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Coronavirus live blog, April 1, 2021: An average of 519 Chicagoans are testing positive for COVID-19 each day as health officials warn to skip Easter celebrations

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

Latest

6 p.m. Coronavirus spike all the more reason to skip Easter celebrations, Chicago’s top doc says

In-person Easter celebrations should be put on hold as coronavirus infection rates hop back up to troubling levels, the city’s top doctor warned Thursday.

Unless family members are fully vaccinated — meaning two weeks removed from their final dose — it’s best to keep gatherings virtual with COVID-19 still looming, according to Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady.

That’s even more important this weekend because the virus is already spreading across the city and state at the quickest rate seen in almost two months, Arwady said during an online Q&A.

“You don’t want your Easter celebration to turn into a contact tracing event. You really don’t,” she said. “Each day as more people get vaccinated, these things are becoming safer, but with the amount of people fully vaccinated — unless you’ve got a fully vaccinated group gathering, there still is a fair bit of risk.

“It’s a time when a lot of people traditionally get together, but the virus does not know that it’s Easter. It does not know that it is Passover,” Arwady said. “The things that we’ve been doing to protect each other and protect those we care about — especially now with vaccine in the mix — become even more important.”

Read the full story from Mitchell Armentrout here.


News

4:45 p.m. Biden launches community corps to boost COVID vaccinations

WASHINGTON — Seeking to overcome vaccine hesitancy, the Biden administration on Thursday stepped up its outreach efforts to skeptical Americans, launching a coalition of community, religious and celebrity partners to promote COVID-19 shots in hard-hit communities.

The administration’s “We Can Do This” campaign features television and social media ads, but it also relies on a community corps of public health, athletic, faith and other groups to spread the word about the safety and efficacy of the three approved vaccines. The campaign comes amid worries that reluctance to get vaccinated will delay the nation’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic — and is kicking off as the U.S. is anticipating a boost in vaccine supply that will make all adult Americans eligible for vaccines by the beginning of May.

President Joe Biden encouraged more than 1,000 faith leaders on Thursday to continue their efforts to promote vaccinations in their communities. “They’re going to listen to your words more than they are to me as president of the United States,” Biden said.

Vice President Kamala Harris and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy held a virtual meeting with the more than 275 inaugural members of the community corps on Thursday to kick off the effort. The Department of Health and Human Services was also encouraging other groups, as well as everyday Americans, to join the effort.

“You are the people that folks on the ground know and rely on and have a history with,” Harris said. “And when people are then making the decision to get vaccinated, they’re going to look to you.”

Read the full story here.

3:12 p.m. Chicago sees ‘quantum leap’ in COVID-19 cases — widening Lightfoot-Pritzker split over vaccine plans

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Illinois’ COVID-19 uptick took another jump Wednesday as Chicago’s “quantum leap” in cases raised more concerns of a potential third surge of the virus, officials said.

Another 2,592 residents across the state were diagnosed with the virus among 77,727 tests, which lowered Illinois’ average positivity rate to 3.3%, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

But that key metric has shot up 57% overall in under three weeks, while COVID-19 hospitalizations have jumped 24% over the same time frame. More than 1,400 beds were occupied by coronavirus patients Tuesday night, the most the state’s hospitals have treated since Feb. 24.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot agree the uptick has halted any talk of further reopening — but they’re still far apart on when all adults should be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine dose.

The governor voiced concern Wednesday over the city’s timetable for that move, saying “I think that they will want to do that sooner than they are currently planning to.”

Read the full story from Fran Spielman and Mitchell Armentrout here.

12:39 p.m. Company producing J&J vaccine had history of violations

The company at the center of quality problems that led Johnson & Johnson to discard 15 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine has a string of citations from U.S. health officials for quality control problems.

Emergent BioSolutions, a little-known company vital to the vaccine supply chain, was a key to Johnson & Johnson’s plan to deliver 100 million doses of its vaccine to the United States by the end of May. But the Food and Drug Administration repeatedly has cited Emergent for problems such as poorly trained employees, cracked vials and problems managing mold and other contamination around one of its facilities, according to records obtained by The Associated Press through the Freedom of Information Act. The records cover inspections at Emergent facilities since 2017.

Johnson & Johnson said Wednesday that a batch of vaccine made by Emergent at its Baltimore factory, known as Bayview, cannot be used because it did not meet quality standards. It was unclear how many doses were involved or how the problem would affect future deliveries of J&J’s vaccine. The company said in a statement it was still planning to deliver 100 million doses by the end of June and was “aiming to deliver those doses by the end of May.”

“Human errors do happen,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said Thursday in an interview on CBS’ “This Morning.” “You have checks and balances. ... That’s the reason why the good news is that it did get picked up. As I mentioned, that’s the reason nothing from that plant has gone into anyone that we’ve administered to.”

Read the full story here.

11:58 a.m. Positive COVID-19 test forces postponement of Mets-Nationals season opener

WASHINGTON — The Opening Day baseball game between the Nationals and Mets was postponed hours before it was scheduled to begin Thursday night because of coronavirus concerns after one of Washington’s players tested positive for COVID-19.

The Nationals issued a statement saying “ongoing contract tracing involving members of the Nationals organization” was the reason for scrapping the game at their stadium.

The contest was not immediately rescheduled, even though Friday already had been set up as an off day that could accommodate a game pushed back from Thursday if there were a rainout, for example.

The Nationals said in a statement the game “will not be made up on Friday.”

Washington general manager Mike Rizzo said Wednesday that one of his team’s players had tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday, before the team left spring training camp.

Rizzo said four other players and one staff member were following quarantine protocols after contract tracing determined they were in close contact with the person who tested positive.

Rizzo did not identify any of those involved.

“We’re still in the process of finding out exactly what their status is,” Rizzo said Wednesday. “They’re certainly out for tomorrow’s game.”

Read the full story here.

9:24 a.m. James Taylor kicking off rescheduled 2021 tour at the United Center

Live music may be returning to the United Center this summer.

James Taylor on Wednesday announced his postponed world tour with special guest Jackson Browne will kick off at the Chicago venue on July 29.

Tickets purchased for the original dates will be honored for the trek that wraps up Nov. 1 in San Diego. (The tour was originally slated for a stop June 9 the United Center; refunds are available at point of purchase for those unable to make the new date.)

Taylor postponed the tour last April due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which shut down all live music/theater venues across the country. Browne contracted coronavirus last March, revealing at the time he suffered only minor symptoms and recuperated while quarantining at home.

“(Jackson and I/James and I) want to thank all those who have graciously held onto their tickets; we appreciate your continued patience as we navigate these unchartered waters. We didn’t want to have to cancel this tour that we’ve been waiting so long to perform together, so we’ve been working to get these dates rescheduled to a time period when the U.S. is reopened and safe to gather for a concert,” the two legendary singer-songwriters said in a joint statement.”

Read the full story from Miriam Di Nunzio here.


New Cases & Vaccination Numbers

  • Another 2,592 residents across the state were diagnosed with the virus among 77,727 tests.
  • Nearly 500 Chicagoans are testing positive every day, an average figure that has jumped 37% over the past week.
  • Illinois is vaccinating more people than ever as the state’s rolling average is up to a new high of 109,538 shots doled out per day.
  • On Tuesday, 137,445 shots went into arms, the state’s third-highest daily total yet.