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Coronavirus live blog, May 29, 2020: Illinois records 86 more coronavirus deaths as state enters next reopening stage

Here’s what we learned Friday about how COVID-19 is impacting Chicago and Illinois.

Friday was the official Phase 3 reopening of Illinois — for everyone but Chicagoans.

Here’s what happened in Chicago and around the state as the battle against the coronavirus pandemic continued.


News

8:56 p.m. 86 more coronavirus deaths as Illinois enters next reopening stage

Barbers at C’styles Barbershop in Harvey sanitize their chairs after each client and everyone is required to wear a face mask when they enter the shop.
Annie Costabile/Chicago Sun-Times

Health officials announced Illinois’ latest 86 coronavirus deaths on Friday as thousands of businesses across the state geared up for the next phase of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s reopening plan.

With the COVID-19 death toll raised to 5,270, the Illinois Department of Public Health also announced an additional 1,622 people have tested positive for the virus out of 21,796 tests administered a day earlier.

At least one of those new patients was reported in downstate Edgar County, which had been one of the final two counties that hadn’t tallied any COVID-19 cases over four months since Illinois’ first case was confirmed.

That leaves Scott County, about 55 miles west of Springfield, as the only county on the state map without any reported coronavirus cases. A total of 117,455 people have tested positive for the virus across Illinois’ other 101 counties.

Almost half the cases have stemmed from long-term care facilities, and the vast majority of patients have already recovered, state Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said Thursday. But more than half the deaths have occurred in May.

Read the full report from Mitch Armentrout here.


8:26 p.m. How many students are taking part in remote learning at your school? Search our database.

Chicago Public Schools released data this week on remote learning participation that found that fewer than 60% of all Chicago Public Schools students are engaging with online remote learning three or more days per week.

The report, which includes some of the most detailed metrics in the country, measured 294,000 students at district-run schools and focused on the week of May 11.

The data shows about 85% of students were successfully contacted by someone at their school at least once during that week, whether to check in for academic reasons or to offer social and emotional support. But more than 43,000 students, including a quarter of all high schoolers, weren’t reached that week. Since schools closed, 2,200 students haven’t been reached a single time.

Reporter Caroline Hurley has all the data and searchable database.

7:15 p.m. Singer John Vincent lifts seniors’ spirits one ballad at a time via nursing home ‘concerts’

While singer John Vincent provides hope and cheer by performing classic hits to senior citizens through nursing home “concerts” around Chicago, his heart is heavy.

“We’re in unprecedented times where the unemployment rate is the highest since the Great Depression. When I’m singing, all of this is weighing on my head,” said Vincent. “My mind is constantly spinning, so I’ll experience waves of anxiety and happiness and sadness during one song.”

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Vincent, a Southwest Side native and the Cubs’ resident National Anthem singer since 2003, was approached by a Chicago police commander whose district is in the shadow of Wrigley Field, about performing nursing home “concerts” for residents.

Reporter Evan F. Moore has the full story.

4:24 p.m. Order to prevent spread of coronavirus at Cook County Jail to continue while sheriff’s office appeals

A federal judge ruled Friday that his order mandating action to prevent the spread of the coronavirus at the Cook County Jail will continue while the sheriff’s office appeals.

Issuing his ruling, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly said the sheriff’s office has not presented a “strong showing” that its appeal of his preliminary injunction is likely to be successful.

Attorneys for jail detainees filed a class-action lawsuit against Sheriff Tom Dart in March demanding the release of detainees who are at high risk of complications from COVID-19.

Kennelly denied widespread release of the inmates but mandated action at the jail, including widespread testing, as well as actions to socially distance detainees and provide them with access to personal protective equipment.

The sheriff’s office has argued that staff were already taking action to prevent the spread of the virus as they work to keep detainees healthy and continue to functionally operate the jail.

Read the full report from Matthew Hendrickson here.

3:20 p.m. Evanston beauticians wear face masks, shields on first day back

Employees at Salon Antou in downtown Evanston wore face masks and face shields as they worked on customers.

Gail Kaitis said the safety measures made her feel comfortable, and besides, she needed the help, she said.

“I’ve just been looking at my hair and thinking how awful it looks. It just proved to me I don’t ever want to go grey,” said Kaitis, who hadn’t had her hair done in 15 weeks.

At the nearby Blissful Nail Salon Gail Kelly, a retired grade school teacher, sat and waited for a chair to open up.

