Latest coronavirus news for April 5, 2020: Live updates

Here are the headlines from April 5, 2020, about the novel coronavirus COVID-19 and its ripple effects in Chicago and Illinois.

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The Latest

Trump said Pritzker has ‘not performed well,’ sends Illinois more ventilators after governor rips him over COVID-19 supplies


President Donald Trump speaks during an unscheduled briefing after a Coronavirus Task Force meeting at the White House on April 5, 2020.

Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

In a back-and-forth that yielded more desperately needed COVID-19 ventilators for Illinois on Sunday, President Donald Trump, after announcing the new shipment, said Gov. J.B. Pritzker has “not performed well” and is “always complaining.”

Pritkzer’s complaints Sunday got some results, with fresh insults from Trump the price.

Trump slammed Pritzker at the Sunday evening coronavirus pandemic briefing at the White House. That was hours after the Illinois governor in a morning CNN show ripped the president over the federal stockpile holding undistributed and urgently needed COVID-19 supplies.

At the briefing, Trump said 600 ventilators will be or have gone to Illinois. Earlier on Sunday, a White House spokesman sent the Chicago Sun-Times a list of medical supplies the White House has provided as of Saturday, April 4: The state of Illinois received 300 ventilators and the city of Chicago received 150 ventilators. Based on what Trump said Sunday, it appears he was actually sending 150 more.

“I hear him complaining all the time,” Trump said about Pritzker. “He’s always complaining.”

Trump said “we’re building a 2,500-bed hospital” in McCormick Place. Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Friday unveiled the first 500 beds in what will be a first-of a kind facility in the nation for moderately ill COVID-19 patients. That facility, built in the convention hall by the Army Corps of Engineers, could grow to 3,000 beds.

Trump was wrong when he said about McCormick Place, “And we’re helping to staff it and probably will end up staffing it because he’s not able to do what you’re supposed to be able to do as a governor. He has not performed well”

Read the full report from Washington Bureau Chief Lynn Sweet.


7:30 p.m. Brookfield Zoo lays off workers amid coronavirus outbreak

The Brookfield Zoo on Saturday furloughed a third of its workforce, citing “unanticipated and urgent financial pressures” in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

The move affects workers in every department at the zoo, said Sondra Katzen, spokeswoman for the Chicago Zoological Society, a nonprofit that manages the zoo.

“The lay-offs included staff who are not considered critically essential to support the minimum operations of the organization, while keeping staff employed who ensure the health and welfare of the zoo’s animal population, maintenance and protection of the buildings and grounds, and other critical support system and functions,” said Katzen. 

Brookfield Zoo now has “practically no earned revenue stream available” since closing March 19, according to Katzen, who said furloughed staff members will continue to receive medical benefits and can also file for unemployment

Read the full story from reporter Tom Schuba here.

6:30 p.m. Illinois’ coronavirus death toll reaches 274 as state records nearly 900 new cases

Illinois health officials announced on Sunday 31 new deaths related to COVID-19, including a second inmate at Stateville Correctional Center, bringing the statewide death toll from the virus to 274.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike — donning protective face masks they removed before speaking — also announced during their Sunday coronavirus update 899 new cases of COVID-19, marking 11,256 confirmed cases in in 70 of Illinois’ 102 counties since the pandemic first hit.

“Among those lost is a second individual from the outbreak at Stateville prison,” Ezike said. “This individual was at a local hospital. There are currently 60 positive cases at this congregate facility.”

Ronald Rice, 66, is the second inmate at Stateville Correctional Center to die of COVID-19. He was being treated at Morris Hospital when he succumbed to the disease, according to the Grundy County coroner’s office.

Read the full report from Tom Schuba and Jake Wittich here.

4:18 p.m Bronx Zoo tiger tests positive for coronavirus

A tiger at the Bronx Zoo has tested positive for the new coronavirus, in what is believed to be the first known infection in an animal in the U.S. or a tiger anywhere, federal officials and the zoo said Sunday.

The 4-year-old Malayan tiger, and six other tigers and lions that have also fallen ill, are believed to have been infected by a zoo employee, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said. The first animal started showing symptoms March 27, and all are expected to recover, said the zoo, which has been closed to the public since March 16.

“We tested the cat out of an abundance of caution” and aim to “contribute to the world’s continuing understanding of this novel coronavirus,” said Dr. Paul Calle, the zoo’s chief veterinarian.

The finding raises new questions about transmission of the virus in animals. The USDA says there are no known cases of the virus in U.S. pets or livestock.

Read the full story here.

3:40 p.m. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson hospitalized with coronavirus 10 days after positive test

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was diagnosed with the new coronavirus more than a week ago, was admitted to a hospital Sunday for tests.

