Latest coronavirus updates: April 22, 2020

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

SHARE Latest coronavirus updates: April 22, 2020

Illinois officials confirmed 2,049 new coronavirus cases across the state — the highest increase Illinois has seen in a day, but one that followed the most tests administered in a single day.

The state on Tuesday ran 9,349 tests, close to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s goal of running 10,000 tests a day.

As the fight against the coronavirus pandemic continued, here’s what happened in Chicago and around Illinois.


8:56 p.m. Trump Tower residents notified of associate diagnosed with COVID-19

An appellate panel has ruled Trump Tower’s insurers aren’t responsible for $12 million in fines for polluting the Chicago River.

Rich Hein/Sun-Times

An associate at the Trump International Hotel and Tower has been diagnosed with a confirmed case of COVID-19.

Residents of the 98-floor tower received an email from Christine Blevins, the building’s director of residences, on Wednesday afternoon alerting them of the news.

The associate has not been in the building for nine days and did not come in close contact with any residents, Blevins said in the email.

Read the full story by Ben Pope.

8:18 p.m. Republicans chafe at Pritzker’s stay-at-home rules — demand loosening with lengthening

SPRINGFIELD — With businesses closed, people out of work and many residents postponing needed medical procedures, Illinois Republicans on Wednesday called for Gov. J.B. Pritzker to ease his stay-at-home order, which is set to expire April 30.

“The safe opening, or reopening, of our state economy is the important work that now faces us,” state Rep. Ryan Spain, R-Peoria, said during a news conference on Zoom. “And we believe that there should be allowances made for businesses to reopen, as long as they can do so safely.”

The governor is expected to extend his order again this week, but this time statehouse Republicans want changes, calling for state parks to reopen, hospitals to start performing elective procedures and some businesses to reopen.

At his regular daily briefing Wednesday in Chicago, Pritzker said the stay-at-home order could be amended based on new information that has come in. He cited experts’ belief that wearing masks and having fewer people in a confined space helps slow the spread.

Reporter Neal Earley had the full story.

7:27 p.m. CPS buys 16,000 more computers than planned to help bridge digital divide, but says some devices won’t arrive till May

More than 50,000 Chicago Public Schools students still need computers five weeks after in-person classes shut down because of the coronavirus, leaving one in seven kids unable to access online educational materials as the second week of remote learning forges ahead.

Efforts have been underway for weeks to bridge that technological divide, but the process has been a slow churn.

CPS officials said at a virtual Board of Education meeting Wednesday that almost 55,000 devices had been handed out by the middle of this week, with another 6,400 given out at charter schools. That leaves a wide gap, as CPS has estimated 115,000 students need a computer, and likely a similar amount need access to the internet.

Almost all the devices distributed so far were among 65,000 that were already in schools and are expected to be handed out over the next week.

Reporter Nader Issa has the full story.

6:38 p.m. 9 more Chicago Police Department employees test positive for COVID-19

Chicago police announced Wednesday nine more cases of COVID-19, bringing the number of confirmed cases in the department to 374.

Of the cases, 356 are officers and 18 are civilian employees, police said.

A total of 376 employees have reported positive test results but the department’s medical section has yet two confirm two of those cases, police said.

Read the full story by the Chicago Sun-Times wires.

5:28 p.m. More than 2,000 new coronavirus cases in Illinois; 98 deaths

More than 2,500 health care workers have tested positive for the coronavirus in Illinois so far, including eight who have died since the pandemic began, officials said Wednesday.

Those front-line workers account for about 7% of the statewide COVID-19 case tally, which stands at 35,108.

Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike outlined the situation facing health care workers after announcing 2,049 newly confirmed cases across the state — the highest increase Illinois has seen in a day, but one that followed the most tests administered in a day.

The state on Tuesday ran 9,349 tests, close to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s goal of running 10,000 tests a day, and has run more than 164,000 tests overall.

Officials also said another 98 people have died of the virus, raising the state’s death toll to 1,565.

Ezike said that of the 2,500-plus health care workers who have tested positive, “potentially” eight have died.

