The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Unprecedented numbers

The US unemployment rate exploded to 14.7% in April as 20.5 million people officially left the workforce, with millions more people leaving full-time work and others not even trying to find new jobs. April's job losses were more than 10 times the 1.9 million reported in September 1945 as the US demobilized from World War II.

Once you've absorbed that, there's more:

Finally, today is the 75th anniversary of V-E Day, when the Nazi army finally surrendered to the Allies, ending the war in Europe. Germans celebrated the event today as a day of liberation from the Nazis.

Freezing May evening?

A pool of warm air running all the way up the Rocky Mountains to Alaska has forced a blob of cold air down into the eastern United States. This has started driving temperatures down all throughout the northeast, with a forecast drop to 10°C below normal here in Chicago and possible snow as far south as Philadelphia.

In May.

Ah, well. We all feel like it's March 68th, anyway.

And yes, this cold snap is a consequence of climate change.

What's a Wednesday again?

Remember slow news days? Me neither.

  • Republican legislators and business owners have pushed back on Illinois Governor JB Pritzker's plan to re-open the economy, preferring instead to force their employees into unsafe situations so they can return to making money.
  • Professional dilettante Jared Kushner's leadership in getting a bunch of kids to organize mask distribution went about as well as one might predict.
  • More reasonable people simply see how it means we're going to be in this a while.
  • California has sued Uber and Lyft for violating AB5, claiming the two ride-sharing companies “gain an unfair and unlawful competitive advantage by inappropriately classifying massive numbers of California drivers as independent contractors,” according to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
  • Assuming states were allowed to go bankrupt, Crain's Steven Strahler believes an Illinois bankruptcy might not be what anyone actually wants.
  • Illinois' $560m shortfall in gasoline taxes right now has put transit projects at risk.
  • The BBC tries to help the rest of the world understand why the US has a backlash against face masks, as does NBC.
  • If you take New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut out of the equation, the number of Covid-19 cases continues to rise in the US.
  • Bottled water sales have gone up 57% year-over-year, so Consumer Reports wants to know why people are paying so much for someone else's tap water? Especially since bottlers often don't pay their water bills while residents are getting their water shut off.
  • Anyone remember that it's the 20th anniversary of the ILOVEYOU virus?

And finally, a cute diner in Toronto where I had breakfast last June has moved to delivery service during the lockdown. Too bad they can't deliver to Chicago.

At least the tunnel has walls now, even if we can't see the end of it

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker announced this afternoon a five-phase, evidence-based plan to reopen the state:

The five phases for each health region are as follows:

Phase 1 – Rapid Spread: The rate of infection among those tested and the number of patients admitted to the hospital is high or rapidly increasing. Strict stay at home and social distancing guidelines are put in place and only essential businesses remain open. Every region has experienced this phase once already, and could return to it if mitigation efforts are unsuccessful.

Phase 2 – Flattening: The rate of infection among those tested and the number of patients admitted to the hospital beds and ICU beds increases at an ever slower rate, moving toward a flat and even a downward trajectory. Nonessential retail stores reopen for curb-side pickup and delivery. Illinoisans are directed to wear a face covering when outside the home and can begin enjoying additional outdoor activities like golf, boating and fishing while practicing social distancing. To varying degrees, every region is experiencing flattening as of early May.

Phase 3 – Recovery: The rate of infection among those surveillance tested, the number of patients admitted to the hospital, and the number of patients needing ICU beds is stable or declining. Manufacturing, offices, retail, barbershops and salons can reopen to the public with capacity and other limits and safety precautions. Gatherings limited to 10 people or fewer are allowed. Face coverings and social distancing are the norm.

Phase 4 – Revitalization: The rate of infection among those surveillance tested and the number of patients admitted to the hospital continues to decline. Gatherings of 50 people or fewer are allowed, restaurants and bars reopen, travel resumes, child care and schools reopen under guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health. Face coverings and social distancing are the norm.

Phase 5 – Illinois Restored: With a vaccine or highly effective treatment widely available or the elimination of any new cases over a sustained period, the economy fully reopens with safety precautions continuing. Conventions, festivals and large events are permitted, and all businesses, schools and places of recreation can open with new safety guidance and procedures in place reflecting the lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Until COVID-19 is defeated, this plan also recognizes that just as health metrics will tell us it is safe to move forward, health metrics may also tell us to return to a prior phase. With a vaccine or highly effective treatment not yet available, IDPH will be closely monitoring key metrics to immediately identify trends in cases and hospitalizations to
determine whether a return to a prior phase may become necessary.

