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Latest coronavirus news for April 14, 2020

Here’s what we know today about the continuing spread of coronavirus and its ripple effects in Chicago and Illinois.

The latest

Pritzker gives up on COVID-19 help from Trump: ‘I don’t expect it anymore’

John L. Alexander/For the Sun-Times; Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Moments after President Donald Trump backed down from a claim that he had the “ultimate authority” over states to reopen the country, Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday said he’s glad the commander-in-chief has recognized the U.S. Constitution, while also calling Trump “nearly irrelevant” when it comes to coronavirus testing.

“We’ve gotten very little help from the federal government. It’s fine. I’ve given up on any promises that have been made,” Pritzker said on CNN’s “Erin Burnett Out Front.” “I hope something will get delivered from the federal government, but I don’t expect it anymore.”

The Democratic governor also warned that fans shouldn’t get their hopes up for major league sports to resume in the state until the outbreak is more under control.

Pritzker’s televised comments came after a Trump news conference in which the president said he will “authorize” governors to reopen their states.

Read the full report from Tina Sfondeles here.


News

9:30 p.m. Nursing home workers claim they were fired over demands for more PPE

Three nursing home workers accused three Chicago-area facilities Tuesday afternoon for wrongfully firing or suspending them after they raised safety issues.

Greg Kelley, president of SEIU Healthcare Illinois, said these were just a few instances during the COVID-19 pandemic where union members’ concerns were being disregarded by nursing home owners.

Kelley said workers at Bridgeview Health Care Center, Alden Lakeland and Berkeley Nursing & Rehab Center brought their concerns to management but were “disrespected, insulted and have in fact been fired” for raising issues with their employers.

“These employers seem to care more about maintaining their profits than the safety of those who live and work in their facility,” Kelley said.

Read the full story by Manny Ramos here.

9:00 p.m. SBA approves 44,453 emergency COVID-19 loans to Illinois employers totaling $12.5 billion

With the demand going to exceed the supply of cash, the COVID-19 emergency Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses and nonprofits so far has approved 44,453 loans in Illinois, totaling $12.5 billion, according to the Small Business Administration.

Across the nation, the program known as PPP has pumped out 1,035,086 loans totaling more than $247 billion, through April 13, according to a PowerPoint the SBA supplied to the House Small Business Committee and obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.

The loan leader under this new program is Texas, with 88,434 loans totaling $21.7 billion, according to the SBA.

The program was designed to help employers meet payroll and stay afloat for a few months as the COVID-19 crisis grows. A reason the program is wildly popular is that if the money is used to meet payroll, the loan is converted to a grant.

Read the full report from Lynn Sweet here.

8:40 p.m. Advocates call for inspection of Cook County Jail amid coronavirus outbreak

Attorneys representing detainees in a lawsuit over Cook County Jail’s response to the coronavirus pandemic pressed a federal judge Tuesday to allow an expert review of conditions “on the ground” after Sheriff Thomas Dart announced new protocols to slow the spread of the virus.

In his report to U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly, Dart outlined increases in testing — using new Abbott Labs rapid test kits — and said that infected inmates will be issued surgical masks. Dart, however, noted that the jail would burn through existing supplies of masks within a week unless orders from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and state Department of Public Health were filled.

Kennelly Tuesday requested additional briefs from both sides before making a ruling on the detainees’ request for additional emergency oversight of the jail. Another teleconference hearing is set for Wednesday in federal court.

Dart’s report also says while jail officials have been providing ample supplies of soap for detainees — a frequent complaint of inmate advocates in recent weeks — soap has been used as a weapon inside the jail.

Read the full story by Andy Grimm.

8:00 p.m. Pritzker arranging secret flights from China to bring millions of masks and gloves to Illinois

Gov. J.B. Pritzker is planning to obtain millions of masks and gloves from China and bring those supplies back to Illinois on charter jets — but he’s keeping the details secret out of fear the Trump administration might seize the cargo for the federal stockpile, sources said Tuesday.

Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza announced Tuesday that the state has spent more than $174 million on purchases related to COVID-19, including supplies such as ventilators, masks, gloves, gowns, protective eyewear and hand sanitizer.

