(FROM CHICAGO, ILLINOIS) – Coronavirus in Illinois updates Wednesday: 128 new cases of COVID-19 announced, including 20 more people at long-term care facility



An individual, right, stands outside of the tent that Edward Hospital set up outside the emergency room in order to test possible coronavirus patients, on March 17, 2020, in Naperville. Six patients were tested Tuesday morning for coronavirus.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday announced the first death in Illinois from the new coronavirus, a woman who family identified as a retired nurse from Chicago, and later activated about 60 service members to assist with the response to COVID-19.

On Wednesday, a day after voters went to the polls as 55 new cases of COVID-19 brought the total in the state since the start of the outbreak 160, people were expected to hunker down and settle in for a period of isolation.

Officials Tuesday also announced 22 cases at a nursing home in Willowbrook where an initial case was announced there over the weekend. The coronavirus pandemic has sickened more than 200,000 people around the world, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 8,000 have died, about half of them outside mainland China.

The United States has seen about 6,500 coronavirus cases and more than 110 deaths.

Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus in the Chicago area and Illinois:

2:50 p.m.: 128 new cases of coronavirus in Illinois; 20 more people at long-term care facility

The Illinois Department of Public Health on Wednesday announced 128 new cases of coronavirus in the state, with confirmed cases in two new counties, Kendall and Madison counties.

The statewide total is now 288 cases of coronavirus in 17 counties across Illinois, with cases in people aged 9 to 91.

The state also said 20 more people at a long-term care facility in DuPage County have tested positive for COVID19. In all, 42 people associated with the facility have been stricken, 30 residents and 12 staff.

The first case at the Chateau Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Willowbrook was announced over the weekend. — Jamie Munks

2:45 p.m.: Private school in Chicago reports 6 cases of coronavirus

A private school in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood has reported six cases of coronavirus, a cluster that might have stemmed from a fundraiser held earlier this month, according its website.

The Lycée Français school president said in an online posting that “all parts of our adult community have been touched,” including parents and staff members. Read more here. – Elyssa Cherney

2:38 p.m.: Governor issues order over vehicle registrations, driver’s licenses, permits and parking decals

With state driver’s service facilities closed until at least April 1, Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday issued an executive order that temporarily suspends state code dealing with the expiration of vehicle registrations, driver’s licenses, permits and parking decals.

The governor’s order also suspended the state law that sets out requirements for identification cards issued by the Secretary of State.

The order extends 30 days past the end of Pritzker’s disaster proclamation, which extends to April 8. — Jamie Munks

2:05 p.m.: Fox Valley Mall to close Thursday amid coronavirus outbreak

Citing concerns for the health and safety of employees and customers, Fox Valley Mall in Aurora announced it will close Thursday due to the coronavirus outbreak.The mall said it will be closed until approximately April 1. Fox Valley Mall is owned by Centennial Real Estate, which also owns Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills. Read more here.

1:53 p.m.: Big Three automakers to shut down

The economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic mounted Wednesday with word that Detroit’s Big Three automakers have agreed to shut down all their North American factories to protect workers.

Two people briefed on the matter said Wednesday that Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler have agreed to close their factories. The two spoke on condition of anonymity because the closings had not been announced.

The move would idle about 150,000 workers, who are likely to receive supplemental pay in addition to unemployment benefits. The two checks combined will about equal what the workers normally make.  Associated Press

1:37 p.m.: FYI: Flushing paper towels or napkins can lead to plumbing problems

Carts full of toilet paper lead one to ponder just how much damage we can do to our toilets during self-quarantine. (Bidets are becoming popular.) According to Patrick Sullivan, a 24-year plumbing veteran with Wheeling-based Taylor Plumbing Inc., it’s a lot of damage if common sense isn’t used.

Baby wipes? Those don’t go in the toilet.

As for Kleenex? That, too, is a no-go.

Paper towels? Nope. Read more here.

1:35 p.m.: Will County courts to run on limited schedule through April

Will County courts will run on a limited scheduled through April in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Will County Chief Judge Richard Schoenstedt ordered Tuesday.

The order reschedules some court cases, including traffic and ordinance violations, to a later date. Notice of the new dates will be mailed by the circuit court clerk’s office. Read more here.

1:20 p.m.: Daughter visits mother through window of Willowbrook nursing home where 22 patients tested positive for coronavirus

Doreen Hall stood outside her mom’s first-floor room window at Chateau Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on Wednesday morning to get in a short visit — even if it was from outside the building.

“I have to see my mom … that’s my little girl,“ said Hall, who parked her car along the entrance road to the facility and walked across the lawn to her mother’s window.

Her mother, Phyllis Wade, is among the residents inside the Willowbrook nursing home where, officials announced Tuesday, 22 people have tested positive for the coronavirus. The Illinois Department of Public Health reported that six of the patients have been hospitalized, all are in isolation, and public health workers are tracing the people with whom they have been in contact.

Her mother has tested negative. Read more here.

1:14 p.m.: Chicago to ease debt collections on certain ticket violations

The city of Chicago will ease up on its debt collection practices to give people a break on certain ticket violations as part of an effort to help residents amid the coronavirus outbreak, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Wednesday.

Through at least April 30, Lightfoot said, the city will suspend booting for defaults on payment plans for city debts, she said. The city also will abe limiting ticketing, towing and impounding solely to what she said are public safety related issues.

“We’ve been hearing from lots of folks,” Lightfoot said. — Gregory Pratt

12:50 p.m.: Pritzker explains why he is calling up national guard unit with medical expertise

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has activated an Illinois National Guard unit with medical expertise, deploying them throughout the state in an attempt to combat the coronavirus.

The governor called up about 60 service members, including 43 Airmen from the Peoria-based 182nd Airlift Wing’s Medical Group and 17 planners and liaison officers from both National Guard and Air National Guard units from across the state. The group includes medical planners, who will help with the anticipated rise in COVID-19 cases.

Pritzker said the service members will perform “a variety of missions” in the coming days and weeks. For now, the units may assist in distributing meals to schoolchildren who might not be getting enough food during the state-ordered school closures until March 30, the governor said. Read more here. – Stacy St. Clair and Dan Petrella

12:48 p.m.: First Oak Park coronavirus case: man in his 30s tested positive, officials say

A man in his 30s is the first Oak Park resident confirmed to have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, officials announced Wednesday afternoon.

According to a village release, the man was screened and tested for COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, on Monday at Rush Oak Park Hospital. The positive test was confirmed two days later, officials said. Read more here.

Chicago just launched a coronavirus relief fund for our hardest-hit residents. In one day, it raised $8 million.

Chicago has joined a growing list of cities establishing COVID-19 relief funds to deploy immediate resources to the families and neighborhoods hit hardest by the economic fallout of the new coronavirus.

On Tuesday, the Chicago Community Trust and United Way of Metro Chicago announced the launch of the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund, a place where individuals and corporations can donate money to be pooled and distributed to local nonprofits with experience in providing food, housing, health care, child care and other crucial assistance to residents in need.

Within the first 24 hours of launching, the fund raised $8 million. Read more here.

12:36 p.m.: Flights remain slowed at Midway after three employees test positive for COVID-19

Flight operations at Midway International Airport remained slowed Wednesday after three employees tested positive for the new coronavirus.

Midway’s air traffic control tower remained closed Wednesday for a thorough cleaning, Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Elizabeth Cory said in an email.

The airport is open, but operations remain limited, Chicago Department of Aviation spokesman Matt McGrath said in an email Wednesday. Flights, which can be controlled from an alternate air traffic control facility, were being allowed to land and take off one at a time. As of noon Wednesday, more than half of all flights departing from and arriving at Midway had been canceled, according to flight tracking website FlightAware.

“We’re working with the FAA to resume normal operations as quickly and safely as possible — which ultimately means having the tower back in service,” McGrath said. – Lauren Zumbach

Noon: Columbia College Chicago latest higher ed campus to report case of coronavirus

A person affiliated with Columbia College Chicago has tested positive for COVID-19, according to a notice posted online. The school did not disclose whether the confirmed case is a student, faculty or staff member.

