Latest coronavirus news for April 2, 2020: Live updates

Here’s the news from April 2, 2020, about the novel coronavirus COVID-19 and its ripple effects in Chicago and Illinois.

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A record 6.6 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week as layoffs continue at companies across the country. In Illinois, first-time jobless claims were up 56% from the prior week.

But around Chicago and the state, spots of good emerged as people rose up to help those in need. Here’s what went down today as the state and its residents continued the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

News

8:54 p.m. CPS teachers on parade: 30-car caravan brightens day for kids missing school (yes, some are)

Teachers and staff at Dore Elementary School parade around the neighborhood Thursday afternoon, waving to families and children in the Southwest Side community.

Teachers and staff at Dore Elementary School parade around the neighborhood Thursday afternoon, waving to families and children in the Southwest Side community.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

With Chicago schools closed because of the coronavirus, teachers are trying their best to bring their lessons home to students — and educators at a Southwest Side school took that a step further this week.

A few dozen teachers at Dore Elementary drove through the Clearing neighborhood Thursday afternoon in a 30-car caravan, led by a Chicago police escort, honking their horns and waving to kids as they passed by families’ homes.

With music blaring from teachers’ cars that were painted with messages for their students, more than a dozen families on a single block waved back at their educators.

Maureen O’Hara, a fourth grade teacher who helped organize the effort, said parents and students were thrilled when they heard their teachers were coming by to say hello.

Reporter Nader Issa has the full story with photos by Ashlee Rezin Garcia.

8:17 p.m. Chief judge’s office employee working at juvenile detention center tests positive for coronavirus

The Office of the Chief Judge of Cook County announced Thursday two more confirmed cases of the coronavirus, including another of its employees.

The employee works at the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center and last reported for work March 27, the chief judge’s office said in a statement. It’s the seventh employee of the chief judge’s office to test positive for the virus.

The employee worked an overnight shift when juvenile residents were in their single-occupancy bedrooms and had no contact with the juveniles, officials said. However, the employee had contact with 14 staff members during the shift.

Officials said no staff members or juvenile residents at the detention center currently have COVID-19 symptoms.

Read more from Sun-Times reporters here.

7:34 p.m. Rapid coronavirus testing starting in Illinois

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Thursday that Illinois was set to receive 15 machines that process rapid COVID-19 tests developed by North Chicago-based Abbott Labs.

During his daily press briefing, Pritzker said the first shipment was expected later Thursday, adding that representatives from the medical supply firm assured him that its home state “is a priority for them.”

“We expect to have machines online very shortly,” Pritzker said.

Abbott’s groundbreaking coronavirus test can deliver positive results in just five minutes and negative results in 13 minutes. As he touted the advancement as “a game changer,” Pritzker noted that existing tests take about four to six hours to process results.

Reporter Tom Schuba has more on Abbott’s new tests.

7:06 p.m. When to expect your $1,200 stimulus check

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US Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin speaks while US president Donald Trump listens during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus.

Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

U.S. Treasury Sec. Steve Mnuchin said Thursday emergency payments of up to $1,200 for eligible taxpayers should be out the door within two weeks but will take longer if people are not signed up to get direct payments.

“This money does people no good if shows up in four months,” he said. Every American will be getting their money “quickly,” Mnuchin added, vowing to deliver on his promise. “Quickly is a matter of weeks, not months.”.

The money is in the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act — known as the CARES Act — that was signed last Friday.

Earlier in the day, Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee released a timeline from the IRS aiming for all the payments — either direct deposit or via checks — to be out the door by the first week of May, according to a memo from the committee.

For most people, the payments will be automatically sent.

According to the committee memo, direct deposits payments will go out the week of April 13. The IRS will use direct deposit information from people who used it for their 2018 or 2019 tax returns.

During the week of May 4, the IRS will begin issuing paper checks to individuals.

Read the full story on when to expect your federal relief check from Washington Bureau Chief Lynn Sweet.

