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Coronavirus live blog Feb. 28, 2021: More than 2.7 million vaccine doses have been administered in Illinois

Here’s Sunday’s news on how COVID-19 is impacting Chicago and Illinois.

After Illinois saw a drop in vaccine distribution two weeks ago in part due to heavy snow and delayed shipments from the federal government, the state averaged an all-time high of 79,140 doses doled out per day over the last week, which included a two-day streak of six-figure vaccination totals.

Here’s what happened today.


5:03 p.m. Another 79,000 coronavirus vaccines administered as Illinois’ pandemic death toll surpasses 20,500

Illinois reached another grim milestone Sunday as the state’s pandemic death toll surpassed 20,500 fatalities.

State health officials reported an additional 22 people have succumbed to COVID-19, bringing the number of virus-related deaths to 20,516. Eight of Sunday’s 22 fatalities were reported in the Chicago area and included three Cook County men in their 60s.

This comes as the state continues to make progress in its unprecedented vaccine rollout, giving a glimmer of hope for the future.

State health officials announced 79,266 coronavirus vaccines were injected into the arms of Illinois residents Saturday, marking the seventh-highest single day total.

After Illinois saw a drop in vaccine distribution two weeks ago in part due to heavy snow and delayed shipments from the federal government, the state averaged an all-time high of 79,140 doses doled out per day over the last week, which included a two-day streak of six-figure vaccination totals.

In total, more than 2.7 million vaccine doses have been administered in Illinois. About 11.7% of those shots were given to people at long-term care facilities.

Read the full story from Madeline Kenney here.

3:38 p.m. 83K more COVID-19 shots given in Illinois as positivity rate nears all-time low

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Public health officials on Saturday announced 1,780 more Illinoisans were diagnosed with COVID-19 as more than 83,000 vaccine doses went into arms across the state.

A total of 83,048 shots were administered Friday, breaking a two-day streak of six-figure vaccination totals, including Illinois’ all-time high of more than 130,000 doled out Wednesday.

But the state’s rolling average of shots given per day has climbed to a new high of 69,736 over the past week. As that rate steadily rises, daily tallies of new infections have fallen precipitously. The Illinois Department of Public Health has reported roughly 1,800 positive coronavirus tests each day over the last week, down from an average of about 3,500 new daily cases at the end of January.

Read the full story from Mitchell Armentrout here.

2:33 p.m. Far fewer students, classrooms without teachers and learning on laptops: How many Chicago schools will look starting Monday

Chicago Public Schools is taking its largest step toward a return to normalcy Monday, a full 349 days after the pandemic closed schools and upended education as families and educators knew it. But school, for the foreseeable future, will still look nearly unrecognizable.

The vast majority of the 421 elementary and middle schools welcoming students back over the next week — more than 92% — will be less than half full, and 42% will be less than a quarter full. Teachers across the city are expecting single-digit students per class, including some with no children returning at all. Schools have split their returning students into Monday-Tuesday and Thursday-Friday cohorts, with Wednesdays reserved for school cleaning and remote learning for all.

Principals have been frank with parents in school meetings over the past few weeks and months. At many schools, the focus will be causing as little disruption as possible to remote learning. Which for most in-person students means their return to classrooms could feature a similar educational experience to the one at home.

Though every school is free to tailor the district’s plans to its needs, educators will largely work with in-person and remote students simultaneously. Most teachers will sit at a computer at the front of the classroom and provide virtual instruction as they have this whole school year. For large portions of the day, students will sit at socially distant desks either following along on their own devices or a projector screen.

Read the full story from Nader Issa here.

12:51 p.m. Bulls game called off Sunday because of Raptors’ ongoing virus issues

The Toronto Raptors’ issues with the coronavirus have worsened, prompting the NBA to call off their game scheduled for Sunday night against the Bulls.

The league said the Raptors are dealing with positive test results, without disclosing how many, and that combined with ongoing contact tracing issues meant they would not have the league-required eight players available to play.

Toronto played Friday without head coach Nick Nurse, several other assistants and staffers and starting forward Pascal Siakam because of virus-related issues. Assistant coach Sergio Scariolo coached the team to a win over Houston and was in line to coach again Sunday.

Read the full story here.

9:24 a.m. Biden team looks beyond $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill, readies wider economic package

WASHINGTON — Looking beyond the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill, President Joe Biden and lawmakers are laying the groundwork for another top legislative priority — a long-sought boost to the nation’s roads, bridges and other infrastructure that could run into Republican resistance to a hefty price tag.

Biden and his team have begun discussions on the possible outlines of an infrastructure package with members of Congress, particularly mindful that Texas’ recent struggles with power outages and water shortages after a brutal winter storm present an opportunity for agreement on sustained spending on infrastructure.

Gina McCarthy, Biden’s national climate adviser, told The Associated Press that the deadly winter storm in Texas should be a “wake-up call” for the need for energy systems and other infrastructure that are more reliable and resilient.

“The infrastructure is not built to withstand these extreme weather conditions,” said Liz Sherwood-Randall, a homeland security aide to the president. “We know that we can’t just react to extreme weather events. We need to plan for them and prepare for them.”

A White House proposal could come out in March.

“Now is the time to be aggressive,” said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, a former South Bend, Indiana, mayor who knows potholes.

Read the full story here.

9:12 a.m. Plunging demand for COVID-19 tests may leave US exposed

WASHINGTON — Just five weeks ago, Los Angeles County was conducting more than 350,000 weekly coronavirus tests, including at a massive drive-thru site at Dodger Stadium, as health workers raced to contain the worst COVID-19 hotspot in the U.S.

Now, county officials say testing has nearly collapsed. More than 180 government-supported sites are operating at only a third of their capacity.

“It’s shocking how quickly we’ve gone from moving at 100 miles an hour to about 25,” said Dr. Clemens Hong, who leads the county’s testing operation.

After a year of struggling to boost testing, communities across the country are seeing plummeting demand, shuttering testing sites or even trying to return supplies.

The drop in screening comes at a significant moment in the outbreak: Experts are cautiously optimistic that COVID-19 is receding after killing more than 500,000 people in the U.S. but concerned that emerging variants could prolong the epidemic.

“Everyone is hopeful for rapid, widespread vaccinations, but I don’t think we’re at a point where we can drop our guard just yet,” said Hong. “We just don’t have enough people who are immune to rule out another surge.”

Read the full story here.


New Cases

  • The Illinois Department of Public Health has reported roughly 1,800 positive coronavirus tests each day over the last week, down from an average of about 3,500 new daily cases at the end of January.
  • A total of 83,048 shots were administered Friday, breaking a two-day streak of six-figure vaccination totals.

Analysis & Commentary

9:14 a.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.

In the interest of saving lives, most of us willingly went on lockdown and took refuge behind masks. But we all had some aspect of the shutdown that we didn’t like.

For many, it was enduring the indignity of churches being closed while liquor stores and weed shops flourished.

And there was the pain of teachers knowing that, for children whose only escape from danger at home was the classroom, the pandemic was the boogeyman in the closet.

When the pandemic touches us individually, we feel the sharp sting of its grip. Last week, my daughter’s wonderful mother-in-law suffered a catastrophic stroke and was airlifted to Loyola University Medical Center, where she remains in a coma.

Except for one brief moment, her son and daughter have been unable to sit by her bedside because of COVID restrictions. They are beside themselves with worry.

Read the full column from Mary Mitchell here.