Coronavirus live blog, May 8, 2020: Nonprofits distribute thousands of pounds of food, PPE in Bronzeville

Here was the latest news on how COVID-19 is impacting Chicago and Illinois.

SHARE Coronavirus live blog, May 8, 2020: Nonprofits distribute thousands of pounds of food, PPE in Bronzeville

On Friday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot unveiled her five-step plan to reopen Chicago. Her plan offers a “framework” to gradually re-open the Chicago economy. Chicago is currently in Phase 2. She talked about the plan with the Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman. She also discussed revenue-generating ideas that would help the city recover economically.

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

News

8:55 p.m. Nonprofits distribute thousands of pounds of food, PPE in Bronzeville

Volunteers with SaveMoneySaveLife and Social Change pack boxes of food to distribute to members of the community outside Bronzeville Academy Charter School on the South Side during the coronavirus pandemic, Friday afternoon, May 8, 2020.

Volunteers with SaveMoneySaveLife and Social Change pack boxes of food to distribute to members of the community outside Bronzeville Academy Charter School on the South Side during the coronavirus pandemic, Friday afternoon, May 8, 2020.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Representatives from community groups, advocacy organizations and churches gathered in Bronzeville Friday afternoon to collect their share of thousands of pounds of food and personal protective equipment intended to ease the burden for those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There’s no question that the amount of pain that this virus has caused is incredible, but at the same time we have to recognize that a lot of the pain that’s being caused is because of a lack of information, because of a lack of access to resources,” said Todd Belcore, executive director of the nonprofit Social Change, one of the groups organizing the distribution.

“We have to respond to that and we also have to respond to the fact that people are terrified,” he added. “Not just terrified by the prospect of getting the virus but also terrified by the fact that they won’t have food to eat.”

Read the full story by Sam Charles here.

7:20 p.m. Low-rated nursing homes in Cook County fare worst in COVID-19 deaths

The worst rated nursing homes in Cook County have the highest concentration of deaths from the coronavirus —and some have failed inspections during the pandemic, a Chicago Sun-Times investigation found.

The newspaper studied about 120longterm-care facilities listed by the state as having at least one resident who came down with the disease or died.

About 28% of the deaths from COVID-19 complications have happened in nursing homes with the lowest federal rating and only 6% in the facilities with the highest rating.

That disparity shows the state should focus testing and inspections in poorly rated nursing homes, experts said.

Read the full story by Frank Main, Lauren FitzPatrick and Caroline Hurley here.

6:44 p.m. Delta, citing health concerns, drops service to 10 US airports, including Midway

Travelers aboard Delta Air Lines are about to have fewer options when it comes to airports in major metro areas.

Delta announced Friday that it is cutting service at 10 U.S. airports serving cities including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago as part of a previously announced 85% overall reduction in its service schedule.

In each case, Delta says the airports where it is temporarily pulling service are relatively close to other, larger airports that travelers can use as an alternative.

So in New York, Delta’s Westchester County Airport service will cease, but flyers can still get to LaGuardia. Flights will stop at Stewart International, but John F. Kennedy International is the close-by option.

No longer can Delta customers use Hollywood Burbank Airport and Long Beach in Southern California, but Los Angeles International flights will continue. And Chicago Midway is out, but Chicago O’Hare remains in.

The changes take effect Wednesday and will stay until September, the airline said, portraying the cutbacks as an attempt to reduce its employees’ possible exposure to the coronavirus.

Read the full report here.

5:47 p.m. No ‘serious red flags’ found in state inspection of Cicero nursing home hit by coronavirus

A Cook County judge Friday denied a request to transfer patients from a west suburban nursing home where nine residents and one worker died from complications related to coronavirus.

But although a court-ordered inspection by state health officials uncovered no “red flags” at City View MultiCare Center, Judge Alison Conlon said she remained worried about the 200-plus confirmed COVID-19 cases there and allowed Cicero’s public health department to make two unannounced visits at the facility within the next 28 days.

