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Coronavirus live blog, May 22, 2020: Nursing homes now account for half of all Illinois coronavirus deaths; protesters gather at Pritzker’s house

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

Gov. J.B. Pritzker faced more legal action surrounding his stay-at-home order with litigation in a Clay County court. President Trump deemed churches essential and called for them to be opened, but locally Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot stood firm in their opposition at this time.

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

News

An activist with Northside Action For Justice along with a dozen other protest outside Gov. Pritzker’s Chicago home demanding those in long term care facilities get resources amid the coronavirus pandemic, Friday, May 22, 2020.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

8:35 p.m. Disinfected dice, but no buffets: Las Vegas casinos getting ready to roll

LAS VEGAS — Free parking, but no valet service. Bartenders, blackjack dealers and waiters wearing masks. Hand sanitizer everywhere.

Yes, dice will roll, cards will be dealt and slot machines will beckon. But poker rooms? Closed.

Tourists returning to Las Vegas will see changes since gambling stopped in mid-March for the first time ever to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

The stakes could not be higher, said Robert Lang, executive director of the Brookings Mountain West think tank at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

“Las Vegas can never be known as the place where people go and get sick,” he said.

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak has set a tentative June 4 date for reopening casinos. The Democratic governor said in a statement Friday that Nevada has continued to see decreasing cases of the coronavirus and hospitalizations of COVID-19 when some restrictions began to be eased nearly two weeks ago.

Read the full story by The Associated Press.

7:30 p.m. Nursing homes now account for half of all Illinois coronavirus deaths; protesters gather at Pritzker’s house

An activist with Northside Action For Justice along with a dozen other protest outside Gov. Pritzker’s Chicago home demanding those in long term care facilities get resources amid the coronavirus pandemic, Friday, May 22, 2020.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Nursing homes now account for more than half of all coronavirus deaths in Illinois, according to a data analysis by the Chicago Sun-Times.

That updated tally came as a dozen people gathered Friday at Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Chicago home to protest his oversight of long-term care facilities.

Nursing homes reported 1,583 new COVID-19 cases and 395 new deaths in the past week, according to data released Friday by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

A Sun-Times count of state totals stands at 2,368 deaths and 14,799 confirmed cases at long-term care facilities since the pandemic started. The figures released by the state show lower totals, however, because officials have stopped including in their public data 74 facilities that have not had a new case in the past 28 days, an IDPH spokeswoman said Friday.

Read the full story by Nader Issa and Tyler LaRiviere here.

5:45 p.m. Here’s which Chicago businesses and places will be able to start reopening next month

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Friday laid out her hopes for which businesses, parks and other places will be able to start reopening next month.

While she didn’t give specific dates, she said various businesses will be able to open throughout the summer with strict social distancing, limited capacity and other precautions.

Click here for the full rundown by Dave Newbart.

4:30 p.m. Downstate judge blasts Pritzker’s stay-at-home-order: ‘Americans don’t get ruled’

In a fiery speech Friday afternoon, a downstate judge denounced Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order but granted a temporary restraining order from the governor’s action only for an individual business and its owner, rather than broadening it across the state.

Clay County Circuit Court Judge Michael McHaney complained that Pritzker had not followed his own rules: “When laws do not apply to those who make them, people are not being governed, they are being ruled.” McHaney was referring to Pritzker’s family traveling during the pandemic.

McHaney followed that comment by saying, “Americans don’t get ruled.”

The judge mocked the order, echoing popular complaints, and said, “if I go to Wal-Mart, I won’t get COVID. But if I go to church, I will.”

At his daily news briefing, Pritzker said, “it’s clear that the judge in Clay County has his own political agenda.”

Read the full story by Jon Seidel here.

2:45 p.m. 110 more Illinois coronavirus deaths with potential church showdown looming

Health officials on Friday announced the latest 110 deaths attributed to COVID-19 in Illinois, along with 2,758 newly confirmed cases of the disease across the state.

The latest coronavirus casualties raised Illinois’ death toll to 4,715 and the case tally to 105,444, though most of those who have contracted the virus over the last four months have recovered.

More than half of the COVID-19 deaths were in May.

Read the full story by Mitchell Armentrout here.

2:02 p.m. Cicero nursing home where 10 died from coronavirus says current residents test negative

Officials at a Cicero nursing home where nine residents and one worker died from complications related to the coronavirus said all current residents at the facility recently tested negative for COVID-19.

The City View MultiCare Center, which underwent a court-ordered inspection after it was sued by the town of Cicero for allegedly not following health guidelines, said two rounds of independent testing by Chicago-based Simple Laboratories showed that none of the residents have the virus.

Read the full story by Matthew Hendrickson here.

1:24 p.m. Chicago on track to ‘cautiously reopen’ starting in early June, Lightfoot says

Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Friday the city is on track to move on to the “cautiously reopen” third phase of reopening plans by early June, though reopening the lakefront could still be a ways away.

