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Illinois Coronavirus Updates: New COVID Variant Found in Lake County, Super Bowl Parties Discouraged – NBC Chicago

Health officials identified Lake County’s first case of the COVID-19 variant Saturday that has been circulating the U.K.

Meanwhile, Chicago officials urged that residents remember coronavirus safety protocol ahead of anticipated Super Bowl Sunday gatherings.

Here are the latest COVID-19 headlines from around the state:

Lake County Reports First Case of COVID-19 Variant

The first case of the COVID-19 variant was identified in Lake County, health officials announced Saturday.

The Lake County Health Department reported the first case of the coronavirus variant B.1.1.7, which is the strain more commonly circulating the U.K. in recent months.

The individual infected with the variant had traveled internationally and was in contact with a sick person before leaving to return back to the U.S. in late December, health officials said.

According to the department, the individual did not experience any symptoms of the coronavirus.

“We expect to see more cases of these new variants in Lake County as they seem to spread more easily and quickly than other variants,” Dr. Sana Ahmed, Medical Epidemiologist for LCHD, said. “It is extremely important that you follow quarantine recommendations and get tested if you have traveled or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.”

Health officials reminded that studies suggest the currently available COVID-19 vaccine is effective against the new strains.

For more on the new coronavirus strain, click here.

Illinois Reports 3,062 New COVID-19 Cases, 60 Additional Deaths Saturday

Health officials in Illinois on Saturday reported 3,062 new confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus, along with 60 additional deaths attributed to the virus.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, Saturday’s new cases bring the state to 1,144,281 cases of the virus in the state, with 19,585 deaths attributed to COVID-19 since the pandemic began last year.

Over the last 24 hours, 90,295 test specimens have been turned in to state laboratories, bringing the statewide total number of tests performed to 16,555,035.

The seven-day positivity rate rose slightly on Saturday to 3.4% from 3.3% the day before. The positivity rate on individuals tested during that time dropped to 4.2%.

As of Friday night, there were 2,271 coronavirus patients in Illinois hospitals. Of those patients, 485 were in intensive care units, while 246 were on ventilators.

The total number of vaccine doses administered thus far is sitting at 1,294,498 doses, including 188,351 at long-term care facilities through the federal partnership with pharmacies.

A total of 2,132,025 doses have been sent to Illinois, with the 7-day rolling average of vaccines administered daily standing at 49,909 doses.

Chicago Officials Urge Safety Amid Super Bowl Celebrations This Weekend

As the coronavirus pandemic continues across Chicago, city officials reminded residents to celebrate Super Bowl Sunday safely.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady on Friday advised people to follow safety precautions, especially while the city is seeing the lowest COVID-19 positivity rates since October.

“We have made so much progress in recent weeks – now is not the time to let down our guard,” Lightfoot said. “I’ll be watching the game with my wife and daughter at home, and I call on all Chicagoans to do the same and avoid gatherings. Let’s not make the Super Bowl a super-spreader event!”

City officials reminded that traditional Super Bowl gatherings have potential to be super-spreader events for the coronavirus, which is why they are urging residents order take-out from a local bar or restaurant, as well as avoid mixed-household parties.

According to Lightfoot and Arwady, the best way to avoid indoor gatherings with people outside of the household. However, if guests are indoors, health officials said people should maintain six feet of distance and wear face coverings.

“While Super Bowl parties of any kind are strongly discouraged, Chicagoans are reminded that, per health order, indoor residential gatherings must be limited to no more than ten individuals,” a release said.

Because the city in is Phase 4 coroanavirus mitigations, the following regulations apply if going to bars or restaurants:

  • Six people per table
  • Six feet of distance between tables
  • Indoor capacity limited to the lesser of 25% or 25 individuals

Business Affairs and Consumer Protection workers will be visiting entertainment establishments throughout the city of Chicago prior to the big event Sunday, according to a release.

CPS Pre-K and Cluster Students to Return Tuesday as Dispute With CTU Continues

Chicago Public Schools on Friday released a detailed plan for the return to in-person instruction, which calls for students in pre-K and cluster programs to be back in classrooms beginning Tuesday even as the in-person learning debate with the Chicago Teachers Union continues.