“I see a visit as an outgrowth, and a limited outgrowth of the powers to regulate the public health, safety and welfare that the town director of public health already has,” Conlon said in her ruling.

Read the full report from Matthew Hendrickson here.

5:25 p.m. ‘Asian Americans’ PBS documentary explores prejudice and perseverance amid coronavirus

A century of racist attacks detailed in the new PBS documentary series “Asian Americans” might have felt like ancient history just a few months ago.

But through the lens of the coronavirus pandemic that originated in China and is now hitting the U.S., being painted as a foreign enemy has become all too familiar. Hundreds of Asian Americans have reported verbal and physical assaults since the nation’s first infections surfaced in January. Even in cities with large Asian communities, people have hurled century-old slurs like “Chinaman.”

Daniel Dae Kim, a Korean American actor known for TV’s “Lost” and “Hawaii Five-0,” faced racist trolling when he shared his COVID-19 diagnosis on Instagram in March. Kim, who narrates the documentary with actress Tamlyn Tomita, has recovered and feels “back to 100%.”

“It’s been very eye-opening to see how much prejudice still exists in America and how deep seated it seems to be. But it’s part of the price one pays for speaking out, even against something as seemingly universal as injustice,” Kim said in an email to The Associated Press.

Learn more about the five-episode series, which is airing between Monday and Tuesday, here.

4:03 p.m. VP Pence’s spokesperson tests positive for coronavirus

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary has the coronavirus, the White House said Friday, making her the second person who works at the White House complex known to test positive for the virus this week.

President Donald Trump, who publicly identified the affected Pence aide, said he was “not worried” about the virus spreading in the White House. Nonetheless, officials said they were stepping up safety protocols for the complex.

Pence spokeswoman Katie Miller, who tested positive Friday, had been in recent contact with Pence but not with the president. She is married to Stephen Miller, a top Trump adviser. The White House had no immediate comment on whether Stephen Miller had been tested or if he was still working out of the White House.

Read the full report here.

3:01 p.m. Lightfoot eyeing ‘range of revenue-generating options’ to recover money lost to coronavirus

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Friday she’s looking at a “range of potential revenue-generating options” to cover declining revenues and rising costs tied to the coronavirus.

Last month, Lightfoot vowed to be “straightforward and very transparent” with Chicagoans if and when she concluded tax increases were needed to plug the giant hole in her 2020 budget caused by the stay-at-home shutdown of the city’s economy.

On Friday, the tough talk began.

“We’re looking at a range of potential revenue-generating options. Look, the reality is, I don’t think there’s any city budget across the country that is not gonna have to look at one-time measures to put yourself back on track,” the mayor said.

“We’d like to avoid those in this administration. But, the truth is, we’re probably gonna have to look at those as well given the magnitude of the challenge that we’re facing — not only to make sure that we’re steady for 2020 but looking to 2021 and beyond.”

Lightfoot said increasing property taxes is “always the last choice,” even though it is the most reliable source of revenue. But it is “particularly the last choice in this environment, when people are really, really suffering and unemployment has risen to levels not seen since the Great Depression.”

Read the full report from Fran Spielman here.

2:33 p.m. 130 more Illinois coronavirus deaths as state hits new high for testing

Officials on Friday said another 130 people have died of COVID-19 in Illinois as the state reached a milestone of receiving more than 20,000 tests results in a single day.

The more testing, the more information health officials have to understand where the virus is spreading, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike have said.

In total, 3,241 people have died of the coronavirus in Illinois, and with 2,887 new cases reported, the state has seen 73,760 people test positive overall.

The state received 20,671 tests results on Thursday, which is the largest number the state has received in a day. Test results still vary from 24 hours to about four days depending on the lab, Pritzker’s office said.

The virus has spread to an additional county — downstate Pope County — and is now in 98 of Illinois’ 102 counties.

Reporter Tina Sfondeles has the full story.

1:30 p.m. Here’s how Mayor Lori Lightfoot hopes to reopen Chicago

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Friday unveiled a “framework” to gradually re-open the Chicago economy and talked about the possibility of re-opening portions of the lakefront and allowing shaggy-haired Chicagoans to return to their barbershops and hair salons.

