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Coronavirus live blog, March 14, 2021: Illinois has administered 4,040,302 vaccine doses over the last three months

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

Illinois became the fifth state and the first in the Midwest to administer 4 million COVID-19 vaccines on Sunday.

Read all the latest news from today below.


News

5:04 p.m. Illinois becomes 5th state to dole out 4 million COVID-19 vaccines

Illinois surpassed a major milestone this weekend, becoming the fifth state and the first in the Midwest to administer 4 million COVID-19 vaccines.

Illinois has doled out 4,040,302 vaccine doses over the last three months, including 96,332 on Saturday, state health officials said Sunday. That follows a record-setting day of administering shots on Friday, when the state reported 152,697 vaccines were given.

The state’s seven-day rolling average of shots injected per day is 97,441.

Still, only 1,488,244 Illinoisans — about 11.7% of the state’s population — are considered fully vaccinated, meaning they’ve received both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or got the one-and-done Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. In Chicago, only 261,745 residents — or 9.7% of the city’s population — are fully vaccinated.

With the COVID-19 vaccine rollout ramping up, Illinois’ coronavirus infection rate has remained close to an all-time low.

Read the full story from Madeline Kenney here.

3:18 p.m. Illinois Dems want more vaccine sites in suburbs, state if Chicago keeps first dibs on United Center shots

AP Photos

Most of the Illinois Democrats in Congress on Friday stepped up pressure on the Federal Emergency Management Agency to add more vaccination sites in the suburbs and the rest of the state if most doses at the United Center super site continue to be reserved for Chicago residents.

The letter to FEMA, signed by 11 of Illinois’ 13 Democrats in the House of Representatives, comes as federal, state, county and local officials grapple with a variety of equity issues — race, income, physical condition, age and geography — and face some tough decisions as vaccines and distribution networks remain in short supply.

The United Center, on Chicago’s West Side, was one of the first federally sponsored sites opened by the Biden administration. The location was selected because of its proximity to underserved communities.

At first, Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and FEMA officials said the United Center was intended for all eligible Illinois residents.

The door soon closed for people who did not live in Chicago or Cook County.

The central location and initial abundant supply of appointments made the United Center a magnet for anyone who could get there.

“It’s a desperate situation but I think time is going to solve this problem as we have more vaccines, more distribution centers,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told reporters Friday.

Read the full story from Lynn Sweet and Brett Chase here.

11:07 a.m. Nurses battle misinformation, conspiracy theories and coronavirus

Los Angeles emergency room nurse Sandra Younan spent the last year juggling long hours as she watched many patients struggle with the coronavirus and some die.

Then there were the patients who claimed the virus was fake or coughed in her face, ignoring mask rules. One man stormed out of the hospital after a positive COVID-19 test, refusing to believe it was accurate.

“You have patients that are literally dying, and then you have patients that are denying the disease,” she said. “You try to educate and you try to educate, but then you just hit a wall.”

Bogus claims about the virus, masks and vaccines have exploded since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic a year ago. Journalists, public health officials and tech companies have tried to push back against the falsehoods, but much of the job of correcting misinformation has fallen to the world’s front-line medical workers.

In Germany, a video clip showing a nurse using an empty syringe while practicing vaccinations traveled widely online as purported evidence that COVID-19 is fake. Doctors in Afghanistan reported patients telling them COVID-19 was created by the U.S. and China to reduce the world population. In Bolivia, medical workers had to care for five people who ingested a toxic bleaching agent falsely touted as a COVID-19 cure.

Younan, 27, says her friends used to describe her as the “chillest person ever,” but now she deals with crushing anxiety.

“My life is being a nurse, so I don’t care if you’re really sick, you throw up on me, whatever,” Younan said. “But when you know what you’re doing is wrong, and I’m asking you repeatedly to please wear your mask to protect me, and you’re still not doing it, it’s like you have no regard for anybody but yourself. And that’s why this virus is spreading. It just makes you lose hope.”

Read the full story here.

9:14 a.m. United Center vaccine appointments open to 4 more ZIP codes

After another record-setting day of administering COVID-19 vaccines in Illinois, city officials on Saturday opened up eligibility to four more Chicago ZIP codes on the South and West Sides for shots at the United Center in an attempt to get more doses into arms of people living in neighborhoods hit hard by the pandemic.

