Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.
Chicago’s most important news of the day, delivered every weekday afternoon. Plus, a bonus issue on Saturdays that dives into the city’s storied history.
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‘Sweet, gentle soul’ holes up in his room with flu-like symptoms — then dies on the way to the hospital
Xavier P. Gaines made his living as an armed security guard but loved working on computers and playing video games, dreaming he might one day have a chance to design his own games. He lived at home with his mom, kept to himself and stayed out of trouble.
Gaines was only 26 when he landed on this week’s Cook County medical examiner’s list of COVID-19 victims. He died Dec. 2, his heart giving out as he struggled to breathe just moments after walking down the steps of his West Pullman home — before he could get to the hospital.
“He died in front of my house, in the ambulance,” his mother, Nicky Reynolds, said between tears.
Gaines was maybe 6 feet tall, 365 to 375 pounds, his family said. The medical examiner’s office listed “morbid obesity” as a contributing factor in his death. The deadly coronavirus is particularly dangerous to those who are overweight.
Gaines’ family was matter-of-fact about disclosing his weight issues, in part because he had none of the health problems that often go with it. He didn’t have diabetes. He didn’t have high blood pressure. He rarely even caught colds.
Gaines hadn’t been sick more than six or seven times in his entire life, said his big sister, Janiece Vaughn. When he did get sick, it was always this same time of year with cold symptoms, and Gaines had developed his own routine for getting well.
A “homebody” who rarely left the house in normal times, Gaines became practically a recluse when he got sick. He would gather what he needed — lemons, honey, cough syrup and soup — take his supplies to his room and not come out for days, which is what he did this time.
In years past, that did the trick, and Gaines assured his family it would work again. He had tested negative for COVID-19 about a month previously and wasn’t in any hurry to see a doctor. For one thing, said his sister, he didn’t have health insurance. He’d been out of work for a couple of months and was drawing unemployment.
His family was concerned his flu-like symptoms this time were an indication of something more serious, and they told him so. “He would say, ‘I’m good,’” Vaughn said.
On the morning he died his mother heard him cry out in pain, and this time she told him she was calling an ambulance. He didn’t object.
Gaines was a 2013 graduate of Wendell Phillips Academy High School. He played some football there when he was a freshman and sophomore, but he was really more of a computer guy, having been involved in an After School Matters program that taught students how to repair computers.
“He was really smart,” Vaughn said. “Anything technical, he was really good at that.”
Gaines had no children, but he looked after his sister’s three girls as if they were his own, Vaughn said.
“He was just a sweet, gentle soul,” said his mother. “He was all about peace and love.”
More news you need
- COVID-19 has killed 196 more Illinois residents, public health officials announced today, the third-most deaths ever reported in a single day even with the finish line of the pandemic slowly coming into view. The virus has claimed nearly 1,600 Illinois lives over the first 10 days of December, by far the state’s worst stretch in the last nine months.
- More than 250 firefighters battled a blaze in Lawndale today that had completely engulfed an auto parts warehouse on the West Side. A CFD spokesperson said the building, 4425 W. 16th Street, was a total loss.
- Twenty-one years after a flight attendant was brutally murdered in her northwest suburban apartment, police in Des Plaines announced today that the long-sought suspect was finally in custody. Luis Rodriguez-Mena was charged with three counts of first-degree murder in connection with the 1999 stabbing of Young Kavila.
- A federal court order has reopened the door for first-time applicants to get Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals protections, and an estimated 28,860 people in Illinois could be eligible. But three years after the Trump administration left DACA in limbo, immigration advocates in Chicago see the toll.
- When Attorney General William Barr made a personal visit to Chicago last month, one of his stops included a private lunch at the Winston & Strawn law firm with longtime friend Dan Webb. Webb, a former federal prosecutor, said they “never discussed what Barr’s plans are when he leaves the Department of Justice.”
- Lake Shore Drive could be renamed in honor of Jean Baptiste Point DuSable, Chicago’s first permanent settler, under a revised ordinance up for consideration today after languishing in committee for more than a year. The City Council’s Transportation Committee will consider the ordinance after its co-sponsor agreed to limit the scope to minimize the cost.
- Brookfield Zoo will furlough 40 workers when it closes for January and February. The employees are expected to return to work March 1.
A bright one
It’s become a holiday classic, and this week, Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas” celebrates its 50th anniversary.
Released on Dec. 9, 1970, on ATCO Records, the song was penned by the late Hathaway and lyricist Nadine McKinnor, and recorded at Chicago’s Audio Finishers Studio on Ontario Street.
In honor of the anniversary, Rhino Records has released an animated video featuring Hathaway strolling the streets of Chicago on his way to a gig, eventually making his way home to his family for a Christmastime celebration.
The video (with images by cartoonist Lonnie Millsap) includes several Chicago homages including a Garrett’s Popcorn vendor, State Street, Harold’s Chicken Shack, and a few other area storefronts you might recognize.
While the song’s initial release garnered modest success, it became a widespread favorite in 1991 when it was re-released on ATCO Records’ album “Soul Christmas.” Soon afterward, the song became one of the most popular holiday tunes, covered by dozens of artists including Gloria Estefan, Chris Brown, Mary J. Blige, Fantasia, Usher, John Legend, Aretha Franklin, Christina Aguilera, Diana Ross and Hathaway’s daughter, Lalah Hathaway.
From the press box
The Bears temporarily shut down Halas Hall this morning after an unidentified player tested positive for the coronavirus. The Bears put the infected player on the reserve/COVID-19 list and reopened Halas Hall this afternoon for team practice. Sunday’s game against the Texans is still expected to be played.
Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson says he has no idea why the Bears never spoke to him before the 2017 NFL Draft. Instead of Watson or Patrick Mahomes, the Bears drafted Mitch Trubisky second overall that year.
With no live high school basketball, Michael O’Brien begins his weekly look back at some of the IHSA’s greatest games. First up is Thornton upsetting Kevin Garnett and Farragut in 1995.
Your daily question☕
What was your favorite album of 2020? Tell us why.
Email us(please include your first name and where you live) and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.
Yesterday, we asked front line workers to tell us if they’ll get a COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available.Here’s what some of them said…
“100%! Can’t wait! I will be so relieved to have one… I’ve been on COVID floors since the beginning. Results are excellent of studies on vaccines.”— Beth Van Opstal, MD
“No. Right now, we get tested twice a week at work, and I’ve been testing negative this whole pandemic. I’m gonna pass.”— Brittani Nichole
“Yes, I would rather take the vaccine than risk long-term COVID effects. I am currently working in a restaurant and would feel safer with some level of defense.”— Ashley Lindsey
“This ER nurse is excited to get vaccinated as soon as it’s available to me. I’ve read a lot around the science and development of the vaccine, and I’m very comfortable getting it. I’m hearing the same thing from my colleagues.”— Heather Dhamo
“I’m a relatively healthy first responder with a Type 1 diabetic wife and a T1D daughter, so I will absolutely be getting the vaccine when one is available for me.”— Ryan Schmidt
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