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Latest coronavirus news for May 24, 2020: Live updates

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

The latest

Here’s what you can expect when you take a fitness class, get a haircut or go out to eat under Phase 3 of Pritzker’s reopening plan

Under Phase 3 of Pritzker’s reopening plan, restaurants and bars will be open for outdoor dining.
Annie Costabile/Sun-Times

Gov. J.B. Pritzker released guidelines Sunday for retailers, manufacturers, barbershops, salons, health and fitness centers, and other businesses that will be allowed to reopen in coming days as the state enters the next phase of its “Restore Illinois” plan.

In addition to social distancing, wearing masks and hand-washing, Phase 3 of Pritzker’s plan includes some specific guidelines for places like gyms, hair salons and day camps:

  • Youth sports activities are limited to drills, practices and lessons that involve no contact between kids and allow for six feet of social distancing to be maintained.
  • Fitness classes are limited to one on one training, outdoor classes with a maximum of 10 participants and no contact between attendees.
  • Personal care services, like those you get at hair salons, barbershops, nail salons, spas, massage parlors, waxing centers and tattoo parlors, can only be performed while the customer and employee are both wearing face masks.
  • Massages and body treatments, like masks and scrubs, are limited to 30 minutes or less.
  • Camps can only take place during the day; overnight camps are not allowed.
  • Restaurants and bars can be open for outdoor dining only and limited to parties of six people or fewer.

Read the full story for more on the Phase 3 guidelines here.


News

6:21 p.m. Facing fines and threat of closure, churches continue to hold services: ‘There is not going to be a stand down’

Two Chicago churches continued to hold services Sunday after city officials fined each of them last week for violating Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s current stay-at-home order by hosting more than 10 people and later ordered the houses of worship to stop holding gatherings or face more severe penalties.

Dr. Allison Arwady, the commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, sent letters Saturday to Metro Praise International Church in Belmont Cragin, Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church in Albany Park and Philadelphia Romanian Church in Ravenswood warning that future violations could result in a church being “declared a public health nuisance” and potentially closed.

While all three churches were fined $500 last week for holding services and are now subject to additional penalties, Metro Praise and Elis Romanian remained defiant and welcomed worshippers Sunday. A statement on Philadelphia Romanian’s Facebook page said in-person services had been suspended until May 31, though a choir, band and multiple speakers appeared in an online mass.

Cristian Ionescu, pastor of Elim Romanian, said he worries that the “summary abatement” threatened in Arwady’s letter could lead to his church being demolished “without due process.”

“There is not going to be a stand down from our part. It’s only the city that escalates,” Ionescu told reporters after hosting upwards of 100 people in church Sunday. “When they threaten us with such extreme measures, what else is left?”

Though Chicago’s municipal code allows discretion in determining what form of abatement is necessary, a spokesman for Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the city doesn’t intend to demolish churches without due process. However, additional legal action could be taken “to protect the health of our residents,” he said.

Read the full story from Tom Schuba.

4:30 p.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.

Ed Zotti has 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. Here are his six takeaways:

  • There’s no consensus on how to proceed. But there’s strong interest in developing a coordinated approach.
  • The federal government is never going to come up with a national scheme. Any solution will have to be regional. The private sector will be the major driver.
  • Decision-makers are aware of what needs to be done, based on what has worked in Asia. The five tools, as one business person put it, are social distancing, personal protective equipment, testing, taking temperatures and contact tracing.
  • Of the five, the first four at best will reduce risk. Contact tracing — tracking down and treating as many people as possible who’ve crossed paths with someone infected — is the one proven way to end a pandemic short of the vaccine that we don’t yet have.
  • Given how easily COVID-19 spreads, effective large-scale contact tracing will require technology. Older solutions, such as the neighborhood-alert system used in South Korea, involve a risk of privacy loss. That’s less of a problem with newer technology. The sticking point is that participation has to be mandatory for contact tracing to work.
  • Some will bitterly resist the compulsory aspect, even if it means just using an ID card to enter a building or ride a bus. Getting buy-in will take a long, fraught public conversation.

We know what to do. We just need to suck it up and do it, Zotti writes.

Read his full column here.

