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COVID-19 in Illinois updates: Here’s what’s happening Friday – Chicago Tribune

Illinois set a new single-day record for COVID-19 vaccinations with 95,375 doses administered on Thursday, bringing the state total to 1,644,483. Over the past seven days, the state averaged 59,009 vaccines administered daily. Officials also said that 10% of people in Illinois have received their first dose of vaccine.

Officials also announced 2,598 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 and 32 additional fatalities, bringing the total number of known infections in Illinois to 1,158,431 and the statewide death toll to 19,873 since the start of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, newly released state data shows that Black and Hispanic Illinoisans so far have been vaccinated at half the rate of white residents, confirming fears of inequity in COVID-19 vaccinations.

And nearly three weeks after the state opened up shots to all senior citizens, a Tribune analysis of vaccination and census data shows wide variation in how many seniors have gotten shots. A handful of counties have now gotten a first shot into at least half those 65 and older, but the vast majority have not, including some where 9 in 10 seniors have yet to get a first shot.

Here’s what’s happening Friday with COVID-19 in the Chicago area and Illinois:

7:20 p.m.: The standoff over Chicago schools is over for now. What’s next for Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CTU?

As the dust settles from the latest battle between Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Chicago Teachers Union, the city’s elementary schools may have reopened to in-person learning but no clear winners have emerged.

Lightfoot avoided a second CTU strike within two years, but still went to the brink with a powerful force in Chicago politics. CTU approved a back-to-school deal with support from close to 55% of its total membership amid ongoing concerns from educators about school safety. Parents and families, meanwhile, lived with tremendous stress and uncertainty during negotiations over their children’s education as city leaders clashed over reopening grades K-8.

“We’ve got to figure out a way to do this that doesn’t lead to this kind of public mass (conflict). It’s not necessary. It’s not productive. It leaves lasting scars,” Lightfoot said Friday in an interview with the Tribune. “There’s a lot of healing that needs to be done in CPS as a result of this latest episode. At school levels, within schools … this was like biblical times. Brother versus brother, sister against sister, there’s no need for that. This pandemic is tough and hard on its own. We need not add layers of trauma, and yet that’s exactly what happened.”

It’s too early to say what the political fallout of the latest dispute will be for Lightfoot, but the tensions with CTU are not over. Conflict with the union has been a defining feature of Lightfoot’s political life, and the issues surrounding the schools reopening may reemerge soon.

CTU members ratified a plan that reopened elementary schools to in-person learning for pupils through eighth grade that started Thursday. The union’s house of delegates also voted in favor of a resolution of no confidence in the mayor and CPS leadership.

It’s against that backdrop that Lightfoot and the union at some point will need to sit down and discuss reopening the city’s public high schools, setting the stage for another potentially contentious and fraught negotiation that could lead to more strike threats.

During interviews with the Tribune, Lightfoot and union officials expressed some hope they would be able to avoid the ugly brinkmanship that characterized the latest reopening plan when they talk about high schools.

But the mayor expressed no regrets about the hard lines she drew against the union or some of her tactics.

7:10 p.m.: Illinois will soon begin vaccinating prisoners against COVID-19. Some politicians question state’s priorities.

After a deadly second wave of the coronavirus pandemic in Illinois prisons sickened thousands of workers and inmates, the state will begin vaccinating both groups in the coming week — a plan that drew praise from advocates but provoked the ire of some lawmakers who argue criminals should not be prioritized.

The first doses will be administered at the minimum-security East Moline Correctional Center in Rock Island, where nearly half the inmate population has tested positive for COVID-19 since March and four men died of related illnesses, state officials said.

The state will continue distributing the vaccine throughout the Illinois Department of Corrections beginning Feb. 22 with the goal of having the nearly 29,000 inmates and more than 12,000 workers receive their first and second doses by mid-April.

The plan has not come without political wrangling. Pointing to national public health guidelines and studies noting the high risk for infection and death among inmates, advocates for prisoners’ rights in Illinois have pushed to have incarcerated people vaccinated with the same urgency as others who live in congregate settings.

But with senior citizens and essential workers already eligible for vaccinations still struggling to land appointments, some Republican lawmakers have cried foul, especially about the idea of vaccinating younger, healthy inmates.

6 p.m.: More people died on Illinois roads last year than since 2007. Is the pandemic to blame?

