Coronavirus live blog, March 11, 2021: Biden to direct all adults to be eligible for vaccine by May 1

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

SHARE Coronavirus live blog, March 11, 2021: Biden to direct all adults to be eligible for vaccine by May 1

On the same day President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 trillion relief bill, he also announced he would direct states to make all American adults eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine by May 1.

Read the latest news below.


News

TOP STORY: Biden to direct states to make all American adults eligible for COVID-19 vaccine by May 1

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President Joe Biden, accompanied by Vice President Kamala Harris, speaks before signing the American Rescue Plan, a coronavirus relief package, in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, March 11, 2021, in Washington.

Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

WASHINGTON — One year after the nation was brought to a near-standstill by the coronavirus, President Joe Biden is outlining his plan Thursday evening to make all adults vaccine-eligible by May 1 and get the country “closer to normal” by the Fourth of July. He’s using his first prime-time address to offer Americans fresh hope and appeal anew for their help.

Speaking in the White House East Room, Biden will announce moves to speed vaccinations, including directing that all states make all adults eligible for doses by May 1. Previewing his remarks, senior administration officials said Biden would also announce steps to expand the number of places and categories of people who can give shots, aiming to let Americans gather at least in small groups for the Independence Day holiday.

Biden is marking one year since the onset of the pandemic that has killed more than 530,000 Americans and disrupted the lives of countless more.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity to preview Biden’s remarks, officials said Biden would announce that he is deploying an additional 4,000 active-duty troops to support vaccination efforts and will allow more people — such as medical students, veterinarians and dentists — to deliver shots. He is also directing more doses toward some 950 community health centers and up to 20,000 retail pharmacies, to make it easier for people to get vaccinated.

Read the full story here.

6:04 p.m. Pop-up vaccination site visits Maywood senior home

Linda Blunt sat anxiously in the lobby of the Garden House Apartments in Maywood on Thursday, awaiting her turn to receive the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

She chatted merrily with her neighbors, bounced her legs and held her registration papers tight. Blunt, 65, was more than ready to move on, a year after the pandemic led to a lockdown that has kept her away from her family.

“I just want to see this over with and I want to see us finally get back to normal,” Blunt said. “At least with this we can get halfway to normal because we want to get back to visiting our families and enjoying ourselves.”

Read Manny Ramos’ full story here.

5:46 p.m. After COVID vaccine mix-up, South Side patients wait for second shots

About 150 people who were scheduled to get their second COVID-19 shots at South Shore Hospital this week will have to wait a few days after a vaccine ordering snafu.

The hospital had to call patients who were scheduled for their second and final doses of the Moderna vaccine Wednesday through Friday to let them know they didn’t have the shots on hand, Chief Executive Tim Caveney said.

The second Moderna dose is key to make sure the vaccine is more than 90% effective warding off the virus, researchers have said.

Small community hospitals like South Shore receive their COVID vaccines from the city’s Public Health Department, and a hospital employee didn’t send the order in time last week, Caveney said.

Read Brett Chase’s full story here.

4 p.m. Soldiers staffing United Center vax site not getting enough food; Army working to fix problem with vendor

Soldiers running the mass vaccination site at the United Center have been hungry because they haven’t been fed enough food, a problem the Army says it’s aware of and trying to fix.

There are 222 soldiers, most from the 101st Airborne Division, who are staffing the vaccination site that opened Tuesday.

The soldiers arrived in Chicago on Friday and the food that’s been supplied to them since through a vendor hasn’t been adequate, Capt. Harpa Magnusdottir, an Army spokeswoman, acknowledged Wednesday.

“We are aware of the food contract being dissatisfactory to some of our soldiers. The leadership onsite, along with the contracting team, raised the issue with the vendor as soon as they were made aware. The vendor is working expeditiously to address these issues, and we expect them to be resolved quickly,” Magnusdottir said in an email.

“Soldiers’ well-being and readiness is our top priority,” Magnusdottir said.

Military spokesman Tim Lundberg said the issue arose because the contract with the vendor “wasn’t in firm enough language to ensure the food requirement was being met.”

