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How Can Chicago Reopen Amid Coronavirus, Devastated Economy? Lightfoot To Unveil Plan Friday

More than 20.5 million jobs were lost across the country in April — numbers not seen since the Great Depression, according to a jobs report released Friday.

Second Lieutenant Jon Kent, the officer in charge of National Guard relief efforts at the McCormick Place, explains the details of Alternate Care Facilities (ACFs) to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot at the McCormick Place Convention Center in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Chicago, Ill., April 1, 2020.
U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Jay Grabiec
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CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot will reveal how Chicago could reopen during a Friday afternoon announcement.

Lightfoot is expected to hold a press conference at 1:30 p.m. with Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, where they’ll “announce the city’s COVID-19 reopening framework,” according to the Mayor’s office.

The announcement comes as Illinois — and the nation — are reeling amid economic devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic. A jobs report released early Friday showed more than 20.5 million jobs were lost across the country in April and unemployment has skyrocketed to 14.7 percent — numbers not seen since the Great Depression.

Gov. JB Pritzker said Thursday that Illinois alone paid out more than $2 billion in unemployment benefits in the first four months of 2020 — which is already $500 million more than what was paid out in all of 2019.

And more than 1 million people filed unemployment claims in the nine weeks after March 1, Pritzker said. In comparison, during the first nine weeks of the Great Recession in 2008, 180,000 people filed claims in Illinois.

Just as devastating has been the losses sustained locally: 1,206 people have died of COVID-19 in Chicago, which accounts for 38 percent of all coronavirus deaths in Illinois. The city’s also seen 28,567 confirmed cases of coronavirus, which is about 40 percent of the state’s total confirmed cases.

Pritzker revealed his own five-phase plan for reopening Illinois earlier this week. The governor’s plan divides Illinois into four regions — with Chicago and its surrounding counties as part of the Northeast Region — that will progress differently through the five phases depending on their case growth and hospital capacity.

RELATED: How Can Chicago Reopen After Coronavirus? Here’s How We Did It After 1918’s Spanish Flu

Pritzker’s plan is slow-moving, placing an emphasis on saving lives over speeding to reopen businesses as other states have done. It says life will only return to normal here when there’s a vaccine, widespread and effective treatment or a prolonged period with no new coronavirus cases.

Previously, Lightfoot said her plans for the recovery of Chicago would focus as much on emotional and physical healing as on economic rejuvenation.

The mayor created a task force in April to plan the city’s recovery. Members of the task force are looking at how to stimulate the local economy, help with the mental and emotional health of Chicagos, spur business development, coordinate across the region and make an economic change study.

Lightfoot has also said that while Chicago’s budget will undoubtedly be affected by the virus, the city is better off than others because it has diverse revenue streams. She, like Pritzker, is also urging the federal government to provide Chicago and Illinois with more funding to make up for revenue lost to the pandemic.

Still, the mayor has said she is eager to reopen Chicago and get people back to work — but only if it can be done in a safe way.

“No one’s more anxious than I to open the city back up. … But we can’t get there and risk life, literally life and death, until we see better-sustained results,” Lightfoot said Saturday. “And we’re just not there yet.”

Lightfoot’s press conference is at 1:30 p.m. and Pritzker has a briefing at 2:30 p.m.

RELATED: No More Weekend Coronavirus Briefings, Pritzker Says

Coronavirus Cases

• There have been 70,873 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Illinois as of Thursday afternoon. Many of those patients have recovered since testing positive.

• At least 3,111 people have died in Illinois as a result of the virus.

• There have been 28,567 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Chicago and at least 1,206 people have died.

If You Need Help

• Sick? Broke? Want To Help? Here’s A Massive List Of Coronavirus Resources In Chicago

What’s Happening In Chicago

Unemployment: Illinois is staffing up as 1099 and gig workers get ready to file claims for unemployment starting Monday. The state has seen a huge surge in claims.

Electronic Monitoring: Cook County has run out of electronic monitoring devices, meaning detained people who were cleared for release are now stuck at Cook County Jail, a coronavirus hot spot.

