Coronavirus live blog, Jan. 6, 2021: Illinois coronavirus death toll passes 17K

Here’s Wednesday’s news on how COVID-19 is impacting Chicago and Illinois. Follow here for live updates.

SHARE Coronavirus live blog, Jan. 6, 2021: Illinois coronavirus death toll passes 17K

Illinois’ coronavirus death toll surpassed 17,000 Wednesday as public health officials announced the latest 139 fatalities attributed to COVID-19.

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


News

5:37 p.m. Illinois teachers could get vaccines within weeks, Pritzker says

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Teachers will have access to coronavirus vaccine doses in the next phase of Illinois distribution, Gov. J.B. Pritzker confirmed Wednesday.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Teachers will have access to coronavirus vaccine doses in the next phase of Illinois distribution, Gov. J.B. Pritzker confirmed Wednesday.

They’re among the “frontline essential workers” included in Phase 1B of the state’s historic vaccination effort, along with education support staff and childcare workers.

That means teachers across the state could begin receiving shots within “a few weeks,” Pritzker said.

“As the vaccines arrive they’ll be able to visit one of the sites that we’re setting up or any other provider that’s registered in order to get vaccinated,” Pritzker said.

Read the full story from Mitchell Armentrout here.

4:05 p.m. Pritzker lays out next phase of vaccination plan as Illinois coronavirus death toll passes 17K

Illinois’ coronavirus death toll surpassed 17,000 Wednesday as public health officials on Wednesday announced the latest 139 fatalities attributed to COVID-19.

It took only nine days for the state to hit the latest cruel milemarker in the 10-month pandemic; Illinois eclipsed 16,000 deaths Dec. 28.

That brutal fatality rate has actually slowed slightly compared to early December — Illinois’ worst stretch of the pandemic — when it took only six days for the toll to jump from 13,000 to 14,000 deaths.

The virus has claimed 3,860 Illinois lives over the last month, an average of about 125 deaths per day — or roughly one fatality every 12 minutes.

Read the full story here.

3:37 p.m. CTU slams ‘callous’ treatment of teachers worried about infecting their households

The Chicago Teachers Union Wednesday slammed Chicago Public Schools officials over their treatment of teachers who were forced to weigh a return to working in-person this week for the first time during the pandemic.

“We are here this morning to underscore for the public how absolutely callously CPS has treated educators who have requested accommodations or leave,” CTU Deputy General Counsel Thad Goodchild said during an early-morning news conference.

“Virtually all leave options are unpaid ... so CPS is really forcing them to choose between their safety and their livelihood,” he said.

Roughly one in three educators directed to report to schools Monday requested a leave of absence or for special accommodations to work remotely, Goodchild said.

They work in preschool and special education cluster programs. Their students are set to return Jan. 11. Thousands more teachers and staff are expected back Jan. 25 ahead of a Feb. 1 schools reopening for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. No decision has been made on when high school students in general education settings will return to in-person learning.

Read the full story here.

12:47 p.m. Photo of a family Christmas dinner reminds us to stay safe — so we can be with each other again

My nephew in Maryland just sent me a photo of a Christmas dinner in his home. In the left hand bottom corner of the photo, the edge of a large table is visible. That’s the table where my nephew, his wife and three children are sitting.

The camera is pointed toward a different adjoining room where my nephew’s father and mother sit having their Christmas meal.

I felt a catch in my throat when I saw the photograph because it seemed so sad to see the grandparents isolated and separated from their loved ones. But these were sensible adults who planned this Christmas meal together and who were resolved to keep their distance in order to preserve everyone’s health.

Treating this virus as a life and death matter strengthens us to make courageous decisions in the present, so that future photographs and videos of family and friends once again frame the closeness denied in 2020.

— Kathleen Melia, Niles

Read more of our letters to the editor here.

12:40 p.m. Availability of coronavirus vaccine could affect start of spring training for minor leaguers

Spring training could be delayed for Double-A and Class A players if major leaguers are not vaccinated for the novel coronavirus by the time big league practice is scheduled to start in mid-February.

Major League Baseball, which has taken over operation of the minors, gave notice to minor league teams and big league clubs on Monday.

“We are still evaluating many issues that affect both the major league and minor league schedules, including, most importantly, when it is likely that players and staff will be vaccinated,” Peter Woodfork, MLB’s senior vice president of minor league operations and development, wrote in a letter to big league clubs that was obtained by The Associated Press.

The letter was first reported by Baseball America.

“Assuming that a vaccine is not available to players and staff at the beginning of major league spring training, there is a strong possibility that minor league spring training will be delayed for players who otherwise would be assigned to Double-A, High-A, and Low-A because clubs have informed us that there is not sufficient space at spring training facilities for all of the players in an environment requiring strict physical distancing,” Woodwork wrote.

Read the full story here.

8:07 a.m. WHO ‘disappointed’ at Chinese delays letting experts in to examine origins of COVID-19

The head of the World Health Organization said that he is “disappointed” that Chinese officials haven’t finalized permissions for the arrival of a team of experts into China to examine the origins of COVID-19.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a rare critique of Beijing, said members of the international scientific team have begun over the last 24 hours to leave from their home countries to China as part of an arrangement between WHO and the Chinese government.

“Today, we learned that Chinese officials have not yet finalized the necessary permissions for the team’s arrival in China,” he told a news conference in Geneva.

“I’m very disappointed with this news, given that two members had already begun their journeys and others were not able to travel at the last minute, but had been in contact with senior Chinese officials,” he said.

Tedros said he had “made it clear” that the mission was a priority for the U.N. health agency, and that he had been “assured that China is speeding up the internal procedures for the earliest possible deployment.”

“We are eager to get the mission underway as soon as possible,” he said.

The experts, drawn from around the world, are expected to visit the city of Wuhan that is suspected as the place that the coronavirus first emerged over a year ago.

Here’s the story from the Associated Press.


New cases


Analysis and commentary

7:33 a.m. COVID-19 vaccine should be mandatory for state workers who care for high-risk people

The first round of the long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine was administered to residents and employees of Illinois veterans’ homes in late December, but data shows that the number of caregivers vaccinated is worrisome.

Seventy-four percent of residents in the homes have been vaccinated — that’s 95% of residents in Anna, 90% in Manteno and Quincy, and 71% in LaSalle — according to the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs. However, the people charged with providing care to our most vulnerable residents have been vaccinated in much lower percentages. Only 40% of the staff throughout Illinois have received the vaccine as of Dec. 31.

After waiting more than nine excruciating months for a vaccine, that is unacceptable. We believe the vaccine should be a mandatory condition of employment in all facilities in the state that care for high-risk individuals, especially the elderly. The only temporary exception would be for those who recently had COVID-19 or currently have it.

Read the full editorial here.

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