Coronavirus in Illinois updates: Statewide COVID-19 death toll passes 5,000 as US tops 100,000 fatalities

Chicago News USA

The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus surpassed 100,000 on Wednesday, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. This news came as Illinois officials on Wednesday announced 1,111 new known cases of COVID-19 and 160 additional deaths, pushing the statewide known case count to 114,306 total cases since the pandemic began. The statewide death toll now stands at 5,083.

With desperate Chicago restaurants set to be allowed to host outdoor diners within weeks under the next phase of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s coronavirus reopening plan, city officials are still trying to come up with a process so many of them can legally do so. Lightfoot has also said the city likely will move to the next phase in early June, meaning many offices, day care centers, retailers and gyms also will open with new rules about cleanliness, face coverings and capacity. The administration has dubbed the third phase “Cautiously Reopen.”

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The guidelines for Chicago come as many businesses across Illinois are preparing to reopen at the end of the week as all four regions of the state move into the next phase of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s five-phase reopening plan.

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Here’s what’s happening Wednesday with COVID-19 in the Chicago area and Illinois:

7:54 p.m.: What’s the recovery rate for COVID-19 in Illinois? That number is now available. But it’s complicated.

As the state moves toward easing restrictions aimed at curbing the coronavirus pandemic, health officials have offered a new way to study how often people are recovering from the infection.

It’s called the recovery rate, and the Illinois Department of Public Health began publishing the figure on its website over Memorial Day weekend. The site states that, as of the last count, 92% of those who tested positive for the virus have recovered.

The figure may seem self-explanatory, but experts caution that the latest number must be interpreted carefully, with a heavy dose of context. For example, the 92% rate is based on a group of people whose cases were confirmed more than six weeks ago, at a time when testing was offered mainly to very sick patients. Read more here. — Joe Mahr

5:50 p.m.: Worker at Springfield convention center where Illinois House convened for special session last week tests positive for COVID-19

A worker at the Springfield convention center where the Illinois House convened for special session last week has tested positive for COVID-19.

Jessica Basham, chief of staff for House Speaker Michael Madigan, shared the news in an email to lawmakers and staff Wednesday, noting that “at this time it appears this individual had no interaction with any member or other staff person.”

The person who tested positive worked an eight-hour shift on Thursday, and was not in the space that was used for the makeshift House floor or a public viewing area, Basham wrote, adding that she is unaware of anyone else who was in Springfield for the session testing positive. Read more here. — Jamie Munks

4:59 p.m.: As non-COVID-19 patients return to Chicago-area emergency rooms, doctors see skyrocketing blood pressure and other side effects of delays in care. ‘It’s terrible, and it’s frightening.’

One patient ran out of medication during the COVID-19 pandemic and ended up in the Loyola University Medical Center emergency room with dangerously high blood pressure.

Others, unwilling or unable to get consistent treatment for chronic conditions during the pandemic, have come in with out-of-control asthma, mental health crises or inadequately treated chronic kidney failure.

And then there are the patients who have been putting off treatment for chest pain.

“The ones that worry me the most are the patients that say I’ve been meaning to go to the doctor, but I couldn’t get in. And now they show up, and instead of anginal chest pain, they’re having an acute heart attack and injuring the heart,” said Dr. Mark Cichon, director of emergency medical services at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood. Read more here. — Nara Schoenberg

4:54 p.m.: U.S. death toll from the coronavirus has surpassed 100,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University

U.S. death toll from the coronavirus has surpassed 100,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

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100,000 deaths, a once-unthinkable toll that now appears to be just the beginning of untold misery in the months ahead as Las Vegas casinos and Walt Disney World make plans to reopen, crowds of unmasked Americans swarm beaches and public health officials predict a resurgence by fall. Read more here. — The Associated Press

4:41 p.m. (Updated): Chicago’s courthouses not yet ready to join list of reopenings, will remain in coronavirus shutdown mode

Operations in Chicago’s federal and county courthouses have again delayed resuming normal operations, as crowded courtroom galleries and jury boxes continue to be risky propositions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jury trials at Chicago’s federal courthouse will not resume until at least Aug. 3, Chief Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer has ordered.

And Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans will order a continuation of county courts’ shutdown until July 6, though that system could start to reopen earlier if circumstances allow, his office announced Wednesday.

Both court systems have been operating on a bare-bones basis since March due to the coronavirus threat. While the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse remains open, as do most county courthouses, hearings are largely being held remotely via video or teleconference. Read more here. — Megan Crepeau

4:23 p.m.: Chicago to allow ‘shared streets’ program for residents to walk and bike in neighborhoods

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration is planning to create several blocks of shared streets on the North and Northwest sides to give people more room to walk and bike while social distancing, according to published reports.

