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Coronavirus live blog, Jan. 30, 2021: Illinois’ coronavirus testing positivity rate falls to lowest point in almost 4 months

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

Illinois’ average coronavirus testing positivity rate fell to its lowest point in almost four months Saturday as officials reported 3,345 new cases of COVID-19 and 65 more deaths attributed to it.

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


News

5:00 p.m. Illinois coronavirus: 57,292 more vaccinated, 3,345 more infected as positivity falls to 4%

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Illinois’ average coronavirus testing positivity rate fell to its lowest point in almost four months Saturday as officials reported 3,345 new cases of COVID-19 and 65 more deaths attributed to it.

The Illinois Department of Public Health also announced another 57,292 coronavirus vaccine doses went into arms across the state Friday, marking four straight days with more than 50,000 shots administered.

A week into Phase 1B of the state’s vaccine distribution program, a total of 945,137 shots have now been administered, though only 208,211 people have received both required doses. That’s only 1.6% of the state population, but the state’s rolling average of doses administered per day over the last week is now up to 41,045.

Meanwhile, most of Illinois’ infection numbers have fallen back down to their lowest levels since October following a devastating fall surge.

Read the full story from Mitchell Armentrout here.

4:40 p.m. CPS, CTU make progress with several tentative agreements, but strike still looms

Leaders from Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union reached several tentative agreements Saturday in ongoing negotiations to reopen schools, making progress at the bargaining table less than 24 hours after Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the “CTU leadership has failed and left us with a big bag of nothing.”

A few large points of contention remain, but the sides started putting pen to paper the day after talks appeared on the verge of derailing, potentially signaling a deal could still be finalized this weekend.

The district’s tentative agreements with the union were on health and safety protocols, ventilation, a contact tracing program and safety committees at each school that would monitor problems, the union told members Saturday. Those were the verbal agreements the mayor lambasted CTU leadership for not putting in writing Friday night.

The sides are still negotiating over larger disagreements, such as a health metric to determine school closures, teacher vaccinations, a broader testing program for staff and students and work-from-home accommodations. Though those issues have been obstacles to reaching a deal, talks were significantly progressing Saturday, sources said.

Read the full story from Nader Issa here.

3:07 p.m. Blackhawks cancel Saturday practice due to COVID-19 exposure as outbreak worries grow

The Blackhawks will not hold their scheduled practice at Fifth Third Arena on Saturday.
Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

The Blackhawks’ COVID-19 concerns escalated to the next level Saturday.

The team canceled its scheduled 12 p.m. practice at Fifth Third Arena “out of an abundance of caution due to potential exposure of COVID-19,” the team announced.

Alex DeBrincat and Adam Boqvist were placed on the NHL’s COVID-19 Protocol list on Monday, with coach Jeremy Colliton saying then that they’d miss at least two weeks, and Lucas Wallmark was added Wednesday.

But the Hawks hadn’t recorded any new positive tests Thursday or Friday and played Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday’s games as scheduled. They’re currently scheduled to face the Blue Jackets at home again Sunday at 6.

Ben Pope has the full story here.

8:15 a.m. Lightfoot demands schools reopen Monday, sets stage for potential CTU strike

Mayor Lori Lightfoot demanded thousands of teachers return to their schools Monday, issuing an ultimatum to the Chicago Teachers Union and setting the stage for the city’s second teachers strike in 15 months.

Negotiations continued into Friday evening between Chicago Public Schools officials and the union, but the two sides came away with no agreement and heightened tension heading into a pivotal weekend.

“Another day has passed, and the CTU has not agreed to anything,” Lightfoot said at a news conference late Friday, appearing her angriest at the union since the 2019 strike. “The CTU leadership has failed and left us with a big bag of nothing.”

Lightfoot said CPS plans to proceed with the reopening of elementary and middle schools on Monday, drawing a line in the sand that could set up a potential teacher lockout or strike next week if a deal isn’t made this weekend. The CTU has said its members won’t return to schools without an agreement.

Nader Issa has the full story here.

7 a.m. Drained students say CPS should do more to help teens’ mental health, improve remote learning

Reina Espino Torres, a student at Curie Metropolitan High School, is mentally and emotionally drained.

She sits in front of a computer up to eight hours each weekday for virtual classes and has homework she sometimes doesn’t understand, with little access to teachers. She also recently suffered personal loss — her uncle who raised her passed away of COVID-19.

“I was on the verge of giving up on school,” Reina said in a virtual student discussion this week about Chicago Public Schools’ reopening plans. “I was so gone to a depressed episode. And my teachers, they didn’t really know how to handle that. Even when I didn’t go to school for like two weeks, when I came back to school I had a load of homework, they didn’t know how to assist me, they didn’t know how to help me. They didn’t have any mental resources for me.”

Despite the school system’s push to bring students back to classrooms as a solution to educational and personal struggles during the pandemic, Reina said risking infection in a building with classmates and teachers wouldn’t help her, it will cause more anxiety.

Read the full story from Nader Issa here.

6:30 a.m. Fauci sees vaccination for kids by late spring or the summer

The government’s top infectious disease expert said Friday he hopes to see some kids starting to get vaccinated for COVID-19 in the next few months. It’s a needed step to securing widespread immunity to the virus.

Vaccines are not yet approved for children, but testing already is underway for those as young as 12.

If those trials are successful, Dr. Anthony Fauci said they would be followed by another round of testing down to those 9 years old.

Read the full story here.


New cases

  • The latest Illinois Department of Public Health figures of 58,357 shots given Thursday follow totals of more than 53,000 and nearly 56,000 over the previous two days.
  • A total of 887,845 doses have gone into Illinois arms over the last six weeks, but only 194,471 people so far have received the two doses required for full vaccination — barely 1.5% of the population.
  • Public health officials reported Friday 4,156 more cases of COVID-19 detected among 111,057 tests. That kept the state’s seven-day average testing positivity rate at 4.3% — half as high as that key indicator of transmission was on Jan. 4.
  • The virus also killed 71 more residents, raising the Illinois death toll to 19,138. Thirty-eight of the latest victims were from the Chicago area, including a Kane County woman in her 20s.

6 a.m. Doing right by hotel workers — and the hotels that laid them off — during the pandemic

Marie Lourdie Pierre-Jacques lived the quintessential American “bootstrap” story. She worked hard, raised a family, paid her dues.

As a young woman, she immigrated from Haiti to the United States. She spoke little English.

She took a menial job at the Swissotel Chicago downtown. She worked her way up to banquet server. It was a job she loved — her word, “loved” — for 18 years.

“I gave it my whole heart,” she told me over the phone. “When the hotel would call me at 2 a.m. to cover for someone, I would go in. Sometimes, I would stay at the hotel overnight for three days in a row so I wouldn’t be late for a shift.”

Then COVID-19 devastated the hospitality industry.

Read the full column by Laura Washington here.