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Coronavirus live blog, May 28, 2020: Here’s how Chicago commutes will change as the city reopens

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

For most Illinois cities and towns, Friday marks the official reopening of the state — for every city except Chicago.

But Chicagoans won’t have to wait long for businesses to start reopening. Mayor Lightfoot announced Chicago’s reopening for Wednesday, June 3.

That’s not all that happened. Here’s what went down Thursday as the state continued to battle the coronavirus pandemic.


News

8:57 p.m. The future of riding the CTA: Here’s how Chicago commutes will change

An empty CTA bus Rich Hein/Sun-Times file photo

It’s the million-dollar question in the world of transit: What will commuting look like?

No one is sure. Human behavior is hard to predict. But here’s how it might play out.

Beginning in June, workers at the CTA’s control center will monitor live video feeds of high ridership stations to watch for platform crowding. If crowding occurs, announcements will be made over the public address system asking customers to spread out or wait for the next train if the incoming one is full.

About 90 people fill a jam-packed CTA train car in normal times. Capacity will be down significantly with social distancing, but CTA officials couldn’t immediately provide an estimate.

The CTA will also be placing floor decals at stations and platforms reminding people to spread out.

Reporter Mitch Dudek has more on the future of commuting on the CTA, Metra and Pace.


7:38 p.m. South and west suburban properties to get break in assessments to reflect COVID-19 impact

The Cook County Assessor’s Office is planning to adjust some south and west suburban property assessments by as much as 12% for single family homes and as much as 15% for multi-family homes due to the coronavirus pandemic.

For commercial properties in the county, the assessor’s office is making a “range of adjustments” in the complex formula it uses to calculate assessments, based on how much the businesses have been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. That could range from little or no change for grocery stores, to significant reductions for neighborhood restaurants.

The goal is to cap rates that are often used as a factor in determining property values, according to a report titled Cook County Assessor’s COVID-19 Adjustments to Property Assessments in the South and West Suburbs.

Reporter Rachel Hinton has the full story.

6:57 p.m. California Clipper, longtime Humboldt Park tavern, to shutter its doors for good

While Chicago’s bars — and their employees — patiently wait for the city’s official re-opening phases to kick in, a longtime Humboldt Park tavern won’t be around to experience what it’s like to survive the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The California Clipper, located at 1002 N. California Ave., is closing permanently, according to multiple media reports Thursday.

The closing, first reported by Eater Chicago, says that Brendan Sodikoff, the tavern’s owner, couldn’t come to an agreement with the property’s landlord “that would make sense for the bar and coffee shop to remain as tenants.” Sodikoff, the CEO of Hogsalt Hospitality (Au Cheval, Bavette’s) who bought the venue in 2014, also confirmed in the report that he’s shutdown C.C. Ferns, a neighboring coffee shop.

Reporter Evan F. Moore has the full story.

5:44 p.m. Here’s what Illinois’ Phase 3 reopening will look like

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Illinois is expected to enter Phase 3 of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s “Reopen Illinois” plan Friday, which will mean fewer restrictions on travel, gatherings and a return to work for as many as 130,000 non-essential employees in the state.

Among the changes that will accompany a transition into Phase 3:

  • All gatherings of 10 people or fewer are allowed with this limit subject to change based on latest data & guidance
  • Travel is permitted in accordance with IDPH and CDC approved guidance
  • All health care providers are open with IDPH approved safety guidance
  • Remote learning will continue in P-12 schools and higher education; Limited child care and summer programs can open with IDPH approved safety guidance
  • State parks will open; Activities are permitted in groups of 10 or fewer with social distancing
  • Barbershops and salons will open with IDPH approved safety guidance; Health and fitness clubs can provide outdoor classes and one-on-one personal training with IDPH approved safety guidance
  • Entertainment venues and events will remain closed

We’re tracking the state’s transition through Pritzker’s Reopen Illinois plan here. Follow along for real-time updates.


4:54 p.m. Suburbs get ready for new normal as Pritzker’s reopening plan enters next phase

Most of Illinois is set to move into the long-awaited next phase of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s “Restore Illinois” plan Friday, a crucial step toward restoring the life Illinoisans once knew.

But that doesn’t mean all will necessarily go back to normal in the suburbs. Pritzker’s plan still restricts gatherings to 10 people or fewer. Face coverings are required in public. Retailers may open, but with limited capacity. Barbershops, salons and gyms must follow certain rules.

And while some suburbs might put their own restrictions in place, enforcement is another question.

“We do not have the legal authority to enforce any of this,” Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau said Thursday.

Read the full story here.

3:45 p.m. Chicago-area woman survives coronavirus — and 21-day coma

Karla Taylor-Bauman opened her eyes, saw the strange creatures in blue suits and visors floating before her and thought she was in outer space.

“What’s going on? Where am I?” she remembers the panicked voice in her head saying.

Not outer space, but she had just returned from a kind of nowhere world — 21 days in a coma. The Lake Villa woman had fought through the worst of a coronavirus infection that kept her in a hospital bed for almost two months. At one point, doctors told her husband to prepare for the worst.

