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Afternoon Edition: March 31, 2020

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

In a funny new PSA, Mayor Lori Lightfoot plays a song on an acoustic guitar or encourage Chicagoans to stay home.
Twitter/@Chicagosmayor

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.

This afternoon will be cloudy with some isolated showers and a high near 43 degrees. Tonight’s low will be around 34 degrees. Tomorrow will be much nicer: partly sunny with a high near 50 degrees.

Top story

In Downstate Illinois, coronavirus crisis ‘is going to devastate families’

Downstate Jacksonville’s town square sits empty on Sunday.
Neal Earley/Chicago Sun-Times

In Illinois, the focus on the coronavirus crisis has been squarely on Chicago, but the hardships, fears and worries have spread across the state, even if the overwhelming majority of COVID-19 cases are in Cook County.

The transient slaughterhouse workers of Beardstown still fill the rooms at the Budget Inn in the small central Illinois town, but the motel owner admits, beyond that “business is very slow.”

Some 30 miles southeast in Jacksonville, a sewing supply shop has closed its doors, posting instructions on how to make protective face masks next to a plastic bin to collect donated masks.

And in southern Illinois, a small-town mayor worries that the economic downturn will lead to a spike in the already above-average suicide rate.

“The majority of people — especially in Southern Illinois — live pay-check to pay-check, and one day off work or two days off work — it is going to devastate families,” Mount Vernon Mayor John Lewis said.


We’re making our vital coronavirus coverage free for all readers. See the latest news here.


For state Rep. Brad Halbrook, R-Shelbyville, the economic loss from the social-distancing is too much for rural Illinois. He’s calling for Gov. J.B. Pritzker to ease stay-at-home restrictions for less-densely populated areas Downstate.

“We already have built-in social distancing to begin with,” Halbrook said.

And across Illinois, health concerns are never far behind the economic worries.

Jonathan Pascal, 25, told us that he moved to Downstate Metropolis from Miami to seek better job prospects and a lower cost of living just three months ago. But he hasn’t been to work for about a week after developing mild flu-like symptoms. Now, he’s all out of sick days.

“Other bills that I have, you know, there’s been a little bit of trouble for me,” he said.

Neal Earley brings you the full story from Downstate.

More news you need

  1. As Illinois continues to see an uptick in coronavirus cases, Gov. J.B. Pritzker is extending the state’s stay-at-home executive order until April 3o. He is also mandating the continued closure of Illinois’ schools.
  2. Cook County Circuit Court is extending its suspension of most criminal and civil cases through May and expanding the use of videoconferencing amid the pandemic. If you’ve got jury duty, don’t go. You’ll get a new date for service soon.
  3. As coronavirus fears turn us all into clean freaks, the CDC is warning people to avoid mixing common household cleaners that can cause deadly chemical reactions. Learn about which cleaners you should never mix in our live blog.
  4. Are you watching the highly-addictive “Tiger King” on Netflix? As everyone talks about the inevitable fictional adaptation of the documentary series, film critic Richard Roeper is sharing his dream cast. Check out his picks for Joe Exotic, Carole Baskin and others.
  5. Don’t forget: Tomorrow is April Fool’s Day. In his column, Neil Steinberg writes about how he’s not in the mood this year.

A bright one

Whether you’re learning guitar, fluffing pillows or chatting on the phone with a friend, you’re saving lives by staying home, Mayor Lori Lightfoot explains in a funny new PSA launched to encourage Chicagoans to do exactly that.

“Debbie, getting your roots done is not essential. Your dog doesn’t need to see its friends! You can work on your jump shot, inside,” Lightfoot explains to a supposed pal on the phone.

In one scene, she strums on an acoustic guitar while singing “Stay home, save lives/Stay home, save lives.” In another, she’s fluffing pillows when a voice in a different room asks what she’s doing. “What am I doing? Right now? Saving lives,” she responds matter-of-factly.

She even bargains with viewers: “If I make this shot, you’ve got to stay home,” Lightfoot says before slowly walking up to a toy basketball hoop and plopping a mini basketball into the net. “She shoots, she scores!” Lightfoot enthusiastically announces with her arms in the air.

In the end, Chicago’s mayor sums it up as seriously as possible: “The truth is, 40,000 hospitalizations will break our healthcare system,” Lightfoot concludes. “Stay home. Save lives.”

Watch the full PSA and read the story by Alison Martin.

From the press box

Basketball fans have something to look forward to next month: “The Last Dance,” ESPN’s 10-hour documentary on Michael Jordan and the ‘98 Bulls’ run to a sixth title, will start airing April 19 instead of its original June release date. It should be packed with behind-the-scenes footage and interviews we’ve never seen before.

Back to the present reality, Bears star Allen Robinson has raised thousands (with the help of Matt Nagy and Charles Leno) to help feed Chicago kids during the coronavirus crisis. Robinson says the support his foundation has received so far is “special.”

Your daily question ☕

Have you been finding it hard to be with your family 24/7? Tell us why, or why not.

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

Yesterday was National Doctors Day, so we asked you what you’d like to say to the doctors on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s what some of you said:

“Thank you ♡♡ The term putting your life on the line for others means so much more to me!!,” wrote Loreen Bunchie Taylor on Facebook.

“I’ve already reached out to my doctor to tell her thank you and to stay safe as well as her staff. My daughter is in the healthcare field as well she works in a nursing home in Ohio. I’ve already let her know how proud I am of her too,” wrote Patricia Kaye Corley-Yonts on Facebook.

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