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Coronavirus live blog, May 2, 2020: Ald. Gardiner hands out face masks in Jefferson Park to combat spread of coronavirus

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

The first Saturday in May brought beautiful weather for Chicago. Mayor Lori Lightfoot wasn’t about to let warm temperatures cause Chicagoans forget about the necessary measures they should continue to take to combat the coronavirus pandemic. She warned against large gatherings and threatened to shut them down.

Ald. Jim Gardiner pitched in by helping out by handing out face masks in Jefferson Park and 105 new deaths were reported in Illinois.

Here’s what happened in the fight against the coronavirus in Chicago and around the state.

News

8:35 p.m. Ald. Gardiner hands out face masks in Jefferson Park to combat spread of coronavirus

In an effort to help city residents protect themselves and others Saturday from the new coronavirus, Ald. Jim Gardiner (45th) and a team of volunteers were in Jefferson Park handing out face masks.

The giveaway began shortly after noon at a Hoyne Savings Bank branch drive-thru at 4786 N. Milwaukee Ave. and continued until about 4 p.m.

During the first half of the giveaway, the masks were being given to seniors and other residents who were at “high risk” of contracting the COVID-19 virus before switching to giving masks to anyone who drove up.

Read the full recap by Tyler LaRiviere.

7:03 p.m. Warren Buffett confident in future despite coronavirus uncertainty

OMAHA, Neb. — Billionaire investor Warren Buffett doesn’t know how the economy will recover from the coronavirus outbreak shutdown, but he remains optimistic in the long-term future of the United States.

Buffett said Saturday at Berkshire Hathaway’s online annual meeting that there’s no way to predict the economic future right now because the possibilities are still too varied. Berkshire’s meeting was held without any of the roughly 40,000 shareholders who typically attend.

“We do not know exactly what happens when you voluntarily shut down a substantial portion of your society,” Buffett said because it has never been done. He said it may take several years to understand all the economic implications of the coronavirus outbreak, but it hasn’t changed his long-term view because the country has endured wars and depressions before.

“I remain convinced … that nothing can basically stop America,” Buffett said.

Read the full story by Josh Funk, of the Associated Press.

6:25 p.m. Lightfoot warns partygoers they face citations, arrest as state reports 105 new coronavirus deaths

A visibly angered Mayor Lori Lightfoot scolded partygoers for their “foolish, reckless behavior” during an her appearance Saturday in a West Side block where authorities had learned of a planned party — one of six that had been tipped off to police.

Those tips came after Chicago police shut down numerous parties Friday night, some with as many as 150 attendees.

The mayor scolded those hosting or promoting the events for ignoring social distancing guidelines, and said she’d instructed Chicago Police Supt. David Brown to advise all police districts to give “special attention” to identifying and breaking up parties in the city.

Ben Pope has the full story.

3:05 p.m. 105 more Illinois coronavirus deaths as officials confirm 2,450 new cases

Another 105 people have died of the coronavirus in Illinois, health officials said Saturday, raising the state’s pandemic death toll to 2,559.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said 2,450 more people have tested positive for COVID-19. That brings the state’s case total to 58,505.

The state received 15,208 coronavirus test results Friday, and about 300,000 people have been tested overall. The virus has been confirmed in 97 of the state’s 102 counties.

Despite the lofty numbers — daily case counts have topped 2,100 for a week — Illinois officials nonetheless say the state is flattening the curve.

Read the full report from Ben Pope here.

2:27 p.m. Coronavirus deaths double in one week at Illinois nursing homes; have surged past 1,000, data show

The number of reported coronavirus deaths at Illinois nursing homes nearly doubled in the past week and for the first time surpassed 1,000, as new cases and deaths blew by their previous one-week highs, according to data released Friday by state health officials.

But the numbers, published weekly, have inconsistencies from week to week and, because of lags in reporting, appear to be lower than the real-time toll the virus is taking on those facilities.

In all, 3,229 new cases were reported this week along with 456 new deaths, according to a count by the Chicago Sun-Times. That brings state nursing home cases to 7,527 and deaths to 1,081. Last week, the state saw one-week increases of 2,438 cases and 339 deaths.

Those tallies mean elderly care facilities have accounted for 44% of the state’s coronavirus deaths and nearly one in seven confirmed cases.

Read the full report from Nader Issa here.

1:28 p.m. One silver lining of Illinois stay-at-home order? Endangered piping plovers return to deserted Montrose Beach

A pair of endangered piping plovers whose Montrose Beach nest sparked fierce debate last year between conservationists and music fans, leading to the cancellation of a popular lakefront festival, have returned to nest once again.

This time, though, the rare birds have found the beach completely empty, thanks to Chicago’s lakefront closure during to the coronavirus pandemic.

The plover couple — nicknamed Monty and Rose — were spotted Friday by Chicago Park District staff, according to Louise Clemency, field supervisor for the Chicago office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

It seems their romance has already resumed, with each exhibiting “courtship behavior,” like scraping out potential nesting spots in the sand, Clemency said in a statement.

Read the full story here.

10:40 a.m. Former Chicago bartender — now a high-stakes gambler based in Nevada — details how virus has blindsided his profession

Van’s successes enabled him to bump his initial bankroll from $100,000 to $200,000 after his first 12 months in Nevada. Today it’s $300,000. His average wager (or unit) is 1 percent of that bankroll — staple terms for the cutthroat industry’s disciplined participants — from which he rarely deviates.

His options are few these days because the coronavirus pandemic has shuttered the sporting world. Las Vegas casinos began closing March 18. In fact, money wagered in state sportsbooks in March dropped 76% year-over-year, according to the Nevada Gaming Control. About $141.2 million was wagered, down from a record $596.7 million last March.

