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Coronavirus live blog, March 27, 2020: Chicago’s creatives are finding new ways to make ends meet in gig economy amid coronavirus

Here’s the day’s latest news about the novel coronavirus COVID-19 and its ripple effects in Chicago and Illinois.

As the second week of the coronavirus stay-at-home order closed, Illinois’ case number count cracked 3,000, and city officials suggested the order may be extended farther into April.

Here’s what else happened in Chicago and around the state.

News

8:56 p.m. Chicago’s creatives are finding new ways to make ends meet in gig economy amid coronavirus

DJ Gemini Jones
Veteran gig worker DJ Gemini Jones would like to see more done for DJs who are losing out on income due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Jeff Schear

DJ Gemini Jones, like most local DJs, is a member of the gig economy — independent workers who are paid by the event — and who now find themselves out of work during the coronavirus pandemic.

The gigs at bars, venues, restaurants, concerts and the private/corporate ones — the most lucrative for DJs — have all dried up.

“Financially, I’m broke,” said Jones, who had a residency at The Promontory, a Hyde Park-based music venue. “[The coronavirus pandemic] has pretty much taken everything I had on my calendar into May; it is all gone now. What I’m doing to make money, honestly, at this point, I mixed [her last gigs] the last couple times with Cash App donations [to get] me by right now.”

After Gov. J.B. Pritzker gave the shelter-in-place order for all bars and restaurants to close through the end of the month, many of the city’s sound selectors have been out of work and are trying to find ways to supplement their usual income.

In addition to the DJ gigs, Jones lost another source of income — fees paid by local creatives who record podcasts at a space she rents from BPM Chicago, a West Side-based multimedia studio.

She now plans to teach a couple of online classes in order to make ends meet.

See how other Chicago creatives are getting by in Evan F. Moore’s full report.

8:23 p.m. Jail population falls to record low as COVID-19 measures take hold

The Cook County Jail population dropped to its lowest level in decades this week after judges began a sweeping review of criminal cases in an effort to clear space to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The jail population Friday had fallen to 5,003 — down by 400 or so detainees who were there on Monday when Chief Criminal Court Judge LeRoy Martin Jr. ordered a case-by-case bond reassessments of those charged with mostly non-violent offenses.

As the reviews began Tuesday and continued through the week, judges ordered the immediate release of inmates who were determined to not pose a threat to the public.

On Monday, officials announced the first two confirmed case of COVID-19 at the jail. By Friday, the jail had logged 38 confirmed cases. Nine sheriff’s office employees also tested positive for COVID-19.

Reporter Andy Grimm has the full story.

7:36 p.m. Legalizing pot deliveries gains momentum during coronavirus crisis

As Illinoisans are ordered to hunker down to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, calls to allow legal marijuana deliveries have increased.

Rep. Sonya Harper (D-Chicago) introduced legislation last month that would allow cannabis dispensaries to deliver marijuana to both medical pot patients and recreational customers. Now, she’s calling on Gov. J.B. Pritzker to take immediate action amid the rising public health crisis.

“I would be happy to see if the governor maybe could make a special executive order allowing that, or us being able to get that legislation through maybe quicker than normal this year to provide for that,” said Harper, who co-sponsored the bill that legalized pot statewide at the start of the year.

That landmark piece of legislation didn’t include a provision allowing deliveries, though lawmakers discussed the prospect while it was being drafted.

Reporter Tom Schuba has more on this story. Read it here.


6:53 p.m. 10 more Chicago police officers test positive for COVID-19

A Chicago Police car is parked in front of a Target store in downtown Chicago on Sunday.
Nam Y. Huh/AP

Ten more Chicago police officers have tested positive for COVID-19, the department announced Friday.

One of those officers was hospitalized, “but is doing well despite symptoms,” CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in a tweet Friday.

All told, 21 CPD employees — 20 officers and one civilian — have tested positive. Aside from the officer hospitalized Friday, two other employees of the department have required emergency medical treatment.

The cases have been reported throughout the department, from its patrol and detective divisions to the department’s headquarters in Bronzeville, Guglielmi said.

“Some of the newer cases are occurring in the areas that have had previous reports,” Guglielmi said.

He said some districts have reported two or three cases, but would not specify which districts because of HIPAA restrictions.

The department has a plan in place that allows CPD leadership to quickly redeploy officers from any unit to a patrol district if there is a need for extra manpower, Guglielmi said. The CPD’s current deployment levels are normal, though officers’ days off could be canceled and their assignments are subject to change at any given moment.

