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Coronavirus In Illinois: Peak Not Expected Until Mid-June, Governor Says

Tuesday, May 12, 2020
WBEZ News

Illinois officials reported 79,007 cases of COVID-19, including 3,459 deaths, as of Monday afternoon. Worldwide, there were 4.2 million cases and more than 286, 600 deaths as of Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Read below for details on latest developments: Who is stay-at-home protest leader Darren Bailey?; Illinois’ COVID-19 peak not expected until June; Blue Angels to honor health care workers with Chicago flyover; senior Pritzker staffer tests positive; U of C and AP poll on anti-shutdown protests.

May 12

6:45 a.m. The rising star of stay-at-home opposition

Republican state Rep. Darren Bailey, a Downstate farmer and first-term lawmaker, has galvanized rural Illinoisans who have been hurt economically by Gov. JB Pritzker’s stay-at-home orders and believe the governor is impinging on their liberties.

And Bailey gained national attention last month when he won a ruling in a lawsuit against Pritzker in a state courtroom in Clay County, 240 miles south of Chicago. Bailey describes himself as a “typical, concerned American patriot.”

Read more about him.

— Dan Mihalopoulos

May 11

3:07 p.m. Peak of cases not expected till mid-June, Gov. JB Pritzker says

Describing the news as “disheartening,” Gov. JB Pritzker — appearing from his home on a shared virtual call — announced new modeling projects Illinois has still not reached its peak number of cases of COVID-19, and has extended the length of time for the current plateauing of cases into mid-June. Pritzker again reiterated that the flattening of cases is a sign that the stay-at-home order has stopped the exponential growth of coronavirus cases in the state.

Pritzker also gave an update on how each of the four regions of the state are measuring up in order to move from Phase 2 to Phase 3 of reopening the economy. The northeast region of the state, which includes Cook County, the collar counties and Grundy and Kankakee counties, is not meeting all three metrics needed to move to Phase 3, though there’s time for that data to change. In particular, fewer people need to test positive for the region to move to Phase 3 by the end of the month.

Additionally, Illinois began distributing a possible treatment for COVID-19 to hospitals around the state over the weekend. Illinois Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike said today that the state distributed the antiviral medicine remdesivir for use on patients based on the number of patients in intensive care at hospitals, with the expectation that more would be coming.

Ezike also announced another 1,266 new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, including 54 deaths.

— Tony Arnold

1:13 p.m. Blue Angels release details on Chicago flyover tomorrow

The Navy’s Blue Angels will boom over the Chicago area for 15 minutes tomorrow to honor local health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The aerial demonstration scheduled from 11:45 a.m. to 12 p.m. is part of the Blue Angels’ ongoing nationwide tribute to workers at the front lines in fighting the coronavirus outbreak.

According to a Blue Angels tweet and map today, the bright blue F/A-18 Hornet aircraft will begin their flyover on Chicago’s South Side lakefront, then follow a twisting route that will take them as far south as Oak Lawn, as far west as Melrose Park, over downtown Chicago and the North Side, north almost all the way to Evanston, and down the lakefront.

If you’re familiar with the Blue Angels’ practice runs and performance during Chicago’s annual Air and Water Show, you know you can’t miss hearing them. Their roar can literally shake buildings as they pass overhead. You can see them in the sky, but they move up to 700 mph during a performance, according to their website.

The Blue Angels are urging people to follow stay-at-home and social-distancing guidelines during their flyover. They add that the flyover is subject to change.

— Mark LeBien

10:25 a.m. Senior Pritzker staffer tests positive for COVID-19, but governor remains virus-free

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker remains free of COVID-19 after a senior staffer who had close contact with the governor tested positive for the coronavirus late last week, his office confirmed today.

Pritzker’s aides would not identify the sickened member of the governor’s inner circle, who was asymptompatic. But a statement released today said the governor and a group of his senior-most staff members would no longer be reporting for work at the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago and instead would work from home for an undetermined period of time, his office said.

Since learning of the diagnosis, the governor has been tested twice, most recently on Sunday, and results showed he is not carrying the virus. No one else on Pritzker’s leadership team has tested positive for COVID-19, the statement read.

This marks the second occasion in which an employee inside the governor’s office tested positive for COVID-19. An earlier staffer who became ill has recovered.