With Chicago now stuck in Phase 2, Lightfoot was asked what Phase 3 might look like when the city meets the strict “epidemiological” markers she has established to move on to that next step.

Might she consider re-opening the iconic gathering places she closed because Chicagoans could not be trusted to maintain social distance: the lakefront and all of its parks and beaches, the 606 Trail, the Chicago Riverwalk and neighborhood playgrounds?

“When I made the hard decision—but, I believe, the appropriate decision—to close down the lakefront—it’s because we talked, we talked, we talked and people ignored it.Now, the weather is even nicer. The lakefront is beautiful. It’s an incredible attraction. We can’t go back to where we were,” the mayor said.

“People have been sending me….really interesting suggestions about a phased re-opening. Even having segmented hours for particular types of activities. I think those are really interesting ideas. So, we’re gonna having more conversations with our parks department, but also with the local aldermen who touch the lakefront and figure out a plan that makes sense.”

Lightfoot was criticized for getting a haircut at a time when salons and barber shops were closed. She responded by saying she’s doing interviews on national and international TV and needed to maintain her public appearance.

On Friday, the mayor was asked whether those “one-on-one, appointment-only” businesses would be allowed to open in Phase 3 for those Chicagoans whose hair has been growing wild during the stay-at-home order and all of the women who desperately need to have their roots done. The definition also applies to accountants and attorneys.

“They’re gonna have to have a very tight plan to make sure that they protect their workers and they protect their customers. But, I can see some of those settings being appropriate in phase 3, once we get there,” Lightfoot said.

Getting there won’t be easy.

Read the full report from Fran Spielman here.

1:30 p.m. Artists honor first responders with murals in Medical District

Artist Dwight White II painted a mural on the side of Lulu’s Hot Dogs, 1000 S. Leavitt St.

Artist Dwight White II painted a mural on the side of Lulu’s Hot Dogs, 1000 S. Leavitt St.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Artist Dwight White II has seen a nurse who lives in his University Village apartment building coming and going recently at late hours.

He’s talked to her from opposite sides of the elevator, pleasantries mostly, but never got her name.

She has no idea she’s the inspiration for a mural White just painted on the side of Lulu’s Hot Dogs, 1000 S. Leavitt St., in which she’s dressed like Captain America.

“She sparked my inspiration, medical workers are kind of the glue holding the world togetherright now,” said White, 26.

The artwork is part of Murals for Medical Relief, a campaign that’s tapping local artists to paint murals on buildings near the Illinois Medical District on the Near West Side honoring medical workers and first responders. The campaign’s website — muralsformedicalrelief.com —has a map showing where each mural is located.

Click here to read the full story and see more murals in the Medical District.

12:48 p.m. NASCAR cancels next month’s event at Chicagoland Speedway as part of revised schedule

Though NASCAR got the green light to return to action this month amid the coronavirus pandemic, there won’t be racing at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet anytime soon.

As part of the revised NASCAR schedule, Chicagoland’s NASCAR Cup Series weekend, which were originally scheduled for June 18-21, has been moved to Darlington Raceway on May 17 and May 19, NASCAR announced Friday.

“The difficult decision to realign our race events was a combination of where we fell on the schedule, proximity to NASCAR’s teams and the safety and well-being of our community and larger NASCAR industry,” Chicagoland president Scott Paddock said in a statement Friday. “We will miss the roar of the engines at Chicagoland Speedway this season, but we will be rooting for and supporting our NASCAR colleagues at Darlington Raceway as competition returns on Sunday, May 17.”

Read the full story from Madeline Kenney here.

11:28 a.m. Economy vs. epidemiology? Pritzker gears reopening to science and saving lives – but business leaders call plan ‘misguided’

Gov. J.B. Pritzker says he’s saving lives with his plan to gradually reopen parts of the Illinois economy, but business leaders say it’s costing the livelihoods of more than a million residents left jobless by the coronavirus shutdown.