But one of the items on the list of expenditures was unusual: two invoices, each for $888,275, to FedEx Trade Networks Transport for “aircraft charter flight to Shanghai, China for COVID-19 response. ... Prepayment required.”

Jordan Abudayyeh, the press secretary for Pritzker, wouldn’t provide details about the flights, including when they will happen, how many there will be and what the routes are.

She released a statement saying, “The Governor has clearly outlined the challenges this administration has faced as we’ve worked around the clock to purchase PPE [personal protective equipment] for our healthcare workers and first responders.”

Read the full report from Frank Main here.

7:30 p.m. Haymarket Center battles coronavirus outbreak; former employee says they acted ‘too late’

A West Loop mental health and substance abuse treatment center is responding to an outbreak of COVID-19 cases and criticism that it put employees at risk.

Two employees of the Haymarket Center have died in the past two months; the most recent was just last week. Former employees said the deaths were coronavirus-related, but facility officials could not confirm that.

At least 45 people have tested positive for COVID-19 at Haymarket Center, 932 W. Washington Blvd. — 14 employees and 31 patients, according to a facility spokesperson.

Two former employees who spoke to the Sun-Times blame administrators for creating what they said was an unsafe working environment.

Read the full report from Manny Ramos here.

7:09 p.m. Developer apologizes to Little Village residents for ‘anxiety and fear’ caused by demolition

The CEO of Hilco Redevelopment Partners apologized to Little Village residents Tuesday for the “anxiety and fear” caused by the implosion of a 95-year-old smokestack and outlined an “action plan” to mitigate the damage.

One day after Mayor Lori Lightfoot said of Hilco that “They own this,” CEO Roberto Perez did just that.

“We acknowledge and apologize for the anxiety and fear caused this past weekend as the concrete stack at the shuttered Crawford Power Station in Little Village was demolished. These concerns were further elevated given the implosion took place during the extraordinary circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Perez was quoted as saying.

The CEO noted Hilco’s “primary demolition contractor” hired “one of the most recognized implosion experts in the country.”

Read the full report by Fran Spielman here.

6:17 p.m. Greg Maddux celebrates 54th birthday by raising funds for COVID-19 relief

Cubs Hall of Famer Greg Maddux is celebrating his 54th birthday Tuesday by raising money for those who have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Maddux created a GoFundMe and promised to match all donations up to $54,000. The money will be split evenly between Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, Feeding America and Candlelighters, a nonprofit dedicated to childhood cancer, Maddux wrote in the description of the fundraiser page.

Read the full story by Madeline Kenney.

6:06 p.m. Trump orders payments to WHO halted

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says he has directed a halt to U.S. payments to the World Health Organization pending a review of its warnings about the coronavirus and China.

Trump says the outbreak could have been contained at its source and spared lives had the U.N. health agency done a better job investigating reports coming out of China.

The president says the world depends on the World Health Organization to work with countries to make sure accurate information about health threats are shared in a timely manner.

Read more from the Associated Press.

5:32 p.m. 94 members of Chicago Fire Department have tested positive for COVID-19

At least 94 employees of the Chicago Fire Department have tested positive for the coronavirus, the department reported Tuesday.

Of those, 18 members have already returned to duty, according to CFD spokesman Larry Merritt.

Nineteen members of the department are being quarantined after being exposed to someone with COVID-19, he said.

Read the full story by David Struett.

5:01 p.m. Wrigley Field pitching in for pandemic relief effort

Wrigley Field will be used as a food packing and distribution center as part of a COVID-19 relief effort.

Lakeview Pantry will set up the packing and distribution center in Wrigley Field’s concourse with volunteers this week. The center will operate Monday-Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Read the full story by Gene Farris.

4:31 p.m. Nonprofit aims to revive restaurant jobs while providing meals to health care workers on the front-lines

Off Their Plate, a nonprofit organization with the aim of reviving restaurant jobs and providing meals to health care workers on the front-lines of the coronavirus pandemic, launched this week in Chicago.

The group partners with local chefs and business owners who pledge to donate meals to a local hospital or health care facility. The organization raises money from donations and grants for the restaurants to be able to pay their staff.