— Dave McKinney

9:30 a.m. U of C and AP poll shows most oppose anti-shutdown protests

a photo of protesters in Chicago speaking out against Illinois’ stay-at-home order
Protesters gather in downtown Chicago on Friday, May 1, to speak out against Illinois’ extended stay-at-home order. A new poll shows a majority of Americans disapprove of anti-shutdown protests. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

A majority of Americans disapprove of protests against restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus, according to a new poll from the University of Chicago Divinity School and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

The survey finds that 55% of Americans disapprove of the protests that have popped up in some states, including Illinois, as some Americans begin chafing at public health measures that have decimated the economy. The poll shows 31% approve of the demonstrations.

Democrats are more likely than Republicans to disapprove of such protests, 67% to 51%. Thirty-two percent of Republicans and 25% of Democrats say they approve. Only 8% said public protests, marches and rallies should be unrestricted during the outbreak, while 41% think they should be allowed only with restrictions and 50% think they should not be allowed at all.

8:21 a.m. Cook County correction officer dies from COVID-19

A third Cook County correctional officer has died from coronavirus disease complications. The sheriff’s office says Officer Antoine Jones died yesterday at the age of 51. Jones was diagnosed with COVID-19 in late March. He had been with the department for 18 years. He’s survived by his wife and five adult children.

2:59 p.m. New cases are lowest in nearly three weeks

Health officials today announced 1,656 new cases of coronavirus disease in Illinois compared with yesterday, the lowest number since April 21. As of today, the state has recorded 77,741 cases of the disease.

Although new cases were down during the past 24 hours, so were tests. The state said labs processed 13,653 specimens since Saturday, when 16,617 tests were reported.

Illinois has seen at least 2,000 new coronavirus cases every day since April 22, with several exceptions. Today was the fewest number of new cases since April 21, when 1,551 were reported.

Officials today also reported 57 more fatalities, bringing Illinois’ death toll to 3,406 since the start of the pandemic. The vast majority of the new deaths were in Cook County, where the victims were men and women ranging from their 20s to 100 years old.

11:48 a.m. Pritzker on CNN: No reopening until benchmarks are met

Gov. JB Pritzker defended his go-slow approach to reopening Illinois during an appearance on CNN this morning. Pritzker said he’s watching the trending of new positive cases of COVID-19, hospitalizations and the availability of hospital beds as he considers steps to loosen restrictions.

“And we will not reopen unless we meet all of the standards that I have set for doing so,” the governor said during an interview with Jake Tapper on State of the Union.

Until there’s a vaccine or other effective treatment for the coronavirus, Pritzker said, “We’re still going to have to socially distance. The truth is that coronavirus is still out there. It hasn’t gone anywhere. And so we all are going to have to change the way we do things until we’re able to eradicate it.”

Last Tuesday, Pritzker revealed a five-step reopening plan for Illinois’ economy that’s based on how well regions of the state are doing at keeping down hospitalizations and cases of COVID-19.


 

May 9

2:53 p.m. State reports more than 2,300 new cases

Health officials today reported 2,325 new cases of coronavirus disease during the past 24 hours, bringing Illinois’ total to 76,085 since the start of the pandemic. There were 111 additional deaths, for a total of 3,349.

Officials also reported that, since Friday, laboratories have processed 16,617 specimens for a total of 416,331 tests in the state.

Gov. JB Pritzker did not hold his daily news conference updating Illinois’ response to the pandemic, and he is not planning a news update tomorrow.

12:24 p.m. City Hall says four companies will make one million masks

The city of Chicago today announced a deal with four local businesses to produce one million reusable cloth masks to be distributed to residents, especially populations most at risk to the coronavirus. The city will pay the vendors a total of up to $2.2 million to start production immediately, creating masks that will add to Chicago’s current stockpile, according to a City Hall news release today.

The vendors are: Barbara Bates Designs, GAIAU Product Design and Development, Silk Screen Express and The Will Group. They’ll produce 250,000 reusable cloth masks that will be sent to aldermanic offices, and another 750,000 masks to be distributed through the city’s Racial Equity Rapid Response Team.

The Chicago Department of Public Health vetted the businesses’ masks to ensure they meet national safety standards, the release said.

