Coronavirus in Illinois updates: Heres whats happening Wednesday – Chicago Tribune

Posted By on May 3, 2020

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. Thats the sixth time in the past seven days that the number of new cases has topped 2,000.

The new numbers came as Gov. J.B. Pritzkers extension of a statewide stay-at-home order continued to face pushback, with a second Republican state lawmaker challenging the order in a lawsuit accusing the governor of creating a police state. Pritzker called the new lawsuit another attempt at grandstanding.

Heres whats happening Wednesday with COVID-19 in the Chicago area and Illinois:

7:45 p.m.: He was supposed to retire Thursday after 34 years as a surgical tech. Instead, he died Monday after testing positive for coronavirus.

After decades of scrubbing in on surgeries as a surgical technologist, Juan Martinez was looking forward to retirement. He planned to travel with his wife and spend more time with his grandchildren.

His final work day was scheduled for April 30.

He was so dedicated to his job that he kept working even as the coronavirus crisis coincided with the final weeks before his retirement.

He died days before reaching it.

My dad was a very dedicated man to work, said his son, Juan Martinez Jr., who was so enthralled by his fathers zest for his work that he, too, chose the same career. He was so passionate.

Father and son worked together at the University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago. On Monday, Martinez, 60, died after testing positive for the coronavirus.

He just didnt make it, said Martinez Jr. Read more here. Alison Bowen

7:29 p.m.: Viral video of Chicago house party reveals disconnect between black youth and media during coronavirus

House parties are meant to be a thing of the past now that COVID-19 has turned into a pandemic.

But on April 25, a viral video showed a Galewood gathering of dozens of people at a memorial party for two friends who died of gun violence years ago. The video drew such a level of nationwide vitriol on social media that Mayor Lori Lightfoot blasted the revelers as foolish and reckless, and Gov. J.B. Pritzker criticized the partygoers for putting everyone around you in danger. (Tribune columnist, Dahleen Glanton, wrote an open letter to the black kids who partied, citing the reality of killing loved ones without even knowing that you are carrying a weapon.) Chicago police have subsequently said they cited the homeowner with disorderly conduct Monday.

With so much conversation about the event, The Triibe, a digital media platform that tells stories of black Chicago, sought to find the disconnect between local government officials, black youth and traditional media outlets in conveying the serious nature of the coronavirus. In her article, Veronica Harrison (aka Vee L. Harrison), talks to a young woman at the party. The woman told Harrison she knows COVID-19 is serious, but shes not letting fear win out over her faith.

The partygoer told Harrison: I get irritated with these celebrities trying to tell us to stay in the house. Us people that arent as rich as them, we dont have nothing to do in the house. Sometimes this can cause you to go into boredom and depression and you have to get out, you have to get some air.

Harrison said her phone has not left her hand since the Triibe story went live Tuesday night. Read more here. Darcel Rockett

6:10 p.m.: River Grove firefighter, apparently recovered from COVID-19, suffers fatal stroke

A River Grove firefighter and paramedic who had tested positive for COVID-19 but appeared to be on the mend died early Wednesday from a stroke, officials said.

Robert David Reisinger, 57, who had been with the department for nearly 18 years and was the longtime EMS system coordinator at Stroger Hospital in Chicago, became ill several weeks ago along with a co-worker who had been on the same ambulance, fire Chief Sean Flynn said.

Reisinger had gotten better and was scheduled to return to work Wednesday, Flynn said, but suffered a stroke Monday. The Cook County medical examiners office does not list COVID-19 as a factor in Reisingers death, but researchers have found links between the virus and some types of strokes. His husband, Kuanwu Lin, does not consider the two events to be coincidental.

Its still unpredictable what this virus will do to a human body, said Lin, a psychologist who is also recovering from COVID-19. We are still learning about it. ... If this was related to COVID-19, then it makes this virus even more powerful, and therefore we cannot be too cautious. Read more here. John Keilman

5:55 p.m.: Suburban distillery joins the pivot to making hand sanitizer

Highwood vodka-maker 28 Mile Distilling Co. is joining the ranks of Chicagoland distilleries lending their facilities to the production of hand sanitizer during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The distillery, named for its 28-mile distance from Chicago, will donate the hand sanitizer which includes nearly 12,000 16-ounce bottles to the Chicago Police Department. Its the largest donation of sanitizer that the department has received yet.

The key ingredient in hand sanitizers is neutral grain spirit, which is essentially vodka. The spirit is combined with glycerin and hydrogen peroxide to make hand sanitizer. Distilleries across the Chicago area and the nation have been pivoting to make the sanitizer during the pandemic.

