Latest coronavirus news for May 21, 2020: Live updates

The latest

Chicago likely won’t be ready to reopen restaurants May 29, mayor says

Many restaurants in Chicago have had to close or modify their business model to amid the coronavirus pandemic.Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Gov. Pritzker is allowing Illinois restaurants to open for outdoor dining on May 29. But Chicago won’t be taking advantage of it — at least not yet.

“I don’t think we’re gonna be ready by May 29. But my hope is that soon in June, we will be ready,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Thursday.

Lightfoot said there is “nothing magic about” May 29. It’s the date that Pritzker’s statewide, stay-at-home order expires. But Chicago “has its own responsibilities and obligations to craft public health policies that are specific to the city.”

“I was heartened by the comments that the governor made … about restaurants. But we’ve got to do it safely. I need to understand and be certain that restaurants across the city — not just the big ones, not just the ones that have a lot of cash flow, but the small ones, too — have a means to protect their employees and members of the public that will patronize them,” Lightfoot said.

The mayor said she’s working on plans to make outdoor dining more lucrative by closing streets and sidewalks and allowing restaurants to set up tables in the adjacent outdoor parking lots. All that takes time to arrange.

Read the full story by City Hall reporter Fran Spielman here.


2:40 p.m. 87 more Illinois coronavirus deaths as state unemployment tops 16%

State health officials on Thursday announced 87 more people have died of the coronavirus in Illinois while an additional 2,268 tested positive for the virus.

That raised the state’s death toll to 4,607 and the overall statewide case tally to 102,686 since the virus first hit Illinois four months ago.

The state received 29,307 test results from a day earlier, with Illinois’ seven-day rolling positivity rate sitting at 7.8%.

Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike on Wednesday said the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations were at “the lowest number since we were capturing these numbers,” with 3,914 patients in hospitals and 1,005 in intensive care units.

And with Gov. J.B. Pritzker expressing optimism this week that the state is “falling from a peak,” the Democratic governor revealed he’d expedite part of his five-phase regional reopening plan to allow bars and restaurants to reopen for outdoor customers at the end of the month.

Read the full story by Mitchell Armentrout here.

2 p.m. What are Chicagoans doing with their weekends during the coronavirus stay-at-home order?

We asked Chicagoans stuck at home because of the coronavirus pandemic how they’re spending their weekends.

Unable to get out on the lakefront or go to neighborhood festivals anytime soon, they’re finding things to do from the safety of their homes.

Some of these answers have been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

“I’ve gone on several trips just this week. I took several trips to the kitchen, and my most exciting trip was when I stumbled down the basement steps after letting the dog out. It’s been nothing but a party over here.” — Marta Omarr

“There’s seven of us, and it’s never a dull moment. Every couple of weeks, we have a themed day. Since quarantine, we’ve had a stay-at-home brewery tour, casino night and camping. Technology and creativity have been our best friends.” — Laura E. Mena

Read more stories from Chicagoans on how they’re enjoying their weekends amid COVID-19.

1:17 p.m. Feds should do more to safeguard nursing homes from COVID-19, U. of C. expert tells Senate panel

The federal government should come to the rescue of people in nursing homes that primarily serve non-white residents because those are where the risk is highest of being infected with the coronavirus and dying, a University of Chicago professor testified before a U.S. Senate panel Thursday.

In online video testimony, Tamara Konetzka, who has researched nursing homes for 25 years, told members of the Senate Special Subcommittee on Aging an “emergency influx of resources” is needed for nursing homes, particularly those with the highest risk of having coronavirus outbreaks.

She recommended that nursing homes test all residents at least twice a month.

Konetzka looked at COVID-19 infections in more than 5,500 nursing homes in Illinois and 11 other states and found that nursing homes with the lowest percentage of white residents were more than twice as likely to have a coronavirus case or death.

Read the full story by Frank Main here.

12:35 p.m. Cicero nursing home where 10 died from coronavirus says current residents test negative

Officials at a west suburban nursing home where nine residents and one worker died from complications related to the coronavirus said all current residents at the facility recently tested negative for COVID-19.

The City View MultiCare Center, which underwent a court-ordered inspection after it was sued by the town of Cicero for allegedly not following health guidelines, said two rounds of independent testing by Chicago-based Simple Laboratories showed that none of the residents have the virus.

More than 200 residents and staff members at the facility, at 5825 W. Cermak Road, tested positive several weeks ago.

COVID-19 tests administered by the Illinois Department of Public Health in March showed 55% of residents and 15% of staff tested positive for the virus, City View said in a statement Thursday.

Read the full story by Matthew Hendrickson here.

11:10 a.m. ‘Cocktails for Hope’ would allow restaurants to sell carry-out drinks

Photo by Victor J. Blue/Getty Images

Democrats back in Springfield plan to file a COVID-19 package that includes “Cocktails for Hope,” which would help struggling bars get additional revenue during the pandemic. The proposed measure would change the Illinois Liquor Control Act to allow bars and restaurants to sell cocktails-to-go in “properly sealed containers.”

Those buying carry-out cocktails would have to be 21, and any alcohol transported in a vehicle would have to be placed in the trunk or in an area inaccessible to the driver. Bars and restaurants would have to adhere to strict requirements for sealing the cocktails.

The push for to-go adult beverages is designed to be temporary to help businesses during the pandemic. It is to be discussed in an Illinois House Executive Session on Thursday.

Read more here.

10:45 a.m. Pritzker moves Bailey lawsuit to federal court in tactical move that could stall ruling on his stay-at-home order

One day before a hearing scheduled to be held before a skeptical downstate judge that threatened his stay-at-home order, a lawyer for Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Thursday moved a lawsuit from Rep. Darren Bailey out of state court in Clay County and into federal court.

