Coronavirus live blog, March 9, 2021: United Center, other sites offer hope for vaccination boost
Here’s Tuesday’s news on how COVID-19 is impacting Chicago and Illinois.
8:55 p.m. Latest statewide vaccine doses below average, but Pritzker sees hope with United Center, other sites in the game
As the first COVID-19 shots went into arms outside the United Center Tuesday, public health officials announced another 75,372 vaccinations had been administered statewide the day before.
Monday’s shot total was nearly double the figure from a day earlier when fewer than 30,000 doses were given out, but it was still barely half the state’s record high of more than 134,000 set last week.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he expects those numbers to consistently increase as vaccine supply grows and as more vaccination sites are up and running like that outside the Near West Side stadium.
Illinois providers are now doling out an average of 92,180 shots per day, “a number that’s already growing every week,” Pritzker said at the United Center.
Twelve weeks since the first vaccine shipments arrived in Illinois, almost 3.5 million shots have been administered. About 1.2 million residents have been fully vaccinated since then, or about 9.4% of the population.
Half of all Illinoisans 65 or older have gotten at least one shot, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Overall, about a fifth of residents 16 or older have gotten a dose, Pritzker said.
7:48 p.m. One year later, Preckwinkle reflects on navigating through a viral storm — weathering ‘a time of painful loss’
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic as if the county was “about to be hit by a tsunami.”
That’s what the reading she’d done at the time indicated as news of the virus began to dominate headlines. And the former history teacher said it shaped her perspective — and her approach.
“I told my staff early on ‘everybody’s going to know somebody who’s been sick, and everybody’s going to know someone who’s passed away,’” Preckwinkle said. “This is what we’re headed into. Everyone. And that’s surely been true, and so we have to figure out every way that we can to support folks.”
She’d studied the 1918 pandemic, and learned from it.
“What my reading told me was ‘you’re about to be hit by a tsunami, and so that’s the perspective that I took — a tsunami is coming,” Preckwinkle said.
6:29 p.m. Volunteers are key at vaccine sites. It pays off with a shot
SEATTLE — When Seattle’s largest health care system got a mandate from Washington state to create a mass COVID-19 vaccination site, organizers knew that gathering enough volunteers would be almost as crucial as the vaccine itself.
“We could not do this without volunteers,” said Renee Rassilyer-Bomers, chief quality officer for Swedish Health Services and head of its vaccination site at Seattle University. “The sheer volume and number of folks that we wanted to be able to serve and bring in requires … 320 individuals each day.”
As states ramp up vaccination distribution in the fight against the coronavirus, volunteers are needed to do everything from direct traffic to check people in so vaccination sites run smoothly. In return for their work, they’re often given a shot. Many people who don’t yet qualify for a vaccine — including those who are young and healthy — have been volunteering in hopes of getting a dose they otherwise may not receive for months. Large vaccination clinics across the country have seen thousands trying to nab limited numbers of volunteer shifts.
It’s raised questions at a time when supplies are limited and some Americans have struggled to get vaccinated even if they are eligible. But medical ethicists say volunteers are key to the public health effort and there’s nothing wrong with them wanting protection from the virus.
Ben Dudden, 35, of Roanoke, Virginia, volunteered at a mass vaccination clinic in the nearby city of Salem on a day off from his part-time job at the Roanoke Pinball Museum. His wife, a nurse practitioner who was administering doses, encouraged him to volunteer in case he could get vaccinated.
3:18 p.m. Illinois’ daily COVID-19 caseload, death count dip to last summer’s numbers
Illinois public health officials announced 1,182 new cases of the coronavirus Monday as well as five deaths — the lowest daily fatality count in nearly six months.
The new cases come from a batch of 39,636 tests. As of Sunday night, 1,178 people with COVID-19 were reported to be in the hospital. Of that number, 266 patients were in intensive care units throughout the state; 118 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.
The state’s preliminary seven-day statewide case positivity is 2.3%.
The last time the state saw a daily death toll this low was Sept. 14, when the state logged five deaths. Illinois hasn’t seen a single-digit daily death rate since early Oct. 11, when health officials announced nine deaths.
The deaths reported Monday bring the state’s total COVID-19 toll to 20,767 people.
Health officials also reported 3.38 million vaccines have been administered so far, with an average of of 90,135 doses administered daily in the past seven days, slightly less than the 93,183 rolling average of shots reported Sunday.
State health officials on Sunday reported 1,068 new COVID-19 cases, the lowest number of new cases recorded in a day since July 21. Illinois’ daily caseload has surpassed 2,000 only twice so far in March.
9:27 a.m. At Dubai airport, travelers’ eyes become their passports thanks to iris scanner identification
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Dubai’s airport, the world’s busiest for international travel, already can feel surreal, with its cavernous duty-free stores, artificial palm trees, water cascades and near-Arctic levels of air-conditioning.
Now, the key east-west transit hub is rolling out another addition from the realm of science fiction — an iris-scanner to verifies each traveler’s identity, eliminating the need for any human interaction when entering or leaving the country.
It’s the latest artificial intelligence program the United Arab Emirates has launched amid the surging coronavirus pandemic — contact-less technology the government promotes as helping to stem the spread of the virus.
But the efforts also have renewed questions about mass surveillance in the federation of seven sheikhdoms, which experts believe has among the highest per capita concentrations of surveillance cameras in the world.
Dubai’s airport started offering the program to all passengers last month.
9:20 a.m. Pope weighed Iraq virus risk but believes God will protect
ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE — Pope Francis said Monday he weighed the risks of a high-profile trip to Iraq during the coronavirus pandemic, but said he decided to go ahead with it after much prayer and belief that God would look out for the Iraqis who might get exposed.
Francis described his decision-making process en route home from Iraq amid concerns that his four-day visit, which featured oftentimes maskless crowds in packed churches, singing — could result in the spread of infections in a country with a fragile health care system and a sustained surge in new cases.
Francis said the idea of a trip “cooks over time in my conscience,” and that the pandemic was the issue that weighed most heavily on him. Francis has experienced close-up the ravages of COVID-19 in Europe given Italy has had one of the worst outbreaks in the world, with the official death toll soon to hit 100,000.
“I prayed a lot about this. And in the end I took the decision freely,” Francis said. “It came from inside. I said ‘He who makes me decide this way will look after the people.’”
“I took the decision this way, but after prayer and knowing the risks,” he said.
- Illinois public health officials announced 1,182 new cases of the coronavirus Monday as well as five deaths.
- The new cases come from a batch of 39,636 tests.
- The state’s preliminary seven-day statewide case positivity is 2.3%.