Coronavirus live blog, Feb. 4, 2021: CTU sends counteroffer after mayor says Thursday ‘is the day’ for a deal

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

SHARE Coronavirus live blog, Feb. 4, 2021: CTU sends counteroffer after mayor says Thursday ‘is the day’ for a deal

More coronavirus vaccines went into the arms of Illinoisans as Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union continued to negotiate a safe school reopening plan.

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


News

8:55 p.m. CTU sends counteroffer after mayor declares ‘today is the day’ for an agreement

Wrigley Field Campus Mobilized In Support of COVID-19-Relief Efforts

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Mayor Lori Lightfoot says she has run out of patience with the Chicago Teachers Union and wants an agreement to reopen schools “today,” setting up a make or break day in negotiations with Chicago Public Schools aiming to bring students back to classrooms next week.

“The ball is in the CTU’s court,” the mayor told reporters Thursday morning. “Despite a series of productive exchanges between CPS and the CTU leadership on Monday and Tuesday that should absolutely have led to a comprehensive agreement, we are deeply disappointed to announce we still have not reached a deal. Yesterday, there were a series of steps backwards that were simply not productive.”

Lightfoot said “we are out of runway” after more than 80 meetings between the two sides and CPS having “bent over backward” to accommodate CTU’s health and safety concerns. These were the mayor’s first critical comments about the union since her harsh news conference last Friday night, and they came after a “48 hour cooling-off period” that featured little public acrimony ended Wednesday.

“We waited for hours last night — hours — and still did not receive a proposal from the Chicago Teachers Union leadership,” Lightfoot said. “And as of this morning, we are still waiting, but to be clear, not patiently — not anymore.”

Read the full story here.


5:47 p.m. Johnson & Johnson asks US regulators to OK its one-shot COVID-19 vaccine

Johnson & Johnson asked U.S. regulators Thursday to clear the world’s first single-dose COVID-19 vaccine, an easier-to-use option that could boost scarce supplies.

J&J’s vaccine was safe and offered strong protection against moderate to severe COVID-19, according to preliminary results from a massive international study.

It didn’t appear quite as strong as two-dose competitors made by Pfizer and Moderna — a finding that may be more perception than reality, given differences in how each was tested.

But the Food and Drug Administration is asking its independent advisers to publicly debate all the data behind the single-dose shot — just like its competitors were put under the microscope — before it decides whether to green light a third vaccine option in the U.S.

Read the full story here.

4:08 p.m. Can I take painkillers before or after a COVID-19 vaccine?

It’s best to avoid them, unless you routinely take them for a medical condition. Although the evidence is limited, some painkillers might interfere with the very thing the vaccine is trying to do: generate a strong immune system response.

Vaccines work by tricking the body into thinking it has a virus and mounting a defense against it. That may cause arm soreness, fever, headache, muscle aches or other temporary symptoms of inflammation that can be part of that reaction.

“These symptoms mean your immune system is revving up and the vaccine is working,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a recent news briefing.

Read the full story here.

2:07 p.m. Wisconsin GOP repeals governor’s statewide mask mandate

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled Legislature on Thursday repealed Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ mask mandate, brushing aside warnings from health experts against making Wisconsin one of only 10 states without a statewide order.

The Assembly vote came a week after the Senate voted to kill the mandate. Republicans, who control both chambers, argued that Evers exceeded his authority by repeatedly extending the mask mandate without legislative approval. The repeal will take effect on Friday, after the Senate majority leader signs it.

Evers could defy the Legislature by issuing a new order putting a fresh mask mandate in place, a move that would force the Legislature to vote again to repeal. The latest mask mandate had been in place since August. Local mask ordinances, including one in Milwaukee and Dane County which includes Madison, remain in effect.

Evers did not immediately comment on the Legislature’s action.

The Supreme Court could end the legislative back and forth with a ruling in a pending case that says Evers must secure lawmakers’ approval every 60 days. The court could also say he doesn’t need approval, thus forcing the Legislature to repeal every order Evers issues with which republicans disagree.

Read the full story here.

1:16 p.m. Nearly 257K Illinoisans now fully vaccinated against coronavirus

More than a quarter-million people across Illinois have now been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, public health officials announced Thursday.

The state passed that benchmark as the Illinois Department of Public Health reported 62,318 doses went into arms Wednesday, the second highest single-day vaccination total, trailing only the previous day’s 65,166 doses.

The federal government has shipped about 2.2 million vaccine doses to the state, and almost 1.2 million have been administered so far.

Seven weeks into the unprecedented vaccination effort, a total of 256,839 people have received both required doses. That’s barely 2% of the population.