The organization made its first delivery of 175 meals to Lawndale Christian Health Center Monday and will be expanding to deliver more meals to hospitals in Chicago, Off Their Plate spokesman Sean Savett said in a statement.

Read more of the story by Emmanuel Camarillo.

4 p.m. 2 detainees, employee at Cook County juvenile detention center test positive for COVID-19

The Office of the Chief Judge of Cook County announced Tuesday that two detainees and an employee at the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center have tested positive for COVID-19.

There are now a total of three detainees at the detention center and 16 chief judge’s office employees who have tested positive for the virus, spokesperson for the Office of the Chief Judge of Cook County Pat Milhizer said in a statement.

The detainees were admitted to the detention center last week and “are not exhibiting any signs of illness,” Milhizer said. They were tested under protocols that require testing of new admissions who remain in the facility after their first court appearance.

Read the full story.

3:44 p.m. Coors Light answers a 93-year-old woman’s plea for more beer

A 93-year-old Pennsylvania woman found herself in quite a dilemma last week.

Olive Veronesi of Seminole, Pennsylvania, was down to just 12 cans of Coors Light. Unable to leave her home due to the coronavirus pandemic, Veronesi held a sign up to her window that read, “I NEED MORE BEER!!”

The picture went viral on social media over the weekend, with many calling on Coors Light to help Veronesi out.

Coors Light came through Monday and delivered 10 15-packs of beer to Veronesi’s home outside of Pittsburgh. A smiling Veronesi shared the news on social media by holding up a dry-erase board with the message, “GOT MORE BEER!”

“When we saw Olive’s message, we knew we had to jump at the chance to not only connect with someone who brought a smile to our faces during this pandemic, but also gave us a special opportunity to say thanks for being a Coors Light fan,” Molson Coors Beverage Co.’s chief marketing officer Michelle St. Jacques said in a statement. “Even in the pre-COVID era, we would’ve been thrilled to fulfill Olive’s request. But in this moment, during these unusual times, bringing a little bit of joy to someone’s day is the least we can do.”

Veronesi told Pittsburgh’s KDKA-TV that she cracks open a cold one every night to relax. And if she finds herself in a similar predicament in the future, a spokesperson for Molson Coors told USA Today that Veronesi and her family “have a standing offer for more Coors Light whenever they’re ready for a restock.”

— Madeline Kenney

2:38 p.m. 74 more coronavirus deaths, but ‘we are, in fact, bending the curve,’ Pritzker says

Another 74 people have died from the coronavirus in Illinois, bringing the state’s outbreak toll to 868 deaths, Illinois health officials said on Tuesday.

There are also another 1,222 new cases, bringing the total to 23,247 positive cases. The virus has spread to an additional county, and it is now in 88 of 102 counties, officials said.

While Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Sunday signaled there is hope the state is bending the curve, it’s unclear when cases and deaths will actually drop significantly. The state remains under a stay-at-home executive order until April 30, although Pritzker this week signaled there may be some “adjustments” made to that order in the coming weeks.

Read the full story by Tina Sfondeles.

1:54 p.m. Cook County distributing 240,000 face masks to suburban first responders

Suburban police and fire departments Tuesday began stocking up on the 240,000 N95 masks Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said officials will be distributing in the next two days to combat coronavirus.

“At the beginning of this year most of us had no idea that a mask could literally be the difference between life and death, but today, that’s our reality,” Preckwinkle said at a news conference announcing the county’s distribution of the masks.

“We have an obligation to come together as a community and, as one Cook County, to fight this pandemic with everything we have.”

The protective gear was donated by the U.S. Department of Defense in coordination with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Preckwinkle said at the county’s Emergency Operation Center in Oak Forest, where she was joined by first responders from the suburbs.

Read the full story by Rachel Hinton.

1:42 p.m. Debunking the most popular COVID-19 myths

NewsGuard — “The Internet Trust Tool” — is a rating service that vets news websites for accuracy and transparency. In March, the group launched a “misinformation tracker” to identify websites that were disseminating false information about the novel coronavirus disguised as news.

