Newsletter: Illinois Reports 1st Death From COVID-19

"I Voted" stickers on the table for voters after voting at Trinity Lutheran Church in Evanston, Ill., Tuesday, March 17, 2020. Some polling places in Evanston have been moved in an effort to reduce exposure of senior citizens to COVID-19. Nam Y. Huh / AP Photo
"I Voted" stickers on the table for voters after voting at Trinity Lutheran Church in Evanston, Ill., Tuesday, March 17, 2020. Some polling places in Evanston have been moved in an effort to reduce exposure of senior citizens to COVID-19. Nam Y. Huh / AP Photo

Newsletter: Illinois Reports 1st Death From COVID-19

Good afternoon, it’s Tuesday! And again, if you need someone to talk to, feel free to email me. Here’s what you need to know today. (PS: You can have this delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.)

1. Illinois reports 1st death in coronavirus pandemic

Gov. JB Pritzker today announced today a woman in her 60s has died from COVID-19. The woman had an underlying health condition and was diagnosed with the disease earlier this month. Pritzker also announced that 22 cases have been reported at a nursing home in southwest suburban Willowbrook. So far, Illinois has 160 cases. [WBEZ]

Meanwhile, voter turnout in Chicago was “extremely low” as of this afternoon, according to a spokesman for the city’s board of elections. Nearly 126,500 people voted in Chicago as of 1 p.m., reports WBEZ’s Becky Vevea. That number is down considerably compared to four years ago, when about 300,000 had voted.

The state’s primary got off to a bumpy start today. Reports of people being turned away from polling places popped up throughout Cook County, as well as shortages of election monitors and insufficient cleaning supplies at voting locations.

Tensions escalated between Pritzker and the Chicago Board of Elections, which accused the governor of rejecting a request to cancel in-person voting. Election board spokesman Jim Allen said officials had proposed moving completely to mail-in ballots, but that idea was also rejected.

Anne Caprara, Pritzker’s chief of staff, said she was “disgusted that Jim Allen would lie like this.” A spokeswoman for Pritzker said the governor can’t “unilaterally cancel or delay an election.” [WBEZ]

WBEZ will air live coverage of tonight’s election results beginning at 7 p.m. CST.

Two other states are holding primaries: Arizona and Florida. Ohio postponed its primary for today at the last minute over concerns about COVID-19. [NPR]

2. Trump wants to send checks to Americans as worries grow over a global recession

President Donald Trump said he will ask Congress to inject $850 billion into the U.S. economy as fears grow over a global recession.

The Trump administration is also talking to Congress about sending checks to Americans over the next two weeks, said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Details of the stimulus payments still need to be hammered out, but Mnuchin said checks wouldn’t be mailed to millionaires. [NPR]

Meanwhile, federal officials are ramping up efforts to test for COVID-19, but the U.S. has fallen way behind other countries in providing tests. [New York Times]

There are now more than 5,000 confirmed cases in the U.S., a number that public health experts expect will grow as testing ramps up. Worldwide, there have been more than 190,000 cases and 7,517 deaths. [John Hopkins]

As the virus continues to upend American life, Trump faced more criticism for his handling of the crisis, which he initially downplayed. Here’s a timeline of how the president went from saying the virus is “going to disappear” in late February to declaring COVID-19 an “invisible enemy” this week. [Washington Post]

3. Chicago Public Schools could remain closed for more than 2 weeks

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said it’s too early to tell whether Chicago Public Schools will open after a state mandated two-week suspension that begins today.

“This is an incredibly fluid situation, which is an understatement,” Lightfoot said yesterday. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Can Illinois’ public schools handle e-learning? Most school districts are not prepared, according to the Illinois State Board of Education, which is advising schools to not count remote homework assignments toward student grades. [WBEZ]

How can Illinois officials mandate school closures? Will the days be made up at the end of the school year? You can find answers to those questions and more in this handy FAQ for parents with kids in school. [Chicago Tribune]

4. How you can help in the Chicago area

Aside from staying home, here’s a look at what you can do to pitch in as daily life in Chicago grinds to a halt. You can give blood or donate food and cleaning supplies to a number of social service groups in the area. There are also relief funds being set up online to collect donations for people out of work because of the COVID-19 pandemic. [WBEZ]

Meanwhile, do you have questions about the virus? You can contact WBEZ through this link, which also provides practical information to some common questions. [WBEZ]

5. Don’t worry: There’s enough toilet paper for America

I don’t understand the panic over toilet paper, but you’ve probably seen the images of folks grabbing as much TP as possible in stores. Will that cause the U.S. to suffer a toilet paper shortage? According to the Chicago Tribune, the answer is no.

“It’s not like suddenly all the toilet paper factories in the world are burning down,” Willy Shih, a professor at Harvard Business School who studies manufacturing supply chains, told the Trib. “They’re still cranking this stuff out.”

The newspaper also reports: “According to some estimates, Americans use less than half a roll per week on average. According to others, the average is a little over one. Even at that upper limit, it would take a household of 15 to rip through just one Costco-sized 30-pack of Kirkland Signature two-ply over the course of a 14-day quarantine. For a couple, one pack should last for nearly four months.” [Chicago Tribune]

Here’s what else is happening

  • San Francisco officials ordered a three-week lockdown. [San Francisco Examiner]

  • The mayor of Champaign, Ill., issued an emergency decree and faced backlash from people who believe the COVID-19 outbreak is motivated by “hysteria.” [New York Times]

  • The U.S. Census Bureau is making adjustments to reach people who have been displaced by the outbreak, such as college students. [WBEZ]

  • Chicago bar owners and bartenders are grappling with a new reality. [WBEZ]

Oh, and one more thing …

Are you looking for ways to pass the time while America is in quarantine? WBEZ has some great podcasts to listen to.

There’s Making Beyoncé, which follows the rise of the pop-culture icon, and it’s brought to you by some of the same folks behind Making Oprah and Making Obama.

There’s also WBEZ’s Motive series. In its second season, the podcast follows a group of young women as they seek justice abroad. This new investigative series examines allegations of sexual assault and abuse in Spain. We hear from the women breaking their silence ⁠— some for the very first time ⁠— and explore what happens next.

There’s also Nerdette, which is releasing “mini-sodes” with ideas on “how to work from home, what you should be reading and some things to help lift your mood.”

And last but not least, WBEZ’s Curious City has a large library of episodes that answer questions about the Chicago area from readers and listeners. Here’s a particularly popular episode that looks at why some local schools made high school boys swim naked.

Tell me something good …

How are you staving off boredom and staying sane during this very strange time?

Ruth Johnson writes:

“I love writing Haikus. Now have a collection of over one hundred. Here is one I give to you.

Make some sense of change.

Dive right into it dancing

Until it’s your song.”

Suzanne writes:

“I had a great amount of laughs from some old clips of Saturday Night Live on YouTube. I like writing a letter every couple days to a family member and or loved one, just to say hello and thinking of you, and maybe include a short line of jest for a ‘ha-ha.’ Getting creative is fun!”

What are you up to? Feel free to email at or tweet to @whuntah.

Have a nice night! If you like what you just read, you can subscribe to the newsletter here and have it delivered to your inbox.