With an extended stay-at-home executive order set to take effect, officials on Thursday said another 141 people have died of COVID-19 in Illinois, marking the second highest daily death toll the state has seen during the pandemic.
Here’s what else happened as the state of Illinois continued to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic.
9:30 p.m. Businesses ready to open as some state COVID-19 restrictions are lifted
Chicago-area business owners are preparing to open their doors Friday, hoping to recoup some of the money they lost after being shut down for more than six weeks because of the state’s stay-at-home order.
Changes to the order taking effect Friday will grant some non-essential businesses the ability to begin serving customers again inside brick-and-mortar stores starting Friday.
But the ease in restrictions is far from a return to normalcy.
Businesses with permission to reopen include beauty supply stores, gardening centers, pet grooming and golf courses, as well as some state parks. Many of these must put in place new safety measures, including restricted hours and constant sanitizing, Some will have to add new services, such as curbside pickup.
8:02 p.m. Can houses of worship conduct in-person services under Pritzker’s extended stay-at-home order?
In addition to suits filed by Republican lawmakers, a church in northern Illinois on Thursday filed a federal lawsuit challenging the statewide restrictions. The Beloved Church of Lena wants an immediate injunction that would allow it to conduct worship services.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker executive order did not specifically mention houses of worship, but it did restrict gatherings of 10 people or more, under CDC guidelines.
Pritzker noted most faith leaders are conducting online church services. Regarding churches who have said they’ll open their doors Sunday, the governor urged leaders to put the health and safety of congregants first.
“We’re still climbing this ladder of hospitalizations and ICU beds being filled, and until we get to the other side, even according to President Trump’s plan, we really can’t begin to open up until we have 14 days of down cycle of those numbers,” Pritzker said.
7:14 p.m. Lightfoot vows to purchase a million masks and distribute them to needy Chicagoans
Chicagoans will be “living with masks for the duration” — maybe even until there’s a coronavirus vaccine, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Thursday, promising to purchase a million facemasks and distribute them to aldermen and their constituents.
“I don’t believe in issuing mandates and not giving people the tools to be compliant. So as a city, we will be stepping up and making sure that our residents have the kind of face-coverings that they need to be able to protect themselves when they go outside of their home and can’t safely social distance — for example, at grocery stores,” the mayor said.
Starting Friday, Illinois residents will be required to wear a face covering or a mask whenever they are in public places where they cannot maintain a six-foot social distance. Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s revised stay-at-home order requires face coverings in stores and other indoor public places. It applies to “all individuals over the age of two who are able to medically tolerate” a face-covering or mask.
The revised order applies through the month of May. But Lightfoot said she expects the mask mandate to continue for months after that.
6:42 p.m. With 65 new free testing sites added, Illinois has run nearly 100K coronavirus tests in past week
Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Thursday that 177 public sites are now offering free coronavirus testing across the state, with 65 new locations added since Pritzker reported last week that Illinois had reached the elusive goal of processing 10,000 tests in a single day.
Since hitting that mark last Friday, Illinois has run 96,551 total tests and hasn’t once dipped below that daily benchmark. The tests conducted over the past seven days account for more than 35% of the tests the state has conducted since reporting began in early March.
With his modified stay-at-home taking effect on Friday, Pritzker made it clear that testing for the deadly virus is “vital to our efforts to reduce social restrictions, get our economy going and to protect our residents.”
6:09 p.m. Illinois Latinos surpass African Americans in coronavirus cases
The Latino community in Illinois has surpassed African Americans in confirmed cases of the coronavirus and could have the greatest number of patients among all races and ethnic groups within days.
As of Thursday, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported 12,276 cases where the patient is white, 11,848 among Latinos, and 11,353 in the black community.
Last week, on April 22, there were about 7,800 patients who were white, 5,800 who identified as Latino and 8,100 who were African American.
The dramatic rise in cases among Latinos is reflective of better testing capabilities and greater awareness of COVID-19 symptoms, but public health experts are raising concerns about the state’s reach among Latino communities in their efforts to contain the pandemic.