This week, NewsGuard issued a report examining and debunking the 10 most popular COVID-19 myths that have gained traction online, across multiple, popular websites.

Among the top 10 myths:

“The COVID-19 virus is a manmade bioweapon.”

The truth: Scientific evidence points to the virus originating in bats. A study published in the journal Nature in February 2020 found the new virus’s genome is “96 percent identical” to a bat coronavirus. A March 2020 study published in the journal Nature Medicine concluded that the virus “is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus.”

“5G cell phone technology is linked to the coronavirus outbreak.”

The truth: There is no evidence that the health effects of the COVID-19 virus are related to 5G, according to articles from Reuters and FullFact.org. In an April 2020 article from the BBC, Dr. Simon Clarke, a microbiology professor at the University of Reading, described claims that 5G either transmits the virus, or suppresses the immune system, thus making people more vulnerable to it, as “complete rubbish.” A March 2020 report from the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection found no evidence that 5G networks posed a risk to human health.

See the full report at NewsGuard here.

1:17 p.m. At Chicago shelter for immigrant kids, more than half test positive for COVID-19

More than half of the 69 immigrant children sheltered by nonprofit Heartland Alliance in Chicago have tested positive for the coronavirus, the organization announced Tuesday.

“We are operating under the assumption that we will see additional positive diagnoses as we receive results from the other tests that have been administered, and the steps we are taking to ensure the health and safety of our participants and staff are based on that assumption,” Heartland Alliance spokeswoman Mailee Garcia said.

Garcia said Heartland Alliance has isolated children who tested positive and enacted stricter social distancing measures at all three shelters to prevent further spread of the virus. Employees are also being screened for COVID-19 symptoms prior to each shift, and a professional cleaning company has been hired to clean the facilities.

Unaccompanied children are first processed by federal agents at the border and later handed over to partner organizations across the country The Office of Refugee Resettlement, a branch of the Department of Health and Human Services. said Tuesday it has about 2,500 children in its custody.

Read the full story from reporter Carlos Ballesteros.

11:40 a.m. See what Illinois is buying each day to fight COVID-19 — and what it costs

The Office of Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza has established an online portal showing the state’s daily spending on coronavirus-related purchases, including how much is being spent and what is being purchased.

Mendoza announced the launch of the web portal Tuesday, which bears the title: “What is the fiscal impact of COVID-19 to the State of Illinois?”

Recent purchases itemized in the report include refrigerators, room thermometers and tents from Menards for testing sites, aircraft charter flights to Shanghai, China, personal protective equipment including N95 masks, nitrile gloves and KN95 respirators, and dish soap, paper towels and bottled water from Costco.

The web portal cites Pritzker’s March 9 Gubernatorial Disaster Proclamation that “allows Illinois agencies to coordinate State and Federal resources, including the strategic national stockpile of medicine and personal protective equipment to support local governments in preparation of and during the COVID-19 outbreak in the State of Illinois.”

Mendoza said in a statement Tuesday that she “hope[s] our online portal showing Illinois’ investment in fighting this deadly virus will help drive home the message that none of this should be taken lightly and that people need to stay home and stay safe.”

Lizzie Schiffman Tufano

9:39 a.m. Illinois Democrats push for national COVID-19 death statistics by race

With deaths in Chicago and Illinois throwing a national spotlight on the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately affecting black communities, Illinois Democrats in Congress pushed the Trump administration on Tuesday to require the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to publicly report demographic data.

President Donald Trump promised at a briefing April 7 to have some national race-related COVID-19 statistics in two or three days, but the numbers have yet to materialize.

Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth and the 13 House Democrats from the state signed a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar urging his office to “take action to address the impact of COVID-19 on communities of color — particularly black communities — starting with publicly reporting demographic data of cases and deaths on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website.”

Read the full story from Lynn Sweet here.

8:16 a.m. Infectious disease expert awaiting murder trial requests release to research COVID-19

Even before Wyndham Lathem made international headlines as the target of a week-long manhunt that began after his boyfriend was discovered murdered in a River North apartment three years ago, the microbiologist had been world-renowned for his research on the bubonic plague.

