Coronavirus live blog, Feb. 25, 2021: Illinois tops old 1-day COVID vaccination record by 37%
Here’s the latest news on how COVID-19 impacted Chicago and Illinois.
On the same day that eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine expanded across Illinois, the state reported that it blew away its record for most doses administered in a day. Meanwhile, the United Center is expected to open soon as a mass vaccination site.
Here’s what happened today.
TOP STORY: With 130K shots given, Illinois sets single-day vaccine record as eligibility expands
Illinois set a new record for most COVID-19 vaccinations administered in a day as hundreds of thousands more people become eligible to receive them, public health officials announced Thursday.
The 130,021 shots that went into arms Wednesday shattered the state’s previous high of 95,375 inoculations given Feb. 11, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
And after a week of brutal winter weather slowed down the rollout, Gov. J.B. Pritzker says he expects six-figure vaccination days to become the norm as pharmaceutical companies bolster production and the federal government parcels out larger shipments.
The pool of people vying for coveted vaccine appointments grew Thursday, too, as the Democratic governor’s expansion of the Phase 1B rollout took effect, allowing residents 16 or older with underlying health conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes, to register for a shot.
6:12 p.m. As hospital numbers fall, fatigued staff get relief at last
MISSION, Kan. — When COVID-19 patients inundated St. Louis hospitals, respiratory therapists arriving for yet another grueling shift with a dwindling supply of ventilators would often glance at their assignments and cry, heading into the locker room to collect themselves.
“They were like, ‘Man, another 12 hours of this slog of these on-the-verge-of-death patients who could go at any moment.’ And just knowing that they had to take care of them with that kind of stress in the back of their head,’” recalled Joe Kowalczyk, a respiratory therapist who sometimes works in a supervisory role.
Now the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the U.S. has dropped by 80,000 in six weeks, and 17% of the nation’s adult population has gotten at least one dose of a vaccine, providing some relief to front-line workers like Kowalczyk. On his most recent shift at Mercy Hospital St. Louis, there were only about 20 coronavirus patients, down from as many as 100 at the peak of the winter surge.
“It is so weird to look back on it,” he said. “Everyone was hitting their wit’s end definitely toward the end just because we had been doing it for so long at the end of year.”
4:22 p.m. United Center mass COVID-19 vaccination site could give out 8,000 shots per day
Authorities are expected to announce plans to stand up a mass COVID-19 vaccination site at the United Center during a Friday new conference.
Crain’s on Thursday first reported that the new vaccination site will use a combination of drive-through and temporary walk-up facilities and could be used to inoculate thousands of people each day.
On Thursday, Rep. La Shawn Ford, a Democrat whose 8th District includes portions of Chicago’s West Side, said the site will be used to administer up to 8,000 daily vaccine doses to people over the age of 65.
Ald. Walter Burnett, whose 27thWard includes the United Center, said officials with Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office are planning to hold a news conference to announce the site Friday. He noted that the United Center has “the plans ready and they’re ready to do it.”
3:22 p.m. CPS open to improving remote learning as F’s increase, attendance drops
As students continue to ask for more leniency and support in remote learning, Chicago schools chief Janice Jackson reiterated her stance Wednesday that the school district would not reduce screen time — but she suggested officials would be willing to revisit how that time is spent.
Those students’ pleas come as new data released Wednesday shows failing grades are up and attendance is down across Chicago Public Schools, largely along racial and socioeconomic lines.
The district’s year-to-date attendance has dropped 1.9% this school year compared to last —92.5% to 90.6% — with the most serious decreases coming among Black students at 4.5%, Latino children at 1.4%, special education students at 3.6% and homeless students at 6.7%, district records show. White and Asian American kids are attending at higher rates than last year.
High schools have faced a 4.3% drop in attendance compared to 0.9% for elementary schools, and charter school attendance has fallen 6.3% compared to 1.3% for district-run schools.
Grades, meanwhile, are skewing to extremes. There are more A’s but also more F’s in reading and math at all grade levels and in all racial groups. Elementary students in particular are getting F’s at more than double the rate as last year. Perhaps most troubling to district officials is a significant rise in failing grades handed out to Black and Latino students.
3:19 p.m. BLM launches Survival Fund amid federal COVID-19 relief wait
NEW YORK — The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation is formally expanding a $3 million financial relief fund that it quietly launched earlier this month, to help people struggling to make ends meet during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The foundation, which grew out of the creation of the Black Lives Matter movement nearly eight years ago, said Thursday that it plans to make up to 3,000 microgrants of $1,000 each to people who it believes need it most. The BLM foundation has already begun asking recipients to apply for the Survival Fund grants as it builds out its philanthropic arm.
If approved, the money is deposited directly into recipients’ bank accounts or made available on prepaid debit cards, the foundation said — no strings attached.
“This came from a collective conversation with BLM leadership that Black folks are being hurt the most financially during the pandemic,” BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors told The Associated Press.
“I believe that when you have resources, to hoard them is a disservice to the people who deserve them,” she said.
Details about the initiative were shared with the AP ahead of the announcement.
10:46 a.m. Amid COVID-19 pandemic, flu has disappeared in the US
NEW YORK — February is usually the peak of flu season, with doctors’ offices and hospitals packed with suffering patients. But not this year.
The flu has virtually disappeared from the U.S., with reports coming in at far lower levels than anything seen in decades.
Experts say that measures put in place to fend off the coronavirus — mask wearing, social distancing and virtual schooling — were a big factor in preventing a “twindemic” of flu and COVID-19. A push to get more people vaccinated against flu probably helped, too, as did fewer people traveling, they say.
Another possible explanation: The coronavirus has essentially muscled aside flu and other bugs that are more common in the fall and winter. Scientists don’t fully understand the mechanism behind that, but it would be consistent with patterns seen when certain flu strains predominate over others, said Dr. Arnold Monto, a flu expert at the University of Michigan.
Nationally, “this is the lowest flu season we’ve had on record,” according to a surveillance system that is about 25 years old, said Lynnette Brammer of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Hospitals say the usual steady stream of flu-stricken patients never materialized.
9:20 a.m. Trisha Yearwood battling COVID-19; husband Garth Brooks tests negative
Country music star Trisha Yearwood is currently “under the greatest care” at home after contracting COVID-19, according to a statement from her husband, Garth Brooks.
A press release from Brooks’ publicist says the couple was already quarantining at home after a member of their team recently tested positive, and that the winter weather in Tennessee prevented them from getting tested for almost a week. Both have now been tested twice, and Brooks remains negative.
“Officially, she’s diagnosed as ‘on her way out of the tunnel’ now, though,” Brooks said in the release. ”Which I’m extremely thankful for.”
“Anyone who knows me knows my world begins and ends with Miss Yearwood, so she and I will ride through this together. And anyone who knows her knows she’s a fighter and she’s been doing everything right, so I know we’ll walk out the other side of this thing together.”
The press release says Yearwood is “doing okay so far” but dealing with unspecified symptoms, and Brooks welcomes fans’ prayers and thoughts.
“If anyone asks, that’s what you can do for her. That’s what I’m doing. Living with her, I sometimes take it for granted she’s one of the greatest voices in all of music, so the possible long-term effects on her concern me as her husband and as a fan. We’re very lucky she is currently under the greatest care in the best city for treating and healing singers.”
- Officials reported 2,022 new cases were diagnosed among 82,976 tests, sending the average statewide testing positivity rate down to 2.6%.
- Coronavirus hospitalizations are back to summer lows with 1,511 beds occupied across the state as of Tuesday night.