5:13 p.m. Pritzker urged by five GOP congressmen to ‘safely reopen’ low-risk regions
The five Illinois Republican House members Thursday urged Democratic Gov. J. B. Pritzker to reopen low-risk Illinois counties with few or no coronavirus-related deaths in order for the state “to strategically and safely reopen its economy.”
The congressmen pushed the regional approach after Pritzker last week extended a stay-a-home order to May 30 even as restrictions will be lifted on a variety of activities and businesses on Friday.
The lawmakers — Reps. Darin LaHood, Adam Kinzinger; John Shimkus; Rodney Davis and Mike Bost — and Pritzker avoided acrimonious exchanges as the state navigates pandemic reopening policy.
The congressmen said in a statement, “Illinois is a diverse state and the coronavirus has impacted communities in different ways. As we work to start the phased reopening here at home, we cannot do so with a blanket, one-size-fits-all plan.”
Pritzker, asked about the GOP lawmakers’ concerns during his Thursday briefing, said, “I don’t disagree with them that different areas of the state require different rules during this time, and that’s why we made some changes in this new executive order that goes into effect tomorrow.”
4:30 p.m. 141 more coronavirus deaths — second-highest daily toll — with Pritzker poised to extend stay-at-home order
As Gov. J.B. Pritzker prepares to sign an extended stay-at-home executive order, officials on Thursday said another 141 people have died of COVID-19 in Illinois, marking the second highest daily death toll the state has seen during the pandemic.
The latest deaths raised the Illinois total to 2,355. Another 2,563 new cases were also reported, bringing the state’s total to 52,918 cases. The virus also spread to an additional county — downstate Brown County — and has now been confirmed in 97 of 102 counties.
The state received 13,200 tests results back on Wednesday.
With nearly 270,000 tests performed, Pritzker’s office said Illinois is ranked seventh in the nation for total number of tests performed as of April 26. The state is also 20th among all tests completed per capita, and fifth in all states in terms of average completed tests over the last week.
3:52 p.m. CFD commander ‘blindsided’ by son’s crowded party
The Chicago Fire Department commander who owns the Galewood townhome where a weekend house party was held said Thursday she was “blindsided” by her son’s decision to host the crowded party and would never have allowed it during a pandemic.
Paramedic commander Christine Matthews said the unauthorized party was hosted by her 26-year-old son, who doesn’t live with her, but has a key to her townhome “for emergencies.”
“I didn’t learn about the party until the police showed up the next day and told me,” Matthews wrote in an email to the Sun-Times.
“I went to apologize to my neighbors and I saw the video. ... I was completely blindsided. I would never condone this behavior. I am a paramedic. I have had people die from this!!!” she wrote.
“I would never allow 200 people in my brand new townhouse. It’s appalling and unacceptable. My Ring doorbell was removed. I’m not speaking to son. And he is sorry for his actions now.”
3:20 p.m. Lightfoot dances on TikTok to announce citywide graduation ceremony — online, with Oprah
Mayor Lori Lightfoot got her dancing shoes on Thursday morning to announce Chicago’s first-ever, virtual citywide high school commencement celebration hosted by Oprah Winfrey.
With Chicago Public Schools closed for in-person classes through the end of the school year, the city’s 25,000 public high school seniors — and thousands more at private schools — are missing out on rite of passage events like prom and graduation.
So Lightfoot partnered with Citadel, the financial services company owned by billionaire Ken Griffin, to put on a party for all those 12th graders at public, charter and all private schools across the city.
“We are thrilled and honored to have the one-and-only Oprah Winfrey joining us for this incredible moment with Chicago’s high school seniors,” Lightfoot said in a news release. “While we can’t recreate these in-person memories, I feel strongly that we need to recognize and celebrate the achievements of our many high school seniors in Chicago.”
