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Coronavirus live blog, Nov. 16, 2020: Second potential coronavirus vaccine appears to be 94.5% effective

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

Another coronavirus vaccine is showing great promising, bringing a little bit of hope to Illinoisans as new daily case numbers remain high.

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


News

8:55 p.m. Second potential coronavirus vaccine appears to be 94.5% effective

AP Photos

For the second time this month, there’s promising news from a COVID-19 vaccine candidate: Moderna said Monday its shots provide strong protection, a dash of hope against the grim backdrop of coronavirus surges in the U.S. and around the world.

Moderna said its vaccine appears to be 94.5% effective, according to preliminary data from the company’s still ongoing study. A week ago, competitor Pfizer Inc. announced its own COVID-19 vaccine appeared similarly effective — news that puts both companies on track to seek permission within weeks for emergency use in the U.S.

Dr. Stephen Hoge, Moderna’s president, welcomed the “really important milestone” but said having similar results from two different companies is what’s most reassuring.

“That should give us all hope that actually a vaccine is going to be able to stop this pandemic and hopefully get us back to our lives,” Hoge told The Associated Press.

Read the full report here.

6:04 p.m. Holiday plans? Pritzker urges coronavirus caution — says he hopes to spend his Thanksgiving in Illinois

Already feeling the pain from the fall coronavirus explosion, Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday urged Illinois residents to rethink crowded Thanksgiving dinners or the state could “expect much worse.”

A little over a week before a holiday that typically sees people feasting indoors with family, the governor and Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the head of the Illinois Public Health Department, urged caution to avoid ovetaxing the state’s health care apparatus.

“Our hospitals are on their way to being overwhelmed — our doctors, nurses and health care workers are already being stretched beyond their limits,” Ezike said. “I don’t know how else to express the importance of personal responsibility.”

The governor urged people to ask themselves “if it’s worth it to spread the virus at any upcoming gatherings.” Though there’s “real hope for possible widespread distribution” of a vaccine by early spring, that’s still months away, Pritzker said.

For his part, Pritzker said he won’t be hosting friends who can’t go home for the holiday as he usually does. But asked whether or not he’d be in the state for Thanksgiving, the governor was noncommittal, saying “that is my hope, but I’ll let you know.”

Reporters Rachel Hinton and Brett Chase have the full story.

4:10 p.m. WW unveils new weight-loss program with more personalization, support amid COVID-19

WW International, the company formerly known as Weight Watchers, is doing a reset.

The weight-loss and wellness company rolls out a new comprehensive program Monday focusing not only on food but activity, mindset and sleep, company officials shared exclusively with USA TODAY.

The Oprah Winfrey-backed company’s new myWW+ comes with a more personal approach that can help with stress eating and lack of sleep, which have hit not only weight-conscious consumers during the coronavirus pandemic.

“They want more support, they want more motivation, they want more inspiration but they want what they need,” WW President and CEO Mindy Grossman told USA TODAY. “And they want a certain amount of personal accountability.”

Read the full report here.

2:33 p.m. Cook County judge at Daley Center tests positive for COVID-19

A Cook County judge who works at the Daley Center has tested positive for the coronavirus, marking the tenth judge countywide to test positive for the virus.

However, the judge last reported to work at the downtown office in October, according to a statement from the Office of the Chief Judge.

Reporter David Struett has the full story.

1:11 p.m. State reports another 11,632 COVID-19 cases, 37 deaths

Illinois health officials announced 11,632 new and probable cases of the coronavirus Monday as well as 37 more deaths, as stay-at-home advisories took effect in Chicago and suburban Cook County and the state attempts to curb a surge in cases.

The new case numbers continue a grim 11-day streak, during which Illinois has seen more than 10,000 cases per day.

The new numbers bring the state’s total to 585,248 cases. Monday’s case load comes from 90,612 tests conducted over the last 24 hours.

Health officials also reported 5,581 people with the virus were in hospitals as of Sunday night, with 1,144 of those patients in intensive care units and 514 on ventilators.

Read the full report here.

10:44 a.m. Sheriff’s office suspends in-person visits at Cook County Jail

The Cook County sheriff’s office announced Sunday it will be suspending in-person visits at the Cook County Jail in hopes of warding off another coronavirus outbreak as cases rise across the county.

The suspension is effective Monday, the sheriff’s office announced, citing the rising case numbers as well as the stay-at-home advisory issued Thursday for Chicago and suburban Cook County.

“For months, detainees were able to safely meet with family and friends,” the sheriff’s office said, referring to the reinstitution of in-person visits in June after a shutdown during the virus’ initial spread. “Like detainees, the people who visit them come from the community, where current test positivity rates for Chicago and Cook County are at 15.6% and 15.2% respectively.”

Read the full story here.

