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

Chicago Tribune staff

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Sunday admonished young partiers seen in a viral video purporting to show a crowded house party in Chicago over the weekend. The people in the video appear to be standing shoulder to shoulder and flouting social distancing orders amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also Sunday, the governor announced 2,126 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 43,903. That’s the third time in recent days that the number of new daily cases has topped 2,000 — a spike that has come amid a massive increase in testing. As of Sunday, 1,933 people in Illinois have been confirmed dead from causes related to the novel coronavirus.

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

12:37 p.m.: After initially backing federal aid to states, Trump questions ‘bailing out poorly run states’ like Illinois

As talk in Washington has swiftly moved to the next coronavirus relief package, President Donald Trump on Monday questioned whether federal taxpayers should provide money of “poorly run” states and cities run by Democrats, specifically citing Illinois.

“Why should the people and taxpayers of America be bailing out poorly run states (like Illinois, as example) and cities, in all cases Democrat run and managed, when most of the other states are not looking for bailout help?” Trump asked on Twitter.

“I am open to discussing anything, but just asking,” the president added.

Trump’s question was a reversal from late last week when, after the federal Paycheck Protection Program received a new injection of funds, he indicated support for addressing state and local government revenue shortfalls due to the pandemic as part of the next round of relief. Read more here. —Rick Pearson

12:04 p.m.: Illinois repeals controversial worker’s compensation rule that presumed front-line workers with COVID-19 got it on the job

The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission on Monday repealed a controversial emergency rule stating that if front-line workers are infected with COVID-19, it would be presumed to be a result of their work duties.

A Sangamon County judge last week issued a temporary restraining order blocking the new rule, which would have granted benefits to workers deemed essential who contracted the new coronavirus. The judge’s order resulted from a lawsuit filed by the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association and the Illinois Retail Merchants Association that had the support of more than two dozen business groups.

The commission passed the rule earlier this month expanding workers’ compensation insurance for first responders, health care workers, grocery store employees and some other workers considered “essential” under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s statewide stay-at-home order if they contract COVID-19.

Pritzker had asked the commission to pass the emergency rule, and said earlier this month the measure was “what we need to do right now to protect people.”

When the emergency rule was passed, business groups called it a drastic policy change that would require employers to take on added medical expenses and salary benefits if an employee is diagnosed with COVID-19, without proof that it was contracted in the workplace.

“It was clearly an overreach and inconsistent with the traditional rule-making process,” Illinois Manufacturers’ Association president and CEO Mark Denzler and Illinois Retail Merchants Association president and CEO Rob Karr said in a joint statement Monday. “If left unchecked, this rule would have subject Illinois businesses to billions of dollars in added costs at a time when many are struggling to make payroll and retain employees.”

Alice Johnson, executive director of the Illinois Nurses Association, praised the rule at a news briefing when it was passed, noting that some nurses have seen employers question where they became infected, “ignoring the obvious risks created by the work they do every day.”

The statewide stay-at-home order has been in effect since March 21. Pritzker announced last week he was extending the order until May 30, with some changes that take effect Friday. —Jamie Munks

11:27 a.m.: 10th inmate in Illinois prison dies from a COVID-19-related illness: officials

A 10th inmate in an Illinois prison has died from a COVID-19-related illness, state officials confirm.

They were all men, the youngest in his 40s, and incarcerated at Stateville Correctional Center near Joliet.

The two most recent deaths occurred April 20, officials said. One of the men, in his 70s, died at the prison, and was one of two inmates to die inside Stateville and not at a hospital.

No staff members have died from the virus, authorities confirmed, though several have been infected.

The fatalities occurred within a three-week span as state correctional officials said they are working to stop the spread of the virus in prisons across the state.

Prison reform advocates, though, have pressed forward with lawsuits arguing the state has been too slow to respond, putting inmates and staff at further risk.

As of Monday, the Illinois Department of Corrections confirmed nonfatal virus cases in about 16 of its nearly four dozen facilities. The problem at Stateville is particularly dire. Most of the 147 staff and 153 inmates who tested positive statewide are located there.

The majority of the staff and inmates have recovered, according to IDOC data.

The state is not making public the names of the victims, but the Tribune so far has identified more than half through interviews with families and prison reform advocates and a review of other available public records. Their offenses include murder and child sexual assault. —Christy Gutowski

10:52 a.m.: Coronavirus victims tell their stories to dispel fear, stigma. Experts warn that some minority patients are being blamed for getting sick.