As state officials announced another unprecedented flood of claims for unemployment benefits Thursday, the Illinois Chamber of Commerce slammed Pritzker’s phased reopening plan as “misguided.”

The Illinois Department of Employment Security processed more claims during the first month of the pandemic than it did during all of last year — and that number nearly doubled in the second month of the crisis, Pritzker said.

But the state Chamber of Commerce says Illinois’ staggering jobless figure “reaffirms the inadequacy” of the plan Pritzker released earlier this week, which splits the state into four regions and allows each to slowly reopen along a five-phase plan by meeting certain medical benchmarks.

Read the full story from Mitchell Armentrout here.

10 a.m. Churches target Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan in new federal court challenge

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s battle against the coronavirus faces a new religious challenge in federal court, this time from churches in Chicago and Niles opposing his Restore Illinois plan and insisting on the right to worship with extensive social distancing guidelines in place.

Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church in Chicago and Logos Baptist Ministries in Niles asked for a temporary restraining order Friday. Just last week, a church west of Rockford launched a similar but unsuccessful challenge that has moved on to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

But the latest lawsuit points to Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan — unveiled just this week — and the two churches laid out proposed social distancing guidelines they would implement if allowed to move forward.

Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church has a 40,000-square-foot campus with 750 seats in its main auditorium and 550 seats in overflow rooms, according to the lawsuit. Logos Baptist Ministries has a 36,000-square-foot campus with 425 seats in its main auditorium and an overflow room with 100 seats, it said.

Read the full story here.

8:09 a.m. Chicago-area singer has been trapped on a cruise ship for 2 months

For the first 22 years of her life, Julia Lindsey had never seen the sea.

Now, it’s all she sees — day after day after day — from her cabin aboard the Celebrity Infinity cruise ship. Stuck onboard, she’s only been able to gaze out first at ever-elusive Miami and now at the Bahamas.

“I’m very, very frustrated,” says Lindsey, 24, a singer working on the ship who grew up in Poplar Grove, about 75 miles northwest of downtown Chicago.

She’s been trapped for nearly two months.

Maybe you heard in March that people were stranded on cruise ships at American ports because of coronavirus concerns. Many eventually were able to disembark.

Not Lindsey, who’s among an estimated 100,000 crew members still stuck on cruise ships in or near American waters by the COVID-19 pandemic. They’re caught in a dispute between cruise lines and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They can disembark only if company executives accept responsibility for making sure that process follows CDC guidelines. The cruise lines have refused, though Michael Bayley, chief executive officer of Royal Caribbean Cruises, which owns the Celebrity Infinity, has told employees the company now will agree so its workers finally can go home.

Reporter Stefano Esposito has more of her story here.

7:14 a.m. Child stricken with mysterious illness linked to COVID-19 being treated at Chicago area hospital

A child is now being treated at a Chicago area hospital for a mysterious illness that could be related to COVID-19.

The syndrome presents symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease or toxic shock syndrome, including rash, persistent fever, vomiting, diarrhea, red eyes, swollen lymph nodes and abdominal problems. The Chicago area case was confirmed at Advocate Children’s Hospital, though it’s unclear whether the child is being treated at the Oak Lawn or Park Ridge campus.

“This appears to be a very complex complication of COVID-19,” said Dr. Frank Belmonte, the hospital’s chief medical officer. “We are currently learning new things about this virus every day. This is the first indication that children may be more negatively impacted than we first expected.”

The mysterious sickness was first identified in children in Europe and is now beginning to crop up in the United States, according to a statement from Advocate, which noted that the illness has affected “children as young as two and well into the teens.”

Read the full story from Tom Schuba here.

6:28 a.m. Groups demand better pay, protections for front-line workers during pandemic

More than one hundred protesters in their cars and on their bikes convened downtown Thursday afternoon to demand more protective equipment and hazard pay for front-line workers throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Protesters also called on elected officials to tailor relief efforts for majority black and Latino areas of the city as those neighborhoods have suffered the greatest job losses and highest COVID-19 infections during the pandemic.