9:56 a.m. Delta suspending flights at Midway

a photo of a Delta airplane
Delta Airlines is suspending its flight operations at 10 U.S. airports due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

Delta Airlines is suspending its flight operations at 10 airports around the country, including Chicago’s Midway, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The airline says the flight suspensions will begin this Wednesday, May 13, and will last “at least” until September.

Delta says it’s taking the action due to a drop in air travel and to “allow more of our frontline employees to minimize their COVID-19 exposure risk.” Delta will continue to offer flights at O’Hare International Airport. The 10 airports where it’s temporarily halting service are all close to other airports where it will still offer flights, Delta says.

Delta had previously announced an 85% cut in its service schedule as demand for air travel has fallen during the pandemic.

8:18 a.m. Nearly 50% of Illinois’ COVID-19 deaths are linked to nursing homes

Nursing homes now account for nearly half of Illinois deaths with a confirmed link to COVID-19, a WBEZ analysis of state data shows.

The Illinois Department of Public Health yesterday afternoon posted data showing that 1,553 — nearly 48% — of the state’s coronavirus deaths are tied to long-term-care facilities and assisted-living establishments.

Read the full story.

— Chip Mitchell

May 8

2:57 p.m. Illinois announces another 130 deaths as state exceeds 20,000 tests a day

Illinois public health officials announced today that 130 more people have died from COVID-19, and they’ve identified 2,887 more cases of the novel coronavirus.

That brings the state’s total to 3,241 total deaths and 73,760 cases identified since the pandemic began.

Gov. JB Pritzker also reported that for the first time, Illinois has exceeded 20,000 tests for COVID-19 administered in one day. Of those tests across the state, 14% of them were positive for the virus, said Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.

The state has been aiming for a positivity rate of less than 20% for 28 days for any region of the state in order to move toward a next phase of reopening.

Pritkzer said the state has more than 244 testing sites now open, and Illinois is fifth among all states in the number of tests it has completed since the beginning of the pandemic. But Pritzker said efforts to continue to expand the tests would continue, saying that 20,000 a day still is not enough.

— Angela Rozas O’Toole

1:30 p.m. Mayor Lori Lightfoot announces her plan to reopen Chicago

This afternoon Mayor Lori Ligthtfoot is unveiling her plan to reopen Chicago as the city looks ahead to recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lightfoot’s five-step plan, called “Protecting Chicago,” says Chicago is in Phase 2 of its reopening process. It follows Gov. JB Pritzker’s state-wide, reopening plan released earlier this week. Each phase of the city’s plan will be driven by economic and health data, the mayor’s office said. Stores and nonessential business wouldn’t open until Phase 3, which includes a tight restriction on social gatherings, limiting them to less than 10 people.

“While our goal is to get as many people back to work as quickly and safely as possible, we will keep data and science as the north stars of this work, as we have throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Allison Arwady, the city’s public health commissioner.

At this moment in time, Chicago is in Phase 2 of the plan, which allows only essential businesses to let employees come into work and requires face coverings when in public.

Nonessential workers won’t return to work until Phase 3. Chicago’s progress through the phases will depend on the availability of testing and the rate the disease is spreading. The city will also monitor hospital capacity to determine whether it’s safe to move to another phase.

Chicago still seems to be far off from the final stages of the plan, for which LIghtfoot’s administration has not yet released metrics. Have questions or comments about the plan? The mayor’s office is collecting feedback here.

Read the full story.

— Claudia Morell

10:08 a.m. Illinois is issuing marriage licenses via teleconference

photo of two hands wearing rings
Hundreds of couples have applied for emergency marriage licenses after losing insurance or immigration sponsorship from employers. Kim Siever / Flickr

Gov. JB Pritzker this month gave county governments across the state the authority to issue marriage licenses during the pandemic via teleconference.

The governor’s executive order lets county governments work around a provision in state law requiring couples to “appear before” the county clerk before completion of marriage licenses. That appearance was necessary for couples to provide proof of who they are. The executive order gives couples the ability to do that virtually.

Cook County has already been granting virtual licenses and conducting virtual marriage ceremonies since the first week of April, accommodating about 15 to 20 marriage licenses a day.

Read the full story.