Those figures are submitted to the state by hospitals and include anyone working in a health care establishment, from nurses and therapists to front desk staffers.

“It may not be complete. It’s what we have,” Ezike said.

Read the full story from reporter Tina Sfondeles.

5:20 p.m. 70% of residents at South Shore senior home test positive for COVID-19

More than 100 residents of a South Shore senior home have tested positive for COVID-19, and at least one resident has died, just days after state health officials said a quarter of all COVID-19 deaths in Illinois are tied to senior facilities.

Test results show that 111 residents — or 70% — have contracted the disease at Symphony South Shore senior home, 2425 E. 71st St., according to an emailed statement from Symphony Care Network spokeswoman Natalie Bauer Luce.

Symphony operates seven other senior residences in Cook County, including Symphony of Bronzeville, which has reported five deaths from the coronavirus, according to state data.

Overall, 30 Symphony residents have died from the coronavirus, as well as two employees, Symphony CEO David Hartman said in a letter sent Wednesday to Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

Read the full story from reporter David Struett.

4:50 p.m. South Shore grocery requiring face masks for all who enter

There’s a new layer of health safety in place at a South Shore grocery store.

As of Wednesday morning, Local Market Foods, 2101 E. 71st St., required everyone — customers and staff — to wear some form of facial covering before entering the store.

Eddie Roque, the store’s general manager, said the decision was made based on requests from customers themselves.

“The safer the better,” said Roque, who said his store is the first in the city to require such a measure.

“The customers are the ones more pushing for it,” he added. “Customers are the ones who asked us to sell masks weeks ago.”

Roque said the store and its 150-person staff hadn’t had to turn away any mask-less customers as of Wednesday afternoon, though some had forgotten their face coverings in their vehicles. If they didn’t have anything to shield their nose and mouth, they were referred to the front of the store where face coverings are offered for sale.

For $23.99, customers can buy a five-pack of N95 respirator masks. In recent weeks, the store has started offering disposable gloves to shoppers, as well.

Read the full story from reporter Sam Charles.

3:49 p.m. No refunds for Chicago Marathon runners who skip the race

Organizers of the Chicago Marathon confirmed earlier today that they plan to still host the 26.2 mile run in October. But for registered runners who may be considering sitting this one out, spokeswoman Alex Sawyer said event coordinators are “exploring options to be as accommodating to runners as possible.”

Sawyer confirmed that the marathon is not currently refunding entrance fees for registered runners. When asked if that policy may change as the race nears, Sawyer said organizers “can’t speak to specifics at this time.”

Mitch Dudek

3:35 p.m. Chicago Pride Fest postponed until Labor Day Weekend, June parade unlikely

The Chicago Pride Fest will be postponed until Labor Day weekend because of coronavirus concerns, making it the latest summertime activity impacted by the pandemic.

The festival organizer, the Northalsted Business Alliance, said the group is “hopeful” that pushing the fest later in the summer will still allow for people to enjoy the festivities but “everything remains to be seen at this point,” said spokesperson Jen Gordon.

The festival, which was planned for June 20-21, will now convene on Sept. 5-6.

No official decision has been announced on the Chicago Pride Parade, which typically is held after the festival, but parade organizer Tim Frye told the Windy City Times “Unless something astonishing happens, I think it’s unlikely we’ll be on for June 28.”

Read the full story from reporter Rachel Hinton.

3:15 p.m. Could social distancing be a boost for drive-in movie theaters?

In the 1978 movie “Grease,” Stockard Channing’s character, Rizzo, is at a drive-in when she confides to a friend that she’s pregnant, before adding, “Hey Marty, you ain’t gonna tell nobody about this, right?”

The gossip spreads instantly, leaping from one parked car to another.

There will be little opportunity for gossip of any sort come May — or perhaps early June — when at least three of the few drive-in movies theaters that remain in Illinois tentatively plan to open for the season.

“It’s just a whole different thing. We used to allow pets. We won’t do that. We used to allow people to grill. We won’t do that,” said Michael Harroun, who has owned the Harvest Moon Twin Drive-in in Gibson City, about 120 miles south of downtown Chicago, for the past 31 years.

