Coronavirus live blog, Feb. 20, 2021: Heavy snow slowed COVID-19 vaccine administration last week, officials say

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

SHARE Coronavirus live blog, Feb. 20, 2021: Heavy snow slowed COVID-19 vaccine administration last week, officials say

Another 73,212 COVID-19 vaccine doses went into Illinois arms as public health officials on Saturday reported 1,922 new infections and 42 more deaths attributed to the virus.

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


5 p.m. 73K more Illinoisans vaccinated against coronavirus, 1,922 more infected

Medical supplies are laid out a table during a December vaccination event at Malcom X College. More than 2 million shots have been administered in Illinois.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Another 73,212 COVID-19 vaccine doses went into Illinois arms as public health officials on Saturday reported 1,922 new infections and 42 more deaths attributed to the virus.

Friday’s vaccination figure marked the fourth-highest one-day total Illinois has seen so far, but it closed out a week of shot administration that was bogged down statewide by heavy snow and delayed vaccine shipments from the federal government.

About 414,000 doses were doled over the past week, compared to about 430,000 given the week of Feb. 6-12.

That’s the first week-to-week decline the state has seen roughly two months into the historic vaccination effort, but Gov. J.B. Pritzker has said he expects numbers to rebound next week with expected shipments of a half-million doses to providers across the state.

Mitchell Armentrout has the full story here.

2:19 p.m. What’s safe after COVID-19 vaccination? Don’t shed masks yet

You’re fully vaccinated against the coronavirus — now what? Don’t expect to shed your mask and get back to normal activities right away.

That’s going to be a disappointment, if not a shock, to many people.

In Miami, 81-year-old Noemi Caraballo got her second dose on Tuesday and is looking forward to seeing friends, resuming fitness classes and running errands after nearly a year of being extremely cautious, even ordering groceries online.

“Her line is, ‘I’m tired of talking to the cats and the parrots,’” said her daughter Susan Caraballo. “She wants to do things and talk to people.”

But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hasn’t yet changed its guidelines: At least for now, people should follow the same rules as everybody else about wearing a mask, keeping a 6-foot distance and avoiding crowds — even after they’ve gotten their second vaccine dose.

Vaccines in use so far require two doses, and experts say especially don’t let your guard down after the first dose.

Read the full story here.

10 a.m. Six Flags plans to reopen Illinois parks this spring, hire 4,000 workers

Six Flags announced Friday it will be hiring 4,000 workers to staff its Illinois theme and water parks this spring, and visitors will find new COVID-19 precautions.

Six Flags Great America in Gurnee is slated to reopen to the public on April 24, while Hurricane Harbor Chicago and Hurricane Harbor Rockford will reopen on May 29.

The Six Flags reopening plan includes social distancing, screening, sanitization, disinfection, new signs, training and personal protective equipment supplies for workers, spokeswoman Caitlin Kepple said.

Temperature check will be done when guests arrive; visitors will be required to have been healthy for at least 14 days before entering the park; and everyone over 2 years old must wear a mask.

Manny Ramos has the full story here.

8:30 a.m. G-7 vows ‘equitable’ world vaccine access, but details scant

Leaders of the Group of Seven economic powers promised Friday to immunize the world’s neediest people against the coronavirus by giving money, and precious vaccine doses, to a U.N.-backed vaccine distribution effort.

But the leaders, under pressure over their vaccination campaigns at home, were unwilling to say exactly how much vaccine they were willing to share with the developing world, or when.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said after the G-7 leaders held a virtual meeting that fair distribution of vaccines was “an elementary question of fairness.”

But she added, “No vaccination appointment in Germany is going to be endangered.”

After their first meeting of the year — held remotely because of the pandemic — the leaders said they would accelerate global vaccine development and deployment” and support “affordable and equitable access to vaccines” and treatments for COVID-19. They cited a collective $7.5 billion from the G-7 to U.N.-backed COVID-19 efforts.

Read the full story here.

New cases

  • Illinois on Saturday reported 1,922 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 in Illinois, including 42 additional deaths.
  • A total of 1,172,824 cases, including 20,234 deaths was also reported, officials said.
  • Illinois said laboratories have reported 73,212 specimens for a total of 17,547,531 tests. 
  • As of Friday night, 1,551 individuals in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 351 patients were in the ICU and 171 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators, the state said.
  • The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total test from February 13–19, 2021 is 2.8%. The preliminary seven-day statewide test positivity from February 13–19, 2021 is 3.2%.
  • A total of  2,138,519 vaccines have been administered in Illinois as of last midnight
  • Yesterday, 77,813 doses were administered in Illinois.

Analysis and commentary

3:39 p.m. COVID-19 and America’s dismal slump in life expectancy

Our country is fast approaching the grim milestone of 500,000 COVID-19 deaths, more evidence to all but the most fact-resistant of just how deadly the pandemic has been.

The coronavirus is not “just like the flu,” as some on the right, eager to downplay the seriousness of it all, have claimed.

Thursday brought yet more alarming evidence of that truth. A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report found that COVID-19 has been deadly enough to drive down U.S. life expectancy by a full year, a decline experts say America hasn’t experienced in decades.

That’s how serious this pandemic has been, generating a lethal impact approaching that of World War II, when life expectancy fell by 2.9 years. We cannot afford to dismiss that truth even as we see a light at the end of the tunnel with vaccine availability.

Due to the extraordinary number of excess deaths from COVID-19, the average American now can expect to live 77.8 years, down from 78.8 in 2019, the CDC’s National Center on Health Statistic found. Its analysis is based on mortality data from the first six months of 2020, so the full impact of the pandemic’s death toll has yet to be seen.

Read the full editorial from the CST Editorial Board here.

7 a.m. Fewer stops on this year’s Friday church fish fry circuit, but at least you can do takeout

Around this time last year, I paid homage to the traditional Friday night Lenten fish fry circuit, sharing my plans to spend the next six weekends chowing down at Catholic churches around the Chicago area.

What’s the saying? Man plans. God laughs.

There would be no six Friday nights of fish fries in 2020. By the third week of the season, COVID-19 pretty much had closed them all down, along with church services and restaurants and so much else.

If you foresaw way back then that we would still be dealing with this a year later, then you’re a smarter person than I am.

But I have good news for those seeking a semblance of normalcy in their lives.

Some churches have decided to proceed with their fish fry dinners this year, albeit on a carryout basis.

Read Mark Brown’s full column here.

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