Illinois health officials Wednesday reported 828 new known cases of COVID-19 and 30 additional confirmed fatalities, bringing the total number of known cases to 144,013 and the confirmed death toll to 6,951.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned the United States is “going in the wrong direction” as novel coronavirus cases surge across the country and said he “would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around.”
The next day, some states and cities began pausing their reopening plans, including all of Indiana, as well as Madison, Wisconsin. California ordered a stop to indoor services at restaurants, movie theaters, museums and others in certain counties seeing an increased spread of COVID-19. New York City pulled back on resuming indoor dining Monday.
In Illinois, state health officials have now made it possible for residents to track weekly COVID-19 figures at the county level and watch for signs of concern, such as a rise in cases or more people testing positive.
So how you stay safe when returning to work? Visiting a zoo? Working out at a gym? The Tribune talked to experts to get answers on how to assess the level of risk with which you are comfortable.
Here’s what’s happening Wednesday with COVID-19 in the Chicago area and Illinois:
5:27 p.m.: Taste of Chicago To-Go details announced — a much more modest Taste
The Taste of Chicago was among a host of popular summer events spiked by the city last month out of precaution for the novel coronavirus. On Wednesday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events announced the schedule of events for this year’s stand-in, called “Taste of Chicago To-Go.”
The Taste’s original schedule of July 8-12 remains intact, but gone are the dozens of vendors representing Chicago’s restaurants and thousands of customers eager for bites of rib tips, gator bites and Polish sausages. Instead, a more modest Taste To Go will feature a variety of virtual events in lieu of a real-life gathering and eating in Grant Park. Read more here. — Adam Lukach
5:11 p.m.: As other states reverse course amid COVID-19 surge, Illinois and Chicago officials watching metrics but say they have no plans to tighten restrictions
With neighboring Indiana and other states pausing their reopening plans or even moving backward as new cases of the coronavirus surge, officials in Chicago and Illinois said on Wednesday they have no plans to alter loosened rules that took effect statewide last week.
When Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced his “Restore Illinois” reopening plan in early May, he acknowledged that surges in hospitalizations or the percentage of people testing positive, or shortages of intensive-care unit beds or ventilators could lead him to tighten restrictions once again.
Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said in a statement Wednesday that the governor and medical experts at the Illinois Department of Public Health are watching the data closely to see whether the looser restrictions in the new phase have any effect on the state’s health care system.
”The governor has been clear that he will follow the guidance of medical experts and if they advise reinstituting previous mitigations he will not hesitate to do so,” Abudayyeh said.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the city tracks its data closely and will “not hesitate” to take action if they see an upward swing.
But, she said during an unrelated press conference, Chicago is in a good position right now.
”Every single day, we look at a very specific set of public health metrics. We look at hospitalizations. We look at ICU beds. We look at number of people on ventilators. We look at the amount of testing we’re doing, percent positivity,” Lightfoot said.
”These are the metrics we’ve now been talking about for weeks and what we see in Chicago, and I can’t account for the rest of Illinois, is we continue to be on a downward trajectory day over day, week over week,” she said.
”If we weren’t,” Lightfoot added, “we wouldn’t be opening up. Now we’re looking at this literally every single day, multiple times a day. If we see that we’re heading in the wrong direction, I’m not going to hesitate to take action.”
As the pandemic nears the start of its fifth month, state officials on Wednesday announced 828 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 144,013 since the outbreak began. With 30 additional fatalities also announced, the death toll stands at 6,951, officials said.
The seven-day rolling average of new cases, which officials look at to smooth out day-to-day fluctuations in the numbers, was 782 as of Wednesday, according to an analysis of Department of Public Health data. That figure has been trending upward from a low point of 596 cases on June 18, but it remains well below the high point of 2,565 average daily cases on May 4 and 7.
The number of newly confirmed cases is largely a function of how many people are being tested for the coronavirus, and the state has vastly expanded its testing capacity since the early days of the pandemic. When cases were peaking in early May, fewer than 20,000 people were being tested per day on average. Over the past seven days, the average has been nearly 30,000 per day.
Even as newly confirmed cases have ticked up over the past two weeks, the percentage of tests return positive results — known as the positivity rate — has remained relatively stable, with the seven-day rolling average hovering between 2% and 3% statewide.
The state entered phase four of the plan on Friday, which allows restaurants and bars to open for limited indoor seating and in-person instruction to resume at schools in the fall, among other changes.
During her news conference, Mayor Lightfoot took exception to the question about the possibility of the state going backward , accusing reporters of scaring people.
