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Latest coronavirus news for April 20, 2020: Live updates

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

News

9:46 p.m. Trump to order temporary COVID-19 suspension of immigration to U.S.

President Donald Trump on Monday said he is ordering a temporary suspension of immigration to the U.S.

He said in a tweet, “In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!”

Trump often refers to the coronavirus pandemic as the “invisible enemy.”

Trump did not mention this pending action during the White House briefing on Monday which focused on ramping up testing for COVID-19.

Read the report from Lynn Sweet here.

9:15 p.m. Efforts outlined to bridge Chicago’s racial divide in coronavirus-related deaths

The city plans to reopen the downtown area June 3, 2020. File photo

Two weeks after declaring a “public health red alarm,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday outlined the immediate steps she has taken to prevent the coronavirus from continuing to kill African-Americans at a rate four times higher than whites.

The mayor’s “hyper-local, data-informed” strategy will be focused, at least initially, on three hard-hit neighborhoods: Austin, Auburn-Gresham and South Shore.

The unprecedented outreach by Lightfoot’s so-called “racial equity rapid response teams” includes expanded testing and free distribution of 60,000 masks, 80,000 door hangers and 150,000 postcards.

The goal is to “pro-actively reach” African-Americans at greatest risk of contracting the coronavirus because of their age, their underlying health conditions or the fact that they are “essential” employees who cannot afford to stay safe at home.

Reporter Fran Spielman has the full story.

9:07 p.m. Cook County medical examiner’s office confirms 67 more COVID-19 deaths

The Cook County medical examiner’s office Monday confirmed 67 additional COVID-19 deaths, bringing the total in the county to 968.

Cook County’s death toll makes up about 71% of statewide deaths.

Illinois health officials Monday announced 1,151 newly confirmed cases of the coronavirus, raising the statewide total to 31,508. So far, 1,349 people have died from the outbreak in the state.

Read the full report here.

8:27 p.m. Some US producers, states reopening amid political pressure

Boeing and at least one other U.S. heavy-equipment manufacturer resumed production and some states rolled out aggressive reopening plans Monday, despite nationwide concerns there is not enough testing yet to keep the coronavirus from rebounding.

The reopenings came amid economic gloom, as oil futures plunged below zero on Monday and stocks and Treasury yields also dropped on Wall Street. The cost to have a barrel of U.S. crude delivered in May plummeted to negative $37.63. It was at roughly $60 at the start of the year.

Boeing said it was putting about 27,000 people back to work this week building passenger jets at its Seattle-area plants, with virus-slowing precautions in place, including face masks and staggered shifts. Doosan Bobcat, a farm equipment maker and North Dakota’s largest manufacturer, announced the return of about 2,200 workers at three factories around the state.

Elsewhere around the world, step-by-step reopenings were underway in Europe, where the crisis has begun to ebb in places such as Italy, Spain and Germany. Parts of the continent are perhaps weeks ahead of the U.S. on the infection curve of the virus, which has killed about 170,000 people worldwide, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Businesses that start operating again in the U.S. are likely to engender good will with the Trump administration at a time when it is doling out billions in relief to companies. But the reopenings being announced are a drop in the bucket compared with the more than 22 million Americans thrown out of work by the crisis.

Read the full report here.

7:35 p.m. MLB can cut pay, lay off managers and coaches beginning May 1

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred has made a move that allows teams to lay off or cut the pay of major and minor league managers, coaches, trainers and full-time scouts starting May 1.

Manfred has suspended uniform employee contracts that cover about 9,000 people, including general managers on some teams. Manfred cited the inability to play games due to the national emergency caused by the new coronavirus pandemic.

“Our clubs rely heavily on revenue from tickets/concessions, broadcasting/media, licensing and sponsorships to pay salaries,” Manfred wrote in an email Monday, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press. “In the absence of games, these revenue streams will be lost or substantially reduced, and clubs will not have sufficient funds to meet their financial obligations.”

Read the full report here.