That prediction sees the city transition from phase two, which entails city residents staying home, to the cautiously reopen phase, which will still require strict physical distancing but would allow for some industries to start reopening.

Specific guidelines will be released next week and will include details on how businesses can maintain safe working spaces and conditions.

Businesses that are allowed to reopen at limited capacity in early June include outdoor dining for restaurants and coffee shops, hair and nail salons as well as barber shops, childcare centers, park facilities, libraries, office-based jobs and hotels and other lodging among other things.

Read this developing story by Rachel Hinton here.

12:11 p.m. Chicago clergy on seeking God in the age of COVID: ‘The church has left the building’

As Chicago wrestles along with the rest of America about how best to reopen, clergy of diverse faiths across the city and suburbs say the reopening debate has turned a spotlight on the changing face of religion in the era of COVID-19.

That new face, etched by forced technological pivots, will affect how America worships long after congregants return en masse to the church edifice.

“We’ve always taught that the church is not the building but people who gather in it, so this has been a challenge for the membership to grow up and now live the faith,” said the Rev. Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Catholic Church in Auburn Gresham. “It has also pushed churches to think outside the box about how we are supporting members while being disconnected physically.”

That’s only the start of the challenges.

“This has truly been a challenge for churches, I think a challenge financially,” Pfleger said. “And what has also been challenging is the fellowshiping part of worship service. It’s not just the actual service and ritual that we do in our churches, synagogues and mosques. There’s the other part, the public gathering of believers.

“But at the other end of this has been an opportunity. To use an old tagline, ‘The church has left the building.’ ”

Read the full story from Maudlyne Ihejirika here.

11 40 a.m. Some restaurateurs say they don’t want to open yet

When Mayor Lori Lightfoot told reporters Thursday that she doesn’t think Chicago restaurants will be ready to reopen by next week, some restaurant owners were upset, saying they were banking on the plan Gov. J.B. Pritzker had outlined, which would allow for patio dining starting May 29.

But Dave Miller, co-owner of Baker Miller in Lincoln Square, said those pushing to reopen now are actually in the minority.

Miller credited Lightfoot for “making decisions that are best for the city and viewing the city as separate from the state.”

“I think it shows a lot of wisdom, and I really respect her decision,” said Miller.

Miller’s restaurant has found some success pivoting to a take-out spot, and he’s in no rush to open his dining room or patio. Deeply concerned about continued spread, he said Baker Miller likely won’t reopen until a vaccine or herd immunity is developed.

“Just because the law lets you doesn’t mean it’s wise and that consumers are going to do it,” he said. “That’s the thing that these people are pushing for, but I don’t really get the point because consumers are not going to eat out on a patio.”

Read the full story by Tom Schuba here.

10:32 a.m. What will offices look like when on-site work resumes in Chicago?

One thing that seems certain: The work-from-home phenomenon, now so popular that “WFH” is part of our messaging shorthand, will endure, experts on workplace trends say.

What else is ahead? When people get back to the office, they’re going to notice changes, mostly those that are easiest to make. Masks could be required gear, made available to those who lack them. Deep-cleaning crews will be purposely visible. And there will be signs and floor markers attesting to the need for social distancing. Fussier places might designate one-way pathways.

There is less clarity over temperature checks. Do you do it for everybody or just for visitors? Who is responsible — the tenant or the landlord — especially if something goes wrong?

Then, there are the dreaded elevators. For buildings that can afford it, some are trying a “destination dispatch” system that summons one whenever you scan your way in, perhaps using your smartphone. The elevator knows your floor and takes you there, no buttons needed. Some buildings might enforce a limit of four or even two people to an elevator.

Read the full report from David Roeder here.

9:52 a.m. Recording Academy artists put new spin on John Prine’s ‘Angel From Montgomery’ for charity

The Recording Academy has released a new recording of John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery” with proceeds going to support the MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund.

Prine died in April at age 73 from complications associated with the coronavirus. A two-time Grammy winner, the Recording Academy announced in December that Prine would be honored with a 2020 Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award.

The new recording features artists, musicians and engineers who also are elected leaders in the Recording Academy, including singer-songwriter Christine Albert, Brandon Bush of Sugarland, John Driskell Hopkins of Zac Brown Band and Jeff Powell, an acclaimed Memphis engineer/producer.

Read the full story here.

8:43 a.m. 6th CTA employee dies of COVID-19

A sixth CTA employee has died from the coronavirus, the agency announced Thursday.

The employee was a bus driver who joined the CTA in 1997, the CTA said in a statement.

“At CTA, we are very much a family and we offer our deepest condolences to the family and friends of this beloved employee,” CTA President Dorval R. Carter Jr said. “We join with all of Chicago in appreciation of this employee’s dedication to our city and our CTA customers.”

The announcement comes two days after the agency said a fifth employee had died of the virus, a bus driver who joined the CTA in 2012.

Read the full story here.

