Coronavirus live blog, Feb. 26, 2021: 6,000 people daily can receive vaccinations at United Center starting March 10

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

SHARE Coronavirus live blog, Feb. 26, 2021: 6,000 people daily can receive vaccinations at United Center starting March 10

While the United Center readies to become a mass vaccination site next month, the Chicago Police Department has been instructed to prepare for the potential of events with large crowds later this year.

Here’s what you need to know.


TOP STORY: 6,000 people daily can receive vaccinations at United Center starting March 10

The United Center is set to become a mass COVID-19 vaccination site.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

A center of Chicago’s sports world will become a focal point of its pandemic response March 10 when a mass COVID-19 vaccination site will be launched at the United Center.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the site Friday with Mayor Lightfoot and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

“The United Center is one of the best locations for vaccinating large numbers of people in America: It’s easy to get to, is in the midst of a medically underserved community, can handle large crowds and is well known to everyone in Illinois,” Pritzker said in a statement. “Thanks to FEMA, the United Center is just our most recent among a growing number of state-supported mass vaccination location for residents.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is expected to launch the site and begin giving out shots in about two weeks, White House COVID-19 Task Force senior adviser Andy Slavitt said during a separate news briefing.

It’ll have the capacity to vaccinate about 6,000 people per day, Slavitt said.

News of the state’s highest-profile vaccination site leaked Thursday. State Rep. La Shawn Ford, a Democrat whose 8th District includes portions of Chicago’s West Side, said appointments at the site will initially be limited to people over 65.

Read the full story by Mitchell Armentrout here.

4:30 p.m. US advisers endorse single-shot COVID-19 vaccine from J&J; FDA approval could be next

WASHINGTON — U.S. health advisers endorsed a one-dose COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson on Friday, putting the nation on the cusp of adding an easier-to-use option to fight the pandemic.

The Food and Drug Administration is expected to quickly follow the recommendation and make J&J’s shot the third vaccine authorized for emergency use in the U.S. Vaccinations are picking up speed, but new supplies are urgently needed to stay ahead of a mutating virus that has killed more than 500,000 Americans.

After daylong discussions, the FDA panelists voted unanimously that the benefits of the vaccine outweighed the risks for adults. If the FDA agrees, shipments of a few million doses could begin as early as Monday.

Read the complete story here.

3:30 p.m. City Council poised to authorize $377M in federal stimulus spending

The City Council is poised Friday to authorize another round of federal stimulus spending despite the political furor triggered by Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s decision to spend $281.5 million on police payroll costs.

Lightfoot said she’s confident she’ll get her way 48 hours after two of her most dedicated City Council critics — deposed Finance Committee Chairman Edward Burke (14th) and Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) — used a parliamentary maneuver to delay the stimulus vote.

“Our residents are literally still fighting for their lives every single day. What they want all of us to do is focus on the things that are important to them. To deliver for them,” the mayor said Friday hours before the meeting.

Read the full story by Fran Spielman here.

2 p.m. Third US vaccine could raise question: Which shots are best?

WASHINGTON — The nation is poised to get a third vaccine against COVID-19, but because at first glance the Johnson & Johnson shot may not be seen as equal to other options, health officials are girding for the question: Which one is best?

If cleared for emergency use, the J&J vaccine would offer a one-dose option that could help speed vaccinations, tamp down a pandemic that has killed more than 500,000 people in the U.S. and stay ahead of a mutating virus.

“I think it’s going to be huge,” said Dr. Virginia Caine, director of the public health department in Marion County, Indiana, which includes Indianapolis. She expects the easier-to-use vaccine will give local officials more flexibility for mobile vaccination clinics or pop-up events.

The challenge will be explaining how protective the J&J shot is after the astounding success of the first U.S. vaccines.

Read the complete story here.

1:05 p.m. Vaccination ‘passports’ may open society, but inequity looms

TEL AVIV, Israel — Violet light bathed the club stage as 300 people, masked and socially distanced, erupted in gentle applause. For the first time since the pandemic began, Israeli musician Aviv Geffen stepped to his electric piano and began to play for an audience seated right in front of him.

“A miracle is happening here tonight,” Geffen told the crowd.

Still, the reanimating experience Monday night above a shopping mall north of Tel Aviv night was not accessible to everyone. Only people displaying a “green passport” that proved they had been vaccinated or had recovered from COVID-19 could get in.

The highly controlled concert offered a glimpse of a future that many are longing for after months of COVID-19 restrictions. Governments say getting vaccinated and having proper documentation will smooth the way to travel, entertainment and other social gatherings in a post-pandemic world.

Read the full story here.

12:20 p.m. A Chicago summer? CPD is planning for it

With vaccinations surging and coronavirus cases dropping, Mayor Lori Lightfoot has asked the Chicago Police Department to prepare security plans for large-scale summer events.

The discussion about police preparations for a return to some sense of normalcy in Chicago this summer came up this week during the mayor’s regular “accountability” meeting with top police brass.

Chicago Police Department spokesman Don Terry refused to say what types of major events the mayor is contemplating. He would only say that CPD is “preparing for the summer for things to open, if they open up.”

“If we continue on this path, with people being vaccinated and the infection rate going down — and if the city opens up — we’re gonna be prepared for what happens in the summer in Chicago,” Terry said Friday.

Read the full story by Fran Spielman here.

11:40 a.m. House to vote on virus bill; arbiter says wage hike a no-go

WASHINGTON — Democrats are ready to shove a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package through the House on Friday, despite a setback that means a minimum wage boost is unlikely to be in the final version that reaches President Joe Biden.

