Coronavirus live blog, May 15, 2020: DePaul, Loyola releases plans for fall semester

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

SHARE Coronavirus live blog, May 15, 2020: DePaul, Loyola releases plans for fall semester

COVID-19 is now in 100 of Illinois’ 102 counties, as Friday marked the fourth day in a row the state has seen more than 100 lives lost — and the 18th such day since the pandemic began.

With the latest 130 deaths, the state’s toll so far in May alone is 1,727 people, and 4,058 overall.

Here’s what went down Friday in the ongoing fight against the coronavirus pandemic in Illiois.


8:57 p.m. DePaul, Loyola releases plans for fall semester

The Holtschneider Performance Center at DePaul University.

DePaul University /Jeff Carrion

As coronavirus cases continue to increase statewide, two Chicago universities are planning to have students on campus this fall.

DePaul University and Loyola University of Chicago have consulted with public health experts and state and local officials to devise their plans for the fall semester.

DePaul expects to have limited in-person learning and reduced occupancy in the dorms this fall. Meanwhile, Loyola hopes to offer both on-campus and online classes.

Both universities said they’ll share more details about the fall semester in the coming weeks.

Loyola also announced its “Loyola Commitment,” a new financial aid program, funded by the university and its donors, which will help students who have been affected by the economic downturn amid the pandemic.

“As unemployment rises along with uncertainty about our economic outlook, we will see a sharp increase in students and families whose plans about attending Loyola might be hindered. Dreams are being crushed by diminished family finances,” Loyola provost Norberto Grzywacz wrote in an email to students. “The scale of this crisis and its financial impact on families will have a profound effect on many students from various backgrounds. In particular, it is expected to impact enrollment and our desire for a vibrant and diverse community as a place of growth, experience, and opportunity.”

— Madeline Kenney

8:13 p.m. Work-from-home Congress: House OKs proxy voting for first time

WASHINGTON — Neither Civil War nor Great Depression nor any other national crisis has pushed the House to allow lawmakers to vote by proxy — without being “present,” as the Constitution requires. That’s about to change during the coronavirus pandemic.

The House approved Friday a package of historic rules changes so Congress can keep functioning even while it’s partly closed. The shift will dramatically change the look, if not the operation, of the legislative branch — launching a 21st century WFH House, like others, “working from home.”

“This House must continue legislating,” Rep. Jim McGovern, the chairman of the House Rules Committee, said during a lengthy session ahead of the vote. “And we have to do so in a way that is safe for all those around us.”

Debate over the changes has been fierce. As President Donald Trump encourages Americans back to work, the 435-member House has stayed away due to health risks while the smaller Senate has resumed operations.

Read the full report here.

7:34 p.m. White Sox’ Eloy Jimenez says thank you with gifts for mask-making shop in Little Village

Novias Davilas shop workers, including manager Patty Navarro, was surprised with gift cards and cash from White Sox outfielder Eloy Jimenez Friday.

Photo courtesy of White Sox

White Sox outfielder Eloy Jiménez honored a good cause with a good deed.

In a show of gratitude to a local bridal shop, Novias Davila in Little Village, Jimenez donated official Sox uniforms and funds to the shop, which is making face masks needed for the community during the coronavirus pandemic.

Shop owner Tania Hernández received a video message from Jiménez on Friday, thanking her team for their commitment to the community. Jimenez gave each of seven workers a $500 Jewel-Osco gift card and $500 in cash to provide support during this time.

The Little Village area had the most confirmed coronavirus cases of any single ZIP code in the state as of May 6. Jiménez asked that the face masks are donated to first responders in the neighborhood.

Reporter Daryl Van Schouwen has the full story.

6:41 p.m. Corrupt ex-Ald. Ambrosio Medrano released from prison over coronavirus concerns

Former Chicago Ald. Ambrosio Medrano, convicted three times in corruption scandals, left prison this week as part of an effort to release inmates who are at-risk of contracting the coronavirus.

Federal Bureau of Prisons records show Medrano has been assigned to a residential re-entry management office in the Chicago area. Gal Pissetzky, the attorney who defended Medrano when he was sentenced in federal court six years ago, said Medrano is in a halfway house.

But for the rest of Medrano’s sentence, Pissetzky said, “he’s going to be on home confinement.” Medrano’s official release date isn’t until Sept. 14, 2025, prison records show.