7:12 a.m. A ‘slap in the face’ or a wise decision? Restaurateurs split on Lightfoot’s move to keep patios closed

Doug Dunlay was “absolutely thrilled” when Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Wednesday that restaurants could start serving customers on their patios as soon as May 29, the day his current stay-at-home order expires.

Dunlay, the owner of Smoke Daddy in Wicker Park, said he and his team immediately sprang into action and started mapping out the restaurant’s patio to adhere to the state’s social distancing guidelines. After struggling for months after the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, he said the announcement marked “the first time we actually had any hope.”

So when Mayor Lori Lightfoot told reporters Thursday that she doesn’t think Chicago restaurants will be ready to reopen by next week, Dunlay said he felt as if she “pulled the carpet out from under us.”

“I think it’s short-sighted and I think it’s a slap in the face or a gut punch,” said Dunlay.

Read the full story by Tom Schuba here.

5:50 a.m. County Board approves property tax relief plan, extension of disaster proclamation giving Preckwinkle emergency powers

The Cook County Board approved a plan to waive fees on late property tax bills and extended the county’s disaster proclamation at its Thursday meeting, providing some relief to property owners and allowing Board President Toni Preckwinkle the power to make some unchecked, emergency decisions for another three months.

Some commissioners still questioned the finer points of the plans — as well as the need to extend the county’s disaster proclamation until the end of September.

Cook County Commissioner Sean Morrison, R-Palos Park, previously called the extension a “massive overreach.”

At Thursday’s meeting, he and Commissioner Bridget Gainer, D-Chicago, were the only no votes on the measure, despite other commissioners calling into question why such a long extension was needed.

Read the full story by Rachel Hinton here.


New cases


Analysis & Commentary

8:25 p.m. When others around the world don’t even have clean water and soap, we all pay the price

Without better basic hygiene around the globe, we are bound to be hit by another pandemic.

Yet the World Bank this week reported that some 3 billion people around the world don’t even have access to clean water and soap, the most basic and effective necessities for preventing the spread of disease, including the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Globally, 46% of schools don’t have hand-washing facilities with water and soap.

Germs, as we have come to appreciate so painfully during the current pandemic, respect no borders. A bug in China or Italy can circle the globe in no time, especially if billions of people can’t even wash their hands.

Read the full editorial by the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board.

6:42 p.m. What we leave behind and what we welcome as city moves toward reopening

An unexpected gift . . .

Pay attention!

As the city moves cautiously to re-open its isolation doors next week in the wake of a COVID-19 fatalities decline, expect an eraser to appear.

Expect change.

It’s not a stretch to consider new hustle and bustle to eradicate the following:

  • A very quiet morning.
  • The sound of birds ALL day.
  • The actual noise of wheeled grocery store carts; the language of muffled “mask” speech.
  • Wildflowers given a chance to sow before the Spring mow on public property.
  • The actual sound of our Windy City’s wind.
  • Silence beyond six feet.
  • Big-time family time.

Read columnist Michael Sneed’s full list and column here.

10:29 a.m. We know how to help control COVID-19’s spread once we leave home; we just have to do it

As Chicago and other big cities make plans for emerging from pandemic-induced cocooning, we face a simple decision.

We can give up a measure of personal choice and get the coronavirus under control reasonably quickly. Or we can refuse to make common-sense accommodations and then face recurring outbreaks for years.

Much of the developed world has chosen the first option. The United States is quite capable of choosing the second.

I’ve spent the past few weeks speaking with business leaders, government officials, medical experts and technologists about what it’ll take to put the pandemic behind us.

Click here to read Ed Zotti’s takeaways.

7:13 a.m. Students with special needs shouldn’t become second-class Americans during a pandemic

Chicago Public Schools has a long history of shortchanging children with special needs. It has taken years of activism, judges’ rulings and monitoring by independent watchdogs to force progress on this front.

The district can’t be allowed to backslide now, even during a pandemic. Children with special needs deserve access to an education that is equal in quality to that of any other child.

We support a CPS policy that requires teachers and clinicians to revise learning plans for special education students to incorporate home-based remote learning. For all its limitations, remote learning is the “new normal” for now, in Chicago and across the country, and likely will continue into the fall in some fashion.

Read the full editorial by Chicago Sun-Times editorial board here.

6:18 a.m. Stuck at home? Try living at O’Hare — since April

Linda Benavides and her husband, Manuel, slept at O’Hare International Airport Wednesday night. In Terminal 1, near baggage claim. At least they tried to sleep, until 2:30 a.m., when the police kicked them out, again. They went to sleep on the Blue Line.

Or tried to.

“There was a party on the train,” she said. “The Blue Line is bad. Drug addicts.”

Most likely they will be back at O’Hare tonight, sleeping there again, or trying to, leaning against each other, using their jackets as blankets.

They’ve slept at O’Hare most nights for the past month. A good place to sleep, Linda said, because the bathrooms are right there. But not exactly pleasant.

Read the full commentary from columnist Neil Steinberg here.