Afternoon Edition: April 3, 2020

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

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Illinois National Guardsmen with hardhats and supplies in hand walk to the entrance of McCormick Place, which is being transformed into an alternative care facility for coronavirus patients, Thursday, April 2, 2020.

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.

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Afternoon Edition

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.

It feels like spring this afternoon: partly sunny with a high near 63 degrees. Tonight, we could get some showers, and the low will be around 44 degrees. A pleasant weekend is in the forecast, though it’ll be a bit cooler: Saturday will be sunny with a high near 49 degrees, and Sunday will be sunny as well, with a high near 52 degrees.

Top story

How McCormick Place is being transformed into a massive field hospital for COVID-19 patients

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers leads transformation of McCormick Place into coronavirus field hospital

Construction is currently underway at McCormick Place, which is being turned into an “alternative care facility” for coronavirus patients.

Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, commanding general of the Army Corps of Engineers, is in charge of assembling the massive field hospital. He’s a three-star general whose jobs have included building up the Afghan police and armed forces, restoring electricity to war-torn Iraq and helping states recover after devastating hurricanes.

About a week ago, Semonite said he was notified by the secretary of the Army that Pritzker was “very, very concerned about the bed shortage up here.” Shortly after that, construction was launched on the facility, which is short of a full-blown hospital.

Three exhibition halls at the convention center are being converted into medical wings, one of which will have 500 beds ready to use by the end of the day, Semonite said. Another 2,500 beds will be installed in stages to meet what officials say could be a peak in coronavirus diagnoses in Chicago around mid-April. 

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

People with varying degrees of coronavirus complications will be housed in each of the three converted exhibition halls.

The state is in charge of staffing the facility with health-care professionals. Pritzker has said the state is asking for volunteers and hiring people from contracting services. He said enough workers have been hired to staff at least 500 beds.

Oxygen is being pumped into the field hospital, and engineers in McCormick Place have calibrated the heat and air-conditioning system to provide “negative pressure” that keeps contaminants from escaping, Semonite said.

Pritzker said he has toured the hospital being built at McCormick Place: “I didn’t know you could build something like that in five days.”

“You should all feel very, very proud of the work that’s been done so quickly,” Pritzker said, calling the carpenters, National Guardsmen and other workers at McCormick Place “patriotic.”

“They know they are doing something that’s going to save people’s lives.”

Read the full story from Frank Main.

More news you need

  1. Health officials announced 53 more deaths across Illinois have been attributed to the coronavirus, another record daily high. That raises the statewide death toll to 210 since the pandemic first hit.
  2. Roseland Community Hospital is now offering drive-thru COVID-19 testing for South Side residents and others who want to be tested for the deadly virus. The testing includes a nasal swab and blood test.
  3. The chief operating officer for the Cook County Department of Public Health, who was the face of the county’s efforts to battle the coronavirus, was ousted from the job today. No official reason was given for Mason’s departure, but sources said he was terminated.
  4. Newly appointed Chicago Police Supt. David Brown said he has three priorities: boosting morale among officers, deploying a strong plan to combat the traditional summer surge of violence, and complying with a federal consent decree. “Any good leader worth his or her salt needs to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time,” he said today.
  5. Toni Preckwinkle was more prepared than most for the upheaval unleashed by the coronavirus – thanks in part to her habit of scouring the shelves of her neighborhood book store. She spoke to Rachel Hinton about the county’s response to the virus, as well as how it has impacted her personally.
  6. FBI mole Alexander S. Pissios — the president of Chicago’s largest film studio who secretly recorded conversations to help the feds nail a Chicago Teamsters union boss for extortion — wants to build another studio. This time, it’s on government land right across the street from the FBI, records show.
  7. Bill Withers, who wrote and sang a string of soulful songs in the 1970s that have stood the test of time, including “Lean On Me,” “Lovely Day” and “Ain’t No Sunshine,” has died at 81. Read about his life’s work.
  8. You’re unlikely to be able to pick up locally sourced toilet paper or artisanal hand sanitizer there, but expect to see farmers markets sprouting up across the city and beyond in the coming weeks. They just might not look quite like you remember from years past.
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A bright one

With Chicago schools closed, teachers are trying their best to bring their lessons home to students — and educators at Dore Elementary took that a step further this week.

A few dozen teachers drove through the Clearing neighborhood yesterday afternoon in a 30-car-caravan, honking their horns and waving to kids as they passed by families’ homes. Music blared from their cars that were painted with messages for their students, and more than a dozen families on a single block waved back at their educators.


While the school building is closed amid fears of the coronavirus pandemic, teachers and other staff at John C. Dore Elementary School parade around the neighborhood waving to families and children on the Southwest Side.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

“We want the kids to know that everything’s going to be OK and that we’re all in this together and give them some sort of hope that, even though we’re not in the classroom with them, we’re still here for them,” said Maureen O’Hara, a fourth grade teacher. “They’re just so sad. They miss their friends, they miss all of us and the routine.”

O’Hara wrote her classroom number on her car so her students knew when she drove by, and O’Hara’s own kids helped decorate her car with streamers.

“The parents were all really excited,” O’Hara said. “They know the kids need something positive like this to give them a little bit of hope.”

Read the full story from Nader Issa.

From the press box

The Bears’ quarterback competition has officially begun. “We’ve talked to [QBs Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles],” general manager Ryan Pace said in a teleconference today. “The way we view this is, it’s an open competition.”

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect sports, Bears executives are weighing working the NFL draft from home, and the WNBA is delaying the start of training camp and the season. 

Your daily question ☕

As we all get very familiar with our living spaces, we want to know: What have you discovered in recent days as we’ve all had to spend so much more time staying home?

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 what worries you the most about the coronavirus. Here’s what some of you said:

“Not knowing I have it and giving it to my family.” — Brandon Bonovitz

“Fear of what we don’t know. Dying alone. My family getting sick. Lack of food. Lack of money.” — Sandra Adam

“Jobs. I’ve been looking since August and no luck. This is making things worse.” — Jackie Waldhier

Read what else Chicagoans said they’re worried about.

Thanks for reading the Chicago Afternoon Edition.Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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