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Coronavirus live blog, June 16, 2020: Illinois reports 72 new COVID-19 deaths as June total surpasses 1,000

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

It’s official: Riot Fest has been canceled for 2020. The Lyric Opera and the Joffrey Ballet have also canceled their fall seasons.

But that’s not all that happened today in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s what else went down in Chicago and around the state.


News

8:57 p.m. 72 more Illinois coronavirus deaths

Surgeons perform on a COVID-19 patient at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
Laura Brown/Northwestern Medicine/AFP (file photo)

Illinois remained on its apparent descent from the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic Tuesday, though health officials announced an additional 72 people died of the disease across the state.

With the three-month death toll at 6,398, the Illinois Department of Public Health said an additional 623 people tested positive for the coronavirus among the latest batch of almost 19,000 test results.

That marks 11 straight days with daily caseloads below 1,000, and follows the 473 cases announced Monday, which was the lowest number reported since March 30.

The latest figures push the death toll this month above 1,000, but the 1,022 deaths over the first 16 days of June average out to just under 64 a day — significantly lower than May’s grim daily average of just under 100.

Read the full story here.


7:54 p.m. City officials urge protesters to get tested for COVID-19

City officials on Tuesday urged Chicagoans who participated in recent large protests to get tested for the coronavirus while announcing the expansion of eligibility for six city-operated testing sites.

Anyone with potential “high-risk exposure” to COVID-19 can get tested, even if they haven’t displayed symptoms, according to a statement from Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office.

That includes residents who attended large gatherings or demonstrations in the wake of the police-involved killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Public health officials have warned that protests over Floyd’s death, which swept the nation and spread to other countries, will likely lead to a spike in coronavirus cases.

Reporter Tom Schuba has the full story.

6:47 p.m. Lincoln Yards drive-in theater opens next week with ‘Ferris Bueller’

The next entry to pop up in Chicago’s array of pop-up drive-in movie theaters will be in the new Lincoln Yards development on the Near North Side.

The Drive-In at Lincoln Yards will debut June 25 with screenings of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” at 1684 N. Throop St., near the Fleet Fields soccer space. The theater promises to show “modern classics” at 8:30 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays.

Audio will be transmitted through AM radios.

Reporter Darel Jevens has the full story.

4:34 p.m. Pritzker, Foxx to get tested for COVID-19 after attending event with newly diagnosed state AG Kwame Raoul

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul announced Tuesday he has tested positive for COVID-19, and Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he will get re-tested after attending a south suburban event with the attorney general 10 days ago.

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx is also planning to get tested for COVID-19 after attending the same event with Raoul and Pritzker.

Raoul said he began experiencing minor symptoms over the weekend and tested positive for the coronavirus on Monday. Raoul, 55, is the highest ranking Illinois politician known to have contracted COVID-19.

“I have been self-isolating since the onset of my symptoms and I will continue to do so in accordance with guidance from my doctor and public health authorities,” Raoul said in a statement. “Additionally, we are in the process of notifying individuals I may have come into contact with so that they can self-isolate and seek telehealth guidance.”

Read the full story here.

3:38 p.m. Chicago’s city-run COVID-19 testing sites open to all residents

All Chicago residents can now get tested for coronavirus at the city’s six testing sites as part of an expansion in eligibility announced Tuesday.

Health officials recommend that anyone who had recent high-risk exposure to the virus to visit one of the six sites at Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy, Horizon Science Academy, Dr. Jorge Prieto Math & Science Academy, Kennedy King College, Gately Park and Columbus Park.

Free testing is offered at those sites from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. The city says no questions will be asked about citizenship status, and no documents related to citizenship are required.

“As our city’s industries and public spaces cautiously reopen, we must remain steadfast in our fight against the COVID-19 virus, especially in light of the rising case levels we’ve seen in other areas nationwide,” said Mayor Lightfoot.

Registration to sign up for an appointment to be tested at one of the city’s six COVID-19 testing sites can be found on this website.

— Satchel Price

3:25 p.m. Riot Fest 2020 canceled due to pandemic

Riot Fest 2020 has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was announced Tuesday afternoon.