Read the full story from reporter Jon Seidel here.

5:53 p.m. ‘Stories from Six Feet’ documents search for connection in coronavirus isolation

Sameka Gates and her kids, Kylee, 11, and Ethan, 5, sit on their front steps in Hermosa.

Sameka Gates and her kids, Kylee, 11, and Ethan, 5, sit on their front steps in Hermosa.

Angela Conners Treimer

It’s Angela Conners Treimer’s job to take photos of the most beautiful places on Earth.

As a commercial resort photographer, she travels over 100,000 miles each year, capturing luxurious images in places like Cabo and the Maldives.

So when the coronavirus started to spread and travel bans went into effect, Treimer was furloughed — for three months at least, and maybe longer.

“For the first time in three years, I wasn’t living on an airplane, you know? Whenever we were advised by the CDC to not travel, my world kind of flipped upside down,” she said. “I just started brainstorming: What am I going to do for the next three months? This is the first time in my life that I haven’t had a 9 to 5.”

Searching for normalcy and human connection, she decided to look for beauty elsewhere.

That’s how her project, “Stories from Six Feet,” came to be.

“Stories from Six Feet” is a photo series that documents the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting Chicago through the eyes of its residents in isolation. The project lives on Instagram under the handle @StoriesFromSixFeet.

See more photos from and read the full story from reporter Ella Lee here.

5:16 p.m. 7 more workers at Juvenile Detention Center contract COVID-19

Seven more employees of Cook County’s Juvenile Temporary Detention Center have tested positive for COVID-19, officials said Friday.

There are now six detainees and 17 employees at the facility that have contracted the coronavirus, according to the Circuit Court of Cook County’s Office of the Chief Judge spokesman Pat Milhizer.

Six of the employees tested positive after receiving on-site tests that began last week for all employees at the detention center, Milhizer said. No one showed symptoms when they were tested.

Read the full story from reporter David Struett here.

4:23 p.m. Library workers return to work Wednesday to prepare for eventual reopening. Exactly when? Unclear.

It’s unclear when Chicago’s 81 libraries will reopen, but staff are returning to their jobs Wednesday to prepare for the day when doors will be flung open and patrons will be welcomed back.

“Absolutely no date has been set to open libraries to the public, and any reopening decision would be consistent with public health guidance and dependent on where our data is at that time,” Jordan Troy, a spokesman for Mayor Lightfoot, said in an email Friday.

“As the mayor has stated since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, every decision made in city government will be guided by science and data.”

Libraries have been closed since March 21.

Read more on libraries from reporter Mitch Dudek here.

3:15 p.m. President Trump still confident in Abbott’s virus test despite false negatives

Trump expressed his confidence in the test from Abbott Laboratories after a preliminary study by New York University researchers reported problems with it. Trump and his deputies have have promoting the 15-minute test as a “game changer.”

The Food and Drug Administration announced late Thursday it was investigating preliminary data suggesting the Abbott test can miss COVID-19 cases, falsely clearing infected patients.

“Abbott is a great test; it’s a very quick test,” Trump said at a Rose Garden event to highlight his administration’s efforts to develop a vaccine for the virus. “And it can always be very rapidly double checked.”

The test is used daily at the White House to test Trump, key members of his staff as well as any visitor to the White House complex who comes in close proximity to the president or Vice President Mike Pence.

Read the full story by the Associated Press here.

2:45 p.m. Coronavirus now in 100 Illinois counties as state tops 4K deaths, 90K cases

COVID-19 is now in 100 of Illinois’ 102 counties, as Friday marked the fourth day in a row that the state has seen more than 100 lives lost — and the 18th such day since the pandemic began.

With the latest 130 deaths, the state has lost 1,727 people so far in May, and 4,058 overall.

There were also 2,432 more people testing positive among the latest batch of 26,565 test results, officials said. And Edgar County became the 100th county to record positive cases in the state.

There have been 90,369 confirmed coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.

The state’s overall positivity rate — the number of positive cases compared to total tests received — was 9.1%. And the Northeast region, home to Chicago, Cook and the collar counties, remained under 20%, a benchmark set for further to enter the next phase of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s regional reopening plan.

Read the full report from Tina Sfondeles here.

2:36 p.m. Cook County surpasses Queens, NY, as county with most COVID-19 cases in U.S.