— Claudia Morell


 

May 7

3:16 p.m. Group seeks support for Chicago street vendors struggling during the pandemic

A volunteer-led organization is trying to raise $15,000 to help Chicago street vendors who’ve lost their job because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Increase The Peace launched a GoFund me campaign a few days ago, and the group is already halfway to its goal.

“Street vendors are some of the most vulnerable and impacted folks in this pandemic. Most street vendors do not not receive a stimulus check,” said Berto Aguayo, who works with Increase The Peace. “Most of them do not qualify for business grants either from the city, state or the federal government, and a lot of them have seen their revenue cut dramatically because of the lack of foot traffic and the lack of overall business.”

— María Inés Zamudio

2:51 p.m. Illinois exceeds 3,000 COVID-19 deaths

Illinois public health officials announced 138 people have died in the past day from COVID-19, and 2,641 new cases have been identified in the state. That brings the total to 3,111 deaths and 70,873 identified cases in Illinois since the state began tracking cases.

Illinois’ overall so-called positivity rate — the percentage of total tests that came out positive for COVID-19 — was 15% for the past 24 hours. The state is aiming for a 28-day plateauing or reduction below 20% of positivity before it moves to the next phase of reopening for any region, state officials have said.

— Angela Rozas O’Toole

 

1:04 p.m. More than 1 in 5 inmates in Chicago federal jail have tested positive for COVID-19, court records show

Federal prosecutors, in a motion filed yesterday, contend that more than 130 inmates in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago have tested positive for the coronavirus.

That’s more than 20% of the total inmate population, based on information from the federal Bureau of Prisons, which runs the jail in Chicago.

Prosecutors filed the motion to oppose a request for release from a woman being held in the jail while awaiting sentencing. Prosecutors have given some other details about life inside the federal jail as they argue against release of other inmates at the facility.

In a motion filed earlier this week in the case of singer R. Kelly, prosecutors said that the MCC Chicago “recently received a rapid test machine and has started to perform mass testing.”

The motion says the vast majority of inmates who have tested positive are asymptomatic, and the “MCC Chicago has reported no deaths as a result of COVID-19 infections, and there is no evidence that the medical staff has been unable to adequately handle the medical needs of inmates who contract the virus.”

According to the Bureau of Prisons, more than 20 staff members at the Chicago jail have tested positive for COVID-19.

— Patrick Smith

12:18 p.m. Nursing home workers strike called off after union reaches tentative agreement

The union for 10,000 nursing home workers in Illinois has reached an agreement that averts a strike threatened to begin tomorrow morning as COVID-19 spreads to an increasing number of facilities.

The two-year tentative contract, which came together in talks late yesterday, improves base pay for all workers, hazard bonuses during the pandemic and sick-leave benefits during the crisis.

Read the full story.

— Chip Mitchell

9:33 a.m. Big Ten football season uncertain

Photo of Clayton Thorson throwing a pass during an NCAA college football game
Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson throws a pass during an NCAA college football game in Evanston in 2018. Jim Youn / Associated Press

Less than four months before the scheduled kickoff of the college football season, not one of the 14 schools in the Big Ten Conference can say for sure it will have students back on campus this fall — a crucial step for sports.

Uncertainty about how the coronavirus pandemic will unfold through the summer has kept universities from making a definitive decision about the fall semester, which typically begins in late August. The football season, for now, is due to begin Aug. 29, though Big Ten schools don’t begin play until the following week.

Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren told the Chicago Tribune the conference is at least six weeks away from making any determinations.

Read the full story.

— Associated Press


May 6

3:10 p.m. Illinois announces 136 more COVID-19 deaths

Illinois public health officials announced today that 136 more people have died from COVID-19, and 2,270 new cases of the virus have been identified.

That makes a total of 68,232 cases, including 2,974 deaths, the state reported.

Gov. JB Pritkzer today also addressed the disproportionate way the virus is hitting the Latino community. Pritzker said during his daily briefing that current state data show, of those who have filled in the form, the positivity rate for those tested has been 60% for Latino or Hispanic respondents, which is roughly three times the state average.

He said the state has been working to build testing sites within communities of color, and that a third of all public testing sites in the state have been developed in communities with a significant Latino population.

— Angela Rozas O’Toole



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