Chicago Ald. Matt Martin, 47th, told residents in his newsletter Wednesday that the city’s shared streets pilot program will start Friday.

“You may have seen that most other major cities in the United States have implemented shared streets programs which allows pedestrians more space to socially distance while walking or running,” Martin’s newsletter said. “It’s important to know that a shared street does not close the street to local traffic, but does discourage through traffic.”

The stretches of roadway identified are Cortland Avenue from Ridgeway Avenue to Rockwell Avenue in the Logan Square neighborhood; Glenwood Avenue from Carmen Avenue to Devon Avenue, which runs through Edgewater and Uptown; Leland Avenue from Lincoln Avenue to Sheridan Road in Lincoln Square and Uptown; Palmer Street from Long Avenue to Kedzie Boulevard, in Hanson Park and Logan Square; Roscoe Street between Narragansett Avenue and Long Avenue, at the border of Portage Park and Belmont Cragin; and Wood Street from Cortland Street to North Avenue, in Bucktown.

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There also are plans in the works to create similar set-ups on the South Side, according to a city official.

All the streets listed are residential. As such, none of them has metered parking for cars, which would require the city to pay the company to which it leased its meters in a roundly derided 2008 deal for taking the spaces offline.

Other cities have set up streets with only limited access to vehicles, for people who live on them and those who need to make deliveries.

CDOT spokesman Michael Claffey said the city has been “engaging both the general public and key stakeholders to better understand transportation issues created by the COVID-19 pandemic and discuss potential solutions. As the City anticipates transitioning into a new phase of its re-opening plan sometime in June, CDOT is preparing plans to equitably re-allocate street space to residents, where feasible, for various uses beyond driving a car.” Read more here. — Chicago Tribune staff

3:47 p.m.: In ‘grim milestone,’ Cook County medical examiner’s office tops 2019 caseload with more than 6,600 cases this year — over half from the coronavirus

The toll of Cook County’s death investigations during the first five months of 2020 already has surpassed last year’s total medical examiner’s caseload as the region continues to fight the deadly coronavirus, officials announced on Wednesday.

From the start of the year until now, the Cook County medical examiner’s office has ruled on more than 6,600 deaths, over half of whom were COVID-19 patients, board president Toni Preckwinkle said in a Wednesday press conference.

That’s hundreds of more cases than the county saw in all of 2019, which logged 6,274 cases. Preckwinkle, noting 2020 has yet to reach its halfway mark, said this was a “grim milestone.” Read more here. — Alice Yin

2:48 p.m.: Entering the marijuana industry is hard. For those applying under social equity rules, the coronavirus adds a new challenge.

Opening a marijuana business has never been easy.

The industry is highly regulated. Weed is still illegal under federal law, which makes it harder for companies to land financing. And finding a site can be difficult and expensive because the rules on where a cannabis business can locate vary wildly from town to town.

To foster opportunities for entrepreneurs of color to break into an industry that has seen sales of about $147.5 million of recreational weed just in the first four months, the state’s recreational marijuana law laid out specific social equity rules. But now the COVID-19 pandemic could threaten some startups’ efforts to diversify the largely white-owned industry as they run out of time and money. Read more here. —Ally Marotti

2:40 p.m.: Officials report 1,111 new known COVID-19 cases and 160 more deaths

State officials on Wednesday announced 1,111 new known cases of COVID-19 and 160 additional deaths, pushing the statewide known case count to 114,306 total cases since the pandemic began. The statewide death toll now stands at 5,083.

2:30 p.m.: Lightfoot’s administration outlines Chicago’s rules for outdoor dining, office capacity under next phase of city’s coronavirus reopening

With desperate Chicago restaurants set to be allowed to host outdoor diners within weeks under the next phase of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s coronavirus reopening plan, city officials are still trying to come up with a process so many of them can legally do so.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday about the Lightfoot administration’s phase three industry guidelines, Commissioner Rosa Escareno of the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection urged restaurateurs to apply for the city’s existing sidewalk cafe permits. The annual permits must be renewed each year and start at $600.

“Our office actually has continued to operate, and we have continually processed sidewalk cafe permits, and we encourage restaurants who are interested in that permit to certainly come to our website or call us, and we are definitely continuing that process,” Escareno said during a conference call with reporters.

Lightfoot has said the city likely will move to the next phase in early June, meaning many offices, day care centers, retailers and gyms also will open with new rules about cleanliness, face coverings and capacity. The administration has dubbed the third phase “Cautiously Reopen.” Read more here. —John Byrne

2:27 p.m.: Illinois movie theater owners push for 50% capacity rather than 50-person limit when they reopen during Phase 4 of the state COVID-19 plan

A trade group of Illinois movie theater owners is pushing the state to revise its guidelines to allow cinemas — when they re-open — to seat more than 50 people. That number is currently the maximum outlined under Governor J.B. Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan, which has five phases.

