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.
Brace yourself for this news: We could see some snow this afternoon, and it could be heavy at times. The high will be around 47 degrees, but it’ll be windy, with gusts as high as 45 mph. Tonight’s low will be near 31 degrees. Tomorrow, back to normal: sunny with a high near 50 degrees.
The COVID-19 pandemic is not taking place in a vacuum. Car accidents and gunshots and burns and falls and heart attacks still happen, and those patients, too, are rushed to Level One trauma centers such as Mount Sinai Hospital, where every patient who rolls in must be treated as if they have COVID-19.
In part two of our series on what it’s like to be on the front lines in the fight against the coronavirus, medical staff at the hospital tell us what they’re doing to make sure people don’t get infected there if they aren’t already.
“Your instinct is to run to the patient,” said ER nurse Kimberly Lipetzky, who had just treated a man who fell 20 feet off a roof. As medical staff tended to him, they discovered he had been sick for a week, probably with COVID-19. Suddenly, “you have this added level,” she said.
What does that added level mean? If you wear personal protective equipment to see a COVID-19 patient, you first must strip off your gown and gloves and booties and hairnets and mask before seeing the next patient, or risk infecting someone who may not already have the disease. And if you’re not suited up and a COVID patient suddenly gets into trouble, you have put all that PPE back on — and fast.
“Someone is in respiratory distress. You’ve got to move quickly,” said Lipetzky. “Got to goggle and gown and hair cover. It’s a lot.” Getting it on can take three key minutes, and it’s such a struggle that non-medical staff are jumping in to help.
Even with all hands on deck, the stress builds up. The hand-washing is endless.
“It’s constant and then just scrubbing your hands,” said Michele Mazurek, chief nursing officer for Sinai Health Systems. “Our hands are ragged.”
Every new patient is carefully examined and questioned. The symptoms of COVID-19 span a wide range, from none at all to gasping for air. In some cases, a patient can be checked out, seem fine and be sent home, only to rapidly decline — “crump” in medical slang.
“We’re only admitting the sickest ones,” said Adam Garrison, a nurse at the hospital. “They can look good, we send them home, and they’re crumping with viral pneumonia and their X-ray looks horrible a week later.”
It would help to know if any given patient has COVID-19, but tests still take up to seven days. Sinai is hoping this week to get tests that provide results in 15 minutes.
In the meantime, staff is trying to simultaneously keep their patients alive and keep themselves well — both for their own sake, and so they can remain available for duty, helping both colleagues and patients.
“If we get ill,” Garrison said, “we can’t care for anybody else.”
Read the full column from Neil Steinberg, the second in a three-part series on Mount Sinai. Tomorrow: Everything is in place.
More news you need
- Illinois officials today said another 66 people have died from the coronavirus, bringing the death toll in the state to 528. There are also another 1,344 new cases, raising the state’s total to 16,422.
- To prepare for a possible surge in COVID-19 deaths, Cook County officials today opened a refrigerated warehouse equipped to store thousands of bodies. So far, the county has seen more than 300 deaths from the coronavirus, making up more than 70% of COVID-19 deaths statewide.
- A federal judge has denied a bid by Cook County Jail detainees for release or transfer amid the coronavirus outbreak there. The judge ordered Sheriff Tom Dart to implement new policies to keep inmates safe, instead.
- With a startling 6.6 million people seeking unemployment benefits last week, the United States has reached a grim landmark: Roughly one in 10 workers have lost their jobs in just the past three weeks.
- Black community leaders have unveiled a sweeping “right to recovery” plan to prevent the coronavirus pandemic from killing even more African-Americans — both medically and economically. Fran Spielman breaks down their list of demands.
- CTA bus passengers are being directed to use the back door to board, and buses won’t stop for more passengers if they become too crowded, starting today. The new guidance for drivers on what constitutes “too crowded:” 15 or more passengers on a standard 40-foot bus.
A bright one
A small group gathered outside a Lincoln Park nursing home this morning to wish a happy 90th birthday to a member of their church community they can’t visit during the COVID-19 outbreak.
When Dorothy French emerged on a balcony outside Symphony of Lincoln Park donning a surgical mask, a woman began playing the tune on an acoustic guitar as the rest of the parishioners from nearby St. Josaphat Church belted out the lyrics.
“Thank you so much,” French called down. “You’re my dolls.”
French was in high spirits and good humor in the few minutes she stood outside, throwing her hands above her head triumphantly and basking in the moment. After noticing a Chicago police SUV parked near her fellow churchgoers, she asked jokingly, “Do they think it’s a riot?”
Before going back inside, French had a nurse relay one last message to the gathering throng below: “It’s too early in the morning.”
From the press box
The Bulls enter a new era this week with the hiring of former Nuggets general manager Arturas Karnisovas as the team’s new president of basketball operations. Karnisovas, who has ties across the international basketball world, helped build Denver into a contender in recent years.
Basketball fans will also get the chance to watch the Bulls’ Zach LaVine and the Sky’s Allie Quigley compete in a special game of HORSE on ESPN this weekend. Trae Young, Chris Paul, Paul Pierce and Tamika Catchings are also among those set to shoot for fans’ entertainment and part of a $200,000 prize pool.
Your daily question ☕
Parents, how are you talking with your kids, especially younger ones, about coronavirus and why they have to stay 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 you’ve missed most since the stay-at-home order began. Here’s what some of you said…
“Being able to hug my mom who lives in a care facility.” — Fee Onipede
“Knowing that I’ll get to go to prom and that I’m definitely going to graduate.” — Hannah Wallace
“Working. Getting paid. Being able to shop without worrying about money.” — Tim Stuart
“Seeing people. When you are a widow it gets very lonely. I can only read so many books, and do so many puzzles.” — Jayne Jordan Ferraro
Thanks for reading the Chicago Afternoon Edition. Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.