The festival will return Sept. 17-19, in Douglas Park, and will add a first-ever festival Thursday preview party on Sept. 16, 2021.

Weekend passes, starting at $149.98, are now on sale.

Refunds and transfers for the 2020 dates will also be available for the next 30 days.

The 2021 lineup retains the reunion of My Chemical Romance, as well as first-time Riot Fest performances from The Smashing Pumpkins, Lupe Fiasco (performing The Cool in full), The All-American Rejects. Les Savy Fav, Pixies, Run The Jewels, Coheed and Cambria, Taking Back Sunday and New Found Glory are also among the first wave of artists schedule for the three-day music extravaganza.

Read the full story here.

2:23 p.m. Summer camps scramble to find new sites as CPS schools stay closed due to the coronavirus

As summer camps across the city make plans to open — albeit with smaller numbers due to social distancing — those that rent space at Chicago Public Schools are having to scramble to find new locations.

All public schools remain closed for the summer while school officials try to work out the details of reopening in the fall, a CPS spokeswoman confirmed this week.

“We certainly recognize the challenges they are facing, just as we all are facing challenges,” said Addie Goodman, president and CEO of Apachi Day Camps, which has nine locations, including two on CPS properties.

Goodman said CPS officials informed her in early June that schools would not be available for rent this summer.

Read the full story here.

1:35 p.m. Chicago’s Mercury Theater closing permanently, due to fallout from COVID-19 pandemic

The Mercury Theater Chicago, long a fixture at its North Southport Avenue location, will be closing permanently at the end of the month, it was announced Tuesday.

In a statement, executive director L. Walter Stearns and partner/business manager Eugene Dizon cited extreme loss of revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The theater had been closed since mid-March, following Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s mandate prohibiting all large gatherings due to the coronavirus. The mandate forced the early closure of the theater’s productions of “Shear Madness” and “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.”

Opened in 1920 as a silent film nickelodeon, the movie theater would undergo several retail business incarnations in the decades that followed. In 1994, it was transformed into a 300-seat live theater rental venue by veteran theater producer Michael Cullen, who also incorporated a restaurant as part of the renovation of the four-city lot site.

It “reopened” in 2011 under the current owner/leadership team as an Equity-affiliated commercial theater house, having since produced 25 plays including four world premieres. According to an official statement, “the Mercury has employed 975 actors, musicians, designers, and arts administrators, and entertained nearly 400,000 audience members.”

Read the full story here.

12:45 p.m. ‘Inexpensive, on the shelf’ steroid appears to improve survival rates in severely ill COVID-19 patients

Researchers in England say they have the first evidence that a drug can improve COVID-19 survival: A cheap, widely available steroid called dexamethasone reduced deaths by up to one third in severely ill hospitalized patients.

Results were announced Tuesday and researchers said they would publish them soon. The study is a large, strict test that randomly assigned 2,104 patients to get the drug and compared them with 4,321 patients getting only usual care.

The drug was given either orally or through an IV. After 28 days, it had reduced deaths by 35% in patients who needed treatment with breathing machines and by 20% in those only needing supplemental oxygen. It did not appear to help less ill patients.

“This is an extremely welcome result,” one study leader, Peter Horby of the University of Oxford, said in a statement. “The survival benefit is clear and large in those patients who are sick enough to require oxygen treatment, so dexamethasone should now become standard of care in these patients. Dexamethasone is inexpensive, on the shelf, and can be used immediately to save lives worldwide.”

Even though the drug only helps in severe cases, “countless lives will be saved globally,” said Nick Cammack of Wellcome, a British charity that supports science research.

Read the full report here.

12:04 p.m. Mayoral ally proposes Chicago ban on flavored tobacco products

Citing the “link between respiratory issues and COVID-19,” an influential alderman wants Chicago to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products used to lure young people into a lifetime of addiction.

In an email to his Southwest Side constituents, Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th), one of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s closest City Council allies, said he plans to introduce the ban at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

O’Shea cited data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that showed a surge in electronic cigarette use among high school students — from 1.5 percent in 2011 to 27.5 percent in 2019.