3:00 p.m. 67 more Illinois coronavirus deaths announced as state inches toward Phase 3

Another 67 Illinois residents have died of COVID-19, state officials announced Sunday, increasing the state’s pandemic death toll to 4,856.

The Illinois Department of Public Health also processed 25,674 new tests and identified 2,508 new cases, bringing the state’s total case count — although many have recovered — to 110,304.

That represents a 9.7% statewide test positivity rate, lowering the state’s rolling seven-day positivity rate to 12%. The rate in the Northeast Region — which includes Cook County — was 15% on Sunday.

The new numbers were disclosed shortly after Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced new specific guidelines for businesses and activities planning to reopen when the state progresses to the third phase of the “Restore Illinois” plan in the coming days.

Read the full report from Ben Pope here.

1:45 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.

Reporter Maudlyne Ihejirika has the full story.

12:57 p.m. Governor releases guidelines for more Illinois businesses to reopen in coming days

Gov. J.B. Pritzker released guidelines Sunday for retailers, manufacturers, barbershops, salons, health and fitness centers, and other businesses that will be allowed to reopen in coming days as the state enters the next phase of its “Restore Illinois” plan.

In announcing the guidelines for the third of the state’s five-phase plan, Pritzker said his administration had consulted with over 200 people representing small businesses, major companies, local park districts, hospitals, elected officials and labor leaders, among others.

The governor stressed that as more businesses reopen, the No. 1 priority will continue to be the health and safety of Illinois residents and workers, and he urged Illinois residents to continue to take precautions.

“You can’t build a strong economy if people aren’t comfortable being a part of it,” Pritzker said, adding that wearing a mask “is likely the most important thing we can do for our public health.”

“I want to be very clear: The virus is still out there, and the vast majority of people are not immune.”

He noted that the new state budget lawmakers approved early Sunday morning includes more than $900 million to expand the state’s contact tracing efforts and $800 million in “stability payments” to nursing homes, federally qualified health care centers and others on the frontlines of treating people with COVID-19.

“This funding will help them keep their businesses running on the other side of this pandemic,” Pritzker said.

Read the full story here.

12:34 p.m. Memorial Day weekend draws crowds — and triggers warnings

The Memorial Day weekend marking the unofficial start of summer in the U.S. meant big crowds at beaches and warnings from experts Sunday about people disregarding the coronavirus social-distancing rules and risking a resurgence of the scourge that has killed nearly 100,000 Americans.

Sheriff’s deputies and beach patrols tried to make sure people kept their distance from others as they soaked up the rays on the sand and at parks and other recreation sites around the country.

In the Tampa area along Florida’s Gulf Coast, the crowds were so big that authorities took the extraordinary step of closing parking lots because they were full. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said about 300 deputies were patrolling the beaches to ensure people didn’t get too close.

On the Sunday talk shows, Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, said she was “very concerned” about scenes of people crowding together over the weekend.

“We really want to be clear all the time that social distancing is absolutely critical. And if you can’t social distance and you’re outside, you must wear a mask,” she said on ABC’s “This Week.”

In Missouri, people packed bars and restaurants at the Lake of the Ozarks, a vacation hot spot popular with Chicagoans, over the weekend. One video showed a crammed pool where vacationers lounged close together without masks, St. Louis station KMOV-TV reported.

Read the full story here.

10:53 a.m. Youth sports coalition seeks federal aid due to COVID-19

It started when a handful of organizations got together to discuss the effect of the COVID-19 shutdown on youth sports.

The small conversation quickly turned into 600-some groups. Then it cruised past 1,000 on its way to 3,000 organizations and individuals signing on for the PLAY Sports Coalition — a united effort by the youth sports world to push for federal help with the coronavirus crisis.

“The momentum keeps growing,” said Terri Lakowski, the CEO of Active Policy Solutions, a lobbying firm that lists sports, health and youth development among its specialties. “There’s just this huge community out there of youth sports providers who are hurting and want to work together for a solution.”

The leaders of the coalition are trumpeting the importance of youth sports and sounding the alarm about the future of their organizations in correspondence with legislators in Washington. The fate of providers in low-income communities is of particular concern.

Read the full story here.

9:09 a.m. ICYMI: 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.

7:10 a.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.


New cases


Analysis & Commentary

7:10 a.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.