Earlier Friday, it was reported that more than 400 uniformed New York City police officers had tested positive for COVID-19. Guglielmi said Interim CPD Supt. Charlie Beck is in daily communication with the leadership from the NYPD and the Los Angeles Police Department, which Beck formerly headed.

“We are not at the critical level, but we are taking infection control very seriously,” Guglielmi said.

— Sam Charles

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that two specific police districts had more reported cases than the others.

6:18 p.m. Mayor Lori Lightfoot guarding the lakefront is now a meme

Now that Chicagoans have nothing to do but stay inside and scroll social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Reddit, memes that only locals would appreciate are inevitably cropping up.

The latest trend pokes fun at the harsh new reality by photoshopping a stony-faced Mayor Lightfoot blocking entrance to the outdoor spaces her administration has closed.

In one photoshopped image, Lightfoot stands in front of police barricades blocking the lakefront trail from rule-breakers, emitting the vibe of a middle school principal who just walked into a classroom that’s gone off the rails.

See more of these hilarious memes in Alice Bazerghi’s report.

5:35 p.m. You know the Chicago quarantine is getting to Bears fans when they start missing Jay Cutler

Chicagoans have another week and a half of quarantine — maybe longer — but the effects of the stay-at-home order on Bears fans weren’t as pronounced until Jay Cutler started trending on Twitter Friday.

User @thegeorgeyou tweeted out a short compilation video highlighting some of the former Bears quarterback’s finest moments, including some admittedly great passes and displays of true grit, like losing his helmet to make a touchdown and air fist-pumping.

That video seemed to get some Bears fans thinking that maybe Cutler was underrated all along, while others refused to let the quarantine’s rose-colored glasses cloud their feelings about Cutler.

Still, seeing Jay Cutler get some late praise should say something about Bears fans’ feelings on Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles.

Read the full story by Alison Martin here.

4:55 p.m. Aurora mayor, police chief test positive for COVID-19

The mayor of west suburban Aurora and the police chief have tested positive for COVID-19, officials announced Friday.

Mayor Richard Irvin and Chief Kristen Ziman were tested March 21 after a police supervisor was diagnosed with the disease, Aurora spokesman Clayton Muhammad said in an emailed statement.

“While I’ve experienced some serious flu-like symptoms this week, I’m feeling much better and looking forward to making a full recovery,” Irvin said in a statement. “I am imploring our community to stay at home. The only way to beat this is by working together. It’s not easy, but it’s necessary.”

Irvin said he wasn’t certain when he contracted the virus.

Read the full report here.

4:45 p.m. Museum of Science and Industry extends temporary closure due to COVID-19

In an attempt to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the Museum of Science and Industry announced Friday that it has extended its temporary closure through next month and has postponed or canceled all public events that were scheduled to be held from now until April 30.

Since everyone is urged to stay inside for the foreseeable future, the museum is encouraging families to “discover science at home” through various activities and experiments, including making slime, building a stomp rocket and more.

The museum is expected to reopen to the public May 1, though that could change depending on the recommendations of the Chicago Department of Public Health and the CDC.

For ideas on how you can discover science at home, visit the museum’s website.

— Madeline Kenney

3:54 p.m. Trump signs $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package into law

President Donald Trump signed an unprecedented $2.2 trillion economic rescue package into law Friday, saying it will “deliver urgently needed relief” to Americans hard-hit by the sweeping shutdowns in response to the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

Trump’s signing follows an extraordinary spectacle where hundreds of House members on Friday from both sides of the aisle spaced apart in the chamber and the overhead gallery to approve the bill with a voice vote.

A request by Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., for a recorded vote and a quorum call was gaveled down and the quick voice vote taken after almost four hours of debate.

After the vote on the massive piece of legislation, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said, “What we are all working on right now is translating this into a toolkit for our members, so that any one of their constituents ... that they know immediately how they can avail themselves of what is in this legislation. It is there, it is substantial. We need to do more.”

Read the full report to this developing story by Lynn Sweet here.

3:47 p.m. Pritzker cites dire need for medical supplies on Illinois’ deadliest day since the coronavirus outbreak

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday outlined the ways both the state and federal government are trying to get food and other social services to those who need it during the coronavirus outbreak.

The Democratic governor also addressed President Donald Trump’s televised comments on Thursday that some governors across America are overestimating their need for more medical equipment.

“To say these comments are counter-productive is an understatement,” Pritzker said. “And frankly, at worst, the comments are deadly.”

Health officials also announced another eight deaths from the coronavirus, bringing the state’s total to 34. Friday marked the largest number of people killed in the state. There are also an additional 488 new cases, with Illinois now seeing 3,026 confirmed cases in 40 counties.