The person, who is self-isolating and reported only mild symptoms, last visited the campus on Friday, according to a message from Kwang-Wu Kim, president and CEO of the school. The person was in one campus building  located at 33 E. Ida B. Wells Drive  within the last two weeks, and it has been closed for a deep cleaning, Kim said.All other campus buildings and campus housing will close Sunday at 5 p.m. until “further notice,” according to the school.

Columbia College had already suspended all in-person classes and activities through April 6, when courses are expected to resume remotely. – Elyssa Cherney

11:50 a.m.: Ford halts production temporarily over coronavirus case at Indiana supplier

Ford temporarily shut down production at the Chicago Assembly Plant on the city’s Southeast Side after a confirmed coronavirus case at a Hammond, Ind., seat manufacturing plant disrupted the supply chain.

Michigan-based Lear, which owns the plant, halted operations Tuesday after a worker tested positive for a coronavirus infection. The plant is closed for cleaning, Lear spokesman Brian Corbett said Wednesday.

“The timetable is uncertain for when the plant will reopen, but the intention at this time is to reopen the plant after the cleaning is complete,” Corbett said. “It could take several days to clean the entire facility.”

Ford spokeswoman Kelli Felker confirmed Wednesday the temporary shutdown over the seat supply shortage, but did not offer a timetable for resuming production at the Chicago Assembly Plant.

The automaker’s oldest plant in continuous operation has more than 5,500 hourly employees working three shifts to build the Ford Explorer, Lincoln Aviator and Police Interceptor SUVs.

The UAW and Detroit’s Big Three automakers – Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler – formed a coronavirus task force this week to implement enhanced protections for manufacturing employees, including social distancing, health screening and increased cleaning efforts. – Robert Channick

‘There’s a potential for things to spark up quickly:’ How street outreach workers are adapting for coronavirus

On Chicago’s West Side, street outreach workers plan to wear gloves to pass out printed cards with public health information while using social media and the phone to keep in touch with community members and clients.

In Humboldt Park, workers are driving by known hot spots for violence to make sure large crowds aren’t gathering.

While much of the city has closed down to slow the spread of the coronavirus, outreach workers are adapting their strategies to safely serve their neighborhoods where gun violence has been rising this year. Homicides jumped 50% in January, raising concerns after three consecutive years of declines following a spike in 2016.

“We’re trying to flatten the curve, knowing it will hit the neighborhood, knowing we work with the highest risk population,” said Teny Gross, executive director of the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago, which works in Austin, West Garfield Park and Back of the Yards. Read more here.

11:43 a.m.: Retailers reserve early shopping hours for seniors, vulnerable populations

Retailers from national chains to local supermarkets are encouraging consumers to set aside early morning hours for shoppers who could be at greater risk from the new coronavirus and could be hesitant to shop in crowded stores.

North suburban supermarket Sunset Foods said it plans to set aside the hour after stores open at 7 a.m. for older shoppers or people with health conditions that could make the virus more of a concern, starting Wednesday. Several customers expressed interest in the idea on social media and in emails, said marketing director Sarah Hanlon.

Dollar General, Target, Whole Foods and Jewel-Osco also said they are setting aside time for customers who could be more vulnerable.

Whole Foods and Dollar General said they will set aside an hour for older shoppers each day. Whole Foods said customers who are at least 60 can shop for an hour before a store’s posted opening time. Dollar General asks other shoppers to visit at least an hour after stores open “to allow at-risk populations the ability to purchase the items they need at affordable prices,” Todd Vasos, Dollar General’s CEO, said in a statement Monday.

Starting this week, Target is reserving the first hour of shopping every Wednesday for “vulnerable guests,” including elderly shoppers and people underlying health concerns, the retailer said Tuesday.

Jewel-Osco’s “Senior Hours,” also intended for “vulnerable” shoppers, will run from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday, the company said.

It’s not clear whether the larger retailers will enforce the limits. Sunset Foods, which has stores in Highland Park, Lake Forest, Libertyville, Long Grove and Northbrook, said it won’t check early-morning shoppers at the door.“

We’re just asking the community to do their part to let this vulnerable group have a safer space to shop in,” Hanlon said. – Lauren Zumbach

11:30 a.m.: Illinois launches coronavirus website

The state of Illinois has launched a website intended to serve as a clearinghouse for information about coronavirus, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday. The website has information about the confirmed coronavirus case count in Illinois, as well as information about resources for unemployment assistance, insurance and Medicaid coverage. The website is coronavirus.illinois.gov

11:09 a.m.: Chicago city government worker tested positive for coronavirus

An employee for the Chicago Department of Procurement Services has tested positive for COVID-19, a city spokeswoman said.

Officials do not believe the employee contracted the virus at work, an official said. It was unclear whether the case was previously disclosed.

The Department of Assets, Information & Services cleaned and disinfected its office as well as the employee’s workspace and City Hall’s common areas, according to a statement from the city.

“We continue to work closely with the CDPH and follow the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines as we ensure proper protocols and preventative measures are in place for the health and safety of our staff,” the statement said. – John Byrne

10:57 am.: Lake County has 3rd coronavirus case, officials say

Lake County has its third confirmed COVID-19 case, officials said Wednesday.

Indiana has nine new positive cases of the coronavirus, bringing to 39 the number in the state.

The new cases involve two in Marion County, home to Indianapolis, and one each in Clark, Fayette, Hamilton, Hendricks, Jennings, Lake and Madison counties, the Indiana State Department of Health reported.

Indiana has recorded two COVID-19 deaths, one each in Marion and Johnson counties, the department has said. – Post-Tribune staff and Associated Press

10:38 a.m.: Chicago Police Board meeting closed to public, but you can listen

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the public will not be allowed to attend Thursday night’s monthly Chicago Police Board meeting.

For the first time in recent memory, the public only will be allowed to listen in on the 7:30 p.m. meeting through an audio conference call, according to city officials. For more information about how to listen in on the call, please visit the police board’s website.

The police board is a nine-member panel that decides on the most serious police disciplinary allegations at its monthly meetings. The public typically is permitted to sign up to speak at the meetings on police matters each month. – Jeremy Gorner

10:35 a.m.: Lutheran General starts drive-through COVID-19 testing by appointment, Christ Medical Center prepped as one of system’s coronavirus testing sites

Advocate Lutheran General in Park Ridge had signs outside the hospital Wednesday, indicating that coronavirus testing was available on a drive-up basis if people have registered in advance, as Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn prepped to be able to do testing, along with other hospitals in the system. Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital last week began a pilot program for its hospital system, Advocate Aurora, to do similar drive-up COVID-19 screening.

Wednesday morning, a white tent sat outside Lutheran General on hospital property, with medical providers in full blue protective gear and face masks. Signs with arrows pointed to the area, directing people to near the tent for COVID-19 testing.

A man in a brown Honda Civic pulled up to the tent, in an area that’s usually a parking lot but is now sectioned off with yellow caution tape. Four medical providers in full blue gowns, gloves, face masks and hair coverings were in or around the tent. One medical provider holding a laptop approached the driver’s side of the vehicle.

The line was only two or three cars at any point, and there did not appear to be any wait.Dmitra Miller, 43, from Chicago’s West Side, said she heard reports of drive-thru testing and pulled up, but was told she needed to call her doctor first and make an appointment. Miller, who was wearing a face mask, said she’s had symptoms of the highly contagious new virus and was frustrated that it isn’t easier to get tested.

“There should be a better setup,” she said, adding that she plans to try to come back later.Meanwhile, Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn was being prepped to act as one of the Advocate system’s testing sites for the new coronavirus, a spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday.

“We are working on logistics now for Christ to be a testing site,” said Johnna Kelly, a spokeswoman for the hospital group, in an email. “We will provide you with more details when those have been confirmed.”A sign outside Christ Medical Center identified the hospital as a “COVID-19 temporary drive-up testing site,” and warning people that “If you do not have a testing order from your physician, STOP. Do not proceed.”