7:00 p.m. WHO chief says worst of outbreak yet to come

The head of the World Health Organization has warned that “the worst is yet ahead of us” in the coronavirus outbreak, raising new alarm bells about the pandemic just as many countries are beginning to ease restrictive measures.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus didn’t specify exactly why he believes that the outbreak that has infected nearly 2.5 million people and killed over 166,000, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University, could get worse. Some people, though, have pointed to the likely future spread of the illness through Africa, where health systems are far less developed.

Tedros alluded to the so-called Spanish flu in 1918 as a reference for the coronavirus outbreak.

“It has a very dangerous combination and this is happening ... like the 1918 flu that killed up to 100 million people,” he told reporters in Geneva.

“But now we have technology, we can prevent that disaster, we can prevent that kind of crisis.”

Read the full report here.

6:27 p.m. Mental health therapists seek help from Blue Cross

Mental health therapists who contract with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois are pressuring the insurer to cover their telehealth services beyond April 30, the current end of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order.

In an email to Blue Cross executives, they said extending the coverage deadline would reduce stress for their small businesses needing cash flow and for clients concerned about payment. They said the pandemic and its required isolation are exacerbating mental health issues.

“We are seeing many more cases of depression because social support is such a huge part of dealing with it,” said Colleen Cira, executive director of the Cira Center for Behavioral Health in Chicago. She said therapists are getting more cases involving suicidal thoughts, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, especially among health-care and other essential workers.

Reporter David Roeder has the full story.

5:58 p.m. Ex-mayoral candidate Willie Wilson wants City Hall coronavirus deals; Lori Lightfoot says no

Chicago mayoral candidate Willie Wilson. | Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times
Chicago mayoral candidate Willie Wilson.
Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times

Former mayoral candidate Willie Wilson said Monday he unsuccessfully tried to get Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Gov. J.B. Pritzker to buy surgical masks and respirators from his medical supply company.

“It’s a shame that they have to let the city of Chicago and the state suffer like this when I’m right here,” said Wilson, who says his Omar Medical Supplies had a stockpile of more than 30 million masks in Chicago at one point during the pandemic.

Lightfoot confirmed she that she spoke with Wilson weeks ago and referred his request to her top procurement official.

She said she learned the city’s stockpile already contained the items Wilson was pitching and that the lead time for Wilson to deliver was weeks longer than other companies’.

One other problem, according to the mayor: Wilson was demanding money up front and in cash.

Reporters Fran Spielman and Frank Main have the full account.

5:04 p.m. Family of 2 Chicago firefighters who died of COVID-19 will receive line-of-duty benefits

The families of two Chicago firefighters who died of COVID-19 will receive line-of-duty benefits, the Chicago Fire Department announced Monday.

The benefits will provide the families of Mario Araujo and Edward Singleton with one-year’s salary and funds for funeral expenses, CFD spokesman Larry Langford said in an emailed statement.

“Our current situation is unprecedented in the history of our department and will be addressed accordingly,” Fire Commissioner Richard Ford II said in the statement. “These two members made the ultimate sacrifice to protect those whom they swore an oath to serve. We will not forget our obligation to their families in this time of crisis.”

Reporter David Struett has the full story.

4:13 p.m. Watch: Second shipment of PPE from China arrives in Illinois

The state of Illinois early Monday received a second shipment of personal protective equipment flown in from China to help the state battle the coronavirus outbreak.

The latest shipment purchased by Illinois contains “lots of surgical masks,” according to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office. The first shipment from China arrived Thursday and contained gloves and masks.

The Sun-Times last week reported Pritzker was planning to obtain millions of masks and gloves from China but was keeping those details secret out of fear the Trump administration might seize the cargo for the federal stockpile.

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

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

At his daily briefing Sunday, Pritzker announced the second airlift of PPE. The protective equipment will be taken to state warehouses to be inspected before being shipped out to first responders and health care workers, Pritzker said.

Read more from reporter Tina Sfondeles.

