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Coronavirus live blog, March 6, 2021: COVID-19 vaccination appointments still available at United Center

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

News

4:01 p.m. Thousands of United Center vaccination appointments still available

An aerial photo shot with a drone shows a COVID-19 vaccination center being constructed in a parking lot at the United Center. Appointments were still available for seniors Saturday.
An aerial photo shot with a drone shows a COVID-19 vaccination center being constructed in a parking lot at the United Center. Appointments were still available for seniors Saturday.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

A new kind of big top is coming to the United Center next week, and great seats — er, appointments — are still available.

It might not be the greatest show on Earth, but officials say the new mass vaccination site launching Tuesday outside the Near West stadium offers Illinois seniors their best shot yet to get immunized against the coronavirus.

And while it’s been a circus for many Illinois residents jumping through hoops trying to lock up their COVID-19 vaccine slots elsewhere, thousands of appointments for the new tent facility were still available as of Saturday morning for people 65 and older.

Those United Center appointments are reserved for seniors until 4 p.m. Sunday, when people 16 and up with chronic health conditions will be eligible to snag any leftovers.

Mitchell Armentrout has the story here.

11:50 a.m. Biden, Dems prevail as Senate OKs $1.9T virus relief bill

An exhausted Senate narrowly approved a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill Saturday as President Joe Biden and his Democratic allies notched a victory they called crucial for hoisting the country out of the pandemic and economic doldrums.

After laboring through the night on a mountain of amendments — nearly all from Republicans and rejected — bleary-eyed senators approved the sprawling package on a 50-49 party-line vote. That sets up final congressional approval by the House next week so lawmakers can send it to Biden for his signature.

The huge package — its total spending is nearly one-tenth the size of the entire U.S. economy — is Biden’s biggest early priority. It stands as his formula for addressing the deadly virus and a limping economy, twin crises that have afflicted the country for a year.

Saturday’s vote was also a crucial political moment for Biden and Democrats, who need nothing short of party unanimity in a 50-50 Senate they run because of Vice President Kamala Harris’ tiebreaking vote. They also have a a slim 10-vote edge in the House. On Saturday, Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, was absent for the vote.

Read the full story here.

10:03 a.m. CPS students — including high schoolers — to get last chance to opt in for in-person learning before next year

All Chicago Public Schools families will have an opportunity starting Monday to opt into in-person learning for the fourth academic quarter as the district prepares for more students — and even potentially high schoolers — to return as early as mid-April.

Officials plan to send a questionnaire next week and allow two weeks for families to make their preferences known between staying virtual or returning to school for the rest of the spring.

The 145,000 pre-kindergarten, elementary and special education cluster students who are still remote can return April 19, the first day of the fourth quarter. The families of the 61,000 children in those grades and programs who said they would return to classrooms this week or will be going back next week won’t need to fill out the form again.

High schools and academic centers don’t yet have a scheduled return date. Those families can opt into in-person learning, but it remains to be seen whether an agreement will be reached in time between CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union to reopen high schools. Union President Jesse Sharkey has said he believes a deal is possible, and district leaders said last week it would be “unacceptable” for the school system’s 74,000 high schoolers not to have a chance to return.

Nader Issa has the story here.

8:09 a.m. When the COVID-19 hit, Illinois sales tax revenues plunged in one place worst of all

After Illinois shut down last March to slow the spread of COVID-19, businesses closed, people stayed home, and sales tax revenues that governments rely on plummeted — and nowhere more dramatically than in one small but extremely high-profile part of Chicago:

The 60611 ZIP code that takes in the Magnificent Mile shopping district of North Michigan Avenue and Navy Pier, one of the state’s biggest tourist magnets.

That ZIP code accounted for the state’s most dramatic plunge in sales tax collections, a Chicago Sun-Times analysis of state tax revenues shows — a $68 million drop in those taxes that Illinois collected from the city compared to a year earlier. That’s about one-quarter of the city’s $290 million portion of those sales tax losses.

Also hard hit, though on a smaller scale, were other places that rely on retail sales and tourism to fund municipal services, including mall-dependent towns like Schaumburg, Rosemont and Skokie and the Chicago ZIP codes that take in the Loop and O’Hare Airport, the Sun-Times analysis found.

Tim Novak, Lauren FitzPatrick and Caroline Hurley have the full story here.

7:15 a.m. Detroit mayor turned down J&J vaccine in favor of others

Detroit this week turned down 6,200 doses of the newly authorized Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine, with Mayor Mike Duggan favoring shots from Pfizer and Moderna for now.

“Johnson & Johnson is a very good vaccine. Moderna and Pfizer are the best,” he said Thursday. “And I am going to do everything I can to make sure that residents of the city of Detroit get the best.”

Duggan’s comments conflicted with guidance from top state and federal health officials.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan’s chief medical executive, said earlier in the week that people who are offered the J&J vaccine should “take it because declining ... could be the difference between life and death.” In a statement Friday, she cautioned against comparing the three vaccines — as the mayor did — because of differences in when and where each company conducted its studies, with the Pfizer and Moderna research finished before concerning variants began spreading.

Read the full story here.


New cases

  • The Illinois Department of Public Health Saturday reported 2,565 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 in Illinois, including 50 additional deaths.
  • IDPH reported a total of 1,197,267 cases, including 20,750 deaths, in 102 counties in Illinois.
  • IDPH said Saturday laboratories had reported 79,248 specimens for a total of 18,572,096 tests.
  • As of Thursday night, 1,210 individuals in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 261 patients were in the ICU and 108 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.
  • The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total test from February 27–March 5, 2021 is 2.4%. The preliminary seven-day statewide test positivity from February 27–March 5, 2021 is 2.8%.
  • A total of 3,259,664 vaccines have been administered in Illinois as of last midnight, including 340,763 for long-term care facilities.
  • The 7-day rolling average of vaccines administered daily is 90,428 doses. Yesterday, a record 134,239 doses were administered in Illinois.

Analysis and commentary

9:20 a.m. ‘Life goes on even without the people you care about’ and other reflections on a year unlike any other

No matter when the pandemic became real for you, it has changed all our lives. Depending on our own circumstances, the changes might range from minor inconvenience or major buzzkill to crushing personal and financial disaster.

I think about the many families I have written about in the past year who paid the ultimate price during the pandemic: losing a loved one.

In hopes of finding some wisdom gained from their experience, I checked back with some of those families over the past few days.

Read Mark Brown’s full column here.