Johnson’s office said he was hospitalized because he still has symptoms 10 days after testing positive for the virus. His admission to an undisclosed hospital in London wasn’t an emergency.

Downing St. said it was a “precautionary step” and Johnson remains in charge of the government.

Johnson, 55, has been quarantined in his Downing St. residence since being diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 26.

Read the full story here.

2:30 p.m. Despite ‘Crimson Contagion’ pandemic drills, Chicago didn’t fill public health jobs


Health officials respond to a state of emergency in the “Crimson Contagion” exercise in Chicago last August.

Chicago Department of Public Health

Mayor Lori Lightfoot hasn’t shied from ripping President Donald Trump and his administration for moving too slowly in response to the growing coronavirus pandemic, but her own administration got caught flatfooted on staffing of emergency-preparedness workers.

A series of public health exercises took place in Chicago and other cities last year to prepare for a pandemic like the one that’s crippling America today.

Nationally, Trump has been faulted for ignoring many of the recommendations that resulted from those drills.

In Chicago, Lightfoot and Gov. J.B. Pritzker have been praised for moving quickly to get people to shelter in place and fighting for resources, but City Hall wasn’t fully prepared for today’s crisis even after going through a fictional pandemic in last year’s “Crimson Contagion” exercise. The gaps in the city’s preparedness included:

• Six vacancies out of 40 emergency preparedness positions in the city’s Department of Public Health, including one for a high-level director of medical preparedness.

• The lack of a fully functional telemedicine system that allows for the diagnosis of illnesses remotely and safely finding places to treat those who are ill. Telemedicine remains a “work in progress,” one city official acknowledged.

And city officials can’t say whether all of Chicago’s public health workers have been trained on the software being used by the city during the pandemic, only that training was made “available” to them.

Still, Christopher Shields, the Chicago Department of Public Health’s assistant commissioner for emergency preparedness and response, says last year’s four-day exercise in August helped prepare the city and the state of Illinois for the current pandemic.

Read the full watchdog report by Frank Main and Lauren FitzPatrick here.

1:32 p.m. States lack key data on coronavirus cases among medical workers

Experts and health officials who are trying to plan a response to the coronavirus outbreak are missing a critical piece of information — the number of health care workers who have tested positive for the disease.

Washington state faced the first major outbreak of COVID-19 in the nation, but health officials have not kept track of how many doctors and nurses have the disease. New York, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, also lacks infection figures for medical staff, according to Jill Montag, spokeswoman with the New York State Department of Health.

That information can help save lives, said Dr. Grete Porteous, an anesthesiologist in Seattle who has worked on health care emergency preparedness and crisis management. It previously helped reduce risks to medical personnel during the much smaller SARS outbreak of 2003-04, she said.

Read the full story here.

12:40 p.m. Surgeon general warns US of ‘saddest week’ and ‘9/11 moment’

WASHINGTON — The U.S. surgeon general offered some of the starkest warnings yet Sunday as he braced Americans for the worsening fallout from the new coronavirus, warning “this is going to be the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives, quite frankly.” The public was advised separately by the nation’s infectious disease chief to “just buckle down” and that the virus probably won’t be wiped out entirely this year.

The number of people infected in the U.S. has exceeded 300,000, with the death toll climbing past 8,400; more than 3,500 of those deaths are in the state of New York.

Much of the country is under orders to stay home, and federal officials said that have seen signs that people are listening to the message about social distancing. But the Trump administration also is also emphasizing that the worst is yet to come for many communities.

“This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment, only it’s not going to be localized,” Surgeon General Jerome Adams said on “Fox News Sunday.” He added: “It’s going to be happening all over the country. And I want America to understand that.”

Read the full story here.

12:05 p.m. 2 Chicago Target employees test positive for COVID-19

Two Chicago Target employees have tested positive for the coronavirus, store officials confirmed Sunday.

One employee works at the South Loop location, 1154 S. Clark St., and the other at the Near North Side location, 2656 N. Elston Ave., Target said.

“We’ve communicated directly with the impacted team members, who are in quarantine and following all health department guidelines, and we’ll pay them while they’re on leave,” Target said in an emailed statement.

Additionally, the chain has “worked quickly to deep clean and sanitize the stores,” which is the recommendation of public health experts.

Read the full report from Jermaine Nolen here.

11:31 a.m. Pritzker on CNN: Trump ‘does not understand the word federal,’ as debate over COVID-19 stockpile rages

llinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker ripped President Donald Trump on Sunday over management of the federal stockpile holding undistributed and urgently needed COVID-19 supplies.

Trump – and Jared Kushner, the president’s senior adviser and son-in-law - have been saying the states have no special priority access to the Strategic National Stockpile to obtain desperately needed supplies.

