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Coronavirus live blog, May 6, 2020: Federal stimulus checks: No forwarding address for some recipients

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

Another 136 people have died in Illinois from COVID-19, as the state nears 3,000 total deaths.

Officials on Wednesday reported 2,270 new cases out of 14,974 test results. That brings the state’s overall case tally to 68,232, while the additional deaths raised the Illinois’ toll to 2,974 since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Here are the developments from today as the state of Illinois continued to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic.


News

8:55 p.m. Federal stimulus checks: No forwarding address for some recipients

Janet Williams, of Roscoe Village, shows the $1,200 federal stimulus check made out to her late stepfather, Arthur Keyser. Photo retouched to obscure some address information. Provided.

I’m not sure how many people are familiar with the abbreviation “DECD,” although I’m pretty sure most could guess, especially when it appears after a name.

But for those who don’t know, it means “deceased.” As in dead.

So you can imagine Janet Williams’ surprise last week when she received a $1,200 federal stimulus check in the mail made out to her late stepfather, “Arthur Keyser DECD.”

Keyser died in November 2018, which the government apparently knew, Williams notes, BECAUSE IT SAYS SO RIGHT ON THE FACE OF THE $1,200 CHECK THEY SENT HIM.

It’s already been widely reported that the Treasury Department mistakenly sent out thousands of stimulus payments to dead people in its rush to get money out the door and revive the economy.

Read more from columnist Mark Brown here.


8:08 p.m. Attorneys for Cook County Jail detainees ask for records on COVID-19 testing

Cook County Jail, 26th and California, Chicago
Sun-Times

Advocates for Cook County Jail detainees are asking for the sheriff’s office to provide additional records to show that they are following a federal judge’s order to widely test inmates for coronavirus, including those who do not have symptoms.

Citing the most recent COVID-19-related detainee death — the seventh at the jail— advocates are questioning whether the sheriff’s office’s has the ability to meet U.S. Judge Matthew Kennelly’s previous order to enforce social distancing, test and protect those in custody.

In a response to the court-ordered report Sheriff Tom Dart’s lawyers released to Kennelly, attorneys for the detainees Wednesday asked the judge to consider beginning the process of convening a three-judge panel, which would weigh-in on the possible widespread release of older detainees and those with underlying medical conditions .

The attorneys also requested records from the sheriff’s office they said would shed more light on testing for coronavirus at the jail and social distancing procedures, writing that “the Report makes plain that the Sheriff’s Office has not achieved compliance, particularly with respect to coronavirus testing and social distancing.”

The lawyers for the detainees filed a class-action suit against Dart in March that sought to have elderly detainees and those who would be most seriously affected by COVID-19 released immediately.

Read the full story by Matthew Hendrickson here.


7:54 p.m. Chicago Park District summer kids camps delay start until July 6

The Chicago Park District’s summer day camps for kids have a new official starting date: July 6.

The camps typically run from June 22 to July 31, and will still end July 31 this year. But the first two weeks have been eliminated, per the Park District’s website, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Online registration now begins at 9 a.m. on June 11 — for camps taking place in parks west of California Avenue — or June 12 for camps in parks east of California Avenue, including the lakeshore. In-person registration for all camps begins at noon on June 13.

More information about the specific programs offered this year will be available June 1.

Reporter Ben Pope has the full story.

7:20 p.m. Pritzker, Lightfoot respond to surge of COVID-19 cases among Hispanics

Coronavirus cases are surging in Illinois’ Hispanic population, state and local officials said Wednesday.

Four weeks ago, Latinos were 14% of Chicago’s coronavirus cases and 9% of deaths. Now, it’s 37% of the cases and 25% of the deaths. Both numbers continue to rise in a city where 29 percent of the population is Hispanic.

And statewide, despite making up less than a fifth of the state’s population, Latinos in Illinois last week surpassed all other racial and ethnic groups in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot declared it a matter of “life and death” and has expanded the scope of her “racial equity rapid response teams.”

Reporters Fran Spielman and Tina Sfondeles have the full story.

5:23 p.m. COVID-19 contact tracing training program now accepting applicants at Oakton Community College

A suburban community college is answering the government’s call to help create an army of contact tracers needed to track and stop the spread of COVID-19.

Oakton Community College is accepting applicants for its Public Health Contact Tracer Paraprofessional training program, an online course set to begin May 26.

“Navigating the online curriculum at their own pace, students can complete the course in as little as three weeks and begin protecting members of their own communities,” the north suburban school said in its announcement of the new class.

In contact tracing, public health staff work with a diseased patient to help them recall everyone with whom they’ve had close contact while infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Contact tracers then warn those contacts — as well as anyone who came into contact with them — of their potential exposure.

