March 7, 2021

RDB-Design

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Coronavirus live blog, Feb. 12: Over 1.6 million total shots have been given in Illinois, 10% of state received first dose

A total of 95,375 doses went into arms Thursday, shattering the previous daily high of...

A total of 95,375 doses went into arms Thursday, shattering the previous daily high of about 75,000 set a week ago, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. That means a tenth of Illinois residents has now received one coronavirus vaccine dose.

Here’s what else happened Friday in coronavirus-related news.


News

8:56 p.m. 10% of Illinoisans have now gotten COVID vaccine after record 95k shots given

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

A tenth of all Illinois residents have now received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose following a record-breaking day for shots administered statewide, public officials announced Friday.

A total of 95,375 doses went into arms Thursday, shattering the previous daily high of about 75,000 set a week ago, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Well over 1.6 million shots have now been doled out over the past two months, meaning about 10% of the state population have received their first dose, officials said.

Still, only 374,722 of Illinois’ 12.7 million residents have received both required doses — not even 3% of the state. Officials are aiming to immunize at least 80% of residents, a process that will take months.

But the record-breaking count ratchets up the state’s unprecedented vaccination effort, raising the rolling average of shots administered per day up to 59,009 over the past week.

“Illinois has now further solidified its position as the best among the top 10 most populous states for per capita vaccinations, now two weeks in a row,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said after touring a Chicago Heights vaccination site.

Read the full story from Mitchell Armentrout here.


7:38 p.m. Return to CPS high schools could lead to 2nd battle over reopening, CTU leaders warn

Talks that produced an agreement to gradually reopen Chicago Public Schools were a “cauldron of tension” that, if repeated, could block the reopening of high schools if the district won’t agree to changes to remote learning, union leaders warned Friday.

Schools CEO Janice Jackson has called reopening high schools a “top priority” and said she is “beginning those discussions” with the CTU, using as a starting point the deal that set the stage for the return of kids in pre-K, special ed clusters and students kindergarten through eighth grade. But Jackson has ruled out any changes to remote learning. She’s not about to reduce the amount of mandatory screen time or adjust schedules, arguing she wants students in school “more — not less.”

Those comments didn’t sit well with Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Stacy Davis Gates, who told the Chicago Sun-Times on Friday: “To hear them say … that they have made all the improvements to remote learning that they intend to make is a slap in the face for those who will continue to be in remote learning.”

Reporter Fran Spielman has the full story here.

4:17 p.m. COVID dims Carnival joy and commerce on a New Orleans street ahead of Mardi Gras

NEW ORLEANS — During last year’s Carnival season, tourists at the Elysian Fields Inn gathered over breakfast to talk about parades from the night before.

At NOLA Art Bar, they sipped cocktails and watched a parade go by.

At Kajun’s Pub, many revelers started and ended Mardi Gras in the bar.

None of that is happening this year.

COVID-19 is tamping down the joy — and the profits — associated with Carnival season in New Orleans. Parades that normally draw thousands in the weeks before Mardi Gras — which falls this Tuesday — have been canceled.

In this city where music, food and cultural celebrations are interlocking blocks of the hospitality industry, bars and restaurants that normally overflow with free-spending customers are closed or operating at limited capacity. Live music is all but dead.

The toll of this year’s toned-down Mardi Gras is evident on St. Claude Avenue, an off-the-beaten-track stretch that in recent years has become a destination. Many of the street’s small business owners have weathered so much already that, even as coronavirus vaccinations ramp up, they’re prepared for a long wait before business gets back to normal.

Michelle Hagan and her husband own anine-room inn just steps off St. Claude. Last year, one of the groups known as a krewe paraded right by the house with a procession called Chewbacchus — an homage to a “Star Wars” character and a play on the name of one of the major krewes and parades, Bacchus. Hogan says it was one of the best nights since the couple bought the inn.

“I was really hoping for that again this year. But obviously that’s not happening,” she said. “It’ll be very different.”

Read the full story here.

1:16 p.m. Lightfoot, Preckwinkle say not ‘enough doses’ to expand vaccine pool — but Pritzker argues it’s unfair to deny ‘medically vulnerable’

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

While Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he remains optimistic about the state’s COVID-19 vaccine supply growing in the weeks ahead, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on Thursday rejected his plan to expand the pool of eligible shot recipients later this month.

Doing so would add over a million people to the free-for-all playing out across the city and suburbs for the coveted and incredibly scarce doses, creating “an even harder time” for those still waiting at the head of the line, according to Lightfoot and Preckwinkle.

“While we are making progress every day with vaccinating people in [distribution phases] 1A and 1B, at this time we are not being supplied with enough doses that would allow us to expand eligibility in these phases,” the former political rivals said in a rare joint statement.

“We recognize the Governor must make tough choices and consider needs across this diverse state, but given the limited supply of vaccine, we must also make the tough choices as the leaders of the most populous city and county in the state,” the mayor and county board president said. “We look forward to expanding eligibility as vaccine supply improves.”

Read the full story from Mitchell Armentrout here.

11:49 a.m. Cuomo administration ‘froze’ over N.Y. nursing home data requests

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top aide told Democratic lawmakers that his administration took months to release data on the coronavirus death toll among nursing home residents because officials “froze” over worries the information was “going to be used against us.”