Advocate has 12 hospitals in Illinois.The preparations come in the wake of other private medical practices also starting to do curbside testing. Read more here

– Angie Leventis Lourgos

10:10 a.m.: Transit ridership continues to decline in Chicago area

Local transit operators continue to report a decline in ridership because of the new coronavirus. Pace, the suburban bus service, said it saw a 6% drop in fixed route ridership last week, and preliminary numbers from this week show a greater tumble, according to spokeswoman Maggie Daly Skogsbakken.

Metra said it’s number of passengers on Monday was 30% below a typical Monday, and spokesman Michael Gillis said the count will likely be lower on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Skogsbakken said Pace has plans for potential service reductions, but that it has a duty to keep operational so people have access to work, medical services and food.

“We will follow the direction of our governmental and public health officials and continue to operate service to the extent possible for as long as possible,” Skogsbakken said in an email.

Pace already has moved to “non-school service” operations on routes that ordinarily see a lot of students, and is not running service for special events since they are all canceled, Skogsbakken said. Pace is asking riders, especially seniors and others at higher risk, to limit travel to essential trips. – Mary Wisniewski

10:05 a.m.: United, American slash flights from Chicago in April

United Airlines has slashed about 60% of the flights it expected to operate in April as travel restrictions designed to contain the new coronavirus pandemic take a toll on demand for travel. Read more here

– Lauren Zumbach

9:30 a.m.: Coronavirus imperils Chicago’s more than decade-long construction boom

After more than a decade of boom times, Chicago developers, contractors and construction workers face an unexpected obstacle to continued prosperity.

Wide-ranging safety precautions are being implemented on job sites to limit the potential spread of the new coronavirus, and to try to avoid the fate of Boston, which on Monday became the first U.S. city to shut down construction entirely. On the West Coast, nine counties in the San Francisco Bay region issued a shelter-in-place order that could affect construction projects there.

A similar construction shutdown in Chicago could endanger the ongoing construction cycle that has reshaped the city’s skyline. Along with the jobs created during construction, the new towers have helped support waves of jobs moving downtown from the suburbs and other cities and boosted the residential population downtown. Read more here

– Ryan Ori

8:27 a.m.: Health officer: Monitoring 19 people with coronavirus symptoms in Porter County

The Porter County Health Department is monitoring 19 people who have signs of COVID-19, a department official told the Board of Commissioners Tuesday.

Of that group, four have been tested for the new coronavirus, said John Pisowicz, the emergency preparedness coordinator for the health department, and two have tested negative. Another two test results are pending, including one for a person with a compromised immune system.

“We would love to keep it out of our county. That is not feasible in this current situation,” said Maria Stamp, the county’s health officer and a medical doctor.

The goal right now is to minimize and slow the spread of the virus so intensive care unit beds are available for those who need them, she said.

“People likely have this and don’t know it,” Stamp said. Read more here

– Amy Lavalley

8:25 a.m.: Medical marijuana dispensary in Rogers Park shuts down temporarily

A medical marijuana dispensary in the Rogers Park neighborhood, Greengate Chicago, has temporarily shut down amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“The risk to all has become too great, and for the greater good of humanity, we have shut our doors for approximately two weeks, to clean and quarantine,” said an email the dispensary sent to customers Tuesday night. “We will miss you all during these difficult times.”

Greengate only sells medical marijuana, and is one of the first dispensaries to stop medical sales because of COVID-19. Special effort is being made throughout the industry to protect the state’s more than 104,000 medical marijuana patients, many of whom have compromised immune systems. Other dispensaries have been adjusting hours, increasing disinfecting efforts and limiting customer entry.

The Herbal Care Center, a dispensary near the Pilsen neighborhood, is also closing to do a deep clean on Thursday, according to a text alert sent to customers. The store plans to resume medical sales Friday, but recreational sales are suspended until further notice.Other shops, including Dispensary33 in the Uptown neighborhood and MOCA Modern Cannabis in the Logan Square neighborhood, also have stopped recreational sales.

Greengate’s closure came days after the state issued guidance to dispensaries on how to help contain COVID-19. The stores must ensure customers don’t come within 6 feet of other patrons, and may take orders from medical patients at the curb or in the parking lot, outside of their shops. – Ally Marotti

8 a.m.: ‘There is no end in sight’: Tourism chief sounds alarm over changes to hospitality industry

The man who makes his living “putting heads in beds” is concerned about the effects of coronavirus reactions will hurt all aspects of the hospitality industry.

Speros Batistatos, president and CEO of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority, said the impact on the hospitality industry and the workers that make their livelihood from it will be devastating.

“This is 25 times worse than Sept. 11,” Batistatos said.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the message was different, he said. There was a plan outlining how the government was working and the steps being taken to keep people safe. Batistatos said Americans were encouraged to get out, live their lives and not let anyone keep them down. “Let’s keep the country going.” Read more here

– Carrie Napoleon

7:50 a.m.: DePaul building closed Wednesday for cleaning after faculty member tests positive for coronavirus

A DePaul University faculty member has tested postive for the coronavirus, the school announced early Wednesday morning.

The faculty member, who works at 1150 W. Fullerton Ave., told school officials he was last in the building briefly on Sunday with someone not connected with DePaul but who has also tested positive.

“For precautions and the safety of the community, the building at 1150 W. Fullerton Ave. — including the Chicago Public Library branch and Amita Sage Medical — will close today, March 18, to allow for cleaning,” the school said in a statement posted on its Facebook page.

Amita Sage Medical at the Lincoln Park Campus will reopen on Thursday, it said.

On Tuesday, all university libraries were closed, including the Richardson Library, Loop Library and Rinn Law Library in Lewis Center. All university computer labs were also closed.

Also Tuesday, the Ray Meyer Fitness Center was closed until further notice. All operations and programs were suspended, including drop-in recreation, programs, classes and group fitness.

And starting Wednesday and continiuing through Spring Break, access to the Lincoln Park Student Center will be limited to DePaul students, faculty and staff. DePaul IDs will need to be shown to gain entry, the school said.

6:45 a.m.: Officials to discuss state response, hold daily briefing in southern Illinois

Gov. J.B. Pritzker was scheduled to meet Wednesday morning with officials in Belleville at the St. Clair County Health Department “to discuss the statewide response to COVID-19,” then hold the state’s daily briefing on the new coronavirus Wednesday afternoon in Murphysboro in southern Illinois. — Chicago Tribune staff

3:30 a.m. Wednesday: Business student first positive coronavirus case at the University of Chicago

The University of Chicago announced Tuesday that a student has tested positive for coronavirus. The Booth School of Business student lives off-campus and is receiving treatment, according to a statement from the university.

The university established a call center for those with questions regarding the virus, which can be reached at 773-795-5374. Questions can also be sent to coronavirusinfo@uchicago.edu— Paige Fry

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Tuesday, March 17

10:26 p.m. Libertyville High School staff member tests positive for coronavirus

A staff member at Libertyville High School in the north suburbs has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to district officials.

District 128 Supt. Prentiss Lea announced the case Tuesday night, the first instance an employee of Lake County K-12 school was confirmed to have COVID-19.

“District 128 continues to take the COVID-19 situation very seriously,” Lea said in a statement. “We are fortunate to partner with the experts at the Lake County Health Department during this uncertain time, and out of an abundance of caution will continue to follow their lead and directives.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, at least eight cases of coronavirus were reported in Lake County, according to the county health department. It was not immediately clear whether the Libertyville High School employee was among them.

Libertyville High School, along with other Lake County schools, closed Monday as part of a concerted effort to contain the spread of coronavirus.

At District 128, school buildings will be closed this week and also the week after the district’s spring break, which lasts from March 23 through March 27. – Alice Yin

8 p.m. Illinois National Guard activated

According to the Illinois National Guard, Gov. J.B. Pritzker activated about 60 service members to assist with COVID-19 response.

