Coronavirus live blog, March 16, 2021: Trump Tower workers wrongly vaccinated by West Side hospital

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

SHARE Coronavirus live blog, March 16, 2021: Trump Tower workers wrongly vaccinated by West Side hospital

A West Side hospital mistakenly vaccinated 72 workers at Trump Tower even though they’re not eligible for the vaccine yet. CPS is aiming to open high schools next month.

Here’s the biggest news from the day.


TOP STORY: Trump Tower workers wrongly vaccinated by West Side hospital

Large Trump Sign On Trump Building In Chicago Draws Ire Of Many In City

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

The Loretto Hospital wrongly vaccinated 72 workers at Trump International Hotel & Tower last week at the request of West Side residents who work there and could not leave their jobs to get the vaccine, according to a hospital memo released Tuesday.

Hospital President & CEO George Miller also said in the memo that the Austin hospital was, at the time, “under the impression that restaurant and other frontline hospitality industry workers” were eligible for the vaccine in Chicago.

“I now understand, after subsequent conversations with the Chicago Department of Public Health, that we were mistaken,” Miller wrote.

Hospitality workers won’t likely become eligible for the shots until March 29, when the city expects to expand who can get the shots.

Read Jon Seidel and Stefano Esposito’s full story here.

7:10 p.m. CPS aims to reopen high schools April 19 pending ‘ongoing’ CTU negotiations

Chicago Public Schools officials will aim to reopen high schools at the start of the fourth academic quarter on April 19, the district announced Tuesday, even as ongoing negotiations with the Chicago Teachers Union leave that target date unsettled.

A mid-April reopening would resume in-person high school classes for the first time in over a year and would match plans several suburban districts have set out over the past few weeks.

“Providing high school students the option to safely return on April 19 is a top priority for the district, and we will continue meeting regularly with CTU representatives as we strive to reach a consensus that provides the smoothest possible transition for our families and staff,” schools chief Janice Jackson wrote in a letter to families and staff.

Discussions with the teachers union have been productive, Jackson said, and the April date is one of “several concepts the parties have discussed.”

Read Nader Issa’s full story here.

6:20 p.m. CVS offers COVID-19 vaccines in Chicago, Cook County

CVS is offering limited COVID-19 shots in Chicago and Cook County with plans to expand vaccinations.

The drug store chain said it has begun offering shots at an undisclosed store in Chicago as well as stores in Olympia Fields and Flossmoor. Residents seeking shots can go to or use the pharmacy’s app to book appointments.

In addition to the local sites, CVS is offering shots in Kankakee, Belleville, Hoopeston, Mendota and Pekin.

“We’re ready and willing to expand to more locations and offer additional COVID-19 vaccine appointments and are working with the city and state to do so,” a CVS spokesman said in an emailed statement.

Read the full story here.

6 p.m. Latest shots-in-arms tally below average — as share of Illinois residents fully vaccinated against COVID-19 hits 12%


Nearly 4.2 million shots have gone into Illinois arms over the past three months.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

With the latest 78,287 shots reported by public health officials Tuesday, about 12% of Illinois residents have now been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

It was the third straight day the state failed to top 100,000 administered doses, but thanks to record-setting totals last week, Illinois’ rolling average is up to a new high of 102,564 shots given per day, according to the state Department of Public Health.

Nearly 4.2 million shots have gone into Illinois arms over the past three months. Almost 1.6 million people have received either both required doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or the one-and-done Johnson & Johnson shot.

Illinois residents 16 and up with chronic health conditions, plus a select group of essential workers, currently are eligible to receive doses, though that’s still not the case in Chicago, suburban Cook County and most other collar counties as supply remains low.

Read Mitchell Armentrout’s full story here.

4:27 p.m. Sip your green beer — but no dancing or ‘other congregating!’ Bars prep for scaled-down St. Patrick’s Day

City officials pulled a fast one last weekend, dyeing the Chicago River green after days of denying the St. Patrick’s Day tradition would take place with COVID-19 still lurking.

But for revelers hoping the city flip-flops again and loosens restrictions at bars on the actual day of the normally green beer- and whiskey-soaked holiday — they’ll have no such luck.