On Wednesday, a day after being released from Kindred Hospital Chicago North in the Uptown neighborhood, she was at her parents’ home in North Chicago, marveling at her good fortune — but also reflecting on what might have been.

Read the full story from Stefano Esposito here.

3:05 p.m. 104 more Illinois coronavirus deaths; Pritzker issues Phase 3 guidance for churches

State health officials on Thursday announced 104 more deaths attributed to the coronavirus, raising Illinois’ pandemic toll to 5,186.

The Illinois Department of Public Health also reported 1,527 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19. A total of 115,833 people have tested positive statewide.

Nearly 44% of those cases have occurred in long-term care facilities like nursing homes, state Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said.

“We are ensuring that swift action is being taken and we know that facilities must immediately notify state health officials of any cases of COVID-19,” Ezike said.

Read the full story here.

2 p.m. Chicago to begin limited reopening on June 3

Chicago will begin a partial reopening of restaurants and other businesses on Wednesday, June 3, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Thursday.

The guidelines of the limited reopening will even be explained by the Second City in weekly web series titled “Phased & Confused.”

Officially, under the city’s guidelines for reopening, this means we are moving to Phase 3. But Phase 3 does not mean the pandemic is over, Lightfoot cautioned.

We cannot “totally eliminate risk. The best we can do is continue following public health guidance” around wearing a mask, washing hands and maintaining social distance, she said.

If cases spike again and people fail to obey social distance and wear masks, Lightfoot said she won’t hesitate to revert to the more-restrictive Phase 2.

Read the full story from City Hall reporter Fran Spielman here.

1:02 p.m. These 8 Chicago streets will close to most traffic for social distancing

Some streets in Chicago will soon allow more than just cars.

The city’s Department of Transportation is temporarily converting some roads into “shared streets,” which will accommodate walkers, runners, bikers and only local car traffic.

The conversions will allow residents of certain neighborhoods to follow social distancing guidelines even when out and about, which they might not otherwise be able to do on the sidewalk.

The streets are being selected through a collaborative process with local residents and officials, CDOT spokesperson Michael Claffey said Wednesday.

“As the City anticipates transitioning into a new phase of its reopening plan sometime in June, CDOT is preparing plans to equitably re-allocate street space to residents, where feasible, for various uses beyond driving a car,” Claffey said in a statement.

The streets designated so far include:

  • Greenview Avenue, in Rogers Park
  • Glenwood Avenue, in Edgewater and Andersonville
  • Leland Avenue, from Ravenswood to Uptown
  • Wabansia Avenue, in Wicker Park
  • Wood Street, in Wicker Park
  • Palmer Avenue, from Hanson Park to Logan Square
  • Cortland Street, in Logan Square
  • Roscoe Street, from Dunning to Irving Park

Read the full story from Ben Pope here.

11:24 a.m. Chicago-area woman survives coronavirus — and 21-day coma

Karla Taylor-Bauman opened her eyes, saw the strange creatures in blue suits and visors floating before her and thought she was in outer space.

“What’s going on? Where am I?” she remembers the panicked voice in her head saying.

Not outer space, but she had just returned from a kind of nowhere world — 21 days in a coma. The Lake Villa woman had fought through the worst of a coronavirus infection that kept her in a hospital bed for almost two months. At one point, doctors told her husband to prepare for the worst.

On Wednesday, a day after being released from Kindred Hospital Chicago North in the Uptown neighborhood, she was at her parents’ home in North Chicago, marveling at her good fortune — but also reflecting on what might have been.

“It’s just hitting me really that three weeks ago I could have died and I had no opportunity to even say goodbye to anybody. I went from just having a fever to a complete coma,” said Taylor-Bauman, who spent her 50th birthday alone at the hospital.

Read the full story from Stefano Esposito here.

10:02 a.m. Two Cook County judges test positive for COVID-19

A pair of Cook County judges have tested positive for COVID-19, marking the first cases of the coronavirus in judges of the Circuit Court, officials announced Thursday.

Both work at the 5th Municipal District in Bridgeview, according to Pat Milhizer, spokesman for the Office of the Chief Judge.

They are among a total of 39 employees of the Office of the Chief Judge who have tested positive for the coronavirus, Milhizer said.

The announcement comes on the day Chief Judge Timothy Evans is expected to sign an order extending COVID-19 precautions in the Circuit Court into July. Most day-to-day court operations ceased when Evans’ initial order went into effect March 17.

Read the full story from David Struett here.

8:50 a.m. 41 million have lost jobs since virus hit, but layoffs slow

Roughly 2.1 million people applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week, a sign that companies are still slashing jobs in the face of a deep recession even as more businesses reopen and rehire some laid-off employees.

About 41 million people have now applied for aid since the virus outbreak intensified in March, though not all of them are still unemployed. The Labor Department’s report Thursday includes a count of all the people now receiving unemployment aid: 21 million. That is a rough measure of the number of unemployed Americans.

The national jobless rate was 14.7% in April, the highest since the Great Depression, and many economists expect it will near 20% in May.