Cook County has surpassed Queens County in New York as the U.S. county with the most coronavirus cases based on Sun-Times analysis of the latest public data.

There have been 58,457 total cases of COVID-19 recorded in Cook County, which includes all of Chicago and many of its suburbs, after officials added 2,051 new cases in the last 24 hours. Queens, by comparison, added only 336 cases over the same time frame to bring its total to 58,084.

Cook County still has a lower rate of COVID-19 per capita given its population (5.1 million) is more than twice as large as Queens (2.25 million). But Queens also has a much higher population density with 20,500 people per square mile compared to 5,500 per square mile in Cook County, which can make social distancing measures more challenging to maintain.

Read the full report from Caroline Hurley and Satchel Price here.

1:55 p.m. Lightfoot hints at street closures to help restaurants

Is Mayor Lori Lightfoot planning to close streets and sidewalks so restaurants can safely reopen and give residents a place to run, walk and play? Sure sounds like it.

“People are itching to get outside. Businesses are looking at creative ways to serve customers. The key is how we do it,” the mayor tweeted Friday.

“Stay tuned for some changes to our streets and sidewalks. Transportation is more than just cars. We’ll show how Chicago can be safer and easier to get around.”

Last week, Illinois Restaurant Association President Sam Toia urged Gov. J.B. Pritzker to relax his five-step plan to reopen Illinois by allowing restaurants to open at 25% of capacity beginning June 1 with strict safeguards for restaurant employees, including face masks and daily temperature checks.

At the time, Toia teased the street closing idea.

Read the full report from Fran Spielman here.

1:27 p.m. Lightfoot warns religious leaders she is prepared to enforce stay-at-home order

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has appealed to religious leaders to not defy Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order — and warned she is prepared to “enforce the rules” if they don’t.

In a “Dear Members of the Chicago Faith Community” letter sent Thursday, Lightfoot urged religious leaders to continue holding virtual services rather than in-person services, where it is difficult, if not impossible, to maintain social distance.

“I am urging you to stay the course. If there is a problem, I would rather be in conversation than in conflict. But to be clear, I am resolute that I must enforce the rules of the governor’s stay-at-home order. To be fair to all, I simply cannot look away from non-compliance, no matter the source or the intention,” she wrote.

On Monday, Lightfoot responded to Sunday service defiance by saying she hoped to educate religious leaders into compliance, avoiding mass arrests.

“We’re not gonna send in the police to arrest parishioners. People are exercising their faith, and I understand that,” she said then.

But the next day, the mayor made it clear she was serious about enforcing the governor’s order and she would do what she must.

Read the full report from Fran Spielman here.

12:59 p.m. Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts not sure baseball will be played this season: report

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts told season-ticket holders he is not sure baseball will be played this year.

According to a story published by The Athletic, Ricketts said the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, conflicts over the best time to reopen businesses, and continuing negotiations between the owners and players could combine to prevent the start of the season.

“I don’t think anyone can answer that question just yet,” Ricketts said during a virtual forum with season-ticket holders Thursday. “The current thinking and the current discussions (among owners) have been all around trying to get back into our home ballparks for this season. Obviously, without fans. Now that creates three specific problems that we have to address.”

The team has been consulting with health professionals on the best way to make Wrigley Field safe, according to a recording of Cubs president Crane Kenney obtained by The Athletic.

— Sun-Times Staff

12:26 p.m. The high cost of quarantine


Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

In a letter to the Sun-Times editors, Tom Gregg of Niles writes:

Before the quarantine, I was visiting my 99-year-old mother twice a day in our retirement home, and she was holding her own in terms of her health. She is vision-impaired, hearing-impaired, arthritic and suffering from mild dementia, certainly, but for 13 years in two homes she had largely been able to avoid hospital stays for life-threatening problems. Plus, her interaction with me seemed to greatly help in minimizing her spells of confusion.

But now, during our relatively brief period of enforced separation — I live on a lower floor while she lives up on an assisted living floor — she has contracted pneumonia, for which she has been in and out of hospital, and her spells of confusion seem to be worsening. Symptomatic, doubtless, of the unprecedented disorientation.

My mother remains among the living today, but for how long if she remains so isolated? Now multiply this single case by all the other seniors around the country who have seen their precious interactive routines disappear. It is a situation that many of them, given their cognitive limitations, have difficulty grasping.