These include 43 Airmen from the Peoria-based 182nd Airlift Wing’s Medical Group, and 17 planners and liaison officers from both Army National Guard and Air National Guard units from across the state, including medical planners. The activation is to assist with anticipated need for logistical support and medical staffing.


7:37 p.m.: Buffalo Grove mayor declares a local state of emergency

The mayor of Buffalo Grove issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency for the village Tuesday, after a village employee is suspected of being exposed to the new coronavirus.

“Effective at midnight tonight, all places of public assemblage are ordered closed. This includes public lobbies in all public facilities, except for the Buffalo Grove Police Department. The closures also apply to health and fitness centers, movie theaters, bowling alleys and recreational/entertainment facilities where the public gathers,” read the order from Village President Beverly Sussman. Read more here. – Elizabeth Owens-Schiele

7:10 p.m.: ME’s office reviewing death of woman who tested positive for COVID-19

The Cook County medical examiner’s office is reviewing the death of a 61-year-old woman who had tested positive for COVID-19, according to a spokeswoman.

The woman, who lived on the city’s South Side, was pronounced dead at 9:40 p.m. Monday at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

“The Office will conduct a records review on Wednesday, March 18 to determine … cause and manner of death,” a statement from the spokeswoman said. – Elyssa Cherney

6 p.m.: Student at IIT tests positive for coronavirus

A business student at the Illinois Institute of Technology has tested positive for COVID-19, the Chicago school’s first confirmed case on campus, according to a notification sent Thursday.

The student, enrolled in the Stuart School of Business, is in self-isolation off campus and was asymptomatic when last at the university on Thursday. School officials said they could not identify the student due to privacy reasons but said the student had recently been to the downtown campus and its athletic facility.“

The university has since conducted extensive cleaning of these locations to further limit the risks,” the notice said.

Prior to the first diagnosis, IIT announced it was moving all coursework online “until further notice” and canceling a commencement ceremony scheduled for May 16. – Elyssa Cherney

5:36 p.m.: Flights stopped at Midway after traffic controllers test positive for COVID-19

Flight operations at Midway International Airport’s have slowed after three employees tested positive for the new coronavirus.

The airport is still open and will continue to operate “at a reduced rate until the situation is resolved,” the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement.

Southwest Airlines said flights landing at or departing from Midway have been delayed and could be canceled.

More than 50 flights Tuesday and Wednesday could be affected, said Southwest spokeswoman Ro Hawthorne.

“We have been notified by the FAA that out of an abundance of caution, access to the air traffic control tower at Midway International Airport will be limited, and flight operations will shift to “one-in-one-out.” Subsequently, the FAA has implemented a ground delay program, which applies to any flight bound for Midway that has not yet departed its point of origin. Midway remains open, but operations will be limited until further notice. Travelers are encouraged to contact their airline for the most up-to-date flight information,” the city’s Aviation Department said in an email.

Earlier Tuesday, the FAA said the tower at the Southwest Side airport was cleaned and remained staffed. – Lauren Zumbach

5:35 p.m.: Beds Plus limits guests to 50 in response to risk of coronavirus

Starting Wednesday, BEDS Plus Care will consolidate its shelter operations at one location and restrict capacity to no more than 50 guests for as long as the coronavirus remains a threat.

Beds Plus typically rotates the location of its overnight shelters between 17 churches in Chicago’s south and western Cook County suburbs, one night at a time, said BEDS Plus communications specialist Valerie Vedral. Read more here.

5:18 p.m.: Chicago Botanic Garden to close

Chicago Botanic Garden, which had been trying to keep its outdoor spaces open for people to enjoy a walk in nature, said Tuesday it will close effective at 5 p.m. through April 30. The move follows “the recommendations of federal, state, and county officials on the coronavirus health crisis,” the 385-acre Glencoe nature park said in a statement.

Outdoor spaces at Brookfield Zoo and Morton Arboretum remain open. – Steve Johnson

5:02 p.m.: 911 operators to start screening callers for symptoms

Chicago’s 911 operators were expected to begin screening some callers for possible coronavirus symptoms, the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications said Tuesday.

Plans called for the operators to screen some callers, such as those reporting a medical emergency, and ask about risk factors.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Police Department has announced it will have teams of officers in each district who will be designated to respond to any call for service in which COVID-19 is suspected.

All team members will be trained on and have access to specialized masks that are recommended to prevent the spread of the virus, said department spokesman Anthony Guglielimi. Currently, members of SWAT are being trained to use the masks and the district-level response teams are still being established for each watch.

Interim Supt. Charlie Beck has started two COVID-19 command meetings daily. The department is also setting up a website for officer use only, where they can find information and ask questions. Guglielmi said department officials are concerned about how the pandemic will affect morale and worry of officers and wanted to make sure they had a line of communication directly to them.

Plans are also being drawn up to float officers from specialized units or teams into districts should an officer test positive, requiring any kind of quarantines of their coworkers. – Annie Sweeney

Sunset Foods to dedicate hour of business each day to elderly, immune compromise

Sunset Foods soon will be reserving the first hour of operations at its grocery store locations throughout the northern suburbs for elderly and immune-compromised individuals. The decision comes in response to the coronavirus pandemic that has led to panic buying and left grocery shelves barren across the country. Read more here.

4:41 p.m.: Federal courthouse employee tests positive for the coronavirus

An employee who works at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse in Chicago has tested positive for COVID-19, U.S. District Chief Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer announced this afternoon.

In a letter to workers at the federal high-rise courthouse located at 219 S. Dearborn St., Pallmeyer said the employee works on the eighth floor and was last in the building on Thursday.

Pallmeyer said the “impacted areas” of the courthouse would be appropriately cleaned, but health officials said there was no need to close the courthouse due to the diagnosis.“

I am sharing this information not to alarm you, but to remind you that you should continue to exercise care in all your interactions, and you should monitor yourself for any symptoms associated with COVID-19,” Pallmeyer said in the letter.

While the building remains open, court proceedings are at a virtual standstill as all non-emergency hearings in both civil and criminal cases have been postponed by court order until at least April 6. – Jason Meisner

ComEd offers flexible payments, suspends service disconnections

ComEd, the energy and natural gas utility, is offering flexible payment arrangements, suspending service disconnections for residential and commercial customers who cannot pay on time, and waiving late payment charges through at least May 1.

“We understand that many of our customers may experience a financial strain due to the slowdown in the economy related to the pandemic. The last thing we want our customers and communities to worry about at this stage is whether they will be without power,” ComEd Senior Vice President of Customer Operations and Chief Customer Officer Jane Park said in a letter to customers Tuesday.

The utility company said it will work on a case-by-case basis with customers on flexible payment arrangements, which will be offered to those who indicate that they are experiencing hardship as a result of the new coronavirus. The firm will also allow customers to make transactions online.

ComEd said employees out working in the field may be required to wear masks, gloves or goggles. – Abdel Jimenez

3:35 p.m.: Metra will maintain regular weekday schedule this week, but is prepared to make adjustments after that

Metra, which has seen a sharp drop in riders because of concerns about the coronavirus, said on Tuesday that it would continue to operate its regular weekday schedule at least until Friday.

But the commuter railroad said in a news release that it is prepared to switch to a modified schedule after that, and that any change would be announced “well in advance.”

Metra advised riders not to travel if they do not have to. Metra is keeping the same number of trains and crews and keeping all cars open despite the drop in ridership, in order to encourage social distancing.

The railroad also said that it is encouraging riders to use the Ventra app to buy all tickets, which minimizes contact between riders and conductors.

Metra said it is stepping up the cleaning and disinfecting of cars, locomotives and stations with extra crews to help with daily cleaning and to provide extra cleaning on weekends. Like the CTA, Metra said it is paying special attention to high-touch areas such as door handles, hand rails and seats. – Mary Wisniewski

3:30 p.m.: U. of I. cancels commencement ceremonies

The University of Illinois has canceled commencement ceremonies set for May at Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield campuses because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a letter sent Tuesday from the school to students, faculty and staff.