Read more from Tina Sfondeles on this developing story.

3:35 p.m. McDonald’s to donate 400,000 KF94 masks to the State of Illinois Emergency Management Agency

With help from its partners in China, McDonald’s on Friday pledged to donate 400,000 KF94 masks to those who are on the front line of the coronavirus pandemic in Illinois.

Chief supply chain and sustainability officer Francesca DeBiase, who announced the news in a LinkedIn post, said McDonald’s will give the masks to the State of Illinois Emergency Management Agency to be dispersed among police and first responders who are helping to contain the spread of COVID-19.

“I applaud Governor JB Pritzker for his leadership and support for Illinois residents during this crisis,” DeBiase wrote. “Together with our suppliers, we have the ability to leverage global resources to meet local needs, and I’m confident we can continue to support those who need it most in our communities.”

Read the announcement from DeBiase here.

— Madeline Kenney

3:00 p.m. Mayor Lightfoot thinks stay-at-home order will last ‘deep into April,’ but says it is the Governor’s call

The state-wide stay-at-home order is likely to continue “deep into April,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Friday, but the final call will be made by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

The governor’s order is scheduled to expire on April 7. So does his statewide order that closed all public and private schools. Lightfoot has ordered Chicago Public Schools closed through April 20.

In a conference call with reporters on Friday, the mayor was asked whether she has had any discussions with Pritzker about extending the stay-at-home order beyond April 7.

“I think, realistically, we’re looking at something that’s gonna stretch deep into April,” the mayor said.

“The governor’s team are very able. They’re looking at similar data to what we are. And I’m sure that is a conversation that is probably under active discussion.”

Read more from City Hall reporter Fran Spielman on this story.

2:51 p.m. City creates grants to help residents with rent, mortgage payments

Chicagoans whose jobs have been affected by the coronavirus can get help with rent or mortgage payments under a grant program Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Friday.

Lightfoot said 2,000 grants of $1,000 each will be made in early to mid April. The $2 million allocated will come from the city’s Affordable Housing Opportunity Fund, which is bankrolled by developers building market-rate housing.

Reporter David Roeder has more information on who can apply for the grants and how here.

2:34 p.m. Government, hospital ‘failed’ to protect 12 Chicago nurses who tested positive for COVID-19

Twelve registered nurses from the University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago have tested positive for COVID-19 one week after the Illinois Nurses Association pleaded for safer working conditions and more personal protective equipment.

“These nurses served patients on the front line of the fight to contain the coronavirus pandemic and risked their lives to make sure patients received proper care,” INA executive director Alice Johnson said in a statement. “We hoped their hospital and their government would protect them, but they failed.”

Johnson said some nurses are having to care for patients with the coronavirus without proper protective gear.

“They do not know day to day if they will have masks, gowns, gloves or goggles for that shift,” Johnson said. “One nurse said their unit manager scolded them for wearing a mask in a room where a COVID-19 positive patient was being intubated.”

Read the full report here.

— Madeline Kenney

1:24 p.m. Project CURE to host equipment drive at United Center

With essential medical supplies running low due to the coronavirus outbreak, Project CURE, with the support of Illinois Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, announced Friday its plan to host an equipment drive at the United Center this weekend.

On Sunday, Project CURE will be collecting a variety of public protection equipment supplies — including sterile and non-sterile gloves, hand sanitizers and goggles — at Lot F on the west side of the United Center, the home of the Blackhawks and Bulls.

The drive will happen from 12 p.m. until 4 p.m., and donations will be distributed among local healthcare providers across Illinois.

For a list of items being collected at the drive, please click here.

— Madeline Kenney

12:42 p.m. House approves $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill

In an extraordinary spectacle, hundreds of House members on Friday from both sides of the aisle spaced apart in the chamber and the overhead gallery approved a $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill a voice vote.

The bill heads to President Donald Trump for signing.

A request by Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., for a recorded vote and a quorum call was gaveled down and the quick voice vote taken after almost four hours of debate.

Washington Bureau Chief Lynn Sweet has the full story on the historic vote.

12:05 p.m. Cook County officials: 38 cases of coronavirus at Cook County Jail

The number of detainees at Cook County Jail with COVID-19 has risen to 38, Sheriff Tom Dart said Friday at a press conference at the jail with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. On Thursday, the Cook County sheriff’s office announced that 24 detainees and nine employees of the jail have tested positive for the disease.