This potentially lethal hardship is worth noting when we are formulating pandemic recovery plans. The cure of the quarantine shouldn’t cost more than the contagion itself, should it?

Read this and more letters here.

11:44 a.m. What’s the first meal you’ll want at a restaurant post-pandemic? We asked, Chicagoans answered.

With eat-in dining at restaurants on hold because of the state’s coronavirus stay-at-home order, the next time you’ll be waited on at a restaurant probably won’t be for a while.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s five-phase plan for reopening Illinois businessesputs restaurant reopenings in Phase 4. We’re now in Phase 2.

So with Chicagoans craving a meal out, we asked: Once restaurants reopen for dining in, what’s the first meal you’ll want to eat out, and from where? Some of these answers have been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

“Breakfast at a Greek joint: feta cheese-and-spinach omelet, hashbrowns and an English muffin or pancakes.” — Rose Panieri

“A hamburger from Charlie Beinlich’s in Glencoe.” — Elena Zaremski

“Tango Sur — the filet with spinach mashed potatoes.” — Marcela Guzman

Read more answers from our readers here.

10:08 a.m. How we should honor our youngest COVID-19 victim

Ernesto Guzman, age 12, suffered from asthma and obstructive sleep apnea, two other underlying health problems with potentially serious consequences that have figured into many other COVID-19 deaths, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office.

But make no mistake, doctors say it was the coronavirus that caused the pneumonia that took Ernesto’s life early Thursday morning at Advocate Christ Medical Center, Oak Lawn.

Because his death occurred after midnight, it is not yet counted among the 3,928 official COVID-19 deaths in Illinois, but it was listed among the single-day record high of 126 deaths reported Thursday from Cook County by the medical examiner.

Will the death of a 12-year-old boy cause more people to take this disease seriously? Mark Brown says he doubts it. But he hopes that will change.

“Take this seriously, folks,” he wrote. “Take it very seriously, because the life you risk may not be your own.”

Read Mark Brown’s full column here.

8:49 a.m. Abbott rapid COVID-19 test may yield false negatives, FDA warns

The federal Food and Drug Administration issued a warning Thursday night that early data suggests Abbott Laboratories’ rapid coronavirus test, touted by the Trump administration as a game changer, may return inaccurate and false negative results — findings the Chicago-area firm vehemently denied.

The Abbott ID NOW test — which can provide results in minutes — is used by the White House to quickly test anyone who comes into proximity of President Donald Trump. Trump has lavished attention on the Abbott ID NOW test and featured it at a White House event three days after the FDA fast-tracked its approval by granting an emergency use authorization on March 27.

In just a few weeks time, Abbott has shipped 1.8 million of the ID NOW tests, which is used at several Chicago-area testing sites.

The FDA warning came a day after a New York University preliminary study raised questions about its accuracy. The study was not subject to peer review, a process that checks on the procedures used for a study as well as its findings.

Read the full story here.

7:03 a.m. ‘Grandstanding’ by Grand Old Party? Or is Pritzker masking his decisions?

SPRINGFIELD — After weeks of nudges from Republican legislators, the General Assembly is planning to return to Springfield to get back to work.

And as they prepare for the Legislature’s long-sought session next week, Republicans said Thursday they are willing to comply with safety guidelines issued by the Democrats – but they want an examination of their own.

GOP lawmakers said they will wear face coverings, submit to COVID-19 tests and temperature checks and follow other safety measures when they return to Springfield, but they balked at signing a pledge to follow those recommendations as requested by House Speaker Mike Madigan.

And Republicans want to put Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s “Restore Illinois” plan under the microscope with a public hearing.

GOP lawmakers have criticized Pritzker’s “Restore Illinois” plan as “arbitrary,” saying the dates in which parts of the states can begin to reopen don’t make sense, and its metrics ignore geographical differences in COVID-19’s impact.

Read the full story by Neal Earley here.

6:45 a.m. With the focus on the coronavirus, Lightfoot opts for bare-bones capital plan

Singularly focused on the war against the coronavirus, Mayor Lori Lightfoot has opted for a $100 million, bare bones capital plan — bankrolled by an existing line of credit — to pay for new vehicles, sidewalks and the treasured aldermanic menu program.

