Coronavirus live blog, May 23, 2020: 75 more Illinois coronavirus deaths; state testing tops 700K

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

SHARE Coronavirus live blog, May 23, 2020: 75 more Illinois coronavirus deaths; state testing tops 700K

Any other year, Chicagoans would be out in full force on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, but during a pandemic, the lakefronts, beaches, restaurants and bars remain closed for now.

Here’s what happened in Chicago and around the state as the battle against COVID-19 continued.


7:02 p.m. 75 more Illinois coronavirus deaths; state testing tops 700K

A woman in the Loop wears a face mask Thursday amid growing fear about the coronavirus.

A woman in the Loop wears a face mask Thursday amid growing fear about the coronavirus.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Another 75 people in Illinois have died of COVID-19, raising the state’s pandemic death toll to 4,790, health officials announced Saturday.

The Illinois Department of Public Health also confirmed the latest batch of 2,352 new cases of the coronavirus among 25,114 test results received.

Since the state’s first case was reported in late January, a total of 107,796 people have tested positive for the virus while more than 722,000 people have been tested.

More than half the deaths have occurred during the first three weeks of May, during what Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office has said is a plateau period for the outbreak’s impact on Illinois that could last through June.

Reporter Mitch Armentrout has the full story.

5:36 p.m. Here are the summer festivals and shows that have yet to be canceled or postponed

The coronavirus pandemic and Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s shelter-in-place order have dramatically altered everyone’s summer plans. Summer festivals, a staple of Chicago neighborhoods, have been forced to cancel or move their event to later in the year.

While many shows and festivals have already been canceled or postponed, there are a number that have yet to announce their plans for the summer.

Here are the big festivals we’re waiting to hear about:

See the full list of canceled or postponed shows and festivals here.

4:28 p.m. Downstate judge blasts Pritzker’s stay-at-home-order: Full transcript

LOUISVILLE, Ill. — Point by point, the judge in downstate Clay County on Friday ticked off the many ways he found Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order had devolved into “insanity” and become “completely devoid of anything approaching common sense.”

Clay County Judge Michael McHaney complained that recently legalized pot shops had been deemed essential over generations-old family businesses. People had been led to believe they could avoid COVID-19 at Walmart but not at church.

And to top it off, McHaney complained that Pritzker’s family members had traveled between Illinois and Florida and Wisconsin during the coronavirus pandemic, contrary to Pritzker’s own stay-at-home order. The judge said, “when laws do not apply to those who make them, people are not being governed, they are being ruled.”

“Americans don’t get ruled,” McHaney said.

Read reporter Jon Seidel’s full story and transcript of the judge’s ruling.

3:42 p.m. Positive COVID-19 virus tests up by more than 500 in Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS — Another 513 Indiana residents have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, bringing the state’s total to more than 30,900, according to health officials.

The Indiana State Department of Health also said Saturday that deaths attributed to the disease have risen by 21 to 1,812.

Another 152 probable deaths have been reported based on clinical diagnoses in patients for whom no positive test is on record.

More than 214,930 tests have been reported to the health department, officials said. That’s up from 208,561 reported Friday.

Associated Press

2:59 p.m. Hundreds of coronavirus deaths removed from weekly nursing homes update as state changes how tally is compiled

Balmoral Nursing Home, 2055 W. Balmoral.

Google Maps

Illinois officials are no longer including 216 deaths and 1,727 confirmed cases in their weekly reporting of coronavirus outbreaks at long-term care facilities, according to an analysis by the Chicago Sun-Times.

The omissions are part of a revised way COVID-19 cases and deaths at nursing homes and other facilities will now be reported, officials said. A Sun-Times count of current and past numbers shows long-term care facilities now account for half of all coronavirus deaths in Illinois.

The Illinois Department of Public Health releases figures every Friday on the number of coronavirus cases and deaths reported at every long-term care facility in the state.

Reporters Nader Issa and Caroline Hurley have the full story.

1:48 p.m. NBA says it’s talking with Disney about resuming season amid COVID-19 pandemic

The NBA is in talks with The Walt Disney Company on a single-site scenario for a resumption of play in Central Florida in late July, the clearest sign yet that the league believes the season can continue amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The National Basketball Players Association is also part of the talks with Disney, the league said Saturday. Games would be held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, a massive campus on the Disney property near Orlando.

NBA spokesman Mike Bass said the conversations were still “exploratory,” and that the Disney site would be used for practices and housing as well.

“Our priority continues to be the health and safety of all involved, and we are working with public health experts and government officials on a comprehensive set of guidelines to ensure that appropriate medical protocols and protections are in place,” Bass said.

Read the full report here.

1:25 p.m. Crooked ex-Chicago cop gets early prison release due to coronavirus

A federal judge has granted a “compassionate” early prison release to crooked ex-Chicago police Officer Glenn Lewellen due to COVID-19 concerns.

In an order issued Friday, U.S. District Judge Joan Gottschall modified Lewellen’s 18-year sentence to time served for his role in a drug conspiracy, citing the disgraced former cop’s “severe obesity, hypertension, and a heart condition.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic, combined with Lewellen’s risk factors, constitute extraordinary and compelling circumstances that the court did not and could not have foreseen at sentencing,” Gottschall wrote.

Lewellen was convicted of teaming with his longtime paid informant, drug dealer Saul Rodriguez, whose tips allowed the pair to kidnap, rob or arrest rival dealers between 1998 and 2006.

