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The [Wednesday] Papers

"The Little Village zip code 60623 currently has the most confirmed cases of any single zip code in the state," CBS2 Chicago reports.

"Forty-seven percent of people in that community who've been tested, have has tested positive," said Ald. Michael Rodriguez (22nd.)

Of course, it's difficult if not impossible to trust the story the data is telling us because the data is incomplete. Still . . .

"Hispanics make up about 17% of the state. But they also make up about 32% percent of the state's positive COVID-19 tests . . . At last check Little Village had 1,526 positive cases and nearby Pilsen had 873.

"[Rodriguez] attributes the high numbers to aggressive testing and a largely working-class population that has stayed on the job during the pandemic."

As always, we can play that familiar game of "If This Was Happening In Lincoln Park . . . "

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WBEZ begs to differ with Rodriguez's assessment that Little Italy has been the recipient of aggressive testing.

"In Cook County, the ZIP codes most impacted by COVID-19 are not among those receiving the highest rates of testing, according to a WBEZ analysis of data from the Illinois Department of Public Health and the U.S. Census Bureau. And those ZIP codes are in Latino neighborhoods, which possess the highest and fastest-growing rates of COVID-19 in Cook County," the station reports.

"As of Monday, the 60623 ZIP code ranked first in both the rate of confirmed cases (38.09 per 1,000 residents) and the percentage of confirmed cases of the total tested (46.6%) among Cook County ZIP codes, according to the WBEZ analysis.

"But that same ZIP code lags in COVID-19 testing. The ZIP code ranked 50th in Cook County in the total tested per 1,000 residents, according to the analysis.

"In fact, the five ZIP codes that rank among the county's top 10 for both the rate of confirmed cases per 1,000 residents and the percentage of confirmed cases among the total tested are all mostly Latino areas. Three of those ZIP codes are in Chicago and include the Little Village, Brighton Park, Hermosa and Belmont Cragin communities. The other two are located in west suburban Cicero and Stone Park. But none of these ZIP codes rank in the top 35 for COVID-19 testing per 1,000 residents."

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"The need for more testing in Chicago's Little Village neighborhood was clear last Saturday. The test site opened at 10 a.m. and, within 30 minutes, workers were already turning residents away."

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Not only that, but . . .

"As of April 12, a total of 31 Latinos have died from complications from COVID-19, according to data from the medical examiner's office. But that figure is not accurate. And that's a problem because without reliable data it's harder to identify vulnerable populations, experts say," WBEZ reports separately.

"Some of the information collected by the medical examiner's office is not wrong, it's just delayed, said Dr. Ponni Arunkumar, the county's chief medical examiner. Arunkumar said preliminary demographic information comes from hospital records and first responders."

Of course, the infection and death rates for the entire population are severely undercounted, but this is particularly maddening, to say the least, because the same folks bear the brunt of every crisis, downturn and screw-up this nation, state and city foists upon them.

"It's infuriating, because it doesn't give us a very clear idea of how COVID-19 is impacting our community," Jorge Valdivia told WBEZ. "If this information isn't being categorized, isn't being labeled the way it should be, then how can we rely on any type of data, any type of research articles that will emerge years from now?"

Valdivia's brother died of COVID-19 and was misclassified by the medical examiner's office as white.

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"New research from the University of Chicago examines how COVID-19 outbreaks have disproportionately harmed those who were already struggling before the pandemic," the university says.

It's grim.

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And:

"Many African Americans watching protests calling for easing restrictions meant to slow the spread of the new coronavirus see them as one more example of how their health, their safety and their rights just don't seem to matter," AP reports (via CBS2 Chicago).

"To many, it seems that the people protesting - who have been predominantly white - are agitating for reopening because they won't be the ones to suffer the consequences. So far, the facts are proving them right: The consequences of keeping some businesses open have been falling disproportionately on the shoulders of black people and other marginalized groups."

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Illinois' Amazingly Awesome Unemployment Office
Capitol Fax impresario Rich Miller takes issue today with CBS2 Chicago's reporting on an (alleged?) backlog of unemployment claims with the Illinois Department of Employment Security. Because I featured CBS2 Chicago's report on this matter in Tuesday's column, I feel compelled to respond.

Here's what CBS2 Chicago reported:

[O]ur sources said the backlog is real, and getting longer by the day.

As CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reported Monday night, Pritzker has said time and time again that improvements are being made to the unemployment system. Folks inside the Illinois Department of Employment Security, including the employee who gave Kozlov a glimpse into the actual backlog, said they're frustrated.

Dozens of people a week have continued to contact us about problems with Illinois state unemployment filings - a month and a half after Gov. Pritzker shut down the state. "They're getting letters after the day that they're supposed to have certified," said Sharon Fitzpatrick.

But people trying to file have reported persistent online and phone nightmares with the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

Fitzpatrick is among them.

"Today, literally, it took me until 5 o'clock to finally be able to get through and certify, and I started 7:30 this morning," she said.

IDES tells Miller that's just not so, but I don't find a spokesperson responding to an e-mail question via e-mail - in other words, with an unquestioned prepared statement - telling us everything is peachy keen particularly persuasive. In fact, I would be shocked if IDES didn't have a backlog in non-pandemic times. And backlogs at state unemployment offices are the norm these days (even more than in pre-COVID times). If Illinois didn't have a backlog, it would be a miracle and the rest of the country - the world! - would be flocking here to see how we did it.

