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Coronavirus live blog, March 17, 2021: The soon-to-be-eligible Phase 1C recipients likely to start receiving doses through April and May

Here’s Wednesday’s news on how COVID-19 is impacting Chicago and Illinois.

News

8:55 p.m. Chicago to expand vaccine eligibility to most residents March 29

Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are seen in this photo, taken in a vaccination site at Chicago Vocational Career Academy in the Stony Island Park neighborhood, Friday morning, March 5, 2021.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Most Chicagoans will be eligible to sign up for COVID-19 vaccination appointments starting March 29, the city’s top doctor said Wednesday.

Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady outlined the city’s plan to expand vaccine eligibility to city residents 16 and up with chronic health conditions, plus additional groups of essential workers.

That means “a major increase” in the pool of eligible recipients, which will soon include the majority of Chicago’s 2.7 million residents, Arwady said.

“Most Chicagoans will actually be eligible to be vaccinated beginning March 29, but just because you’re eligible, it doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to be vaccinated right away. It’s all going to depend on vaccine supply,” Arwady said.

Residents 65 and older will remain the city’s priority. About half the city’s seniors have gotten a dose so far, Arwady said.

The soon-to-be-eligible Phase 1C recipients are more likely to start receiving doses through April and May.

Read the full story from Mitchell Armentrout here.

6:32 p.m. Amid pandemic, IRS will delay tax filing due date until May 17

Americans will be getting extra time to prepare their taxes. The Internal Revenue Service says it’s delaying the traditional tax filing deadline from April 15 until May 17.

The IRS announced the decision Wednesday and said it would provide further guidance in the coming days. The move provides more breathing room for taxpayers and the IRS alike to cope with changes brought on by the pandemic.

“The IRS wants to continue to do everything possible to help taxpayers navigate the unusual circumstances related to the pandemic, while also working on important tax administration responsibilities,” IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in a statement.

The decision postpones when individual taxpayers must file their return and when their payment is due. The IRS said taxpayers who owe money would not face any further penalties or interest if they pay by May 17. The new deadline also applies to individuals who pay self-employment tax.

Taxpayers do not need to take any action to take advantage of the new deadline. Those who need more time beyond May 17 can request an extension until October 15.

Read the full report here.

4:15 p.m. Trump Tower vaccine fiasco ‘absolutely can never be repeated,’ Lightfoot says

A “disappointed” Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Wednesday chastised executives at The Loretto Hospital who approved a round of COVID-19 vaccinations for employees of the tony Trump International Hotel & Tower last week even though they weren’t eligible to get the coveted shots.

The CEO of the Austin neighborhood hospital — which the mayor chose as the site of the city’s first-ever vaccine dose in December as a show of commitment to equitable vaccine distribution in low-income communities of color — has said “we were mistaken” in letting the 72 hotel workers jump to the front of the line.

Lightfoot called it a blunder that “can never be repeated.”

“Of course I was disappointed to hear about it. … Loretto has been a tremendous partner with the city,” Lightfoot said during a news conference announcing the city’s plan to expand eligibility — including to hospitality workers — on March 29.

Reporters Mitch Armentrout and Brett Chase have the full story.

2:09 p.m. CPS aims to reopen high schools April 19 pending ‘ongoing’ CTU negotiations

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file photo

Chicago Public Schools officials will aim to reopen high schools at the start of the fourth academic quarter on April 19, the district announced Tuesday, even as ongoing negotiations with the Chicago Teachers Union leave that target date unsettled.

A mid-April reopening would resume in-person high school classes for the first time in over a year and would match plans several suburban districts have set out over the past few weeks.

“Providing high school students the option to safely return on April 19 is a top priority for the district, and we will continue meeting regularly with CTU representatives as we strive to reach a consensus that provides the smoothest possible transition for our families and staff,” schools chief Janice Jackson wrote in a letter to families and staff.

Discussions with the teachers union have been productive, Jackson said, and the April date is one of “several concepts the parties have discussed.”

But in a statement Tuesday evening, the union said “we have no agreement,” criticized the district’s announcement as “more unilateralism” and accused CPS of distorting the status of negotiations.

“The mayor and CPS cannot set a date for return, then inevitably blame educators if any problems meeting that deadline arise. Instead, the district must work with parents, students, educators and all stakeholders in crafting a safe plan for high school return to in-person instruction,” the union said.

Read the full story from Nader Issa here.

12:08 p.m. Will work from home outlast virus? Ford’s move suggests yes

DETROIT — It’s a question occupying the minds of millions of employees who have worked from home the past year: Will they still be allowed to work remotely — at least some days — once the pandemic has faded?

On Wednesday, one of America’s corporate titans, Ford Motor Co., supplied its own answer: It told about 30,000 of its employees worldwide who have worked from home that they can continue to do so indefinitely, with flexible hours approved by their managers. Their schedules will become a work-office “hybrid”: They’ll commute to work mainly for group meetings and projects best-suited for face-to-face interaction.

Ford’s announcement sent one of the clearest signals to date that the pandemic has hastened a cultural shift in Americans’ work lives by erasing any stigma around remote work and encouraging the adoption of technology that enables it. Broader evidence about the post-pandemic workplace suggests that what was long called tele-commuting will remain far more common than it was a year ago.

A report this week from the employment website Indeed says postings for jobs that mention “remote work” have more than doubled since the pandemic began. Such job postings are still increasing even while vaccinations are accelerating and the pace of new confirmed COVID cases is declining.

“If job postings are a guide, employers are increasingly open to remote work, even as some employees return to the workplace,” said Jed Kolko, chief economist at Indeed.

Read the full story here.

9:15 a.m. Trump Tower workers wrongly vaccinated by West Side hospital

The Loretto Hospital wrongly vaccinated 72 workers at Trump International Hotel & Tower last week at the request of West Side residents who work there and could not leave their jobs to get the vaccine, according to a hospital memo released Tuesday.

Hospital President & CEO George Miller also said in the memo that the Austin hospital was, at the time, “under the impression that restaurant and other frontline hospitality industry workers” were eligible for the vaccine in Chicago.

“I now understand, after subsequent conversations with the Chicago Department of Public Health, that we were mistaken,” Miller wrote.

Hospitality workers won’t likely become eligible for the shots until March 29, when the city expects to expand who can get the shots.

Miller made clear in his memo that the vaccines used at Trump Tower came from Loretto’s allotment and were not taken from an allotment that is part of the Protect Chicago Plus program. That program targets residents in 15 communities on the South and West sides identified as “high-need” based on the city’s COVID vulnerability index.

Loretto spokeswoman Bonni Pear also confirmed Tuesday that Loretto Chief Operating Officer Anosh Ahmed owns a unit in Trump Tower. However, she said she was told by Miller that the decision to administer vaccines in the building was “his and his alone.”

Ahmed couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Read the full story from Jon Seidel and Stefano Esposito here.


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