Coronavirus live blog, March 3, 2021: Smoking among high-risk health conditions eligible to receive shots in Illinois

Here’s Wednesday’s news on how COVID-19 impacted Chicago and Illinois.

SHARE Coronavirus live blog, March 3, 2021: Smoking among high-risk health conditions eligible to receive shots in Illinois

Illinois residents with certain high-risk medical conditions — including smoking — are now able to get shots, along with seniors and medical and essential workers.

Here’s what else happened in coronavirus-related news.


8:55 p.m. Illinois smokers now prioritized for the coronavirus vaccine


Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Illinois smokers are now among the priority groups eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

As a part of the state’s vaccination schedule, residents with certain high-risk medical conditions — including smoking — are now able to get shots, along with seniors and medical and essential workers.

The move to Phase 1B+ went into effect Feb. 25. The expansion was done in order to “advance the state’s goal of equitable distribution” to communities of color, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health website.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, being a “current or former cigarette smoker” puts you at greater risk for severe COVID-19 illness.

CDC statisticsshow that 21% of Native Americans smoke, the highest level among demographic groups. Whites are next at 15.5%, followed by Blacks (14.9%), Hispanics (9%) and Asians (7%).

Read the full story from Zac Clingenpeel here.

7:31 p.m. CTU president Sharkey ‘confident’ high school reopening deal can be reached, but warns schools won’t look the same

Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey said Wednesday that he’s confident an agreement can be reached with Chicago Public Schools officials to reopen the city’s high schools.

The union leader warned of more complexities with older grades that could take time to sort out, and he stressed high schools won’t look nearly the same as pre-pandemic times. But he sees a path to a deal in bargaining that started Wednesday.

“I am confident that we can be delivering in-person education for folks in high school,” Sharkey said in an interview. “I do not know exactly what that will look like. I know that we have to keep safety in mind.

“I’m pretty sure it doesn’t look like what high school looked like before the pandemic,” he said. “There’s a bunch of things about high school that make it more challenging than elementary schools. Which is a reason why across the country so few high schools have actually reopened. Even places that ran school all fall, like New York, haven’t reopened high schools.”

Reporter Nader Issa has the full story.

2:15 p.m. States rapidly expanding vaccine access as supplies surge

Buoyed by a surge in vaccine shipments, states and cities are rapidly expanding eligibility for COVID-19 shots to teachers, 55-and-over Americans and other groups as the U.S. races to beat back the virus and reopen businesses and schools.

Arizona, Connecticut and Indiana have thrown open the line to the younger age bracket. Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are reserving the first doses of the new one-shot vaccine from Johnson & Johnson for teachers. And in Detroit, factory workers can get vaccinated starting this week, regardless of their age.

Up to now, the vaccination campaign against the scourge that has killed over a half-million Americans has concentrated mostly on health care workers and senior citizens.

Around the U.S., politicians and school administrators have been pushing hard in recent weeks to reopen classrooms to stop students from falling behind and to enable more parents to go back to work instead of supervising their children’s education. But teachers have resisted returning without getting vaccinated.

Read the full story here.

1 p.m. 900K Illinoisans now fully vaccinated against COVID-19

More than 900,000 Illinois residents have now been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, public health officials announced Wednesday.

The state crossed that threshold when 82,449 more shots went into arms Tuesday, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Almost three months into the vaccination campaign, the 906,490 Illinoisans who have received both required doses represent about 7.1% of the population.

But that percentage is expected to grow at an increasing rate from this week on as the state receives its first shipments of the one-and-done Johnson & Johnson vaccine. More than 100,000 doses were slated to make it to Illinois providers Wednesday.

Read Mitchell Armentrout’s full story here.

12:34 p.m. Nonprofits imperiled by COVID pandemic, 1 in 3 in financial jeopardy, study finds

More than one-third of U.S. nonprofits are in jeopardy of closing within two years because of the financial harm inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a study released Wednesday by the philanthropy research group Candid and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

The findings underscore the perils for nonprofits and charities whose financial needs this past year have grown far in excess of the donations most have received to support them

The researchers analyzed how roughly 300,000 not-for-profit organizations would fare under 20 scenarios of varying severity. The worst-case scenario led to the closings of 38% of them. Even the scenarios seen as more realistic resulted in closings well into double-digit percentages.

Read the full story here.

11:15 a.m. Dems OK tighter income limits for COVID-19 relief: official

President Joe Biden and Democrats agreed Wednesday to tighten the upper income limits at which people could qualify for stimulus checks, a Democratic official said, a major concession to moderates as party leaders prepared to move their $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill through the Senate.

The COVID-19 relief measure Senate Democrats planned to unveil will also retain the $400 weekly emergency jobless benefits that were included in a House-approved version of the legislation, the official said. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal Democratic conversations.

The changes came with Republicans, who may unanimously oppose the legislation, lashing the bill as an overpriced Democratic wish list that lavishes help on many who don’t really need it.

Read the full story here.

9:08 a.m. South Side community groups left out of city initiative push for more access to vaccines

Community members from South Side neighborhoods left out of the Protect Chicago Plus initiative are calling on the city to include them in COVID-19 vaccine drives.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot launched the program in January as a way to reach Black and Latino residents who have been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. As part of the plan, the city targeted 15 communities that will get additional resources and vaccine drives that open eligibility to anyone living in those neighborhoods.

Arturo Carrillo, from the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, said the initiative has pitted communities against each other. Brighton Park was identified by the city as a high vulnerability community, but it wasn’t ranked in the top 15 neighborhoods and was left out of the initiative.

A coalition of 41 community organizations, including the council, plans to send a letter to Lightfoot asking for the city to expand the initiative to more communities.

“It leaves out health resources, including the vaccine, health care professionals and public health education from neighboring communities,” Carrillo said during a Tuesday morning virtual news conference. “Instead our organizations demand that the plan prioritize the most vulnerable communities in the city while developing a citywide framework to ensure that the delivery of vaccines to Black and Brown communities can be guaranteed for those who have not yet been vaccinated.”

Read the full story from Elvia Malagón here.

New Cases

  • The state reported 1,577 new cases of the disease were diagnosed among 56,181 tests, keeping Illinois’ rolling seven-day average positivity rate at 2.4%.
  • The virus claimed 47 more lives, including those of two Cook County teenagers.
  • The state’s rolling average of shots administered per day is up to a new high of 80,416.
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