2:30 p.m. Northern Illinois church sues Pritzker in federal court over his stay-at-home order
A church in northwestern Illinois has filed a federal lawsuit challenging Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s statewide restrictions amid the coronavirus, seeking an immediate injunction that would allow it to conduct worship services.
The lawsuit was filed by the Thomas More Society on behalf of The Beloved Church of Lena and its pastor, Stephen Cassell. It alleges that the Stephenson County health department delivered a cease-and-desist notice to Cassell on March 31.
The complaint says the church, which is about 40 miles west of Rockford, intends to “reopen and hold public worship services this Sunday.” It goes on to say church leaders “fear arrest and prosecution if they do so, without immediate relief from this court.”
“Plaintiffs believe that, in these dark times, Illinoisans need the Spirit of Almighty God, but Pritzker’s orders have left them to settle for the lesser spirits dispensed out of the state’s liquor stores,” the complaint states.
The complaint also cites lawsuits filed by state Reps. Darren Bailey and John Cabello, even borrowing some legal arguments from Cabello’s lawsuit.
12:45 p.m. Fauci expects quick approval of new virus drug
The nation’s top infectious diseases expert says he expects the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to quickly approve a new experimental drug that showed promising signs in treating patients with COVID-19.
Anthony Fauci tells NBC’s “Today” show Thursday that he anticipates the go-ahead for the emergency use of Remdesivir to happen “really quickly.”
He says he spoke with FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn on Wednesday, and while Hahn had yet to make a final decision, “I would project that we’re going to be seeing that reasonably soon.” The drug was shown in a major study to shorten recovery time of hospitalized patients.
11:29 a.m. Medical examiner confirms 65 more COVID-19 deaths in Cook County, raising total to 1,668
The Cook County medical examiner’s office on Thursday confirmed another 65 deaths connected to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The newly confirmed fatalities bring the county’s toll to 1,668, the medical examiner’s office said.
Cook County makes up about 75% of the 2,215 deaths in Illinois. On Wednesday, state health officials announced 2,253 new cases of the coronavirus in Illinois.
The state has now seen 50,355 people test positive for the virus.
9:10 a.m. Landlords, banks sign non-binding ‘solidarity’ agreement to offer rent grace periods, suspend foreclosure filings
In response to demands from Chicagoans who have seen their jobs and paychecks disappear during the pandemic — and the looming threat of a rent strike — Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Wednesday introduced a “Chicago Housing Solidarity Pledge.”
The non-binding agreement, signed by residential housing groups, landlord associations and lenders, is an unprecedented commitment to show “flexibility and restraint” to prevent the pandemic from triggering a wave of foreclosures.
Participating landlords have agreed to offer tenants grace periods with terms that “avoid repayment at the end of the deferral period.” They also promised to waive late fees for missed payments and allow renters who miss payments to amortize those payments over time.
Lenders who signed the pledge — including Bank of America, BMO Harris, Northern Trust, US Bank, PNC, Wintrust and Fifth Third — have agreed to suspend foreclosure filings until May 31 and stop reporting late payments to credit reporting agencies.
They have also offered to waive late fees for missed payments and defer payments with terms that “avoid immediate repayment at the end of the deferral period.”
8:17 a.m. Cellist Ben Sollee delivers musical tribute to postponed Kentucky Derby
Social distancing guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic have canceled myriad traditions and events this year, to the extent that the Sun-Times editorial board dubbed this season “The Lost Summer of 2020.”
In addition to concerts and festivals, large-scale annual sporting events have been postponed, including the Masters Tournament scheduled for April, and the 146th annual Kentucky Derby, which had been scheduled for May 2.
To pay tribute to the annual event, which is being rescheduled in September, Kentucky musician Ben Sollee performed the song “My Old Kentucky Home” on the empty tracks at Churchill Downs.
The video was released by Woodford Reserve, a distillery company based in Versailles, Kentucky, which is hosting a virtual toast on YouTube Saturday to commemorate the originally scheduled start time for the “greatest two minutes in sports.”
