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Latest coronavirus news for April 6, 2020: Live updates

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

On Monday, Illinois health officials announced 1,006 new cases, bringing the total to 12,262 positive cases in the state. Deaths have increased to 307, including 22 additional deaths announced in Cook County, officials said.

Additionally, Mayor Lori Lightfoot declared a “public health red alarm” after she learned that African Americans, despite being 29% of the city’s population, have accounted for 70% of Chicago’s COVID-19 deaths. Here’s what else happened as the city and state continued the fight against the coronavirus:

News

10:00 p.m. City Colleges students’ struggles magnified by pandemic, but school’s tech investment paying off

Kiara Balleza, a student at Harold Washington College poses for a portrait on her front porch at the corner of West 66th street and South Whipple street, Friday afternoon, April 3, 2020.
Kiara Balleza, a student at Harold Washington College poses for a portrait on her front porch at the corner of West 66th street and South Whipple street, Friday afternoon, April 3, 2020.
Annie Costabile/Sun-Times

At City Colleges, where about two-thirds of students at some schools experience food and housing insecurity, getting a degree has never been easy — and the coronavirus pandemic is making staying — let alone thriving — in school exponentially harder.

Students at City Colleges are more likely than traditional students at 4-year schools to have full-times jobs, be raising children or even be experiencing homelessness.

One student’s parents both got laid off. Another is working overtime at a grocery store because of the increased demand. Not to mention the many returning adult students in the health industry who are trying to get additional certifications while being on the frontlines of the outbreak.

Adding to those challenges are the colleges having to essentially move all classes online overnight.

But in interviews with the Sun-Times last week, students, faculty and staff at City Colleges say the rollout has been much smoother than many anticipated. That’s because of institution’s significant investment in digital education in recent years, as well as programs to loan students needed equipment and retake classes for free — all of which has aided a quick and effective transition to online learning.

“If this had happened a few years ago, I don’t think City Colleges would have been able to handle this,” said English instructor Kristin Bivens, who teaches at Harold Washington College.

Read the full story from Matthew Hendrickson here.

9:09 When will small businesses destroyed by coronavirus get loans? Small Business Administration, lenders not ready to say

President Donald Trump at his Monday COVID-19 briefing bragged about how well the small business rescue program launched Friday is doing, but if you are one of the employers who desperately need the financial lifeline and are frustrated with the chaotic rollout, you will disagree.

Employers who are applying for loans convertible to grants have deluged banks since the program started, and it is not clear how fast cash will be out the door.

That’s a takeaway I had after listening to questions and answers at a Monday briefing from the Small Business Administration Illinois District Director Robert Steiner at a webinar organized by Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., a member of the House Small Business Committee.

Steiner, in reply to a question, could not provide an estimate of how long it would take to get cash after filing an application with a bank, which then has to be approved by the SBA. I am not dinging him. Steiner tried to be helpful. He did not want to give out misleading information or unrealistically raise expectations.

Read the full story from Lynn Sweet here.

8:36 p.m. 7 West Side liquor stores agree to limit hours to stop gatherings outside

Seven liquor stores on the West Side have agreed to reduce their hours of operation in an effort to discourage people from congregating outside and potentially spreading COVID-19.

“We’re in a great position today that we have businesses in this community — businesses in the West Garfield [Park] area, businesses in the Austin community, businesses in the Ogden [police district] community — who have voluntarily decided that they will help this community to reduce congregating in front of their stores,” Chicago Police Deputy Chief Ernest Cato III said during a Monday news conference outside Personal Liquors in West Garfield Park.

“How fortunate can we be in this time, in this crisis, right now that these stores have decided to do this?” he added. “They have shown what community policing will do when we bring everyone together.”

The seven liquors stores are all located within the Harrison, Austin and Ogden police districts.

The announcement came just hours after Mayor Lori Lightfoot declared a “public health red alarm” after she learned that African Americans, despite being 29% of the city’s population, have accounted for 70% of Chicago’s COVID-19 deaths.

Read the full report from Sam Charles here.

8:16 p.m. Pilsen clinic now offering COVID-19 testing

A health clinic in Pilsen operated by the University of Illinois at Chicago is now testing members for the public for the new coronavirus.

