Coronavirus live blog, Feb. 16, 2021: Vaccinations, testing put on hold at city-run sites due to major snowfall

Here’s Tuesday’s news on how COVID-19 is impacting Chicago and Illinois. Follow here for live updates.

SHARE Coronavirus live blog, Feb. 16, 2021: Vaccinations, testing put on hold at city-run sites due to major snowfall

Shots and swabs were put on hold at city-run sites after more than a foot of snow blanketed parts of Chicago, and the brutal conditions gripping the entire Midwest will also delay vaccine shipments coming from the federal government “over the upcoming days,” according to the Chicago Department of Public Health.

Here’s what you need to know Tuesday about the coronavirus pandemic.


8:58 p.m. COVID-19 vaccination, testing efforts hampered by huge snowfall


Araceli Martel, 49, a teacher at James B. McPherson Elementary School in Ravenswood, receives her first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Weiss Memorial Hospital on the North Side, Monday, Feb. 15, 2021.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

The severe winter weather wreaking havoc on sidewalks and roadways across Illinois will disrupt COVID-19 vaccination and testing efforts statewide for the rest of the week, officials said Tuesday.

Shots and swabs were put on hold at city-run sites after more than a foot of snow blanketed parts of Chicago, and the brutal conditions gripping the entire Midwest will also delay vaccine shipments coming from the federal government “over the upcoming days,” according to the Chicago Department of Public Health.

That goes for city-run vaccination sites as well as other private providers, so officials say anyone with a coveted appointment scheduled for this week should confirm or reschedule.

Vaccine shipments are requested on an overnight basis, so the supply is expected to “catch up quickly.” City officials say they’ll decide on operations “on a day-to-day basis.”

Read Mitchell Armentrout’s full story here.

7:48 p.m. Marriage and divorce amid the pandemic: Couples face new challenges, stress

For many U.S. couples yearning to be married, the pandemic has wreaked havoc on their wedding plans while bolstering their teamwork and resilience. For couples already married, it has posed a host of new tests, bringing some closer, pulling others apart.

Spending more time together — a common result of lockdowns, furloughs and layoffs — has been a blessing for some couples who gain greater appreciation of one another. For other spouses, deprived of opportunities for individual pursuits, the increased time together “may seem more like a house arrest than a fantasy,” suggested Steve Harris, a professor of marriage and family therapy at the University of Minnesota and associate director of a marriage counseling project, Minnesota Couples on the Brink.

Gregory Popcak, a psychotherapist in Steubenville, Ohio, who specializes in marriage counseling for Catholics, says the pandemic has been particularly troublesome for spouses whose coping strategies have been disrupted.

“For couples who had a tendency to use their business to avoid problems, the pandemic has made things infinitely worse,” he said. “The lockdown has raised the emotional temperature a few notches. ... Things that were provocative before are now catastrophic.”

Read the full report here.

2:43 p.m. Biden heads to Wisconsin to rally support for virus relief

Leaving Donald Trump and his impeachment in the rearview mirror, Joe Biden is embarking on his first official trip as president to refocus Congress on coronavirus relief and to cement public support for his $1.9 trillion aid package.

With his prime-time moment — a Tuesday evening CNN town hall in Milwaukee — the new president is attempting to build pressure on Republican lawmakers to get behind the massive relief package that White House officials say already has broad public support.

The stepped-up public push comes with the House expected to vote next week.

“The vast majority of the American people like what they see in this package,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said as she previewed Biden’s sales effort. She added that the support in opinion polls “should be noted by members of Congress as they consider whether they’re going to vote for it or not.”

Biden’s trip to Wisconsin, a political battleground state he narrowly won last November, comes as coronavirus infection rates and deaths are falling after the nation endured the two deadliest months so far of the pandemic. The White House is also reporting an increase in the administration of vaccines throughout the country after a slow start.

But Biden has stressed that the nation still has a long road ahead as thousands of Americans die each day in the worst U.S. public health crisis in a century. The virus has killed more than 485,000, and newly emerging variants are complicating the response effort.

Read the full story here.

1:37 p.m. Chicago eases indoor dining restrictions

Chicago restaurants and bars will be allowed to serve even more indoor diners at once, under loosened rules announced Tuesday.

Indoor service will be allowed at either 40% capacity, or 50 people, whichever is lower, beginning immediately, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office announced.

The expansion is made possible by the continued decline in new COVID-19 cases per day, which has remained under 400, based on the seven-day rolling average, for each of the last three days.