“It feels like a regular day and that’s sort of a good feeling,” said Kelly, 67. “And I have this one nail that always splits and I’m glad to have my nails done again.”

Pink was her color of choice.

— Mitch Dudek

3:12 p.m. Coronavirus testing: an updated guide on what’s available, what it does, what’s coming

Much has changed about testing for current COVID-19 infection and antibody testing for past exposure.

Here’s an updated guide on what you need to know.

2:40 p.m. Harvey barbershop opens for clients: ‘It’s pretty much like a normal Friday’

Chairs are stacked up neatly in the corner where the waiting area used to be at C’styles Barbershop in Harvey.

Two young clients wear face masks as they get haircuts from barbers who also have their faces covered.

“This is the first day back, so this is definitely a new experience just dealing with the new protocols,” owner Cory Young said. “We always follow good sanitation practices, but we have to go the extra mile now. And it’s taking some getting use to.”

Barbers sanitize their chairs after each client. Everyone is required to wear a face mask when they enter the shop. The shop is only taking clients with appointments.

Young said barbers were trained in sanitation practices way before the pandemic.

“We pretty much prepared for it back in barber college,” Young said. “So, it’s really just making sure we’re going back to our roots and practicing everything we learned about sanitation.”

The shop had five clients Friday morning, but the phone frequently rang as people call for appointments.

“It’s pretty much like a normal Friday,” Young said

— Noah Johnson

1:45 p.m. Chicago to close 6 commercial strips for outdoor dining

Six of Chicago’s most popular restaurant corridors will be closed to through traffic to give restaurants more space and revenue from outdoor dining under a long-awaited mayoral rescue plan unveiled Friday.

At a time when indoor dining is still prohibited in Illinois, Mayor Lori Lori Lightfoot has been talking for weeks about finding ways to make outdoor dining more lucrative by allowing restaurants with sidewalk café permits to set up even more tables in the street.

On Friday, the mayor took the first step toward delivering that plan for restaurants fighting for survival in Chatham, Lake View, Little Village, the Gold Coast, the Near West Side and West Loop.

Six commercial corridors will be closed to through traffic during designated lunch and dinner hours following a streamlined permit process that Illinois Restaurant Association President Sam Toia hopes will take “days — not weeks.”

Check out a list of the six corridors here.

1:31 p.m. Local restaurants adapt for reopening protocols amid pandemic

Michael Lorenzo, owner of Papa Joe’s in Orland Park, has converted parking spaces in front of the restaurant into an outdoor dining area.

“Judging from the reaction of the phone calls, so far, I think we’re going to be pretty busy,” Lorenzo said. “We have a nice big parking lot in the back, so we’ll keep everybody flowing through.”

Managers have met with staff members to go over safety protocols.

Customers can expect to be using disposable eating utensils rather than silverware. Lorenzo said it’s been a challenge to prepare for today since the decision to let restaurants serve customers outdoors “happened so fast.”

“We wish we would have got more notice, but we’re happy that we got some notice at all,” he said. “It’s a challenge, but restaurant guys get stuff done.”

Meanwhile, at Chuy’s Tex Mex in Orland Park, almost every table on the restaurant’s patio was filled with customers.

General manager Jose Salazar said the turnout was better than he expected.

“I think they know that our priority is the safety of the customer and the staff,” Salazar said. “So we’ve been trying to take every measure from the CDC.”

He said staff constantly are sanitizing washrooms, door handles and tables.Area supervisor Larry Cappos said the pandemic has been rough on business.

“The pandemic has hit the restaurant industry as a whole very hard, but we’re making the best of it,” Cappos said. “We’re looking forward to at least serving the patio, and then moving forward from there.”

— Noah Johnson

12:24 p.m. Suburban restaurants move tables outside

Jake Mandel, 21, and his friend, Ari Mazza, 21, both from Highland Park, enjoy bacon and egg breakfast sandwiches in the outdoor dining area of Sarkis Cafe, 2632 Gross Point Rd., in Evanston, Friday morning, May 29, 2020. Illinois entered Phase 3 of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s reopening plan for the state Friday, allowing many nonessential businesses to reopen with guidelines for social distancing and capacity limits.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Marla Cramin, owner of Sarkis Cafe in Evanston, said customers were brimming with enthusiasm on social media after she posted about reopening for outdoor service.