6:39 p.m. Trump admin moves toward promoting broader use of face masks

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is formalizing new guidance to recommend that many, if not almost all, Americans wear face coverings when leaving home, in an effort to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

The recommendations, still being finalized Thursday, would apply at least to those who live in areas hard-hit by community transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19. A person familiar with the White House coronavirus task force’s discussion said officials would suggest that non-medical masks, T-shirts or bandannas be used to cover the nose and mouth when outside the home — for instance, at the grocery store or pharmacy. Medical-grade masks, particularly short-in-supply N95 masks, would be reserved for those dealing directly with the sick.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the proposed guidance before its public release.

Read the full story from The Associated Press here.

6:06 p.m. Retired cop is making face shields to help his brothers, sisters in blue

A retired cop is making face shields to help protect his former colleagues in the Chicago Police Department from the coronavirus.

Mark Mattozzi came up with the idea last week and started making the shields Saturday. He’s made more than 400 so far.

“You see, in addition to being a cop all my life, I’m also a sailor, and you have to fix things on a boat, and this requires learning how to sew. So I took a class and bought a machine,” said Mattozzi, 54, who lives on the Near North Side.

Reporter Mitch Dudek has the full story.

5:20 p.m. 16 more die in Illinois from COVID-19

Illinois health officials on Thursday said another 16 people have died from the coronavirus, with another 715 new cases being reported.

The latest numbers were lower than the record-high 42 deaths recorded a day earlier, but even though the new case count was lower, the Illinois Department of Public Health has warned that the state has not yet seen the peak impact of the pandemic.

In total, 157 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois. The 715 new cases bring the state to 7,695 confirmed cases, with the virus now reported in 61 of 102 counties, health officials said.

Twelve of the latest deaths were in Cook County, including a man in his 30s and a man and woman in their 40s, officials said.

Among the deaths was a narcotics officer in the Chicago Police Department, marking the first fatal COVID-19 case to hit a nearly 14,000-person department with more than 60 confirmed cases. Interim CPD Supt. Charlie Beck identified the officer as Marco DiFranco.

Read the full story from reporter Tina Sfondeles.

5:12 p.m. City workers remove basketball rims after zip ties didn’t stop players

To put an end to groups that continue to play basketball at parks the city closed, Chicago Park District workers used zip ties to affix a piece of wood over basketball hoops. The maneuver sabotaged attempts to play, that is, until people cut them off and continued to play.

So on Thursday, park district workers began removing the rims from backboards to ensure no one would be playing basketball. A park district spokesman said Thursday in an emailed statement:

“Throughout the week, Park officials have observed large gatherings of people using basketball courts at Lincoln Park and other locations despite park security efforts to disperse use violating the state’s mandate and health guidance, both requiring that residents do not gather in groups to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.

“The mechanisms put in place to discourage use were vandalized at several parks. As a result, the District made the decision to remove the basketball rims at parks closed under the Governor’s executive order to ensure residents comply with the State’s mandate and abstain from non-essential activities.

“The Chicago Park District Security and the Chicago Police Department will continue to patrol the lakefront and disband people who violate the closure while the order is in effect.”

— Mitch Dudek

4:46 p.m. 12 more CPD employees test positive for COVID-19

The Chicago Police Department announced Thursday that 12 more employees have tested positive for the coronavirus.

There are now 76 total cases of the disease in the department, police said. Of the total, 74 are police officers and two are civilian members.

The announcement comes the same day officials confirmed the death of an officer due to COVID-19, the first in the nearly 14,000-person department.

Read the full story.

4:15 p.m. APB for PPE: County seeks donations of masks, gloves, other personal protective equipment

Cook County officials are asking businesses to donate any unused face shields, goggles, gloves or other personal protective equipment so it can be given to those on the front lines battling the coronavirus pandemic.

The donation program for unused protective equipment for first responders and healthcare workers will be overseen by the county’s Department of Emergency Management and Regional Security.

They will accept unused personal protective equipment, or PPE, according to a news release.

“We want to ensure that those in our community who are on the front lines of the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic have the protection they need to safely do their work,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said. “During this nationwide shortage of PPE, we are facilitating the collection and distribution of this urgently needed equipment.”

Read the full story from reporter Rachel Hinton here.

3:10 p.m. Coworkers of City Colleges worker who died from coronavirus weren’t warned after possible exposure, union says

Chicago City College officials didn’t alert the coworkers of a Wright College employee who died this week of complications from the coronavirus after they may have been exposed to the virus, according to unions representing college employees.