Schools will mail diplomas and are exploring possible alternatives such as rescheduling or holding virtual events to honor the Class of 2020. The letter said:

“This was an outcome we had hoped to avoid. Commencements reflect the very core of our mission and provide a richly deserved celebration for both our graduates and the proud parents, family, friends, faculty and staff who supported them along the way. Every year, ceremonies across the U of I System draw anywhere from a few hundred people at school- and college-based commencements to more than 20,000 at Urbana’s university-wide event.

“Even small turnouts, however, would far exceed the guidance issued last weekend by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to slow the spread of the virus. The new guidelines call for canceling or postponing all large gatherings for at least the next eight weeks – a timeline that brings us within days of our May commencements.” – Chicago Tribune staff

3:28 p.m.: Lake County hospitals close doors to patients’ visitors, with few exceptions

While spending time with her husband John at Highland Park Hospital Sunday night, Judy Retzinger was told she would no longer be able to visit him.

“We’ve been banned. There are no in-patient visitors,” Retzinger, who lives in Mundelein, said. “It’s very distressing.”

Retzinger added, “He received very bad news (Tuesday) and I couldn’t be there with him.”

Highland Park Hospital is among a number of Lake County hospitals that – in the wake of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s announcement Monday to close restaurants, bars and state parks – have increased visitor restrictions. Most county hospital policies that limited hours due to COVID-19, have now been changed to exclude all visitors except in special cases.

As of Monday, Lake Forest Hospital allows only one visitor over the age of 18 per patient. North Shore University HealthSystem — which includes Highland Park Hospital, Glenbrook Hospital and Evanston Hospital — prohibits all visitors, with few exceptions. Vista Health System in Waukegan and Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, part of the Advocate Health Care group of hospitals in the region, also are not allowing any visitors, with some exceptions. – Sheryl DeVore

3 p.m.: Lightfoot says Chicago’s non-essential city workers will be allowed to work from home

Mayor Lori Lightfoot will allow non-essential city workers to stay home as part of her government’s efforts to curb the coronavirus outbreak, her administration announced.

Starting Wednesday, all eligible city employees will be allowed to work from home and telecommute except those providing essential services, Lightfoot said.

Essential services include Chicago Police, Fire, and Office of Emergency Management and Communications personnel, as well as people working in streets and sanitation, the airports and water departments, Lightfoot said.

“That’s not an exhaustive list but those are top line we regard as essential services,” Lightfoot said. All employees will be paid and receive their normal benefits, whether they’re at home or not, Lightfoot said.

“The city remains committed to delivering critical services to our residents throughout this difficult time. Now and in the weeks ahead, perhaps more than ever, Chicagoans will rely on us to deliver for them, to cushion the blow from this terrible disruption, and extend a hand to those most in need,” Lightfoot said. “However, we must balance our mission of service delivery with the need to keep our workforce and the community safe and these new policies are designed to do just that.”

Lightfoot also said the city is working on a local package to support hourly workers that will be released in the next couple days. – Gregory Pratt, John Byrne

2:57 p.m.: 55 new cases of COVID-19 in Illinois

State official on Tuesday also announced 55 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total in Illinois to 160 since the start of the outbreak. Cases have occurred in patients ages 9 to 91.

The virus has now been detected in 15 counties across the state.

The woman who died had close contact with another COVID-19 case.

Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said some of the recent spike in the number of reported cases is the result of more expansive testing. – Dan Petrella

2:36 p.m.: First coronavirus death in Illinois reported; 22 cases reported at Willowbrook nursing home

State officials on Tuesday announced the first death in Illinois attributed to the new coronavirus.

The patient was a Chicago woman in her 60s with an underlying health condition.

The patient was not a nursing home resident and was diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier this month.

Officials also announced 22 cases at a nursing home in Willowbrook where an initial case was announced over the weekend.

Among the patients are 18 residents and four staff. All of the patients are isolated at the facility or at a hospital.

2:35 p.m.: Small business disaster assistance loans

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is applying to the federal Small Business Administration for a statewide economic injury declaration. Once approved, this will allow businesses across the state to access disaster assistance loans.

Medical practice offers curbside coronavirus testing in Mokena, Evergreen Park

A small south suburban medical practice is offering drive-up coronavirus testing for symptomatic patients who would rather not wait inside a doctor’s office.

Family First Medical Group, with offices in Evergreen Park and Mokena, began providing curbside testing at both locations Monday and will continue doing so as long as necessary, marketing director Ryan Dawson said. Read more here.

2:34 p.m.: Brookfield Zoo’s outdoor buildings to remain open

The Brookfield Zoo will remain open for as long as possible with limited access to outdoor exhibits only, officials said.

“We thought, what could we do to make this place safer? We are open air with miles of walkways and we have animals outside,” he said. “The biggest issue is having people who are not practicing social distancing and large groups indoors. We decided we still had plenty to offer outdoors and at this time when everyone’s really stressed out, kids are home and there’s lots of things going on with this whole pandemic, how can we give some relief to those families?” Read more here.

2:15 p.m.: As voting gets off to shaky start in Chicago, officials blame Pritzker for not postponing election

As voting got off to a shaky start in Chicago Tuesday, local and state officials bitterly sparred over whether the election should have been postposed because of problems created by the coronavirus outbreak.

“We were urging the postponement of the election … and a conversion to vote by mail for the safety of the voting public,” Chicago Board of Elections spokesman Jim Allen complained after numerous polling places reported problems with equipment because they had changed locations at the last minute.

“It was a snowball we could all see coming down the hill,” he told reporters in a conference call.

A spokeswoman for Gov. J.B. Pritzker shot back that the state offered help, including National Guard troops and volunteers, but the city declined. Read more here.

2:13 p.m.: Suburban election workers encouraged to have people keep their distance

As voters weighed whether to go to the polls and risk catching COVID-19, the Cook County Clerk’s office said it was suggesting poll workers mark the floor to coax people to practice social distancing.

“The Clerk’s Office encourages #ElectionDay pollworkers to #MarkTheFloor in 6 foot increments with their blue painter’s tape to remind voters to practice social distancing,” Clerk Karen Yarbrough said in a tweet that featured a photo of blue tape, a tape measure and a note about marking the floor.

“It is our job to ensure the safety of those around us while we carry out our civic duty today.” – Chicago Tribune staff

2 p.m.: Chicago Fire department employee tests positive for coronavirus

A Chicago Fire Department paramedic has tested positive for the coronavirus, city officials said Tuesday.

Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady said the firehouse involved has undergone a standard deep cleaning. Officials have worked to identify people close to the paramedic who may have had contact with the CFD employee, Arwady said during an afternoon press briefing, and their partner is expected to be quarantined.

The administration of Mayor Lori Lightfoot is working closely with the fire department and would be reaching out to anyone who the CFD member helped to transport, Arwady said.

According to a memo from Chicago Fire Commissioner Richard Ford II, the department has conducted a “thorough cleaning and disinfection operation” of the firehouse where the paramedic worked, as well as any vehicles and equipment the paramedic used when symptomatic.

A source told the Tribune the paramedic was assigned to Ambulance 38, located in the Hyde Park neighborhood.

The paramedic did not contract the virus through his employment, a source told the Tribune on Tuesday, but the paramedic did continue to work after exposure. The paramedic stopped working upon testing positive for COVID-19, the source said.

There have been at least two cases in which firefighters or paramedics were exposed to patients who doctors later indicated were presumptive positive for COVID-19, the source told the Tribune. The employees were not asked to self-quarantine or stay home from work after the interactions.