3:31 p.m. Some US manufacturers reopening amid fierce political heat

SEATTLE — Boeing and a small number of other manufacturers around the U.S. geared up Monday to resume production amid pressure from President Donald Trump to reopen the economy and resistance from governors who warn there is not enough testing yet to keep the coronavirus from rebounding.

Boeing, one of the Pacific Northwest’s biggest employers, said it will put about 27,000 people back to work this week building passenger jets at its Seattle-area plants, with virus-slowing precautions in place, including face masks and staggered shifts.

Doosan Bobcat, a farm equipment maker and North Dakota’s largest manufacturer, announced the return of about 2,200 workers at three factories around the state.

Elsewhere around the world, step-by-step reopenings were underway in Europe, where the crisis has begun to ebb in places like Italy, Spain and Germany. Parts of the continent are perhaps weeks ahead of the U.S. on the curve of the virus, which has killed over 160,000 people worldwide.

Read the full report here.

2:55 p.m. Another 59 people die of COVID-19 in Illinois; hospitalizations remain flat during outbreak

Illinois health officials on Monday said another 59 people have died from the coronavirus, while the state’s hospitalization levels remain relatively flat.

There are also 1,151 new cases, bringing the state’s total to 31,508 positive cases. The state has lost 1,349 people to the outbreak, and the virus is now in 95 of the state’s 102 counties, officials said. There were 5,040 tests conducted on Sunday, although private labs have not been reporting results on Sundays.

The percentage of ICU beds in Illinois used by COVID-19 patients has remained steady at 40%, and the percentage of ventilators being used by those patients is actually declining slightly, now standing at 23%, Pritzker said.

“Our curve is bending the right way,” Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said at his daily coronavirus briefing. He added that without the drastic mitigation efforts that have been implemented, “we would have required thousands more ventilators beyond our initial capacity.”

Reporter Tina Sfondeles has the full story.

1:48 p.m. Without COVID-19 vaccine, fans don’t feel safe returning to sports venues

With the distinct possibility of pro sports resuming in empty venues, a recent poll suggests a majority of U.S. fans wouldn’t feel safe attending games anyway without a COVID-19 vaccine.

According to the Seton Hall Sports Poll, 72% of Americans said they would not feel safe attending games without a vaccine, though the number dropped to 61% among people who identified themselves as sports fans. Nearly half the respondents in the poll, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points, said they either didn’t follow sports closely or didn’t follow sports at all.

So even if fans are allowed back in stadiums or arenas, many may not come. And the financial losses in such a scenario will be significant without the revenue that comes from tickets, concessions and merchandise, among other things — even if money is flowing from lucrative media rights deals.

Read the full story here.

11:38 a.m. Proposed rent relief ordinance would give hard-hit workers 1 year to make missed payments

Chicagoans who have seen paychecks shrink or disappear during the coronavirus pandemic would have a year to pay rent that accumulates during the statewide stay-at-home order, under a relief package proposed Monday.

“That several month period when folks are really at bottom in terms of income — giving them a little bit of breathing room knowing that they’re not gonna get evicted when the stay-at-home order [expires]. That they’ll have a little bit of time within which to pay that money,” said rookie Ald. Matt Martin (47th).

“If you’re in the service industry, if you’re in hospitality and you’ve seen your income go, maybe in some situations close to zero, we need to provide that relief to folks. But we also need to make sure that we’re providing it to landlords as well.”

Martin plans to introduce the rent relief ordinance — along with a companion resolution seeking mortgage relief at the state level — at Wednesday’s virtual City Council meeting. He has already lined up 19 co-sponsors and support from the Progressive and Latino Caucuses.

Read the full story from Fran Spielman here.

10:45 a.m. Lockdowns ease worldwide, but political heat rises in US

Over the past few days, President Donald Trump openly encouraged protesters who have been demanding the lifting of the state-imposed stay-at-home orders, and some states — mostly ones under Republican leaders — have taken steps to relax some restrictions. But other governors have warned that they can’t move ahead without help from the federal government in expanding testing.