A near party-line vote seemed certain on the measure, Biden’s first crack at his initial legislative goal of acting decisively against the pandemic. In the year since the coronavirus has taken hold, it has stalled much of the economy, killed half a million Americans and reshaped the daily lives of virtually everyone.

The relief bill would provide millions of people with $1,400 direct payments. It contains billions of dollars for vaccines and COVID-19 testing, schools, state and local governments, the ailing restaurant and airline industries and emergency jobless benefits while providing tax breaks to lower earners and families with children.

Read the complete story here.

10:40 a.m. How parents can manage kids’ screen time as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Jennifer Edwards’ two kids were on a limited screen-time budget. After they got home from school and through their after-school routine, they would get maybe an hour or two a day.

When the pandemic started, Edwards worked from home while the kids’ school was closed, eventually transitioning to online learning. Limits on screen time were tossed out.

Now, her kids’ schools have reopened, and they’ve returned to some of their normal routines. But Edwards, who lives in St. Augustine, Florida, says returning to those screen-time limits has “been like trying to put the toothpaste back in the bottle. The kids have gotten so used to being occupied by their screens that it is now a struggle to get them off the screens.”

COVID-19 led to school closings, which also meant disrupting after-school activities including team sports. Quarantining pushed parents working remotely to relax screen-time rules as they juggled jobs and their kids’ online schooling.

Read the full story here.

9:46 a.m. Biden marks 50M vaccine doses in first 5 weeks in office

Days after marking a solemn milestone in the pandemic, President Joe Biden is celebrating the pace of his efforts to end it.

On Thursday, Biden marked the administration of the 50 millionth dose of COVID-19 vaccine since his swearing-in. The moment came days after the nation reached the devastating milestone of 500,000 coronavirus deaths and ahead of a meeting with the nation’s governors on plans to speed the distribution even further.

“The more people get vaccinated, the faster we’re going to beat this pandemic,” Biden said at the White House ceremony, noting that his administration is on course to exceed his promise to deliver 100 million shots in his first 100 days in office.

“We’re halfway there: 50 million shots in 37 days,” Biden said. “That’s weeks ahead of schedule.”

Read the full story here.

New cases

Analysis & Commentary

6 p.m. Lessons from COVID-19 that are worth remembering, like not becoming numb to it all

Like gun fatalities and car crashes, you could become numb to the 500,000 coronavirus deaths and to what that number means to the families of COVID-19 victims.

Indeed, we shouldn’t dwell on the misery the deadly virus has caused, if only for the sake of our mental health.

It helps to look on the bright side.

Forced to stick close to home, many of us found joy in simple pleasures like learning how to bake the perfect apple pie.

But as President Joe Biden said at a ceremony for the nation to pay our respects to those we have lost to the pandemic: “We have to resist becoming numb to the sorrow. We have to resist viewing each life as a statistic or a blur.”

There are lessons from COVID-19 that should stay with us for the rest of our lives.

Read the full column by Mary Mitchell here.

5:20 p.m. Bringing the COVID-19 vaccine directly to public housing senior residents is a great idea

Unlike many of the people who are reluctant to take the COVID-19 vaccine, Yvonne Johnson had no particular concerns about the vaccine itself.

What Johnson doesn’t like are needles or shots of any variety, the vaccine just happening to be one version.

As a result, the 66-year-old had not been among the many senior citizens vying for a vaccination over the past month.

“I was running from it scared, until my daughter told me I need to take it,” Johnson told me at the CHA’s Alfreda Barnett Duster Apartments, where she and dozens of her fellow residents had gathered to be vaccinated.

Smart daughter.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the need for government officials to make it easier especially for older people to access vaccine appointments, the online competition being unworkable for many of them. That’s before you even get to mobility issues.

One recommendation I passed along from the Jane Addams Senior Caucus was that we start taking the vaccine directly to senior public housing residents instead of making them find their own.

What I didn’t realize is that the Cook County Housing Authority already started doing that in the senior public housing buildings it operates in the suburbs.

Read the rest of the column by Mark Brown here.

2:30 p.m. Snow days bring reflection — and a little joy — during grumpy days of pandemic


It can be magic, transformative, dangerous and dreadful.

This wet, white shapeshifter falling in pillows across Chicago this month was delivered silently and softly; adding a new room to the city’s already isolated house of coronavirus.

Snow’s footprint in my life has been a big one; an occupying force staying well beyond welcome in the states of my youth: North Dakota and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

The Dakota wind was so cold and strong, it seemed to blow snowflakes across the prairie for miles before landing. The U.P. winter drifts were high and deep and beyond the patience of length.

But Chicago’s weather has a kick of its own accompanied by an old saying:

“If you don’t like the weather, just wait a few minutes.”

Read the full column by Michael Sneed here.

9 a.m. Artist’s portraits capture our plague year

The mask.

We spend so much time complaining about wearing it, we might not have noticed how much the mask has come to define the past year, physically, emotionally and, yes, visually.

But Phil Gayter, artist and ad man, has noticed, and is painting a series of masked portraits.

“I decided to do a self-portrait, painting myself with bright yellow gloves and an N95 mask. That was the start,” said Gayter, who lives in Highland Park. “It was going to be a one-off. As the pandemic was setting in, I was spending more and more time at home, I had my daughter over, and I did a portrait of her in a mask.”

Artists tend to work in themes — blue periods, haystacks series and such. Gayter saw potential in the masked subject.

“All of a sudden I thought something’s going on here that I really, really like,” he said. “A coming together of myself as an artist and a business thinker, coming up with an idea that holds together. That’s what I do for my clients, create branded messages. The mask proved to be that point of distinction, allowing me to think of a collection of paintings that capture the moment, poignant yet whimsical.”

Keep reading Neil Steinberg’s column here.

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