Heavy snow is hindering Illinois’ efforts to distribute the coronavirus vaccine to residents.
Here’s what you need to know about delays and other coronavirus-related news.
8:57 p.m. Another low vaccination day for Illinois after major snowfall
Heavy snow led to a third straight day of relatively low COVID-19 vaccination numbers across Illinois, public health officials said Wednesday.
Only 40,380 shots went into arms Tuesday as most regions of the state dug out from up to a foot and a half of snow, and as Chicago vaccination sites were closed, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
That’s a 35% decline compared to the state’s vaccine output on the previous Tuesday, when nearly 63,000 doses were administered Feb. 9.
The state set a record with more than 95,000 shots doled out Feb. 11, but now the state hasn’t topped 41,000 shots in a day since Saturday, sending the state’s seven-day rolling average tumbling down again to 60,552 daily doses.
7:37 p.m. City targets vulnerable communities for mass COVID vaccinations; any local over 18 eligible
Almost 2,000 people got COVID-19 shots at a Belmont Cragin high school last weekend and the city hopes it provides a template for vaccinating more residents in the city’s most vulnerable communities.
Administering vaccine supplied by the city, Oak Street Health organized and ran the mass vaccination Saturday and Sunday aided by community groups who reached out to residents in a highly targeted campaign, said Dr. Ali Khan, Oak Street’s executive medical director.
Khan said the effort, which is not advertised broadly to the public, will continue every weekend for the next seven weeks. Unlike other vaccination sites that limit shots to seniors, essential workers, health care employees and others in prioritized groups, the Belmont Cragin vaccinations are open to all area residents 18 and older.
“We feel pretty proud we are really serving people who live locally,” said Khan, who described an active telephone and door-knocking campaign by community groups. “We’re not just going to rely on a website.”
6:25 p.m. Blackhawks returning from COVID-19 list learned from watching games on TV
With his appearance Monday, Lucas Wallmark became the first player in Blackhawks’ history to contract COVID-19 during the season, recover and return to the lineup.
“[I’m] not that used to playing wing, but it was a good game to get into,” he said Tuesday. “The first couple of shifts were a little tough, but the more shifts you have, the more you’re into it. It was fun to be back with the team again.”
And on Wednesday, Adam Boqvist and Ryan Carpenter became the second and third Hawks players to do so, entering the lineup while Wallmark came out.
Just like Boqvist attested last week, Wallmark wasn’t allowed to do much but rest and watch television during his 14-day quarantine. He experienced mild symptoms for about three days, but otherwise “didn’t feel that bad;” the separation from the team was the toughest part.
But watching hockey on TV offers a far different, and sometimes eye-opening, perspective on the game.
3:55 p.m. Pritzker pitches budget mix of corporate tax closures, flat spending as ‘right equilibrium’ for ‘return to normalcy’
Gov. J.B. Pritzker unveiled his budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year during a virtual “State of the State” address on Wednesday, closing some corporate tax loopholes and reducing some department’s spending to help fill a nearly $3 billion budget gap.
Missing from Pritzker’s proposed spending plan are an increase in the state’s income tax rate and the “painful cuts” he warned of after his proposed move to a graduated income tax failed to pass in November.
In a pre-recorded speech from the state’s fairgrounds, Pritzker focused first on the impact of the pandemic on the state’s businesses and the “tiny joys” it’s taken away from the state’s residents.
The fairgrounds were the site of a makeshift hospital during the 1918 influenza pandemic — on Wednesday, a little over 100 years later, it’s one of the largest vaccination sites in the state.
The governor expressed hope that with a new president who is “willing to push all the levers of government to increase vaccination supply” the state will “get closer and closer to … [a] return to normalcy” and took aim at Republicans in the General Assembly, saying he asked them two months ago for their proposals to close the budget deficit and he was “met with silence.
“Apparently their idea of bipartisanship ends when hard choices must be made,” Pritzker said.
2:54 p.m. Brookfield Zoo to reopen March 1
Brookfield Zoo will reopen to the public March 1 after being closed for two months by the coronavirus pandemic.