Lathem, 45, has been held at the jail without bail since his arrest and lost his position as a professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

But last week, the accused murderer asked a judge to free him on $1 million bail, because he said he has health conditions that will put him at greater risk if he contracts coronavirus — and because his research skills could help save lives.

“With his background and experience, Dr. Lathem is well-suited to advise and participate in studies that are aimed at understanding SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic,” wrote Dr. William Goldman, chair of Microbiology and Immunology at University of North Carolina, in an email appended to Lathem’s motion. “It would make sense to take advantage of as many experts as possible during this worldwide crisis that is rapidly expanding in scope.”

Read the full story from reporter Andy Grimm.

7:19 a.m. Things to do with your kids while self-quarantining at home

Gov. Pritzker’s stay-at-home-order is set to stay in place until April 30, and Mayor Lightfoot has warned that CPS students may not be back in their classrooms right away.

For parents, that means playing teacher, entertainer and parent all at once, and there are only so many episodes of Paw Patrol a kid can watch.

If your kids crave entertainment — be it exercise, knowledge or social interaction — here’s a list of fun and enriching activities you can do with your kids while you’re at home. And if you’re having difficulty explaining what’s going on in the world to your little ones, the cartoon Dr. Panda has a thorough, kid-appropriate lesson on YouTube.

See our full list of virtual activities, including local events from the Art Institute, Brookfield Zoo and The Lyric Opera.

6:28 a.m. Illinois self-employed, gig workers will get jobless benefits starting May 11

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Monday self-employed and gig workers in Illinois will get their first COVID-19 jobless benefits starting May 11, blaming the delay on “confusing and very stringent regulations” from the Department of Labor “that attempt to severely limit who can actually qualify.”

Coronavirus pandemic stay-at-home orders triggered massive joblessness, overwhelming the Illinois unemployment system and sparking criticism of the Pritzker administration from people desperate to apply for unemployment compensation.

Pritzker used his daily briefing to discuss urgently needed upgrades to the besieged Illinois Department of Employment Security website and call centers and to lay out a timetable to roll out jobless benefits available for the first time to self-employed individuals.

”The unemployment claims process has been a source of hardship for all too many Illinois residents,” the governor said.

“...Our state unemployment filing systems, which were built a decade ago for a much lower number of claims, simply haven’t kept pace. This was the painful truth that we discovered when unemployment began to spike,” Pritzker added.

Read the full story here.


New Cases


Analysis & Commentary

8:31 p.m. King Donald can’t reopen America alone, but neither can governors

Imagine, if you will, that President Trump announces in two or three weeks that it’s time for life to get back to normal in the United States.

Go ahead, folks! Go to church again, reopen your restaurant, get back to work at the factory, visit Grandma in the nursing home.

Imagine, too, that Gov. J.B. Pritzker — or another governor — says “hell no” to all that.

Stay put right where you are, people! Keep hunkering down at home. Now’s no time to let up on social distancing. The coronavirus is on the run but not beaten.

To whom would you listen? The president or the governor?

Millions of Americans no doubt would take their cue from Trump while others would stick with their state’s governor — and the result could be chaos. Continued efforts to thwart the spread of the virus might be undermined as some people return to their normal lives, even as the economy would be thrown into a conflict-loaded limbo, part open and part closed.

Read the full Sun-Times’ editorial here.

3:39 p.m. You can’t even fantasize about sports these days

I miss sports on TV. I miss game stories in my newspaper. I miss just talking about sports with friends and relatives.

Oftentimes, sports were the only safe topic of conversation.

You didn’t want to talk politics with Uncle Louie because he was going to start telling you how Trump is the greatest president in history and the Clintons are responsible for COVID-19.

Uncle Lefty, in the meantime, would fume about the lack of blood tests and the increasing odds that his old 401(k) isn’t going to be paying for his retirement.

Talking politics was never good for the family.

But you could talk about Mitch Trubisky and the only argument you would get is whether he was absolutely terrible, or just pretty bad.

Read the full column by Phil Kadner.

2:46 p.m. Racism and coronavirus double the damage inflicted upon African Americans

Today we are all sheltering in place. To defeat a lethal enemy, we sacrifice freedoms, limit contact with others, surrender financial security, and restrict ourselves from things we would like to be doing, in service of the greater good of saving lives.

