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Latest coronavirus news for April 7, 2020: Live updates

Get the latest news on how COVID-19 is impacting Chicago and Illinois. Follow here for live updates

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Illinois records 73 new coronavirus deaths, highest spike since pandemic began

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker tours the COVID-19 alternate site at McCormick Place in Chicago on Friday, April 3.
Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune via AP (file photo)

Illinois officials on Tuesday said another 73 people have died from the coronavirus, marking the highest single-day death count the state has experienced since the outbreak began.

There are also another 1,287 confirmed cases, with the virus having spread to 77 of the state’s 102 counties. There have been 380 total deaths in Illinois due to COVID-19, with 13,549 total positive cases.

At his daily briefing Gov. J.B. Pritzker planned to outline the state’s hospital capacity, including the number of available ventilators and intensive care unit beds. The administration on Monday said there were 54 more people placed on ventilators due to COVID-19 from Friday to Monday.

While the administration has said it is using a number of projections to anticipate when the state will reach its peak, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has projected Illinois will see its peak death rate on April 12.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the state’s public health head, on Monday warned that the Chicago area would see high temperatures on Tuesday, which could lead people to go outside and put the state backwards in its fight against the deadly virus.

“Please stay home. I assure you if people congregate tomorrow, we will set the state back in our fight against COVID-19,” Ezike said.

Read the full story from reporter Tina Sfondeles.

9:38 p.m. ‘Tooning Out the News’ struggles to be more bizarre than reality

“Tooning Out the News” really needs to be great.

It’s not, alas. At least not yet. And it needs to be meaner.

The animated television news program, of which Stephen Colbert is an executive producer (and on whose show clips have sometimes aired), is a parody. But it runs into what has become an increasingly thorny problem for parodies — namely, when real life is this bizarre, what’s the point of making fun of it?

The schedule works like this: New 5-7 minute episodes air Tuesday through Friday on CBS All Access, the network’s subscription streaming service; then they’re complied into a full-length episode at the end of the week. Since it’s the premiere, this week’s full episode will stream for free Friday on CBS.com.

Read the full report here.

8:40 p.m. John Prine died from coronavirus complications

John Prine’s lyrics were like Edward Hopper paintings.

His songs conjured empty Greyhound stations, pawnshops, rusty railroad tracks, flies in the kitchen and nights with too much tequila. They were populated by hoboes and lonely people staring out of back door screens. After he got out of the Army, he wrote “Sam Stone” about a shattered veteran who had “a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes.”

But there were also rollicking numbers peopled with characters named “Iron Ore Betty” and lines like “She likes ketchup on her scrambled eggs/Swears like a sailor when she shaves her legs.”

Mr. Prine, the Maywood mailman who became a star of Chicago’s 1970s folk scene and one of the nation’s most treasured singer-songwriters — and who survived neck cancer in 1998 and a bout of lung cancer in 2013 — died of the coronavirus at 73

Read Prine’s full obit by Maureen O’Donnell here.

7:00 p.m. When to expect your SBA loan: No timetable as system hit with computer, other delays

Employers whose survival depends on emergency loans under the new Paycheck Protection Program are flooding banks with applications and have with no timeline for getting the cash — with a source telling the Chicago Sun-Times on Tuesday the Small Business Administration has yet to issue guidelines some banks need to make the loans.

Banks willing to front billions of dollars are nervous because as of Tuesday, the source said, lenders were only getting “assurances on a conference call (that) are not sufficient to begin making billions of dollars in loans.”

The key feature of the PPP program — converting the loans to cash grants — depends on banks getting the paperwork from the SBA needed for all the parties to complete the deal. The banks need a written guarantee from the federal government they will get their money back.

“Without the official note language or authorizations, banks and small-business owners run the risk of loans not qualifying for forgiveness or guarantee under PPP,” the source said.

Read the full report from Lynn Sweet here.

6:30 p.m. Federal judge holds hearing on lawsuit filed over Cook County Jail coronavirus response

As the New York Times identified Cook County Jail as the top coronavirus hotspot in the nation, a lawyer for the Sheriff Tom Dart told a federal judge Tuesday that officials have already undertaken all recommended precautions to prevent the deadly virus from spreading inside the massive Southwest Side complex.

During an emergency hearing, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly delayed a ruling on a lawsuit seeking elderly and medically compromised detainees released or transferred from the jail.

It was not clear when the judge would make his ruling on the lawsuit filed on behalf of two inmates by attorneys with the MacArthur Justice Center and the Loevy & Loevy law firm.

But Kennelly asked for a fresh round of briefs on legal issues surrounding the request to release possibly hundreds of detainees during the three-hour hearing via conference call at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse.

