Coronavirus in Illinois updates: Here’s what’s happening Wednesday

Coronavirus in Illinois updates: Here’s what’s happening Wednesday

State officials Wednesday reported another 92 deaths in Illinois related to the coronavirus, as the statewide death toll reached 2,215. Officials also announced 2,253 new known cases of COVID-19, bringing total to 50,355. That’s the sixth time in the past seven days that the number of new cases has topped 2,000.

The new numbers came the same day three Republican state lawmakers criticized Pritzker for allegedly exceeding his emergency powers by extending Illinois’ stay-at-home order past 30 days without legislative approval.

Pritzker previously called a GOP state representative’s lawsuit over his stay-at-home order a “cheap political stunt” and decried the judge’s ruling, which exempted the GOP lawmaker from the statewide directive, as “absurd.”

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

from gorner. this will become a standalone also ..   

3:09 p.m.: Police to issue citation in connection with Orthodox Jewish wedding party in West Rogers Park

Chicago police will be issuing a citation in connection with a party at a West Rogers Park residence that spilled into the street last week, prompting police to break up the crowd for violating stay-at-home orders.

The party, first reported by Block Club Chicago, was recorded on video and showed a few dozen revelers dancing to loud music at an Orthodox Jewish wedding party outside a home at Farwell and Francisco avenues. Some people in the video could be seen wearing masks, but the crowd was too large to allow for following rules on social distancing.

Chicago police have said officers responded to the gathering shortly before 6 p.m. Thursday, dispersed the crowd and left the scene without issuing any citations. But on Wednesday, Chicago police said a citation would be issued, though a spokesman could not immediately provide specifics. At the same time, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said during an afternoon news conference that enforcement action would be taken in connection with the wedding party in the same fashion that police took action with the owner of a Northwest Side home, where viral video showed dozens of young African-American party-goers in close quarters who also were not practicing social distancing.

“They should be treated exactly the same,” Lightfoot said in reference to the wedding party nearly a week ago. “And we are making sure that we identify whose responsible and we will be taking the same kind of decisive action against that large wedding where the video shows people in cars, but people in the street not social distancing, not wearing appropriate mask or garb.

”We can’t tolerate it anywhere. It’s not just the black millennials. It’s a problem wherever it rears its head. We’re going to move decisively to, again, help educate, but where necessary, take action to give citations to the people who are responsible.”

The announcement of the enforcement action at the West Rogers Park party comes two days after Chicago police ticketed the owner of the Northwest Side residence in the 2000 block of North Narragansett Avenue in the Galewood neighborhood. That party occurred some time over the weekend, and while police broke up that large gathering there were initially no citations issued.

The two parties occurred in areas of Chicago with among the highest numbers of positive COVID-19 cases.

According to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, the zip code 60639, which includes the location of the Narragansett Avenue party, had the highest number of cases of all Chicago zip codes with 1,089. The zip code 60645, covering the location of the wedding party, also had among the highest number of positive coronavirus cases with 600, according to the IDPH data as of Wednesday.

On Friday, the day after the wedding party, Ald. Debra Silverstein, 50th, appeared to condemn the gathering in a Facebook post to her constituents.

“I received reports of a wedding that happened in our community yesterday, which required the police to come and disperse the crowd. I am absolutely horrified. Social distancing is not a suggestion. It is the law and it saves lives,” Silverstein said. “We are at a critical juncture in the coronavirus outbreak, where we have a chance to flatten the curve and stop the spread of this horrible disease. Selfish gatherings of people, whether in celebration or in prayer, not only give our community a bad name, but they send our neighbors and loved ones to the hospital or morgue.

“I have been in contact with (Rogers Park patrol district) Police Commander Michelle Rubino and many prominent community leaders who join me in condemning such actions and any defiance of social distancing guidelines,” Silverstein continued in the Facebook post. “Please, for the sake of our community, stay home and save lives!” —Jeremy Gorner and Gregory Pratt

3:02 p.m.: Mayor Lori Lightfoot encourages landlords and tenants to work together amid coronavirus-related financial crunch

Under pressure from activists and elected officials calling for rent relief and other measures to help struggling tenants, Mayor Lori Lightfoot unveiled a “Chicago Housing Solidarity Pledge” encouraging landlords and renters to work together through the coronavirus pandemic.