The unions said City Colleges has also not released a safety plan for employees, provided them with a list of essential employees who are still required to report to work at the buildings nor consistently provided personal protective equipment to those workers.

Carmelita Cristobal, 71, died Tuesday at Resurrection Medical Center on the Northwest Side of acute respiratory distress syndrome brought on by a COVID-19 infection, with cardiovascular disease and diabetes as contributing factors, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

In a video-streamed announcement Thursday afternoon, Tony Johnston, president of the Cook County College Teaches Union Local 1600, said Cristobal was sent home from work after potentially interacting with other employees on March 16.

Read the full story from reporter Matthew Hendrickson.

2:30 p.m. Father Pfleger, volunteers deliver meals to ICU workers at community hospitals

Looking to show their support for the medical professionals on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis, FatherMichael Pfleger and volunteers from St. Sabina Church delivered hundreds of meals to local community hospitals in Chicago on Thursday.

“We called all the hospitals and they were all so grateful to get the call, so we’re bringing 150 boxed lunches to the four hospitals today for their emergency room and intensive care employees so that they can get a free lunch on us and know we’re grateful and thankful,” Pfleger told the Sun-Times while delivering food at Mercy Hospital.

Healthcare workers at Saint Bernard Hospital, Jackson Park Hospital, and Roseland Hospital also each received 150 meals from Jason’s Deli as part of an idea hatched from conversations with Mercy Hospital nurse Delois Willis.

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Meals are delivered from Father Michael Pfleger and St. Sabina Church to Mercy Hospital.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

“Health care workers really always have been under-appreciated,” Father Pfleger said. “I think now at this time when so many people are getting sick, so many people are frightened, so many people are afraid to even go out, they’re coming to work every day.

“... they’re really choosing to take a risk because this is what they do. This is their passion, this is their purpose. They want to keep doing it in times like this when they’re most needed by the community.

“We’re just grateful for them all across the country for what they’re doing right now.”

— Satchel Price with reporting from Ashlee Rezin Garcia

1:35 p.m. First-time jobless claims up 56% in Illinois from prior week

Initial unemployment claims in Illinois filed the week of March 28 rose 56% from the previous week, reflecting massive layoffs from the economic shutdown due to the coronavirus.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security counted 178,421 initial claims for jobless benefits for the last full week in March, compared with 114,114 for the week ending March 21. In turn, that number was up 950% from the week of March 14.

In the same end-of-March week last year, there were just 9,230 first-time claims.

Read the full story from reporter David Roeder.

12:35 p.m. Chicago police officer dies from coronavirus

A Chicago police officer died from the coronavirus early Thursday.

The officer’s death is the first in the nearly 14,000-person department, which has seen more than 60 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Interim CPD Supt. Charlie Beck identified the officer as Marco DiFranco.

“His sacrifice underscores the threats that are faced by public safety employees who are not, by nature of their profession, allowed to shelter in place, shelter at home,” Beck said at a City Hall news conference, where was joined by the Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Kevin Graham, president of the Fraternal Order of Police.

Sources said the 50-year-old officer has been with the CPD since 1998 and was assigned to the Narcotics Division based out of the CPD’s Homan Square facility.

Beck said the deceased officer leaves behind two children, ages 7 and 10, and has a brother who is also a CPD officer. The deceased officer’s family, as well as his brother, are all in quarantine, Beck said.

Fran Spielman and Sam Charles have the full report.

12:08 p.m. YMCA to reopen as emergency childcare option for healthcare workers and first responders

The YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago announced that it will be reopening two of its facilities to provide emergency childcare for essential workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Y will reopen its Irving Park location and the Buehler YMCA in Palatine as childcare centers. The facilities will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. for first responders and healthcare workers to drop off their children.

One day of childcare at the Y will cost $60 per child, which will cover the cost of breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for the child, as well as paying staff. The program will allow for some furloughed YMCA staff to return to work.

In order to keep facilities clean and safe, the Y says it will be taking precautionary measures such as taking the temperature of every person entering their buildings, limiting groups to no more than 10 people per room, and deep cleaning each site nightly.

Families interested in this service are encouraged to register ahead of time, as it will be conducted on a first-come, first-serve basis.

For more information, visit the YMCA website.