Read the full story by David Struett here.

4:52 p.m. Man awaiting trial in bar fight 7th Cook County Jail detainee to die from coronavirus complications

A cancer-stricken Arlington Heights man awaiting trial on aggravated battery charges is the seventh Cook County Jail detainee to die from complications related to coronavirus.

William Sobczyk, who died Monday at Stroger Hospital from pneumonia tied to COVID-19, had been held at the Cook County Jail without bail since he was arrested in January 2019 for his alleged involvement in a fight at a Northwest Side bar, according to Cook County officials.

The 53-year-old had been hospitalized since April 18 with a COVID-19 infection, the sheriff’s office said.

Read the full story by Matthew Hendrickson here.

4:14 p.m. Pop-up food pantries arrive in areas hardest-hit by COVID-19

The largest food bank in Chicago is expanding its reach to African American and Latino communities devastated by COVID-19.

The Greater Chicago Food Depository has teamed up with seven Chicago faith- and community-based groups from Roseland to Austin. The food bank will deliver truckloads of food to pop-up pantries on Chicago’s South and West Sides.

“Even before the coronavirus pandemic, black and brown households in Chicago were disproportionately affected by food insecurity,” Nicole Robinson, vice president of community impact for the food bank, said in a statement. “Now the disparities are even more striking.”

Read the full story by Manny Ramos here.

3:35 p.m. Pritzker’s ‘Restore Illinois’ plan: Full text

An introduction: From the beginning of the new coronavirus pandemic, Illinois’ response has been guided by data, science, and public health experts. As community spread rapidly increased, Governor Pritzker moved quickly to issue a Disaster Proclamation on March 9, restrict visitors to nursing homes on March 11, close bars and restaurants for on-site consumption on March 16, move schools to remote learning on March 17, and issue a Stay at Home order on March 21. This virus has caused painful, cascading consequences for everyone in Illinois, but the science has been clear: in the face of a new coronavirus with unknown characteristics and in the absence of widespread testing availability and contact tracing, mitigation and maintaining a 6-foot social distance have been the only options to reduce the spread and save as many lives as possible.

Read the full text of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s “Restore Illinois” plan here.

3:20 p.m. Bitter pill: Pritzker says without vaccine, treatment or immunity ‘returning to normalcy doesn’t exist’

With the state’s “cabin fever” escalating and warmer weather looming, Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday unveiled a five-part reopening plan — with the stern warning that life won’t go back to normal any time soon.

Tempering that message even more, the governor released his “Restore Illinois” plan on the same day the state suffered its largest number of COVID-19 deaths in a single day — 176 more Illinois residents lost to the coronavirus.

“I know that we all have a passionate desire to return to the sense of normalcy that we felt before the world knew of COVID-19. Here’s the truth. And I don’t like it any more than you do,” Pritzker said at his daily briefing. “Until we have a vaccine, or an effective treatment, or enough widespread immunity that new cases fail to materialize, the option of returning to normalcy doesn’t exist.”

The Democratic governor said Illinoisans must figure out how to live with COVID-19 “until it can be vanquished.”

Read the full story by Tina Sfondeles, Sam Charles and Neal Earley here.

2:35 p.m. 136 more die in Illinois as COVID-19 toll nears 3,000

Another 136 people have died in Illinois from COVID-19, as the state nears 3,000 total deaths.

Officials on Wednesday reported 2,270 new cases out of 14,974 test results. That brings the state’s overall case tally to 68,232, while the additional deaths raised the Illinois’ toll to 2,974 since the coronavirus pandemic began.

The state has now seen 11 days in which more than 100 people have died from COVID-19. Illinois has also seen 13 days with more than 2,000 people testing positive.

The state’s positivity rate on Wednesday was 15%. In revealing his five-part plan to reopen regions of the state, Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday said a region must be “at or under a 20% test positivity rate and increasing by no more than 10 percentage points over a 14-day period” in order for the region to enter the next phase of reopening.

It must also show no overall increase in hospital admissions for COVID-19 symptoms for 28 days, and have at least 14% of intensive care unit beds, medical and surgery beds and ventilators available.

Read the full story by Tina Sfondeles.

2:05 p.m. Two men accused of running suburban prostitution ring caught griping how coronavirus is hurting business: feds

Federal agents investigating a prostitution ring known as the “Norridge Girls” nabbed Marcin Ciborowski at O’Hare Airport on Valentine’s Day — back before the coronavirus changed everything.

They put him in the McHenry County Jail, where they say he’s been waiting to be shipped back to Poland. While he was there, the feds allege he called an associate, Mariusz Daniluk, to discuss their prostitution business, including on March 12.

