Mayor Lori Lightfoot sounded a stern warning Wednesday morning that Chicago is “on the precipice,” saying she may soon need to roll back parts of the city’s reopening if COVID-19 cases continue to increase, particularly among young people flocking to bars and restaurants.
“Some of you have joked that I’m like the mom who will turn the car around if you’re acting up,” Lightfoot said with Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady at her side. “No, friends. It’s actually worse. I won’t just turn the car around. I’m going to shut it off, I’m going to kick you out and I’m going to make you walk home. That’s who I am. That’s who I must be.”
In the afternoon, Gov. J.B. Pritzker laid out a targeted approach for the state’s response to upticks in coronavirus cases, saying it was the best way to attack outbreaks while keeping most of Illinois as free of restrictions as possible. The governor also said that going forward the state would be divided into 11 Emergency Medical Services regions, and that Chicago and suburban Cook County would each be an individual region.
At the same news conference, Illinois officials reported 1,187 new known COVID-19 cases, as well as 8 additional fatalities. That brings the total number of cases to 156,693 and death toll to 7,226 since the beginning of the pandemic.
Here’s what’s happening Wednesday regarding COVID-19 in the Chicago area and Illinois:
4:43 p.m.: Art Institute to reopen July 30 — and will be free the first week
The Art Institute, Chicago’s popular encyclopedic art museum, plans to begin its limited reopening beginning July 30, the institution announced Wednesday.
Like the MCA, which announced its July 24 reopening Tuesday, the Art Institute will be free initially (for Illinois residents, through Aug. 3) and will have new, limited weekday hours (closing Tuesdays and Wednesdays).
The reopening plans have him feeling “cautiously optimistic and energized,” said President and Eloise W. Martin Director James Rondeau. “We’re going to come back obviously intact, but looking a little bit different.”
3:29 p.m.: Indiana governor extending limits for 2 more weeks due to rising COVID-19 cases
Indiana will extend its current capacity limits for restaurants and bars and other restrictions for at least another two weeks because of an increasing number of coronavirus cases across the state, Gov. Eric Holcomb said Wednesday.
Holcomb first delayed lifting those limits two weeks ago, but he said that a continuing volatile environment in Indiana and other states prompted him to keep them in place for at least two more weeks.
Holcomb’s decision means Indiana restaurants will continue to be allowed 75% capacity in their dining rooms, while bars, nightclubs, bowling alleys, museums and movie theaters can be open at half capacity.
The state will also continue its current 250-person limit on social gatherings unless health officials have approved safety plans for those gatherings.
1:15 p.m.: Pritzker outlines targeted approach to COVID-19 spikes in Illinois, lays out criteria for state to take action
Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday laid out a targeted approach for Illinois’ response to upticks in coronavirus cases around Illinois, saying it was the best way to attack outbreaks while keeping most of the state as free of restrictions as possible.
Pritzker said industry-specific mitigations will be employed as the state reviews COVID-19 data. The governor also said that going forward Illinois would be divided into 11 Emergency Medical Services regions, and that Chicago and suburban Cook County would each be an individual region.
The state will take action if data shows a sustained rise in the positivity rate of people being tested, along with an increase in hospital admissions or a reduction in hospital capacities that threatens the ability to handle a surge in cases, Pritzker said. In addition, mitigation will be applied for any region that shows three consecutive days of a positivity rate higher than 8%.
”This plan ensures we are looking at all available data to make timely decisions to protect the health of our communities,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement.
”By assessing key metrics that indicate both the disease burden and the capacity of each COVID-19 region to respond, we can then take targeted actions within specific regions to help mitigate the spread of this deadly disease while keeping as much of our state open as possible,” Ezike said.
12:11 p.m.: 1,187 new known COVID-19 cases, 8 additional deaths
Illinois officials reported 1,187 new known COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, as well as 8 additional fatalities.
That brings the total number of cases to 156,693 and death toll to 7,226 since the beginning of the pandemic.
—Chicago Tribune staff
(Updated at noon) 10:45 a.m.: Chicago ‘on the precipice’ of returning to tougher COVID-19 restrictions, Lightfoot warns
Mayor Lori Lightfoot sounded a stern warning Wednesday that Chicago is “on the precipice,” saying she may soon need to roll back parts of the city’s reopening if COVID-19 cases continue to increase, particularly among young people flocking to bars and restaurants.
While the mayor consistently has cautioned the city is far from free of the grip of the pandemic, she struck a particularly dire tone at a morning news conference.
“Some of you have joked that I’m like the mom who will turn the car around if you’re acting up,” Lightfoot said with Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady at her side. “No, friends. It’s actually worse. I won’t just turn the car around. I’m going to shut it off, I’m going to kick you out and I’m going to make you walk home. That’s who I am. That’s who I must be.
“But I don’t want to be that person if I don’t have to, but I will if you make me, and right now we are on the precipice,” she added. “We are dangerously close to going back to a dangerous state of conditions.”
Lightfoot pointed to Chicago’s daily average number of new cases, which sat at 192 on Wednesday. Once that number gets over 200, which Arwady said likely will happen, the city will look at where there are increases and consider taking steps to slow the rise, the mayor said.
“If we see an uptick, if we go above 200, of course we are going to be interested and concerned about what’s driving those numbers, and then we will take measures as appropriate to address particular areas where we’re seeing the new cases coming from,” Lightfoot said.
11:33 a.m.: New CDC review finds Cook County sheriff, staff successfully stemmed rising tide of COVID-19 cases at jail
The Cook County Jail successfully beat back its outbreak of COVID-19 even as the virus spread dramatically outside its walls, according to a new paper authored by medical officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and various county offices.
Early in the pandemic, the jail had “one of the largest outbreaks of COVID-19 in a congregate setting described to date,” according to the document.