Nearly 160 more people died on Illinois roads last year than in 2019, making 2020 the deadliest year for Illinois drivers in 13 years, a surge officials say may have been fed by drivers speeding on roads left open by motorists who stayed home because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

About 1,166 people died in motor vehicle crashes in Illinois in 2020, a nearly 16% increase over 2019, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation. That’s a provisional number, said IDOT spokesperson Guy Tridgell, since it takes the state agency 12-18 months to finalize annual data.

Illinois traffic fatalities haven’t been that high since 2007, when 1,248 people died, according to recent and historic state data. Deaths include drivers, passengers, pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.

“We do know anecdotally from law enforcement that speeding and reckless driving likely increased with deadly consequences during the pandemic, in Illinois and throughout the country,” state transportation spokesperson Maria Castaneda said in an email.

4:50 p.m.: Chicago-area counties have among the lowest COVID vaccination rates in the state

Last November, Adams County, on the westernmost edge of Illinois, was a COVID-19 hot spot. One out of five residents tested was positive for the virus.

Now, the county has reversed the situation. This week, its positivity rate was below 3%. More importantly, as of Friday, health care workers have vaccinated 23% of the population with their first doses — the highest rate in the state.

Keys to the turnaround, officials said, included one-hour test results and a streamlined vaccination system. Registrants drive to a central vaccination site, and wait in their cars until they’re told over the radio that they may enter. They confirm their residency, get their shots, wait 15 minutes, and are on their way.

“We’re killing it,” county board Chairman Kent Snider said. “We made it simple and fast.”

Illinois as a whole has faced challenges and criticism for its vaccine rollout, though the number of doses administered across the state is picking up. Among individual counties, the vaccination response has differed widely.

The Chicago area, plagued with overloaded registration systems and vaccine shortages, has among the lower vaccination rates in the state. The city and Cook and DuPage counties reported that less than 10% of their populations had received their first dose. Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties each had vaccinated 8% or less.

Health officials hope to improve the situation soon, but say they can only do so if they get enough vaccine and vaccinators to expand into much larger operations. They also say the number of people needing vaccines in the cities and suburbs would dwarf the capabilities of rural counties like Adams County.

4:30 p.m.: After losing mother, grandmother and uncle to COVID-19, Evanston family tries to move forward

The coronavirus had already taken her uncle and her grandmother. By the time Karina Reyes’ 47-year-old mother was hospitalized, Reyes and the rest of her family were all too familiar with planning a pandemic memorial.

Doctors told Reyes and her brothers that their mother, Elvia Mendoza, was not getting better. “Does a miracle have to happen for her to live?” Reyes recalls asking a doctor. She said the doctor responded: “Honestly, I haven’t seen miracles happen when it comes to COVID.”

People who care for their family members who contract the virus can end up paying for it with their own lives. The Mendoza family is one of many suffering through COVID-19′s deadly path. Elvia Mendoza became ill after caring for Reyes’ grandmother. “She would sleep with her, she would bathe her, everything,” Reyes said.

Reyes, 21, and brothers Francisco Reyes, 23, and Daniel Mendoza, 19, and their father, Celso Alejandro Reyes, 44, are working to honor their matriarch’s memory and find a way forward themselves.

4:25 p.m.: COVID-19 testing site opening in former Des Plaines Kmart on Monday

A new COVID-19 testing site is scheduled to open in a former Kmart store in Des Plaines on Monday.

It will be able to administer up to 10,000 tests a day, including PCR tests, rapid antigen tests and rapid antibody tests, according to a news release from SG Blocks, which partnered with Clarity Lab Solutions and National Pain Centers to run the testing center.

Tests will be offered seven days a week during business hours at the site in the 1100 block of East Oakton Street. People can register online for appointments starting Monday. Samples will be collected outside and analyzed inside the former Kmart store.

The location is close to O’Hare International Airport and can supplement in-airport testing while providing another local option, said Paul Galvin, chairman and CEO of SG Blocks.

3:45 p.m.: Spike in COVID-19 cases at New Trier High School linked to student gatherings

Officials at New Trier High School say off-campus student gatherings are likely to blame for a surge in COVID-19 cases this month that has led to more than 200 students in quarantine, including dozens of athletes.

The spike in COVID-19 cases is especially disheartening, officials said at a recent school board meeting, as more than 97% of students who are attending school in-person or participating in extracurricular activities at the Winnetka and Northfield campuses have been strictly complying with the required weekly saliva screenings.

