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Coronavirus live blog, Feb. 19, 2021: Illinois reaches second highest one-day vaccination total, surpasses 2 million overall

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

Another 83,673 shots went into arms in Illinois Thursday, the second highest one-day vaccination total yet, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

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


News

8:55 p.m. Illinois reaches second highest one-day vaccination total, surpasses 2 million overall

Jada Johnson closes her eyes as Armando Ambriz, a medical assistant at Esperanza Health Centers, administers a COVID-19 vaccine at 6057 S. Western Ave. in the West Englewood neighborhood, Friday morning, Feb. 19, 2021.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

More than 2 million Illinois residents have now been vaccinated against COVID-19, public health officials announced Friday.

The state passed that milestone in the long journey to end the coronavirus pandemic Thursday when 83,673 shots went into arms, the second highest one-day vaccination total yet, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

“Every shot gets us closer to the other side of this pandemic,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker tweeted, touting CDC data that shows Illinois ranks fifth behind California, Texas, Florida and New York in total shots administered.

Still, from the 2,060,706 doses that have been doled out so far, only about 508,000 people have received both required shots — not even 4% of the population.

Read the full story by Mitchell Armentrout here.


6 p.m. 30 COVID-19-related deaths, 400 hospitalizations averted by measures at taken at Cook County Jail: study finds

Measures taken to slow the spread of the coronavirus at Cook County Jail saved dozens of lives and prevented hundreds of hospitalizations, researchers at Stanford and Yale universities said in a new study.

Reducing the jail’s population and holding detainees in single cells were among the most effective steps taken to keep the virus contained and should be used in other institutional settings, the researchers said in the study published this month in the British Medical Journal.

Those measures, as well as widespread asymptomatic testing, led to an 83% reduction of new cases at the jail over an 83-day period, the study said.

By reducing new cases, the researchers believe an estimated 435 additional COVID-related hospitalizations and 30 deaths of people held or working at the jail were prevented.

The researchers said the name of the institution studied was being kept anonymous, but officials with the sheriff’s office confirmed the subject mentioned in the research was Cook County Jail.

Read the full story by Matthew Hendrickson here.

5:05 p.m. CVS to help underserved Americans schedule COVID-19 vaccine appointments

CVS Health plans to contact people living in underserved communities around the United States to help them schedule COVID-19 vaccine appointments amid signs that white people are getting the free vaccine at higher rates than Black Americans.

The drugstore chain said Friday it will call, email and text-message people living in what the federal government has deemed socially vulnerable areas to provide assistance in the vaccine process.

The move comes amid reports that Americans are struggling to navigate various scheduling systems, website crashes and a sluggish rollout of the two vaccines approved so far.

CVS also said it will hold vaccine clinics in the most vulnerable communities it serves and send vaccination caravans into neighborhoods to make it easier for people to get their shots.

Read the complete story here.

4 p.m. Here’s who’s giving you the COVID-19 vaccine shot

Gearing up for future mass vaccinations in Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration recently added dentists and emergency medical technicians to the ranks of those who can give COVID-19 shots.

The moves, done through the governor’s pandemic emergency declaration, follow a national trend to make sure there are plenty of qualified people to administer vaccines.

In Illinois, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, nurse practitioners and physician assistants — and even some nursing students — are among a narrowly defined group of health care providers who can give COVID vaccinations.

While each state decides its own rules, national groups have pushed for an array of health workers to be allowed to help give the millions of shots needed to end the pandemic. The American Dental Association, for instance, passed a resolution in October to support the use of their members to administer COVID shots.

Read the complete story by Brett Chase here.

1:30 p.m. Fans will be allowed at all NCAA men’s basketball tournament games

INDIANAPOLIS — The NCAA will allow a limited number of fans to attend all rounds of next month’s men’s basketball tournament in Indiana.

The governing body said Friday it is permitting 25% capacity at the venues to allow for social distancing. That figure will include all participants and essential staff along with the family members of team players and coaches.

Attendees must wear face coverings, and cleaning and disinfecting efforts will be emphasized at venues in keeping with COVID-19 safety protocols.

