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Coronavirus live blog, April 15, 2021: Chicago to use federal relief funds to pay off part of city debt

Here’s Thursday’s news on how COVID-19 is impacting Chicago and Illinois. Follow here for live updates.

News

6 p.m. Chicago to use more than half of $1.9 billion in federal relief to reduce city debt

Chicago Attractions Remain Shut Down As Tourism Remains At A Standstill
A view from the 360 Chicago observation deck shows the city skyline.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

More than half of the $1.9 billion avalanche of federal relief on the way to Chicago will be gobbled up by retiring $965 million in scoop-and-toss borrowing used to eliminate the pandemic-induced shortfall, aldermen were told Wednesday.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has warned aldermen to keep their wish lists in their back pockets because the money will have strings attached and it’s “not a slush fund that we can use every way that we can.”

On Wednesday, top mayoral aides explained why.

Roughly half of the $1.9 billion in new federal funds earmarked for Chicago will be used to honor the promise the mayor made before the City Council approved her $12.8 billion budget by the narrowest margin Chicago has seen since Council Wars.

That promise: canceling the scoop-and-toss borrowing that was one of the most controversial elements of her 2021 budget.

Read Fran Spielman’s full story here.

12:38 p.m. What is a COVID-19 vaccine passport, and will you need one?

What is a COVID-19 vaccine passport, and will I need one?

“Vaccine passports,” or vaccine certificates, are documents that show you were vaccinated against COVID-19 or recently tested negative for the virus. They could help you get into places such as stadiums or even countries that are looking to reopen safely.

The certificates are still being developed, and how and whether they’ll be used could vary widely around the world. Experts say they should be free and available on paper, not just on apps, since not everyone has a smartphone.

In the U.S., federal officials say there are no plans to make them broadly mandatory. In some states, Republican governors have issued orders barring businesses or state agencies from asking people to show proof of vaccination.

Read the full story here.

11:31 a.m CPS, CTU ‘at the finish line’ in high school reopening negotiations, union leaders say

Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union are “at the finish line” of a high school reopening agreement with hopes to reach a deal Thursday, union leaders said.

Thousands of high school teachers are still working remotely, in defiance of district orders to return to classrooms this week. Thursday was the second day of the CTU’s collective action, which is meant to pressure CPS into putting the final touches on a settlement.

Mueze Bawany, an English and history teacher at Roberto Clemente Community Academy and member of the union’s high school bargaining committee, said the two sides are “close on all” issues.

“The fact is, we’re at the finish line,” Bawany told reporters at a Thursday morning news conference outside Benito Juarez Community Academy, where educators set up to teach their online students outside the building instead of reporting to work inside.

“There’s definitely progress being made. It’s a whole different world when both sides are listening to each other, [and] clearly the district is starting to understand some of the perspectives and points we’re bringing about.”

Read Nader Issa’s full story here.

8:23 a.m. Senate Majority Leader Lightford tests positive for COVID-19 — planning to work from home despite ‘aching an awful lot’

State Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford said Wednesday she tested positive for COVID-19, requiring her to leave the Capitol and return to her west suburban home.

In a brief phone conversation with the Chicago Sun-Times, Lightford said she left Springfield, where legislators are convening for session, and will join committee meetings from her home through Zoom.

The Maywood Democrat said after testing positive, she was “aching an awful lot.”

Lightford is the third person connected to state government known to have contracted the virus this week.

Read Rachel Hinton’s full story here.

7 a.m. Pritzker ‘does not have concerns’ 20 days after getting his shot of Johnson & Johnson vaccine

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Federal health officials who recommended shelving the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday did so just under three weeks after the one-and-done shot went into Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s left arm.

That means the chief executive of the state’s pandemic response is still within the three-week window experts have spotlighted since six vaccinated women suffered severe complications from blood clots within that time frame.

But like the overwhelming majority of the other 6.8 million Americans who have gotten the J&J jab, J.B. hasn’t had any problems, according to his office.

“The Governor does not have concerns after receiving the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, nor has he experienced any health issues since receiving his shot,” Pritzker’s press secretary Jordan Abudayyeh said in an email.

Pritzker is among more than 290,000 Illinois residents who received the now-scrutinized vaccine before it was put on hold. None of the six severe reactions occurred in the state.

Read the full story from Mitchell Armentrout here.


New cases & vaccination numbers

  • About one quarter of Illinois residents have been fully vaccinated so far, with 138,538 doses administered Tuesday. The state also reported 3,536 new cases and 31 more deaths.