As of Thursday, around 217 students were in quarantine, including 44 teens who had tested positive for COVID-19, and 160 students who had a close contact with someone who had tested positive, according to the high school’s COVID-19 dashboard.

Officials said those numbers include members of four of the high school’s sports teams. Currently quarantined due to exposure are members of the sophomore boys basketball team, varsity boys basketball team, varsity girls basketball team and varsity competitive dance team.

“It is the parents who are answering this for students, so we do need to emphasize the importance of communication between parent and student, so we do the right thing for the community,” Superintendent Paul Sally said, referring to the high school’s stringent COVID-19 protocol, including a daily health screening form.

3:40 p.m.: Baseball cards are booming during the pandemic, with long lines, short supplies and million-dollar sales

Forget Wall Street. Jim & Steve’s Sportscards in Waukegan may have had the hottest initial public offering Wednesday: the Topps 2021 Series 1 baseball cards.

Collectors grabbed $149 boxes filled with 24 packs of 14 cards each before they hit the shelves, just the latest example of how million-dollar sales and speculative traders are turning the onetime children’s hobby into a high-stakes investment game.

“Business is probably at an all-time high,” said Steve Wilson, 52, owner of the north suburban shop since it opened in 1981. “Investors, collectors, they’re sitting at home, they’ve got nothing else to do.”

Baseball trading cards are booming during the pandemic, with record sales of vintage cards, skyrocketing prices for new cards and an influx of collectors — old and new. Some industry analysts see pandemic stay-at-home boredom as fueling a resurgence of interest, as parents rediscover the hobby and share it with their children.

Investors who saw big returns on the stock market last year also have begun to buy into trading cards as an alternative to equities, pumping up prices for the cardboard commodity.

2 p.m.: CDC provides roadmap for reopening schools, saying there is strong evidence that in-person schooling can be done safely

The nation’s top public health agency on Friday provided a roadmap for reopening schools in the middle of a pandemic, emphasizing mask wearing and social distancing and saying vaccination of teachers is important but not a prerequisite for reopening.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the long-awaited update, but it cannot force schools to reopen, and agency officials were careful to say they are not calling for a mandate that all U.S. schools be reopened.

They said there is strong evidence now that in-person schooling can be done safely, especially at lower grade levels, and the guidance is targeted at schools that teach kindergarten up to 12th grade.

1:10 p.m.: New data shows stark divide of Illinois COVID-19 vaccinations by race, ethnicity, and age

Confirming fears of inequity in COVID-19 vaccinations, newly released state data shows that Black and Hispanic Illinoisans so far have been vaccinated at half the rate of white residents.

And nearly three weeks after the state opened up shots to all senior citizens, a Tribune analysis of vaccination and census data shows wide variation in how many seniors have gotten shots. A handful of counties have now gotten a first shot into at least half those 65 and older, but the vast majority have not, including some where nine in 10 seniors still have yet to get a first shot.

The state Department of Health released the demographic data Friday, becoming one of the last states to do so.

While the data itself offers no explanation for the disparities, the racial and ethnic divide tracks with the concerns of health officials and equity advocates that a higher share of Black and Hispanic residents may have a harder time lining up shots or be leery of taking them because of past discrimination in medical research.

The disparity in seniors getting shots also tracks with the decentralized nature of injection strategy in Illinois, where each local health department can decide who to prioritize within broad state guidelines. And it could reflect delays in certain areas in a federal program that works with pharmacies to get shots into arms of long-term care residents.

The Tribune downloaded the state data, then compared it to census data that estimates population by race and ethnicity. Such an analysis can be difficult, with race and ethnicity designations overlapping and some residents identifying as more than one race. For its analysis of census data, the Tribune grouped non-Hispanic white residents of one race , Hispanic residents of any race, non-Hispanic Black residents (including those of two or more races), and other residents.

The analysis shows that, as of Friday, 11% of white residents had gotten at least one dose of the two-dose regimen of vaccine shots. The same was true of just 5% of Black residents, and 4% of Hispanic residents.

There is a chance the rates are higher for minority groups, because in roughly 1 in 10 shots, the race and ethnicity of the recipient was not recorded in the data — a lingering problem of pandemic data keeping.

For those over 65 of any race or ethnicity, 26.9% had gotten a first shot as of Friday. Of Illinoisans ages 16 to 64, 8.8% had gotten a first shot.

12:35 p.m.: Illinois says 10% of residents have now received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine

Illinois public health officials announced Friday that 10% of all Illinoisans have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

The milestone comes as the state administered a record 95,375 vaccinations on Thursday, bringing the state total to 1,644,483.