The pledge, which Lightfoot outlined at City Hall on Wednesday, calls for landlords to consider grace period for rent payments, written repayment plans and no late fees. It also calls for housing lenders to agree to grace periods on mortgage payments, neutral reporting to credit agencies and suspension of foreclosures for certain mortgage holders “who demonstrate a significant financial impact from the pandemic.”

Signatories to the mayor’s pledge include the Chicagoland Apartment Association, Chicago Association of REALTORS, Bank of America, BMO Harris Bank, Byline Bank, Fifth Third Bank, PNC, Wintrust and Seaway Credit Union.

But in response to questions, Lightfoot acknowledged she can’t force landlords to follow through and said the pledge is about “public accountability.” Read more here. —Gregory Pratt

2:56 p.m.: Pritzker responds to second lawsuit over his statewide stay-at-home order

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday called a second lawsuit brought by a Republican state lawmaker challenging the extension of his statewide stay-at-home order “another attempt at grandstanding.”

State Rep. John Cabello filed a lawsuit Wednesday morning.

“I think it’s a similarly irresponsible lawsuit,” Pritzker said at his briefing Wednesday.

Pritzker clarified that his order does not prevent state lawmakers from convening in Springfield, and said they are considered “essential” under the orders, as are government bodies across the state.

Pritzker has said he would leave decisions about the legislature convening to legislative leaders, though he has said he’s suggested they consult with the state Department of Public Health.

“We need to make sure that all the people who work in the Capitol for those legislators, as well as all the legislators, are safe,” Pritzker said. —Jamie Munks

2:40 p.m.: Pritzker says state has distributed 20 million PPE items as new known cases of COVID-19 push Illinois’ count over 50,000

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday the state has distributed nearly 20 million items of personal protective equipment to local public health departments, nursing homes and hospitals statewide.

The state received a federal shipment of PPE on Monday, including more than 300,000 N-95 masks and over 500,000 KN-95 masks, as well as other supplies, Pritzker said in his daily update on Wednesday.

The governor has repeatedly pushed for additional equipment from the federal government, and Pritzker detailed on Wednesday the state’s still outstanding requests from the federal government and orders from suppliers.

State officials also announced 2,253 new known cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, including 92 additional deaths. The numbers push Illinois’ known case count over 50,000, to 50,355 since the pandemic began. The known death toll related to the new coronavirus in the state is 2,215, officials  said.

Pritzker said the state Department of Public Health has also inked a contract with Quest Diagnostics to run 3,000 tests per day for testing at long term care facilities.

Pritzker also announced that state Department of Public Health nurses will be deployed to long-term care facilities as part of a clinical support program to conduct swab testing training, take samples and review and improve hygiene practices and PPE use. —Jamie Munks

2:30 p.m.: In ‘The Daily Show’ appearance, U.S. Sen. Duckworth says Trump’s task force to reopen economy has met once for a roughly hour-long call

A congressional task force President Donald Trump established to advise the White House on reopening the economy has met virtually just once in the roughly two weeks since it was created, Democratic U.S Sen. Tammy Duckworth said in a television appearance.

Appearing on an episode of “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” that aired Tuesday night, the junior U.S. senator from Illinois was asked why the public hasn’t heard more from the “Opening Up America Again” task force. Duckworth said the group met by phone and the president spent most of the time “boasting” about “how great the testing was going in this country.”

“Our task force has only met once, we had one phone call for an hour — 45 minutes of that hour was spent with President Trump boasting on how great the testing was going in this country, how we had conducted more testing than any other country and that other countries were calling us (and) asking us to give them tests,” Duckworth, a frequent Trump critic, said.

Duckworth and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, another Illinois Democrat, were among 65 senators named to the working group, which includes a dozen Democrats and all Republican senators except Mitt Romney of Utah. Romney voted to convict Trump in the president’s impeachment trial.

Of 32 House members also named to the task force, there are 22 Republicans and 10 Democrats, including Illinois U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, a Taylorville Republican, the Tribune previously reported. Duckworth disputes the president’s take on the nation’s testing efforts, saying that when asked how many tests the country would need to safely reopen the country, “the Trump administration had no answers.”

