Afternoon Edition: April 8, 2020

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

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Neighbors have posted encouraging signs outside the triage area for coronavirus testing at Mount Sinai Hospital, 1500 S. Fairfield Ave. in North Lawndale.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/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’s another beautiful afternoon: partly sunny with a high near 66 degrees. Tonight, we could see some showers and thunderstorms as the low drops to 38 degrees. Tomorrow will be significantly colder, with a high near 45 degrees and a low around 33 degrees.

Top story

At Mount Sinai, ‘moments of chaos and calm’

We hear these termsN95 masks, PPE, ventilators — and see photos of medical personnel draped in blue every day, but it’s hard for many of us to really understand what it’s like to be on the front lines in the fight against the coronavirus.

So we went to Mount Sinai Hospital, where the medical staff agreed to take a momentary pause from their battle to save lives to answer some of our questions.

The first thing we learned: Those N95 maskshurt. To work, they must be worn tight. Within 20 minutes, the straps pinch your ears and the mask starts digging into your nose.

The masks need a tight seal to keep the coronavirus out. Doctors and nurses at Mount Sinai Hospital test their masks by reading aloud while saccharine is sprayed in their faces. If they taste sweetness through the mask, they’re dead — or they might be, if that mist were coronavirus droplets instead. Stubble on men can also throw off a mask’s fit.

Add goggles and gloves and hairnets and protective body coverings, then start treating a patient.

“It gets hot, it gets a little claustrophobic,” said Kimberly Lipetzky, a nurse at Mount Sinai. “Your goggles fog, and you’re trying to navigate this situation while of course performing at peak ability.”

“After an hour it starts getting really uncomfortable,” said nurse Adam Garrison. “It feels like the bridge of your nose is going to disintegrate.”

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

Of people who get the coronavirus, 15% are so sick their lungs may start filling with fluid and begin shutting down. That’s why ventilators— a mechanical device that breathes for patients whose lungs are shutting down — are so important: they force 100% oxygen into your lungs (regular air is 21% oxygen) and keep you alive as your body defeats the virus.

“Our main goal is to keep them oxygenated well enough that their body has a fighting chance to continue warding off the infection,” said Garrison.

All 21st century medicine can do right now is buy time.

“It’s all supportive care,” said Michele Mazurek, chief nursing officer for Sinai Health Systems. “There’s no antibiotic, no antidote. To not be able to give something life-saving… it’s like strapping our hands behind our backs.”

After a car crash, a patient might be on a ventilator a few days. With COVID-19, patients could be on one for up to a month. This is why hospitals are scrambling to get more ventilators; they need so many because patients are on them for so long. Which itself leads to complications — pneumonia, skin breakdown, infection. Patients can survive COVID-19, then die from being on a ventilator.

“These people coming in, they are sick, we’re admitting many of them,” said Dr. Sunita Mohapatra, head of infectious disease at Mount Sinai. “We’ve had to make a lot of changes to accommodate these patients. We have already filled our medical ICU, now taken over the surgical ICU, the trauma ICU. We’re not doing elective surgeries.”

“We’re at capacity,” said Mazurek. “We feel the bell curve going up.”

Read the full column from Neil Steinberg, which is the first of a three-part series on Mount Sinai. Tomorrow: A rapidly-escalating war.

More news you need

  1. Another 82 people have died from the coronavirus in Illinois as the state continues its path towards a peak. Today marks the largest number of deaths in a 24-hour period and the highest number of positive new cases; 1,529.
  2. Mayor Lori Lightfoot has imposed a 9 p.m. curfew for all alcohol sales in Chicago to prevent people from congregating outside liquor stores. The curfew will be strictly enforced by Chicago Police officers and city inspectors.
  3. Chicago firefighters say they’re on edge one day after the first coronavirus death in their ranks. Mitch Dudek spoke to some members of the Chicago Fire Department, who described the anxiety of dealing with an “invisible” foe.
  4. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is self-isolating after a member of her protection detail contracted COVID-19. Preckwinkle said she is currently symptom-free.
  5. Sen. Bernie Sanders ended his presidential bid today. The announcement makes Joe Biden the presumptive Democratic nominee to challenge President Donald Trump in November.
  6. Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music, where John Prine took guitar lessons and was a familiar face, is hosting a special tribute to the legendary singer-songwriter, who died last night. Here’s how to tune in on Zoom.

A bright one

The coronavirus may be ugly, but it’s inspired some beautiful artwork all around Chicago.

Elaine Frei’s canvas is her house. The exterior of her Old Town Triangle home near Menomonee and Orleans streets is covered with hundreds of balloons that form a rainbow.

“Balloons bring joy, they pull at the cord of your youth and anyone responds to it. There’s a whimsy to it that’s just like, ‘Oh, everything’s going to be OK,’” she said.


Designer Elaine Frei installed a balloon rainbow on her Old Town Triangle home.


James Mosher, a 35-year-old artist from Logan Square, created a mural on the side of a building at 2817 W. Diversey Ave. that shows two hands washing each other in three separate panels.

“It’s like an instructional brochure on hand-washing … simple and to the point,” said Mosher. “My knuckles are cracked and dry because of constant hand-washing,” he said with a laugh.


Read Mitch Dudek’s full story to see more art by Chicagoans in the time of coronavirus.

From the press box

Of all the areas the Bears need to address in the 2020 NFL Draft, defensive line is not one of them.

The addition of Robert Quinn to a group that already boasts Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Bilal Nichols and Roy Robertson-Harris allows the team to look elsewhere with its limited stock of picks, Patrick Finley wrote in his latest draft analysis.

Your daily question☕

What do you miss most since the state’s stay-at-home order began?

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 when you’ll feel safe again being around tens of thousands of people, like at a stadium for a game. Here’s what some of you said…

“When Dr. Fauci or the Surgeon General gives us the all-clear,” said Elizabeth Charbonneau.

“2021 after a safe vaccine is available,” said J Edgar Mihelic.

“It’ll be months before I’d be comfortable around large crowds,” Blair Smithson said.

“July if the peak happens over the next two weeks,” Blake Andrew said.

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