Coronavirus live blog, Feb. 22, 2021: Illinois posts lowest 1-day caseload since July

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

SHARE Coronavirus live blog, Feb. 22, 2021: Illinois posts lowest 1-day caseload since July

Illinois took another positive step in limiting the spread of the coronavirus Monday as only 1,246 new cases were reported – the lowest one-day tally since July.

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


7 p.m. Illinois reports 1,246 new COVID-19 cases, the lowest daily caseload since July

State health officials on Monday reported the number of new COVID-19 cases and tests dropped to levels that haven’t been seen since last summer.

Officials announced 1,246 new and probable cases of COVID-19, marking the smallest daily caseload reported since 1,076 cases were reported on July 28. The number of tests also dropped to 37,361, the lowest figure recorded since 35,930 new tests were announced on Sept. 14, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Officials also announced 34 virus-related deaths.

The statewide seven-day positivity rate remained below 3% for an eighth straight day.

Officials said 58,748 vaccine doses were administered Sunday, a massive jump from the 13,433 given a day earlier. So far, more than 2.2 million vaccine doses have been administered across the state, with 445,200 allocated for long-term care facilities.

Illinois saw a drop in vaccine distribution last week due to heavy snowfall and delayed vaccine shipments from the federal government. Over the past week, officials said the state averaged 55,499 doses administered each day — down more than 17% from a week earlier.

Coronavirus hospitalizations increased slightly. As of Sunday, 1,504 beds were occupied statewide by coronavirus patients, with 377 of those patients in intensive care units and 169 on ventilators, officials said.

Since March, nearly 1.2 million people in Illinois have been diagnosed with the virus and more than 20,000 have died.

Read the full story from Tom Schuba here.

5:20 p.m. CPS teachers may be required to disclose whether they’ve been vaccinated

Current and newly hired Chicago Public Schools teachers and staff could be required to let the district know if they’ve received a COVID-19 vaccination under a new policy proposed by officials Monday.

The new rule, which will be voted on by the city’s school board at its monthly meeting Wednesday, also would allow officials to mandate COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment. But CPS said it wouldn’t immediately use that authority if the policy is approved.

The proposal comes as thousands of elementary school teachers returned to their classrooms Monday for the first time in 11 months under a new agreement between the school system and the Chicago Teachers Union. The district and union are coming off a heated months-long fight over how and when to reopen schools, a period that appeared to reach deadlock several times and had families on edge about teacher lockouts or another potential strike.

Read the full story from Nader Issa here.

4:41 p.m. Shops, haircuts return in April as UK lifts lockdown slowly

LONDON — Children in England will return to class and people will be able to meet a friend outside for coffee in two weeks’ time, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Monday as he laid out a slow easing of one of Europe’s strictest pandemic lockdowns.

But those longing for a haircut, a restaurant meal or a pint in a pub have almost two months to wait, and people won’t be able to hug loved ones that they don’t live with until May at the earliest.

Johnson said the government’s plan would move the country “cautiously but irreversibly” out of lockdown.

“We are now traveling on a one-way road to freedom,” he said at a televised news conference.

But it’s a slow road, not a highway.

Britain has had Europe’s deadliest coronavirus outbreak, with more than 120,000 deaths. Faced with dominant virus variant that scientists say is both more transmissible and more deadly than the original virus, the country has spent much of the winter under a tight lockdown, the third since March 2020. Bars, restaurants, gyms, schools, hair salons and nonessential shops are closed, people are urged not to travel out of their local area and foreign holidays are illegal.

Read the full story here.

4:11 p.m. Biden to mourn 500,000 dead from COVID-19 while balancing grief and hope

WASHINGTON — With sunset remarks and a national moment of silence, President Joe Biden is planning a head-on acknowledgement of the country’s once-unimaginable loss — half a million Americans in the COVID-19 pandemic —. in striking contrast to the approach of his predecessor.

Confronting the grim milestone directly and publicly, Biden is trying to strike a balance between gravity and hope, while Donald Trump generally avoided constructs of collective grief for the deaths on his watch.

Monday’s bleak threshold was playing out against contradictory crosscurrents: an encouraging drop in coronavirus cases and worries about the spread of more contagious variants.

A president whose own life has been marked by family tragedy, Biden ordered flags on federal property lowered to half staff for five days as he prepared to lead a moment of communal mourning for those lost to a virus that often prevents people from gathering to remember their loved ones.

Biden’s management of the pandemic will surely define at least the first year of his presidency, and his response has showcased the inherent tension between preparing the nation for dark weeks ahead while also offering optimism about pushing out vaccines that could, eventually, bring the pandemic to a close.

“I believe we’ll be approaching normalcy by the end of this year. And God willing, this Christmas will be different than the last,” Biden said Friday while touring a Pfizer vaccine manufacturing plant in Michigan.

Read the full story here.

2:08 p.m. Illinois reports 1,585 new COVID-19 cases, additional 35 virus-related deaths


Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Illinois’ seven-day positivity rate has remained below 3% for an entire week for the first time in seven months.

State health officials on Sunday announced 1,585 new probable and confirmed COVID-19 cases and an additional 35 virus-related deaths.

The cases were detected among the 75,269 tests processed by the Illinois Department of Public Health in the last day for a daily test positivity rate of about 2.1%. That lowered the statewide seven-day positivity rate to 2.7%, marking the first time since July that metric has been below 3% for seven consecutive days.

