Newsletter: How Many People Have Really Died In The U.S.?

Ambulance
A public service announcement about coronavirus prevention is displayed on an electronic traffic message board as an ambulance travels in Chicago. Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press
Ambulance
A public service announcement about coronavirus prevention is displayed on an electronic traffic message board as an ambulance travels in Chicago. Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press

Newsletter: How Many People Have Really Died In The U.S.?

Happy Blursday … checks calendar … Monday. I’m subbing for Hunter. Here’s what you need to know today. (PS: You can have this delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.)

1. The U.S death toll was greatly underreported in the early days of the pandemic

The Washington Post reports that “excess deaths” — the number beyond what would normally be expected — were twice as high as the deaths publicly attributed to COVID-19 from March 1 to April 4. And the findings indicate that some government officials were making early decisions based on incomplete numbers.

“The excess deaths are not necessarily attributable directly to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus,” the paper reports. “They could include people who died because of the epidemic but not from the disease, such as those who were afraid to seek medical treatment for unrelated illnesses.” [Washington Post]

The report comes as some states begin to partially reopen, including Colorado, Michigan and Texas. [CNN]

Yet the White House coronavirus coordinator said people in the U.S. should probably continue social distancing through the summer. [Washington Post]

In New York, officials have canceled the Democratic presidential primary, meaning voters in 20 counties with no other contests on the ballot will not vote on June 23. [New York Times]

Across the U.S., coronavirus cases are nearing 1 million, with more than 54,000 deaths reported. Here’s a map showing how quickly the virus is spreading in each state. [NPR]

2. Chicagoans can preregister for a coronavirus vaccine

A new app launched today allows residents to preregister for a vaccine (if one is ever developed) and get guidance about medical care. The app, Chi COVID Coach, was developed with help from Google.

Dr. Allison Arwady, the city’s top public health official, said the app is secure and there are no plans to share the health information with Google. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Today, state officials announced 50 more people have died, bringing Illinois’ death toll to 1,983. Officials also announced 1,980 new known cases, pushing the total number of confirmed infections to 45,883. [WBEZ]

You can find a map of where Illinois infections have been reported here. [WBEZ]

As the number of COVID-19 cases slows across the state, officials are downsizing the original plans for the McCormick Place medical center. [Chicago Tribune]

3. Global coronavirus cases surpass 3 million

With more than 200,000 deaths worldwide, the virus has killed almost one in seven of reported cases, according to a tally by Reuters. Still, the mortality rate is likely “substantially lower”, as low testing rates mean many asymptomatic or mild cases have probably not been counted. [Reuters]

In Latin America, hard-hit countries like Ecuador and Panama are facing stringent rules as their governments struggle to contain the coronavirus. Yet the region’s largest country, Brazil, continues to downplay the severity of pandemic. [The Conversation]

In New Zealand, the prime minister declared the virus “currently eliminated” from the island as nonessential businesses prepare to reopen tomorrow. [BBC]

And British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is back at work today after weeks spent recovering from COVID-19. [NPR]

4. Coronavirus is “completely changing” the food supply industry

Over past weeks, buying patterns and overnight changes in food supply and demand have led to massive upheavals in agricultural markets, Bloomberg reports.

In grocery stores, the price of avocados is surging by 60%, while packaged foods, like pizza and potato chips, are sold out. Prices of butter, milk and pork belly have dropped with restaurant demand. [Bloomberg]

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is facing criticism for its slow response to the coronavirus pandemic — which has led to millions of pounds of American-grown produce rotting in fields while food banks are struggling under a massive surge in need. The USDA had not made any moves until last week to buy up surplus crops that had been earmarked for restaurants, caterers and other food service businesses. [Politico]

In Illinois, meatpacking factories are shutting down as coronavirus cases spread among employees — causing a backlog of livestock on farms and threatening higher meat prices at supermarkets. [Chicago Tribune]

And Tyson Foods, one of the nation's largest meat suppliers, warned that the industry “is breaking.” [Washington Post]

Here are five reasons why the pandemic has hit the food supply industry so hard. [The Hill]

5. Could estrogen help men survive COVID-19?

One demographic group seems to be less likely to become seriously sick from the coronavirus: women.

That’s led doctors in New York and Los Angeles to start treating patients with two female sex hormones — estrogen and progesterone — in an effort to strengthen their immune systems.

Anecdotal evidence shows that the hormones may be at work in boosting the immune system, including that pregnant women — usually immunocompromised — are showing milder symptoms from the disease.

Yet researchers who study sex differences in immunity warn that estrogen and progesterone alone may not be at work, citing that elderly women with low levels of hormones are outliving their male peers. [New York Times]

Meanwhile, the CDC has announced six new symptoms associated with COVID-19. [NPR]

Here’s what else is happening

  • A new poll shows Americans want the feds to intervene more in the crisis, in spite of a general skepticism of the government. [NPR]

  • Sen. Tammy Duckworth is in the mix to be Joe Biden’s running mate. [The Daily Herald]

  • The NFL draft, the first major sporting event since coronavirus started, saw record viewers. [Chicago Tribune]

  • Having trouble sleeping? Here are tips to rest better during the pandemic. [WBEZ]

Oh, and one more thing …

I’m a total foodie, and lately I’ve been missing the experience of sitting down in a restaurant and having a nice meal. I’ve been making up for it by watching a lot of restaurant and cooking shows. Luckily, I can also still find something for my tastebuds.

Five Michelin-starred restaurants in Chicago are now offering takeout meals for under $55. The list includes Alinea, with slow-braised veal shanks for $34.50; lobster pappardelle for $22 from Acadia; and cassoulet with bone marrow for $24 from EL Ideas.

Stand by while I take a break to put in an order. [Food and Wine]

Tell me something good ...

I’m not done talking about food. I’ve also been craving the Sunday afternoon, all-you-can-eat buffet at my favorite Peruvian restaurant in the city, Rio’s D’Sudamerica in Bucktown. Besides the really, really good food, I miss the restaurant’s staff that always make my husband and I feel like family.

Speaking of things we miss, our friends at Nerdette are wondering: What would you have done with a one-week warning before the stay-at-home order?

Feel free to tweet or email us your responses, and they might be shared here this week. (Plus, Nerdette might reach out to you.) Thanks for reading and have a nice night!