"[An] employee sent a screenshot of unemployment claims that are yet to be adjudicated - 12,440 to be exact. All are out-of-work people waiting for interviews to find out if they can even get benefits.

"The IDES employee said most were filed back in March and won't even get interviewed until late this month - if then.

"And that's not counting people who still can't file a claim or certify."

Emphasis mine.

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IDES had their chance to respond before CBS2 aired their piece, which included this:

"So the question remains, where is Acting IDES Director Thomas Chan in all of this? [We] requested an interview with Chan last week and was told it would be considered."

Why the hesitation? After all, if there's no backlog he should have plenty of time to answer a reporter's questions!

And then this:

"Kozlov asked Pritzker if he'd ever considered having Chan attend one of the daily coronavirus briefings.

"I haven't, but I've been focused as you know, here, for the most part, on directly addressing the virus.

Okay, that's a pretty snotty response. Pritzker has brought all kinds of people to his briefings, and chosen various themes of the day to shape the media's reporting. What the state is doing for millions of unemployed folk can't be one of them? (In fact, it appears it will be a theme one day this week - so the news on the governor's schedule and spoonfed to the media the way they want it; no freelancing!)

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Having declined the opportunity to make Chan available, IDES spokeperson Rebecca Cisco "later reached out" to CBS2 after the story ran to make the same claim that she made to Miller - that the story was "inaccurate."

It does seem that CBS2 made it appear as if 12,000 people were waiting on claims when instead IDES say they've all gotten their money but they might have to give it back once certification interviews are done. I'm not sure that makes it that much better!

Also from Cisco: "[T]here simply is no backlog of claims currently being processed, nor is there a backlog of claims to be paid."

Really? Again, I have a hard time believing Illinois is that good - even in non-pandemic times. And I've tangled with the Illinois bureaucracy a time or two. (As a sole proprietor who may be eligible for coronavirus-related unemployment relief, I've stared at the IDES website several times over the last few weeks - in part in response to what I've read officials including the governor telling news organizations - trying to decipher what I should do.)

Again, CBS2 from their appended update:

"[We] also asked Cisco for a better word to use if 'backlog' wasn't the correct way to characterize this group, or the hundreds of other people who've reached out to us stating they are still having problems with filing a claim, the website, talking to a human, or getting unemployment money. Cisco has not yet responded."

Perhaps she has a backlog of her own.

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Remember, this is how Pritzker has defined "backlog" in recent days:

"[T]here is not a backlog in the sense of people have filed something in there and it's not officially filed. People go online, they create an account and they fill it out and that is then a filing . . .

"[T]here really isn't a backlog at this point. So people who are having trouble, there's something, there's typically an issue with their claim."

First, my understanding is that it's not so easy to just create an account and be off to the races, but I could be wrong. Second, creating an account - a filing - is just the first step. In and of itself, it doesn't get you anything. Third, people having trouble - be it an IDES issue or an issue with their claim - is part of the process. Failure to reach someone to resolve an issue or get an issue resolved in a timely manner is a . . . backlog. Unless there are truly IDES employees sitting around waiting for their phones to ring because everybody has been helped. I would love for that to be the situation, and to be wrong about this whole thing, fooled by all those complaining posers, but it defies belief, experience, and the most reliable reporting (self and otherwise) I've been able to find.

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See also: People Struggling To Get Access To Illinois Unemployment Benefits Say Things Changed After CBS 2's Reporting.

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UPDATE 2:35 P.M.: LOL, I'm on the IDES site right now and having a problem just getting past the login.

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UPDATE 2:42 P.M.: Yeah, it's not even letting me create an account. I'd say you now have a backlog of at least one, but technically I'm still pre-backlog.

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UPDATE 2:50 P.M: Yeah, it's horked. It won't let me in using my user name and password from a few years ago when I attempted to apply for unemployment and . . . never heard a thing, and it won't let me create a new account because the passwords I've been proposing need to have at least four letters and one number, which they all do, but apparently not the right letters and number!

Should I try to create an account over the phone? LOL, I hardly have the wherewithal today to start that journey. It took me about nine hours to get Verizon to fix my phone on Monday and that's enough customer service frustration for one week. Maybe I'll try again on Friday, one of my assigned days given where my last name falls in the alphabet.

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I'm not even in the backlog yet!

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New on the Beachwood . . .

Reopening Books
"This is a warning to my local library: I am coming. I am coming very soon."

Another great read from our very own David Rutter.

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A Life Of Heat 'Near Unlivable' For More Than 3 Billion People In Just Decades, Climate Report Warns
"[M]ore than one billion people are expected to live in untenably hot climates by 2070 'even in the most optimistic outlook' presented by the study, which was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science."

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The Bears' Last Dance Was Their Only One
And it still sticks in Jim "Coach" Coffman's craw.

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ChicagoGram

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ChicagoTube

Jimmy McPartland & Art Hodes / "Meet Me in Chicago" (1959)

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TweetWood
A sampling of the delight and disgust you can find @BeachwoodReport.

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As you may have heard by now, South Korea and the United States each reported their first case of COVID-19 on the same day. They're playing baseball now.

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The Beachwood Q-Tip Line: Masked and anonymous.



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Posted on May 6, 2020


MUSIC - Industry Screws Journos.
TV - Let The Children Starve.
POLITICS - COVID Workplace Bullshit.
SPORTS - Raise The Bears' Taxes.

BOOKS - A Lab Of Her Own.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Polyak Promoted.


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