It strikes me that the same thing was happening around this time 57 years ago.

On April 16, 1963 (Good Friday that year), 50 courageous individuals chose to be commanded by the government to remain in place; they did so to combat a pernicious, nation-ravaging evil that had taken countless lives and seemingly knew no borders. Led by Martin Luther King, Fred Shuttlesworth and Ralph Albernathy, these peaceful protest marchers were incarcerated by Bull Connor. They intentionally remained in jail, eschewing bond, to combat the deathly evil of racism.

From that very Birmingham Jail, Dr. King would pen his rightly famous letter. He challenged us to pay attention to what his moment made clear, bringing to the surface the problems already present

Read the full column by Rabbi Seth Limmer

7:44 a.m. Why Blacks are hit hardest by COVID-19 — and what that says about health care in America

With COVID-19 claiming more black lives than any other demographic, both here and nationally, conversations the past few weeks with many of my black friends highlight many of the reasons why.

Historical injustices in lack of health care access has NAACP President Derrick Johnson concerned over disparities in who is getting access to testing and treatment.

As a National Institutes of Health study of hospitals that closed between 1987-2007 found, the higher the level of residential segregation and poverty, the higher the likelihood hospitals in those communities had long ago exited. The starkest impact of health care deserts were on black communities.

Blacks represent only 15.4 percent of the 105,768 Illinoisans tested to date; whites, 23.3 percent; Hispanics, 5.86 percent; Asians, 2.25 percent; and other, 4.78 percent, though race was not noted for half of those tested.

With COVID-19 killing blacks at a rate more than twice their population in several states, the need for more information and assistance for black communities during this pandemic is clear, and more importantly, greater access to health care.

Read the full story from Maudlyne Ihejirika.

7:09 a.m. Coronavirus illustrates our failure to create a fair society

The media has just discovered that the coronavirus is far more deadly to blacks and Latinos than to whites. Twice as deadly in New York City, according to the New York Times. Seventy-two percent of the fatalities in Chicago are blacks who constitute about 30 percent of the population. The news is treated as a shocking revelation on the BBC, CNN and CBS and in newspapers across the country.

Why should anyone be shocked? Over 150 years after the abolition of slavery, and over six decades since the end of legal apartheid in this country, America still remains, as the Kerner Commission concluded in 1968, “two societies, one black, one white, separate and unequal.”

The coronavirus does not discriminate, but people do. African Americans and Hispanics are more likely to die because we bear the pre-existing condition known as race.

The reality is harsh and inescapable. African Americans are more likely to be poor, more likely to be unemployed, more likely to lack health insurance, more likely to be arrested, jailed and incarcerated. We live lives of greater stress, in neighborhoods too often scarred by gun violence. The result is a lower life expectancy even before the virus hit. This discrepancy is structural, and it is not accidental. It is, as the Kerner Commission concluded, the direct result of public policy and private prejudice.

Read the full column from Jesse Jackson.

6:12 a.m. America’s security blanket is a doctor named Fauci, not a president named Trump

The day will come when President Donald Trump will announce that the physical separation rules put in place to slow the coronavirus should begin to be lifted, reopening swaths of the economy.

When that day comes, we hope to see Dr. Anthony Fauci standing behind the president, signaling with his presence that the decision is sufficiently based on science, not politics.

For tens of millions of Americans who wouldn’t trust Trump to referee a children’s soccer game, Fauci is the one member of the White House pandemic team who instills confidence. He has fought the good fight behind closed doors, championing science against those who worry more about Wall Street or the president’s reelection prospects. He has been honest in his public statements about what should be done, even at the risk of infuriating Trump.

Which he has.

On Sunday, in a typically terrible move, Trump retweeted a call for Fauci to be fired. The next day, at his Monday press briefing, he then shrugged it off. The retweet — his retweet — “doesn’t matter,” he said, because “that’s somebody’s opinion.”

Maybe Trump figured it out. Canning Fauci would be a political disaster.

Read the full Sun-Times’ editorial here.