Around the globe, the game plan is to open up but maintain enough social distancing to prevent new flareups of the virus that has infected 2.4 million people worldwide, killed more than 165,000 and crippled the world economy.

The easing of the lockdowns “is not the end of the epidemic in any country. It’s just the beginning of the next phase,″ the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told G-20 health ministers in an online meeting.

He sternly warned governments not to rush to return to normal, saying, “It is critical that these measures are a phased process.”

Read the full story here.

9:09 a.m. Provident Hospital ER reopens — with a few changes in place

Provident Hospital’s emergency room reopened Monday morning, two weeks after Cook County officials made the decision to temporarily close the facility when an employee there tested positive for the coronavirus.

At the time, county officials also said they had been told the layout of the emergency room would hamper social distancing efforts.

During the past two weeks, crews have, among other things, re-configured seating inside the ER to meet social distancing guidelines, as well as creating a designated seating area for patients suspected of having the coronavirus, a spokeswoman for Cook County Health said in a statement.

Read more from reporter Stefano Esposito.

8:28 a.m. Protesters in Springfield want stay-at-home order lifted: ‘Just build a wall’ around Cook County

For some people, Illinois’ stay-at-home order has gone on long enough.

On Sunday, about two dozen red, white and blue-clad protesters carrying Trump banners gathered near the steps of the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield calling for Gov. J.B. Pritzker to end his stay-at-home order, set to last until at least April 30.

The protesters said the lockdown to slow the coronavirus pandemic is hurting local economies.

“We’re protesting against the injustice of them closing down all the businesses, trying to tell us what to do,” said Tom, a protester from Springfield.

Pritzker’s order banning large gatherings and closing “nonessential” businesses began March 21.

Read the full story from Neal Earley in Springfield here.

8:08 a.m. Public health expert: ‘Marshall Plan’ needed to redress coronavirus race disparities

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s early demographic snapshot found African Americans — 13% of the U.S. population — represented 33% of COVID-19 hospitalizations. In several states, they are dying from the virus at a rate more than twice their population. Illinois has had just over 30,000 cases, and 1290 deaths. While only 15% of the population, African Americans represent about 40% of those deaths.

“Racial inequities actually exist not only for COVID-19 but for almost every disease. And we know access to testing and treatment is a problem,” Williams said, citing a 2003 report by the National Academy of Medicine, which found people of color receive lower-quality health care than whites, even when insurance, income, age and severity of conditions are comparable.

But Williams singled out Chicago’s entrenched segregation — “a powerful driver of inequality in American society” — as wielding a major impact on health outcomes.

“These inequities that have long-term effects on lifelong health are created early in life, at the neighborhood level,” Williams said, citing a January report by Brandeis University, the Child Opportunity Index 2.0, ranking nearly every U.S. neighborhood by 29 indicators.

Read more from Maudlyne Ihejirika here.

7:33 a.m. Coronavirus cases rising at Chicago’s federal high-rise jail

For weeks, Chicago’s downtown federal high-rise jail appeared to be keeping the coronavirus at bay.

Only a handful of staff members at the Metropolitan Correctional Center on West Van Buren had tested positive for the coronavirus since the outbreak began, according to official numbers. And no reports emerged of detainees with the virus — until Tuesday.

Now, for the first time, the coronavirus appears to be spreading among the MCC’s more than 600 inmates. Though the number of confirmed cases there remains low, the virus has been known to spread rapidly, and numbers tracked by the Chicago Sun-Times have risen quickly.

The numbers were gathered from court filings by prosecutors and local defense attorneys, as well as from an MCC union official. Those on-the-ground sources have largely been in agreement, and they have reported higher numbers of positive cases than the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Read more from Jon Seidel here.

6:18 a.m. Illinois reports 33 more COVID-19 deaths as case total surpasses 30K

Illinois health officials announced another 33 deaths and 1,197 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, bringing the total number of cases in the state to 30,357.

In total, 1,290 people have died of the coronavirus in Illinois since the pandemic first hit. The virus has now been reported in 93 of the state’s 102 counties.