Sheriff Tom Dart said that the population at the jail had fallen to record lows this week, as judges began a court-ordered review of all in-custody defendants cases that is intended to drastically cut the number of inmates by releasing non-violent offenders on bond.

The massive jail complex, one of the nation’s largest, housed nearly 12,000 detainees as recently as a decade ago, though the number had fallen to fewer than 6,000 on average since 2017, when Chief Judge Timothy Evans mandated a series of new procedures geared toward allowing more defendants to go free on bond.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

The years of work has created space at the jail, which housed around 12,000 inmates when Dart first took office, to create areas to isolate inmates who are sick or have been exposed to the virus.

“We have to be under no illusions here, there’s no notion we’re going to be able to empty the jail,” Dart said. “We have to be able to house them in a safe and thoughtful way.”

Preckwinkle, a longtime advocate of bond reforms, compared prisons and jails to the “petri dish” conditions seen on cruise ships and nursing homes, where close quarters have led to the rampant spread of the virus.

“There’s no question we’re in a fight, and this is the fight of our lives, and our families lives, and our sheriff’s deputies’ lives,” Preckwinkle said. “Right here at the Cook County Jail, it’s a fight for the lives of those who are innocent until proven guilty.”

— Andy Grimm

10:30 a.m. State lawmakers sweat coronavirus spread: no one knows ‘exactly how bad it will be’

The coronavirus pandemic has thrown state government into flux, as the legislative session has been put on pause. And now state officials are scrambling – largely by phone – to try and figure out how to manage Illinois’ already precarious financial situation.

“Clearly the state is in a shaky fiscal condition even prior to the coronavirus scenario presenting itself,” said state Sen. Don DeWitte, R- St. Charles.

While the entire country is feeling the effects of the coronavirus, with mass unemployment caused by social-distancing measures recommended by health experts to slow the spread of the virus, Illinois is in a uniquely poor financial situation some state legislators have admitted.

How Illinois’ finances are impacted by the virus remains to be seen, and state budget officials say it is too early to estimate the damage.

Reporter Neal Earley has more on the state’s financial situation here.

9:41 a.m. Hyde Park hotel offers U of C medical staff free rooms to aid in coronavirus fight

A boutique hotel in Hyde Park closed its doors to the general public Friday and opened them to University of Chicago Medical Center staff battling the coronavirus — free of charge.

The Sophy Hyde Park will offer up 90 of its 98 rooms, hotel spokesman Gayle Conran said.

Reporter Mitch Dudek has the story.

9:04 a.m. Two more CPD employees diagnosed with COVID-19

Two more Chicago Police Department employees have tested positive for COVID-19.

As of Friday morning, 11 people in the CPD — which has more than 13,000 employees — have tested positive. Most recently, the virus was confirmed in a patrol officer on the South Side and a civilian employee on the West Side, according to a departmental statement.

Interim CPD Supt. Charlie Beck announced new department protocols Wednesday to prevent the spread of the disease among officers.

However, the Fraternal Order of Police, the union representing rank-and-file officers, has said the measures don’t go nearly far enough to protect the health and well-being of officers.A man was arrested Monday night after allegedly entering the 11th District police station and coughing on front desk staff, police said. Another man was charged with coughing in an officer’s face Sunday morning and claiming he had the coronavirus.

Read more about confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Chicago Police Department.

7:33 a.m. Live map of known coronavirus cases in Illinois

We’ve partnered with The Chicago Reporter in their efforts to track and map every known coronavirus case in the state as new infections are confirmed by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Follow our live map for daily updates here.

6:44 a.m. Coronavirus stimulus bill House vote could require members to assemble

The potential insistence of one House member for a roll call on the emergency $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill — poised to pass by a voice vote Friday — forced House leaders late Thursday to ask members if “they are able and willing” to rush back to Washington.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., in a Thursday night notice to members said, “Members are advised that it is possible this measure will not pass by voice vote. Members are encouraged to follow the guidance of their local and state health officials, however if they are able and willing to be in Washington D.C. by 10:00 a.m. tomorrow, Members are encouraged to do so with caution.”

At least two members of the Illinois delegation hurried back, Democrats Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi and Jan Schakowsky.

“Took the last flight back tonight,” Schakowsky spokesman Miguel Ayala told the Sun-Times a little after midnight Thursday.

The Senate passed the giant measure 96-0. Given the spreading coronavirus pandemic, the House attending physician has been recommending telecommuting at a time when governors have issued stay-at-home orders.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy agreed to a voice vote since there is bipartisan agreement on the package.

Read the full story from Washington Bureau Chief Lynn Sweet.