That’s about when the world began to change in Chicago. So Daniluk didn’t have good news, according to court records. He told Ciborowski they were suddenly short on clients.

“Today’s there’s nothing,” Daniluk allegedly said on one recorded call, “but yesterday I’m telling you, that yesterday there was six, four and five [clients] right.”

“Maybe it’s just that type of f---ing sh---y day,” Ciborowski suggested. “Was the weather warm today or no?” Daniluk told him, “It’s raining but a good day for work, you know?… But f--- nothing man, zero f---, you know responses.”

Finally, Ciborowski said, “F---, man f---, what the f--- is this, since the morning they’re talking about this corona sh—, a—holes.”

Read the full story by Jon Seidel.

1:14 p.m. State rep wants to talk about race, face masks and why a cop stopped him outside a South Loop store

State Rep. Kam Buckner wants to spark public conversation about why a Chicago Police officer stopped him outside a big-box store Sunday in the South Loop and asked for a receipt for the items in his cart as well as an ID.

Buckner, 34, who was wearing a state mandated face mask, a hoodie and sweatpants, told the Chicago Sun-Times he remained calm and complied.

The officer, who was white and in uniform, walked back to his squad car for a couple of minutes and then returned the ID and receipt to Buckner.

“He said, ‘All right, thanks.’ and that’s when I asked ‘What was the impetus for you stopping me in the first place,’” Buckner recalled.

“He told me: ‘People are using the coronavirus to do bad things. I couldn’t see your face. You looked like you were up to something.’”

Read the full story by Mitch Dudek here.

12:35 p.m. ‘Someone will get hurt’ in fight over mask requirements, store manager says

Employees of grocery stores, pharmacies and hardware stores aren’t just struggling to keep shelves stocked and Illinoisans supplied during the coronavirus pandemic.

They’ve also had to deal with “a very large man” carrying a hunting knife through a DeKalb store, an “irate” man threatening to shoot a worker at a Romeoville store, and even a police officer making a “political protest” at a shop in Peoria — each of them bare-faced in rebellion against state requirements for shoppers to wear face coverings.

Those front-line workers deemed “essential” during the Illinois shutdown have been faced with dozens of such confrontations with customers refusing to follow Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s guidelines to wear masks in stores, according to Rob Karr, president and CEO of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association.

And with many residents itching to get back to life as they knew it — and Pritzker laying out plans Tuesday for a phased reopening of the state’s economy on a regional basis — some retailers are concerned it could get worse.

“My fear is that these instances will escalate into a situation where someone will get hurt,” an anonymous Carbondale store manager wrote in a complaint submitted to the merchants association, saying they’ve had several issues enforcing the mask guidelines.

“The public is on edge and even a passive approach has sent several customers over the edge to a point they are shouting at our teammates,” that manager wrote.

Read the full story from Mitchell Armentrout here.

11:17 a.m. Amazon warehouse worker tests positive for COVID-19 after demonstrating for safer conditions

When Amazon employee Shantrece Johnson demonstrated with coworkers outside the company’s Little Village warehouse in March, it was to protest unsafe working conditions as the coronavirus pandemic was climbing toward its peak. About a month later, she’s home sick with COVID-19 and worried her teenage son may also have it.

Johnson, an asthmatic, first noticed symptoms April 25 when she started coughing at work and had to use her inhaler more often than usual. Two days later, she left about 30 minutes before her shift ended and went to a drive-thru test site. After three more days of coughing and shortness of breath, she received her positive test results.

The 47-year-old participated in three of four “safety strikes” that Amazon workers at DCH1, the warehouse at 2801 S. Western Ave., staged in response to what they considered lackluster measures being taken to protect workers. The workers’ group, DCH1 Amazonians United, demanded a shutdown of the warehouse for a full cleaning, and coverage of medical bills for employees and their families should they contract COVID-19, among other requests.

“I felt they weren’t doing enough to make us feel safe and protect us from catching the coronavirus, because I didn’t want to bring this home to my son,” Johnson, who’s been with the company since January 2017, said between coughing fits.

Read the full story from Sam Kelly here.

10:52 a.m. Pitchfork is the latest music festival canceled due to COVID-19

Pitchfork Music Festival 2020 has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, officials announced Wednesday.

Officials said ticket holders will be contacted by email with refund options.

“It can be pretty daunting to think about the future of live music right now, but know that we are fully committed to bringing Pitchfork Music Festival back in 2021, if the public health situation allows for it,” officials wrote in a statement announcing the cancelation.

“In the meantime, we urge everyone to follow local health department guidelines. We are in this together, and, if we all do our part, we’ll celebrate next year in person.”

Read the full story here.