”You can see this for yourself, real-time, every day, just educate yourself and ask the right questions. The information is right there. … It’s not hard to figure out,” Lightfoot said. “But whipping people into a frenzy over speculation about other places when you’re not bothering to actually look at the data in Chicago, that’s not helpful.”
Asked last week about states that were seeing surges of new cases, Pritzker said those state had “opened things up completely or done it in a not measured fashion.”
”Of course when I look at states that are moving backward and at such a rapid pace, I always think, are we doing this right, are we handling this right, are we measured in our reopening? And I think we are measured in this reopening, we’re being careful,” Pritzker said.
”You can’t turn on the television and see what’s happening in Arizona, Florida, Texas, South Carolina, etc., and not ask questions — are we getting it right?” — Dan Petrella and Gregory Pratt
4:40 p.m.: Health officials urge coronavirus testing after demonstrator in McHenry tests positive
Health officials are urging anyone who attended a recent protest in McHenry to get checked for the coronavirus after a demonstrator there tested positive.
The demonstrator was asymptomatic, and took part in protest between 1 and 2:30 p.m. Saturday that began at Knox Park in the city of McHenry and ended at the McHenry Police Department, county health officials said.
4:29 p.m.: More companies are making masks to battle the ‘sweat factor’ this summer, but are they effective? Here’s what you need to know.
As a pastry chef who spends her workdays in a surgical-style mask next to hot ovens, Leigh Omilinsky is no stranger to the face mask “sweat factor.”
So she has little patience for those griping about muggy mouths now that Chicago’s weather has turned steamy.
“This has to be more comfortable than a ventilator,” said Omilinsky, 35, of Logan Square.
When health officials began recommending people wear masks in public places to slow the spread of COVID-19, they turned to whatever was available, be it a hand-sewn fabric mask, cut up t-shirt or winter balaclava. Now they’re often required, in places where social distancing is a challenge. As Illinoisans cautiously return to more activities put on hold during the pandemic, some are looking for masks that are tolerable for more than a quick grocery run. Read more here. — Lauren Zumbach
4:13 p.m.: President Trump supports new round of direct coronavirus payments: ‘It has to be done properly’
President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he supports a fresh round of government payments to individuals to help them weather the coronavirus pandemic but “it has to be done properly.”
Trump also said he wants payments larger than the $1,200 the government sent to most individuals earlier this year. He did not say how big he’d like the payments to be. Read more here. —Associated Press
4:09 p.m.: Well St Market reopening, becoming the first Chicago food hall to remerge during the coronavirus pandemic
Although food hall operators and chefs expressed much trepidation only a few months ago, Wells St Market announced Wednesday that it will re-open Monday, making it the first Chicago food hall to do so during the pandemic. But not all its vendors are included in its first phase.
Firecakes Donuts, Fry the Coop,Tabo Sushi and Grand Central Bar will offer online ordering and pickup as well as limited seating for now. Piggie Smalls, Dos Toros Taqueria, Tempesta, FARE and Flowers for Dreams may come later, but currently the food hall is focused on the operations that felt comfortable enough to return.
General Manager John Williamson noted that fewer tenants operating means fewer people in the space, which is outfitted with large windows that open to Wells Street.
In addition to Firecakes, Fry the Coop and Tabo Sushi’s normal offerings, Grand Central Bar is working on to-go cocktails that are in compliance with the recently passed bill.
Health and safety regulations apply for both employees and visitors, who are required to wear masks and adhere to distancing guidelines with the help of floor decals. High-touch, non-food surfaces will receive increased sanitation and cashier stations have shields to separate guests and employees. The food hall will also be counting the number of people entering the space and patrons may have to line up outside during peak hours. Read more here. — Grace Wong
3:22 p.m.: Illinois to open more small business development centers, including 5 in Chicago, to help COVID-19 recovery
Illinois will invest $11.5 million to open seven small business development centers, including five in Chicago, to support businesses hurt by the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis and damaged during widespread civil unrest in early June.
The Chicago sites announced Wednesday will be located at the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, South Shore Chamber of Commerce, the Build Bronzeville initiative through the Urban Juncture Foundation, Rogers Park Business Alliance and the Chinese Mutual Aid Association. Other locations are being managed by Joliet Junior College and Elgin Community College. Read more here. — Abdel Jimenez
3:19 p.m.: Brookfield Zoo reopens at reduced capacity — right now there may be more animals outside than people
Brookfield Zoo is reopening this week, albeit slowly, with lions and tigers and zoo members first. The zoo’s gates in the west suburbs swung open Wednesday for those holding seasonal memberships, with the general public to follow July 8.