Federal prosecutors called Lewellen the “guardian angel” of Rodriguez and his crew, tipping them off to police operations and a federal wiretap while their shakedowns netted 250 kilos of cocaine and $3 million.

The judge’s order springs the 64-year-old from a low-security Florida prison more than six years earlier than projected by the federal Bureau of Prisons. He had served almost nine years and previously was slated for release in November 2026.

Read the full report from Mitchell Armentrout here.

12:09 p.m. Holiday amid pandemic: Americans divided on how to respond

President Donald Trump visited one of his golf clubs Saturday at the start of Memorial Day weekend as he urges U.S. states to reopen after coronavirus-related lockdowns. Yet many Americans remained cautious as the number of confirmed cases nationwide passed 1.6 million.

In California, where many businesses and recreational activities are reopening, officials in Los Angeles County said they would maintain tight restrictions until July 4. Some religious leaders took issue with Trump’s declaration that houses of worship are “essential” and should resume in-person services this weekend.

“Being at the epicenter of this pandemic and in order to protect our flock, we advise that congregations remain closed until more accurate and uniform information is provided,” said Bishop Paul Egensteiner, who oversees the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s congregations in the hard-hit New York City region.

Rain dampened the start of the holiday weekend in the northeastern U.S., where newly reopened beaches had been expected to attract throngs of people and test the effectiveness of social distancing rules.

However, Trump visited one of his private golf clubs for the first time during pandemic — the Trump National Golf Club in northern Virginia. He has been pushing for state and local leaders to fully reopen after months after closures and tight restrictions.

Overseas, there was mixed news.

Read the full report here.

9:52 a.m. Players have ‘very, very difficult decision to make’ amid coronavirus pandemic, Ozzie Guillen says

Ozzie Guillen is as conflicted and puzzled as anyone else.

The former White Sox shortstop and World Series-winning manager, known for speaking his mind and voicing firm opinions on any and all topics, doesn’t know if we will have baseball in 2020.

“You wake up in the morning and read one thing, and by the afternoon, it’s different,” Guillen said this week. “It’s very confusing.”

Guillen is not alone amid the bewildered around us. The owners and players have been divided on how to salvage a season — or half a season with an expanded postseason — and how to endure significant financial losses on both sides while safely navigating through a health pandemic.

“The players have a very, very difficult [decision to make],” Guillen said.

Read the full story from Daryl Van Schouwen here.

8:46 a.m. Springfield springs into action: Lawmakers pass mail voting, property tax, jobless, borrowing bills — and plan to return Saturday

Illinois legislators will return on Saturday for a fourth day of an unprecedented pandemic special session to iron out major legislation — including a full spending plan to get the state through the rest of the year and next and a package of relief efforts to aid Illinois residents and businesses.

But the wheels were rolling on Friday — all day — on several key issues, most importantly the passages of legislation to delay property tax late fees for the majority of the state during the crisis and a measure that allows a ”bridge loan” from the federal government — up to $5 billion — to help fill a revenue gap caused by COVID-19.

Both will head to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk.

And Democratic lawmakers are trying to revive a Chicago casino plan with a reworked tax structure. While amendments were still brewing, the House Executive Committee on Friday night approved the latest version. Chicago would still have the highest tax structure in the state.

Read the full report from Tina Sfondeles and Neal Earley.

8:02 a.m. Outdoors in a pandemic: Signs point to a rise in traditional outdoor pursuits, and it may stick

Whether hooking a crawler piece or fathead minnow on a No. 12 hook under a small float or foraging for morel mushrooms with family, people are remembering their roots in the outdoors.

With the stay-at-home edicts, the shift toward more traditional pursuits of foraging, fishing for food as much as for sport, and hunting for food as much as for sport morph into more than childhood memories.

“Oh, yeah, I think with this whole thing going on, I noticed an increase in fishing,’’ said Greg Dickson, proprietor of Triangle Sports and Marine in Antioch. “It is like during the oil embargo and the market crash, people come back to fishing, a grass-roots activity. I have been doing this a long time, so it doesn’t seem much different than those other times [of crisis].’’

He sees the shift.

“Long term, I think this will be positive,’’ he said. “People grew up doing this, then life gets in the way, now they come back to it, a grass-roots thing.’’

Read the full story from Dale Bowman here.

7:08 a.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.

New cases

Analysis & Commentary

3:58 p.m. I have learned to wear a mask against the pandemic called racism

We wear the mask that grins and lies,

It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes — Paul Laurence Dunbar

I was born in a pandemic, shaped in the waters of strife, separated from my mother’s life-yielding placenta, thrust into a world infected by hate.

I am black and male. Born in the USA. I wear the mask. I cannot leave home without it. This is a matter of survival.

I have learned to wear the mask. Not the one that fits over my nose and mouth snugly and held at my ears. The mask that pretends that I am not who I am. The mask that makes my male blackness less threatening, more palatable. That projects a veiled image of me.

The pandemic called coronavirus is not my first dance. It will not be my last. I am well- acquainted with the pandemic that is racism. With that unique strand of race-based hate in this land of the pilgrim’s pride, stricken since 1619 by the indelible curse called slavery. A resistant virus, it was bathed more than 400 years ago in the ancestral African blood of the Middle Passage and stamps 21st century racism’s DNA.

Read John W. Fountain’s full column here.

7:11 a.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.

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