Health officials are aiming to vaccinate at least 80% of the population to achieve herd immunity. That would take many months at the current rate, but efforts have ramped up in Phase 1B of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s distribution plan. Daily shot records have been set four times in the past week, while the seven-day average of shots administered per day is up to 46,709.

Read Mitchell Armentrout’s full update here.

12:48 a.m. Britain to test mixing and matching of COVID-19 vaccines

British scientists are starting a study Thursday to find out if it’s OK to mix and match COVID-19 vaccines.

The vaccines being rolled out now require two doses, and people are supposed to get two shots of the same kind, weeks apart.

Guidelines in Britain and the U.S. say the vaccines aren’t interchangeable, but can be mixed if the same kind isn’t available for the second dose or if it’s not known what was given for the first shot.

Participants in the government-funded study will get one shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine followed by a dose from Pfizer, or vice versa.

“This study will give us greater insight into how we can use vaccines to stay on top of this nasty disease,” said Jonathan Van Tam, the U.K.’s deputy chief medical officer.

He said that given the challenges of immunizing millions of people amid a global vaccine shortage, there would be advantages to having data that could support more “flexible” immunization campaigns.

Read the full story here.

11:18 a.m. Mayor says she’s run out of patience with the CTU and wants a deal on reopening schools ‘today’

Mayor Lori Lightfoot says she has run out of patience with the Chicago Teachers Union and wants an agreement to reopen schools “today.”

“The ball is in the CTU’s court,” she told reporters Thursday morning.

“Despite a series of productive exchanges between CPS and the CTU leadership on Monday and Tuesday that should absolutely have led to a comprehensive agreement, we are deeply disappointed to announce we still have not reached a deal. Yesterday, there were a series of steps backwards that were simply not productive.”

Lightfoot said that after “80 plus” meetings between the two sides “we are out of runway.”

She said CPS has “bent over backward” to accommodate CTU’s issues and concerns.

“We waited for hours last night — hours — and still did not receive a proposal from the Chicago Teachers Union leadership,” Lightfoot said. “And as of this morning, we are still waiting, but to be clear, not patiently — not anymore.”

As a backdrop to the negotiations, Lightfoot noted the citywide COVID-19 positivity rate has fallen to about 5%.

She said schools have been open for almost three weeks and that the safety procedures CPS has put in place are working — until, she said, “CPS blew up that success and created the chaos we are now enduring.”

Read the full story from Stefano Esposito here.

9:11 a.m. ‘Welcomed step’ or ‘ridiculous’? State lawmakers split on decision to move them up in COVID-19 vaccine line

State legislators were green-lighted Wednesday to receive the COVID-19 vaccine during the current phase of the state’s inoculation plan — and like everything in politics today, the move sparked sharp partisan disagreements.

Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s spokeswoman said the decision was made at the “request of members of the General Assembly.”

Democratic House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch called it a “welcomed step in the interest of government functionality and safety.”

But Republican legislative leaders called it “ridiculous” to allow the 177 state lawmakers to move ahead of other members of the public not yet eligible for the potentially life-saving vaccine.

“We need to wait our turn,” said state Republican House Leader Jim Durkin. “And if we have members of the General Assembly who have preexisting conditions, they will have an opportunity to go before most of the public, but we should not leapfrog over anyone in this crisis.”

Read the full story from Rachel Hinton here.

9:08 a.m. Teachers don’t have to be vaccinated for schools to reopen safely, CDC director 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, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at a COVID news briefing Wednesday the “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.

Later, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said despite Walensky’s comments, the CDC “has not released their official guidance yet” on vaccinating teachers and school reopenings. She said prioritizing teachers for vaccines is important to President Joe Biden.

Read the full story here.


New cases


Analysis & Commentary

9:12 a.m. How hard have you found it to get a COVID-19 vaccination? What Chicagoans told us.

Illinois’ phased plan to distribute available coronavirus vaccines began in December. On Monday, a day before the city unveiled a new website to help schedule appointments, we asked readers who are eligible for the vaccine how difficult they’ve found it to get the shots. Some answers have been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

How hard have you found it to get a COVID-19 vaccination? Price.1 PG.

“I have tried every day to sign up my age-eligible mother for a first dose appointment. Walgreens, Cook County sites, CVS, Jewel-Osco — nothing. Appointments are never available.”— Lisa Scruggs

“I was easily able to sign my parents up for the first dose with Walgreens two weeks ago, but I’m finding it nearly impossible to get them scheduled for the second dose.”— Jamie Gordon

Read more from Chicagoans here.

9:10 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?

Read the full editorial from the CST Editorial Board here.

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