The new case is the first time it has been disclosed that a CFD employee has tested positive for the virus, which has sickened an estimated 190,000 people around the world. Illinois has seen 105 cases since the start of the outbreak, most of which were in Cook County. – Jeremy Gorner, Katherine Rosenberg Douglas, Gregory Pratt

1:31 p.m.: DoorDash waives commission fees for 30 days for restaurants new to its platform

DoorDash announced Tuesday that restaurants can sign up for its delivery service for free and pay no commission fees for 30 days as cities and states across the country force eateries to shut down except for delivery and pickup because of COVID-19.

DoorDash, headquartered in San Francisco, said the waiving of fees for independent restaurants new to the platform is part of a package of efforts to help its members generate $200 million in additional sales this year as the coronavirus deals a heavy blow to the industry. For existing members, the company is reducing commission fees for delivery, waiving fees for pickup orders and earmarking $20 million for marketing campaigns to promote them.

Third-party delivery platforms make money by charging restaurants a percentage of each order, usually 10% to 30%.

Grubhub on Friday announced it was temporarily suspending marketing commissions for independent restaurants on its platform to help them make rent and payroll as sales plunge. UberEats on Monday said it would waive delivery fees for the 100,000 independent restaurants on its platform and roll out daily marketing campaign to promote them.

The delivery companies also are taking steps to protect drivers who remain out and about even as much of the public hunkers down at home. DoorDash has made “Leave it at my door” the default delivery option, to encourage contact-less delivery, and has ordered 1 million hand sanitizers and sets of gloves to distribute to its drivers, it said. – Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz

1:27 p.m.: Macy’s to close all stores temporarily during the coronavirus outbreak

Macy’s joined retailers temporarily closing stores across the country in an attempt to slow the new coronavirus’ spread.

All Macy’s stores, including Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury locations, will close by the end of business Tuesday and remain closed through the end of the month, Macy’s said.

“The health and safety of our customers, colleagues and communities is our utmost priority. As a result of the recent COVID-19 developments, we have decided to temporarily close our stores. We will work with government and health officials to assess when we will reopen our stores and safely bring our colleagues back to work,” Macy’s Chairman and CEO Jeff Gennette said in a news release.

Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury’s will remain open online and Macy’s said it will provide benefits and compensation to workers affected by the store closures.

Foot traffic along State Street was only down about 16% during the week that ended Monday, compared with the same week last year, according to data from the Chicago Loop Alliance.

But a growing number of stores, from Apple to Urban Outfitters, have closed in recent days as businesses encouraged employees to work from home, large gatherings of people have been banned and much of daily life has ground to a halt. Grocery stores and chains selling staple household items have generally remained open. – Lauren Zumbach

1:19 p.m.: Northwest Indiana school districts, shuttered by COVID-19 concerns, have begun distributing meals for children in Lake and Porter counties

Gary Community School Corp. spokeswoman Chelsea Whittington said 5,000 meal packages – good for one week – were distributed Monday from seven pickup sites across the city in a partnership with city churches and organizations.

Schools closed because of coronavirus concerns begin handing out ‘to go’ meals to children in Lake, Porter counties

12:55 p.m.: Three workers at Midway control tower test positive for coronavirus

Three workers at the air traffic control tower at Midway Airport have tested positive for the coronavirus, but the Federal Aviation Administration says there has been no “immediate effect on operations.”

The tower at the Southwest Side airport was cleaned and the tower remains staffed, the FAA said in a statement.

No other details were released, but the agency said “contingency plans are in place to ensure the continuity of maintenance and around-the-clock air traffic control services at Midway and other air traffic facilities across the nation.” It did not elaborate.

12:50 p.m.: Coronavirus concerns are thinning the crowds on public transit. If you must ride, here are ways to be safe

With growing numbers of commuters working from home because of concerns over the new coronavirus, crowds are thinning on public transit.

Metra said that on Friday it carried only half the number of passengers it normally has on a typical Friday.

On the CTA, ridership between Wednesday and Friday of last week was down 12% from comparable periods before the outbreak, with a drop of 19% on rail and 6% on buses, said spokesman Brian Steele. CTA ridership numbers were expected to drop more on Tuesday, with the shutdown of Chicago Public Schools.

While health experts advise people to avoid crowded places like public transit during the COVID-19 pandemic, some riders don’t have the option of staying home, or driving. If you need to travel by bus or train, here are some ways to help stay safe, according to experts.

Take a seat. Sit down. It’s better to sit than to stand because people with respiratory ailments cough or sneeze at the level of their faces, which is up by handrails and straps, so that’s where the bugs are.

“Seats tend to accumulate skin microbes, not respiratory microbes,” said Curtis Huttenhower, a professor of biostatistics, immunology and infectious disease at Harvard University T. H. Chan School of Public Health and one of the authors of a 2016 study on microbes on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

Try not to touch anything. Try to avoid touching handrails, straps, and seat backs. If you must touch those parts of the car, clean your hands. Wash your hands when you get to your destination, and carry hand sanitizer.

Protect yourself. If you can get them, wear disposable gloves and a mask, though be sure to change them frequently, said Dr. Howard Markel, a professor of communicable diseases and the director of the University of Michigan’s Center for the History of Medicine.

In a pinch, you can also wear your own winter gloves and a scarf over your face, though make sure you wash them, Markel said. “If you’re really paranoid about breathing in particles, it might help,” Markel said, emphasizing “might.”

Sit by yourself. Try not to sit next to anybody on the train or bus, and steer clear of those who are coughing, sneezing, or otherwise appear to be sick. Dr. Robert Murphy, an infectious disease expert at Northwestern University who rides the north branch of the CTA Red Line, noted that this advice is easier to follow than it was a week ago.

“One of the ways it can be transmitted is if someone coughed and covered their mouth with their hand and then touched a pole or a handle — that’s how you get it,” Murphy said.

Don’t ride. If a train is really crowded, or if you are in a high-risk group, don’t ride. “If you can find an alternative way to get somewhere, do that,” Murphy said.

He notes that taxis and ride-share vehicles also may be carrying the virus, if the driver or a previous passenger is sick. A personal car is a better choice, if you have one available, or a personal or Divvy bike, as long as you wipe down the handlebars before getting on, Murphy said. Read more here

– Mary Wisniewski

12:41 p.m.: Illinois allows marijuana dispensaries to sell weed to medical patients waiting on the curb, in cars

Illinois will allow marijuana dispensaries to take orders from medical patients outside of their shops — on the curb, or in the parking lot — to reduce the spread of the new coronavirus.

The state’s Department of Financial and Professional Regulation issued guidance Monday to dispensaries on how to help contain COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. Special effort is being made to protect medical patients, many of whom have compromised immune systems, but still need access to medical marijuana.

Typically, dispensaries are only allowed to distribute marijuana products inside a limited access area, as deemed by the state. But until March 30, dispensary workers will be allowed to go outside to medical patients’ cars or adjacent public walkways to take their order. They then must take the cash inside, get the product and bring it back out to the patient.

The rule change applies only to medical patients. Dispensaries are still not allowed to do deliveries.

Dispensary 33 in the Uptown neighborhood stopped recreational sales on Tuesday until further notice, said marketing director Abigail Watkins. The dispensary could not serve recreational customers and keep everyone at a safe distance from each other, she said. Read more here

– Ally Marotti

12:08 p.m.: Some Illinois liquor stores expect spike in demand in wake of coronavirus bar closures

On Tuesday, Chicago experienced its first St. Patrick’s Day without bars since Prohibition nearly a century ago, but at least one liquor store chain said the Irish whiskey is nonetheless flowing.

Binny’s Beverage Depot, a 72-year-old, family-owned Chicago liquor retailer with 42 Illinois locations, is well-stocked and moving a lot of Jameson and Bushmills in the wake of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s order closing all bars through March 30.

“In terms of business, it’s not like a grocery store where we’re running out of toilet paper,” Binny’s spokesman Greg Versch said Monday. “But we are seeing all the St. Patrick’s Day classics selling well.”