Under the phased reopening, pre-K and cluster teachers and staff will return to school buildings Monday, with students joining them the following day.

On Friday morning, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the city and CPS presented the union with their “last, best and final offer.”

CTU President Jesse Sharkey said the offer in question “cannot stand” and is a “threat” to cut students off from schooling.

Sharkey said the offer from CPS would pause in-person learning if there are COVID-19 outbreaks in 50% of buildings at the same time, which he said amounts to more than 200 schools. He also noted that the proposal “denies remote work accommodations to 75 percent of educators with household members at high-risk for COVID-19” and “will not make any improvement in remote learning, despite four out of five students remaining remote.”

While agreements have been reached on a number of issues, according to the school district, the following remain outstanding: vaccinations, accommodations for staff with vulnerable household members, metrics regarding pausing in-person learning and a phased reopening.

Under the phased reopening proposal announced by CPS Friday, kindergarten through fifth grade teachers and staff will come back to school buildings on Tuesday, Feb. 16, with their students returning Monday, Feb 22.

Sixth through eight grade teachers and staff will return to classrooms on Monday, Feb. 22, with their students joining them on March 1.

A limited number of students in pre-K and programs returned to classrooms last month in accordance with the district’s plan, though those students were moved back to remote learning after the union’s vote.

Thousands of elementary and middle school staff and teachers were expected to return to schools last week, with an estimated 71,000 students scheduled to join them on Monday – though both were postponed amid the standoff.

Read more here.

Kroger to Pay Workers $100 to Receive the COVID-19 Vaccine

Kroger is offering a $100 incentive for employees who receive both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine as a way to encourage associates to become vaccinated, the Cincinnati-based grocery retailer announced Friday.

The vaccine payment will be offered to all associates who present proof of vaccination to their human resources representative, according to a news release from the company.

Employees who cannot receive the vaccine due to medical or religious reasons will have the option of completing an educational health and safety course to receive the payment.

The company also announced an additional $50 million investment to thank and reward employees, including a $100 store credit and 1,000 fuel points for hourly frontline grocery, supply chain, manufacturing, pharmacy and call center associates. 

Chicago-area grocer Mariano’s is a subsidiary of Kroger.

Chicago Closes City-Run COVID Testing Sites for Several Days Due to Weather

With a bitter cold spell set to hit the Chicago area, Chicago-run coronavirus testing sites will be closed for several days, officials announced Thursday.

Beginning Friday, city-run testing sites will close for five days, through Feb. 10, Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications tweeted.

The move is “due to inclement weather.”

Read more here.

80 New COVID Vaccination Locations Open in Illinois, State Announces

The state of Illinois has added 80 new COVID-19 vaccination sites, according to a news release from state health officials Thursday.

More than 3.2 million of the state’s residents are eligible for vaccinations under Phase 1B, which includes people age 65 years and older as well as “frontline essential workers.”

In all, 390 vaccination sites have opened across the state.

The newly-established sites include 78 additional Walgreens locations, as well as two Illinois National Guard locations in Cook and St. Clair counties.

Current vaccination sites in the state are available by appointment only, but the state plans to launch walk-in locations in the coming weeks, officials previously said.

For a complete look at ways you can make an appointment or where you can receive vaccine information for your area, click here.

All of Illinois Now in Phase 4 After Last Region Loosens Coronavirus Restrictions

All of Illinois is now under Phase 4 coronavirus guidelines after the last of the state’s 11 regions still in tighter mitigations loosened some of those restrictions to the same level as the rest of the state on Thursday, health officials announced.

Region 4, also known as the Metro East Region in southern Illinois, moved from Tier 2 mitigations directly to Phase 4, skipped Tier 1 entirely. That move means all 11 of the state’s regions are now in Phase 4 after the state allowing regions to move forward in mid-January following the holiday season.

Regions 8 and 9 – which include DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties in the Chicago area – were able to further loosen restrictions Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Region 10, which holds suburban Cook County, moved to Phase 4 while Region 7, which includes Will and Kankakee counties, returned on Monday. The city of Chicago entered a modified version of the phase over the weekend.

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