“This is a basic math problem, you need  to know how many tests we need to have,” Duckworth said, adding: “You can do the basic math and figure out how many tests you need — and they don’t know.”

The president’s communications staff didn’t offer an immediate response to Duckworth’s criticism. Read more here. —Lisa Donovan

2:09 p.m.: Wild swing in coronavirus numbers reported at Chicago’s federal jail goes unexplained, leaves lawyers skeptical

A week ago, federal prison officials reported that 20 inmates at Chicago’s Metropolitan Correctional Center had tested positive for the coronavirus.

But by Tuesday, the number of infected detainees at the downtown high-rise jail had dropped to just six, according to the official tally from the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

So far, the wild swing in the numbers has gone unexplained. Did initial positive cases turn out to be wrong? Does it reflect that sick inmates are being moved out of the MCC? Or has the number dropped as detainees have recovered?

BOP officials failed to respond to multiple requests from the Chicago Tribune this week for an explanation on how its coronavirus data — which is updated every afternoon on the agency’s website — is being tabulated.

One thing is certain: A different tally of MCC cases being kept by federal prosecutors is much higher.Earlier this week, prosecutors said in a court filing that 32 of the roughly 650 inmates at the MCC had tested positive for COVID-19, representing about 5% of the population. In addition, 23 staff members were infected, prosecutors said. So far, no fatalities have been reported.

Prosecutors said their numbers were based on information received directly from MCC officials. Most of the infected inmates were quarantined in their cells, but at least one inmate has been hospitalized and would not return to the facility until medically cleared to do so, prosecutors said.

Meanwhile, the lack of explanation from the BOP continues to raise alarms in Chicago’s legal community, where criminal defense attorneys have been trying — mostly in vain — to get clients released due to the disease’s presumed ability to spread quickly in the MCC’s notoriously cramped quarters. Read more here. —Jason Meisner

2:06 p.m.: Decision on fate of Lollapalooza summer music festival could be soon

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the city should have an update “shortly” on whether Lollapalooza will be canceled this summer.

The mayor again was asked about the popular summer festival during an unrelated news conference on Wednesday and said a decision would be announced shortly, though she didn’t say when. Earlier in the month, Lightfoot said it’s too soon to talk about July and August events. But she has canceled Gospel Fest and Memorial Day events set for May and June. Read more here. —Gregory Pratt

12:55 p.m.: Reopen Illinois rally planned for Loop this Friday

Protesters who want Gov. J.B. Pritzker to announce a plan to reopen the Illinois economy have scheduled a Friday rally outside the Thompson Center in the Loop.

“Illinois residents have tolerated the government’s plan for over a month — without a plan on how to slowly and safely reopen the state’s economy,” a news release announcing the event states. “We need to discuss the process of cautiously returning back to work.” Read more here. —John Byrne

12:51 p.m.: Republican lawmakers say Pritzker’s exceeding his authority with stay-at-home extension

Three Republican state lawmakers on Wednesday criticized Gov. J.B. Pritzker for allegedly exceeding his emergency powers by extending Illinois’ stay-at-home order past 30 days without legislative approval.

“Whether you agree with the governor or disagree with the governor, we believe that a separate but equal branch of government — the General Assembly — should have input in the direction of the state of Illinois,” said Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer of downstate Jacksonville in a video press conference.

The press conference took place as a second GOP state representative filed a lawsuit challenging Pritzker’s stay-at-home order. Rep. John Cabello, who filed the action, was not part of the press event, nor was Rep. Darren Bailey, who was exempted from the order by a judge’s ruling earlier this week as a result of his lawsuit.

Joining Davidsmeyer in calling for the General Assembly to convene in Springfield, GOP Rep. Dan Ugaste of Geneva said Pritzker was “bucking a system of checks and balances” by acting alone in extending the state’s stay-at-home order.

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act grants the governor emergency powers for 30 days following the declaration of a disaster, but “beyond that, the statute is silent,” said Ugaste. “It doesn’t provide for the governor to extend it, but it also doesn’t state how the legislature will be involved.”