We're in Phase 2 right now, state-wide. How do we get to phase 3?

Cases and Capacity: The determination of moving from Phase 2 to Phase 3 will be driven by the COVID-19 positivity rate in each region and measures of maintaining regional hospital surge capacity. This data will be tracked from the time a region enters Phase 2, onwards.

  • At or under a 20 percent positivity rate and increasing no more than 10 percentage points over a 14-day period, AND
  • No overall increase (i.e. stability or decrease) in hospital admissions for COVID-19-like illness for 28 days, AND
  • Available surge capacity of at least 14 percent of ICU beds, medical and surgical beds, and ventilators

Testing: Testing available for all patients, health care workers, first responders, people with underlying conditions, and residents and staff in congregate living facilities

Tracing: Begin contact tracing and monitoring within 24 hours of diagnosis

In Phase 3 we'll be able to have private gatherings of 10 or fewer people, meaning we can finally, at that point, visit friends who aren't sick. But reading the criteria, we're at least 4 weeks away from phase 3, depending on what happens to overall testing and new case numbers.

We'll get through this. Someday.

Not all horrible news

Yes, yes, the world has most of the Biblical plagues going on right now, including apparently 40 mm–long hornets, but I can see some bright spots, despite (or because of) all this:

Alas, the rest of the news isn't as benign:

And finally, I mentioned a shooting in my neighborhood last week that hadn't yet made the papers. It took a couple of days, but CWB Chicago now has the story.

Afternoon news roundup

As Illinois hits 2,662 Covid-19 deaths and the CDC says the country will hit about that number every day by month's end, May the 4th be with us:

So it wasn't all horrible news today.

Pothole art

A couple of blocks from Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters, artist Jim Bachor has made mosaic art in potholes. He added two new installations in the last couple of weeks:

The mosaics depict a roll of toilet paper, a bottle of Purell and a can of Old Style, each depicted with halos. Such items have been in limited supply as Americans stocked up amid the pandemic or — as in the case of the beer can — because they’re a product people have relied on for solace during this unprecedented time.

“People are adoring these things, and everyone is drinking more these days,” Bachor said. “It’s a universal thing that everyone can relate to.”

The fourth mosaic depicts a star from the Chicago flag, meant to generate civic pride, Bachor said.

The pothole art project began in 2013, starting in Chicago and expanding to 85 mini-mosaics in places like Detroit, Los Angeles, Italy and the Netherlands. Potholes are universal in nature in that they happen in all locations and are despised by drivers everywhere. Bachor likes to fill potholes with images of other universally recognized items, including Cheetos bags and crushed beer cans.

Why he chose that particular block I do not know. Here's my own photo of one:

Gosh, where to begin?

Happy May Day! Or m'aidez? Hard to know for sure right now. The weather in Chicago is sunny and almost the right temperature, and I have had some remarkable productivity at work this week, so in that respect I'm pretty happy.

But I woke up this morning to the news that Ravinia has cancelled its entire 2020 season, including a performance of Bernstein's White House Cantata that featured my group, the Apollo Chorus of Chicago. This is the first time Ravinia has done so since 1935.

If only that were everything.

First, via Josh Marshall, former Obama Administration disaster-preparedness expert Jeremy Konydndyk lays out the facts about our plateau (60,000 excess weekly deaths) and how the Trump Administration continues to do nothing to help us slow Covid-19 deaths.

Next, all of this:

But some good news:

Finally, while alarming in its own right, the record water levels in Lake Michigan (4 months in a row now) have exposed some historic shipwrecks.

Back to your regularly-scheduled horror movie

Congratulations! You've made it to the end of April. This month has felt like one of the longest years of my life, and probably yours.

So as we head into May, here's what the last few hours of April have wrought:

Well, the only cops I've seen out in force recently were the guys who responded to a shooting and captured the two suspects a block from my home. (Yeah, that happened, and it didn't even make the paper.)

No ribs this year

I have gone to North Center Ribfest since moving back to the city in 2008. Until 2018 I even brought Parker most years, when he could walk 60 blocks as easily as I can. (Now he has trouble walking four.) I also attended the smaller, less-well-run Windy City Ribfest a couple of times. The Chamber for Uptown just cancelled this year's Windy City Ribfest, and the North Center Chamber of Commerce cancelled their Ribfest two weeks ago.

In honor of both events, I will have full slabs on both weekends (June 12th and July 3rd).

So far, Naperville's Ribfest (actually held in Romeoville) still plans to go forward on July 2nd. Maybe there will be rib samplers this year after all?