Biggest change from before coronavirus-related closures shut down the zoo to visitors in late March: Tickets are being sold at reduced capacity, with timed admissions and only in advance. Read more here. — Doug George
2:55 p.m.: United adding 25,000 flights in August despite spikes in COVID-19 cases
United Airlines plans to fly about three times more routes in August than it did last month as passengers slowly return to the skies, even as the number of new COVID-19 cases across the U.S. rises.
Chicago-based United will have about 60% fewer flights on its schedule in August compared with the same month last year. But travelers are slowly coming back, particularly when it comes to domestic flights, said Ankit Gupta, United’s vice president of domestic network planning.
The number of people passing through U.S. airport security checkpoints each day topped 600,000 on certain days in late June, down from 2.7 million people a year ago. Still, airports are busier than they’ve been since late March.
United is scheduling about 600 more domestic flights a day in August than July, including more flights between Hawaii and hubs including Chicago. The airline said it has seen interest in beach travel, suggesting passengers may be seeking outdoor vacation spots where social distancing could be easier.
2:40 p.m., (Updated 4:23 p.m.) : 828 new known COVID-19 cases, 30 additional deaths
Illinois health officials Wednesday reported 828 new known cases of COVID-19 and 30 additional confirmed fatalities, bringing the total number of known cases to 144,013 and the confirmed death toll to 6,951.
Additionally, the expanded testing hit new record daily high with 33,090 new results.
2:38 p.m.: Health experts slam US deal for large supply of the only drug licensed so far to treat COVID-19
Public health experts on Wednesday criticized the U.S. for securing a large supply of the only drug licensed so far to treat COVID-19.
The U.S. government announced this week that it had an agreement with Gilead Sciences to make the bulk of their production of remdesivir available to Americans for the next three months. The Department of Health and Human Services said it had secured 500,000 treatments through September, which amounts to all but 10% of production in August and September.
2:30 p.m.: Indiana delays reopening plan, keeps capacity limits on restaurants, bars over coronavirus spike worries
Indiana will keep capacity limits in place for restaurants, bars and entertainment venues because of worries about a possible increase in coronavirus cases across the state, Gov. Eric Holcomb said Wednesday.
The state’s reopening plan had called for those restrictions to be lifted this weekend, but Holcomb said he would keep them in place until at least July 18. The state will also continue its current 250-person limit on social gatherings.
1:52 p.m.: Coronavirus and unemployment: How bad is it? 5 key questions.
With the viral outbreak worsening and unemployment at Depression-era levels, the government on Thursday will issue what will almost surely be another remarkable jobs report.
Hiring in June might have reached the highest monthly total on record — 3 million. Yet so deep were the layoffs this spring that a gain that large would still leave tens of millions of Americans out of work and the unemployment rate in double digits. And even a jobless rate above 10% wouldn’t fully capture the scope of the pandemic’s damage to the job market and the economy.
On Wednesday a survey by payroll company ADP found that U.S. companies added nearly 2.4 million jobs in June, a large gain that still leaves total employment far below its pre-pandemic levels.
12:57 p.m.: Madison health officials close indoor service at bars ahead of holiday weekend as COVID-19 cases rise in college town
Public health officials are closing indoor service at bars in Madison as the Fourth of July weekend approaches and as the number of reported coronavirus cases accelerate, many involving young people in Wisconsin’s largest college community.
The order from Public Health Madison & Dane County effective Thursday allows bars that have patios to keep them open and it limits the number of people who may eat inside restaurants to 25% capacity, the Journal Sentinel reported. Since June 13, 614 people have tested positive for coronavirus and half of them were between the ages of 18 and 29.
”For the past week, Dane County has seen a sustained, high number of cases. After consultation with our contact tracing team, gatherings and visits to bars and restaurants continue to be implicated in interviews with cases,” Janel Heinrich, the agency’s director said in a statement.
Bar owners are weighing a legal challenge. Tavern League of Wisconsin lobbyist Scott Stenger said public health officials are unfairly punishing bar owners and not taking into account what role recent protests over police brutality may have in the surge.
11:33 a.m.: A COVID-19 surge in your county? New Illinois website offers ways to check.
As Illinois shifts into phase four of its reopening plan, state health officials have now made it possible for residents to track weekly COVID-19 figures at the county level.
Their new website includes a warning system to highlight instances where the latest numbers — such as a rise in cases or more people testing positive — signal trouble.
Score poorly overall and the county will show up as orange on a blue map of the state. (Only one has qualified thus far. More on that in a moment.)