If House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President Don Harmon decline to convene the two chambers, Pritzker should request a vote from the General Assembly on the stay-at-home order extension, Ugaste said.

Rep. Norine Hammond of Macomb proposed that the capitol remain closed to public visitors, who could instead livestream the General Assembly proceedings from home. While gathered in the capitol, lawmakers could protect themselves by “wearing a mask and using some common sense,” she said. —Antonia Ayres-Brown

Noon: Chicago area unemployment reached 4.8% in March as coronavirus took its toll. Experts say that number will jump in April.

The Chicago area unemployment rate rose to 4.8% in March, up from 4.2% during the same month last year, as coronavirus economic disruption began to take its toll on the job market.

Labor economists expect that number to get a lot bigger in April.

Nearly two-thirds of metropolitan areas across the U.S. saw higher year-over-year unemployment rates last month, according to a report released Wednesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The national unemployment rate in March was 4.5%, not seasonally adjusted, up from 3.9% a year earlier. Read more here. —Robert Channick

11:18 a.m.: Experimental drug remdesivir proved effective against COVID-19 in major study, drugmaker Gilead says

A biotech company says its experimental drug has proved effective against the new coronavirus in a major U.S. government study that put it to a strict test.

Gilead Sciences’s remdesivir would be the first treatment to pass such a test against the virus, which has killed more than 218,000 people since it emerged late last year. Having a treatment could have a profound effect on the global pandemic, especially because health officials say any vaccine is likely a year or more away.

The study, run by the National Institutes of Health, tested remdesivir versus usual care in about 800 hospitalized coronavirus patients around the world. The main result is how long it takes patients to recover.

Gilead gave no details on results Wednesday, but said an announcement is expected soon. NIH officials did not immediately reply to a request for comment. Read more here. —Associated Press

10:45 a.m.: 52 people who worked or voted on election day in Wisconsin tested positive for COVID-19. There’s no plan for changes in upcoming special election.

There are no plans to postpone or otherwise alter a special congressional election in Wisconsin that is less than two weeks away, even though more than 50 people who voted in person or worked the polls during the state’s presidential primary this month have tested positive for COVID-19.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers tried to change the April 7 election so that it would be conducted entirely by mail, but he was blocked by the Republican-led Legislature and conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court. Evers and others had warned that allowing in-person voting would cause a spike in coronavirus cases, but so far the impact appears to be limited.

Several of the 52 people who have tested positive and were at the polls on April 7 also reported other ways they may have been exposed to the virus, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services said Tuesday. Because of that, it’s unclear if those people contracted the virus at the polls.

The 52 positive cases were in people who tested positive in the two weeks after the election, so by April 21. Most people show symptoms within 14 days of exposure, though some people who have the virus don’t show symptoms. Read more here. —Associated Press

10:18 a.m.: Second GOP state representative files lawsuit challenging Pritzker’s stay-at-home order

Republican State Rep. John Cabello filed a lawsuit Wednesday challenging Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order, the second GOP representative to sue over the governor’s directive.

The lawsuit, filed in Winnebago County Circuit Court, asks a judge to block the stay-at-home order Pritzker issued March 20 or any similar measures from being enforced on Cabello and “all citizens similarly situated.”

Illinois has been under a statewide stay-at-home order since March 21, which was originally set to expire April 7. Pritzker extended the order, which has an array of exceptions, through April 30. Read more here. —Jamie Munks

10:17 a.m.: Trump order keeps meatpacking plants open, but unions say workers unsafe

More than 20 meatpacking plants have closed temporarily under pressure from local authorities and their own workers because of the virus, including two of the nation’s largest, one in Iowa and one in South Dakota. Others have slowed production as workers have fallen ill or stayed home to avoid getting sick.

“Such closures threaten the continued functioning of the national meat and poultry supply chain, undermining critical infrastructure during the national emergency,” the order states.

It wasn’t immediately clear what the order means for the three Illinois meat processing plants that closed last week. Read more here. —Associated Press

9:25 a.m.: Voices of the pandemic: How the coronavirus changes the lives of Chicagoans, in their own words

Ever since the coronavirus pandemic rose to the forefront of our everyday lives, Chicagoans have been stepping up. Their stories have inspired us, compelled us to give back, and kept us going through uncharted waters.