If Illinois’ shelter-in-place restrictions are eased — and there’s no guarantee they will be — Harroun plans to open up for business May 1, but at a greatly reduced capacity, doubling the typical amount of space between cars.

Read the full story from reporter Stefano Esposito.

2:35 p.m. County jail staff sue over pay for added daily sanitizing work

Cook County sheriff’s correctional officers are suing the county and Sheriff Tom Dart to be paid for the time they spend cleaning up after their shifts at the Cook County Jail due to the coronavirus.

The 11 officers filed suit Tuesday in federal court in Chicago, asking for at least one work week of compensation for “sanitation activities” since March 9 — the date Gov. J.B. Pritzker declared a state of emergency because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The officers want to be paid for up to 30 minutes they spend after every shift sanitizing themselves and their personal protective equipment. The cleanups are an “expected job function,” according to the lawsuit.

A sheriff’s correctional officer and six detainees at the Cook County Jail have died of COVID-19 related illnesses, and hundreds of sheriff’s employees and detainees have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Read the full story from Frank Main here.

2:20 p.m. Aldermen, mayor introduce flurry of legislation in response to pandemic

From mandatory face masks and hand-sanitizing stations to a cap on restaurant delivery services, Chicago aldermen on Wednesday introduced an avalanche of legislation to protect and assist residents impacted by the coronavirus.

They were joined by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who proposed using $3 million from the city’s Affordable Housing Opportunity Fund to provide grants and no-interest loans of up to $75,000 for 40 city-subsidized properties containing a total of 3,400 units.

The city hopes federal coronavirus stimulus funds will reimburse the affordable housing fund.

Lightfoot also proposed empowering Aviation Commissioner Jamie Rhee to grant economic relief to authorize reduced or deferred rent and other breaks to struggling concessionaires at O’Hare and Midway airports while offering loans and grants to disadvantaged business enterprises at the airports.

The torrent of aldermanic legislation is intended to slow community spread of the coronavirus and assist Chicagoans struggling to pay their bills because of the economic shutdown caused by the statewide stay-at-home order.

Read the full story from City Hall reporter Fran Spielman.

11:42 a.m. Chicago Marathon officials say October race is still on

A day after one of their main European counterparts announced it was calling off a race slated for September, organizers of the Chicago Marathon on Wednesday reiterated they are still planning to host the 26.2 mile run in October.

“Based on the information available to us today, we are continuing preparations for the 2020 Bank of America Chicago Marathon,” Chicago Marathon spokeswoman Alex Sawyer said in an email.

On Tuesday, the Berlin Marathon — scheduled for Sept. 27 — was canceled following a government order banning all events of more than 5,000 people through Oct. 24.

The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is scheduled for October 11.

Chicago’s is one of six major world marathons — races that draw the world’s best runners. Other city’s on the elite hosting list are Boston, London, Berlin, Tokyo and New York.

The Boston and London marathons, normally held in the spring, have been postponed to September and October.

The fate of the remaining races depends on the rate of the spread of the virus. Chicago organizers said they are closely monitoring developments.

In years past Chicago’s marathon has drawn more than 44,000 runners, including many international runners, and about one million spectators.

Mitch Dudek

10:57 p.m. Air pollution plummets worldwide as more nations shelter in place

When people stay home, Earth becomes cleaner and wilder.

“It is giving us this quite extraordinary insight into just how much of a mess we humans are making of our beautiful planet,” says conservation scientist Stuart Pimm of Duke University. “This is giving us an opportunity to magically see how much better it can be.”

Researchers are tracking dramatic drops in traditional air pollutants, such as nitrogen dioxide, smog and tiny particles. These types of pollution kill up to 7 million people a year worldwide, according to Health Effects Institute president Dan Greenbaum.

The air from Boston to Washington is its cleanest since a NASA satellite started measuring nitrogen dioxide,in 2005, says NASA atmospheric scientist Barry Lefer. Largely caused by burning of fossil fuels, this pollution is short-lived, so the air gets cleaner quickly.

