Coronavirus live blog, Nov. 24, 2020: Another potential COVID vaccine proves ‘highly effective’ in trials

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

SHARE Coronavirus live blog, Nov. 24, 2020: Another potential COVID vaccine proves ‘highly effective’ in trials

Residents facing evictions, foreclosures or unresolved debt issues during the coronavirus pandemic may be able to get financial help from Cook County.

Here’s what you need to know about this and other coronavirus headlines around the city and state.


8:55 p.m. Another potential COVID vaccine proves ‘highly effective’ in trials

Emilio Cici, 42, of Burr Ridge, gets a shot at Rush University Medical Center as part of a clinical trial for a COVID-19 vaccine developed by drugmaker AstraZeneca.

Emilio Cici, 42, of Burr Ridge, gets a shot at Rush University Medical Center as part of a clinical trial for a COVID-19 vaccine developed by drugmaker AstraZeneca.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia / Sun-Times file

AstraZeneca said Monday that late-stage trials showed that its COVID-19 vaccine with Oxford University was up to 90% effective in preventing disease.

The results are based on interim analysis of trials in the U.K. and Brazil of a vaccine developed by Oxford University and manufactured by AstraZeneca. No hospitalizations or severe cases of COVID-19 were reported in those receiving the vaccine, AstraZeneca said.

The trial looked at two different dosing regimens. A half dose of the vaccine followed by a full dose at least one month apart was 90% effective. A second regimen using two full doses one month apart was 62% effective. The combined results showed an average efficacy rate of 70%.

“These findings show that we have an effective vaccine that will save many lives,” Professor Andrew Pollard, chief investigator for the trial, said in a statement. “Excitingly, we’ve found that one of our dosing regimens may be around 90% effective.’’

AstraZeneca is the third major drug company to report late-stage results for its potential COVID-19 vaccine as public health officials around the world anxiously wait for vaccines that will end the pandemic that has killed almost 1.4 million people. Pfizer and Moderna last week reported preliminary results from late-stage trials showing their vaccines were almost 95% effective.

Read the full report here.

7:02 p.m. Health care workers, kids want people to stay home: ‘A virtual Thanksgiving will potentially prevent an ICU Christmas’

Seven-year-old Mia Lopez has one holiday wish: Please stay home, everyone.

Mia’s mother, Heather Prescaro, is an emergency department nurse at Cook County Health.

And while Mia is proud of her mom for helping to battle COVID-19, she also wants that fight to end, and soon.

“My wish is for everyone to stay home, so they don’t get the COVID. So everyone can be healthy and safe,” Mia said at the “Please Stay At Home” press conference organized by Cook County Health.

Mia and her mom joined other workers and their children on Monday to urge Chicagoans to stay home during the holiday season, in order to curb the spread of the virus.

Reporter Adam Mahoney has the full story.

3:10 p.m. Illinois reports 8,322 new coronavirus cases, lowest test positivity rate in more than two weeks

State public health officials reported 8,322 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 Monday as well as 47 additional deaths.

As of Sunday night, 6,171 people with the virus were reported to be in the hospital; 1,206 patients were in intensive care units and 635 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.

The 8,322-daily caseload, while still higher than in previous months, was the lowest since Nov. 4 and only the seventh time this month when the figure was below 10,000.

And they were detected among almost 91,562 tests, lowering the statewide average testing positivity rate to 10.9%, the lowest it’s been since Nov. 8.

The announcement of the new cases follows news of another drugmaker, AstraZeneca, reporting late-stage trials of a potential vaccine for the deadly virus being up to 90% effective in preventing the disease.

Read the full report from Rachel Hinton here.

1:56 p.m. Cook County launches legal assistance initiative to help residents facing evictions, foreclosures, unresolved debt

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle Monday announced a new legal assistance initiative geared to help residents facing evictions, foreclosures or unresolved debt issues during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Early Resolution Program — the first of several programs operated under the new Cook County Legal Aid for Housing and Debt (CCLAHD) initiative — will provide free legal assistance, counseling, pre-court mediation and case management for residents and landlords dealing with evictions and delinquent property taxes, Preckwinkle said during a virtual news conference.

Preckwinkle said there will be a tax deed specific program planned for 2021 that will be focused on early outreach to residents who start to fall behind on paying taxes. There’s also a mortgage foreclosure specific program in the works, the county board president said.

Read the full story here.

1:10 p.m. Two more employees in Cook County’s chief judge’s office test positive for coronavirus

Two more employees at the Cook County chief judge’s office have tested positive for COVID-19, the judge’s office reported Monday.