But after expanded testing, mask-wearing, limiting detainee movement and opening up previously unused buildings to allow for greater distancing, the spread within the jail slowed down significantly compared with Chicago at large, the paper said.
While officials could not pinpoint exactly which action was most effective, the cumulative result was successful, according to the examination of the jail.
11:13 a.m.: How will Chicago artists make it through the pandemic? 85 years ago the Feds had an answer. Could it work again?
How essential is an artist?
Art, you’ve noticed, has been idle.
The artist, in pandemic Chicago, has been stripped of stages, classrooms, materials. Many, who were already working two or three jobs for supplemental income, were stripped of second and third jobs. Some, seeing little light at the end of the COVID tunnel, have probably given up already.
Even a starving artist can last only so long.
And yet, remarkable as it may be seem in 2020, there was a moment, about a decade long, when this country and its White House, eager to get Americans to work, considered its artists essential.
You live everyday with that legacy.
11:08 a.m.: Unraveling the deadly new coronavirus: ‘There’s light at the end of tunnel, but it’s a very, very long tunnel’
Seven months after the first patients were hospitalized in China battling an infection doctors had never seen before, the world’s scientists and citizens have reached an unsettling crossroads.
Countless hours of treatment and research, trial and error now make it possible to take much closer measure of the new coronavirus and the lethal disease it has unleashed. But to take advantage of that intelligence, we must confront our persistent vulnerability: The virus leaves no choice.
“It’s like we’re in a battle with something that we can’t see, that we don’t know, and we don’t know where it’s coming from,” said Vivian Castro, a nurse supervisor at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Yonkers, just north of New York City, which struggled with its caseload this spring.
10:26 a.m.: Walmart will require customers to wear masks at all its stores nationwide
Walmart will require customers to wear face coverings at all of its namesake and Sam’s Club stores, making it the largest retailer to introduce such a policy that has otherwise proven difficult to enforce without state and federal requirements.
The company said the policy will go into effect on Monday to allow time to inform stores and customers. The Bentonville, Arkansas-based company said that currently about 65% its more than 5,000 stores and clubs are located in areas where there is already some form of government mandate on face coverings.
The retailer also said it will create the role of health ambassador at its Walmart stores and will station them near the entrance to remind customers without masks of its new requirements. These workers, who will be wearing black polo shirts, will receive special training to “help make the process as smooth as possible for customers.”
10:11 a.m.: At least 36 Lake Zurich High School students test positive for COVID-19, infections traced to three sports camps
At least 36 students at Lake Zurich High School have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to Lake County health officials, who say they have traced the infections to three summer athletic camps and “recent social gatherings.”
The county said Wednesday there had been health screenings at the camps, which opened July 6, and several students had been turned away because of COVID-19 symptoms.
“Other students began experiencing symptoms during the day and were sent home,” the county health department said on its Facebook page. “The school district was notified that evening that multiple students who attended camps across multiple sports later developed symptoms and received positive test results for COVID-19 later that afternoon.”
The next day, the health department said it met with officials from School District 95 and decided to close the camps while following up on the testing.
8:43 a.m.: America’s unemployed are about to lose $600-a-week coronavirus lifeline. ‘I don’t know what will happen.’
Soon millions of Americans could lose a crucial economic lifeline of this pandemic: $600 a week in extra federal unemployment benefits.
The scheduled end will ripple through households and the entire economy. The program accounts for a big chunk of the Treasury Department’s record jobless payments last month, which exceeded $100 billion. Without the additional cash, some of the hardest-hit households may be forced to choose which bills to pay and which to let slide.
6:40 a.m.: Cook County opioid deaths tell ‘grim story’ as fatalities skyrocket during coronavirus outbreak, chief medical examiner says
Cook County is grappling with twice the amount of reported opioid-related deaths compared with this period last year, the medical examiner’s office announced Tuesday amid skyrocketing caseloads during the coronavirus outbreak.
In 2020, the county’s deaths ruled as opioid overdoses are on track to double last year’s total number of opioid-related cases, the chief medical examiner, Dr. Ponni Arunkumar, said at a Tuesday news conference. The fatalities, similar to those from the coronavirus and gun violence crises, are disproportionately affecting Black people, she added. The majority stem from Chicago’s West Side neighborhoods.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said the briefing was convened “to sound the alarm” as the three overlapping epidemics devastate the county’s most vulnerable populations.
6:35 a.m.: ‘We are drilling down’: As Chicago lags in U.S. census response, outreach groups use current crises to show importance of being counted
Hoping to get more minorities in Chicago to participate in the U.S. census, outreach groups say they are using the coronavirus pandemic and the fallout from the police killing of George Floyd to impress the importance of being included in the national count.
“Encouraging people to participate in a way that feels close to home for them is something that we feel is going to have the most payoff in the end and get the most people to respond,” Kareem Butler, a policy coordinator for the Chicago Urban League, said during a conference call with census officials Tuesday. “Especially at a time like this when there’s a lot of uncertainty.”
Chicago is lagging other large cities in census response rates, with only about 55% of residents recorded compared with the national rate of 62%. The response rate among Hispanic and Black people in Chicago is about 51%, compared with 69.6% among whites and 64.1% among Asians, according to Marilyn Sanders, regional director for the U.S. census in Chicago.
6:30 a.m.: No more delays: What to know about today’s tax deadline
As the coronavirus pandemic took hold this spring, the federal government postponed the traditional April 15 filing deadline until July 15.
The move provided some economic and logistical relief for taxpayers dealing with the disruptions and uncertainty brought on by lockdowns, school closures and shuttered businesses. But now that new deadline is rapidly approaching.
Taxpayers must file or seek an extension by the new deadline or face a penalty. The IRS is expecting about 150 million returns from individuals and as of last count, it had received almost 139 million.