Normally, the city issues general obligation bonds backed by property taxes to cover a more sweeping capital program. But these are not normal times.

The Lightfoot administration is preoccupied with the city’s response to the coronavirus and the budget crisis triggered by the stay-at-home shutdown of the Chicago economy.

So the decision was made to proceed only with those capital projects and purchases that absolutely needed to get done and to finance it with a line of credit that remained, even after Lightfoot saved $22 million by eliminating a $1.4 billion line of credit negotiated by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Read the full story by Fran Spielman here.

New cases

Analysis & Commentary

7:47 p.m. Everything must be on the table as city, state fight back from financial devastation

Washington to cities and states: You’re on your own.

For months, the Trump administration has failed to take the lead in fighting the coronavirus pandemic, punting responsibility to the states. Now the president and his Republican Party are looking to do the same when it comes to helping states and cities survive the pandemic’s financial devastation.

A $3 trillion stimulus package expected to be approved by the Democratic-controlled House looks dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled Senate, and President Donald Trump is making clear he would never sign such a bill.

Why? Because the package to rescue drowning cities, suburbs, states, small businesses and unemployed Americans would be fiscally imprudent, they claim.

We couldn’t disagree more. And, yes, this is the same Senate and president who rewrote the federal tax code in 2017 to give billions of dollars in tax cuts to the wealthiest one percent of Americans, ballooning the federal deficit.

So what does all this mean for Illinois and Chicago, as well as for towns and counties statewide?

Read the full editorial from the CST Editorial Board here.

6:35 p.m. Gov. Pritzker fumbles rollout of ‘Restore Illinois’

For many weeks after the beginning of this COVID-19 crisis, Gov. J.B. Pritzker proved adept at telegraphing his every move.

Pritzker waited until people practically begged him to shut down the schools on March 15. He talked about issuing a stay-at-home order for days, and then acted on March 21 only after California jumped first.

It was clear for days that he would extend his stay-at-home order another month starting April 1. He talked for well over a week about a mask-wearing requirement, always noting that he was being lobbied by Republican state Rep. Mark Batinick before finally announcing the order on April 23.

People did not always agreed with him, but they always had a sense of where he was going. Pritzker did get out over his skis when his Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission dramatically altered the burden of proof on COVID-19 illnesses in favor of employees without so much as a heads-up to business groups. But most regular folks never noticed that and a court intervened and stopped the order anyway.

Otherwise, the governor did a remarkably good job of making sure the public was always aware in advance of his leadership direction.

And then on May 5 he announced his “Restore Illinois” roadmap to gradually reopen the state.

Read the full column from Rich Miller here.

6:53 a.m. Chicago’s flag, civic pride and the fight against COVID-19

If Chicago were to add a fifth star to the city’s flag, an awful lot of hipsters would have to get their tattoos reworked.

Maybe it’s best we just leave the flag as it is, even if the city manages to prevail against COVID-19.

Last Friday and again on Wednesday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot floated the idea of adding a fifth red star to Chicago’s flag to mark the city’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. She was trying to rally the city. If Chicago’s effort to beat the virus is terrifically successful, she said Friday, it will “truly warrant a fifth star on our flag.”

But let’s be blunt. Chicago’s not about to be terrifically successful anytime soon. Nobody is. This is a global public health war that’s sure to be fought for years, and a lot of people are setting us up to lose.

Read the full Sun-Times editorial here.

6:10 a.m. Navy Pier is an arm of government, no matter what it claims — so let’s see every contract

Now that the nonprofit that runs Navy Pier is getting a federal stimulus loan of nearly $2.5 million, it’s really way past time that it opened its books to the public completely.

Navy Pier Inc., which leases the 104-year-old pier from the public, is a government body that masquerades as a nonprofit organization. As such, it has been allowed to hide its workings from public scrutiny while benefiting from public support.

Navy Pier Inc. pays just $1 a year to the state and city to lease the pier.

And just this week, Sun-Times reporters Tim Novak and Robert Herguth revealed that the organization, whose president is paid more than $540,000 a year, has received a nearly $2.5 million coronavirus stimulus loan from the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program.

Like all nonprofits, Navy Pier Inc. must disclose much of its finances by filing 990 forms, but it does not have to comply with Freedom of Information Act requests or disclose the terms of contracts.

Read the full editorial here.

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