University of Illinois Health’s Pilsen Family Health Center, 1714 S. Ashland, has already started seeing patients who meet certain testing requirements put forth by public health officials, according to UIC spokeswoman Jackie Carey.

Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez, whose 25th Ward includes much of Pilsen, has been working with the health system to expand testing in Chicago, which he said is “critical” to combat the spread of the deadly virus.

“Fortunately, U. of I. has been a great partner from the beginning as we started seeing the failures of the federal government early with the number of testing kits, especially in vulnerable areas,” Sigcho-Lopez noted.

He said it’s “staggering” that 70% of coronavirus deaths in Chicago have befallen African Americans. On Monday, those grim statistics prompted Mayor Lori Lightfoot to declare a “public health alarm” as she vowed to address the disparity head-on.

Read the full report from Tom Schuba here.

7:35 p.m. Amazon workers staged multiple walkouts to protest unsafe conditions at Little Village warehouse

Amazon employees held a pair of demonstrations outside the company’s Little Village distribution center Friday and Saturday, sparked by an automated text message from the company informing them that a second colleague tested positive for the coronavirus.

The workers, known as DCH1 Amazonians United, say the world’s largest online retailer put them at risk for catching the virus by making them work in unsafe and exploitative conditions at DCH1, the warehouse at 2801 S. Western Ave.

A Facebook Live video of Saturday’s protest shows vehicles honking their horns in support of the workers, who shouted slogans like “shut it down, clean it up,” and blocking delivery vans attempting to leave the warehouse.

“There’s folks coming in crying, being put in situations where they have to put themselves and their vulnerable family members at risk,” said Christian Zamarron, a 30-year-old Pilsen man who has worked at DCH1 for nearly three years.

He said Amazon offered employees unlimited unpaid time off through April.

“We can’t just keep staying at home, we have bills to pay, so it’s like we got to take action here,” Zamarron said.

See the video of Saturday’s protest and read the full story from reporters Sam Kelly and Jake Wittich here.

7:03 p.m. Provident nurses, healthcare workers demand hospital’s ER remain open: ‘We are in emergency’

Nurses at Provident Hospital rallied Monday to denounce the temporary closure of their emergency department, saying the decision by Cook County Health officials happened too quickly and puts South Side residents at risk.

Around 30 nurses, wearing face shields, masks and scrubs joined other supporters lining the sidewalk in front of the hospital, where a banner that read “nurse power” was tied to fencing.

Passersby honked their support as nurses yelled out chants including “we are in emergency, keep the ER open.”

Dennis Kosuth, a registered nurse at Provident, said he was “stunned” when he found out about the month-long suspension of services Saturday through the news media, saying county health officials “didn’t notify anybody.”

Read the full report from Rachel Hinton here.

6:35 p.m. Federal student loans are paused for 6 months — should you pay anyway?

Federal student loan borrowers will see payments automatically suspended — without incurring interest on them — for six months, according to a measure included in federal stimulus package released last month. This policy applies only to federal loans, not to private student loans.

This option, called a forbearance, will run through Sept. 30. You will be notified of the option to continue making payments toward the principal. Contact your servicer if you have further questions.

Make no mistake: This is a pause on payments, not forgiveness. Your debt will be waiting for you when repayment begins at the end of the six-month forbearance, unless the policy changes.

And the policy could well change. The measures were made as part of the federal stimulus bill in response to the economic fallout related to the spread of coronavirus, and COVID-19, the illness it causes. Neither the outbreak nor its economic impact shows signs of slowing, and some lawmakers have proposed more dramatic measures.

“I do think there’s going to be additional waves of relief, depending on how this pandemic plays out,” says Betsy Mayotte, president and founder of the Institute of Student Loan Advisors.

Get help deciding what to do next from NerdWallet.

6:09 p.m. Auto insurers offer refunds as traffic eases under coronavirus stay-home order

With Americans driving less because of the pandemic — and getting involved in fewer wrecks — two leaders in car insurance said Monday they are refunding a portion of policyholders’ premiums. Other companies are expected to do likewise.

