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Coronavirus live blog, Jan. 24, 2021: Illinois’ 7-day positivity rate falls again

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

Illinois public health officials reported the state’s lowest daily caseload of the coronavirus in nearly three months Sunday. The statewide seven-day positivity rate is down to 4.8%, the lowest it’s been since mid-October.

Here’s what happened today that you need to know.

News

Illinois’ seven-day positivity rate drops to 4.8% as state prepares to enter next phase of vaccine distribution plan

Chicago’s Roseland Community Hospital Administers Covid Vaccinations To Hospital Staff Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

As Illinois prepares to enter the next phase of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s vaccination plan this week, the state’s coronavirus metrics took another step in the right direction Sunday.

State health officials reported Illinois’ smallest daily caseload in more than three months.

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced 3,292 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases, which were found among the 90,138 tests processed in the last day for a daily positivity rate of about 3.7%. That’s the fewest new cases recorded in a day since Oct. 19.

The statewide positivity rate, which experts use to gauge how rapidly the virus is spreading, is down to 4.8%, the lowest it’s been since Oct. 14. That figure has been on the decline since it peaked this month at 8.6% on Jan. 4.

Statewide, COVID-19 hospitalizations are also the lowest they’ve been since late October. As of Saturday, 2,994 beds were occupied statewide by coronavirus patients, with 617 of those patients in intensive care units and 321 on ventilators, officials said.

Read Madeline Kenney’s full story here.

12:10 p.m. Chicago Teachers Union votes to refuse in-person work, defy Chicago Public Schools’ reopening plan

Chicago Teachers Union members have voted to defy Chicago Public Schools’ reopening plans and continue working from home Monday because of health and safety concerns, a source told the Chicago Sun-Times.

The collective refusal of in-person work, which city officials have said they will view as a strike, marks the culmination of a months-long fight between the union and the nation’s third-largest school system over how and when to reopen schools during the pandemic.

About 86% of the 25,000 rank-and-file CTU members voted on the resolution to stay home from schools, and 71% of those members approved the collective action, the union wrote in an email to teachers and staff. That means 61% of membership approved the labor action.

“So what does this mean? It means the overwhelming majority of you have chosen safety,” the union wrote. “CPS did everything possible to divide us by instilling fear though threats of retaliation, but you still chose unity, solidarity and to collectively act as one.”

It remains unclear if CPS will cancel all classes moving forward. When asked on Friday if the union’s walkout would mean even remote learning would come to a halt, CPS CEO Janice Jackson said, “I think my point was clear that if the union refuses to work on Monday, that constitutes a strike.”

Read Nader Issa’s full story here.

Saturday 5:15 p.m. Chicago bars, restaurants officially cleared to reopen for indoor service: ‘It feels good to be back’

Restaurateurs across Chicago and Cook County breathed a sigh of relief Saturday as Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s health team officially allowed them to invite customers back inside for indoor service for the first time in over two months.

It was welcome news for many customers too, including Marcus Brezina, who, with his family, was among the first back through the doors at Corcoran’s Grill and Pub in Old Town.

“It feels good to be back inside,” Marcus said in the front dining room of the Irish pub. “The precautions are taken seriously and that’s what you want as a patron when you come in. They’re taking the right steps.”

And it took a lot of steps to get there. The governor shut down indoor service at restaurants statewide in November as coronavirus infection rates soared to unprecedented heights. But with most COVID-19 metrics back down to their lowest levels since October, Pritzker so far has put indoor service back on the menu for businesses in eight of of the state’s 11 regions.

Chicago and suburban Cook County improved to the state’s Tier 1 mitigation level, which allows restaurants and bars that serve food to seat customers indoors at the lesser of 25% capacity or 25 people per room. Bars that don’t serve food aren’t allowed to reopen in Chicago unless they partner with a restaurant to deliver on site.

That’s good news for a hospitality industry that’s been almost completely shut down for about half the pandemic.

Read the full story here.

Saturday 1 p.m. Statewide coronavirus positivity rate dips below 5% for first time in 3 months as Chicago restaurants reopen

As Chicago bar and restaurant owners were allowed to open their doors for the first time in almost three months Saturday, Illinois public health officials announced COVID-19 has spread to 5,152 more people and killed an additional 97 residents statewide.

The latest cases were detected among 110,178 tests submitted to the Illinois Department of Public Health, lowering the state’s seven-day average positivity rate to 4.9% — and marking the first day since Oct. 15 that key indicator of transmission has fallen below 5%.

After an unprecedented autumn resurgence that saw the average positivity rate soar over 13%, most of the state’s infection numbers have moved in the right direction since the holidays.

The positivity rate is still higher than it was over the summer, when it hovered around 3%, but it’s been on a sharp decline since Jan. 7.

Mitchell Armentrout has the full story.


Analysis and commentary

From Saturday: Take it from Gwen. Get the vaccine

My faithful readers know that Gwen Washington, 87, is feisty and fearless. My mother, as they say, “don’t take no stuff.”

She demands what is rightfully hers, and then some, from the store manager at her neighborhood Walgreens to powerful Chicago politicians. She has stood toe-to-toe with former Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

Now we are hearing about “vaccine hesitancy,” especially among African Americans and other people of color.

Gwen isn’t hesitant. She is a self-appointed ambassador for the COVID-19 vaccine. “I would advise anyone who is African American to take the shot,” she says.

Read Laura Washington’s full column here.