Caroline Hurley

11:40 a.m. University of Illinois and Loyola University will conduct all Summer 2020 courses remotely

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Loyola University announced that they will conduct all Summer 2020 classes online in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Loyola made the announcement in an email to students and staff on March 30, while U. of I. alerted students and staff on Thursday.

In an message to the university community, U. of I. said, “We know that this decision about summer courses may generate additional questions about summer research, programs, travel, housing, events, remote work protocols, etc. We are not ready to make those decisions at this time, but as soon as we are ready, you will be notified.”

Caroline Hurley

11:17 a.m. The Democratic National Convention has been delayed from June to August

On Thursday morning the Democratic National Convention Committee announced that the party’s national convention will be postponed to the week of August 17. It will still be held in Milwaukee.

In a statement posted online, Joe Solmonese, CEO of the Democratic National Convention Committee, said, “In our current climate of uncertainty, we believe the smartest approach is to take additional time to monitor how this situation unfolds so that we can best position our party for a safe and successful convention.”

Read more here.

11:05 a.m. Second City plans livestream improv show starring housebound duos

The Second City, Chicago’s 60-year-old warhorse of improv and sketch comedy, is dipping into live streaming theater this week while its theaters are closed.

The first performance of “Improv House Party” is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, and viewers are invite to watch on Zoom for free by registering here.

Darel Jevens has more on the virtual performance here.

9:24 a.m. Civil rights attorneys launch legal challenge to free prisoners at risk of coronavirus

Pontiac Correctional Center

Pontiac Correctional Center in Pontiac, Ill. File photo.

AP file

Civil rights attorneys launched a coordinated legal challenge Thursday to demand the swift release of Illinois prisoners most vulnerable to the coronavirus, and accusing Gov. J.B. Pritzker and other state leaders of putting the general public at risk.

The effort includes a proposed class-action lawsuit filed Thursday morning in federal court, naming Pritzker and Rob Jeffreys, director of the Illinois Department of Corrections, as defendants. Ten IDOC prisoners are named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

“To effectively prevent the continued spread of the COVID-19 infection in prison communities, the state must take urgent steps to release, furlough, or transfer to home detention all that qualify under the law, and particularly those who are elderly and medically vulnerable,” the lawsuit states.

Reporter Jon Seidel has the full story here.

8:44 a.m. A record 6.6 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week as layoffs mount

More than 6.6 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week — doubling a record high set just one week earlier — a sign that layoffs are accelerating in the midst of the coronavirus.

The stunning report Thursday from the Labor Department showed that job cuts are mounting against the backdrop of economies in the United States and abroad that have almost certainly sunk into a severe recession as businesses close across the world.

The figure for last week is much higher than the previous record of 3.3 million reported for the previous week. The surging layoffs have led many economists to envision as many as 20 million lost jobs by the end of April. The unemployment rate could spike to as high as 15% this month, above the previous record of 10.8% set during a deep recession in 1982.

Read more about the latest unemployment numbers here.

6:55 a.m. Treasury Dept. reverses course: Social Security recipients won’t need to file taxes for COVID-19 stimulus checks

The Treasury Department, in a switch, lifted a roadblock on Wednesday night, clearing the way for individuals who live off of Social Security — and do not file federal income tax returns — to be eligible for the $1,200 payments being disbursed to the COVID-19 rescue legislation.

Those who live off their Social Security or railroad retirement payments – many senior citizens with no outside income – are not required to file a federal income tax return.

The IRS earlier this week said non-filers would have to file a basic income tax form to trigger the stimulus benefits.

Enough concerns were raised that the IRS by Wednesday reversed itself.

Washington Bureau Chief Lynn Sweet has more details.

6:21 a.m. Here’s where CPS families can still get free food

Chicago families will be able to pick up free food for their kids as long as city schools are closed due to the coronavirus — but the number of schools where meals are available will soon be cut in half.

Chicago Public Schools said Wednesday it would consolidate its food distribution effort, which has already provided 2.8 million meals, to focus on the schools that have seen the most demand.

Starting Monday, the first day of CPS’ spring break, lunchroom workers will hand out food at 136 schools from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. through Thursday. Staff will be given the day off for Good Friday.

Reporter Nader Issa has more.Read his full report and check out the full list of grab-and-go-meal sites.


