Coronavirus live blog, Feb. 3, 2021: Illinois administered 65,166 vaccine doses Tuesday, nearly 1.1 million shots total
Here’s Wednesday’s news on how COVID-19 is impacting Chicago and Illinois.
More and more Illinoisans are getting vaccinated, and that’s good news as the coronavirus pandemic continues in the state.
Here’s what happened today in COVID-related news in Chicago and around Illinois.
8:55 p.m. Illinois hits another daily vaccination record as residents scramble for appointments
Illinois public health officials Wednesday announced another record for COVID-19 doses administered in a day, as residents swarm online to sign up for appointments to get the coveted shots.
The Illinois Department of Public Health said 65,166 doses went into arms Tuesday, a new high for the state after a two-day slowdown due largely to heavy snow over the weekend.
Nearly 1.1 million shots have been given in all, though only 244,588 people have received both required doses — less than 2% of the population.
But the state’s rolling average of shots administered daily is now up to 45,787. The state saw its previous four most prolific vaccination days last week as more essential workers and people 65 or older became eligible.
Supply is still dwarfed by surging demand. Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the state is redirecting 97,000 excess doses that had been set aside for nursing homes as part of a federal partnership with major drugstore companies. Nursing homes that have accounted for the vast majority of the state’s COVID-19 deaths have already been covered, Pritzker said, so some of the extra doses will go to other eligible recipients.
7:01 p.m. Tampa’s mayor vs. a COVID-era Super Bowl: Jane Castor’s confident it can be held safely
With its lively music scene and Ybor City historical district full of bars and restaurants, Tampa has a nightlife hard to beat anywhere in Florida.
The city has a big reason to party Sunday as the site of Super Bowl LV and the first city to host its own football team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in the championship game.
The arrival of thousands of fans and the usual celebrations that mark the Super Bowl would seem a logistical headache for Mayor Jane Castor, who sought unsuccessfully last year to close bars in the city to stop the spread of COVID-19 and has clashed with the state’s Republican governor about the wisdom of rapidly opening up.
But 11 months into the coronavirus pandemic, Castor says the city and the National Football League have learned enough to hold the event safely.
“We are climbing up on the world stage, and one thing I can guarantee you is Tampa Bay is going to dance like we’ve never danced before,” she told reporters. “We are making sure this is a safe event for everyone.”
4:13 p.m. Humboldt Park group, leaders call on city to ‘save lives’ in Latino communities at greater risk from COVID-19
Community groups and elected leaders are raising the alarm on what they call a botched COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Humboldt Park and other Latino-majority communities in Chicago.
Jessie Fuentes, co-chair of the Puerto Rican Agenda, one of the activist organizations, said they understand supplies of testing materials and vaccines are limited, but still insisted the city must act now to ensure those needing the vaccine are actually getting it. Those in the Latino and Black communities who are eligible for the shot should get priority, Fuentes said, noting they also have more COVID-19 cases.
Latinos across Chicago have the highest rates of infection compared to all other demographics with a daily positivity rate of 13.5%, according to city data. That’s more than double the citywide rate of 5.6%.
Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) said vaccinations in his ward have fallen severely behind, with only two hospitals able to do vaccinations. Pharmacies, including Walgreens and CVS, can do vaccinations but have become significantly unreliable with their scheduling, he said, leaving eligible people waiting up to two weeks.
What’s worse, he said, is that many being vaccinated don’t live in the community.
Just last Sunday, Maldonado said, a Walgreens in Austin, just outside his ward, had 80 doses of the vaccine ready to use, but among those receiving doses, only two were people of color.
“The rest of the people that received the vaccination were white people coming from the suburbs, even from Deerfield. How can that happen?” Maldonado said. “The city of Chicago can use its influence” with Walgreens, CVS and other pharmacies “to do a much better job of promoting the opportunity of vaccination they do have in our respected communities.”
2:17 p.m. 3,700 CPS workers have been vaccinated or offered a shot, but teachers criticize disorderly rollout
About 3,700 Chicago Public Schools staff members have either received a COVID-19 vaccination or been given the opportunity to sign up for one, the city’s public health commissioner said Tuesday, as negotiations continued between the school system and the Chicago Teachers Union over returning to in-person work.
Vaccines have been central to the bargaining deadlock, with many educators fearful of being forced back into classrooms without first having a chance to receive a shot.
CTU President Jesse Sharkey said over the weekend he understands vaccine supply is limited and teachers can’t jump in line ahead of essential workers who have been in-person the whole pandemic. But he was frustrated by what he called a lack of communication on the issue by district officials, and a reluctance to discuss improvements to the vaccine plan. Sharkey has said CPS might get about 1,000 shots each week, but the CTU was asking for more.
In what would be a sign of progress, Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady declined on Tuesday to say how many vaccines the city is making available to CPS teachers every week, indicating the district and union are discussing a vaccination strategy, which would be key to a resolution. Negotiations continued into Tuesday evening with minimal updates the day after the two sides started a “48 hour cooling-off period,” essentially agreeing to limit public attacks while they hammer out a deal.
“What I can tell you is that we’ve worked to really assess the percentage of eligible Chicago residents that the CPS membership makes up,” Arwady said in a news conference announcing a new website for residents to book vaccine appointments. “And we are definitely allocating, even over-allocating, vaccine to that group, recognizing how important it is to get Chicago back to school.”