Trump has been reluctant to fully distribute ventilators and other medical equipment from the national stockpile as governors, including Pritzker, are begging for help.

“The president does not understand the word federal - Federal Emergency Management Agency,” Pritzker said in an interview with Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union,” referring to an agency most often known as “FEMA.”

“We have a state emergency management agency. But if he were right, why would we ever need a federal emergency management agency?

“It’s because individual states can’t possibly do what the federal government can do. We don’t have a defense production act. There’s no way that we could stockpile in anticipation of a pandemic that no one anticipated. And yet the federal government is responsible for doing precisely that.”

This issue came to a head at the Thursday White House coronavirus briefing when Kushner said, “The notion of the federal stockpile was it’s supposed to be our stockpile; it’s not supposed to be state stockpiles that they then use.”

Read the full report from Lynn Sweet here.

11:01 a.m. 2nd Stateville prison inmate dies of COVID-19

Officials announced Sunday that a second inmate at Stateville Correctional Center has died of COVID-19.

Ronald Rice, 66, was being treated at Morris Hospital when he succumbed to the disease, according to the Grundy County coroner’s office.

Rice began a 60-year sentence at Stateville in 1982 after being convicted of kidnapping and sexually assaulting an 11-year-old boy in Calumet City. While serving that time, Rice pleaded guilty in 2010 to sexually assaulting and killing another 11-year-old boy in Oak Forest nearly three decades earlier.

Rice’s death comes six days after authorities announced another inmate at the correctional facility in Crest Hill had died from the coronavirus, marking the first death from the disease at an Illinois prison. By then, the Illinois Department of Corrections placed Stateville and the Sheridan Correctional Center on a two-week lockdown after both inmates and staff had tested positive for the virus.

Read the full report by Tom Schuba here.

10:30 a.m. Biden says Democratic National Convention could be held virtually

Former Vice President Joe Biden says the Democratic National Convention that has already been delayed until August may need to be held virtually.

Biden said on ABC’s “This Week” it may not be possible to put tens of thousands of people in one place.

Biden has a commanding lead in delegates and needs to clinch his party’s presidential nomination as the coronavirus’ spread continues to reshape the race for the White House.

Biden says he plans to wear a mask in public. That conforms with federal guidelines that Americans use face coverings in public places. But it contradicts President Donald Trump, who says he’s choosing not do that.

“He may not like how he looks in a mask, but the truth of the matter is that follow the science,” Biden said. “That’s what they’re telling us.”

Read the full story here.

10:01 a.m. No COVID-19 testing at home yet but quicker options coming

WASHINGTON — Home testing for the new coronavirus may sound like a good idea, but U.S. regulators say it’s still too risky.

They’ve stopped companies that quickly launched home-testing kits until they can show their products can accurately detect the virus.

For now, the only way Americans can get tested is at hospitals, clinics or drive-thru sites, with a doctor’s order.

After a botched rollout, testing in the U.S. has ramped up thanks to high-volume testing machines and new rapid tests. Last week, federal officials said total tests topped 1.4 million, and labs are processing nearly 100,000 tests daily. That’s the threshold many experts say is needed to track the virus.

Still, testing continues to be constrained by shortages of medical supplies like gloves, masks and swabs. And the widespread drive-thru testing proposed for parking lots at chains like Walmart, Walgreens and Target has barely gotten off the ground.

Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration is aggressively pushing new options onto the market.

Read the full report here.

9:33 a.m. Facing backlog of 115K COVID-19 tests, Quest Diagnostics asks workers to voluntarily go on furlough

Employees at Quest Diagnostics are being asked to voluntarily go on furlough, despite the the publicly traded medical testing company acknowledging Wednesday that its labs were facing a backlog of at least 115,000 COVID-19 tests.

Furloughs will impact employees throughout the company, which Quest spokesman Dennis Moynihan said has seen a 40% drop in overall testing in the past two weeks.

In a letter obtained by the Sun-Times, workers in Quest’s Great Midwest Region were given “the opportunity to express an interest in volunteering to be part of the furlough.”

That includes employees working at the 12 facilities that are currently testing for the novel coronavirus, including a laboratory in northwest suburban Wood Dale. Quest also has a diagnostic lab in Schaumburg and 12 testing locations across the state, according to the company’s website.

In addition to testing for COVID-19, the company also conducts and analyzes a wide array of medical tests for physicians and hospitals, as well as for the public.

Read the full report by Tom Schuba here.

8:30 a.m. U.S. ‘wasted’ months before preparing for virus pandemic

As the first alarms sounded in early January that an outbreak of a novel coronavirus in China might ignite a global pandemic, the Trump administration squandered nearly two months that could have been used to bolster the federal stockpile of critically needed medical supplies and equipment.