The newly added ZIP codes are 60624, 60644, 60651 and 60653, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office said in a statement. They join the 60608, 60619, 60620, 60649 and 60652 ZIP codes.

Anyone who lives in those areas can sign up for an appointment at events.juvare.com/chicago/UCPOD/ with the code “CCVICHICAGO,” or by reaching the multilingual call center at (312) 746-4835.

“These are the areas where we’ve seen some of the highest rates of severe illness and death throughout the pandemic, and where access to the vaccine has been most challenging. So we had to act,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a statement. “We’re also doing this because if we want to defeat this pandemic, we need to control the spread of the virus where it is the worst, and that impacts all of us.”

Read the full story from Madeline Kenney here.


New Cases


Analysis & Commentary

11:43 a.m. ‘The theater is a place for healing’

For a solid year, the ghost light on the stage of the Goodman Theatre has shone in lonely silence on a classroom at the Aburi Girls’ Secondary School, the set for Jocelyn Bioh’s “School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play,” nipped in the bud last spring.

“Just a wonderful play,” said Robert Falls, the artistic director of the Goodman. “We were in previews, and the audience was loving it. We were three days from opening.”

I called Falls because I was wondering, with vaccine being pumped into arms and hope of a returned world flickering, how the Chicago theater community might incorporate the past year. He’s the guy who put on Henrik Ibsen’s “Enemy of the People” right after Donald Trump’s election, so if anyone would be folding the COVID nightmare into his theatrical batter, it would be Bob Falls. But how?

“A lot of theaters our size, they’re in a complete tizzy about how to open their seasons from scratch, having to choose a play,” he said. At the Goodman, they’ll dust off the set, get the actors back and pick up where they left off ... We can have this production up by summer.”

That’s one approach.

“You’ve got theaters across the country in mid-production, theaters that literally have a ghost light sitting on the stage,” said Michael Weber, at Porchlight Music Theatre. “They’re going to start up right where they were. Others, like us, have decided to shelve the season that we planned, and we’re rethinking an entirely new seasons, assuming we can get back. We’re hoping for the fall.”

Read the full column from Neil Steinberg here.

10:16 a.m. Immigrant Peter O’Brien, who always took care of others, dead at 91

As a young man, Peter O’Brien left his home in Northern Ireland to work at the shipyards in the Channel Islands. There, Irish and Scottish workers spun tales of America as a land of opportunity, a place where “everyone had cars.” Mr. O’Brien eagerly accepted driving lessons on his days off, hoping to soon be driving in a new country.

After immigrating to the U.S. in the 1950’s, Mr O’Brien would later marry and go on to teach his children, grandchildren and dozens of Irish immigrants how to drive, giving them a sense of freedom in their new country.

Sometimes, though, his gift wasn’t teaching someone to drive but doing the driving himself. When his sister-in-law’s husband fell into a diabetic coma, he drove her to the VA hospital to see him — every day, for more than three months, until he died.

Anne Cotter, Mr. O’Brien’s youngest daughter, said her father would come home after work, grab a sandwich to go, then head back out to pick up his sister-in-law. He just wanted to make sure her husband wasn’t alone, she said.

Mr. O’Brien was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1929. When his parents died before he reached the age of 5, Mr. O’Brien and his two siblings were sent to live with distant Irish cousins on a small farm in Armagh, Northern Ireland.

Throughout his life, Mr. O’Brien celebrated both his Scottish and Irish heritage.

Growing up, he and the other seven children working the farm used the cows’ milk in their oatmeal, which they had to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner during the Great Depression.

When he immigrated to the U.S. in the late 1950s he worked as a self-taught accountant and secured a job at Sears, where he remained for 30 years.

Mr. O’Brien later worked downtown at the reception desk of a health club just off the Magnificent Mile, where he conversed with many famous visitors, including actor Mr. T and the Rev. Wilton Gregory, who went on to become America’s first Black cardinal.

Mr. O’Brien, who lived in Rolling Meadows, died of heart failure on Feb. 23 at Northwest Community Hospital, just one week after receiving his first COVID-19 vaccine dose. He was 91.

“Pete was a victim of COVID-19 in so many ways,” Cotter said. “It was sad to see him deprived of some of the things he most loved.”

Read the full obituary here.