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Coronavirus live blog, Sept. 7, 2020: How Chicago’s streetwear boutiques are making it through COVID-19, looting

Here’s Monday’s news on how COVID-19 is impacting Chicago and Illinois.

The latest

Chicago’s streetwear boutiques weather COVID-19, social unrest

Michael Willis, co-owner of Pillars, a shoe/clothing boutique in the West Loop, poses for a picture in the shop.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Even as Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot were giving the go-ahead to reopen stores while adhering with social distancing guidelines, the streetwear boutiques were grappling as well with the ever-constant threat of burglary.

Some of them were looted during the protests in the aftermath of the May police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the Aug. 9 shooting of a 20-year-old in Englewood by Chicago police and the protests over the police shooting of Kenosha, Wisconsin resident Jacob Blake. Some were burglarized duirng the weeks in between.

Brittany Stewart, owner of Chatham’s Sweats X Stew, had been hit a few times before moving from her 75th Street location. Stewart, 30 — the daughter of Diego Ross, co-owner of Leaders 1354 — said would-be burglars aren’t thinking of the collateral damage looting does to Black business owners.

“This can be your sister or your brother’s store, or your cousin’s store,” said Stewart. “It’s upsetting because these are my peers. ... After I got hit, I could’ve moved downtown or to the North Side. I wanted to stay in my community.”

The owners of Pillars, a boutique with locations in the West Loop and Calumet Heights, discovered both stores had been hit as co-owner Michael Willis went to check on the West Loop location, while his business partner Andre Weaver drove to the South Side store.

“You almost forgot about COVID [-19] because so much more is going on,” said Willis, 31. “By the time I got to this store, it was crazy. It seemed like the movie ‘The Purge.’ All this from the front [of the store], all the way to the back door; everything was basically gone.

“It’s very upsetting. You sit back and you’re like: ‘Why me? Why us?’ At the end of the day, I understand the reason — not particularly [the looters’] reasoning — with the looting going on, but you never want something that’s yours being damaged or taken away from you, especially when you busted your a- - to get it. If it happens next time, we’re prepared.”

Read Evan F. Moore’s full story here.


3:41 p.m. Questions and anxiety loom large as CPS resumes remote learning

Months of debate, anxiety, preparation and anticipation are culminating with the kickoff Tuesday of the most unusual school year in decades, with yellow buses and packed backpacks replaced with computer screens and a hope for a better experience than the spring.

If remote school goes according to plan, more than 300,000 Chicago students will be sitting behind computer screens this week, many of them meeting their teachers virtually for the first time.

Questions remain, however, about how many children lack access to quality internet, how working-class families will handle having their kids at home again, and whether hours of screen time each day, essentially a full school day online, will be beneficial for students.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office and Chicago Public Schools officials have said access to computers is not expected to be the problem it was earlier this year, after 128,000 devices were distributed in the spring with another 17,000 handed out ahead of this school year.

Officials also announced the “Chicago Connected” program in June, pledging to put free, high-speed internet into the homes of 100,000 CPS students who lacked reliable broadband access. A little over two months later, the families of 24,000 kids have signed up for the program, while the rest could still be without quality internet to start the school year.

Read Nader Issa’s full story here.

2 p.m. Illinois surpasses 250K coronavirus cases

Illinois reported another 1,381 positive cases of COVID-19 statewide Monday, pushing the state’s total number of positive tests past 250,000 amid a summertime resurgence.

It’s among one of the lower caseloads in the past month, which has seen only three other days with fewer than 1,400 new cases.

The new caseload is also a dramatic decrease from Friday, when the Illinois Department of Public Health reported a record-high 5,368 new cases of COVID-19. The massive caseload, which blew away the previous May record of 3,239 cases, was attributed to a three-day data backlog.

Health officials also announced eight more deaths tied to COVID-19 in Illinois, raising the statewide toll to 8,179. About 96% of people in Illinois have recovered from the virus.

Read the full story here.

10:30 a.m. Chicago staple Ronny’s Steakhouse closes

After over 55 years of feeding hungry Chicagoans, downtown staple Ronny’s Steakhouse has closed its doors for good.

“Farewell, Chicago … It has been an historic run; it’s time to turn off that famous neon sign one final time” read a message posted Sunday on the restaurants Facebook page.

“My family is grateful to the city of Chicago. It means a lot to us as we have been a meaningful part of a rich civic history,” owner Kenny Munic said Sunday. “We are grateful to our staff and guests for their loyal and unwavering support over these past six decades.”

Ronny’s was first opened in 1963 at 16 W. Randolph St. by Kenny Munic’s father Herman. At one point, Ronny’s had six locations downtown.

By 2000, the chain was down to a single restaurant inside the Thompson Center in the Loop, where customers from across the city have sat at the steakhouse’s indelible green leather booths since.

Pictures of celebrities who have enjoyed a meal at Ronny’s adorned the restaurants walls.

“It’s been our honor and privilege to serve and employ our spectacular city’s citizens. A million thanks for the good times. Hold on to the memories. We won’t say good bye but rather until we meet again,” the Facebook message read.

Read the full story here.

New Cases

Analysis & Commentary

11 a.m. This Labor Day, let’s honor the workers who are beyond essential

Labor Day is one of the most beloved holidays of the year, a time for people of all backgrounds to take a moment to celebrate the people who lace up their boots every day and go to work. However, workers are not celebrating right now. Workers are doing whatever they can to live their lives during an unimaginable public health and economic catastrophe.

Our city, state and country are in the middle of multiple intersecting crises. And while we are all learning to live with the new normal, figuring out how to get our kids to school every day and keep ourselves safe, we cannot lose sight of the lives and livelihoods being lost every single day in our communities.

I think about Maria Lopez. Maria was a nurse in robotic surgery at the University of Illinois hospital and a proud member of the Illinois Nurses Association. Maria worked at the hospital for 20 years and was scheduled to retire on April 30. She had recently undergone knee surgery when COVID-19 hit, and she could have used vacation days to leave her job early, but she felt it was her duty to stay at the hospital and help — because that’s what nurses do. They help.

In her last month before retirement, Maria contracted COVID-19, and she died on May 4.

Read the full column here.