The approximately 1,400 gallons of 28 Mile Distilling Co. product will be distributed to officers Thursday at the Police Academy. Adam Lukach

5:36 p.m.: Trump order keeps meatpacking plants open, but effect on Illinois facilities is uncertain

President Donald Trump has ordered meat processing plants to remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic even as they have emerged as hotspots for worker illnesses in Illinois and elsewhere, laying bare the challenge of keeping the nations food supply chain intact while protecting workers on crowded production lines.

Trump, in an executive order signed Tuesday, invoked the Defense Production Act to prevent meat plant closures, saying they threaten the continued functioning of the national meat and poultry supply chain, undermining critical infrastructure during the national emergency." Unions and workers rights advocates said the action jeopardizes worker safety.

The order came as COVID-19 cases prompted a growing number of major slaughterhouses and meat processing facilities to temporarily shut down, sometimes under pressure from local authorities. The closures have sent ripples across the supply chain as farmers lost markets for their livestock and grocers braced for a shortage of meat on their shelves.

More than 20 meatpacking plants have closed temporarily over the past two months, including three in Illinois that shuttered last week. It wasnt immediately clear Wednesday what the order means for those facilities.

Smithfield Foods, the worlds largest pork producer, indefinitely shuttered a large pork plant in Monmouth Friday after a small portion of its 1,700 employees tested positive for COVID-19, and it closed a smaller plant in St. Charles, where 325 people work, on orders from the Kane County Health Department to improve social distancing and take other safety measures.

Hormel closed an 800-worker plant in Rochelle that makes bacon and deli meats on orders from the Ogle County Health Department, with plans to reopen May 4.

Monmouth Mayor Rod Davies said he is eager to see work resume at the Smithfield plant, which is a huge employer in his town of about 10,000 people, but is concerned about doing it in a way that keeps workers safe. Read more here. Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz

4:50 p.m.: Illinois AG files appeal in State Rep. Darren Baileys lawsuit over stay-at-home order

The Illinois attorney generals office filed an appellate court brief Wednesday seeking to overturn a southern Illinois judges ruling that temporarily exempts a Republican state representative from Gov. J.B. Pritzkers statewide stay-at-home order.

State Rep. Darren Bailey request for a personal exemption from the order besides being dangerous is flawed as a matter of law, Attorney General Kwame Raouls office argues in the filing with Illinois 5th District Appellate Court.

The filing comes two days after a Clay County judge issued a temporary order freeing Bailey from Pritzkers directive, which is aimed at slowing the spread of the new coronavirus. Read more here. Dan Petrella

3:57 p.m.: Illinois delays awarding 75 licenses for new marijuana dispensaries

The state will delay awarding licenses for 75 new recreational marijuana dispensaries due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Applications for the licenses were due Jan. 1 and were set to be awarded May 1. The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, which regulates dispensaries, said Wednesday that it will not award the licenses until the end of the Gubernatorial Disaster Proclamation, or until the state announces another date.

The licenses offer the first path into Illinois burgeoning marijuana industry for people who didnt already operate a cannabis facility. Though recreational sales started in the state Jan. 1, only existing operators were allowed to participate.

The delay means those existing operators will continue to control Illinois marijuana market, which has delivered some of the highest first months of revenue in the nation. Customers spent about $110.2 million on legal weed in the first three months of sales.

It is unclear how long the new dispensaries will be delayed in opening. Once the state does award a license, the recipient has 180 days to find a location for the dispensary. The state must then inspect the location. Read more here. Ally Marotti

3:26 p.m.: Facing ongoing ridership drop, Metra cuts service on three of its least busy lines

Faced with an ongoing ridership slump due to the coronavirus pandemic, Metra is sharply cutting service on its three least busy lines starting Monday, May 4.

On the Heritage Corridor, which runs between Union Station and Joliet, and the North Central Service, which goes between Union Station and Antioch, the schedule will be reduced to one inbound trip in the morning and one outbound trip in the evening, Metra said in a news release on Wednesday.

On the SouthWest Service, which runs between Union Station and Manhattan, Illinois, there will be two inbound trips in the morning and two outbound trips in the evening, Metra said.

3:09 p.m.: Police to issue citation in connection with 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 cant tolerate it anywhere. Its not just the black millennials. Its a problem wherever it rears its head. Were 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. Read more here. 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 mayors 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 cant 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 its 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 hes 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 states 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 Trumps 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 hasnt 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 presidents 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 presidents take on the nations 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 dont know.

The presidents communications staff didnt offer an immediate response to Duckworths criticism. Read more here. Lisa Donovan

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

A week ago, federal prison officials reported that 20 inmates at Chicagos 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 agencys 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 Chicagos legal community, where criminal defense attorneys have been trying mostly in vain to get clients released due to the diseases presumed ability to spread quickly in the MCCs 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 didnt say when. Earlier in the month, Lightfoot said its 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 governments plan for over a month without a plan on how to slowly and safely reopen the states 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 Pritzkers exceeding his authority with stay-at-home extension

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