6:02 a.m. How recreational weed went from illegal to ‘essential’ in 3 months

Unlike thousands of businesses, pot stores have been able to keep their doors open under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s statewide stay-at-home order, which labeled all dispensaries and cultivation centers “essential businesses.” The decision to allow the high times to keep rolling amid the rising public health crisis is an acknowledgment that, for many Illinoisans, buying weed is as vital as doing laundry or grocery shopping.

As similar stay-at-home directives are being issued in states across the country, many have deemed marijuana businesses essential. In Massachusetts, medical sales are allowed to continue but recreational operations were forced to shut down on Monday — a move pot advocates said was short-sighted.

Margo Vesely, executive of the Illinois chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, the country’s oldest weed advocacy group, argues that it’s important for people who use the drug for health and wellness purposes to continue to have access to recreational pot. That’s because many of them simply can’t afford to pay for a doctor’s visit to get a prescription or the $100 registration fee for a medical license.

Reporter Tom Schuba has more.


New cases


Analysis & Commentary

6:53 p.m. So please stop! Please, y’all. Just stop.

It’s not safe to go to church right now. Period

Dear church, how can I say this in a way that even a little child can understand? Sat down!

Dear preacher, your snake-oil prescriptions and presumptuous faith amid this global pandemic now upon us are going to mess around and get somebody killed. Look, it’s not safe to go to church right now. Period.

Indeed assembling in the House of the Lord — whether mega church or urban storefront; whether Baptist, Catholic, COGIC, or any such denomination — can place the saints, young and old, in the swirling viral waters of COVID-19.

So please stop! Please, y’all. Just stop.

Read more from John W. Founation here.

4:18 p.m. This mayor does not play

The meme was bouncing around Facebook. A photo of Mayor Lori Lightfoot at a press conference. She wears a grim, menacing frown. Her hands grip the City Hall podium. The boldface caption reads, “I said, Get in the House.”

It took me back to the treasured summers of my childhood, those long, sultry, evenings of playtime. Time for bike-riding, double-dutching, hopscotching, firefly-chasing.

“Be home by the time the streetlights come on,” was Mama’s iron-clad rule.

The lights came on. Mama waves at the window.

A few minutes later, she calls out. Later, a shout. “It’s getting dark … you need to come home. … I told you before … ”

Then, she is standing over me, with a grim, menacing frown, hands on her hips.

“Get in the house!”

Lightfoot’s stern message made national headlines Thursday. She brought down the hammer on Chicagoans who blithely ignored strict orders to stay out of parks, playgrounds, and other gathering places in this coronavirus spring.

Lightfoot shut down the entire Chicago lakefront, its adjacent parks and recreational areas, the 606 Trail and the Riverwalk.

Like my Mama, the mayor warned us.

Read Laura Washington’s column here.

2:10 p.m. Why cram more baseball games into a sawed-off season? You know the rea$on

There is no real reason other than money for teams to play two or three doubleheaders a week, as has been suggested. The idea of seven-inning games, another floated idea, seems sacrilegious. If owners and players want more work and bigger paychecks for beer vendors, ushers and grounds-crew workers at ballparks, I’m all for it. It’s just hard to believe that’s what this is about.

Why not simply play a shortened season? A game a day, like normal? You, the wise fan and observer of life, know exactly why not: a loss of dollars. Players’ contracts will be prorated when the 2020 season does start. The more games they play, the more money they’ll make. For owners, more games will mean more butts in more seats and, presumably, more TV money. It’s why players and management want to get as close to a full, 162-game schedule as possible.

MLB likes to view the national pastime as a balm when the country is hurting, and maybe it is a balm. But does week after week of multiple doubleheaders serve as an industrial-strength soother?

Read Rick Morrissey’s column here.

10:30 a.m. Lakefront and park closures a necessary inconvenience

Because so many of us aren’t taking “social distancing” seriously, the lakefront was officially closed off to the public Thursday, with violators subject to arrest.

Until now, we’ve all been on the honor system.

The problem is some of us aren’t so honorable.

Don’t make the police make us do it.

Read Mary Mitchell’s column here.

6:28 a.m. EDITORIAL: Stay home. Save lives. It’s as simple as that, Chicago

We have no choice but to throw our support behind Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s decision to shut down the Lakefront Trail and other public spaces to try and slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Lightfoot had to do it, without a doubt. The virus is spreading rapidly here in Chicago and the rest of Illinois. Lives are at stake, plain and simple.

So, too, is the fate of our health care system and hospitals, already coping with dozens of COVID-19 patients in intensive care.

Just how dire are things? The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board has more.