The contract was rewritten on the fly and soldiers were to begin receiving hardier meals Wednesday.

Lundberg said the misstep “falls under the honest mistake category.”

Read the full story from Mitch Dudek here.

3:40 p.m. Americans’ $1,400 stimulus checks may arrive soon after Biden signs relief plan into law

WASHINGTON — The White House says the $1,400 direct payments for most Americans funded by the American Rescue Plan will start showing up in bank accounts as early as this weekend.

Press secretary Jen Psaki says the government will make the first direct deposits this weekend. She says payments will continue throughout the next several weeks.

President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan in the Oval Office on Thursday.

Read the full story here.

2:16 p.m. Vaccinations rising statewide, health officials say

Illinois Public Health officials said Thursday the state’s seven-day average for vaccine shots reached a high of 98,166 doses.

Two weeks ago, the rolling average was 69,736 doses a day.

The highest single day number is 134,239, all administered March 5. On Wednesday, 112,776 doses were administered in Illinois.

The state Department of Public Health also reported 1,700 new cases of COVID-19 and 55 additional deaths. Thirty people in Cook County died of the virus, including a woman in her 20s and another woman over 100 years old.

The new cases were diagnosed from 89,893 tests and lowered Illinois’ average positivity rate to 2.2% — hovering near the lowest it’s ever been.

COVID-19 hospitalizations are as low as they’ve been since July, with 1,118 beds occupied Wednesday night. Of those, 231 patients were in intensive care and 102 patients were on ventilators.

The state’s average daily fatality rate over the past week is 28, down from 53 a month ago.

More than 1.2 million Illinois residents have been infected since the pandemic began a year ago.

Read the full story here.

1:28 p.m. Biden set to sign $1.9T relief bill before speech to nation

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is set to sign into law Thursday the $1.9 trillion relief package that he says will help the U.S. defeat the virus and nurse the economy back to health.

He originally planned to sign the bill on Friday. But the White House moved that up to Thursday afternoon, hours before the president plans to give his first prime-time address to the American public on the one-year anniversary of the pandemic.

Chief of staff Ron Klain tweeted that the bill actually arrived at the White House late Wednesday, more quickly than than anticipated. “We want to move as fast as possible,” he said.

He added, “We will hold our celebration of the signing on Friday, as planned, with congressional leaders!”

Previewing his remarks, Biden said he would “talk about what we’ve been through as a nation this past year, but more importantly, I’m going to talk about what comes next.”

Biden’s challenge Thursday night will be to honor the sacrifices made by Americans over the last year while encouraging them to remain vigilant despite “virus fatigue” and growing impatience to resume normal activities given the tantalizing promise of vaccines. Speaking on the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization’s declaration of a pandemic, he’ll mourn the dead, but also project optimism about the future.

“This is a chance for him to really beam into everybody’s living rooms and to be both the mourner in chief and to explain how he’s leading the country out of this,” said presidential historian and Rice University professor Douglas Brinkley.

Read the full story here.

12:07 p.m. From job cuts to online commerce, virus reshaped US economy

WASHINGTON — At first, it was expected to be brief. At least that was the hope.

Instead, a once-in-a-century pandemic has ground on for a year, throwing millions out of work and upending wide swathes of the American economy. Delivery services thrived while restaurants suffered. Home offices replaced downtown offices. Travel and entertainment spending dried up.

The job losses were swift and harsh. But they hardly fell equally across the economy. Black and Hispanic workers fared worse than others. And many women, mostly mothers, felt compelled to quit the workforce to care for children being schooled online from home. Despite the job cuts, Americans as a whole socked away a record level of savings, buoyed by government aid to the unemployed and income that higher-paid workers, hunkered down at home, managed to squirrel away.

After a year of ghostly airports, empty sports stadiums and constant Zoom meetings, growing signs suggest that the economy is strengthening. Hiring picked up in February. Business restrictions have eased as the pace of viral infections has ebbed. Yet the economy remains far from normal.

Here’s where things stand at the one-year mark:

Read the full story here.

11:40 a.m. 1 in 5 in US lost someone close in pandemic: poll

WASHINGTON — About 1 in 5 Americans say they lost a relative or close friend to the coronavirus, highlighting the division between heartache and hope as the country itches to get back to normal a year into the pandemic.