Later this week, the state will be moving into Phase 3, which allows for gatherings of up to 10 people in businesses including retail stores, salons and offices. Movie theaters are part of the Phase 4 re-openings, which limits gatherings to no more than 50 people.

The Illinois chapter of the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) is hoping to see that number revised and is advocating for a proposal that would instead limit auditorium attendance to 50% of an auditorium’s seating capacity.

The trade group is also pushing to open earlier. Read more here.Nina Metz

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1:40 p.m.: New details announced for Oprah-led graduation ceremony for Chicago’s high school seniors

Chicago’s first-ever citywide virtual graduation ceremony will features city-connected names including Oprah Winfrey, Miguel Cervantes of “Hamilton” and Katie Kadan of “The Voice” and more “surprised celebrities.”

New details – including the date of the virtual event and how it can be viewed – were released Wednesday by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

With traditional graduation ceremonies and other year-end milestones canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting shutdown of schools, city officials sought a unique alternative for celebrating the achievements of Chicago’s graduating seniors. Read more here. —Ariel Cheung

1:32 p.m.: More businesses are opening up in Illinois Friday: Tell us about your plans

With much of Illinois — the big exception is the city of Chicago — moving to phase three of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s plan to reopen the state, more businesses will be open for consumers. Restaurants and bars, gyms, salons, nonessential retail.

What do you plan to do Friday and this weekend? We would love to hear your plans and what you’re thinking about as you make them.

Click here to fill out a survey to let us know. —Chicago Tribune staff

1:10 p.m.: Cook County courts will remain in shutdown mode until July 6

Cook County courts will remain in shutdown mode until July 6, though the system could start to reopen earlier instead if circumstances allow, Chief Judge Timothy Evans’ office announced Wednesday.

Only essential and emergency court operations have been conducted in Cook County courts since mid-March. Evans’ order extending the shutdown was set to expire May 31.

Evans considered slowly reopening more court proceedings on June 15. But more time and discussion are needed to plan a phase-in that would “ensure that more proceedings will be conducted in a way that protects everybody,” according to the statement. Instead, he plans to enter an order on Thursday extending the slowdown until July 6 or until further notice.

Reopening plans have not been finalized but would involve face coverings, physical distancing and room capacity limits among other measures, the statement read.

The court system is also trying to get more Zoom licenses to conduct more court proceedings over the videoconferencing app, which has been used extensively to broadcast hearings since mid-April. —Megan Crepeau

12:30 p.m.: Chicago restaurants test COVID-19 surcharges as costs mount, but customer backlash forces one to retreat

The painful arithmetic of making up lost revenue for Chicago-area restaurants will not abate in June — even if reopening plans move forward in the coming month — but some makeshift solutions are drawing ire from already shrunken customer bases.

Lettuce Entertain You, the city’s largest restaurant group with 85 restaurants across Chicagoland, recently added a 4% surcharge to delivery and carryout orders. Its dozens of eateries range from the high-end RPM Steak and French bistro Mon Ami Gabi to casual joints like Bub City.

“These fees are a necessary step during a time when unanticipated costs have jeopardized the survival of our business,” company president R.J. Melman said in an emailed statement. Melman said the surcharge helps cover the expenses like personal protective equipment for employees and “absorbing the greatest increase in food pricing since 1974.”

Meanwhile, backlash on social media forced the Lakeview-based Harold’s Chicken on Broadway to pull back on a surcharge the same day it was announced mid-May. Customers posted photos of their receipts, highlighting the 26% COVID-19 surcharge, and left one-star reviews on Yelp complaining of the practice. Read more here. —Ariel Cheung

10:41 a.m.: Large majority of CPS students participate in remote learning, but more than 2,200 have had no contact with teachers

More than two months since schools statewide closed their doors because of COVID-19, Chicago Public Schools has been unable to contact more than 2,250 students, according to newly released data.

And though the district is requiring schools to make contact with each student at least once a week, no school contact was recorded with 15% of students for the week of May 11, the only week broken down in data provided by CPS.

More than 93% of students in district-managed schools have digital access and have connected in some way, according to the district.

But engagement rates were lower among black and Latino students. Read more here. —Hannah Leone

9:29 a.m.: Jury trials again put off at federal court in Chicago

Jury trials at Chicago’s federal courthouse will not resume until at least Aug. 3, Chief Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer has ordered.