It wasn’t immediately clear what the move would mean for the court hearing on Friday before Clay County Judge Michael McHaney, who has already said “the Bill of Rights is being shredded” by the stay-at-home order. If nothing else, it could delay a ruling. Tom DeVore, Bailey’s attorney, told the Chicago Sun-Times Thursday it is a “stall tactic.”

“The governor’s trying to buy time,” said DeVore, who added that there are “zero federal issues raised” in Bailey’s lawsuit.

Legal experts told the Sun-Times parties can move cases from state court to federal court if there is a constitutional issue at play, but opposing parties can fight the move. State lawyer Thomas Verticchio wrote in Thursday’s removal notice that Bailey’s lawsuit “seeks redress for alleged deprivations of Bailey’s federal constitutional rights caused by actions taken under color of state law.”

Read the full story by Jon Seidel here.

8:18 a.m. If liquor stores, dispensaries are essential, why not churches? Willie Wilson asks

Willie Wilson’s support for Illinois churches holding services in violation of the stay-at-home order took another step Wednesday.

The former mayoral candidate and influential businessman announced he will pay the $500 fines given to three Chicago churches that held services Sunday.

Philadelphia Romanian Church of God in Uptown, Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church in Albany Park and Metro Praise International Church in Belmont Cragin were criticized and fined by authorities for allowing more than 10 people — the current limit set by Gov. J.B. Pritzker — to attend services.

Wilson, in a statement Wednesday, said that limit infringes on the churches’ free exercise of religion.

“The Governor and Mayor continue to trample on our constitutional rights while hiding behind a Stay at Home Order that treats the church as non-essential,” the statement said. “It is shameful that the church is discriminated against, while liquor stores, marijuana dispensaries and Home Depot [are] treated as essential businesses.”

Read the full story by Ben Pope here.

7:03 a.m. Seven in 10 Latinos worried about keeping up with rent, food, utilities during the pandemic, poll finds

Latino households in Illinois and across the country are struggling to make ends meet during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a poll released Wednesday.

Around 60% of Latinos polled nationwide said they or someone in their household had either lost their job, taken a pay cut or were furloughed due to the pandemic.

That loss of income has translated into anxieties about keeping up with the bills: Nearly 70% of Latinos in the national poll said they soon won’t be able to afford basic expenses like rent, food, utilities and mortgage payments. For Latinos polled in Illinois, it’s closer to 80%.

Almost a third of Latinos said they hadn’t received a coronavirus stimulus check and half of Latino business owners said they found it difficult to access small business loans offered by the federal government.

A quarter of Latinos also reported they or a family member had contracted COVID-19; 27% said they knew someone who presented symptoms of the disease but was unable to get tested.

Read the full story by Carlos Ballesteros here.

6:38 a.m. CPS to allow drive-thru and home-visit graduation ceremonies

Graduation ceremonies won’t look the same as usual this spring, but they don’t necessarily have to be on a laptop, either, according to new guidance released Wednesday by Chicago Public Schools.

After previously indicating only virtual ceremonies would be allowed, CPS officials now say drive-through graduations and celebrations featuring staff visits to graduates’ homes are OK as long as safety precautions are put in place and strictly followed.

CPS officials said they added drive-thru and home-visit ceremonies to the list of acceptable graduations because Illinois is anticipated to move into “Phase 3” of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s reopening plan by the end of this month. Schools planning any non-virtual events will have to follow guidance released earlier this month by the Illinois Department of Public Health and Illinois State Board of Education.

Read the full story by Nader Issa here.

New cases

Analysis & Commentary

1:38 p.m. New COVID-19 outbreak at homeless shelter raises concerns for some still staying there

Robert Ewaniuk has been staying at a West Side homeless shelter operated by Franciscan Outreach for a little more than a week, during which he’s been tested twice for COVID-19 after other residents contracted the disease.

At age 54 and with several underlying health conditions including diabetes and Parkinson’s disease, Ewaniuk is considered high risk for coronavirus complications if he were to become infected.

Normally, those health problems would make Ewaniuk a candidate for a room at Hotel 166, a boutique tourist hotel off Michigan Avenue where the city has been housing some homeless people with medical needs to shield them from the virus.

But Hotel 166 is operating at capacity, as are other facilities the city has established to temporarily house at-risk homeless individuals during the pandemic.

The result is Ewaniuk and many others like him are stuck in limbo at shelters while they wait to learn whether the city can find a safer place for them.

Read the full commentary from columnist Mark Brown here.

6:45 a.m. Lynn Sweet’s rules of the road for social distancing while walking, running and biking

A quiz.

Q. You are walking on one side of a sidewalk. Someone strolling toward you veers within six feet of you. You don’t have any room to move but the other person does. You call out through your mask, “Six feet!”

The correct action for that person is:

a. Pretend not to hear and stay the course.

b. Give you the finger and swerve a little.

c. Create some distance by moving away.

The correct answer is c.

As some of our COVID-19 pandemic lockdown rules in Illinois are easing and the spring weather is bringing us outside more frequently to walk, run and bike, I’ve been navigating the new normal while social distancing. There is no best practices manual for this.

I’m a speed walker. I aim at five miles a day. As I roam around, I’ve made it a point to observe social or physical distancing behavior — who among us tries to observe the six feet; who doesn’t; and whether lapses appear willful or the result of being oblivious. I’ve become a student of the various tactics people are using and developing some of my own.

Read the full column by Lynn Sweet here.