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Latest coronavirus news for June 2, 2020: Live updates

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

The latest

Another 113 die of COVID-19 in Illinois — as officials wait to see effects of reopening, mass protests

In this March 24, 2020, file photo, the Illinois National Guard operates a COVID-19 drive-thru test site for medical personnel and first responders in Chicago. The use of National Guard units around the country to help with the response to the coronavirus pandemic is prompting rumors of a national lockdown or even martial law. Guard units are now helping to transport medical supplies, distribute food and even help direct traffic at drive-thru testing sites.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Illinois officials on Tuesday reported another 113 deaths due to COVID-19, a day after the state saw the lowest daily death count in two months.

The fatalities are a stark reminder that the pandemic is still ravaging the state and other areas across the nation. In total, Illinois has lost 5,525 people to COVID-19. And officials are carefully watching to see what effects Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s gradual reopening plan will have on the number of new cases and deaths — and also what effect crowds of people turning out for mass protests will have on coronavirus cases in the state.

Both Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot have urged the thousands of protesters who have taken to the streets to speak out against the death of George Floyd since Saturday to get tested for COVID-19.

Read the full story by Tina Sfondeles here.


News

4:40 p.m. Sunday comic strips will playfully thank pandemic’s frontline workers

NEW YORK — The funny papers this Sunday will have more than laughs.

More than 70 comic strips and panels — ranging from Garry Trudeau’s “Doonesbury” to Jim Toomey’s “Sherman’s Lagoon” and Jeff Keane’s “Family Circus” — will each have six symbols hidden in the artwork to honor workers on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic.

Look closely and you’ll find a mask for medical workers and caregivers, a steering wheel for delivery workers, a shopping cart for grocery workers, an apple for teachers, a fork for food service workers and a microscope for medical researchers.

In “Sherman’s Lagoon,” the six items are hidden in the ocean’s reef. In “Blondie,” they appear on the computer screen of over-worked Dagwood Bumstead. In “Zits,” they hide in Jeremy Duncan’s messy bedroom.

The initiative was thought up by “Baby Blues” co-cartoonist Rick Kirkman, who wanted to show his gratitude for the helpers. He consulted his colleagues, who helped shape the idea, and it just kept growing.

Read the full story here.

1:30 p.m. Despite devastating damage, Chicago businesses to partially reopen Wednesday

Despite rioting and looting that damaged businesses across the city, Chicago will forge ahead on Wednesday with its plan to partially emerge from the stay-at-home shutdown tied to the coronavirus.

“We will reopen tomorrow,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said at a Tuesday morning press conference.

She said she had made the decision after touring damaged commercial strips on the South and West sides and talking to business owners across the city — businesses that had been gearing up to reopen but were instead cleaning up debris and contacting their insurance companies.

They were nearly unanimous in their desire and determination to reopen their businesses and get people back to work, she said.

“One business owner did burst into tears, saying how much her business means to her,” Lightfoot said Tuesday. “That was a humbling experience to bear witness to their resolve.”

Read the full story here.

10:50 a.m. Senior citizens in subsidized housing have been dying alone at home, unnoticed because of coronavirus distancing

This article is co-published with ProPublica, a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power.

Someone needed to check on Leonard Graves. The 57-year-old lived alone in a senior building on Chicago’s North Side, and no one had seen him in at least two days.

Volunteers called community ambassadors usually checked on fellow residents in the Edith Spurlock Sampson Apartments, a 394-unit Chicago Housing Authority complex. But after the coronavirus began spreading in Chicago, leaders say the CHA suspended the program.

With the help of a building maintenance worker, a worried friend entered Graves’ apartment on March 14. Inside, they found him face down on the kitchen floor. From the condition of his body, it was clear he had been dead for some time. He appeared to have died of natural causes.

Graves’ death — and how it was discovered — offers a heartbreaking snapshot of how the coronavirus pandemic has left some seniors dangerously isolated in public and subsidized housing around the city, with only a patchwork support system in place to make sure they’re OK.

