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Coronavirus live blog, March 22, 2021: Forest Park vaccination site will be able to administer roughly 1,000 vaccine doses per day

Here’s the latest news on how COVID-19 is impacting Chicago and Illinois. Follow here for live updates.

News

5:00 p.m. Mass vaccination site to open in Forest Park Friday

Gov. J.B. Pritzker and other state and Cook County officials announced the opening of a mass vaccination site in Forest Park Monday, as the state begins expanding vaccine eligibility ahead of the state’s opening of eligibility to all Illinois residents.

The new vaccination site was announced as the state logged another 1,220 new confirmed, and probable, cases of the coronavirus, as well as 22 deaths.

The new cases were found in a batch of 47,374 tests. As of Sunday night, 1,182 individuals with COVID-19 were reported to be in hospitals around the state. Of that number, 233 patients were in the ICU and 98 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.

During a Monday news conference announcing the Forest Park site, Pritzker said the site will “play a critical role in our continued efforts to vaccinate our most vulnerable residents, such as those with pre-existing conditions.”

“Since day one, our Illinois COVID-19 vaccination plan has been an ‘all hands on deck’ effort, and as the national supply has expanded so, too, has the number of locations that Illinoisans can get vaccinated at,” Pritzker said. “Most importantly, we are expanding this network with laser focus on equity and accessibility, prioritizing locations and communities hit hardest by the COVID 19 pandemic.”

Read the full story from Rachel Hinton here.

4:56 p.m. 6 biggest life insurance myths about COVID, cost and coverage

Shopping for life insurance can feel overwhelming, especially if you don’t have the facts. You may have heard that it’s too expensive or only healthy people can qualify for coverage, but the truth may surprise you.

We break down six common life insurance myths so you can better understand your options and get coverage that’s right for you.

Myth 1: Insurers won’t pay out if you’ve had a COVID-19 vaccine

The COVID-19 vaccine does not impact an insurer’s decision to pay out claims, as confirmed by the American Council of Life Insurers in March 2021. In addition, the vaccine is typically not used to determine your eligibility for coverage. In fact, it may open up coverage for those with underlying health conditions, as the vaccine reduces the risk of dying from COVID-19.

Concerns over whether life insurance covers deaths from COVID-19 are also largely unfounded. In most cases, life insurance policies cover infectious diseases, such as COVID-19.

Read the five other myths here.

4:23 p.m. Child hunger surges even in wealthiest areas; pandemic ‘undid a decade’s worth of progress’

Alexandra Sierra carried boxes of food to her kitchen counter, where her 7-year-old daughter Rachell stirred a pitcher of lemonade.

“Oh, my God, it smells so good!” Sierra, 39, said of the bounty she’d picked up at a food pantry, pulling out a ready-made salad and a container of soup.

Sierra unpacked the donated food and planned lunch for Rachell and her siblings, ages 9 and 2, as a reporter watched via FaceTime. She said she doesn’t know what they’d do without the help.

The family lives in Bergen County, New Jersey, a dense grouping of 70 municipalities opposite Manhattan with about 950,000 people whose median household income ranks in the top 1% nationally. But Sierra and her husband Aramon Morales never made a lot of money and are now out of work because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The financial fallout of COVID-19 has pushed child hunger to record levels. The need has been dire since the pandemic began and points up the gaps in the nation’s safety net.

Read the full story here.

2:40 p.m. Illinois records 1,431 new COVID-19 cases as positivity rate dips

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Public health officials on Sunday reported 1,431 new cases of COVID-19 as the statewide infection rate ticked down after climbing to its highest point in nearly a month just a day earlier.

The new cases were identified among 70,102 tests, bringing the past week’s positivity rate back down to 2.5%. That figure is critical for experts attempting to determine how quickly the virus is spreading.

After diving to an all-time low of 2.1% last weekend, the statewide positivity rate climbed Saturday to 2.6% — the highest level recorded since Feb. 25. Twenty-two deaths were also reported, including a man in his 30s from Cook County.

Sunday’s announcement also included 75,380 new vaccinations, a steep drop from the past two days, when an average of nearly 128,000 shots went into arms. More than 4.7 million vaccinations have now been administered across Illinois, with 361,886 going to long-term care facilities.

Read the full story from Tom Schuba here.