City liquor license holders have been reminded to enforce coronavirus guidelines for St. Paddy’s on Wednesday, including limiting the capacity to the lesser of 50% or 50 people per room.

The vast majority of establishments toed the line on the Saturday before the holiday proper, which, in non-COVID times, serves as the main bar-hopping jubilee in tandem with the downtown and South Side Irish parades that were called off this year. Chicago’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection reported a “very high level” of compliance, citing just one River North bar for operating over capacity.

Read Mitchell Armentrout’s full story here.

2:51 p.m. Researchers study impact of pandemic cancer screening pause

Millions of colonoscopies, mammograms, lung scans, Pap tests and other cancer screenings were suspended for several months last spring in the United States and elsewhere as COVID-19 swamped medical care.

Now researchers are studying the impact, looking to see how many cancers were missed and whether tumors found since then are more advanced.

Already, there are hints of trouble. University of Cincinnati researchers found that when CT scans to check for lung cancer resumed in June, 29% of patients had suspicious nodules versus 8% in prior years.

Multiple studies suggest that fewer cancers were diagnosed last year, likely because of less screening. About 75 cancer organizations recently urged a return to pre-pandemic screening levels as soon as safely possible.

But tumors take years to develop, and some reports suggest that a few months delay in screening for certain types of cancer may not have been as bad as feared.

Keep reading this story here.

1:59 p.m. Illinois not ready to end coronavirus restrictions — but Pritzker ready to discuss how we can


Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

A year after the state logged its first death from the coronavirus, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and his public health team are poised to release a retooled plan to reopen Illinois and end the majority of the COVID-19 restrictions as soon as adequate numbers of residents are fully vaccinated.

But while Illinoisans could get a better idea later this week just how soon they can expect to gather in larger crowds and resume visiting their regular restaurants and stores, they will apparently need to continue to let their eyes do the smiling.

“We’re not getting rid of masks,” said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the head of the Illinois Department of Public Health. “We think masks have to continue to be a mainstay.”

Ezike’s remarks came during an Illinois Senate Health Committee hearing. She told senators the governor may unveil plans for a phased-in reopening later this week, news the governor’s spokeswoman confirmed.

“Our administration is talking to industry and public health experts to discuss the next steps of this pandemic response,” said Jordan Abudayyeh, a spokeswoman for Pritzker.

Read the full story from Rachel Hinton here.

11:26 a.m. Schools weighing whether to seat students closer together

U.S. guidelines that say students should be kept 6 feet apart in schools are receiving new scrutiny from federal health experts, state governments and education officials working to return as many children as possible to the classroom.

Even as more teachers receive vaccinations, the distancing guidelines have remained a major hurdle for schools as they aim to open with limited space. But amid new evidence that it may be safe to seat students closer together, states including Illinois and Massachusetts are allowing 3 feet of distance, and others including Oregon are considering it.

Debate around the issue flared last week when a new study suggested that, if masks are worn, students can be seated as close as 3 feet apart with no increased risk to them or teachers. Published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, it looked at schools in Massachusetts, which has backed the 3-feet guideline for months.

Asked about it Monday, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the agency is now exploring whether children can be seated closer together than was previously recommended. The 6-feet spacing guideline is “among the biggest challenges” schools have faced in reopening, she said.

Read the full story from the Associated Press here.

10:21 a.m. Some South Side residents 40 and older can get COVID-19 vaccine today in Pullman

Residents of the 9th Ward who are 40 and older can sign up for free COVID-19 vaccinations in Pullman today, with eligibility expanded to some 6th, 10th and 34th Ward residents.

Pfizer vaccines will be available for residents who make an appointment, according to 9th Ward Ald. Anthony Beale’s office. Email with a name, phone number and address to sign up. Residents who are selected will get an email response with the time to arrive.

The vaccine will be administered from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at the Pullman Community Center, 10355 S. Woodlawn Ave. Residents receiving the dose must bring proof they live in the city, like a state ID or driver’s license and an insurance card if they have one.

Read the full story here.

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