The information came from a Democratic lawmaker who attended the Wednesday meeting and to a partial transcript released by the governor’s office.

Republicans who term the comment admission of a “cover-up” are now calling for resignations of both Cuomo and the aide, secretary to the governor Melissa DeRosa, while progressive Democrats are blasting the administration over what they say is a lack of transparency.

The disclosure of DeRosa’s comments, made on a conference call with Democratic legislative leaders, came as the Democratic governor and his administration were already facing backlash over their handling and reporting of outbreaks in nursing homes.

In recent weeks, the state has been forced to acknowledge the nursing home resident death toll is nearly 15,000, when it previously reported 8,500 — a number that excluded residents who died after being taken to hospitals.

State lawmakers had requested data in August on nursing home deaths. Around the same time, then-President Donald Trump began retweeting comments criticizing Cuomo for his administration’s response on nursing home deaths. The Department of Justice requested data on nursing home deaths from Cuomo’s administration on Aug. 26.

“Basically, we froze because then we were in a position where we weren’t sure if what we were going to give to the Department of Justice or what we give to you guys and what we start saying was going to be used against us, and we weren’t sure if there was going to be an investigation,” DeRosa told the Democratic leaders Wednesday. Her comments were first reported by The New York Post.

“That played a very large role into this,” she added, saying the administration had asked legislative leaders whether it could “pause on getting back to everybody until we get through this period and we know what’s what with the DOJ.”

Read the full story here.

11:27 a.m. How has the pandemic changed your shopping habits? What Chicagoans told us.

We asked readers how your shopping habits have changed over the past year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Some answers have been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

“I arrive just when the doors open. Out in 30 minutes. No longer do I roam or just look. I hit three stores, and I’m usually home two hours after I left.” — Maria Guerrero-Suarez

“Fewer big-box stores like Petco, Target or Walmart. More online purchases like Amazon or Chewy. Bulk buying at Costco is nice to cut down on trips out. Been buying monthly shares of meat for pickup and weekly bread for delivery. Ordering out once a week to keep local restaurants alive.” — Jeff Niebres

I wear a mask — other than that, nothing has changed. I still go in to the stores and pick out my household’s food.” — Bianca Williams

“A lot more Amazon and no store browsing, just in and out quickly. I miss the casual browsing!” — Beverly Hajek Cooper

Read the full story here.

9:04 a.m. Coronavirus eviction nightmare at Rogers Park condo: Squatter scared tenants, wouldn’t leave

As claustrophobic as it can feel to be cooped up during the coronavirus pandemic, a Rogers Park couple faced something worse:

Being just a wall away from an illegal squatter destroying his unit — prying apart electrical wiring, hacking into water pipes, arming himself with homemade weapons and finally using a claw hammer to smash through their bedroom wall.

The North Side couple’s nightmare was compounded by the Illinois moratorium on evictions during the pandemic. They were told repeatedly that the squatter next door, though staying there rent-free and terrorizing them, could not be kicked out.

“It was a wild ride,” Ashley Holmes says of the situation that’s finally been resolved after a long court battle.

Holmes’ partner Dave Papish owns their third-floor condo unit in a brick building in the 1500 block of West Farwell Avenue. The unit next door is owned by Greenspire Capital, a Winnetka real estate company.

Court records show Greenspire’s tenant invited a 38-year-old man with apparently serious mental health issues to live with him. And then the tenant, the one whose name was on the lease, moved out — leaving the squatter behind in the unit alone.

At first, neighbors complained of loud noises and an “odd person” who “talks to Hitler,” according to emails reviewed by the Chicago Sun-Times.

Read the full story from Stephanie Zimmermann here.


New Cases

  • Public health officials announced 2,825 newly diagnosed COVID-19 cases detected among 82,885 tests, keeping the state’s average positivity rate at 3.3%
  • Nearly 63,000 doses were administered statewide Tuesday, officials said, the fourth-highest daily total ever, raising the state’s rolling seven-day average to a high of 55,135 shots doled out per day.
  • The state’s death rate has declined as well. Officials reported 20 more people died with COVID-19 Tuesday, including nine Chicago-area residents. That’s less than half Illinois’ daily average of 55 COVID-19 fatalities, compared to 118 this time last month.

Analysis & Commentary

9:11 a.m. Finally, Chicago has a plan to reopen schools

On Thursday, thousands of preschoolers and special needs students will head back to their classrooms once again, no doubt with sighs of relief from their parents.

Beginning March 1, some 67,000 elementary students will return to classrooms too, for the first time since last spring when the pandemic forced schools across Illinois to shut down.

Their parents, too, will no doubt be relieved. For so many families, remote learning simply hasn’t worked — and they have been counting on teachers and the district to come to an agreement on a safe reopening.

Finally, after months of a stalemate that threatened to become a second teachers’ strike in two years, the Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools have that agreement. Now it’s up to both sides to make sure the plan is implemented fully, crossing every “t” and dotting every “i,” to make schools as safe as possible.

Other districts have shown it can done. Chicago can do it as well.

Read the full editorial from the CST Editorial Board here.