Afternoon Edition: July 15, 2020

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

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Dr. Ponni Arunkumar, chief medical examiner of Cook County, left, and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, right.

Pat Nabong/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.

This afternoon will be cloudy, with a chance of rain and thunderstorms, and a high near 88 degrees. Tonight’s low will be around 69 degrees. Tomorrow will be partly sunny with a high around 84 degrees.

Top story

A third scourge quietly stalks Cook County — officials see doubling of ‘needless, preventable’ opioid deaths

In the clutches of a deadly pandemic and a rise in street violence, Cook County is also on track to double the number of opioid overdose deaths it saw last year, officials said yesterday, “sounding the alarm” on yet another crisis.

Last year, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office handled 605 opioid overdose deaths between January 1 and July 13. This year, that number is 773 — though that only tells part of the story, Dr. Ponni Arunkumar said.

“We also have 580 pending cases,” the medical examiner said. “We know that traditionally 70-80% of those cases will wind up being ruled as opioid overdose deaths. This means that there are 400 to 465 more opioid deaths thus far this year. Realistically, just six and a half months into 2020, we already have more than 1,200 opioid-related deaths.”

Those who have died are “overwhelmingly people of color,” Arunkumar said. Of the 773 deaths so far this year, 63% have been Black or Latino people. Many are also 45 years old or older — 45- to 55-year-olds, as well as 55- to 64-year-olds, are the two age groups that are most likely to “succumb to an opioid overdose death,” Arunkumar said.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said the county must fight vocally against “future, needless, preventable deaths plaguing our community.” 

“The victims of the opioid epidemic have been quietly dying around us,” she said.

Dr. Steven Aks, the director of toxicology at Cook County Health, said that while there’s been an increase in the number of people dying, there’s been a decrease in the number of people coming to emergency rooms. County officials offered no theories on why those suffering from overdoses are not showing up at the ER, but they made it clear that decision could mean the difference between life and death: “patients given naloxone in the ambulance or at the scene, they will likely survive.”

The county is working to “blanket” communities with as much naloxone, a drug that can reverse an overdose, as possible, though there’s not nearly enough of the drug in communities, said Dr. Kiran Joshi, one of the leaders of the county’s Department of Public Health. The county is working on building partnerships with law enforcement and more effectively connecting people in need with care, Joshi said.

The county’s medical examiner has already handled more cases than it had last year — and the county’s death toll in 2020 is higher than in 2019 due to a mixture of natural causes, the pandemic, street violence and opioids, Preckwinkle said.

“The pandemic continues, and the violence continues, and we continue to see the overdoses,” she said. “I’m not sure anybody can predict what the exact magnitude of that challenge is going to be, but it’s already pretty serious.”

Read the full story from reporter Rachel Hinton.

More news you need

  1. A second man charged with murdering a 7-year-old girl in a shooting at a Fourth of July party in Austin was ordered held without bail today. Davion Mitchell is one of three gunmen who opened fire, killing Natalia Wallace and wounding a man believed to be the intended target.
  2. Mayor Lori Lightfoot has returned to the role of the heavy she has played throughout the pandemic — warning of a rollback unless young people, who account for 30 percent of new COVID-19 cases in the city, get the message. “We are dangerously close to going back to a dangerous state of conditions,” she said.
  3. After complaints from some suburban and downstate officials seeking more local control in fighting the coronavirus, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he would divide Illinois into smaller regions under his reopening plan. The move divides Chicago and suburban Cook County into their own regions.
  4. A man framed for murder by disgraced former Chicago Police Detective Reynaldo Guevara has filed a lawsuit against the city of Chicago. Demetrius Johnson, who spent 13 years in prison, alleges Guevara hid exonerating evidence in a 1991 murder case.
  5. Police Supt. David Brown announced several major leadership changes today that he said will usher in the next generation of leaders whose mission will be to make Chicago “the safest city in the country.” Eric Carter, a 28-year department veteran and former Marine who grew up in Jackson Park, was promoted to the role of first deputy superintendent.
  6. Customers paying with cash at Mariano’s and other Kroger grocery stores will no longer receive coin change. Instead, cashiers can load coin change onto loyalty cards for use on a future shopping trips. Customers will also have the option to round up their total and donate to the grocer’s public charity, which helps reduce waste and hunger in communities.
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A bright one

Business is booming for Tony Moser’s cleaning and disinfecting company

Like many business owners, Tony Moser has pivoted during the pandemic. His pre-pandemic niche: cleaning and disinfecting bloody crime scenes and the homes of hoarders.

He runs two Steri-Clean franchises; one services the Chicago area, the other is in Springfield. As the coronavirus spread, his skills began attracting a new range of clients seeking to ward off the unseen threat before anyone got sick, or to kill any trace of the virus that might be left by workers who tested positive. He says demand has doubled: “I’ve been to warehouses, bakeries, liquor stores, grocery stores, senior living centers and lawyers’ offices.”


Tony Moser poses for a portrait at his business, Steri-Clean, in Lynwood.

| Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Moser said business has grown so much that he’s been booked for at least a week in advance for the past several months. He and his staff, normally accustomed to 10-hour days, now regularly work 16-hour days — most of the time in biohazard suits. 

He has 12 people working for him and hopes to have 20 by the end of the year. But hiring and retaining good people is a challenge, he said, pointing to the sights, smells and emotions that come with the job. “It’s beyond what you could ever believe,” he said. Plus, it’s hot working in a biohazard suit all day, he said.

Read the full story from Mitch Dudek.

From the press box

The Blackhawks made a series of front office changes recently to better prepare for life under the NHL’s flat salary cap due to the pandemic. GM Stan Bowman said the moves will elevate younger voices in the organization and direct more resources towards finding cheap, young players who can contribute during the cap crunch.

Dominik Kubalik, an example of the Hawks’ ability to unearth impressive talents at relatively low costs, also received a nice nod this morning by being named a Calder Trophy finalist as one of the league’s top rookies

Your daily question ☕

What was the last movie you saw in theaters?

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’s the best Wi-Fi name you’ve ever seen? Here’s what some of you said…

“One of my neighbors is ‘BillWiTheScienceFi.’” — Pauline Pang

“I have used ‘FBI Van.’” — Joshua Austin

“Beyonce lives here.” — Thomas J Chirico

EveryDayImBuffering.” — Ken Stroble

“Hide your kids hide your WiFi.” — Michelle Hubicki

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