About 10,000 people live in CHA senior buildings, and another 10,000 reside in privately owned properties in Chicago that are subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Unlike residents of nursing homes and assisted living centers, most people in these senior buildings live independently in their own apartments. Building owners and managers — some of them for-profit companies — do not always provide support services and are not required to.

As the coronavirus outbreak moved into Chicago, managers at some federally subsidized but privately owned buildings cut staffing and security. Informal systems of care that residents had organized for themselves over the years were disrupted by social-distancing guidelines and fear of the virus. At CHA buildings, outreach workers were not required to check on most residents until late April, well after Graves and others died alone and unnoticed.

Read the full story co-published by the Sun-Times and ProPublica Illinois here.

10:15 a.m. Experts warn COVID-19 could widen existing black wealth gap

COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted black Americans, infecting and killing them at higher rates across the nation. But experts say the pandemic has also exacerbated existing economic disparities and raised fresh concerns about the survival of black businesses, many of which have been the backbone of cities like Detroit and Atlanta for years.

They also worry the pandemic could widen the existing black wealth gap. According to the Federal Reserve’s 2016 Survey of Consumer Finance, the median white family net worth of $171,000 is about 10 times greater than that of a black family’s, which is $17,150.

Black businesses historically have struggled to gain access to financing due to discriminatory lending practices and a lack of relationships with big banks. But civil rights leaders and historians say their struggles are also rooted in the simmering effects of racism and Jim Crow-era laws that enforced racial segregation and denied black people equal opportunities.

“Structural racism has created an environment where black businesses are starved for capital,” said Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, a civil rights and urban advocacy organization.

Read the full story here.

7:06 a.m. State’s daily coronavirus death toll reaches two month low: ‘What we’re seeing right now is a good trend’

State health officials on Monday announced 974 new coronavirus cases and 23 new deaths — the first time the daily death toll fell below the two dozen mark in nearly two months.

With Monday’s new figures, Illinois has registered a total of 121,234 cases, including 5,412 deaths.

The last time the state’s daily tally was under two dozen was April 2, when 16 deaths were reported.

However, the state was ramping up testing at the time, and it’s possible the number of deaths would have been higher had more testing been in place, health officials acknowledged.

The state’s daily death tally peaked May 13 at 192 deaths.

The daily number of new cases peaked the day before, May 12, at 4,014.

Reporter Mitch Dudek has the full story.


New cases


Analysis & Commentary

3:04 p.m. A smarter way to trace the spread of COVID-19 without violating your privacy rights

Decision-makers across the country are exploring tools they can use in the battle against COVID-19. The latest device to be considered? The smartphone in your hand.

Many believe that the same phone you use to stay connected with your loved ones, get breaking news and play games might slow down the spread of COVID-19. But using our phones for this purpose is not a quick fix, and it runs the risk of tapping into private data stored on them.

Just think about all the ways you use your phones. All the places it goes with you. All the information you share with it. Now imagine giving the government or another third party access to all that information.

Read the full guest commentary by Sapna Khatri here.

7:39 a.m. Mail-in voting requires fewer poll workers to put their lives at risk from COVID-19

In a letter on Friday, a Sun-Times reader argued that in-person voting, at a polling place, should be the only option in the great majority of cases. The reader wrote: “People are complaining that they shouldn’t have to risk their health to vote. People died to protect that vote.”

In the days before the Wisconsin primary on April 7, at the height of the pandemic in Milwaukee, many elderly election poll workers in Milwaukee were concerned for their health and dropped out. As a result, the number of voting locations in Milwaukee was reduced from 180 to just five, and many voters had to stand for hours to exercise their right to vote.

Would we have preferred that those elderly poll workers put their lives very much on the line? Many of them already had taken enough chances in defense of our freedom. I am very thankful to the many who have sacrificed so much to keep the rest of us safe, but to have others needlessly put their lives at risk seems absurd.

Voting should be easy and fair, free of fraud. I wish those who protest mail-in voting had the same concern for the rights of voters who show up at the polls, only to find that they have been removed from the rolls.

Kevin Coughlin, Evanston

Read this and more letters to the Sun-Times editors here.