Fulton Market Rush: After years of being bombarded by developers who want to build apartments and condos in a red-hot part of Fulton Market, the area’s alderman is giving in.

Latino Communities: Faced with a surge of coronavirus cases in Chicago’s Latino neighborhoods, the city is scrambling to increase testing and treatment on the city’s South and West sides.

Pro Sports: Chicago sports teams likely won’t be able to have fans at games for months, Pritzker said.

• Keep Isolating: It’s not safe to hug your mom on Mother’s Day or to start expanding your “quarantine circle,” doctors said.

• West Side Testing: Saint Anthony Hospital received a 15-minute COVID test machine — but none of the resources to use it.

 Summer Jobs: My Block, My Hood, My City is creating a program to connect teens to seniors in need for summer jobs.

• Lakeview Pantry: The pantry has seen demand for assistance skyrocket amid the crisis.

• Reopening: Pritzker unveiled his five-step plan for reopening Illinois and restarting the state’s economy.

• Concerts, Festivals: Large events will remain banned in Illinois until there’s a vaccine, widespread and effective treatment or no new cases for a prolonged period.

 “Still At War:” Though the weather is getting nicer, people must continue to stay at home so Illinois can win its war against COVID-19, Ezike said.

• Restaurants: The city’s eateries are urging customers to skip GrubHub and similar services and order directly from them so they can make it through the crisis.

• Help for Artists: The statewide Artist Relief Fund is again taking applications.

• Food Supply: Pop-up food pantries are coming to the South and West sides to aid people during the pandemic.

• Housing: The city created a “pledge” to put pressure on banks and landlords to keep people in their homes amid the pandemic.

 Deaths: Coronavirus has likely killed hundreds more people in Illinois than has been counted by the state, a new analysis found.

• Domestic Abuse: Survivors of domestic violence can get free hotel rooms during the pandemic.

 Masks: Everyone is now required to wear a face covering or mask when unable to social distance. And yes, stores can require you to wear a face covering if you want to shop.

Here’s what you need to know about the requirement.

• Testing: Officials are now saying anyone with coronavirus symptoms can get tested in Illinois. Before, they’d advised most people to simply stay at home and assume they had coronavirus.

Here’s where you can get tested in Chicago.


Coronavirus can be deadly, but the vast majority of cases have been mild. Those most at risk from the virus are people who are elderly or who have underlying health conditions.

Symptoms of coronavirus can appear two to 14 days after a person has been exposed to the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control. People with no symptoms may have the virus and spread it to others.

The virus spreads between people through coughing and sneezing, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The most common symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Chills and shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Loss of taste and/or smell

People have also experienced body aches, nasal congestion and runny nose, according to Harvard Medical School.

If you or someone else has difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, become confused, cannot be roused or develop a bluish face or lips, get immediate medical attention, according to the CDC.

How To Protect Yourself

Here’s what you can actually do to prevent getting ill:

  • The CDC and other officials have said people should wash their hands often, including before, during and after eating; after using the bathroom; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
    The CDC has a guide here for how to properly wash your hands. Remember: Wash with soap and water, scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • If you can’t wash your hands with soap and water, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose and mouth, with unwashed hands.
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces you touch frequently, like cellphones and light switches. Here are tips from the CDC.
  • Stay home when you’re sick and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • If you have to sneeze or cough with a tissue, throw it out immediately after using it, according to the CDC.

What To Do If You Think You’re Sick

Even if you’re not showing symptoms, the Chicago Department of Public Health recommends people coming from high-risk countries (here’s a CDC list) self-quarantine for 14 days after returning home.

If you do have symptoms of coronavirus, contact your primary doctor or a health care facility before going in. Explain your symptoms and tell them if you’ve come into close contact with anyone with coronavirus or traveled to an area where COVID-19 is widespread (here’s a CDC list) within the last 14 days, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

From there, the experts will work with your local health department to determine what to do and if you need to be tested for coronavirus, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

And, of course, if you think you’re sick with coronavirus, don’t risk exposing other people to the virus. Anyone who feels unwell has been ordered to stay home or risk getting a $500 fine.

Those with questions and concerns about coronavirus can call the Illinois Department of Public Health at 800-889-3931.

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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