Even more alarming is the fact that 67 percent of high school students who use tobacco products “reported using a flavored tobacco product in the past 30 days,” the alderman wrote.

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

9:53 a.m. Lowest number of new coronavirus infections reported in Illinois since late March

Illinois logged another 19 coronavirus deaths Monday, and an additional 473 new cases of the deadly virus — the lowest daily number of new infections since the early days under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order.

Those new cases bring the state’s total to 133,016 cases and 6,326 deaths in 101 counties in the state.

The 473 new cases is the lowest daily tally since March 30, which saw 461 cases. It also marks the first day with fewer than 500 new cases since late March. Pritzker’s initial stay-at-home order came on March 21, a day that saw 168 new cases. The state appeared to hit its peak for new infections on May 12, when 4,014 were announced.

A little more than a week ago, Illinois Public Health Department officials reported 1,156 new cases on June 5.

Monday’s new cases were among the 18,627 new processed tests. The state’s preliminary seven-day positivity rate for cases remains at 3%.

Read the full report here.

8:10 a.m. Lakefront Trail to reopen June 22

Chicago’s Lakefront Trail, closed since March, will reopen next week, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office announced Monday.

The city also announced that on Wednesday, “bars, lounges, taverns, breweries” that don’t serve food can open, though only for outdoor service.

Lightfoot made the Lakefront Trail announcement on her official Facebook page:

“Excited to share the news... our Lakefront Trail will be reopening on June 22 for exercise and transit!

“To ensure we continue the progress we’ve made flattening the curve, Social Distancing Ambassadors will be along the route to ensure a safe experience for Chicagoans.”

Read the full story here.

7:18 a.m. Public League football coaches say CPS lacks a plan for return-to-play

Multiple Public League football coaches have confirmed that they were told by Chicago Public Schools on Monday that there is no timeline for the district to allow schools to participate in Stage 1 of the Illinois High School Association’s return-to-play plan.

“I’m very worried there won’t be a season,” Clemente football coach Conell Hayes said.

The IHSA released the guidelines for Stage 1 of its return-to-play plan on June 5. Schools with district approval were allowed to being voluntary strength and conditioning sessions on June 6.

A CPS spokesperson told the Sun-Times on June 7 that it was “working diligently to develop guidance and protocols to ensure our students can safely begin training.”

Those protocols may not be coming anytime soon.

Read the full story from Michael O’Brien here.


New cases


Analysis & Commentary

5:22 p.m. To Chicagoans suffering from social distancing fatigue: Hang in there

Fellow Chicagoans, can we not be stupid about this?

Not to sound patronizing, it’s just that we’ve seen how New Yorkers have behaved, and New Yorkers are supposed to be sophisticated, right? Yet no sooner has New York begun to reopen, as the spread of the coronavirus has waned, that many New Yorkers have begun to chuck the basic rules of pandemic safety — wearing face coverings and social distancing.

New Yorkers have been crowding outside bars and restaurants like college kids on spring break.

If New Yorkers can be this stupid, who’s to say Chicagoans can’t be just as stupid?

Starting Wednesday in Chicago, bars and brew pubs will reopen their doors, and on Monday the city’s Lakefront Trail will reopen. The bars will be limited to outdoor service, like in New York, with tables set six feet apart and no more than six people at a table. And, in the stern words of Mayor Lori Lightfoot, everybody on the lakefront — bike riders, runners, walkers and Rollerbladers — will have to “keep it moving.”

Read the full editorial from the Sun-Times’ Editorial Board here.

7:48 a.m. ‘It’s all just too much,’ I said, my hands covering my face as I sobbed

I honestly can’t remember the last time I cried before that. I don’t cry easily, never have.

But at that moment, I couldn’t help it.

The psychological toll of relentless bad news — Floyd’s murder, the resulting civil unrest, a deadly pandemic, three years of an incompetent and racist president who could very well win a second term and finish destroying our increasingly fragile democracy — is a lot to bear these days.

Especially for African Americans, like me. We’re experiencing record levels of mental distress in the wake of Floyd’s murder, according to a recent Census Bureau report.

Read Lorraine Forte’s full column here.