Illinois also ran at least 5,914 COVID-19 tests on Saturday, officials said. In all, more than 142,000 have been tested for the virus.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker also announced that an airlift of PPE is scheduled to arrive in Illinois on Monday.

The protective equipment will be taken to state warehouses, where they’ll be inspected before being shipped out to first responders and health care professionals, Pritzker said.

“That’s the landscape we’re operating in,” Pritzker said. “Competing with other states, countries and even the federal government for supplies.”

Read the full report from Jake Wittich here.


New Cases


Analysis & Commentary

5:25 p.m. Coronavirus has made incarceration a potential death sentence

This week, the New York Times featured the story of how the coronavirus savaged the Federal Correctional Complex in Oakdale, Louisiana. On March 28, Patrick Jones, 49, serving a 27-year sentence for possession of crack cocaine with the intent to distribute, became the first federal inmate to die of the virus.

Barely three weeks later, seven inmates had died, at least 100 inmates and staff members had been infected, with more than 20 hospitalized — and an entire community terrorized. The prisoners died, unreported, unknown, their bodies essentially owned by the federal government that imprisoned them.

According to corrections officers there, the warden was slow to act, saying that “we live in the South and it’s warm here. We won’t have any problems,” a haunting illustration of the dangers of loose rhetoric and tall tales from the president, amplified on social media.

The horrors of the Andover, New Jersey nursing home — with at least 70 residents dead and dozens more testing positive — has dramatized the vulnerability of the elderly in nursing homes, where over 7,000 have died. Our grossly overpopulated prisons and jails are quickly becoming the next centers to be ravaged by the disease.

Cook County Jail, the largest in the country, is already one of the nation’s largest sources of infections, with more confirmed cases than the USS Theodore Roosevelt or the New Rochelle, New York cluster. Four inmates are dead and 215 have tested positive, as have 191 correctional officers and 34 other sheriff’s office employees. One employee just died.

Read Rev. Jesse Jackson’s full column here.

1:40 p.m. GOP Illinois congressmen blister state Senate Democrats for using COVID-19 as excuse for pension bailout

The five Illinois Republicans in Congress blistered Democratic Senate President Don Harmon on Monday for using the COVID-19 fiscal emergency as an excuse to seek $10 billion to bailout Illinois’ already troubled pension funds.

The letter was signed by Republican Reps. Adam Kinzinger, John Shimkus, Rodney Davis, Mike Bost and Darin LaHood.

This uproar started when Harmon, from Oak Park, sent a letter April 14 to Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., with a $41 billion list of items, including the pension cash, he wanted in the next round of emergency federal COVID-19 relief funding.

The request for the pension lifejacket touched a raw nerve with Illinois Republicans, because the state pension mess — to them — is emblematic of state of Illinois fiscal problems that predate the COVID-19 economic meltdown.

Congress is working on a fourth massive emergency federal assistance coronavirus pandemic financial package and a stalemate may break this week.

Read Lynn Sweet’s full column here.

12:37 p.m. As my grandma lay dying, I could not hug her or hold her hand. But I will honor her memory with my vote on Nov. 3

My grandma was admitted to the hospital with atrial fibrillation and low potassium, and she was tested for COVID-19. Not allowed inside the hospital, my mom sat in the parking lot as rain poured down, staring at a single-wide trailer being used to process emergency room admissions as she texted updates to my siblings and me.

The next day, I learned that my grandma had tested positive for COVID-19. I talked to her over the phone while she laid in bed without family by her side. She told me how proud she was of me and to keep doing good in the world. I told her how much I loved her and that I would continue to do my best to make the world a better place. A feeling that this would be our last conversation hung over me as tears filled my eyes.

On April 2, I learned that feeling was right. My mom called to tell me that my grandma had passed away. I am so thankful that my mom was able, eventually, to physically be with grandma before she passed, and that members of the family near and far were able to speak with her over the phone.

I know my story is like so many others. Loved ones suffering, families unable to physically be with one another. We can’t hug the people we love, can’t hold their hand in silence, can’t kiss them on the cheek.