One employee works at the juvenile court center. The other is a courthouse reporter who works at the Maywood courthouse.

These two additional cases bring the total number of employees infected with COVID-19 to 173 since the start of the pandemic, with 73 of those employees working at the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, the judge’s office said in a statement.

Eleven judges and 62 residents at the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center have also tested positive for the virus.

Read the full report here.

12:34 p.m. Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson proposes ground delivery tax

Chicagoans who have flooded Amazon and other online retailers with orders during the pandemic to avoid in-person shopping trips would pay for the privilege of that convenience under a “ground delivery tax” proposed Monday.

Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11th), grandson and nephew of Chicago’s two longest-serving mayors, wants to impose a $1.25 tax on packages with a “cumulative weight of 50 lbs. or less” and $2.50 for packages tipping the scales at more than 50 lbs.

Packages contained “prepared food for immediate human consumption” would be exempt. So would packages containing “solely prescription and non-prescription medicines, drugs and medical appliances including, but not limited to tampons and sanitary napkins, insulin, urine testing materials, syringes and needles used by diabetics.”

To avoid a collections nightmare, the ordinance states: “It shall be the duty of each seller of tangible personal property sold at retail and delivered to a location within the city by ground delivery service to collect the tax.” Sellers that fail to “collect and remit the tax…shall be liable to the city for the amount” left uncollected.

Read the full story from Fran Spielman here.

9:16 a.m. 13 more employees test positive for coronavirus at Cook County Circuit Court Clerk’s office

Thirteen more employees of the Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County have tested positive for COVID-19 since Nov. 7, the clerk’s office announced over the weekend.

The new test results bring the total number of employees who have tested positive to 67, the clerk’s office said.

Three of the new employees who tested positive have been hospitalized, while the other 10 are self-quarantining at home, the clerk’s office said.

Two employees work in the Chancery Division at the Daley Center, 50 W. Washington, and two more work at the Records Center, the clerk’s office said. The other employees are spread among various clerk’s office facilities across the Chicago area.

The clerk’s office said they have notified any close contacts of employees who tested positive, and deep cleaned affected work areas.

Read the full report here.

8:38 a.m. Catholic schools could move to remote learning after Thanksgiving

With cases of COVID-19 spiking across Illinois, the Archdiocese of Chicago announced Sunday that Catholic schools can voluntarily transition to remote learning after the Thanksgiving break.

While the archdiocese outlined a plan last month to pivot elementary schools to remote learning for two weeks at the start of next year, spokesman Manuel Gonzales said the new considerations are being made “in light of the recent rise in the general infection rate and the warnings about travel during the holidays.”

Still, Gonzales said it’s “too soon to say which schools will be switching to remote learning.” Most of the 199 archdiocese schools in Cook and Lake counties have continued to offer in-person classes to their roughly 70,000 students.

The decision to give Catholic schools a remote learning option comes after parents, principals and other school employees were surveyed last week “to gauge their comfort with in-person learning in December,” Gonzales said.

“In 80 percent of schools, there was strong support to stay the course of providing in-person and remote learning options,” he noted. “On Friday, we notified the other 20 percent of schools that we would work with them on any need for alternate plans, which may include moving to remote learning for some or all of the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas.”

Read the full story here.

New cases

Analysis & Commentary

9:09 a.m. Vaccine news highlights racial disparities in COVID-19 cases

America got more good news about a COVID-19 vaccine last week, the second potential vaccine shown to be at least 90% effective against the disease in early data from clinical trials.

If the Food and Drug Administration grants emergency use authorization to one or both vaccines, doses could be distributed beginning in late Decembe,r and the country will have its most powerful tool yet against the pandemic.

But no vaccine, no matter how effective it is or how quickly it becomes available, will be a powerful tool against the pandemic if too few people — especially African Americans, who are among the most vulnerable to severe illness or death from COVID-19 — get the shot.

And as the Sun-Times’ Brett Chase reported Sunday, distrust of a COVID-19 vaccine runs deep among Black Americans. They’re less likely to volunteer for clinical trials to test vaccine safety and effectiveness. Public opinion polls, too, have consistently shown African Americans are less likely to say they would take a coronavirus vaccine.

The health care system has a lot of work to do to get past that lingering distrust. As states and the federal government plan public education campaigns to urge people to take a vaccine, extra effort must be made to reach the African American community, get people vaccinated and save lives.

Read the full editorial here.

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