The NCAA said in its statement it acted in conjunction with state and local health officials. NCAA chief medical officer Brian Hainline said the decision also followed conversations with the organization’s medical advisory group and will rely on testing and monitoring services from the Indiana University Health system

Read the complete story here.

12:25 p.m. Africa reaches 100,000 known COVID-19 deaths as danger grows

NAIROBI, Kenya — Africa has surpassed 100,000 confirmed deaths from COVID-19 as the continent praised for its early response to the pandemic now struggles with a dangerous resurgence and medical oxygen often runs desperately short.

“We are more vulnerable than we thought,” the director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, told The Associated Press in an interview reflecting on the pandemic and a milestone he called “remarkably painful.”

He worried that “we are beginning to normalize deaths,” while health workers are overwhelmed.

The 54-nation continent of some 1.3 billion people has barely seen the arrival of large-scale supplies of COVID-19 vaccines, but a variant of the virus dominant in South Africa is already posing a challenge to vaccination efforts. Still, if doses are available, the continent should be able to vaccinate 35% to 40% of its population before the end of 2021 and 60% by the end of 2022, Nkengasong said.

Read the complete story here.

11:35 a.m. Biden to visit Michigan vaccine plant as winter throws a curve

WASHINGTON — Extreme winter weather is dealing the first major setback to the Biden administration’s planned swift rollout of coronavirus vaccines just as the national vaccination campaign was hitting its stride.

The disruptions caused by frigid temperatures, snow and ice left the White House scrambling to work with states to make up “lost ground” even as President Joe Biden was set to visit a Pfizer vaccine manufacturing plant near Kalamazoo, Michigan. The president’s trip itself had been pushed back a day to Friday due to wintry weather in the nation’s capital.

The president was set to meet with workers at the plant who are producing one of the two federally-approved COVID-19 shots. According to the CDC, the two-dose Pfizer vaccine has been administered about 30 million times since it received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration on Dec. 11.

Read the complete story here.

11 a.m. Mayor’s office touts ‘major improvements’ in equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccine

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office on Friday reported “major improvements” in getting the COVID-19 vaccine into the arms of those in the city’s most vulnerable communities.

The mayor’s office said about 50% of first doses have been given to Black and Latino residents in the most recent week.

Early on, when the focus was on health care workers and staff and residents at long-term care facilities, about 18% of vaccinations were going to Black or Latino people, according to the mayor’s office.

“Over the past month, we have doubled down on our efforts to not only drive vaccines into communities that need them most but ensure that our vaccination rates match the demographics of our city,” Lightfoot said in a statement.

“The significant progress we have made is undoubtedly thanks to our equity-based vaccine strategy — which includes a number of initiatives, individuals, organizations and community engagement tactics. Though we still have a long way to go before we can fully achieve equity, this progress serves as an important reminder that the surest path to truly recovering and healing from this terrible pandemic is one that is built with equity at its foundation.”

Read Stefano Esposito’s full story here.

10:04 a.m. Chicago’s federal court to begin COVID-19 testing protocol for workers, jurors

Chicago’s chief federal judge Thursday announced a new COVID-19 testing protocol for court employees and jurors designed to help safely resume jury trials and other in-person court hearings amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. District Chief Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer authorized the clerk of Chicago’s federal court to enter into an agreement with SHIELD Illinois for a saliva-based COVID-19 screening program. She also ordered all employees, contractors and staff of all agencies in federal court in Chicago and Rockford to participate. They will be tested no more than twice a week.

In a note to court personnel, Pallmeyer wrote that testing will begin for a limited number of employees on Tuesday. She also wrote that, “This testing program won’t change everything. You are encouraged to continue working remotely when possible.”

Pallmeyer said in her order that test results will only be provided to employees, but said employees must report a positive test to their employer. The chief judge also said potential jurors will be tested, and anyone who sits on a jury will be tested twice a week.

Anyone whose participation in a hearing or trial will last more than two days will be required to submit to testing or participate remotely, according to the order. All positive test results will be reported to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Read Jon Seidel’s full story here.


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