Allstate said policyholders will get 15% of their premium back for April and May. The company said the payments, totaling more than $600 million, will be routed through a customer’s bank account, credit card or Allstate account over the next two months.

American Family said it will return about $200 million to customers as a $50 payment for each vehicle insured with the company. It said most households insure two vehicles with American Family, so the typical payment will be $100 and will come as checks within 60 days.

Both companies cited a responsibility to help during a crisis and a declining risk of accidents as reasons for the move, which won praise from consumer groups.

Read the full report by David Roeder and Stephanie Zimmerman here.

5:32 p.m. Chicago Police Department reports 95 cases total of COVID-19

Chicago police Monday announced six more confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the department, raising the number of cases to 95.

Of the cases, 92 are officers and three are civilian employees, Chicago police said. Last week, the department reported 89 total cases COVID-19.

Get the full story from our Sun-Times reporters here.

5:07 p.m. 16-year-old detainee contracts COVID-19 at Cook County Juvenile Detention Center

A 16-year-old detainee of the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center has contracted COVID-19 — the first resident of the jail to test positive for the disease.

The teen was admitted to the jail March 30 and has not been exposed to the general population, according to a statement from Pat Milhizer, the Office of the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County.

The detainee was quarantined with new residents per a policy that separated admissions for 14 days from the general population, Milhizer said.

The teen had a fever and headache Saturday, and was moved to the jail’s medical unit, Milhizer said. The resident was tested for COVID-19 Sunday and the test results came back Monday, he said. The detainee is now fever-free and recovering under the supervision of medical staff until April 18.

Reporter David Struett has the full story.

4:41 p.m. Want to support the American Hospital Association? Buy a Dr. Fauci bobblehead

MILWAUKEE — The United States’ top infectious disease specialist is getting his own bobblehead.

The creation from the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum in Milwaukee features Dr. Anthony Fauci wearing a suit as he makes a motion showing how the nation needs to “flatten the curve” in the coronavirus pandemic.

The museum in Milwaukee picked Fauci because many people see the plain-speaking expert on the coronavirus as a hero right now, said co-founder and CEO Phil Sklar.

“He isn’t trying to spin things,” he said. “He isn’t trying to make people happy and tell him what they want to hear. He’s actually telling them, you know, how he sees it as an expert. And I think that’s really what we need him this time.”

See what else has been made in Dr. Fauci’s likeness and how to get a bobblehead in The Associated Press’ report.

4:04 p.m. Virus is mostly mild and rarely fatal for US kids, data show

The first national data on COVID-19 in U.S. children suggest that while the illness usually isn’t severe in kids, some do get sick enough to require hospital treatment.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released Monday shows that fever, cough and shortness of breath were the most common symptoms in kids, but they occurred less often than in adults. The findings mostly echo reports from China about how the new coronavirus affects children.

The report included nearly 150,000 laboratory-confirmed U.S. cases in adults and children from Feb. 12 through April 2. About 2,500 of them, or almost 2%, were children. While most kids didn’t become severely ill, three youngsters died.

About 1 in 5 infected children were hospitalized versus 1 in 3 adults. Cases were more common in older children and teens but serious illness appeared to be more common in infants. Cases were slightly more common in boys than girls.

Read the full repot here.

3:32 p.m. 2 Dolton police officers test positive for coronavirus

Two officers of Dolton Police Department have tested positive for COVID-19, the south suburb announced Monday.

Both officers are self-quarantined and taking medication, the Village of Dolton said in a news release.

Dolton Mayor Riley Rogers and police chief Ernest Mobley are expected to speak on the new cases in a 4 p.m. news conference at the Dolton Police Department.

So far, one resident of Dolton had died of COVID-19, according to data from the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

— David Struett

2:57 p.m. Detainees sue Sheriff Tom Dart over coronavirus at Cook County Jail

Several attorneys and civil rights groups have filed a class-action lawsuit against Sheriff Thomas Dart seeking to remove more detainees from Cook County Jail amid the outbreak of COVID-19 inside the Southwest Side campus.

With the jail headcount already hovering at or near record lows following the recent release of mostly non-violent detainees, the federal complaint filed Friday seeks a court order to release possibly hundreds more.

The lawsuit calls for the immediate release or transfer of detainees who are older or have underlying medical conditions, which puts them at risk if they contract COVID-19.

As of Monday morning, the jail population was at 4,567 — a drop of more than 1,000 from a month ago. Jail officials Sunday reported that 234 detainees had tested positive for coronavirus, a number that has grown daily since the first two confirmed cases were announced two weeks ago. Nearly 80 jail staff members have tested positive for COVID-19.

Reporter Andy Grimm has the full story.

2:30 p.m. 33 more coronavirus deaths in Illinois bring tally to 307

Gov. J.B. Pritzker at a daily briefing in March 2020. Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

Illinois health officials on Monday said another 33 people have died from the coronavirus, bringing the state’s death total to 307.

There are also 1,006 new cases, bringing the total to 12,262 positive cases in the state, according to officials. Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office said the virus has now spread to 75 of 102 counties.

Pritzker on Monday planned to outline the state’s supply of PPE, or personal protective equipment. The governor’s office said there were 54 more people placed on ventilators due to COVID-19 from Friday to Monday.

The Democratic governor for weeks has warned that Illinois has not yet reached its peak and that more ventilators and medical equipment were needed to treat the most severe cases.

He took that message to national television once again Sunday morning on CNN, telling Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” that President Donald Trump has mismanaged a federal stockpile of much-needed medical equipment.

Read Tina Sfondeles’ full report here.

2:18 p.m. John Krasinski, Lin-Manuel Miranda, ‘Hamilton’ original cast surprise 9-year-old with Zoom rendition of ‘Alexander Hamilton’

In its second episode, “Some Good News with John Krasinski” continued to spread some cheer in these trying times by making one 9-year-old girl’s dream come true.

Aubrey, a musical theater enthusiast from Florida, had tickets to see “Hamilton” in Jacksonville, but the show was canceled due to coronavirus. Her mother tweeted at Lin-Manuel Miranda, the mastermind and star behind the Broadway smash, and told him that instead of seeing the show, they were watching “Mary Poppins Returns” — which stars Miranda and Emily Blunt, Krasinski’s wife — instead.

While chatting with Aubrey on Zoom, Krasinski and Blunt, who joined him, not only promised to fly her to New York to see “Hamilton” after the pandemic has ended, but they also had one other surprise.

Miranda himself joined Krasinski’s video call, along with the show’s original cast, for an encore of “Alexander Hamilton,” the opening number of the show.

Check out the full video for other good news, see Robert De Niro give the weather report (yeah, that happens too) and sing and snap along with Miranda and the “Hamilton” cast.

Alison Martin

1:23 p.m. Sun-Times children’s art contest aims to brighten future, with prizes!

These obviously are tough times we’re experiencing, but this much we believe: Brighter days are ahead, hopefully sooner rather than later.

It’s also an especially complicated, worrisome time for children, many of whom now find themselves facing not only uncertainty because of the coronavirus, but also the inability to go to school or even leave the house.

With that in mind, we’re launching an art contest for Chicago-area children called “The Imagination Project” — with kids from elementary-school age through senior year of high school invited to submit digital images of up to five paintings, drawings or computer-aided graphic creations to our news organization.

The window to enter is open for three weeks, and there are prizes! For more information, visit suntimes.com/imagination.

Sun-Times staff

12:58 p.m. Wisconsin governor orders delay of Tuesday election to June

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers on Monday issued an executive order to delay the state’s presidential primary for two months because of the coronavirus pandemic, a move that will almost certainly prompt a court challenge and inject new uncertainty about whether the election will move forward.

Evers, a Democrat, had previously opposed moving Tuesday’s election. But he’s pushing to delay it until June 9 amid criticism about how in-person voting can proceed safely at a time when public health officials are discouraging groups of people from gathering to avoid spread of the virus. Some poll sites have already closed because nervous volunteers are unwilling to staff them.

Evers had been unable to strike a deal with Republicans to reschedule the election. His order comes after the GOP-controlled Legislature refused his request to cancel in-person voting on Tuesday.

The Wisconsin election is being viewed as a national test case in a broader fight over voter access in the age of coronavirus with major implications for the presidential primary contests ahead — and, possibly, the November general election.

Read more here.

12:45 p.m. Lightfoot declares ‘public health red-alarm’ about racial disparity in COVID-19 deaths

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday said it was “devastating” and a “public health red alarm” that 70 percent of the 86 Chicago residents who have died from the coronavirus are African American, and she promised a “very robust and immediate comprehensive plan” to confront the disparity.

Long before the COVID-19 pandemic brought everyday life in Chicago to a halt, Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady had said her primary goal was narrowing the nine-year gap in life expectancy between black and white Chicagoans.

The so-called “death gap” between people who live downtown compared to parts of the West Side is an even more astounding: 16 years.

Against that backdrop, Lightfoot was asked to respond to the fact that 61 of the 86 recorded deaths of city residents from coronavirus as of Saturday were African Americans, though blacks make up just 29 percent of the city’s population.

“It’s devastating to see those numbers and knowing that they’re not just numbers. They’re lives. There’s families and communities that have been shattered. That’s why we will be announcing a very robust and immediate, comprehensive plan to address this,” the mayor said.

Fran Spielman has the full story.

12:04 p.m. NYC councilman says city’s parks may soon become ‘temporary’ burial grounds as city is overwhelmed by virus deaths

The chairman of the New York City Council’s health committee on Monday warned NYC residents to brace for “temporary” burials in the city’s parks.

In a Twitter thread, Mark D. Levine suggested that the city’s public parks may soon become temporary burial grounds as the morgues fill beyond capacity.

“Soon we’ll start ‘temporary interment.’ This likely will be done by using a NYC park for burials (yes you read that right). Trenches will be dug for 10 caskets in a line,” Levine wrote on Twitter.

Levine’s tweets illustrated just how overwhelmed the city’s morgues and funeral homes are as the coronavirus pandemic claims almost 600 lives per day in New York City.

“A typical hospital morgue might hold 15 bodies. Those are now all full. So OCME has sent out 80 refrigerated trailers to hospitals around the city. Each trailer can hold 100 bodies. These are now mostly full too. Some hospitals have had to add a 2nd or even a 3rd trailer,” Levine wrote on Twitter.

Levine stressed that it is not just hospitals that are overwhelmed with deaths — more New Yorkers than ever are dying at home, and some of these at-home deaths are not being attributed to COVID-19 because the health system is too strained to test and classify causes of death properly.

“On an average day before this crisis there were 20-25 deaths at home in NYC. Now in the midst of this pandemic the number is 200-215. *Every day* ... Early on in this crisis we were able to swab people who died at home, and thus got a coronavirus reading. But those days are long gone. We simply don’t have the testing capacity for the large numbers dying at home.”

Later on Monday, Levine cautioned that burial in city parks is only meant to be a “contingency plan” and will not be necessary if the death rate declines in New York City.

As of Monday morning, New York City has reported 67,552 cases of coronavirus and 2,472 deaths. The entire state of Illinois has reported 11,256 cases and 274 deaths.

Caroline Hurley

11:02 a.m. Chicago teams join Lightfoot for ‘We’re Not Playing’ campaign

All eight of Chicago’s major-league professional sports teams signed on to a new public information campaign with a motto that would’ve been unthinkable in any year but 2020: “We Are Not Playing.”

The new campaign, announced Monday by Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office, is intended to support the stay-at-home order in place throughout Illinois and most of the rest of the United States.

“We love our sports in Chicago, and we’d rather be here in Soldier Field, or Wrigley, or Sox Park, or the United Center or Wintrust, cheering on our players and having a good time with our friends,” Lightfoot said from Soldier Field on Monday. “But as we know, this crisis has changed almost everything, and particularly our sports. Coming to these parks now would be dangerous and deadly, to ourselves and to our city.”

“That’s why I’m proud to be joining Chicago sports teams to launch our new campaign, ‘We’re Not Playing.’ They’re not playing, and neither are we.”

The campaign will be spread on digital and physical billboards throughout the area, then move onto online and social media channels.

Lightfoot spoke about the campaign from Soldier Field on Monday:

City Hall reporter Fran Spielman has more from Lightfoot’s press conference:

“This is a disease that doesn’t discriminate. It really doesn’t. And young people—I remember back in the day thinking nothing could stop me. That I was invincible. If we can get credible messengers like sports athletes who can really reach sports fans, but also young people in particular—that’s why we’re activating this group of people. We know that they have cache. We know that they have reach. Having them on board—I can’t be more grateful. I think it’s gonna have an enormous benefit and end up saving lives.”

She was asked about the possibility of professional football and other major sporting events resuming without fans in the stands.

“We’re not at that point yet. But, I know that the various sports leagues are talking about a variety of different options, depending on how long the public health personnel believe that we need to be reducing the size of crowds,” the mayor said.

Read more about the campaign from Ben Pope.

10:25 a.m. Church congregations holding services will ‘pay a big price,’ Rev. Jesse Jackson says

The Rev. Jesse Jackson Monday morning urged church congregations in Chicago and across the United States to follow social distancing guidelines, noting the “big price” paid by those that don’t.

“Some are determined to have those prayer meetings, but they pay a big price,” Jackson said during a conference call with reporters. “Those who violate the protocol end up having massive numbers of people infected.”

Jackson cited a funeral in Albany, Georgia, an event that is believed to have led to a spike in coronavirus cases in that part of the state.

Jackson said he didn’t know of any instances locally where ministers and their congregations were ignoring social distancing rules.

He also said his organization, the Rainbow-PUSH coalition, would be partnering with other groups to deliver a total of 3,000 meals during Holy Week to seniors, people with disabilities and others in need.

Jackson also said that he’d recently written a letter to President Donald Trump, urging him to release to home confinement those prisoners who are “old, indigent and no longer a threat.”

Stefano Esposito

8:21 a.m. McDonald’s donates 750K N95 masks to Chicago first responders

McDonald’s Corp. has donated 750,000 N95 face masks for use by Chicago health care providers and first responders.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office will determine when and where to distribute the masks.

The Chicago-based fast-food company also gave 250,000 masks to Illinois.

“Our company has a deep bond with the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois, and we feel a profound sense of gratitude for the health care workers and first responders serving our community,” said Michael Gonda, vice president of global corporate relations at McDonald’s.

“While sourcing supplies for our restaurant crew, we were fortunate to have come across these critical items so we can get them into the hands of people who need them.”

Bill Ruminski

8:07 a.m. Will Bears be playing in Soldier Field by September?

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker was not willing to predict Sunday that fans will be sitting knee to knee watching the Chicago Bears play in Soldier Field this fall as COVID-19 infections surge, disagreeing with President Donald Trump’s prediction the NFL season will start on time.

On Saturday, Trump held a teleconference with the commissioners of the major sports leagues. ESPN and AP reported that Trump said in the call he wanted the football season to kick off in September as scheduled.

Pritzker was asked about the Bears playing by September in Soldier Field in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”

“Well, the Bears are a great team, whether they’re playing or not,” Pritzker said. “But I will say this, that it’s not up to us. We don’t know that none of us really knows.”

Read more about what Pritzker said on CNN this weekend.

7:21 a.m. Trump says Pritzker is ‘always complaining,’ has ‘not performed well’

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.

6:18 a.m. Why we’re launching the Imagination Project

It’s an especially complicated, worrisome time for children, many of whom now find themselves facing not only uncertainty because of the coronavirus, but also the inability to go to school or even leave the house.

With that in mind, we’re launching an art contest for Chicago-area children called “The Imagination Project” — with kids from elementary-school age through senior year of high school invited to submit digital images of up to five paintings, drawings or computer-aided graphic creations to our news organization.

We’ll pick five winners from each of three age groups — elementary school, middle school and high school. Each winner will receive a $20 gift card and see their art published by the Sun-Times in print and online. Each also will get a free one-year digital subscription to the Sun-Times, which includes full access to suntimes.com and our recently revamped e-paper. (See parents, there’s something in this for you, too.)

Read more about our Imagination Project here.


New Cases


Analysis & Commentary

8:01 p.m. Why COVID-19 is raging through Chicago’s black neighborhoods — and what must be done

Monday brought another grim statistic about the coronavirus to Chicago: African Americans are catching the disease and dying from it at an alarmingly higher rate than the rest of us.

It is indeed, as Mayor Lori Lightfoot said, a “public health red alarm.” Seventy-two percent of those who have died of COVID-19 in Chicago as of Sunday were black, though the city’s African American population is only about 30 percent. More than half of those who had tested positive are black.

In Cook County, 58% of COVID-19 deaths as of last Friday were of African Americans, who make up just 23% of the county’s population, an analysis by WBEZ found. And in the entire state of Illinois, African Americans now account for 38% of confirmed cases of coronavirus and 41% of deaths, but only 14% of the population.

What’s going on here?

Nothing that should surprise anybody, disheartening as it is.

Health outcomes in the United States have never been fair and equal, not in Chicago or anywhere else. And there has never been health care equity. Black folks have always suffered from higher rates of dangerous medical conditions, such as hypertension and diabetes, that correlate with lower incomes and poorer health care.

Read the full editorial here.

5:52 p.m. Coronavirus is special challenge for those recovering from substance abuse

The coronavirus poses additional struggles for people like me, who are in recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs, also known as substance use disorders. Many of us in recovery depend upon regularly attending Twelve Step or other peer-support meetings, yet many of those gatherings already have been or will be canceled in an effort to thwart the spread of COVID-19.

Addiction is an illness of isolation and the antidote is community. A recent study from a Stanford School of Medicine researcher and his colleagues affirmed the value of Alcoholics Anonymous and other Twelve Step meetings, noting fellowship is the most effective way to maintain sobriety.

So what happens when people cannot attend meetings in person? Some of us get “restless, irritable and discontent,” to quote recovery literature. Amid the unknowns of the current crisis, such feelings are exacerbated, and many crave relief from the anxiety.

There are many online resources for people who no longer can or do not want to attend recovery meetings in person. Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous offer online meetings. Podcasts and blogs offer valuable information. Even recovery-specific movies can provide helpful inspiration.

Read this full Letter to the Editor here.

12:32 p.m. Getting ‘mean’ with Grampy in these days of a pandemic

Yes, we are the baby boomer culture, famous for not accepting the status quo. For not blindly accepting the mores of our parents and ushering in the sexual revolution. For not blindly accepting the proclamations of our government and opposing the Vietnam War.

But when we balk at accepting the evidence of medical science that aging naturally causes the production of white cells in the bone marrow to slow down, precipitating a decline in immune function, our children are absolutely right to yell.

And though unpleasant, it’s probably good for our granddaughter to see her parents doing the right thing, even if it means acting mean toward Mimi, who gives the best hugs, and Grampy, who sings “All the Pretty Little Horses” at nap time.

Read the full letter from David McGrath, emeritus professor of English at the College of DuPage.

5:00 a.m. Group provides hope, help and an insider’s edge to job seekers

Ten million people filed for first-time unemployment benefits in the last two weeks of March. Economists believe that in a few weeks, the shutdowns forced by the coronavirus will cost the U.S. economy more than 20 million jobs. That’s the entirety of what the economy added during the last decade.

The nation’s unemployment rate ticked up to a measly 4.4%, but that’s ridiculously out of date. It’s based on surveys earlier in March, before governors and mayors imposed business shutdowns to save lives. Michael Farren, an economist at George Mason University, offered this take in a piece written for The Hill: “If we assume that every person laid off or furloughed over those two weeks immediately applied for unemployment insurance, then the unemployment rate at the beginning of this week was around 10.5%. That cautious estimate suggests that today’s unemployment rate is likely higher than the highest level reached during the Great Recession.”

But the good news for the freshly unemployed is that some companies are hiring, and urgently so. A great connection to them is Skills for Chicagoland’s Future, which serves as an extension of the human resources operations of about 50 mid- and large-sized employers.

Read more from David Roeder’s latest ‘Chicago Enterprise’ column.