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Coronavirus live blog, Jan. 26, 2021: Who can get COVID-19 vaccines and where to get them

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

Have questions about how to get a COVID vaccine? We’ve got all of your frequently asked questions answered right here.

Check out our guide below and see what else is happening in coronavirus-related news.


News

8:55 p.m. Here’s what you need to know about signing up for a COVID-19 vaccine in Chicago

On Monday, Chicagoans age 65 and older and more than 300,000 essential workers became eligible for the coronavirus vaccine.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

As Chicago moves into its next phase of COVID-19 vaccinations, here are some answers to questions on who can get the shots and where to get them.

Who’s eligible for the vaccine?

On Monday, Chicagoans age 65 and older and more than 300,000 essential workers became eligible for the vaccine. The group includes police and firefighters, correctional workers, grocery store employees, educators and transit employees. Go to www.chicago.gov/covidvax for a full list.

Health care workers as well as employees and residents of nursing homes and congregate facilities have been eligible since December and those individuals can still be vaccinated.

Where do I go to get vaccinated?

All vaccinations will be handled through appointments either through a doctor or other health care provider, a pharmacy or an employer. City-designated sites for mass vaccinations are currently booked up to provide shots to health care workers. At some point, they should be open for appointments for others who are eligible. More information is available at covidcoach.chicago.gov/.

The city lists several pharmacies where members of eligible groups can sign up to get the vaccine (as of Monday, some were scheduling appointments, while some said they would be soon):

• Walgreens at walgreens.com/findcare/vaccination/covid-19

• Jewel-Osco at mhealthappointments.com/covidappt

• Walmart at walmart.com/cp/1228302

• and Mariano’s at marianos.com/i/coronavirus-update/vaccine

For more information, including how long it will take to get scheduled for a vaccine, read the full story from Brett Chase.

6:29 p.m. Chicago man sold COVID-19 stimulus checks stolen from mail, feds say

A Chicago man is facing federal charges after allegedly conspiring with a postal service carrier to steal coronavirus relief checks and sell them to others.

Akeem Kosoko, 26, is charged with one count of conspiracy to steal mail and government funds, three counts of embezzlement of government property and three counts of receipt of stolen mail, according to an indictment.

Kosoko allegedly conspired with his brother Ahmed Kosoko, who worked as a postal carrier, and others to steal checks issued under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, the indictment states.

Read the full report here.

3:52 p.m. State House to cancel all but one day of February session over COVID-19 concerns

Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch plans to cancel all but one day of the Illinois House’s session next month.

That decision, which was laid out in an email from Welch’s chief of staff Jessica Basham, points to public health recommendations on quarantining before and after large gatherings — such as legislative sessions — as well as weekly trips to Springfield being “impractical” for those with small children or older family members as reasons for nixing the upcoming days.

“Therefore, with the health and safety of members, staff, and the public being the priority, the Speaker plans to cancel the session dates set for February 2-4, 9, 11, and 16-18,” Basham’s email reads. The Center Square first reported the email.

Members should still expect to return to Springfield Feb. 10 to adopt the rules for the General Assembly’s procedures. Between now and then, Majority Leader Rep. Greg Harris will “be working with members on both sides of the aisle to gather and consider potential changes to the Rules, including the authorization of remote committees.”

Reporter Rachel Hinton has the full story.

1:43 p.m. California gives state more control over vaccine delivery

LOS ANGELES — California is revamping its vaccine delivery system to give the state more control over who gets the shots following intense criticism of a slow and scattered rollout by counties.

The state’s health agency on Tuesday said third-party administrators would take over ordering and distributing vaccine doses, putting an end to a hodgepodge system where each county and hospital system ran its own vaccine delivery program.

The move comes after California faced criticism for a slow rollout as coronavirus cases soared and hospital beds filled up with patients in much of the state.

California has said healthcare, education and childcare, emergency service and food and agriculture workers, as well as anyone 65 and older, are eligible for vaccines in the state.

Read the full story here.

1:24 p.m. More suburban restaurants cleared to reopen as COVID-19 kills 87 more across Illinois

Bars and restaurants across Chicago’s north and west suburbs were allowed to reopen for indoor service for the first time in over two months Tuesday, as COVID-19 infection rates continue declining across Illinois — but a more infectious strain of the virus looms.

Two regions comprising DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties advanced to Tier 1 of the state’s coronavirus mitigation plan, which allows for dine-in service at 25% capacity or 25 people per room, whichever is less.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker ordered last call for indoor service in mid-November to stem an all-time high surge in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Pritzker had pointed to numerous studies suggesting bars and restaurants are viral super-spreader sites, but he began loosening restrictions last week as statewide infection numbers have fallen to their lowest points since mid-October.

Restaurants and bars that serve food have now been cleared to reopen at limited capacity in 10 of the state’s 11 regions. Only the downstate Metro East region remains at Tier 2 of Pritzker’s mitigation plan, but it’s poised to enter Tier 1 within a few days.

Read the full story from Mitchell Armentrout here.

1:22 p.m. CPS parents caught between district and CTU fear students are falling behind, push for stability

As yet another standoff unfolds between Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union, parents with varying circumstances and a range of viewpoints on reopening schools amid the coronavirus pandemic have expressed some of the same basic desires — they want safety and educational stability and fear their students are falling behind.