Compared to the previous five years, March air pollution is down 46% in Paris, 35% in Bengaluru, India, 38% in Sydney, 29% in Los Angeles, 26% in Rio de Janeiro and 9% in Durban, South Africa, NASA measurements show.

“We’re getting a glimpse of what might happen if we start switching to non-polluting cars,”

Read the full story here.

9:32 a.m. Where can you get tested for COVID-19?

We’re tracking all the available testing sites throughout the greater Chicago area. Our map can help you easily find a location to get tested, understand the requirements for obtaining a test, and get in touch to arrange for testing.

Click here for more testing resources.

8:06 a.m. Mole de Mayo goes digital for 2020

Mole de Mayo, one of the city’s kickoff summer events, is postponing its traditional outdoor festival until next year. Instead, organizers want people to buy specialty mole dishes from Pilsen restaurants then watch and interact with livestreamed performances May 22-24.

“This way we can all connect in some way to enjoy the Mole de Mayo experience that we have come to know,” the organizer, Economic Strategies Development Corp., said in a news release.

“While keeping within the social distancing measures that are in place, we continue our mission of assisting our food vendors, merchants, and the artist community. We plan to utilize the original festival dates as a platform to help those who rely financially on festivals,” said Alex Esparza, ESDC executive director.

The mole cook‐off event celebrating Latino culture and Mexican cuisine draws close to 100,000 people during the three-day weekend.

The names of participating restaurants and online programming details will be announced soon.

Bill Ruminski

7:18 a.m. Illinois still short of COVID-19 testing goal

More than three weeks after Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the state needed to process 10,000 coronavirus tests each day to get ahead of the outbreak gripping Illinois, average daily testing numbers are still 40 percent short of that goal.

While Pritzker and the federal government say the state now has the machines needed to conduct thousands of more tests, a shortage in necessary supplies to actually process those tests has limited how many can actually be completed, officials say.

What’s more, some national projections adjusted for Illinois’ population suggest the state may need to process roughly 15,000 to 900,000 tests a day to be able to confidently chart the next steps toward returning to normal. Some experts say more tests are needed to screen individuals without symptoms who could unwittingly spread the disease and check people who are considered high-risk multiple times.

“We will never, ever get out of the stay-at-home order unless we do massive amounts of testing of those people at highest risk for COVID-19,” said Dr. Howard Ehrman, a former deputy commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health. “If Pritzker takes us out of the stay-at-home order before enough testing is done, either partially or completely, then thousands of more people will get infected and die.”

Read the full story from Tom Schuba here.

6:46 a.m. Would you volunteer to be infected with COVID-19 to help develop a vaccine?

If you are young and healthy, would you volunteer to be infected with COVID-19 to help quickly develop a vaccine? With the pandemic sweeping the globe, it’s a reasonable question to be asking.

A group of 35 lawmakers, led by Reps. Bill Foster, D-Ill., and Donna Shalala, D-Fla., are urging the Food and Drug Administration to take more risks — including infecting humans — to shrink the time it takes to develop and approve a vaccine.

“We are trying to give the FDA political cover to be somewhat more aggressive on the rapid rollout of vaccines than they would under normal circumstances,” Foster told the Chicago Sun-Times on Tuesday.

The “typical” approval time for vaccines of normal diseases is 18 months to several years. Foster told me testing a COVID-19 vaccine using infected humans could cut that time to two or three months.

Foster, a physicist, and Shalala, who served as Health and Human Services Secretary under former President Bill Clinton, laid out the case for rethinking the risk/benefit ratio involved in COVID-19 human drug testing in a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar and FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn.

Reporter Lynn Sweet has the full story.

New Cases

Analysis & Commentary

7:52 p.m. President Trump stands on the side of wrong — again

It didn’t take long before the mantra “We’re all in this together” turned into chants of “Let my people go.”

And we shouldn’t be surprised that President Trump is gleefully singing along with the “Let my people go” crowd.

After all, it’s not the first time the president has stood with the wrong group. Sadly, it won’t be the last.