“People were like, ‘Can we camp out so we can be the first in line?’ and ‘I’m going to bring beer and a band!’ and “Can we picnic?’” she said. “No one camped out, but we did have people here at 6 a.m. when we opened.”

“I am really really fortunate that we have such a cult-like following.”

She’s also lucky to have acquired a grassy lot adjacent to the restaurant where she set up tables. She plans to erect a tent over the tables this weekend.

The owner’s daughter, 18-year-old Samantha Cramin, of Northbrook, serves a group of breakfast customers in the outdoor dining area of Sarkis Cafe, 2632 Gross Point Rd., in Evanston, Friday morning, May 29, 2020.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

“I bought it in December, and the timing couldn’t have been better,” she said.

Her daughter, 19, and two sons, ages 20 and 24, were on hand helping out.

“My daughter is waiting tables, my son is sanitizing tables and my other son is putting up outdoor speakers,” she said.

Mitch Dudek

11:09 a.m. Hair salons reopen with masked stylists, temperature checks

Larry Arkalious cutting the hair of his first customer on the opening day of his new shop in Highland Park.
Lynn Sweet/Sun-Times

Hair salons and barber shops in Chicago’s suburbs are reopening after being closed since March as part of the COVID-19 shutdowns. There’s plenty of pent up demand.

Here’s a snapshot of what’s happening in the downtown area of north suburban suburb of Highland Park on the hair front:

After being closed since March 21, H.P. Hair Image Inc., 486 Central Ave., reopened on Friday, with strict sanitation protocols. Hair stylists were masked, gloved and gowned.

Patricia and Jim Mayberry have been in business on this downtown strip for 36 years. Jim Mayberry said that in anticipation of the reopening, he ordered 800 masks, 4,000 gloves, 24 face shields for use during blow dries and 2,000 Clorox wipes. And that’s only the partial list.

Stylists at H.P. Hair Image in Highland Park leave empty chairs between customers on its first day of business since the COVID-19 closures.
Lynn Sweet/Sun-Times

The salon is using no-touch thermometers to take temperature of employees and customers.

On Friday morning, Stepan Mikula, the owner of The Barbers, 1874 Sheridan Rd. closed since March 14, was putting the finishing touches on his newly painted and rearranged shop. He is reopening on Saturday and has appointments booked for the day. He is spreading the chairs apart in order to following social distancing rules.

Stepan Mikula, the owner of The Barbers, 1874 Sheridan Rd. in Highland Park, in his shop on May 29, 2020.
Lynn Sweet/Sun-Times

Friday was the grand opening of Larry’s, 1815 St. Johns Ave., a new barber shop in this suburb, the third in a north suburban chain. Owner Larry Arkalious said the shop would have been opened in March if not for the pandemic closures.

Joe Lane, of Glenview, who was Larry’s number two customer on Friday said while waiting for his haircut that his wife has been trimming his hair during the shelter-in-place order.

Lynn Sweet

10:51 a.m. Reopening scenes in Chicago’s suburbs

A woman sits at a patio table outside Leonidas Cafe Chocolaterie, 1907 Central St., in Evanston, Friday morning, May 29, 2020. Illinois entered Phase 3 of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s reopening plan for the state Friday, allowing many nonessential businesses to reopen with guidelines for social distancing and capacity limits.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

“It’s the start of a change. It’s like the door has cracked open a bit. ... We can sit outside here and have a conversation,” said John Delano, 72, seated at a sidewalk table Friday morning outside Prairie Joe’s in Evanston.

Delano had had a cup of ice tea and a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast.

“It’s nice to see it get a little bit back to normal,” said Dan Cawley, 83, who who owns Harold’s Hardware store down the block and was seated across from Delano.

Owner Aydin Dincer said it’s been tough to adjust to a carryout business. “But we have a loyal support base, so that’s helped. I’m very excited today to have people back, even if it’s just on the sidewalk,” he said.

The diner is on the Central Street business corridor just west of the stadium where the Northwestern University football team plays. The street had a bit of a buzz to it Friday, the first day Evanston loosened restrictions on a number of businesses, including sidewalk seating for restaurants and indoor salon and barber services.

Philip Palmeri, owner of Trio Evanston, a hair salon, said he’s expecting his first customers to enter his shop since March.