“If your county is colored orange, that’s a caution or a warning that something is going on,” the department’s director, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, said last week at a briefing with reporters. “And our goal is that, with that caution, you will think twice of your own personal habits and activities.”
The Illinois Department of Public Health unveiled the site just before the state on Friday officially entered the latest phase of its reopening plan, which allows people more freedom to gather and move about.
11:32 a.m.: Online auction raises over $10,000 for immigrant restaurant workers
The online auction #AskChefsAnything raised $10,595 in June for immigrant workers in Chicago’s food industry.
Organizers Gaeleen Quinn and Anna Polonsky, two consultants with extensive restaurant experience in New York, said they were moved to start the charity to help those most in need.
”We know a lot of chefs who have had to lay off employees, and many of those were immigrants,” says Quinn. She notes that undocumented immigrants haven’t received unemployment money or stimulus checks from the government. “We realized that they needed some support.”
To help, the two decided to organize an online auction in different cities across the country, where people could bid for the chance to chat with someone in the food world for 30 minutes, and, as the name makes clear, ask them anything.
According to Quinn and Polonsky, the winners take full advantage of the time.
“I witnessed one chef in St. Louis teaching a friend of mine to make St. Louis-style ribs,” says Quinn. “They had such a good time. Some ask for career advice or just about any random subject.”
The event in Chicago pulled together some of the biggest local chefs, including Stephanie Izard, Rick Bayless, Erick Williams and Lamar Moore, along with wine experts like Belinda Chang and Regine T. Rousseau.
Since there is still no vaccine for the coronavirus, #AskChefsAnything is considering whether to return to cities like New York and Chicago for another auction. “
The work is not over,” says Quinn. “We do both have jobs that we have to fulfill, but it’s in my mind every day. We are super stressed out but hoping to make this long term.”
The next stop for #AskChefsAnything is San Francisco. You can bid here.
11:24 a.m.: Bad Hunter, the plant-based darling of Chicago food scene, closes permanently due to coronavirus
Bad Hunter and its second floor event venue The Herbarium are closing for good because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
”While several outliers factored into this decision, ultimately we could not continue to withstand the realities of operating this business during a global pandemic,” according to an Instagram post Tuesday.
The West Loop restaurant, which survived a fire and re-opened in 2019, thanked patrons for their support and for celebrating major milestones with it. It also expressed gratitude to its staff, saying that they created “magic, day in and day out.”
Known for its vegetable-and-grains-forward menu, Bad Hunter was voted the Chicago restaurant with the best plant-based menu in the Chicago Tribune Readers’ Choice Dining Awards earlier this year.
And the restaurant was praised by critics not only for its playful name, but also tasty morsels like fried sunchoke in black garlic butter with a touch of Aleppo pepper-laced honey, maitake mushrooms with a lavender parsnip puree and butter dumplings filled with charred cabbage and shiitake mushrooms served with Asian pear and oyster kimshi. And carnivores weren’t forgotten on the menu, created by Dan Snowden. From chicken thigh skewers with preserved lemon yogurt to salmon crudo with garlic rice “cracklings,” there were exciting bites for everyone.
After the restaurant was forced to close in November 2018 because of a kitchen fire, Snowden moved over to Lone Wolf to create a takeout pizzeria that operated in the dive bar. Named Pizza Lobo, it has moved out of Randolph Row and into a standalone shop in Logan Square (3000 W. Fullerton Ave.) slated to open in late July. With a larger menu featuring pizzas with New York-style crust and duck fat chicken wings, the restaurant will be to-go only, although patrons are able to use its socially distanced patio space for carryout food sans service.
The rest of the staff was given notice late last week and Heisler Hospitality, the restaurant group that also operates Pub Royal, Estereo and Lone Wolf, said in a press release that its goal is to “rehome” as many employees as possible while continuing to pay health insurance costs through the end of July for those laid off.
”Having such a large shift happen at once is extremely bittersweet,” said Heisler Hospitality co-owner Matt Eisler in a press release. “It’s devastating to say goodbye to a place like Bad Hunter, especially when it’s not fully on our terms. But, it’s also the beginning of a new, really exciting chapter with Pizza Lobo.”
10:56 a.m.: Little evidence that protests following George Floyd’s death spread coronavirus in US
There is little evidence that the protests that erupted after George Floyd’s death caused a significant increase in U.S. coronavirus infections, according to public health experts.
If the protests had driven an explosion in cases, experts say, the jumps would have started to become apparent within two weeks — and perhaps as early as five days. But that didn’t happen in many cities with the largest protests, including New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Washington, D.C.