The lawsuit cites affidavits provided by detainees, former senior medical jail officers and at least one current correctional officer who have complained that the jail has not done enough to provided adequate testing, protective gear for detainees and staff, or to alleviate the close quarters that makes spreading the virus a certainty.

Read the full report from Andy Grimm here.

5:49 p.m. 46 members of Chicago Fire Department have tested positive for COVID-19

Several dozen members of the Chicago Fire Department have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases in the department to 46.

Of those, nine employees have returned to duty as of Tuesday, according to department spokesman Larry Langford.

Another 18 department employees are currently quarantined after a confirmed exposure to the coronavirus, he said.

Langford could not say how many cases are firefighters, paramedics or civilian employees, or how many have been hospitalized.

Reporter David Struett has the full story.

5:26 p.m. Holdout governors: Some states don’t need stay-at-home order

DES MOINES, Iowa — Even as most Americans are under orders from their governor to stay at home to slow the spread of the coronavirus, leaders in a handful of states have steadfastly refused to take that action, arguing it’s unneeded and could be harmful.

Nine governors have refused to issue statewide mandates that people stay at home, but local leaders have taken action in some of those states. North Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa and Arkansas are the only states where no one is under a stay-at-home order.

The lack of action from those governors — even as they take other steps such as closing schools and limiting the size of gatherings — has frustrated health experts and left some residents puzzled.

“If social distancing maneuvers are going to work, they’re most likely going to work if you do them early,” said Arthur L. Reingold, a professor and infectious disease expert at the University of California-Berkeley. “The longer you wait, the harder it is for them to have a substantial impact on transmission of the virus.”

That also has been the message of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, who has said all states should have statewide orders that people remain at home.

Read the full story here.

4:57 p.m. Chicago Police Department reports 112 cases total of COVID-19

Chicago police Monday announced 17 more confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the department, raising the number of cases to 112.

Of the cases, 108 are officers and four are civilian employees, Chicago police said. On Monday, the department reported 95 total cases of the virus.

The first death of an officer from complications of the coronavirus was announced last Thursday.

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

4:30 p.m. City workers say they’re picking up 50 percent more garbage — with no masks

Chicago’s forgotten army of 2,000 refuse collection workers are picking up 50 percent more garbage during the statewide, stay-at-home order — but without the masks distributed to other front-line workers, according to their union leader.

Steve Marcucci, vice-president of Laborers Local 1001, said his members are working harder than ever to keep the city clean and prevent the sheer volume of garbage from piling up in alleys and triggering an explosion in the city’s rat population.

It’s not an easy job.

The stay-home order means more people are working from home and cooking at home or ordering carry-out instead of eating out. That means a lot more garbage.

“It’s probably 50 percent more. Instead of one cart, we’re picking up two carts now. It’s huge. Everybody’s home. Everybody’s eating five meals-a-day,” Marcucci told the Sun-Times.

“We’ve got to get this garbage picked up. We’ve got to clean these routes because we don’t want no problems with rats. But it’s a lot of garbage. Everybody’s cleaning out. You’ve got couches. You’ve got everything in the alleys. It’s loaded. It’s unbelievable.”

Read the full report from Fran Spielman here.

3:55 p.m. Acting Navy boss submits resignation amid coronavirus uproar

WASHINGTON — Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly resigned Tuesday, according to two officials, just hours after he had publicly apologized for a profanity-laced upbraiding of the officer he fired as captain of the coronavirus-stricken USS Theodore Roosevelt.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss the matter before an official announcement.

Modly’s designated replacement will be James McPherson, a Navy veteran who is currently serving undersecretary of the Army. He was confirmed in that position by the Senate last month. Prior to that he was the Army’s general counsel.

Read the full report here.

3:10 p.m. Protest caravan calls for mass release of Cook County Jail detainees

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Social distancing may have dispersed crowds and driven much of the city and state indoors, but it hasn’t stopped activists from protesting — it has just forced them to change their approach.

On Tuesday, Cook County Jail was the site of the latest “caravan” protest: Dozens of protesters drove around Cook County Jail with signs affixed to their doors and windshields, honking their horns, chanting and banging drums to demand the “mass release” of detainees.

The Jewish-led justice group Never Again Action Chicago staged a similar protest last week by driving in circles around Chicago’s ICE headquarters and honking their horns to demand the release of detainees from detention centers. The Jane Addams Senior Caucus held a virtual news conference Thursday to ask for wellness checks at all senior buildings in Chicago.