12:56 p.m. Teachers don’t have to be vaccinated for schools to reopen safely, CDC says
WASHINGTON — The director of the CDC says schools can safely reopen even if teachers are not vaccinated for the coronavirus.
As the Chicago Teachers Union and others around the country balk at resuming in-person instruction before teachers are inoculated, Dr. Rochelle Walensky says, “Vaccination of teachers is not a prerequisite for safe reopening of schools.” Walensky cited CDC data showing that social distancing and wearing a mask significantly reduce the spread of the virus in school settings.
The union has taken a bargaining position that the district must “offer all staff opportunity to be fully vaccinated before [being] required to return in-person,” according to a “bargaining movement chart” posted to its website.
CTU President Jesse Sharkey has said CPS might get about 1,000 shots for staff each week, but the CTU was asking for more.
The city’s public health director, Dr. Alison Arwady, said Thursday the number of shots that should be allocated to CPS workers is currently under negotiation, but declined to say what number is being discussed.
“We are definitely allocating, even over-allocating, vaccine to that group, recognizing how important it is to get Chicago back to school,” she said.
11:47 a.m. UK says new study vindicates delaying 2nd virus vaccine shot
LONDON — Britain’s health chief has hailed a new study suggesting that a single dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine provides a high level of protection for 12 weeks, saying it supports the government’s contentious strategy of delaying the second shot so it can protect more people quickly with a first dose.
Britain’s decision has been criticized as risky by other European countries, but Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Wednesday that the study “backs the strategy that we’ve taken and it shows the world that the Oxford vaccine works effectively.”
Hancock’s comments came after Oxford University released a study showing the vaccine cut transmission of the virus by two-thirds and prevented severe disease.
Mene Pangalos, executive vice president of biopharmaceuticals research and development at AstraZeneca, said no patients experienced severe COVID-19 or required hospitalization three weeks after receiving a first dose, and that efficacy appeared to increase up to 12 weeks after the initial shot.
“Our data suggest you want to be as close to the 12 weeks as you can” for the second dose, Pangalos said during a news conference.
11:25 a.m. China to send 10 million coronavirus vaccine doses abroad
TAIPEI, Taiwan — China on Wednesday announced a plan to provide 10 million coronavirus vaccine doses to developing nations through the global COVAX initiative as part of its ambitious diplomatic and business efforts to distribute Chinese vaccines around the world.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said China is responding to a request from the World Health Organization as developing countries seek to fill shortages predicted to run through March. He did not offer details on which vaccine China was providing to COVAX, or whether it was a donation.
China has already shipped large numbers of doses of its own vaccines, mainly to developing countries. It has pursued deals or donations with more than 30 nations far exceeding the 10 million doses it is providing to COVAX. In Turkey alone, Chinese company Sinovac Biotech Ltd. has struck a deal to sell 50 million doses.
Its global efforts are seen by many as an attempt to boost China’s reputation as it seeks to repair its image after the first cases of the coronavirus were detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019. Earlier on during the pandemic, China donated face masks and protective gear to countries around the world as part of a diplomatic push. It has called the virus a mutual challenge facing humanity and even suggested it may have been brought from outside the country.
9:59 a.m. Study: Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine appears safe, effective
MOSCOW — Russian scientists say the country’s Sputnik V vaccine appears safe and effective against COVID-19, according to early results of an advanced study published Tuesday in a British medical journal.
The news is a boost for the vaccine, which governments around the world increasingly are purchasing in the race to stop the devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Researchers said that based on a fall trial involving about 20,000 people in Russia, the vaccine is about 91% effective and appears to prevent inoculated individuals from becoming severely ill with COVID-19. But it is unclear if Sputnik V can stop transmission. The study was published online Tuesday in The Lancet.
Scientists not linked to the research acknowledged that the speed at which the vaccine was made and rolled out had brought criticism of the Russian effort’s “unseemly haste, corner cutting and an absence of transparency.”
“But the outcome reported here is clear,” British scientists Ian Jones and Polly Roy wrote in an accompanying commentary. “Another vaccine can now join the fight to reduce the incidence of COVID-19.”
- The U.S. death toll has climbed past 440,000, with over 95,000 lives lost in January alone. Deaths are running at about 3,150 per day on average, down slightly by about 200 from their peak in mid-January.
- On Tuesday, Illinois reported its smallest number of new cases (2,304) since Oct. 4, while COVID-19 hospital admissions are down about 60% from the November peak.
Analysis & Commentary
10:00 a.m. Bipartisanship is nice, but Joe Biden’s first job is to come to the aid of suffering Americans
For people who care about average Americans, the arithmetic doesn’t add up.
In 2017, nine U.S. senators were among those who cheerfully voted for tax cuts geared toward the wealthiest people. Those tax cuts are expected to cost $2 trillion over a decade.
But now that President Joe Biden is proposing to spend a tad less — $1.9 trillion — to address a once-in-a-century pandemic disaster, the message from those same nine senators, joined by a 10th senator who wasn’t in office in 2017, is: Not so fast.
We’re really trying to understand.
If the federal government could cut taxes by $2 trillion to put a smile on the faces of people with private jets and multiple homes, why can’t it now find $1.9 trillion to help struggling families buy groceries during a pandemic? Why can’t it protect families from being evicted? Why can’t it increase federal jobless benefits to $400 a week and extend them through September, rather than just June, as the Republicans would prefer?
At this critical time, for that matter, why can’t Washington provide $170 billion to schools, colleges and universities to help them reopen safely or improve remote learning?