South Holland resident Ledgure Herron Jr. got out of COVID-19 quarantine Wednesday. The 51-year-old pastor said he was admitted to University of Chicago Medicine Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey the first week in April. He remembers having a cough, but no fever. He remembers getting oxygen and he uses terms like “terrible” and “overwhelming to the mind” when referring to his illness.

“While I was ill, I had to stop watching breaking news because it was about to break me,” Herron said. “All we see are the numbers going up. We’re not seeing people who made it. People need to know that people are surviving it. They made it, and I can make it.”

Nicole Chelsey-Howard, 38, of Chicago, likened enduring COVID-19 to “having a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week asthma attack.”

“Some points of the day, I just cried,” said the 15-year medical assistant who tested positive in March. “I’ve never felt that much pain. I have sleep apnea, but I couldn’t sleep with my machine because I felt my breathing was already restricted and putting this mask on my face was making it worse. So I barely slept. It was definitely an experience that I hope I don’t have to deal with again.”

Chelsey-Howard and Herron shared their coronavirus experiences with family members and friends in hopes that the more others know about people living with the virus, the less fear will surround the condition. Read more here. —Darcel Rockett

10:31 a.m.: CDC adds six COVID-19 symptoms to its list, but many doctors, hospitals already had been using them

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has added six symptoms to its list of those associated with COVID-19, but doctors say the symptoms weren’t recently discovered and the nation’s top health agency has just updated its list of possible symptoms.

The CDC added the six additional possible symptoms of COVID-19 to three previously listed symptoms. New are: Chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and loss of taste or smell. Previously just fever, cough, and shortness of breath were officially listed as known symptoms.

Dr. Emily Landon, the hospital epidemiologist at the University of Chicago Medical Center, said the hospital long has been using the updated possible symptoms as indicators of COVID-19, including on official documents aimed at the hospital’s own health care workers, so they could seek care if presenting with symptoms less obvious than fever, cough, or shortness of breath.

“We’ve been using all of these for a long time,” Landon said, adding that she’s pleased the CDC updated its list because it may encourage more people, or those with varied or less common symptoms, to seek medical care. Read more here. —Katherine Rosenberg-Douglas

10 a.m.: Farmers markets in some suburbs this year ‘won’t be the leisurely experience people are used to’

Local farmers markets in Park Ridge, Morton Grove, Skokie and elsewhere plan to be back this summer, but they won’t be the community gathering spots that shoppers are used to.

No crowds, no dogs and no handling of produce by customers before it is purchased are among new guidelines adopted by organizers of the Park Ridge Farmers Market and the new Morton Grove French Market as they prepare to open for the 2020 season.

The guidelines, aimed at preventing COVID-19 infection and encouraging social distancing, were established and recommended by the Illinois Farmers Market Association, which provides resources, training and other support services to markets across the state.

This summer, with the COVID-19 pandemic in the forefront, farmers markets will need to change from “community gathering spaces” to “in-and-out markets,” the ILFMA announced.

“This is not a family event like it used to be,” said Leslie Cahill, general manager of The French Market, which is now organizing Morton Grove’s outdoor farmers market at 6140 W. Dempster St. Read more here. —Jennifer Johnson

9:51 a.m.: Federal judge orders additional social distancing measures at Cook County Jail

A federal judge on Monday issued a preliminary injunction mandating additional social distancing measures to battle the spread of coronavirus at the Cook County Jail, including banning double-inmate cells and group housing in most cases.

In an 87-page order, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly gave the sheriff’s office until Friday to implement new plans eliminating “bullpens” to house new inmates being processed into the jail, providing face masks to all detainees under quarantine, and regularly sanitizing “all frequently touched surfaces and objects.”

Double-inmate cells will be permitted only in certain situations — such as on tiers where inmates are quarantined after testing positive for COVID-19 or are on suicide or other medical watch, Kennelly ruled. The judge also wrote that dormitory-style tiers can only be used if they are at less than 50% capacity, so the 6-foot distancing rule can be better enforced.

The ruling came as part of an ongoing lawsuit filed by the Loevy and Loevy law firm and the MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University alleging Sheriff Tom Dart has failed to stop a “rapidly unfolding public health disaster” at the jail, which has been identified as one of the nations’ leading hot spots for coronavirus infections. Read more here. —Jason Meisner

9:22 a.m.: The law denies stimulus checks to Americans married to immigrants in the U.S. illegally. An Illinois man alleges that’s discrimination.

An Illinois man has sued President Donald Trump over a provision of the coronavirus relief package that could deny $1,200 stimulus checks to more than 1 million Americans married to immigrants without Social Security Numbers.

