Independence Park on the North Side. And a mother could be seen steadying a tiny child on a teetering bicycle.

— Stefano Esposito

12:38 p.m. Family of CPD officer who died of COVID-19 to receive line-of-duty death benefits

Interim Chicago Police Supt. Charlie Beck announced Friday the coronavirus-related death of veteran Officer Marco DiFranco will be considered a line-of-duty death, ensuring DiFranco’s widow and two children will receive honors and benefits.

“When faced with tragedy, you have to look it straight in the eye,” Beck said during a Friday morning news conference a day after DiFranco’s death. “The mayor and I did that, and we recognized that our first responders, by their very nature, place themselves at risk every day.

“And we determined that Marco DiFranco’s death was line-of-duty, and, because of that, his family will continue to have the protections of the Chicago Police Department. They will not be destitute. They will be taken care of.”

Read the full story from reporter Sam Charles.

12:35 p.m. Illinois bans activities at state parks amid coronavirus outbreak

Illinois has barred all activities at state parks, fish and wildlife areas, recreational areas and historic sites in another move to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Colleen Callahan, director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, said in a statement that hunters and anglers aren’t allowed to receive refunds on state-issued permits or permit transfers due to administrative guidelines under the state wildlife code.

“We understand the problems these laws create for our sportsmen and sportswomen and are reviewing all possible solutions,” Callahan said.

With proper state authorization, people can still hunt and fish on privately-owned open properties as Illinois continues issuing restrictions to curb the virus that causes COVID-19, the Journal-Star reported Thursday.

Read the full story from the Associated Press.

12:10 p.m. Illinois companies report layoffs of 14,702 workers in March

Businesses in Illinois notified state officials of 14,702 layoffs in March at more than 190 locations, according to a report released Friday by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. The overwhelming number of closings were in the Chicago area.

Almost all the companies reporting layoffs cited the coronavirus as the reason.

The list was dominated by hotels, restaurants and fitness clubs. Trump International Hotel & Tower said it was cutting 294 jobs at its Chicago location. The InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile reported 350 layoffs.

The largest single reported layoff was a plant closing: Fabrik Molded Plastics in McHenry, costing 600 jobs.

Read the David Roeder’s full story, which includes the names of some other companies that reported layoffs or closings.

11:26 a.m. Coronavirus concerns continue to reshape the sports world

With the NFL still deciding whether teams will be allowed to conduct their NFL Draft operations from their headquarters, the Bears are exploring alternate sites.

General manager Ryan Pace said Friday they have several venues in mind if they can’t work at Halas Hall, and one of the options is to simply continue working from home as they have for the past few weeks.

The NFL has been adamant that the draft will take place as scheduled April 23-25. The Bears have seven selections, beginning with No. 43 overall.

In other sports news, the WNBA announced Friday that it was postponing training camp and the start of its season indefinitely due to the coronavirus, which has already infected more than 1 million people worldwide.

Training camp was scheduled to open April 26 and the season was supposed to start May 15.

Read more from Jason Lieser about how the Bears are bracing for an unconventional NFL Draft, and get the details on the WNBA’s postponements from Madeline Kenney.

9:30 a.m. What worries Chicagoans most about the coronavirus

As we settle into our new (temporary) normal, anxieties are still high for many, so we asked readers what worries them the most about the coronavirus pandemic. Some answers have been lightly edited for clarity. Here’s what they said:

“I’m most worried about how long this will last. We need to start thinking about how to roll back precautions so businesses can reopen, while at the same time keeping our most vulnerable citizens safe.” —Jason Betke

“Keeping my small business open (we are essential). I am praying I can continue to pay my staff.” — Stephanie Paszkiewicz

“I’m worried for my 80-year-old parents.” — Pam Shelton

See what more Chicagoans said in Alice Bazerghi’s story.

8:50 a.m. The numbers that tell the story: Our coronavirus data tracking

As the state, nation and world contends with the exponential spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, our newsroom is committed to telling the human stories behind the global crisis —but we also recognize that battling a pandemic is, in many ways, a numbers game.

On our Coronavirus Data page, you’ll find a collection of graphs, charts and maps tracing the spread of the virus, tracking test results and plotting the impact on individual counties. Check back daily for updated totals.

Is there a data set we’re missing that would help inform your understanding of the coronavirus and its spread? Send us a note at audience@suntimes.com, and we’ll investigate.

See the latest reports in our Coronavirus Data section.