State health officials also announced 13,433 coronavirus vaccines were administered Saturday, the fewest shots injected in a day in nearly a month. On Friday, 73,212 vaccines were injected into the arms of Illinoisans, marking the fourth-highest single day total.

Illinois saw a drop in vaccine distribution over the last week in part due to heavy snow and delayed vaccine shipments from the federal government. Over the last week, the state averaged 52,658 doses administered each day — a 16.3% decrease from the previous week. During the span of Feb. 8-14, Illinois issued an average of 62,927 shots per day.

Read the full story from Madeline Kenney here.

1:25 p.m. Russia’s COVID-19 vaccination drive slowly picking up speed

IKHALA, Russia — Maria Piparinen and other elderly residents of Ikhala were relieved when they heard that doctors were finally bringing a few doses of the coronavirus vaccine to their remote, snowy village in the Russian region of Karelia, near the border with Finland.

Otherwise, the 75-year-old said she would have had to hire a car to take her 6 miles to the town of Lakhdenpokhya, because the bus no longer runs there.

And besides, “I called the clinic in Lakhdenpokhya, but … they told me (all the slots in) February were booked already,” Piparinen told The Associated Press.

The village of wooden houses — carved out of a dense forest of fir trees about 12 miles from the Finnish border and 60 miles north of St. Petersburg — is one of several in the Karelia region where Russia’s vaccination campaign has arrived in recent weeks.

More than 18,000 people have gotten their first dose of the Sputnik V vaccine in the region of 600,000 that was hit hard by COVID-19.

At one point in December, Karelia recorded a daily average of 75.7 cases per 100,000 people, the highest rate in Russia as a whole, which had been averaging 18.8 recorded cases per 100,000.

“When you watch TV and see how people are suffering … you don’t want that. You want to live a little longer,” said 74-year-old Galina Shilova, one of Ikhala’s nearly 700 residents. Some of those getting the shots last week at the makeshift clinic had to make their way cautiously along snowy footpaths.

Read the full story here.

1:02 p.m. US deaths at brink of 500K, confirming virus’ tragic reach

For weeks after Cindy Pollock began planting tiny flags across her yard — one for each of the more than 1,800 Idahoans killed by COVID-19 — the toll was mostly a number. Until two women she had never met rang her doorbell in tears, seeking a place to mourn the husband and father they had just lost.

Then Pollock knew her tribute, however heartfelt, would never begin to convey the grief of a pandemic that has now claimed nearly 500,000 lives in the U.S. and counting.

“I just wanted to hug them,” she said. “Because that was all I could do.”

After a year that has darkened doorways across the U.S., the pandemic is poised to surpass a milestone that once seemed unimaginable, a reminder of the virus’s reach into all corners of the country and communities of every size and makeup.

“It’s very hard for me to imagine an American who doesn’t know someone who has died or have a family member who has died,” said Ali Mokdad, a professor of health metrics at the University of Washington in Seattle. “We haven’t really fully understood how bad it is, how devastating it is, for all of us.”

Read the full story here.

12:05 p.m. Biden to boost pandemic lending to smallest businesses

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is targeting federal pandemic assistance to the nation’s smallest businesses and taking steps to further equity in what is known as the Paycheck Protection Program.

The administration is establishing a two-week window, starting on Wednesday, in which only businesses with fewer than 20 employees — the overwhelming majority of small businesses — can apply for the forgivable loans. Biden’s team is also carving out $1 billion to direct toward sole proprietors, such as home contractors and beauticians, the majority of which are owned by women and people of color.

Other efforts will remove a prohibition on lending to a company with at least 20% ownership by a person arrested or convicted for a nonfraud felony in the prior year, as well as allowing those behind on their federal student loans to seek relief through the program. The administration is also clarifying that noncitizen legal residents can apply to the program.

The PPP, first rolled out in the earliest days of the coronavirus pandemic and renewed in December, was meant to help keep Americans employed during the economic downturn. It allows small and mid-size businesses suffering a loss of revenue to access federal loans, which are forgivable if 60% of the loan is spent on payroll and the balance on other qualified expenses.

Read the full story here.

9:15 a.m. Companies are marketing cabins as pandemic-safe escapes for city dwellers

After spending nearly a year cooped up by the pandemic, many of us have thought about getting away from home.

But what do you do if vacations that require boarding a plane, checking into a hotel or navigating crowded spaces scare you? An entire outdoor hospitality industry is blossoming to meet this need.

Getaway has opened its first Chicago-area outpost, offering those in the city a chance to escape safely into nature.

Bordered by woods and a small lake, Getaway Barber Creek is in Grand Junction, Michigan, just over two hours from Chicago and will have 41 socially distant cabins available beginning in April.

Other enterprises offering an isolated experience in Illinois include Glamping Hub, a global luxury outdoor accommodations company, and Hawk Valley Retreat & Cottages in Galena.

Jon Staff, the founder and CEO of Getaway, said a lot of guests in the past year have wanted to get out of their houses and apartments to go somewhere safe without a lobby, restaurant, other people, or the pressures of work and staring at a Zoom screen.

In 2020, the company experienced nearly 100% occupancy in its existing locations and a 150% increase in bookings from 2019.

“Nature is really good for reducing our stress and anxiety, which I think we need now more than ever,” Staff said.

Read the full story here.

New Cases

  • State health officials on Sunday announced 1,585 new probable and confirmed COVID-19 cases and an additional 35 virus-related deaths.
  • State health officials also announced 13,433 coronavirus vaccines were administered Saturday, the fewest shots injected in a day in nearly a month.

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