Coronavirus live blog, March 28, 2021: West Side leaders back Loretto Hospital amid vaccine scandal

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

SHARE Coronavirus live blog, March 28, 2021: West Side leaders back Loretto Hospital amid vaccine scandal

The aftermath of the controversy over vaccinations at Loretto Hospital continues while the state’s case numbers worrisomely move in the wrong direction.

Here’s the latest from today.

News

TOP STORY: West Side leaders throw support behind Loretto Hospital amid vaccine scandal

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Photo by KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images

A group of top West Side leaders on Saturday urged city officials to wrap up their investigation into the Loretto Hospital vaccine scandal and start sending doses to the Austin neighborhood safety net again as soon as possible.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot cut off Loretto’s vaccine supply pending a full probe of its misallocation of hundreds of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to ineligible people outside the hospital’s low-income Black community.

State Rep. La Shawn Ford resigned from the hospital board last week because he disagreed with how executives were reprimanded, but he called on the mayor to consider the “vital institution” as a whole, and not just the actions of its leaders.

“People believe in The Loretto Hospital,” Ford said during a virtual news conference with other members of the West Side Black Elected Officials group. “They still want to be vaccinated by The Loretto Hospital… We cannot afford to take a step back and confuse people about where they can go get the vaccine.”

U.S. Rep Danny Davis said “we know that there have been problems. We don’t deny that at all, but I do know that there are efforts underway to correct whatever those problems might have been… We want to undergird this institution with confidence.”

Read Mitchell Armentrout’s full story here.

3:05 p.m. 2,250 new COVID-19 cases reported as state’s positivity rate continues to climb

Illinois’ COVID-19 positivity rate has climbed to its highest level since mid-February, continuing a troubling upward trend, public health officials said Sunday.

The latest tally of reported cases in Illinois is 2,250, diagnosed from 65,729 tests, bringing the state’s seven-day positivity rate to 3.2%. That’s the highest average recorded since Feb. 11, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Over the past two weeks, the statewide positivity rate has slowly increased from a record low of 2.1% recorded on March 13.

The rate is important to determine how quickly the virus is spreading. While it remains far below the peak levels of last fall, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot have said the rising cases — mostly traced to young people — match the pattern Illinois saw on the way to a record-breaking resurgence.

Read Tom Schuba’s full story here.

1:09 p.m. Paris doctors warn of catastrophic overload of COVID-19 cases

Critical care doctors in Paris say surging coronavirus infections could soon overwhelm their ability to care for the sick in the French capital’s hospitals, possibly forcing them to choose which patients they have the resources to save.

The sobering warnings were delivered Sunday in newspaper opinions signed by dozens of Paris-region doctors. They came as French President Emmanuel Macron has been vigorously defending his decision not to completely lockdown France again as he did last year. Since January, Macron’s government has instead imposed a nationwide overnight curfew and followed that with a grab-bag of other restrictions.

But with infections soaring and hospitals increasingly running short of intensive-care beds, doctors have been stepping up the pressure for a full French lockdown.

Writing in Le Journal du Dimanche, 41 Paris-region hospital doctors said: “We have never known such a situation, even during the worst (terror) attacks” that targeted the French capital, notably assaults by Islamic State extremists in 2015 that killed 130 people and filled Paris emergency wards with the wounded.

Read the full story here.

Saturday — 2 million Illinois residents now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but cases keep rising

In three weeks, up to 121,000 Chicago Public Schools students could be learning in classrooms at the start of the fourth academic quarter, doubling the number of students who returned this month.

More kids — including potentially tens of thousands of high schoolers for the first time — means a need for more adults. And bringing back more educators would require more vaccinations, per a district agreement with the Chicago Teachers Union.

As CPS races to get shots in arms by the mid-April expansion of in-person learning, how exactly is that progress coming along?

Nobody really knows.

Records published on CPS’ website show 16,200 workers — about 34% of the district — have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and the district says all staff has been offered appointments to get shots. But fewer than half of CPS employees have disclosed their vaccination status to the district, meaning thousands more have likely gotten a shot but not yet told CPS.

The result is that even Matt Lyons, CPS’ human resources chief and the manager who should have the foremost knowledge of those vaccination numbers, has no solid idea how many employees have been inoculated.

Mitchell Armentrout has the full story.

Saturday — How many Chicago teachers have been vaccinated? No one knows — leaving serious blind spots for CPS

In three weeks, up to 121,000 Chicago Public Schools students could be learning in classrooms at the start of the fourth academic quarter, doubling the number of students who returned this month.

More kids — including potentially tens of thousands of high schoolers for the first time — means a need for more adults. And bringing back more educators would require more vaccinations, per a district agreement with the Chicago Teachers Union.

As CPS races to get shots in arms by the mid-April expansion of in-person learning, how exactly is that progress coming along?

Nobody really knows.

Records published on CPS’ website show 16,200 workers — about 34% of the district — have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and the district says all staff has been offered appointments to get shots. But fewer than half of CPS employees have disclosed their vaccination status to the district, meaning thousands more have likely gotten a shot but not yet told CPS.

The result is that even Matt Lyons, CPS’ human resources chief and the manager who should have the foremost knowledge of those vaccination numbers, has no solid idea how many employees have been inoculated.

Nader Issa has the full story here.


Analysis & Commentary

12 p.m. Office sings its siren song as COVID ebbs

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, workers pouring out of the Sears Tower looked up as they cleared the building. The World Trade Center had come down about an hour before, and nobody knew what might happen next. Hurrying away, carrying laptops, they scanned the skies.

I know that because I saw it. As employees streamed out of their offices, I was heading toward mine, the Sun-Times newsroom at 401 N. Wabash. I was going into work because that’s what people did in the morning. You went to work.

Not for the past year, of course. COVID-19, a far more deadly disaster — in the United States, closing in on 200 times the toll of 9/11 — creating a chasm between those who could work at home and those who had to risk their lives to draw a paycheck.

I’ve gone into the office three times over the past year, always because I was downtown anyway, going to the library or conducting an interview. Each time, the newsroom was silent and empty. It was grim, unnatural.

When will that change? With millions of doses of vaccine being pumped into millions of arms every day, society is pondering a return to work.

Read Neil Steinberg’s full column on workers wondering when — or if— they’ll return to the office.

Saturday — Loretto board can’t afford to duck its responsibility to hold wayward execs accountable

The longer the top executives at Loretto Hospital hang on, the more negative stories are going to come out about how this safety-net hospital is being run.

State Rep. La Shawn Ford knows this.

He resigned from the hospital’s board of directors Tuesday, citing his disappointment with the “reprimands” handed down to CEO George Miller and COO Dr. Anosh Ahmed, for the ongoing COVID-19 vaccination scandal.

“The reason I stepped away was to make sure the hospital regains its confidence that may have been lost, and focus on the community,” Ford told me in a telephone conversation.

“I’m very concerned about the fact that the first doses have been taken away and there are thousands of people that got their first dose and are waiting on their second dose. People are now confused,” he said.

On Wednesday, the board of trustees accepted the resignation of Ahmed, its COO and CFO.

Chairman Edward Hogan thanked Ahmed for his contributions and vowed the board “would continue to investigate any and all deviations from the rules and regulations guiding their vaccination policy.”

“If our review should uncover anything further that indicates our processes were compromised, there will be additional consequences imposed on those responsible for these actions,” Hogan said in a news release.

Read the full column from Mary Mitchell here.

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