A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research illustrates how the stage is set for a two-tiered recovery. The public’s worry about the virus has dropped to its lowest point since the fall, before the holidays brought skyrocketing cases into the new year.

But people still in mourning express frustration at the continued struggle to stay safe.

“We didn’t have a chance to grieve. It’s almost like it happened yesterday for us. It’s still fresh,” said Nettie Parks of Volusia County, Florida, whose only brother died of COVID-19 last April. Because of travel restrictions, Parks and her five sisters have yet to hold a memorial.

Parks, 60, said she retired from her customer service job last year in part because of worry about workplace exposure, and now she is watching with dread as more states and cities relax health rules.

Only about 3 in 10 Americans are very worried about themselves or a family member being infected with the virus, down from about 4 in 10 in recent months. Still, a majority are at least somewhat worried.

“They’re letting their guard down and they shouldn’t,” Parks said. “People are going to have to realize this thing is not going anywhere. It’s not over.”

Read the full story here.

11:07 a.m. Cook County launches rental assistance program for suburban residents

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on Thursday launched a program that will provide millions in rental assistance to residents of suburban Cook County.

The COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program will disburse $65 million to help renters facing eviction and allow landlords to apply for relief on behalf of their tenants.

“We know that working families in the suburbs are suffering,” Preckwinkle said Thursday morning at a virtual news conference. “Unpaid rent, evictions, foreclosures and other debts can have a lasting negative impact on a person’s life and future...we’re here to help.”

People seeking help can visit www.cookcountyil.gov/recovery to begin the application process. The deadline is April 2.

The millions in financial relief is from federal COVID-19 relief funds.

Preference will be given to households that earn between 50% and 80% of area median income, as well as to people who’ve become unemployed within 90 days of applying.

The maximum amount available to applicants seeking rental assistance is $15,000.

Applicants can also seek to tap an additional $8 million available for utility assistance and services to help with foreclosures and other debt burdens.

“During this time and over the past year, I have seen endless constituents coming to our office asking for any type of help, whether it’s a lead in a job opportunity or any other cash assistance,” Cook County Commissioner Alma E. Anaya said. “Programs like this make a real impact in people’s lives.”

Read the full story from Mitch Dudek here.

9:02 a.m. Family of Illinois’ 1st COVID-19 death reflects on pandemic anniversary: ‘I wish you never knew us’

March 2 would have been the late Wanda Bailey’s 64th birthday.

Bailey’s sister, the late Patricia Frieson, would have been 62 on Nov. 27, had the retired nurse not succumbed on March 16, 2020, to the novel coronavirus, a disease declared a global pandemic five days earlier.

Frieson, the sixth daughter in an African American family of nine siblings from Chicago’s Auburn-Gresham neighborhood, became the first person to die of COVID-19 in Illinois.

The nation’s first known COVID death had occurred 51⁄2weeks earlier, in California.

Tragically, on Mar. 25, just nine days after Frieson’s passing, her sister, Bailey, succumbed to a virus that by then had claimed 26 lives in Illinois — COVID fatalities about to escalate nationwide at an astronomical rate. By the end of May, it had claimed 100,000 lives.

“I wish you never knew us,” said Frieson’s brother, Anthony Frieson, 58, of the South Side, with whom we’d spoken last year after the death of his first sister.

“At the same time, I hope the story you wrote concerning my family made others more aware to do the things they needed to do so that hopefully none of their family members got sick. I hope that it helped others follow protocol and helped them get through it,” he said recently, in an exclusive interview with the Chicago Sun-Times.

He chatted while preparing for a small family gathering planned that evening at the home of a niece — masked, of course, and socially distanced — both to celebrate Bailey’s birthday and to remember both sisters on this somber anniversary.

Read the full story from Maudlyne Ihejirika here.


New Cases

  • The state Department of Public Health reported 1,682 new cases were diagnosed among 71,488 tests.
  • Officials reported 30 more deaths, including that of a Kane County man in his 30s, raising the Illinois death toll to 20,810.

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