New cases


Analysis & Commentary

8: 17 p.m. Every state — including 12 slackers — must join the fight to beat COVID-19

As of Thursday afternoon, 12 governors still had not issued the statewide stay-at-home orders that are the best defense against the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

We have to wonder how many more of their residents must catch the virus, and how many more must die, before these 12 state chief executives wake up. We have to wonder whether they understand that they are endangering every American. A pandemic respects no state lines.

There is not a moment to spare. The toll of the virus is mounting by the day. More than 225,000 Americans — and more than 1 million people worldwide — have contracted COVID-19. More than 5,000 Americans, including 157 in Illinois, have died.

And the worst by far — possibly up to 240,000 American deaths — is yet to come.

Yet these 12 governors have ignored the advice of the best public health experts. They have refused to shut down daily activity as fully and widely as possible.

Read the full remarks from the Sun-Times Editorial Board here.

6:39 p.m. We stumble in the dark, led by a narcissist who understands nothing

Faced with the greatest public health threat in a century, we are stumbling in the dark. Each day’s death toll is treated as a shock, rather than what it ought to be — a fire bell in the night.

Only on April 1, for example, did Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issue a stay-at-home order. As recently as March 28 — even as refrigerator trucks were parking outside New York hospitals to serve as overflow morgues — many of Florida’s beaches were packed. Responding to criticism, DeSantis said he was taking cues from the White House. “If any of those task force folks tell me that we should do X, Y or Z,” he said, “of course, we’re going to consider it.”

President Donald Trump initially praised DeSantis for this, calling him “a great governor who knows exactly what he’s doing,” but apparently thought better of it later and encouraged DeSantis to issue the stay-at-home order.

Not to pick on DeSantis too much, but he is emblematic of the scattershot approach that is failing so badly to meet this crisis. As recently as March 31, he said it was up to “locals” to enforce public health guidelines.

Read Mona Charen’s full column here.

1:15 p.m. Release undocumented immigrants who pose no danger before deadly coronavirus sweeps through detention centers

There are tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers in detention who don’t belong in jails or jail-like facilities that are spread across our country.

They are not criminals.

More than ever, with the coronavirus sweeping across the country, there is an urgent need for their release.

Fifty-four percent of immigrants in detention who had criminal convictions were categorized last year as Level 3 offenders, according to Syracuse University’s TRAC research center. Their “crimes” were low level offenses, such as illegal entry to the U.S. or traffic-related violations.

Those people should be set free. Their so-called crimes didn’t warrant detainment and deportation in the first place.

Read Marlen Garcia’s full commentary here.

10:55 a.m. Hero worship, stars’ COVID-19 tests, Tommy John surgery and our role in all of it

One constant during the pandemic has been celebrities’ access to COVID-19 testing when regular people with symptoms haven’t been able to dry cough their way to a test. The Chicago Sun-Times ran a story Wednesday about a poor guy who had serious symptoms for 15 days and still couldn’t get tested for the virus. At one point, he had to console a crying doctor overwhelmed by the situation at a hospital.

Yet every day, we hear of entire teams being tested after one of their athletes contracts the coronavirus.

Baseball players are still getting their Tommy John surgery even as elective surgeries in many places have been banned.

Why is it that famous people and professional athletes seem to be receiving preferential treatment?

Read Rick Morrissey’s full column to find out his take.

6:34 a.m. We can’t allow fear to go viral and erode our civil liberties

Which comes first during a pandemic: personal liberty or public health?

As Sam Charles and Frank Main reported in Wednesday’s Chicago Sun-Times, a debate over that very question played out this week on the West Side, where police officers on Tuesday were assigned to check the IDs of everyone, including local residents, who entered blocks known for gang gatherings.

Exactly why did the cops do this?

Because the city feared that the open-air drug markets run by gangs — those selling heroin, cocaine and the like on street corners — could become even stronger magnets for gun violence amid Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order — while simultaneously becoming hot spots for the spread of COVID-19.

This ill-advised policing tactic perfectly illustrates the kind of threats to our civil liberties that crop up whenever our nation is struggling with a crisis. We saw it after the 9-11 attacks. We’re seeing it now during the coronavirus pandemic.

Read more from the Sun-Times Editorial Board.

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