6:56 a.m. Rapid coronavirus testing is coming to Illinois

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Thursday that Illinois was set to receive 15 machines that process rapid COVID-19 tests developed by North Chicago-based Abbott Labs.

During his daily press briefing, Pritzker said the first shipment was expected later Thursday, adding that representatives from the medical supply firm assured him that its home state “is a priority for them.”

“We expect to have machines online very shortly,” Pritzker said.

Abbott’s groundbreaking coronavirus test can deliver positive results in just five minutes and negative results in 13 minutes. As he touted the advancement as “a game changer,” Pritzker noted that existing tests take about four to six hours to process results.

Read more from reporter Tom Schuba.

6:22 a.m. CPS teachers on parade: 30-car caravan brightens day for kids missing school (yes, some are)

With Chicago schools closed because of the coronavirus, teachers are trying their best to bring their lessons home to students — and educators at a Southwest Side school took that a step further this week.

A few dozen teachers at Dore Elementary drove through the Clearing neighborhood Thursday afternoon in a 30-car caravan, led by a Chicago police escort, honking their horns and waving to kids as they passed by families’ homes.

With music blaring from teachers’ cars that were painted with messages for their students, more than a dozen families on a single block waved back at their educators.

Maureen O’Hara, a fourth grade teacher who helped organize the effort, said parents and students were thrilled when they heard their teachers were coming by to say hello.

Reporter Nader Issa has the full story with photos by Ashlee Rezin Garcia.


New cases


Analysis & Commentary

8:08 p.m. Dick Durbin ‘99.9%’ sure grandchild had COVID-19, calls McConnell’s Trump defense ‘pathetic’

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Friday that one of his grandchildren likely had COVID-19 and called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s assertion that Donald Trump could not focus on the impending coronavirus pandemic because of his Senate impeachment trial “pathetic.”

“We have some grandkids out in Brooklyn, New York and we think they have weathered that storm and are now fever free and have turned the corner,” Durbin said while taping the WLS-AM radio show “Connected to Chicago with Bill Cameron.”

“There were some anxious moments there and I am sure a lot of families are going through that.”

Durbin’s grandchild — he did not mention the age or gender of the youth — was not tested.

Read Lynn Sweet’s full column here.

4:58 p.m. Illinois adjusts on the fly to meet medical supply needs in a coronavirus ‘Wild West’

In a state where the government usually operates on the basis of buy now, pay later (often much, much later), the emergency of the coronavirus pandemic has required a decidedly different approach.

About two weeks ago, Illinois officials tracked down a supply of 1.5 million potentially life-saving N95 respirator masks in China through a middleman in the Chicago area and negotiated a deal to buy them.

One day before they were expecting to complete the purchase, they got a call in the morning from the supplier informing them he had to get a check to the bank by 2 p.m. that day, or the deal was off. Other bidders had surfaced.

Realizing there was no way the supplier could get to Springfield and back by the deadline, Illinois assistant comptroller Ellen Andres jumped in her car and raced north on I-55 with a check for $3,469,600.

From the other end, Jeffrey Polen, president of The Moving Concierge in Lemont, drove south. Polen isn’t in the medical supply business, but he “knows a guy,” an old friend who specializes in working with China’s factories.

As they drove, Andres and Polen arranged to meet in the parking lot of a McDonald’s restaurant just off the interstate in Dwight. They made the handoff there.

Polen made it back to his bank with 20 minutes to spare. Illinois already has received part of the mask shipment. There’s more on the way.

That’s just a taste of the “Wild West” world of emergency procurement taking place over the past several weeks as the state fights for equipment and supplies to protect frontline workers and patients in the battle against COVID-19.

Read the Mark Brown’s full column here.

6:48 a.m. Every state — including 12 slackers — must join the fight to beat COVID-19

As of Thursday afternoon, 12 governors still had not issued the statewide stay-at-home orders that are the best defense against the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

We have to wonder how many more of their residents must catch the virus, and how many more must die, before these 12 state chief executives wake up. We have to wonder whether they understand that they are endangering every American. A pandemic respects no state lines.

There is not a moment to spare. The toll of the virus is mounting by the day. More than 225,000 Americans — and more than 1 million people worldwide — have contracted COVID-19. More than 5,000 Americans, including 157 in Illinois, have died.

And the worst by far — possibly up to 240,000 American deaths — is yet to come.

Read the full editorial from the Sun-Times Editorial Board.

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