Coronavirus live blog, Jan. 31, 2021: Chicago teachers on verge of lockout or strike as CPS, CTU fail to reach deal

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

SHARE Coronavirus live blog, Jan. 31, 2021: Chicago teachers on verge of lockout or strike as CPS, CTU fail to reach deal

Chicago teachers may be on the verge of a lockout or strike as Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union remain unable to come to agreement on terms for the reopening of schools.

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


Teachers on verge of lockout or strike as CPS, CTU fail to reach agreement


Teachers Adrienne Thomas, left, and Irene Barrera set up their computers and materials for their virtual classes outside of Suder Montessori Magnet Elementary School.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Officials with Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union have failed to reach an agreement over how and when to reopen schools, setting the stage for a lockout or teachers strike that would halt classes for 290,000 students this week.

With Sunday set up to be a pivotal day in negotiations ahead of the planned return of 65,000 students to classrooms Monday, the two sides did not even meet, according to a source close to the talks.

CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates wrote on Twitter that “CPS said the only way they’d attend bargaining was if we were offering major concessions.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and schools chief Janice Jackson are scheduled to host a news conference at 5:15 p.m. with an update on negotiations.

Principals were expected to meet with district representatives Sunday afternoon for this week’s plans. A source said teachers will still be told to report to schools Monday and may be locked out of remote work if they don’t show. Students will likely be asked asked to stay home.

Read Nader Issa and Tom Schuba’s full story here.

2:15 p.m. Blackhawks will forge on despite missing 5 players on COVID-19 list: ‘That can make our team stronger’

After the Blackhawks received more bad news in COVID-19 testing, hastily ushered all of their players out of Fifth Third Arena and realized their already bumpy season had taken another unfortunate turn, Saturday afternoon’s scheduled team Zoom meeting took on great importance.

During it, coach Jeremy Colliton tried to keep his team from growing discouraged.

“One of the main messages was: We’re facing some adversity, it’s been hard at times, we know we’re missing guys,” Colliton said. “Finding a way through and continuing to push forward and do the right things, we have to do it again and again and again.

“The circumstances, it really doesn’t matter. The most important thing is that we push through and we find a way to persevere anyway. That’ll be great for us in the end. That can make our team stronger.”

Colliton could’ve easily taken a different, more pessimistic approach. Internally, perhaps he has — it’d be difficult not to.

Read Ben Pope’s full story here.

12:23 p.m. Coronavirus outbreak hits immigration detainees before vaccine eligibility opens for jails in Illinois

Irbin Rocha got a form about a month ago asking if he wanted to take the vaccine against COVID-19 while in immigration custody at the Jerome Combs Detention Center.

But an outbreak in January left Rocha and at least 21 other immigration detainees sick with COVID-19 just before they became eligible for a vaccine in Illinois, according to statistics from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s website. As of Friday, there were 16 active COVID-19 cases out of a total of 22, according to ICE.

“Everybody got different symptoms,” Rocha said Tuesday during a phone call from the jail, which is about 60 miles south of Chicago. “Some of the older people, it’s hard for them. Some of them, they are still sick, they get out of breathe.”

The state moved to Phase 1B of the vaccine distribution on Jan. 25, and it includes people detained in jails and prisons. For ICE detainees in Illinois, it’s unclear when they will get the vaccine.

Read Elvia Malagón’s full story here.

11:07 a.m. Chicago re-enters Phase 4, non-essential curfew lifted, indoor capacity won’t change, mayor says

State officials announce Sunday that Chicago has made enough progress in the fight against COVID-19 to re-enter Phase 4 of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s statewide resurgence plan, but Chicago’s recently reopened bars and restaurants will keep their current capacity.

Chicago’s coronavirus testing positivity rate remained below 6.5% for a third consecutive day, clearing the way for Chicago to leave the state’s Tier 1 restrictions and enter Phase 4 for the first time since November.

The city moved to Tier 1 last week, allowing bars and restaurants to seat customers indoors at either 25% of capacity or 25 people per room, whichever is less.

Under Phase 4, establishments are allowed to operate at 50% capacity or serve less than 50 people at once, whichever is lesser, but Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement Saturday a rush to expand capacity too quickly would be “irresponsible.”

Read Jermaine Nolen’s full story here.

Saturday 5 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.

Commentary and analysis

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.

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