“This is a clear sign of Chicago’s significant progress in the ongoing fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” the mayor’s office said in announcing the expansion.

Get the latest from Fran Spielman here.

12:08 p.m. Latinos face barriers like fear, language in getting vaccine

America’s more than 60 million Latinos — like other people of color — have been disproportionately affected by the virus, and many are struggling with issues like a lack of knowledge about the shots, state vaccine websites that don’t have Spanish instructions, ways to find appointments in their communities and fears they could be targeted for immigration enforcement.

It comes as states, cities and counties are grappling with how to ensure people of color and other underserved communities are getting the vaccine, with some targeting vulnerable ZIP codes and working with community groups to sign people up. In Arizona, where language is a barrier for some Latinos and until recently English was the only option on the state website for vaccine appointments, a university researcher is working on an online Spanish language campaign to address vaccine misconceptions.

Latinos, like other groups, also are frustrated by insufficient vaccine supplies

Read the full story here.

11:47 a.m. City of Chicago COVID-19 vaccination, testing sites close due to winter storm

All COVID-19 vaccination and testing sites operated by the City of Chicago will close Tuesday due to inclement weather, officials announced late Monday night.

Anyone with an appointment scheduled for Tuesday should be notified of the change, according to a statement from the Chicago Department of Public Health.

As the snow continues, the city plans to make decisions regarding site operations on a day to day basis.

Cook County Health announced they will also close several vaccination sites Tuesday due to weather.

All locations, including large-scale sites, will be closed, except for John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital, Provident Hospital, and the Ruth M. Rothstein CORE Center, according to a statement from the Cook County Department of Public Health.

Patients scheduled to receive vaccinations at one of the Cook County Health locations will be contacted to reschedule.

Read Sophie Sherry’s story here.

10:45 a.m. Hospitals still ration medical N95 masks as stockpiles swell

One year into the COVID-19 pandemic, many millions of N95 masks are pouring out of American factories and heading into storage. Yet doctors and nurses say there still aren’t nearly enough in ICU rooms.

While supply and demand issues surrounding N95 respirators are well-documented, until now the reasons for this discrepancy have been unclear.

The logistical breakdown is rooted in federal failures over the past year to coordinate supply chains and provide hospitals with clear rules about how to manage their medical equipment.

Internal government emails obtained by The Associated Press show there were deliberate decisions to withhold vital information about new mask manufacturers and availability. Exclusive trade data and interviews with manufacturers, hospital procurement officials and frontline medical workers reveal a communication breakdown — not an actual shortage — that is depriving doctors, nurses, paramedics and other people risking exposure to COVID-19 of first-rate protection.

Read the full story from the Associated Press here.

9:12 a.m. Illinois sees lowest COVID-19 caseload since fall, but death toll tops 20,000: ‘The steady pain of loss has not lessened’

Illinois on Monday recorded its lowest daily number of new COVID-19 cases since late September but also passed the grim milestone of 20,000 total deaths statewide.

Another 1,420 coronavirus infections were reported Monday to the Illinois Department of Public Health, the lowest daily count since Sept. 29, when 1,362 cases were confirmed.

And 41 more people died from the virus, raising the state’s death toll to 20,002 deaths. Illinois surpassed 10,000 total deaths on Nov. 5.

But while it took more than nine months from the beginning of the pandemic in Illinois to reach 10,000 deaths, it only took a little over three months for the death toll to double.

Read the full story from David Struett here.

New Cases

Analysis & commentary

11:37 a.m. Giving up, for now, on trying to get the vaccine in Cook County

I attempted to use the Cook County online vaccine sign-up system and experienced repeated disappointing results. I was assigned an initial ID number, but when I attempted to use it to check back for open slots, the system didn’t recognize the ID number. I subsequently was assigned two additional bad ID numbers.

When I finally received an email, the system assigned me a new number and immediately informed me that no slots were available.

I finally got past that hurdle and made it as far as selecting a date, only to have the system freeze up, and by the time it recovered, all the appointment slots had been taken. I checked my internet hookup, and it was functioning at maximum speed.

I have decided to continue my safeguards against COVID-19 and wait for a later time to try and get a vaccine.

If airlines can schedule, cancel and reassign thousands of passengers a day, surely the county can find a vendor who can set up and operate a reliable scheduling system.

— Warren Rodgers, Jr., Matteson

Read more of our letters to the editor here.

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