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Afternoon Edition: March 25, 2020

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

Chef Bill Kim, owner of Urban Belly, helps repackage food at the Greater Chicago Food Depository on Tuesday. Some volunteers are staying home, forcing dozens of food banks to close across the Chicago area.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

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.

It’s a beautiful, quintessentially spring afternoon: mostly sunny with a high near 58 degrees. Tonight, we could see some showers, and the low will be around 44 degrees. Tomorrow, more rain is possible, with a high near 48 degrees.

Top story

‘It hurts’ — Food pantries shut down, shelters try to cope amid coronavirus crisis

It isn’t just restaurants and bars, museums and stores.

Organizations that provide food to the poorest Illinoisans are shutting down in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Other social service agencies, like homeless shelters, are struggling to adjust.

In the past two weeks, 112 Chicago-area food pantries have closed, 82 in Cook County — almost a quarter of the 370 food pantries served by the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

“The number is shocking” said Greg Trotter, spokesman for the Greater Chicago Food Depository. “It hurts and it has an impact.”

The pantries that remain are scrambling to fill the gaps.

“We serve from Devon to Lawrence and the Lake to Western,” said Mustafa Abdul Maboud, operations manager of CareForReal in Edgewater. Lately, he said, they’ve been “helping people outside the boundaries” because of the high number of pantries now shuttered.

Then there is the problem of running shelters without crowding people close together.

“Communal living is not a good situation at this time. Staying in a basement is preferable to staying in a homeless shelter,” said Swatez, who is trying to find apartments for people in The Ark’s Sarnoff Levin Transitional Residence.

The need for help grows as jobs vanish and meager savings are exhausted.

“Our demand was up 250% last week,” said Swatez. “More and more people are calling in crisis. People calling us, scared. Really, really scared.”

The good news: many lower-risk Chicagoans are overcoming anxiety about their own future by helping those facing hard times now. The Night Ministry, for example, collected $47,000 in donations online in the first two weeks of March, compared to $7,000 in the same period last year.

Read Neil Steinberg’s full story that includes resources for those who need help, and information for those who want to help.

More news you need

  1. Mayor Lori Lightfoot is threatening to shut down Chicago parks and the entire lakefront if residents and visitors continue to thumb their noses at Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order. Check out photos from the lakefront today.
  2. A Chicago mother and son who went on vacation to the Amazon River are now stranded in Peru since the country’s leader shut the borders to stop the spread of the coronavirus, and fear they’ve been forgotten by the U.S. government. Stefano Esposito talked to them today.
  3. Four more Chicago hotels have agreed to rent rooms to isolate patients who test positive for the coronavirus or have been exposed to someone who has. Three meals a day will be provided to all guests.
  4. To help provide at-risk seniors with a safer shopping option, grocery chains across Chicago are implementing senior shopping hours to reduce crowds. Here’s a full list of senior shopping hours at major grocery chains statewide.
  5. While officials are rushing to expand the state’s capacity for coronavirus testing, not everyone can get one yet. Here’s who can get tested, and where.
  6. The esteemed medical adviser behind the pandemic movie “Contagion,” Dr. Ian Lipkin, has revealed he has contracted the coronavirus. Read what he said.

A bright one

In an apartment somewhere in Uptown, 11-year-old Grahm Sheldon will, in all likelihood, spend an hour or so today reading through an 11-pound, 2,200-page dictionary.

“When I really, really want something, I know that I can’t just get it automatically,” said Grahm, a fifth-grader at Walt Disney Magnet School. “I kind of like working hard for it because then I feel accomplished once I do get it. I just kind of find a thrill in it.“

Grahm Sheldon, 11, of Uptown, was supposed to compete in the national spelling bee in May, until the spread of the coronavirus.
Provided

But the “thrill” is on hold for now, after the recently crowned 2020 CPS Citywide Spelling Bee champion learned that the 93rd Scripps National Spelling Bee has been suspended — thanks to the coronavirus.

Where others might sulk or feel sorry for themselves, Grahm has spotted an opportunity: “All I could really think about was [that] I had more time to study,” Grahm said. Or to put it another way, he said he sees it as a “blessing in disguise.”

Grahm’s life — in a condo where he, his older brother and dad are “pretty much on top of each other,” his father said — isn’t all work.

“I feel like a normal kid. I do like to watch TV,” he said. He plays the occasional video game, too.

“He really earns his Minecraft time, let me tell you,” his dad said.

Read the full story from Stefano Esposito.

From the press box

MLB and the MLB Players Association are reportedly looking at early June for the start of the 2020 season following the delay caused by the coronavirus. Alternative plans are also being mapped, however, including a “doomsday scenario” in which the season is canceled.

There’s good reason for the concern: In Italy, they’re calling a Champions League matchup that happened on Feb. 19 “Game Zero” as experts point to the match as one of the biggest reasons Bergamo became an epicenter of the pandemic.

Your daily question ☕

What’s your favorite restaurant to order takeout from during the stay-at-home order?

Email us (please include your first name and where you live) and we might include your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday, we asked you to tell us your favorite episode of “The Office,” in honor of the 15th anniversary of the show’s premiere. Here’s what some of you said:

“The Fire (fire drill). The cat falling through the ceiling never gets old,“ wrote Cheryl Main McGarry on Facebook.

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