Lizzie Schiffman Tufano

2:40 p.m. Cook County Jail is currently the biggest coronavirus hotspot in the nation

Contact tracing is considered a crucial weapon in the global fight against the novel coronavirus COVID-19. It entails tracking the spread of the virus by working backwards from confirmed cases to identify the point of transmission, helping identify the pathway of the disease’s spread to help focus containment efforts.

To support contact tracing, the New York Times has launched an ambitious nationwide data tracking effort to report on the details of every confirmed case in the United States. They’re collecting information from federal, state and local officials and sharing their findings in real time.

Early Tuesday afternoon, the Times identified one key hotspot in the virus’ spread that was responsible for nearly twice as many confirmed COVID-19 cases as the next leading connection point, “Travel within the U.S.”: that top hotspot was the Cook County Jail in Chicago.

As of 11:32 a.m. Central Time Tuesday, 355 confirmed cases have been traced back to Cook County Jail. Travel within the U.S. was determined to be responsible for 187 positive COVID-19 cases, and travel overseas was the third leading point of origin, responsible for 178 cases.

As of Monday evening, 230 detainees at the jail have tested positive for COVID-19, the sheriff’s office said. One has died. Fourteen are being treated at hospitals and 33 are being moved to a recovery facility. Additionally, 92 staff members have tested positive.

Several attorneys and civil rights groups filed a class-action lawsuit against Sheriff Thomas Dart Monday seeking 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.

Visit the New York Times’ coronavirus map and case count here.

2 p.m. Illinois seeks 12,000 body bags as critical weeks near in COVID-19 fight

Even as Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration is scrambling to find enough medical supplies to save lives during the coronavirus pandemic, it also is stockpiling body bags in preparation for a worst-case scenario.

In the past week, the state’s procurement team has issued three different solicitations to potential vendors to purchase body bags, also known as cadaver bags — seeking more than 12,000 in total.

That figure would far exceed most death projections for Illinois from COVID-19.

The latest model from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projects 3,629 people will die in Illinois from the disease by August 4. The state’s death toll stood at 307 on Monday.

Read the full story from columnist Mark Brown.

11:46 a.m. City and state are ‘a long way away’ from lifting stay-at-home order, Lightfoot says

Chicago and Illinois are a “long way away” from lifting the stay-at-home order because the number of coronavirus cases in Chicago and Illinois is “not near the peak,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Tuesday.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order was due to expire Tuesday before being extended until April 30. Lightfoot had already extended the closing of Chicago Public Schools through April 20 before that extension.

On Tuesday, the mayor was asked to articulate the criteria that would be used by the city and state to determine when shuttered non-essential businesses would be authorized to re-open and when residents would be free to leave their homes, return to work and once again enjoy the everyday freedoms they once took for granted.

“We’re a long way away from that and we are actually exploring that question now. We’ve been talking all along about a peak in the number of cases and then, thinking about what the downward slide of that will be. We are looking at when we think now we will reach that point,” she said.

Read the full story from reporter Fran Spielman.

10:55 a.m. Five-minute COVID-19 tests coming to Walgreens stores in Illinois

Walgreens expects to have 15 drive-thru testing sites across seven states up and running later this week.

The Deerfield-based drugstore chain will have testing sites in Illinois as well as Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee and Texas. The new sites will use Abbott’s new COVID-19 test, which can return a positive result in 5 minutes and a negative result in 13 minutes.

The test locations haven’t been finalized. Walgreens expects to be able to test up to 3,000 people per day.

Walgreens will dedicate temporary space outside of the stores, where its pharmacists will supervise the self-administered COVID-19 tests.

BiIl Ruminski

10:12 a.m. These companies are issuing auto insurance refunds during stay-at-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.

State Farm, the nation’s leading car insurer, said it is monitoring losses from claims and will decide how to respond this week. Jeff Sibel, a spokesman for Progressive, said the company is evaluating how to return some money to policyholders and will make an announcement soon.

If your car insurance provider isn’t one of the companies listed above, consider reaching out to inquire about refund availability. “It doesn’t surprise me that companies are doing this. I think others will be following suit,” said Kevin Martin, executive director of the Illinois Insurance Association, a trade group in Springfield.

Read the full story from David Roeder and Stephanie Zimmerman to learn more.

9:25 a.m. Northwestern Medicine rolls out app for parents to visit NICU babies virtually

As hospitals across Chicago shift their resources to accommodate more COVID-19 patients, and change their visitation policies to limit the potential spread of the virus, families of patients receiving hospital care unrelated to the coronavirus are struggling with limited access to their loved ones.

For parents of newborns staying in Prentice Women’s Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), that means having to decide whether mom or dad will visit their new baby — never both.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Dr. Craig Garfield, a pediatrician at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, in a release.