The number of Illinois residents who have been fully vaccinated — receiving both of the required two shots — reached 374,722, or 2.94% of the state population. Over the past seven days, the state averaged 59,009 vaccines administered daily. One week ago, that number was 49,082.

The state on Friday reported 2,598 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 and 32 additional fatalities. The total number of known infections in Illinois is 1,158,431 and the statewide death toll is 19,873.

The seven-day statewide positivity rate for cases as a share of total tests was 3.1% as of Thursday, reaching its lowest level since the week ending July 19, when the rate was 3.0%. Friday’s new cases resulted from 103,009 tests.

As of Wednesday night, 1,915 people in Illinois were hospitalized with COVID-19, with 437 patients in intensive care units and 211 patients on ventilators.

12:20 p.m.: 95,375 vaccinations administered; 2,598 new COVID-19 cases and 32 additional deaths reported

Illinois set a new single-day record for vaccinations with 95,375 doses administered on Thursday, bringing the state total to 1,644,483. Over the past seven days, the state averaged 59,009 vaccines administered daily. Officials also said that 10% of people in Illinois have received their first dose of vaccine.

The state also announced 2,598 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 and 32 additional fatalities, bringing the total number of known infections in Illinois to 1,158,431 and the statewide death toll to 19,873 since the start of the pandemic.

Officials reported 103,009 new tests in the last 24 hours. The seven-day statewide rolling positivity rate for cases as a share of total tests was 3.1% for the period ending Thursday.

9:35 a.m.: Yes, it’s confusing — here’s everything we know about how to get a COVID-19 vaccination in DuPage and Will counties

There has been a lot of confusion over how and when to get a COVID-19 vaccine. We asked the DuPage and Will county health departments to tell us in the most basic terms what you need to do and why you need to be patient.

Click here for the full Q/A. —Rafael Guerrero, Naperville Sun

9:30 a.m.: Ash Wednesday ashes will be sprinkled or applied with a cotton applicator

Ash Wednesday will look a little different for area Catholics next week, with new COVID-19 precautions featuring the sprinkling of ashes on the top of the head, a practice that is common in Europe, officials at the Archdiocese of Chicago said in a Friday statement.

Those receiving ashes on Feb. 17 may also have the option of having the ashes placed on their forehead with a non-plastic Q-Tip or cotton ball, officials said.

In normal times, ashes are applied by hand to worshipers’ foreheads in the shape of a cross as an outward expression of their faith.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lenten season, a solemn, 40-day period devoted to prayer, fasting and reflection, and leading up to Easter Sunday. Services will still be held at parishes throughout the archdiocese, officials said, but like regular weekend Masses, visitors must register for the services or Masses on individual parish websites.

Some parishes are only offering ash distribution, and visitors are encouraged to check individual parish websites for times, officials said.

COVID-19 protocols including mask-wearing, social distancing and the using of hand sanitizer will also be required.

7:15 a.m. Pritzker to tour Chicago Heights vaccination site

Gov. J.B. Pritzker was set to tour a vaccination site in Chicago Heights midday Friday, a day after the state announced a total of more than 850 places administering vaccines in Illinois.

Pritzker was to tour the Aunt Martha’s Chicago Heights Community Health Center in Chicago Heights midday Friday, according to his office. The center is a federally qualified health center vaccination site for Cook County, according to a release.

On Thursday, state officials announced more than 340 new vaccination sites, most of them Walgreens Pharmacies receiving vaccines allocated through the federal program managing vaccinations and four of them CVS Pharmacies receiving vaccines through state allocation.

6 a.m.: Health care workers, students spending free time as volunteers giving COVID-19 vaccination shots. ‘This is one of the most therapeutic things’

Montrice Brown was a 46-year-old casino worker with a high-risk pregnancy when she decided to finally make a career change.

Brown always had nursing in the back of her mind, but it was her obstetrician’s care and encouragement while she was pregnant that inspired her to enroll in nursing school.

Now 47, Brown has a healthy 18-month-old daughter and is on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic as a nursing student who volunteers her time giving shots of the vaccine.

“I’m so motivated. I am so pumped. I am so ready to lend my help,” Brown said. “I should have done it 20 years ago.”

Brown’s unusual journey from casinos to nursing school has placed her in a key role in the state’s vaccine rollout: that of the volunteer.

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