States are gradually restarting their economies by letting some businesses — from gyms, retail shops and restaurants to hair and nail salons — reopen with some restrictions. As some of these employers, including automakers, have recalled a portion of their laid-off employees, the number of people receiving unemployment benefits has fallen.

In Illinois, 58,359 people filed for first-time claims for unemployment benefits last week, down from the 72,780 filings a week earlier. Since mid-March, nearly 1.1 million Illinoisans have filed for jobless benefits.

Read the full story here.

7:41 a.m. Illinois coronavirus death toll eclipses 5,000

Another 160 people have died of COVID-19 in Illinois, with the state’s fatalities now totaling 5,083.

Officials on Wednesday, however, said the latest deaths could include some from over the holiday weekend. Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office on Tuesday warned the 39 deaths recorded then could have been lower due to a lack of reporting on Memorial Day, when many state laboratory workers were given a day off.

The high death tally comes after four consecutive days seeing fewer than 100 deaths, something that had not occurred since mid-April, when the state recorded its first 100-plus day. Wednesday also marked the 22nd day in which more than 100 deaths were reported.

There were also 1,111 new cases reported, raising the state’s total to 114,306. The state received 17,179 test results, officials said. In total, the state has performed 803,973 coronavirus tests.

Read the full story from Tina Sfondeles here.

6:50 a.m. Movie theaters pressure Pritzker to loosen up and allow them to open at 50% capacity

Movie theater owners are pressuring Gov. J.B. Pritzker to let them reopen to additional capacity this summer to boost ticket revenue and pave the way for major studios to release their traditional summer blockbusters.

Pritzker wants to keep movie theaters closed until Phase 4 of his reopening plan—June 26 at the earliest—and cap the number of movie patrons at 50 per theater.

Chris Johnson, president of the National Association of Theater Owners of Illinois, is not overly concerned about waiting until Phase 4. His major complaint is the 50-person cap.

Johnson called it unreasonably low at a time when a handful of theaters — like the Pickwick in Oak Park, the Tivoli in Downers Grove and Chicago’s Music Box — still seat 1,000 while remodeled theaters with recliners have “already taken out two-thirds of their seating.” In those theaters, social distancing can easily be maintained, he said.

“We want to have the capacity, rather than a hard 50, based on social distancing so that, if you have a bigger auditorium and you can seat groups six feet apart, whatever that number is would be allowed,” Johnson said.

Read the full story from City Hall reporter Fran Spielman here.


New cases


Analysis & Commentary

6:09 p.m. D.O.A. proposal for South Side hospital merger deserves second chance

A proposal to improve South Side health care by merging four financially struggling hospitals flatlined last week during the state Legislature’s spring session.

We believe the hospital plan is too critical to let die.

The merger would have put Mercy Hospital & Medical Center, St. Bernard, South Shore and Advocate Trinity Hospital under one ownership group and resulted in the construction of at least one new combined facility.

The move would have replaced four aging hospitals with a better one, plus a network of smaller facilities around the South Side.

To make that happen, the four hospitals sought $520 million in state funding over five years. But lawmakers excluded the merger from a health and hospital funding bill approved in Springfield, claiming the proposal lacked sufficient details and failed to convincingly lay out its benefits.

“This development by the Legislature forces the conclusion of our transformation plans,” a spokesperson for the hospitals told us.

This is bad news for the South Side, which has suffered from an under-resourced and overburdened health care network for decades — a fact underscored by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, has delivered a particularly lethal blow to predominantly African American neighborhoods on the South and West sides.

12:55 p.m. University of Illinois football and basketball players — essential workers — head back to campus

Some student workers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will return to campus next week to start preparing for their football and men’s basketball seasons.

Did I say workers? Yes, that’s what they are. The university calls them student-athletes, and they are that, too.

But please make no mistake. They are employees at the U. of I. That they are going back, though summer classes were moved online because of the pandemic, underscores how valuable they are to the university.

They are not just students or athletes. They are workers, too.

It looks like they will be treated a lot better than many other workers across America. They are fortunate in that regard. In announcing the athletes’ return, the school said it was coordinating with sports medicine staff, local doctors and the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District. That’s a lot of oversight.

Read the full column here.

6:19 a.m. Steering a middle course between COVID-19 hopes and fears

Despite what many people hoped, COVID-19 is clearly worse than the seasonal flu. But despite what other people feared, it does not seem to be nearly as lethal as the “Spanish flu” of 1918, which killed about 0.7% of the total U.S. population — equivalent to more than 2 million people today.

As we move from lockdowns to something more closely resembling normal life, the emerging evidence about the threat posed by COVID-19 should inform our judgment about which precautions make sense. The initial, ham-handed approach — which confined hundreds of millions of people to their homes except for government-approved purposes — should be replaced by more carefully targeted measures focused on protecting the people who face the highest risk.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the current “best estimate” of the death rate among Americans who develop COVID-19 symptoms is 0.4%. By that measure — the symptomatic case fatality rate — COVID-19 is roughly four times as deadly as the seasonal flu but far less deadly than the Spanish flu.

Read Jacob Sullum’s full column here.