The zoo voluntarily shut down Dec. 31 — the second time Brookfield Zoo had closed during the pandemic.
Mitigation measures will remain in place upon reopening.
The zoo will be limited to 25% capacity, up to a maximum of 9,000 visitors. Reservations for the zoo and zoo parking must be made through the zoo’s website — czs.org/BrookfieldZoo — with tickets sold for specific entry times, spaced 20 minutes apart.
1:27 p.m. Ash Wednesday traditions adapt to the pandemic
Tomorrow marks the start of Lent, but Ash Wednesday traditions will look a little different this year across the city as churches find creative ways to observe the holy day amid the pandemic.
The Archdiocese of Chicago announced new protocols for distributing ashes, which are typically applied to foreheads in the shape of a cross. This year, celebrants are advised to sprinkle ashes on parishioners’ heads, as is done in Europe, or mark a person’s forehead with the ashes using a cotton ball or disposable, and non-plastic, Q-tip.
Bishop Robert Casey, who serves as vicar general for the archdiocese, said Ash Wednesday holds greater significance this year because of a desire for community support. The holy day is meant to remind Christians of their mortality — which he said bears a new meaning amid the pandemic and the city’s ever-growing death toll.
“In these months, we have come to see even more visibly — in our lives and in our world — our vulnerability and our mortality,” Casey said. “[Lent] is a moment to improve our connection to God and improve our connection to one another.”
12:01 p.m. UN chief urges global plan to reverse unfair vaccine access
UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sharply criticized the “wildly uneven and unfair” distribution of COVID-19 vaccines on Wednesday, saying 10 countries have administered 75 percent of all vaccinations and demanding a global effort to get all people in every nation vaccinated as soon as possible.
The U.N. chief told a high-level meeting of the U.N. Security Council that 130 countries have not received a single dose of vaccine and declared that “at this critical moment, vaccine equity is the biggest moral test before the global community.”
Guterres called for an urgent Global Vaccination Plan to bring together those with the power to ensure fair vaccine distribution — scientists, vaccine producers and those who can fund the effort.
The secretary-general called on the world’s major economic powers in the Group of 20 to establish an emergency task force to establish a plan and coordinate its implementation and financing. He said the task force should have the capacity “to mobilize the pharmaceutical companies and key industry and logistics actors.”
Guterres said Friday’s meeting of the Group of Seven major industrialized nations “can create the momentum to mobilize the necessary financial resources.”
9:26 a.m. CPS to resume in-person classes Wednesday
Hours after a winter storm walloped much of the city with more than a foot of snow, Chicago Public Schools announced that in-person classes would resume Wednesday.
“Our building engineers and facilities team have been working diligently to clear sidewalks and parking lots of snow and ensure all school buildings are warm, safe, and fully ready to welcome students and staff back to school,” the district wrote in an email to parents.
The district added that bus transportation will operate a normal, as will CPS Child Learning Hubs and Grab-and-Go meal sites.
Another round of snow that passed through the area from late Monday into early Tuesday prompted the district to cancel in-person classes on Tuesday.
9:20 a.m. Census delay creates redistricting uncertainty
SPRINGFIELD — Illinois lawmakers are required to draw new legislative and congressional district maps this year, but that process may be thrown into chaos because of delays in producing the census numbers needed to draw equal districts.
The U.S. Census Bureau announced Friday that due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other delays, it will not be able to deliver the detailed, block-level data that states need for redistricting until Sept. 30, long past the deadline spelled out in the Illinois Constitution for the General Assembly to approve new maps.
That’s also a full month after candidates are scheduled to begin circulating petitions to run for office and qualify for the March 15, 2022, primary election. The petition period begins Aug. 31 and filing begins Nov. 22, according to a spokesperson for the Illinois State Board of Elections.
“The Constitution says that the Legislature shall redistrict by law the year after the decennial census. So it’s pretty straightforward on that,” said Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, one of the Republican House caucus’ lead negotiators on redistricting. “I’m sure 50 years ago (when the Illinois Constitution was written), they didn’t anticipate the problems that we would have over the past year with the pandemic and so on.”