“Black and brown communities have been disinvested for years in Chicago — this isn’t news to anyone — but these neighborhoods during the pandemic are the hardest hit, and going back to business as usual isn’t going to cut it,” said Candis Castillo, a board member of United Working Families, a political organization that organized Thursday’s protest with dozens of community groups that came together as the Right to Recovery Coalition.

The coalition is calling for broader policy changes across the board, including universal health care, a pause on immigration raids and deportations, 20 days paid emergency leave, free grocery and medicine deliveries for seniors and people with disabilities, and a rent and mortgage moratorium until the pandemic subsides.

Reporter Carlos Ballesteros has the full story.


New cases


Analysis & Commentary

5:05 p.m. If you reopen for business early and somebody dies, don’t expect your insurance company to bail you out

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has repeatedly said he’s delegating enforcement of his stay-at-home order to local governments.

That stance has frustrated some folks who want him to get tougher with violators (although he’d undoubtedly risk making martyrs out of them if he did crack down hard). And the governor’s position seems to have emboldened some local officials to defy the governor’s executive order and open up their economies on their own.

But when local governments refuse to enforce the governor’s order, it appears that trial lawyers might step in and insurance companies might take a walk.

A growing number of Downstate sheriffs, state’s attorneys and other officials have declared they won’t be enforcing the governor’s stay-at-home order. The Woodford County state’s attorney has said he won’t prosecute violators, as has the White County state’s attorney. Johnson County’s sheriff is one of several who’ve said he also wouldn’t arrest anyone for violating the order.

East Peoria’s mayor has gone beyond even that, officially allowing the “opening” of several businesses in his city on May 1 that were ordered closed by the governor’s executive order, including hair salons, spas, gyms and indoor recreational facilities. On May 15, bars and restaurants will be allowed to reopen at 50 percent capacity, and churches and theaters also will be allowed to reopen on that date.

But the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association has a message for those renegade municipalities and businesses preparing to throw open their doors: Watch out for lawsuits.

Read the full column from Rich Miller here.

12:12 p.m. Mother’s Day in the age of coronavirus: With social distancing, can she feel the love?

“Hi Mom, whatcha doin?”

Two days before Mother’s Day, I was making my almost daily call to my 93-year-old mother who I haven’t seen in six weeks — not because I’m a bad daughter, but because of COVID-19.

Before the pandemic, I’d spent most weekends with her.

I was at her place the March 21 weekend the shelter-in-place order took effect. Surprised the outbreak had come to this, we stayed together longer than usual.

I left her home on March 24. Since then, I haven’t seen those eyes that see through me, her smile that melts stress; not kissed those furrows on her forehead that are filled with stories.

Her age and underlying conditions increasing her coronavirus risk, Mom’s on lockdown, her caregiver furloughed. No visitors allowed, not even her seven kids — except the one bringing weekly groceries, and another cooking weekly meals Mom can grab out of the freezer.

Now her children are staring down Mother’s Day, wondering how you mark a holiday that acknowledges so much love and sacrifice from a social distance.

Check out Maudlyne Ihejirika’s full column here.

6:07 a.m. Essential workers include those who clean our wastewater to protect our environment during pandemic

Have you thought about what happens to your water once it goes down the your drain or after you flush your toilet? In most of Cook County, it ends up at one of Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and its water treatment plants.

These reclamation plants are run by dedicated professionals: plant operators, engineers, pipefitters, laborers, machinists and so many others. These front-line workers are backed by many more support staff who continue to ensure that our wastewater is cleaned and our environment is protected.

MWRD essential staff, like other essential workers, come in and perform their duties despite the risk of exposure to COVID-19. Contact with other workers and the water reclamation process increases their odds of contracting the virus. While MWRD takes many precautions to reduce these risks for staff, the threat remains while they perform their responsibilities.

The next time you wash your hands, flush your toilet or have a glass of water, take a moment to remember the MWRD staff who are working to protect our water, our communities and the environment.

Read more letters to the editor here.

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