In 2017, Trump gave some serious love to white supremacists who rallied in Charlottesville, Virginia, waving flags and tiki torches.

Although there’s no disputing the fact that white supremacists spread racial hatred, Trump argued that there were “some very fine people on both sides.”

Now, in the midst of a pandemic that has so far killed more than 47,000 people in the U.S., Trump is egging on the people who are violating stay-at-home orders — orders that have likely saved thousands of lives.

It boggles the mind.

Read Mary Mitchell’s full column here.

5:35 p.m. The Lost Chicago Summer of 2020: Tough decisions, but necessary ones

Summertime is a month away, but it feels like we’re saying goodbye before it even arrives.

Illinois’ coronavirus shutdown likely will keep most of us inside at least until June, and many of those big summer bashes for which Chicago is celebrated won’t be coming back even then.

The Chicago Gospel Music Festival, Blues Fest and the Chicago House Music Conference & Festival — major annual May events that draw big crowds and signal the start of summer — already have been scrubbed because of COVID-19 fears.

Chicago’s Memorial Day Parade scheduled for May 23 has been cancelled. Pride Fest, which was set for June 20 and 21, has been postponed until Sept. 5 and 6. The Chicago Pride Parade hasn’t been cancelled yet, but organizer Tim Frye hinted at the possibility, telling Windy City Times, “Unless something astonishing happens, I think it’s unlikely we’ll be on for June 28.”

Tough decisions, but necessary ones.

Read the full editorial from the Sun-Times Editorial Board.

1:47 p.m. Here’s hoping my family and I won’t look like a depressed and hangry Brady Bunch this Ramadan

Chicago police officers would often come knocking at the door, telling us to keep it down whenever our family and friends gathered at someone’s cramped North Side apartment in the 1970s.

Our Ramadan parties were just as lively, I’m guessing, and equally offensive to ticked-off neighbors who weren’t accustomed to the smell of fried South Asian comfort food wafting through the building as the adults broke their fast at sundown.

At the end of the holy month of Ramadan, we continued to draw attention as we rode down Lake Shore Drive toward McCormick Place for Eid-ul-Fitr — my dad behind the wheel in his three-piece suit and karakul hat, the rest of us in gold-fringed brocade and other formal wear from India or Sears.

Today, McCormick Place has been transformed into a medical facility to treat those afflicted with COVID-19, and Muslims here and around the world are bracing to start Ramadan at the end of this week locked inside.

Read more from Rummana Hussain here.

9:32 a.m. Trump’s feeble plan to beat COVID-19? Scapegoat immigrants

President Donald Trump’s announced plan to suspend immigration is anything but an honest response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is political opportunism at its worst. It is Trump 101 — “the wall” — all over again. It is ugly xenophobia.

We doubt it will work. Only the hopelessly gullible will be taken in.

The coronavirus continues to spread across the country because of person-to-person contact among Americans, not because of an influx of diseased immigrants. Travel in and out of our country has largely dried up anyway, as a result of earlier restrictions imposed by the United States and many other countries.

But Trump has always wanted to shut down immigration, making exceptions for those who are wealthy, non-Muslim, highly skilled or his wife. He and his thuggish adviser on immigration, Stephen Miller, see the pandemic as their chance. It thrills his political base.

Read the full editorial here.

6:55 a.m. These Chicago hotel workers are now on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic

In normal times, nobody takes a job as a hotel cook or housekeeper expecting to end up on the front lines of safeguarding the public.

For employees at a handful of Chicago hotels, the coronavirus pandemic has put them in exactly that situation, and they deserve a tip of the hat.

These are workers like Jose Gonzalez, 27, a cook at Hotel 166, a boutique hotel off Michigan Avenue that usually caters to tourists. Under an emergency city contract, the hotel now houses individuals who are mildly ill with COVID-19 or who have been exposed to it.

Instead of cooking pub food for guests in the hotel’s two bars, Gonzalez now helps prepare three square meals a day for patients needing quarantine or isolation who cannot just stay home. Some of the hotel’s current guests are homeless people.

Read more from columnist Mark Brown.

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