The suit was filed Friday by an Illinois man using the pseudonym John Doe, who seeks to represent all others in his position. Doe claims the relief package discriminates against him “based solely on whom he chose to marry.”

The $2 trillion coronavirus relief Act, approved by Congress last month, provides $1,200 payments to U.S. taxpayers who earn as much as $75,000 — plus $500 for each child. But to be eligible, both spouses in families that file joint tax returns must have Social Security numbers — unless one of them is a member of the military.

That leaves 1.2 million Americans ineligible, according to the lawsuit filed in federal court in Chicago. The lawsuit cites the Migration Policy Institute, which says on its website that’s how many “unauthorized” immigrants in the U.S. are married to Americans. Read more here. —Bloomberg News

8:04 a.m.: New poll shows rising support for mail-in voting due to coronavirus concerns, but Trump’s opposition resonating with GOP voters

Americans’ support for mail-in voting has jumped amid concerns about the safety of polling places during the coronavirus pandemic, but a wide partisan divide suggests President Donald Trump’s public campaign against vote by mail may be resonating with his Republican backers.

A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds Democrats are now much more likely than Republicans to support their state conducting elections exclusively by mail, 47% to 29%.

In 2018, about half as many Democrats were in favor, and there was little difference in the views of Democrats and Republicans on the question.

The survey also found a partisan divide on support for no-excuse absentee voting, the system in place in most states, including almost all the top presidential battlegrounds, even as a majority of Americans say they favor that practice. Read more here. —Associated Press

6:45 a.m.: Chicago health department launching app to communicate with those with COVID-19, prepare for vaccinations

Chicago was scheduled to launch an app Monday to communicate with people with the novel coronavirus or symptoms of the virus and allow people to pre-register to receive a COVID-19 vaccine if it becomes available, according to a news release.

The app, Chi COVID Coach, was developed with Google and MTX Group Inc., and will be used by the Chicago Department of Public Health to help guide people with symptoms to the proper coronavirus treatment, as well as alerting people to where COVID-19 testing is available and when a vaccine might be ready, according to the release.

“Registration for the app is free and information will be protected and only used by CDPH for public health purposes related to COVID-19,” according to the release.

Although the app is being billed as “the first of its kind,” according to the release, other jurisdictions, including Georgia, are using apps designed by the partnership between Google and Texas-based MTX for COVID-19 contact tracing, according to MTX and news reports. Contact tracing allows health officials to figure out who might have been in contact with people with a disease such as the new coronavirus and have them seek treatment or quarantine as needed, to help slow the spread of the disease.

The app and more information can be found on the city’s website. —Tribune staff

6 a.m.: Coronavirus school shutdown has been particularly tough on kids with disabilities: ‘It’s not just a disruption. We’re going to see kids who actually go backward.’

The shutdown of schools across Illinois — now extended for the rest of the academic year — has created particular hardships for families of students with disabilities. Some students are paired with full-time aides at school or get speech or physical therapy, roles that aren’t easily filled by parents who are also figuring out remote learning, working from home or dealing with their own economic challenges.

“The school closures have been hurtful to all kids, but students with disabilities are most vulnerable, and tend to react badly to transitions,” said Chicago attorney Matt Cohen, who represents families with special education and school-related issues.

“For special education students, school closures are not just a disruption but a regression, and we’re going to see kids who actually go backward,” Cohen said.

Even during normal times, the quality of special education in the Chicago area ranges from excellent to poor, often depending on a district’s leadership and funding, Cohen said. He predicted the recent pivot to remote learning will likely have a negative effect on most students with special education plans. Read more here. —Hannah Leone and Karen Ann Cullotta

6 a.m.: Refugees try to make new start in Chicago as COVID-19 upends daily life: ‘Once we get back to the normal life, we want to walk freely’

Like many practicing social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, Farhan Ali has turned to Netflix.

But Ali, 21, isn’t just watching for entertainment. He’s improving his English. About a month ago, his family arrived in the United States from Pakistan as refugees. Though they’re from Afghanistan, they’d fled to Pakistan out of fear of persecution by the Taliban. They spent their first week here living with his oldest sister in suburban Aurora.

“We went to Millennium Park,” Ali said by phone, recalling his first week in Chicago. “We’ve never been that much happy and free.”

But within two weeks of their arrival, Ali and his family were under a stay-at-home order like the rest of the state, as cases of COVID-19 continued to climb. Resettlement organizations have spent weeks helping refugees navigate unemployment benefits while others deemed essential workers have continued working. Recently resettled refugees like Ali are learning how to navigate their new country online from their new homes. Read more here. —Elvia Malagón and Nausheen Husain

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