Rose McDonough’s autistic son, Michael, attends Vaughn Occupational, a special education high school on the Northwest Side. Michael is 21 and is in a program that helps students transition to adulthood with life and career training. He returned to his classroom in the first phase of CPS’ reopening earlier this month.

“So far so good,” Rose McDonough said of her son’s return to in-person learning.

But McDonough has been worried about her and her son’s health. She’s recovering from open heart surgery last year and her immune system still isn’t at full strength. She wanted her son to stay home, but he wasn’t doing well without socialization even though his teachers have done a good job with remote lessons, McDonough said.

If the labor strife between the CTU and CPS doesn’t get solved soon, she worries schools will close again, putting her son “back to square one.”

Read Nader Issa’s full story here.

12:35 p.m. Vaccine appointments canceled amid confusion over supply

An increasing number of COVID-19 vaccination sites around the U.S. are canceling appointments because of vaccine shortages in a rollout so rife with confusion that even the new CDC director admitted she doesn’t know exactly how many shots are in the pipeline.

States were expected to find out their latest weekly allocation of vaccines on Tuesday amid complaints from governors and top health officials about inadequate supplies and the need for earlier and more reliable estimates of how much is on the way so that they can plan accordingly.

President Joe Biden suggested Monday that he hopes the country can soon ramp up to 1.5 million shots dispensed per day. His administration has also promised more openness and said it will hold news briefings three times a week about the outbreak that has killed over 420,000 Americans.

But for now, the setup inherited from the Trump administration has been marked by frustration, miscommunication and unexplained bottlenecks, with shortages reported in some places even as vaccine doses remain on the shelf.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Biden’s brand-new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was herself flummoxed over the weekend in trying to describe current supplies.

“I can’t tell you how much vaccine we have,” she told “Fox News Sunday,” describing the problem as a challenge left by the outgoing Trump administration. “And if I can’t tell it to you, then I can’t tell it to the governors, and I can’t tell it to the state health officials. If they don’t know how much vaccine they’re getting, not just this week, but next week and the week after, they can’t plan.”

Read the full story here.

11:33 a.m. City finds ‘high level of compliance’ on first weekend of indoor dining; cites 1 business for serving nearly 80 patrons

City officials said they found a “high level of compliance” from restaurants and bars over the first weekend of indoor dining, citing only one business that allegedly served dozens of people who weren’t social distancing.

The Drip G, 5529 W. Chicago Ave., was cited for allowing 79 patrons to eat and drink indoors, according a spokesperson for the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.

No other violations of the Tier 1 Mitigation Measures were found on Saturday and Sunday.

Over the weekend, Chicago bar and restaurant owners were allowed to open their doors for the first time in almost three months. Indoor service previously resumed in the Will-Kankakee county region, and it was allowed as of Tuesday in DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties.

Since the pandemic began in March, BACP has conducted 8,236 COVID-19 investigations and cited 417 businesses for violating rules.

“The high level of compliance that we saw this weekend is a sign that our businesses are committed to operating responsibly, and I look forward to continued compliance as we slowly and carefully reopen,” Escareno said.

Read David Struett’s full story here.

10:35 a.m. 8 new cases of more contagious COVID-19 strain found in Illinois

Local and state health officials Monday reported eight new cases of a more contagious COVID-19 variant in Illinois.

The latest cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, first identified in the United Kingdom, bring the total number of cases in Illinois to nine, health officials said.

Officials reported the initial single case on Jan. 15 in Chicago.

The nine total cases range in age from 12 to 63 years and were reported in Cook County, officials said.

“We expected to see more cases of this variant crop up, and people should know that the best way to protect themselves is continue wearing a mask, washing hands often, staying six feet away from others and getting vaccinated when it is your turn,” said Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady.

Read the full from Emmanuel Camarillo here.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

8:08 a.m. Amid COVID-19 shortage of doctors, other health workers, foreign-trained professionals are left on the sidelines

As hospitals nationwide struggle with the latest COVID-19 surge, it’s not so much beds or ventilators in short supply. It’s the people to care for the sick.

Yet a large, highly skilled workforce of foreign-educated doctors, nurses and other health practitioners has gone largely untapped due to licensing and credentialing barriers. According to the Migration Policy Institute think tank in Washington, D.C., about 165,000 foreign-trained immigrants in the United States hold degrees in health-related fields but are unemployed or underemployed in the midst of the health crisis.

Many of these workers have invaluable experience dealing with infectious disease epidemics such as SARS, Ebola or HIV in other countries, yet must sit out the coronavirus pandemic.

The pandemic highlights licensing barriers that predate COVID-19, but many believe it can serve as a wakeup call for states to address the issue for this crisis and beyond. Already, five states — Colorado, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey and New York — have adapted their licensing guidelines to allow foreign-trained health workers to lend their lifesaving skills amid pandemic-induced staff shortages.

“These really are the cabdrivers, the clerks, the people who walk your dog,” said Jina Krause-Vilmar, president and chief executive officer of not-for-profit Upwardly Global, which helps immigrant professionals enter the U.S. workforce. “They also happen to be doctors and nurses in their home countries, and they’re just not able to plug and play into the system as it’s set up.”

Read the full story here.


New cases