Here’s what Chicago had to say this week on how we’re living in the time of COVID-19. Read more here.

6:45 a.m.: Divvy extends free rides for health care workers, lower charges for others

Divvy was expected to announce Wednesday it will extend to the end of May its offer of free rides for health care workers and lower rates for other Chicago residents, according to the Chicago mayor’s office.

People with low incomes are eligible for $5 annual memberships under the company’s Divvy for Everyone program, called D4E. Under the program being offered during the state’s coronavirus stay-at-home order and being extended Wednesday, other Chicagoans can take $1 short rides and become annual Divvy members for $49.50, according to a news release from Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office. The short rides usually are $3 and annual membership usually is $99.

More information for health care companies wanting to join the program for health care workers can email [email protected]; more information about discounts and joining with D4E membership is available at the company’s website, —Chicago Tribune staff

6:15 a.m.: Southern Illinois police chief questions Pritzker’s powers, stay-home orders

ENERGY, Ill. — A southern Illinois village police chief is expressing skepticism about Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s power to issue stay-at-home orders to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter last week to residents of the village of Energy, Police Chief Shawn Ladd says he and his department have no interest in enforcing any rules, declarations or proclamations that morally or technically violate provisions of the federal or state constitutions. Ladd told The Southern Illinoisan in Carbondale nothing requires him or his officers to enforce the executive orders, first issued in March and extended through May.

“He can make suggestions,’’ Ladd said of his understanding of the governor’s powers in an emergency.

Ladd backs his views with an opinion made in an internal memo by David Robinson, deputy director of the State’s Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor’s Office to the office’s director, Patrick Delfino. Robinson said he wasn’t sure courts would uphold Pritzker’s limitations on restaurants, bars, public and private gatherings.

Sheila Simon, an assistant professor of law at Southern Illinois University assistant professor of law Sheila Simon is questioning Ladd’s and Robinson’s position.

“My thoughts are that the governor does have emergency powers and they are pretty broad,” she said, adding the state’s Emergency Management Act and other state laws gives the governor a lot of leeway.

“It does seem to be tailored to keeping us from harming each other,” she said of Pritzker’s COVID-19 orders.

Ladd’s position that the governor is overreaching is similar to that of Republican state Rep. Darren Bailey who obtained a temporary order exempting him from the directives.

Pritzker on Tuesday denounced Bailey of Xenia, also in southern Illinois, calling his legal actions a “cheap political stunt.” The governor’s comment came as Illinois officials reported another 144 deaths from the coronavirus, bringing the total number to 2,125. —Associated Press

6 a.m.: Medline wants FDA approval to sterilize N95 masks with ethylene oxide. Two other federal agencies are against it, citing cancer risks for health care workers.

Summoned to the White House last month with other medical suppliers responding to the severe shortage of protective gear for health care workers, Medline Industries CEO Charlie Mills announced the company had good news.

Northfield-based Medline already was reprocessing 100,000 masks a day used by doctors and nurses on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mills told President Donald Trump and others in the Cabinet Room.

Though masks typically are certified for one use only, Mills said, Medline could rapidly decontaminate used masks at its plant in north suburban Waukegan and send them back to hospitals and clinics across the nation. The company’s efforts would buy medical workers time while manufacturers increase production of new masks, he said.

“I think that is fantastic,” Trump said later the same day after Mills summarized his plan during the president’s March 29 appearance before the White House press corps.

What Mills failed to mention is Medline’s process relies on ethylene oxide, a germ-killing gas that researchers have found can damage the brain and raise the risk of breast cancer, leukemia and lymphomas at extremely low levels of exposure.

Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and 3M, a leading mask manufacturer, strongly discourage the use of ethylene oxide for decontaminating masks, in particular N95 respirators needed by virus fighters. Last week the Occupational Safety and Health Administration concluded that giving health care personnel EtO-treated masks could be considered a violation of federal workplace standards.

Doctors and nurses protecting themselves from the virus could end up being exposed to a potent carcinogen and neurotoxin, according to the CDC, 3M and OSHA. Read more here. —Michael Hawthorne

Here are five things that happened Tuesday that you need to know:

Here are five things that happened Monday that you need to know:

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