10:14 a.m. Uber to lay off 3,700 workers and CEO to waive salary

Uber is cutting 3,700 full-time workers and its CEO will give up his base salary with the nation largely still in lockdown.

The San Francisco company said Wednesday that the layoffs and related costs like severance will reach about $20 million.

Uber Technologies Inc. had already imposed a hiring freeze and has offered up to 14 days of financial assistance to drivers and delivery workers who were diagnosed with COVID-19, or placed in quarantine.

Read the full story here.

9:30 a.m. 22nd employee contracts COVID-19 at Cook County Circuit Court Clerk’s office

Another employee at the Cook County Circuit Court clerk’s office has tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the overall total to 22.

The latest employee to test positive was assigned to District 3, located at 2121 Euclid Ave. in Rolling Meadows, and last reported for work on March 20, according to a statement from the Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County. The person did not begin to show symptoms of coronavirus until over a month after their last day at work and is self-quarantining at home.

A deep cleaning at the offices was not requested, but the county Department of Facilities Management is conducting a routine cleaning of the area where the employee worked, the clerk’s office said.

Read the full story here.

7:10 a.m. ‘Stay Home Save Lives’ gear inspired by Lightfoot memes to aid coronavirus relief

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s election team is selling T-shirts and stickers inspired by the now-famous memes of the mayor keeping a watchful eye over Chicago amid the stay-at-home order.

The design for the “stay home save lives” merchandise was created by local artist Mike Noren, Dave Mellet of Lightfoot for Chicago wrote in an email to supporters.

The money raised from the sales will go toward “local COVID relief charities” after costs for printing and shipping, Mellet said. T-shirts start at $30, while a three-pack of stickers will cost $8.

The artwork is inspired by the series of viral memes that depict Lightfoot standing guard at various locations around the city in an attempt to keep people home. Lightfoot has previously said she has “enjoyed” the memes.

Read the full story here.

6:22 a.m. Young mom, a nurse at Bolingbrook nursing home with soaring COVID-19 toll, is the latest to die

Ninety-three cases of COVID-19 and 10 deaths had been reported at Meadowbrook Manor nursing home in Bolingbrook as of the first of the month.

They’ll need to add Krist Angielen Castro Guzman to the list.

Guzman was a 35-year-old nurse at the facility and the mother of three young children who cared passionately for her patients and feared greatly for her safety during this pandemic.

Guzman died Saturday at AMITA Health Adventist Medical Center in Bolingbrook, where, less than five months earlier, she had given birth to her youngest child.

Guzman died of cardiac arrest an hour after being intubated for respiratory problems caused by the coronavirus, just one day after being admitted to the hospital and barely a week after falling ill, according to her family.

Read the full story from Mark Brown here.


New cases


Analysis & Commentary

3:05 p.m. We worry about what our very sick president will do next

Every parent has warily confronted the hypothetical question: What would you do if you suspected your child was unwell?

Not physically, but emotionally unwell, or mentally unstable? Imagine learning your teenager, for example, had been yelling demeaning slurs at the girls in his class, harassing them and calling them names.

And that he’d been secretly using his social media accounts to go on late-night rants against perceived enemies, attacking their looks, and again, calling them names in unending, seething, rambling posts.

Read the full column by S.E. Cupp here.

7:15 a.m. Thankfully, Pritzker’s ‘Restore Illinois’ plan relies on science, not politics

Just yesterday, we wrote that America’s road to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic will be faster, smoother and fairer if we can all, finally, reject the politics of division and find common ground.

We need leaders who seek to unite us, we wrote. We need a plan to reopen the country that is objective, measurable and rooted in science, rather than politics. And we need a plan that recognizes one size does not fit all — if we’re serious about appealing to the good sense of all kinds of folks.

On Tuesday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker presented a framework for reopening Illinois that fits squarely with this way of thinking. The governor’s plan lays out five phases for returning life to some semblance of normalcy in Illinois, with the move to each happier phase dependent on measurable progress — hard metrics — in beating back the coronavirus. Equally important, the plan divides the state into four regions for purposes of reopening: Northeast Illinois, North Central Illinois, Central Illinois and Southern Illinois.

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

6:20 a.m. Will future generations understand what the Virus War of 2020 was really like?

This is a letter in a bottle to future generations who will never understand the fear, confusion and courage of the ordinary person during The Virus War of 2020.

I am talking about the waitress trying to raise her children without a job. You see, the restaurants were closed. The government provided a tiny bit of money, but not enough to pay the rent, feed the kids and keep the phone and internet operating.

Such a woman had to explain to her children why they could not see their friends, go to school, or visit Grandma. Maybe she had to tell them why they didn’t have the computer they needed to attend virtual classes, which were the only ones available.

Read the full column by Phil Kadner here.