1:25 p.m. Aldermen propose liquor license refunds for struggling Chicago bars and restaurants

Chicago restaurant and bar owners forced to shell out $4,400 for a two-year liquor license they couldn’t fully use during the coronavirus pandemic would get a refund under a $40 million relief program proposed Monday.

Aldermen Michael Rodriguez (22nd) and Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) want to spend a chunk of the $1.8 billion in federal aid headed to Chicago on direct relief to restaurants and bars that have managed to keep their doors open during the pandemic.

For more than a year, they’ve either been shut down entirely or had indoor capacity and hours limited. Chicago restaurants and bars remain restricted to 50% capacity.

At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Rodriguez and Sigcho-Lopez plan to introduce an ordinance that would reimburse liquor license holders in full for the 90 days they were shut down entirely, and also offer partial refunds for days they operated at limited capacity or with shortened hours.

Sigcho-Lopez pegged the cost of the refunds at $40 million.

“Those are fees that should be [given] back to those small businesses that were not using the licenses — at least for the 90 days last year when there was absolutely no activity, but also given the limitations of capacity, given the restrictions on hours,” the alderman said.

Rodriguez said his local chamber of commerce recently surveyed 438 businesses along the once-bustling 26th Street commercial strip better known as Chicago’s “Second Magnificent Mile.” They found 36 of those struggling businesses have already closed.

“That means 36 times five, 10 or 20 jobs [apiece] potentially that are no longer there. So we need to do everything we can to support these businesses staying open. And this seems to me like a practical solution to do that,” Rodriguez said.

Read the full story from Fran Spielman here.

12:42 p.m. Jury trials in criminal cases resume in Cook County

Jury trials resumed in Cook County this week more than a year after the courts shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

With thoughts of COVID-19 still at the forefront of many people’s minds, potential jurors trickled into the Leighton Criminal Courthouse Monday morning with a mix of anxiousness and dread.

“Did I want to come? No. But did I have to come? Yes,” Suzana Ristov, 39, said before entering the courthouse. “That’s kind of where I’m at.”

Cathy Kattner said she brought extra masks, hand sanitizers and wipes with her to the courtroom “just to keep safe.”

“I’m very nervous about being here,” Kattner said.

Some didn’t realize they were among the first jury pool since March 2020.

“I was surprised to hear that they weren’t open already. I mean, it’s been a long time for somebody that wants a jury trial to not be able to get one,” potential juror Kathryn Huth said.

Others didn’t know what to expect.

“Being the first day back, I don’t know if they’re anxious to get trials moving or they’re going to have some struggles getting restarted,” said Terry Fischer, of Streamwood, who was summoned.

Read the full story from Madeline Kenney here.

9:56 a.m. Vitamin D study to assess role in protecting Black population from COVID

University of Chicago researchers want to determine whether vitamin D supplements can help African Americans better fight COVID-19.

Dr. David Meltzer, chief of hospital medicine at UChicago Medicine and lead researcher of two upcoming studies, said Black people typically have lower levels of vitamin D than whites, though the health consequences are not well known.

Newly published research led by Meltzer found a lower risk of infection, particularly for Black people, when vitamin D levels are increased higher than what experts now deem sufficient for overall health.

In the wake of that data study, Meltzer is recruiting volunteers for two human trials to better understand that relationship between immune system and boosting vitamin D with supplements. Meltzer wants to hone in on the racial distinctions and see if boosting vitamin levels reduces either the risk of becoming infected or the severity of illness.

The benefit of taking vitamin D to ward off COVID-19 has sparked debate in the medical community. Some doctors caution too much of the vitamin can be detrimental to health. Nonetheless, attention around coronavirus-related research last year has driven sales of vitamin D supplements during the pandemic.

Meltzer argues there are unanswered questions about vitamin D as it relates to the overall health of Blacks, particularly for fighting infections. One benefit of Vitamin D is bone strength, a factor that can help prevent osteoporosis, but previous research suggests even though vitamin D levels are lower in Blacks than whites, bone density isn’t dramatically different between the racial groups, Meltzer said.

Read the full story here.


New Cases & Vaccination Numbers

  • Public health officials on Sunday reported 1,431 new cases of COVID-19 as the statewide infection rate ticked down.
  • Sunday’s numbers also included 75,380 new vaccinations.
  • More than 4.7 million vaccinations have now been administered across Illinois, with 361,886 going to long-term care facilities.