Stay-at-home drinking — even alone — may be the new pub crawl in the age of coronavirus. Read more here

– Robert Channick

11:55 a.m.: For suburban woman on coronavirus-stricken Princess cruise, trouble started when she left the boat

For Joyce Allphin, being stuck in her cabin as the coronavirus-stricken Grand Princess cruise ship waited for permission to dock wasn’t so bad. The crew brought plenty of food, drink and entertainment options to her door, and she and her roommate could go out on their balcony for some fresh air.

The trouble, she said, started when she left the ship.Marshaled by workers in full protective gear, she and her fellow passengers were given cotton face masks and crammed onto buses that took them to a nearby airport, where they were then jammed onto a plane bound for Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Georgia.

That’s where Allphin, a 77-year-old retiree from Downers Grove, has been since Friday, quarantined in a room that for more than a day, she said, had no soap in its bathroom. While passengers from some other states have been sent home, 51 Illinois residents are still there. Read more here

11:46 a.m.: Highland Park paramedics under quarantine after treating patient with possible exposure to COVID-19

Three Highland Park paramedics are under quarantine after caring for a person who may have been exposed to the new coronavirus, city officials announced recently.

The three paramedics with the Highland Park Fire Department came into contact with the person while responding to an emergency call Monday at a home in the city, officials said. The person, officials said, may have been exposed to COVID-19 after recently leaving the country for travel.

Following the call, the paramedics sought medical advice at Highland Park Hospital and immediately were quarantined once they returned to the fire station, Highland Park officials said. Read more here

11:40 a.m.: Mary Schmich: ‘Pandemic,’ a little-known poet’s poem about the coronavirus, goes viral

Last week, Lynn Ungar — minister, dog trainer, little-known poet — sat down at the desk next to her kitchen table and began to type.

A friend had posted something on Facebook about how much we need poetry in this anxious coronavirus age and she thought, “Yeah, you’re right.”

Ungar had been thinking about social distancing, the idea that to keep the virus from spreading we need to stay away from each other one another. She’d been reflecting on a question: How do we physically distance ourselves without emotional distancing? In this strange and befuddling moment, she thought, we need to recognize that moving away from other people isn’t an act of emotional disconnection but the opposite: It’s something to do out of a sense of community and compassion for the vulnerable.

And so, with her two Australian shepherds by her side, she spent a little while turning her thoughts into a poem. When she was done, she typed her name and the date at the bottom and posted it on Facebook for her small following of friends and colleagues. Read more here

11:25 a.m.: ‘I’m not afraid. This is the most sacred right we have. I have faith in my doctors.’

In East Hyde Park, poll workers have been trying to get Chicago election officials to deliver the correct ballots for the precinct to begin voting.

Just before 11 a.m., poll workers at 5480 S. Cornell Ave. were turning away voters, advising them to go to Jackson Park to cast their ballot. Workers estimate 50 people were turned away in the first five hours of voting.“

Are you not ready yet?” one woman asked the group of six workers. They had set up the polling location, but still had not heard if the correct materials would be delivered to the precinct by the end of the day.

Ca Lofton, one of the election judges, said materials from a different precinct were delivered to the polling location last week. They have no idea where their precinct’s ballots are located.

The poll workers started calling city election officials Monday. but as of Tuesday morning they had not gotten an answer about when or if the correct materials would be delivered, Lofton said.

“Everything is busy,” Lofton said. “We are hopeful they will get us the proper equipment before 7 p.m. so no one will be disenfranchised.”

Lofton said they were staffed enough and prepared to handle voters, though three of their judges decided not to come Tuesday. As for Lofton, 76, she wasn’t going to let the coronavirus stop her from participating in Election Day, noting she lived through the polio epidemic and the civil rights era.

“I’m not afraid,” she said. “This is the most sacred right we have. I have faith in my doctors.” – Elvia Malagon

11:24 a.m.: What if a Chicago doctor has to choose which coronavirus patient gets a respirator? Pondering the unlikely and unthinkable

As every hospital on this planet is or soon will be in the troubling and agonizing process of being stretched to its physical limits under the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic, questions abound: Have we enough beds? How many ventilators do we have and how many will we need? How many will die?

Important questions to be sure, essential questions even if precise answers at this point are elusive. But there is also an emotional and ethical component to this ongoing crisis, and it goes to the core of who we are as human beings.

The pandemic has yet to exercise its full force on the United States, yet to hit Chicago hard. But just as we study the charts and numbers embellishing stories about this illness, we should heed a couple of disconcerting facts (consider them harbingers if you must) from across the globe:

In the Chinese city of Wuhan, the need last month was for more than 1,000 ventilators and respirators to help people breathe. Only about half that number were available. How many died as a result? Read more here

10:47 a.m.: Coronavirus cases raise questions about patient privacy

The growing number of cases of COVID-19 is creating a host of questions for public health officials and employers — including how much information to reveal about those with the illness in the name of keeping other people safe.

Doctors and other providers with patients who test positive for COVID-19 can’t share identifying information publicly under HIPAA but they must alert public health officials, said Deborah Gersh, chair of the health care practice group at law firm Ropes & Gray in Chicago. HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, is a federal law that requires privacy protections for health information and applies to most health care providers.

Public health officials may use that information to track down close contacts of people who tested positive. But they can’t reveal anything to the public that could potentially lead to the person’s identity being discovered. Read more here

10:10 a.m.: Wednesday’s City Council meeting canceled

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has canceled Wednesday’s City Council meeting amid ever-tightening restrictions on public gatherings across the state to counteract the rapidly spreading coronavirus.

Just yesterday afternoon, Lightfoot said a shorter-than-usual City Council meeting would be held to address pressing business related to COVID-19 even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that many events with more than 50 people be canceled. But this morning, she formally canceled the meeting.

Lightfoot’s move to cancel the City Council meeting also followed Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s executive order on Monday limiting certain crowd sizes in Illinois to fewer than 50 people. Pritzker has also ordered all restaurants closed to dine-in service and shut down every school in the state for at least two weeks.

Chicago’s City Council has 50 members and is one of the largest in the country. Meetings are typically attended by the mayor, city clerk, dozens of staff members, the press corps and a significant number of citizens who wish to speak out about issues ranging from horse carriages downtown to police misconduct.

It’s not clear when the meeting will be rescheduled. But Pritzker’s order on Monday also suspended a state requirement that members of government bodies be physically present under most circumstances for public meetings, which will help Chicago and other governments schedule meetings in the future once the technology gets worked out. – Gregory Pratt

10:02 a.m.: McDonald’s considering rent deferrals for franchisees

McDonald’s is considering deferring rent for franchisees as restaurants around the world close to in-store dining as part of efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19.

In a regulatory filing Tuesday, the Chicago-based fast food giant said it is “working with franchisees around the world in order to evaluate operational feasibility and support financial liquidity (e.g. rent deferrals) during this period of uncertainty.” The company also said it is working with suppliers to ensure continuous supply. – Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz

9:58 a.m.: 2nd coronavirus death reported in Indiana

second person has died in Indiana from a coronavirus-related death and the first two Lake County cases were announced Tuesday, according to state health officials.

The person, who was older than 60 and had been hospitalized, was from Johnson County, which is just south of Indianapolis, the Indiana State Department of Health. – Associated Press

9 a.m.: Coronavirus relocations slow polling place openings

Although election officials worried that voting might be hampered by a lack of election judges scared off by the coronavirus, the main issue Tuesday morning in Chicago had to do with polling places lacking equipment because they had been relocated due to coronavirus concerns.

Dozens of polling places had to be moved in the last few days, and there were reports that some lacked equipment. City officials say it is the biggest issue so far.

8:50 a.m.: What you need to know about the CPS, Illinois school shutdown

Efforts to slow the spread of the new coronavirus mean every public and private school in Illinois is closing Tuesday, if it hasn’t already.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s executive order closes all kindergarten through 12th grade schools — public and private — “for educational purposes” from March 17 through March 30, with students returning to classes on March 31. Some individual districts, and some other states, have chosen to keep schools closed longer than that.