The federal court system has been operating on a bare-bones basis since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse downtown remains open, most hearings are being held remotely via video or teleconference.

While bench trials, pleas and sentencing hearings can proceed remotely in some circumstances, criminal jury trials present a particular problem in a pandemic, and Pallmeyer’s order Tuesday urged caution.

“Social-distancing guidelines might render juror participation difficult or unsafe, including during juror check-in and jury selection,” she wrote.

Big groups of people need to gather for jury selection, and at least 12 jurors need to be in the same room to hear evidence and deliberate. Read more here. —Megan Crepeau

9:25 a.m.: AP poll: Only about half of Americans would get a COVID-19 vaccine

That’s surprisingly low considering the effort going into the global race for a vaccine against the coronavirus that has sparked a pandemic since first emerging from China late last year. But more people might eventually roll up their sleeves: The poll, released Wednesday, found 31% simply weren’t sure if they’d get vaccinated. Another 1 in 5 said they’d refuse.

Health experts already worry about the whiplash if vaccine promises like President Donald Trump’s goal of a 300 million-dose stockpile by January fail. Only time and science will tell — and the new poll shows the public is indeed skeptical. Read more here. —Associated Press

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9:24 a.m.: CBOE to reopen trading floor, but with far fewer traders and a lot more rules

The CBOE Options Exchange’s trading floor, closed since mid-March because of the coronavirus, will reopen June 8 in Chicago with a host of new rules and likely far fewer traders.

Temperatures checks and medical screenings will occur at entrances. Face coverings will be required at all times. Testing for COVID-19 may occur. Six feet of social distancing must be observed. Drinking water on the trading floor will be permitted, but food delivery won’t. And public transportation should be avoided.

The exchange’s trading floor has been enlarged and reconfigured and new capacity limits have been put in place.

As a result of the guidelines detailed by CBOE, the exchange expects half of traders to return. The exchange’s offices in Chicago, as well as its global locations, will remain closed, with employees working remotely.

CBOE said anyone violating the pandemic safety rules could be subject to informal or formal disciplinary action or barred from the facilities. Read more here. —Mary Ellen Podmolik

7:29 a.m.: Congress shifts focus to overhauling Paycheck Protection Program

Deadlocked over the next big coronavirus relief bill, Congress is shifting its attention to a more modest overhaul of small-business aid in hopes of helping employers reopen shops and survive the pandemic.

Bipartisan legislation that would give small employers more time to take advantage of federal subsidies for payroll and other costs is expected to pass the House this week, as lawmakers return to Washington for an abbreviated two-day session.

Yet absent from the agenda is formal talks between congressional leaders on the next phase of the federal coronavirus response. Democrats have already pushed a $3 trillion-plus measure through the House, but negotiations with the GOP-controlled Senate and White House have yet to begin.

“We can’t keep propping up the economy forever,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday in Lexington. It was one of his first public appearances in his home state of Kentucky since mid-March because of the pandemic.

“The ultimate solution is to begin to get back to normal,” he said. “There are three things that are essential to have full normalcy — testing, treatment and vaccine.” Read more here. —Associated Press

6:35 a.m.: Deaths of more than two dozen residents of Far North Side nursing home tied to COVID-19: ‘It seemed like there was nothing we could do’

For days, Mirella Bogdan tried reaching her father by phone after she found out he had been exposed to the novel coronavirus at his Far North Side nursing home.

She was never able to reach him. Then, she was told he was taken to an area hospital. A week later, after she’d been able to see him on a video chat but not talk to him, her father, Mitchel Bogdan, died from COVID-19, acute hypoxic respiratory failure and pneumonia along with other illnesses contributing. Read more here. —Elvia Malagon

6:30 a.m.: Preckwinkle vetoes ‘extraordinarily bad’ plan to share coronavirus-positive addresses with first responders

In the first veto of her administration, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on Tuesday moved to block a resolution to share addresses of COVID-19 individuals with 911 dispatchers, the latest blow to a controversial practice at the center of a debate on protecting first responders at the cost of individuals’ civil liberties.

Cook County Board members narrowly approved the resolution, which only applies to suburban Cook County, last week following a heated discussion about the effects of the measure on black and Latino communities. Read more here. —Alice Yin

6:25 a.m.: The General Assembly adjourned its special pandemic session in the wee hours of a holiday weekend. Here’s what you might have missed.

In a special legislative session called in response to the coronavirus pandemic, state lawmakers debated bills through masks and the Illinois House met on the floor of a downtown Springfield convention center to provide proper social distancing.

The three-day session stretched into four and then into the early morning hours of a fifth day, Sunday, before lawmakers adjourned until the fall. Here’s a look at what got done — and what didn’t. —Dan Petrella

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