Mitch Dudek

9:31 a.m. Illinois starts reopening today; here’s what it looks like

Most of Illinois is set to move into the long-awaited next phase of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s “Restore Illinois” plan Friday, a crucial step toward restoring the life Illinoisans once knew.

But that doesn’t mean all will necessarily go back to normal in the suburbs. Pritzker’s plan still restricts gatherings to 10 people or fewer. Face coverings are required in public. Retailers may open, but with limited capacity. Barbershops, salons and gyms must follow certain rules.

The governor released guidelines last weekend to help retailers, manufacturers, barbershops, salons, health and fitness centers and other businesses prepare for the move 10 weeks after Pritzker’s stay-at-home order first went into effect March 21.

Pritzker’s plan allows restaurants and bars to open for outdoor dining only, limited to parties of six people or fewer. Youth sports activities are limited to drills, practices and lessons that involve no contact between kids and allow for 6 feet of social distancing. Fitness classes are limited to one-on-one training, outdoor classes with a maximum of 10 participants and no contact between attendees.

Personal care services — such as hair salons, barbershops, nail salons, spas, massage parlors, waxing centers and tattoo parlors — can only be performed while the customer and employee are both wearing face masks. And massages and body treatments are limited to 30 minutes or less.

Read the full report from Jon Seidel here

8:17 a.m. Woodfield Mall to reopen Friday, with others to follow

Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg will reopen Friday, but other suburban shopping centers will wait until next week or haven’t disclosed their plans.

The plans for Woodfield were disclosed in a public relations firm’s invitations to media to take photos and videos at the mall Friday morning. Woodfield’s owner, Simon Property Group, did not respond to inquiries about its plans. A mall employee told the Chicago Sun-Times that it would open at 11 a.m. Friday.

Simon also was unavailable to discuss plans for its other suburban properties, Gurnee Mills in Gurnee, Chicago Premium Outlets in Aurora and Orland Square in Orland Park.

Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills and Fox Valley Mall in Aurora said they will reopen Monday.

Oakbrook Center in Oak Brook, Spring Hill Mall in West Dundee and Northbrook Court in Northbrook, all owned by Brookfield Properties, have not issued reopening plans. Brookfield did not reply to inquiries.

The malls mostly have been closed to shoppers except for curbside service during the coronavirus pandemic.

Read the full story from David Roeder here.

7:02 a.m. Pritzker bolsters testing rules for nursing homes, issues Phase 3 ‘guidance’ for churches

As the state reopens non-essential businesses and lifts other restrictions after entering Phase 2 of his reopening plan, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Thursday that he plans to enact that will require each nursing home to develop its own individualized testing and plan and document an established relationship with a testing lab.

“This new rule will require nursing homes to conduct testing, when experiencing an outbreak, when an outbreak is suspected, testing even when there is no sign of an outbreak, in line with new federal guidance issued this week, or when directed by IDPH or their local health department to do testing,” Pritzker said.

Each long-term care facility will be required to report to public health officials the number of residents and staff tested, and the number of positive and negative test results. The facilities must also make sure a copy of infection control policies and procedures is provided to residents and to the families of residents, along with IDPH or local health departments, upon request, the governor’s office said.

The governor said the rule doesn’t deviate from what the state is already doing, but it gives the Illinois Dept. of Public Health “additional teeth in securing buy-in from these private entities.

Read the full story here.

6:28 a.m. The future of riding the CTA: Here’s how Chicago commutes will change

It’s the million-dollar question in the world of transit: What will commuting look like?

No one is sure. Human behavior is hard to predict. But here’s how it might play out.

Beginning in June, workers at the CTA’s control center will monitor live video feeds of high ridership stations to watch for platform crowding. If crowding occurs, announcements will be made over the public address system asking customers to spread out or wait for the next train if the incoming one is full.

About 90 people fill a jam-packed CTA train car in normal times. Capacity will be down significantly with social distancing, but CTA officials couldn’t immediately provide an estimate.

The CTA will also be placing floor decals at stations and platforms reminding people to spread out.

Reporter Mitch Dudek has more on the future of commuting on the CTA, Metra and Pace.


New cases


Analysis & Commentary

5:25 p.m. Gov. Pritzker walks a fine line between public safety and angry critics in reopening Illinois

In the period just before and after Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued his first stay-at-home order in March, houses of worship in Illinois reportedly experienced 13 COVID-19 outbreaks, resulting in 88 cases.