6:36 a.m. Rolling out contact tracing in Illinois a daunting task, but essential, expert says
Roughly a quarter of the coronavirus tests conducted at the Howard Brown Health clinic in Hyde Park have been coming back positive, amounting to about 20 new confirmed cases a day.
The initial diagnosis is just the start of the staff’s work, though. What comes next is the arduous task of tracking down every person that patient may have encountered, a time-tested public health practice known commonly as contact tracing.
Though local and state officials have said that process is key to slowing the pandemic and reopening the state, a large-scale initiative hasn’t been announced to address the daunting task of tracking down every person who has come into contact with the growing number of COVID-19 patients. On Wednesday, 2,253 new cases were reported across Illinois as the total number of cases eclipsed 50,000.
6:14 a.m. Remdesivir proves effective against coronavirus in major study: ‘We’ve got a drug that works,’ UIC researcher says
Promising results from a major study into an experimental drug used to treat the new coronavirus should give people a sense of relief that “we’ve got a drug that works,” a physician at University of Illinois at Chicago Health who participated in the study says.
“They’re really good results,” Dr. Richard Novak, chief of infectious disease at UIC, told the Sun-Times Wednesday of the drug made by Gilead Sciences, called remdesivir.
He added: “That’s great and should give some people a sense of relief who are concerned about getting sick.”
Remdesivir is the first drug to show such promising results against the virus, which has killed more than 218,000 people since it emerged late last year in China. Having a treatment could have a profound effect on the global pandemic, especially because health officials say any vaccine is likely a year or more away.
- The CTA announced the death of a fourth employee from COVID-19. The employee worked in the CTA’s technology department for over 20 years.
- Chicago police announced Tuesday seven more cases of COVID-19, bringing the number of cases in the department to 421.
- Eighteen employees at a Tootsie Roll manufacturing plant in Chicago have tested positive for COVID-19 since the end of March.
- Officials on Wednesday said another 92 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois, as the case count in the state has reached more than 50,000.
- Officials also reported 2,219 newly confirmed cases, raising the state’s total to 48,102. Those were the latest numbers as the state received 14,561 test results Monday.
- Chicago police announced Monday 21 more cases of COVID-19, bringing the number of confirmed cases in the department to 414.
Analysis & Commentary
12:10 p.m. Trump’s incompetent crowd shows who the real nonessential workers are
One of the few good things that’s happened during the coronavirus pandemic is that we’ve learned how many capable governors and mayors there are across America, of both political parties, who have stepped in to mitigate the terrible harm caused by Boss Trump’s ignorance and impulsivity.
If the man had a particle of honor, or of shame, he would resign and spare a wounded and grieving nation the degrading spectacle that his re-election campaign is certain to be. But he has none, so he won’t.
Instead, he goes on television (almost) every afternoon to boast and bitch about his enemies, imagined and real. My personal favorite was the time he blamed Barack Obama for the lack of coronavirus test kits — a disease that didn’t exist until late 2019, three years into the Trump regime.
“No, I don’t take responsibility at all,” he said.
6:37 a.m. COVID-19 lawsuits a symptom of a pre-existing condition in Illinois — and the nation
Somehow, I’ve found myself on the email distribution list for a conservative, pro-Trump news service, which, it turns out, offers handy insight into how the other half of the country thinks without my having to endure the pain of watching FOX News.
For the past 24 hours, the top story on their website has been one with which we are very familiar in Illinois even if we might not recognize the particular spin: “Judge Stands Up Against Dem Gov, Excoriates Stay At Home Order.”
The facts of the story are pretty much what you could find in the Chicago Sun-Times or any other mainstream news organization’s coverage of the downstate judge’s ruling that Gov. J. B. Pritzker exceeded his authority by extending his emergency stay-at-home orders beyond 30 days.
The difference is those facts are related from the point of view that Pritzker’s orders were “obviously” illegal and that state Rep. Darren Bailey and Clay County Circuit Judge Michael McHaney are heroic figures for standing up to him in defense of the Constitution and personal freedom.