Some sportsbook apps are open, but two-legged events are scant. He taps into the Costa Rica-based BetUS app on his smartphone and calls out Taiwanese baseball, short-league hockey in Russia, soccer in Nicaragua and English darts as far-away options.

‘‘And a cricket Quarantine Cup,’’ he says. ‘‘The more they offer, the better off they are. I’m sure they’re limiting wager amounts because, in Russia and other places, if you want to fix something, you probably could.’’

He drives his South American girlfriend of a few years to work most mornings. She rents a home in the foothills of Henderson, to the southeast. A mother with grandchildren, she rings twice a day to check on him.

Read the full Sports Saturday cover story here.

9:47 a.m. ICYMI: Reopen Illinois rally draws hundreds to Loop, Springfield

Anger and frustration were palpable in the Loop and in Springfield Friday as hundreds of people rallied and railed against statewide restrictions that have left scores of people across the state out of work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Chicago, at the Thompson Center, the crowd was small early in the day but grew to about 300 people — still a far cry from the crowd of 5,000 organizers had anticipated. Street closures were minimal, and the group stayed put at the northwest corner of Randolph and Clark streets throughout the morning and afternoon.

“We are still the land of the free. There are still independent people who can think for themselves and who can protect their own self-interest as they see fit,” former Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica told reporters.

With car horns — both in support and in opposition to the rally-goers — and motorcycle engines echoing throughout the largely empty downtown area, the attendees laid bare their mounting frustrations, with some calling for Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot to be removed from office.

“Give me liberty or give me COVID-19,” “F--- your face masks,” and “Ban vaccines” were some of the slogans written on the hundreds of homemade signs and flags that dotted the rally.

The Springfield rally drew several hundred people. The crowd filled the steps and spilled onto the lawn on the east side of the Illinois State Capitol.

Many expressed frustration with the Chicago-dominated state government they believe has ignored Downstate. Much of the anger was directed at Pritzker.

“He’s not in touch with the people who elected him,” said Ben Hamilton, an industrial tool shop owner from Peoria.

Read the full report by Sam Charles and Neal Earley here.

9:00 a.m. On National Decision Day, CPS seniors look forward to the future, but worry about missing another milestone

After a difficult senior year upended by forces outside of their control, Chicago Public Schools students are being cautiously optimistic about heading off to college.

As National Decision Day arrived Friday, traditionally the deadline to commit to a school, the students said they were juggling feelings of excitement with those of uncertainty.

On social media accounts, students proudly shared photos of themselves with their school choice, and friends and family cheered them on and congratulated them in the comments section.

“I know you’ll work hard and be successful!” one wrote to Rami Assaf, 18, a Jones College Prep student who plans to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, on an Instagram account dedicated to his fellow seniors.

“Congrats, Diego” another wrote to Lane Tech College Prep student Diego Lucero, who plans to attend DePaul. “A legend,” wrote another.

Still, the day, like other milestones this year, was bittersweet for many seniors.

Read the full report from Matthew Hendrickson here.

7:18 a.m. Surge in coronavirus cases continues at Chicago’s federal jail

A quick rise in the number of coronavirus cases among inmates held in Chicago’s downtown federal jail continued Friday, with the Bureau of Prisons reporting 74 inmates had tested positive, up from 48 on Thursday.

The sudden rise in numbers reported at the Chicago Metropolitan Correctional Center by the Bureau of Prisons follows questions about how the agency has been counting cases there. As recently as Wednesday, the Bureau of Prisons said only seven of the more than 600 people being held at the MCC had tested positive.

Read the full report from Jon Seidel here.


New cases


Analysis & Commentary

11:42 a.m. When this virus has passed, I will remember freedoms stolen like a thief in the night

When this storm has finally passed, I will shake another brother’s hand, slap hard fives, skin to skin, embrace like the best of friends. The way we used to.

Before the arrival of coronavirus’ cold winds.

When this storm finally has been vanquished and it is safe to come out again, to break the barrier of personal space, to converse in intimate human circles over coffee or tea and chill, I will.

And I will stroll slowly across golden sands for miles of beach. No city code to breach. I will speak to everyone I pass. Lie blissfully upon emerald blades of park grass.

Watch daylight pass as the orange-red sun sinks from a purplish evening sky and children’s voices blend with the crickets’ song while fireflies twinkle before their widened eyes.

And though I no longer have a head of hair, I just might plop down in a barber’s chair. Break my vow to allow someone beside myself to trim my beard. To rub my face with lilac tonic after lining me with a straight edge from ear to ear.

When this storm is over, I will remember when freedoms taken for granted were stolen like a thief in the night. And at the end of the tunnel we could see no sure sign of light.

Read the full column here.

7:23 a.m. Michelle Abernathy wasn’t just another COVID-19 victim. She made a difference.

Torrence Jones remembers the day his girlfriend Michelle Abernathy learned a developmentally disabled resident of Ludeman Developmental Center, where they worked, had become the first person there to test positive for COVID-19.

It was March 28, a Saturday. Abernathy had stopped by the Park Forest campus to catch up on work. She was informed the stricken man lived in a housing unit under her supervision.

Abernathy, 52, made sure the resident was receiving proper care and that her staff had personal protective equipment, Jones said.

By the next night, Abernathy had a fever. Fifteen days later, she was dead, a victim of the coronavirus.

The Illinois Department of Human Services revealed this past week that the death toll at Ludeman has reached six — three staff members and three residents.

The latest to die: Jose Velez and Cephus Lee. They worked in Ludeman’s dietary department, delivering meals from a central kitchen to the 38 residential homes that comprise the facility.

Read the full column from Mark Brown here.