Garfield and his colleagues at Prentice introduced an app in late March to Prentice’s NICU parents that aims to provide some consolation. The app, SMART NICU2HOME, was developed several years ago by Garfield and Young Seok Lee, an adjunct professor of medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

The app sends parents updates throughout the day on their baby’s vital signs and notifies them who is caring for their baby at any given moment. It also features educational information, like translations of common NICU terminology.

Lizzie Schiffman Tufano

8:05 a.m. Meet a coatimundi at virtual Brookfield Zoo

Brookfield Zoo has been closed since March 19, along with most attractions, and furloughed a third of its workforce Saturday (a move that has since been challenged by the workers’ union).

But the suburban zoo is one of many institutions offering virtual educational content for kids amid statewide school closures. Click here to see our full list of fun, virtual activities you can share with your kids from home.

The zoo will host a Facebook Live event at 11 a.m. Tuesday with zoo and wildlife medicine specialist Dr. Mike Adkesson during a routine exam of a coatimundi.

Click here for more things to do with your kids while self-quarantining at home.

7:07 a.m. Pritzker says PPE from China is going to private companies for state bidding war

President Donald Trump and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker have been publicly sparring in recent weeks over the federal government’s role in helping the state source ventilators and personal protective equipment for its hospitals.

The issue came to a head at the Thursday White House coronavirus briefing, when Jared Kushner, the president’s senior adviser and son-in-law, 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.”

The word “our” dramatized Trump’s view that addressing the need to procure ventilators, masks, gloves and other urgently needed items as COVID-19 cases surge was the main responsibility of governors, not the federal government or the Oval Office, Washington Bureau Chief Lynn Sweet wrote Sunday. The federal government is merely a back-up, Trump has been saying.

Pritzker appeared on PBS News Hour Monday to decry the federal government’s strategy for distributing the medical equipment, which he said has devolved into a bidding war between states.

“What the White House has done is created... they call this the ‘air bridge,’ where they’re bringing stuff back from China to the United States, and then they’re delivering it to private companies in the United States, not to the states, and they’re letting all of us bid against each other for those goods that are owned by the private companies.”

“So we’ve just gone around all that and gone directly to manufacturers wherever we could.”

The White House “promised PPE, and they said they’re delivering it to everybody — [a] small fraction, I mean, a small fraction of what’s been promised,” Pritzker said.

“I don’t like people who make promises and don’t deliver...But this is what President Trump has done to the country.”

Watch the full interview and read a transcript of Pritzker’s comments here.


New Cases


Analysis & Commentary

8:10 p.m. If the mayor says she needed to get her hair done, she needed to get it done

Are we for real?

On a day when Mayor Lori Lightfoot has to tell the world that while blacks make up 30% of the population in this city, they account for 72% of the deaths from this coronavirus pandemic, we wanted to talk about why she got her hair done?

Apparently, this was deemed a public concern given that our mayor has been aggressive about asking us to stay home.

And in some minds, it is hypocritical for the mayor to get a haircut when barbershops and hair salons are shut down under a stay-at-home order.

What is it that we are supposed to chant?

“Stay Home. Save Lives.”

But I wanted to throw my shoe at the TV screen when reporters questioned the mayor about her “do” during Monday’s press briefing.

The question was not only asked but also dwelled upon.

And I cringed as I watched the mayor defend fussing with her hair.

Read the full column from Mary Mitchell.

5:49 p.m. How the CDC and the FDA wrecked the American economy

Public officials across the United States are flying blind against the COVID-19 epidemic.

Because of a government-engineered testing fiasco, they do not know how fast the virus is spreading, how many people have been infected by it, how many will die as a result or how many have developed immunity to it.

The failure to implement early and wide testing, which was caused by a combination of short-sightedness, ineptitude and bureaucratic intransigence, left politicians scrambling to avoid a hospital crisis by imposing broad business closures and stay-at-home orders. It foreclosed the possibility of a more proactive and targeted approach, focused on identifying carriers, tracing their contacts and protecting the public through isolation and quarantines.

The initial outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan, China, was reported at the end of December. The first confirmed case in the United States was reported on Jan. 20, by which time it seems likely that many other Americans were already infected.

At first, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention monopolized COVID-19 tests. When the CDC began shipping test kits to state laboratories in early February, they turned out to be defective.

Read the full column from Jacob Sullum.

10:28 a.m. 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 our Washington Bureau Chief Lynn Sweet 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.

Schneider, who represents the north suburban 10th Congressional District, noted to the 400 people on the webinar that the kickoff was “not smooth.”

Read the full report from Lynn Sweet here.

6:10 a.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.