In what’s considered the first systematic look at the question, a team of economists determined that only one of 13 cities involved in the earliest wave of protests after Memorial Day had an increase that would fit the pattern.
10:14 a.m.: 20 questions about assessing your COVID-19 risk at restaurants, gyms, the office and more
COVID-19 outbreaks in the south and west have added a layer of anxiety to how to think about the public activities now available to Illinoisans in phase four. Each person must now assess what level of risk they are comfortable with when it comes to activities such as dining out, working out or returning to the office.
9:26 a.m.: Fighting over face masks becoming new normal as US workers now have to deal with conflict resolution on top of COVID-19 risks
Masks were already a political flash point, and months of mixed messages about their usefulness have contributed to the confusion. Now, they’re also fodder for viral videos.
A surge of reported cases of coronavirus in states like California, Texas and Florida has led authorities in those states to issue new guidance on masks. Evidence suggests masks can help prevent transmission of the virus even when worn by seemingly healthy people.
Early in the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said several times that those without symptoms did not have to wear masks. On April 3, the agency shifted, saying that masks should be worn in public.
But President Donald Trump, announcing the new guidance, said, “Somehow, I don’t see it for myself” and has continued to appear in public without a mask. On Sunday, after months of shunning a mask himself, Vice President Mike Pence urged Americans to wear them.
Orders regarding masks that carry the force of law have been left to individual states. And in states where altercations over masks have been reported, those orders have recently changed.
6:55 a.m.: Chicago bringing back normal ticketing enforcement, starting with street sweeping violations Wednesday
After almost four months of suspending ticketing Chicago drivers for various types of code violations and debt collection for unpaid ticekts, refraining from booting vehicles and impounding cars, Chicago begins to return to its normal ways Wednesday.
Street sweeping tickets will be the first to be issued, starting Wednesday, followed Monday by booting of cars with multiple unpaid tickets, according to a news release from the mayor’s office.
On July 16, the city will start writing tickets to cars with expired city stickers and those parked in residential parking areas without a permit. Finally, the city will follow the state’s lead and not write tickets for expired Illinois vehicle registration stickers until Oct. 2.
“Now that the City has entered phase four of the reopening framework, debt collection and payment plan defaults will also resume,” according to the news release.
Anyone needing help with outstanding debt can visit the city’s New Start Chicago website here or set up a payment plan here. —Chicago Tribune staff
6 a.m.: Colleges campuses are trying to reopen in the fall. The main source of opposition? The faculty.
Just because students might be returning to college campuses this fall doesn’t mean professors will be joining them.
Controversy over whether instructors need to be in the classroom during the fall term has erupted at campuses including the University of Notre Dame, where professors are pushing back, noting the dangers of face-to-face classes while the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage.
Notre Dame, however, is asking those with objections to in-person instruction to submit documentation of medical conditions and a formal request for accommodations. Those who taught remotely prior to the pandemic likely will not need to obtain special approval, said Paul Browne, a spokesman for Notre Dame.
Notre Dame’s position on in-person instruction is among the most rigid, showing how far universities are willing to go to compel professors to return to campuses after classes were abruptly moved online this spring.
On the other end of the spectrum, the University of Chicago recently announced that it will not require any of its instructors, including graduate students, to teach in person for the fall quarter, which begins Sept. 29 for most classes. In an update released Tuesday, U. of C. said a limited number of classes will be held in-person. New students will be given priority to enroll in such courses so they can acclimate to the university setting.
6 a.m.: Are the Blue Men ever coming back? Chicago’s commercial theaters are in serious trouble
Indoor gatherings of more than 50 people remain banned in Illinois and there is still no discernible, let alone bankable, timeline for the return of large-scale live entertainment. COVID-19 has created a world of pain for all sectors of the Chicago theater.
Notably, the city’s commercial, for-profit operations are showing the most immediate and visible stress.
June, the cruelest month so far, saw L. Walter Stearns, the hardy and well-regarded owner of the Mercury Theater, his elegant two-theater venue in the Lakeview neighborhood, declare his intention to close up shop and sell his building. Charna Halpern, the owner of the iO improv theater in Lincoln Park, facing a tsunami of property taxes, running costs and internal criticism over the climate at her theater, also called it quits.
And on Monday in Canada, the venerable but now massively indebted Cirque du Soleil sought protection from its creditors, throwing into question the future of the Blue Man Group, a hugely popular show that has been running since 1997 — that’s 23 years — at the Briar Street Theatre on Chicago’s North Side, along with similar productions in Las Vegas and New York.
Here are five things that happened Tuesday related to coronavirus in Illinois: