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Coronavirus live blog, Jan. 9, 2021: Public health officials announced 6,717 more COVID-19 cases, 101 deaths

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

The coronavirus has killed an additional 101 residents and spread to 6,717 more people, but hospitalizations have declined considerably.

Here’s what else you need to know about coronavirus in Illinois.


News

5:00 p.m. Positivity rate down as coronavirus claims 101 more Illinois lives

Illinois logged 101 more COVID-19 deaths Saturday as public health officials announced 6,717 more people have been infected with the virus statewide.

The new cases were detected among 102,903 tests submitted to the Illinois Department of Public Health, keeping the seven-day average testing positivity rate trending in the right direction. Following a slight increase after Christmas, that key indicator of transmission has remained stable for about a week and is now down to 8.3%.

Hospitalizations have declined considerably as well since the state suffered a brutal autumn resurgence. As of Friday night, 3,589 beds were occupied by coronavirus patients, with 742 receiving intensive care and 393 on ventilators. Those figures are all as low as they’ve been since since the start of November.

Read the full story here.

2:01 p.m. Black scientist who helped develop COVID-19 vaccine attends inoculation of Rev. Jesse Jackson

Kizzmekia Corbett, the National Institute of Health’s lead scientist for coronavirus vaccine research, puts her hand on Rev. Jesse Jackson after physician Kiran Chekka administered the COVID-19 vaccine in the Roseland Community Hospital’s parking lot in the Roseland neighborhood, Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. Corbett and Jackson kicked off a campaign to raise awareness about the vaccine and encourage African Americans and Latinx to get vaccinated.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

In the monumental effort to build Black community trust of the coronavirus vaccine, the Rev. Jesse Jackson rolled up his sleeve. Famous viral immunologist Dr. Kizzmekia “Kizzy” Corbett placed a supportive hand on his shoulder. And Dr. Kiran Chekka stuck the needle in his arm.

Jackson, founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, was on his way to being protected against COVID-19. In a month, he’ll return for the second dose, ensuring full vaccination.

A simple act. A huge deal. The 79-year-old civil rights leader and Corbett, the Black woman scientist who co-led the National Institutes of Health team that developed the Moderna vaccine, made for a powerhouse duo of role models.

“We know our history, and we understand from where this hesitancy comes,” Corbett, 34, a rock star in immunology science, told the Chicago Sun-Times afterward.

“It’s sad that it’s being highlighted in this moment where the need to get vaccinated is so dire. On the one hand, we are the communities most plagued by the pandemic. On the other hand, we are communities least likely to get vaccinated,” Corbett said.

“Those two things do not go together. And so it’s really time for action from scientists, physicians, etc., to really extend ourselves to reassuring those communities, so we can get the ball rolling. A lot of times, people just need to see their mirror image.”

Maudlyne Ihejirika has the full story here.

9:12 a.m. Potential repeal of key education law could throw wrench into CPS reopening plan

A 25-year-old, one-page section of an Illinois law governing educational labor that limits the Chicago Teachers Union’s bargaining rights could be repealed as soon as this weekend in Springfield, a move that would mark a celebratory end to a long lobbying fight for the union.

A repeal could have serious short-term implications for Chicago Public Schools’ reopening plans if the bill passes and is signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, and a significant long-term impact in the CTU’s relationship with CPS. The repeal bill was passed in the House in March 2019, and it appears likely the Senate will follow suit in the week ahead — though it’s unclear if the governor will immediately sign it. A Pritzker spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment Friday.

Lightfoot, who campaigned on repealing this part of the law, is now concerned about those prospects. In a letter sent to state senators Friday, she wrote that a repeal “at this critical time would impair our efforts to reopen Chicago Public Schools and jeopardize our fiscal and educational gains.”

Section 4.5 of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act, passed in 1995, only covers unions negotiating with Chicago Public Schools — all other districts in the state are not affected. The section limits the bargaining power of the CTU — and other unions that represent school support staff — to bread and butter labor issues such as pay and benefits. It allows CPS to avoid negotiations over several school-related topics such as class sizes, staff assignments, charter schools, subcontracting, layoffs and the length of the school day and year.

Read the full story from Nader Issa here.


New cases

  • Illinois hospitals are treating the fewest coronavirus patients they’ve seen in over two months as public health officials announced 6,717 new coronavirus cases statewide and 101 new deaths.

Analysis and commentary

4:29 p.m. How many games can one team miss? DePaul senior Charlie Moore isn’t trying to find out

Charlie Moore has a game to play Saturday.

At least he thinks he does.

“You never know,” DePaul’s senior point guard said a day before the Blue Demons’ date with Seton Hall at Wintrust Arena.

Let’s get this out there and over with right now: Moore, 22, is well aware that many of his fellow citizens have suffered more and had it worse during a pandemic that just won’t quit. He is sensitive and thoughtful on the subject and — can we leave it at this? — gets it.

But, man, this season has been one punch in the gut after another for Moore’s team. Not that its tough, 5-11 leader, who was the 2016 Sun-Times Player of the year at Morgan Park, allows himself to show his disappointment.

“I can’t be down or show weakness,” he said, “because right now is not the time.”

Right now, the Blue Demons are simply trying to have a season — any season — before the calendar runs out.

Three games — that’s all DePaul had gotten in heading into a weekend when many teams around the country were already into the teens in games played. No major-conference team’s schedule had been hit harder. The Blue Demons opened the season roughly a month late, after their first 10 games were canceled or postponed. Two more were postponed over the last week.

Read the full column here.

9:13 a.m. COVID-19 vaccine should be mandatory for state workers who care for high-risk people

The first round of the long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine was administered to residents and employees of Illinois veterans’ homes in late December, but data shows that the number of caregivers vaccinated is worrisome.

Seventy-four percent of residents in the homes have been vaccinated — that’s 95% of residents in Anna, 90% in Manteno and Quincy, and 71% in LaSalle — according to the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs. However, the people charged with providing care to our most vulnerable residents have been vaccinated in much lower percentages. Only 40% of the staff throughout Illinois have received the vaccine as of Dec. 31.

After waiting more than nine excruciating months for a vaccine, that is unacceptable. We believe the vaccine should be a mandatory condition of employment in all facilities in the state that care for high-risk individuals, especially the elderly. The only temporary exception would be for those who recently had COVID-19 or currently have it.

Read the full editorial here.