Since then, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health, iIllinois has seen no such outbreaks — until one was revealed last week. IDPH told me of a very recent church-related outbreak of 39 cases, including the pastor.

That outbreak was acknowledged last Wednesday by the administrator of the Jackson County Health Department. The administrator told WSIU Radio that the unnamed Southern Illinois church had been holding services in defiance of the governor’s stay-at-home order.

And now, you gotta figure more church-related outbreaks could happen if people aren’t careful.

Pritzker told reporters last week that his administration will be posting “guidance, not mandatory restrictions, for all faith leaders to use in their efforts to ensure the health and safety of their congregants.” He said the guidance would be “suggestions” on capacity limits, indoor gatherings of 10 persons or less, etc.

“Governor Pritzker has capitulated, and the Thomas More Society is claiming victory in a trio of church lawsuits charging Illinois’ governor with religious discrimination,” a spokesperson for the organization said.

And then Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul filed his office’s response, mandated by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, to an emergency request by two Illinois churches that wanted the governor’s restrictions lifted. In that response, Raoul claimed the two churches’ filing was basically moot because the governor’s executive order would expires the next day.

Read Tom McNamee’s full column here.

3:51 p.m. University of Illinois football and basketball players — essential workers — head back to campus

Some student workers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will return to campus next week to start preparing for their football and men’s basketball seasons.

Did I say workers? Yes, that’s what they are. The university calls them student-athletes, and they are that, too.

But please make no mistake. They are employees at the U. of I. That they are going back, though summer classes were moved online because of the pandemic, underscores how valuable they are to the university.

They are not just students or athletes. They are workers, too.

It looks like they will be treated a lot better than many other workers across America. They are fortunate in that regard. In announcing the athletes’ return, the school said it was coordinating with sports medicine staff, local doctors and the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District. That’s a lot of oversight.

June workouts will be voluntary at the U. of I. The athletics department has promised to honor financial aid commitments — their pay — even if athletes are no-shows because of concerns over the coronavirus.

But the pressure is on. Forgoing workouts means you are letting down the team. That makes it tough to say no to driven, demanding coaches.

Some athletes want to go back because they see a future in the pros. College campuses are scouting grounds.

Some just want their lives to go back to normal, and that includes competitive sports.

None of that diminishes their role as workers.

Read the full column from Marlen Garcia here.

11:25 a.m. Pandemic boosts the folly and madness of conspiracy theorists

Whenever somebody assures me that everything happens for a reason, it’s normally my practice to tiptoe quietly away.

People are only trying to be nice. The notion that every kind of personal misfortune — each terrible accident or harrowing diagnosis, every pious wide-receiver rehabbing a bad knee — is part of God’s plan to test our individual faith and resolve is most often a well-intentioned sentimental gesture.

Have faith, is all they’re really saying. You’re strong enough to handle it.

It’s when people start getting specific about exactly what God’s plan consists of and where fate and history are taking us that all the trouble starts. Folly and madness invariably follow. Once they bring the unintelligible prophecies of the Book of Revelation into it, it’s too often a one-way trip to Crazytown with no return ticket.

So it is with the burgeoning religio-political cult calling itself QAnon, as described in an extraordinary piece of journalism in The Atlantic by Adrienne LaFrance. She correctly notes that “[t]he power of the internet was understood early on, but the full nature of that power — its ability to shatter any semblance of shared reality, undermining civil society and democratic governance in the process — was not.”

Can I get an amen?

Read the full column from Gene Lyons here.

6:19 a.m. D.O.A. proposal for South Side hospital merger deserves second chance

A proposal to improve South Side health care by merging four financially struggling hospitals flatlined last week during the state Legislature’s spring session.

We believe the hospital plan is too critical to let die.

The move would have replaced four aging hospitals with a better one, plus a network of smaller facilities around the South Side.

To make that happen, the four hospitals sought $520 million in state funding over five years. But lawmakers excluded the merger from a health and hospital funding bill approved in Springfield, claiming the proposal lacked sufficient details and failed to convincingly lay out its benefits.

“This development by the Legislature forces the conclusion of our transformation plans,” a spokesperson for the hospitals told us.

This is bad news for the South Side, which has suffered from an under-resourced and overburdened health care network for decades — a fact underscored by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, has delivered a particularly lethal blow to predominantly African American neighborhoods on the South and West sides.

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