It’s possible that the Illinois statewide shutdown could be extended. State officials have said that future decisions about statewide closures will be made “in consultation with public health officials.” Read more here

8:45 a.m.: How an extraordinary secret meeting of Chicago chefs grew into a commanding voice to seek help from the governor

It began with one text message.

On Saturday morning, Jason Vincent, the chef behind Giant and Chef’s Special Cocktail Bar, reached out to his longtime friend and former boss, Jason Hammel, the founder of Logan Square dining staple Lula Cafe.

Vincent asked to get together Sunday, to talk through the public health crisis that was fast becoming a restaurant industry crisis: What could they do to take care of their employees amid cratering business? To boost the chances of their businesses surviving? To be good community stewards? Hammel agreed.

Vincent reached out to a few more restaurant owners to add a few more bodies to the conversation: Diana Davila of Mi Tocaya, Joe Frillman of Daisies and Abe Conlon of Fat Rice. Someone asked if they could invite a few other people. Vincent said sure. Read more here

8:40 a.m.: Shedd penguins take a ‘field trip’ as aquarium is closed

WHO let the penguins out — in a manner of speaking, anyway.

Shedd Aquarium took this charming video of one of its rockhopper penguins, a male named Wellington, getting the run of the place now that the big lakefront aquarium is closed to try to help prevent coronavirus transmission. Read more here

8:35 a.m.: RTA closes all customer service offices and cancels March meeting

The Regional Transportation Authority has closed its customer service offices until further notice and has cancelled its March meeting that was scheduled for Thursday. The RTA said its staff will work remotely and people can get help by phone for the following programs:

– To apply for the Reduced Fare or Ride Free programs, visit the RTA website and download an application. For help applying, to renew a permit that expires soon, or to replace a lost or stolen permit, call (312) 913-3110.

– The RTA Travel Training program is temporarily canceling all scheduled sessions with customers. Travel Trainers will reach out to cancel individual appointments and provide rescheduling information. For questions, please call the RTA’s Mobility Services Helpline at (312) 663-HELP (4357).

– The ADA Paratransit Certification Program is suspending all interviews and assessments for ADA paratransit eligibility until further notice because the RTA’s South and Northwest Chicago Mobility Assessment Centers are closed. A representative contact all customers who have scheduled appointments. For more information or to ask any additional questions, please call the RTA’s Mobility Services Helpline at 312-663-HELP (4357). — Chicago Tribune staff

8:30 a.m.: What you need to know about CPS, Illinois school closings

How long will the school shutdown last and could it be extended? Will the days off have to be made up? Are students required to study? Are teachers required to teach? Find out all the details about the school closures here— Hannah Leone

8:08 a.m.: YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago closing all facilities through March 29

The YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago is closing all of its locations, including membership centers, program sites, early childhood centers, and overnight camps. The facilities were closed Monday night and will remain shut until March 29, according to a statement from Richard H. Malone, the president and CEO of the organization.

“As of now, we have a tentative reopen date of Monday, March 30,” he said. “We will continue to monitor guidance from federal, state, and local health authorities during this evolving national emergency to make sure that this plan is in the best interests of the health and safety of our members and staff.”

The organization serves about 200,000 families and individuals. Malone asked that they continued their memberships, despite the shutdown. “We, as a community, will get through this. And when we do, we want to be in the best shape to support you and your family,” he said. — Chicago Tribune staff

7:58 a.m.: DuPage and Lake county courthouses limit operations but some cases will still be heard

DuPage and Lake counties are limiting courthouse operations because of the coronavirus outbreak, but the main courthouses will remain open and more serious cases will still be heard.

In DuPage County, civil and criminal cases will generally be delayed 30 to 60 days through April 17, according to a release from the chief judge.

– Cases that will proceed as originally scheduled include bail hearings; felony, misdemeanor and juvenile cases where the defendants are in custody; jury trial where the defendants are in custody; summary suspension hearings; juvenile detention and shelter care hearings; and emergency motions.

– Traffic courts in Addison, Downers Grove and traffic courtrooms in the main courthouse will be closed through April 17.

– All marriage and civil union ceremonies will be cancelled until April 24, and the safe harbor children’s waiting room will be closed until April 20.

In Lake County, most court dates will be delayed for 28 days, starting Tuesday, according to a statement from the DuPage County state’s attorney’s office.

– All branch court cases are being delayed for 28 days, and prosecutors will not be stationed at branch courts. All “therapeutic intensive monitoring” courts – including Drug Court, Mental Health Court, STOP and Veterans Court – will be delayed until further notice. Emergency matters for those courts will take place on Wednesday afternoons at 1:30 p.m.

– Bond court, juvenile court, and domestic violence court will remain staffed with essential personnel from the Lake County state’s attorney’s office. All criminal cases including bond court, felony and misdemeanor cases, domestic violence, and DUI’s that cannot be delayed will report to courtroom T-110. They include cases for speedy trial terms, statutory summary suspension hearings, forfeiture and probation violation hearings in which an agreement to continue the trial or hearing has not been reached. Bond hearing will continue to be heard daily.

– Prosecutors and other necessary personnel will report to conduct emergency motions, bond hearings, trials involving speedy trial demands where a continuance is not agreed upon, and plea agreements where a defendant is in custody.

– Emergency and plenary orders of protection will continue, as will involuntary mental health admissions and cases involving treatment, fitness and quarantine hearings.

– Prosecutors will be on hand for warrants and other emergency motions. They will also be available at the juvenile centers for detention hearings, emergency motions, and shelter care hearings.

– All family cases will be delayed for 28 days, except matters involving orders of protection assigned to a family law judge, emergency child support issues, and matters where an emergency as defined by statute and local court rule.

–All civil cases will be delayed 28 days except for emergency motions. — Chicago Tribune staff

6 a.m.: Graduate trainee tests positive for coronavirus at University of Illinois at Chicago

A graduate medical trainee at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s College of Medicine has tested positive for coronavirus, according to university officials.

The university sent a statement Monday about the person who tested positive. The positive case is a resident physician who is practicing in a clinical setting at UI Health. The person is now self-isolating and recovering at home. — Paige Fry

5:30 a.m. Three coronavirus cases reported at Northwestern University

Northwestern University has reported that there have been three confirmed cases of coronavirus that could have been exposed to others at the university.

All three of the cases were at the Evanston’s campus, according to the university. Two were located at Kellogg Global Hub and one at The Office of the Registrar.

The numbers reported don’t represent those at Northwestern who have tested positive but are not a public risk, the university said. The count also excludes Northwestern Medicine employees.

Northwestern University announced on March 11 that all classes were moved to online formats to help prevent the spread of the virus. — Paige Fry

5 a.m.: Chicago Police Department cancels police academy training, memo says

The Chicago Police Department has canceled all training at its police academy as a coronavirus precaution, according to a police memo obtained by the Tribune.

The suspension of all CPD’s training at the academy comes at a crucial time for a department that has fallen under a federally mandated consent decree to improve training and other policies for its 13,000-plus officers.

On Tuesday, interim Police Supt. Charlie Beck said in a department-wide memo that the threat of the coronavirus has prompted him and his command staff to think of ways CPD can do its part to minimize the spread.“

All training at the academy will be suspended until further notice,” Beck wrote.

Training at the academy will not only be canceled for more than 300 recruits, but also for newly promoted detectives, sergeants and lieutenants and also other officers going through in-service training as part of the consent decree requirement. The recruits, in the meantime, will be working in the 22 district stations to help bring in shipments of tens of thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer, hand wipes and masks, police officials said. They will also help with cleaning police cars with disinfectants.

The training suspension also applies to off-site locations away from the academy, located on the Near West Side. The academy building will be open, however, even with training being halted, according to the memo. The site is slated to be a polling place for Tuesday’s election.

Other facilities were set to be closed as well, the memo states.

“I have also asked that all gyms and workout rooms operated by CPD be shut down in an effort to implement proper infection control,” Beck wrote. “I appreciate the cooperation of all members regarding these changes.” —Jeremy Gorner

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