A review of federal purchasing contracts by The Associated Press shows federal agencies waited until mid-March to begin placing bulk orders of N95 respirator masks, mechanical ventilators and other equipment needed by front-line health care workers.

By that time, hospitals in several states were treating thousands of infected patients without adequate equipment and were pleading for shipments from the Strategic National Stockpile. That federal cache of supplies was created more than 20 years ago to help bridge gaps in the medical and pharmaceutical supply chains during a national emergency.

Now, three months into the crisis, that stockpile is nearly drained just as the numbers of patients needing critical care is surging. Some state and local officials report receiving broken ventilators and decade-old dry-rotted masks.

“We basically wasted two months,” Kathleen Sebelius, health and human services secretary during the Obama administration, told AP.

Read the full report here.

7:58 a.m. Coronavirus keeps spreading, Trump says ‘toughest’ weeks coming

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Saturday returned to the idea of opening up the country’s economy as as soon as possible, even as he said the United States was heading into what could be its “toughest” weeks as coronavirus cases swell nationwide.

“There will be a lot of death, unfortunately. There will be death,” Trump said in a somber start to his daily briefing on the pandemic.

Joining Trump were Vice President Mike Pence, virus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s foremost infection disease expert. Each stood far apart from one another on the small stage.

The president initially had suggested the country could reopen by Easter but pulled back seeing projections of a staggering death toll even if restrictive measures remain in place. But just days after extending tough national guidelines through the end of April, staring down historic levels of unemployment and economic standstill, he was talking with leaders of professional sports leagues about filling arenas again.

“This country was not designed to be closed,” he said. “The cure cannot be worse than the problem.”

Read the full story here.

7:23 a.m. Coronavirus claims 2 Walmart employees who worked at Evergreen Park store

Two employees at an Evergreen Park Walmart store who contracted COVID-19 have died, store officials confirmed Saturday.

The workers were assigned to the store at 2500 W. 95th St. in Evergreen Park, just southwest of Chicago, which remained open Saturday.

”We are heartbroken to learn of the passing of two associates at our Evergreen Park store, and we are mourning along with their families,” a Walmart spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

The company noted that neither associate had been at the store in more than a week. The statement did not say when the employees died.

Read the full report from Jake Wittich here.

New Cases

Analysis & Commentary

5:30 p.m. In the war on COVID-19, lawmakers must deliver for the U.S. Postal Service

If ever there were an entity that deserves financial relief from the coronavirus, it’s the U.S. Postal Service.

We fail to understand President Donald Trump and Congress’ astonishingly shortsighted move last month to exclude the financially troubled postal service from the nation’s $2.2 trillion coronavirus bailout.

The postal service is on the front line in the COVID-19 battle, processing and delivering 500,000 pieces of mail daily, including the prescription medicines, lab tests and medical supplies needed during the pandemic.

The postal service will also be pressed into service to deliver relief checks to American workers and families in the upcoming months, and it could play an important role in upholding our democracy in the fall if voting-by-mail becomes a reality.

Now is no time to leave the postal service empty-handed. But that’s exactly what the House and Senate and the president have done. And without emergency help, the agency — so important to the nation that its duties were enshrined in the U.S. Constitution more than 230 years ago — could be out of business by June.

The damage would be felt nationwide, and perhaps particularly in Chicago, one of the country’s major postal centers.

Read the Sun-Times Editorial Board’s full commentary here.

9:08 a.m. What we must do to beat COVID-19 now and forever, with a big boost from technology

Technology was critical in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic in China and South Korea. Singapore has introduced a mobile phone app to aid in contact tracing, for centuries the cornerstone of stopping epidemics, and says it will make the code available at no charge.

European nations have announced multiple initiatives to develop their own virus-fighting apps and other technology, some of them based on the Singapore model.

In the United States, though, we’re doing little to harness technology to defeat the pandemic, and we don’t seem to have a plan for controlling the virus other than keeping people home, doing more testing, and eventually coming up with a vaccine. What gives?

Read the Ed Zotti’s full column here.

7:28 a.m. Random thoughts about those face masks

You don’t have to shave your face well, or at all. You don’t have to wax your mustache or chin hair.

Lipstick, while a mood enhancer, won’t be seen.

It will be hard to tell if we are smiling at people in the street or glowering.

If the eyes are the windows of the soul, it’s time to make eye contact with our neighbors and people on the street. Make widened happy eyes to show affection and approval. Narrow those babies to show displeasure. Squint to communicate disdain. Wink to show appreciation of another set of fine eyes.

Eyebrows will be worn thicker this season to give definition to the face. Teeth should remain brushed, but no one will see the kale stuck to your teeth with a face mask.

Read Sunday’s Letters to the Editor here.

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