8:28 a.m. Statewide COVID-19 outbreak continues with 10,631 new cases Sunday

Illinois surpassed 10,000 coronavirus cases for the 10th consecutive day on Sunday as state health officials announced 10,631 new coronavirus infections and an additional 72 fatalities.

Sunday’s new cases accounted for roughly 12.5% of the more than 84,800 tests reported to the Illinois Department of Public Health in the last 24 hours.

The state’s seven-day statewide positivity rate — a figure experts use to understand how rapidly the virus is spreading — reached 12.8% Sunday, up from 8% at the start of the month, the state public health department reported.

The surge in cases has led to Illinois hospitals treating the most COVID-19 patients they’ve ever had. As of Saturday night, 5,474 beds were taken up by COVID-19 patients in Illinois hospitals, with 1,045 of those patients in intensive-care units and 490 on ventilators, officials said.

Cook County accounted for 21 of Sunday’s 72 fatalities. Only 16 of those deaths reported statewide were among people under the age of 70, and only six were under 60.

Read the full story from reporter Madeline Kenney here.


New cases


Analysis & Commentary

5 p.m. Step up to the plate for pandemic safety on Thanksgiving

This is a year to be home for the holidays — as in staying at home.

Medical experts are telling us to limit Thanksgiving festivities to immediate household members. No one outside the quarantine bubble should show up, as much as we would love to see them. Let’s heed the professionals’ wise advice, even as the Moderna company on Monday announced a second vaccine that early data show to be 94.5% effective.

A recent Ohio State University survey disturbingly showed 38% of respondents planned holiday get-togethers of more than 10 people, and that many of those people aren’t planning to wear masks or engage in other protective measures.

Shrugging off the pandemic is a huge mistake. COVID-19 is surging everywhere. A million U.S. cases were recorded in just the past week. Illinois has 10% more hospitalizations than last spring’s peak. Hospitals are devoting more beds and wings to COVID-19 patients, but there are only so many nurses, respiratory therapists, doctors and other health care professionals. Last spring, Illinois was able to bring in health professionals from out of state, but now those other states are experiencing their own surges.

Read the CST Editorial Board’s full remarks.

12:11 p.m. Support those who are bringing us a COVID-19 vaccine

In a letter to the Sun-Times editors, Jerry Gura of Clarendon Hills writes:

Just last week, we received great news from Pfizer on the efficacy of its vaccine. And while this is an extremely exciting step, the race is still far from finished, as it will still need to be approved by the FDA and then distributed to the general public.

This most recent news should still give us all some much-needed hope, and it speaks volumes about the efforts of our country’s bio-pharmaceutical scientists and researchers. Our best and brightest minds have come together and made progress at a pace that has never been seen before with so much on the line.

While this important work continues, and we enter what we all hope will be the final stretch of this nightmare, lawmakers in Washington should take notice and ensure they do not enact any policy that could set back efforts. This includes implementing government price-setting policies that could actually slow efforts not only to develop a vaccine but find cures to other deadly diseases, such as cancer.

Personally, I just want to get back to normal as soon as possible, and the only way that will happen is if our lawmakers to do everything they can to support those working hard to end the pandemic with science.

Read this and more letters to the editors here.

9:50 a.m. Feeding the hungry grows all the more difficult during a pandemic

The coronavirus has put food banks throughout the United States in a nightmare position. They are dealing with higher demand, declining financial donations and fewer people who can volunteer.

Locally, the Greater Chicago Food Depository is bracing for a loss of volunteers because of this fall’s big surge in COVID-19 cases and the city’s new stay-at-home advisory.

In the fiscal year that ended on June 30, the food depository distributed more than 93 million pounds of food, the equivalent of 77.5 million meals. It was by far the most food the depository has distributed in its 41-year history.

“There is an increase in need,” Greg Trotter, spokesman for the depository, told the Sun-Times. “With winter coming and the pandemic raging on, we are very worried.”

The Greater Chicago Food Depository serves a network of more than 700 food kitchens, shelters and pantries, organizations that this fall are providing food to 50% more people each month than they were in January.

Read the full story here.

7:18 a.m. He went to the hospital in the morning. By mid-afternoon, he was dead from COVID-19.

John Sprinkle of Evergreen Park observed his 36th birthday Nov. 4.

He didn’t celebrate because he had been feeling sick. But he went on Facebook the following day to thank everyone for wishing him well.

The next morning, having trouble breathing, he called 911 to take him to the hospital. He was able to walk to the ambulance and waved to a neighbor.

A couple of hours later, he texted his sister from the emergency room, saying he was feeling better.

At 3:38 that afternoon, Sprinkle was dead from acute respiratory failure caused by COVID-19.

Just like that.

The toll from the coronavirus pandemic is mounting again, much like it was in the spring, and I’ve decided to return to what I was doing then: telling the stories of the victims.

Read Mark Brown’s column here.