The lucky among us get to say “I love you” over the phone; others will never have that opportunity, never get to say goodbye.

Read John H. Hageman’s story here.

10:56 a.m. Illinois should test 100K people per day before reopening economy: EDITORIAL

Before Illinois can reopen its economy, it ideally should achieve the capacity to test up to 100,000 people a day for the coronavirus. Only then can there be some kind of certainty about getting and keeping the virus under control.

But Gov. J.B. Pritzker knows that’s a wistful dream for now, in large part because the federal government has failed miserably to supply states with sufficient testing materials, no matter what President Trump says to the contrary.

On Sunday evening, apparently responding to new complaints by several governors earlier in the day, Trump announced he is going to use his powers under the Defense Production Act to order companies to increase the production of test swabs by over 20 million a month.

“You’ll have so many swabs you won’t know what to do with them,” Trump said.

We’ll believe it when we see it. Trump has been blowing smoke on testing since at least early February. He has bragged repeatedly that the United States has done more testing than all other countries — though on a per capita basis this is blatantly untrue — and promised to ramp up more testing.

Read the full editorial here.

10:08 a.m. Letter from a Chicago doctor: How we can improve health for African Americans after COVID-19

Dr. Alan Jackson is an assistant professor of medicine and public voices fellow at Rush University. In a letter to the Sun-Times, he outlined concrete steps we can take as a city to improve health outcomes in Chicago’s black community:

Chicago’s black community accounts for approximately 70% of all deaths related to COVID-19 in Chicago, though the community represents only 23% of the city’s population.

The most obvious explanation for this is that people who suffer from underlying health issues such as hypertension, diabetes mellitus, obesity and lung diseases are at the highest risk of dying from COVID-19 — and the black community disproportionately suffers from these conditions.

The question for the future, then, is what’s to be done about this? How do we improve overall health for black Chicago?

A 1986 World Health Organization agreement, the Ottawa Charter, provides a blueprint for promoting community health that could be helpful here. It enumerates nine areas that need to be addressed to develop healthy communities — peace, shelter, education, food, income, a stable eco-system, sustainable resources, social justice and equity.

Click to read Dr. Jackson’s letter: Nine ways to improve health for African Americans in Chicago after COVID-19.

7:31 a.m. Second- and third-wave layoffs coming from COVID-19

The jobs impact first hit in the hotels, airlines, bars and restaurants. It spread to department stores, boutiques, fitness clubs, movie theaters. Then on to some manufacturers, or at least those whose products were not deemed essential for the crisis. The logistics business is starting to feel it because each shutdown takes out a customer. Then come all the service industries and consultants that draw income from what’s shuttered.

Economist Amy Crews Cutts, who runs her own firm, staked out the edge of extreme pessimism by telling The Wall Street Journal she expects it’ll take labor markets five and a half years before they shed the pandemic’s effects.

In fairness, other economists believe the private sector was in such a happy mood that it’ll snap right back to hiring once the virus is under control. Balance the negative with the determined sunny siders and you get, what — a recession that lasts into late 2021 or early 2022?

Read the full column from David Roeder here.

6:45 a.m. How COVID-19 is transforming our lives: What will change when the lockdown ends

Until we have a COVID-19 vaccine and massive infection and antibody testing, I’m not sitting knee to knee in a movie theater, ballpark, concert or house of worship.

Or eating in a crowded restaurant. Or shaking hands. Or using your pen. Or dealing with paper money and coins.

Maybe one day I’ll be telling stories about living through this COVID-19 health and economic disaster. I’ll be like my mother, of blessed memory, recalling how she grew up during the Great Depression.

As a kid she was selling newspapers at the corner of 16th Street and Wabash Avenue to help the family survive. My grandfather, a Russian/Polish immigrant running a newsstand, did not read English. My mom told him the headlines.

Just as the Depression shaped the generation living through it, our reality is things will never go back to how they were. COVID-19 is changing how we live, learn, work and communicate.

Read the full column from Lynn Sweet.