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Coronavirus live blog, April 18, 2021: More than 8 million COVID-19 vaccine shots have now gone into arms of Illinoisans

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

News

5:00 p.m. Illinois’ COVID-19 vaccine total surpasses 8 million as Chicago set to expand eligibility to all adults Monday

More than 8 million COVID-19 vaccine shots have now gone into the arms of Illinoisans, state health officials announced Sunday, as Chicago prepares to expand eligibility to all adults, beginning Monday.

Since mid-December, Illinois has doled out 8,054,634 coronavirus vaccines, including another 115,330 doses Saturday.

Of that, just over 3,330,000 million people in Illinois are fully vaccinated, meaning two weeks removed from their final dose, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health’s website. That’s about 26% of the state’s population — well under the 80% needed for herd immunity.

Illinois boasts a seven-day rolling average of vaccines doled out daily of 125,146.

All residents 16 or older have been eligible for the vaccine since last week, with the exception of Chicago. City providers are set to expand eligibility to all adults, beginning Monday.

About 10,000 Chicago residents were vaccinated each day last week, according to city officials.

“I am encouraged by our increased vaccination rates, but we also continue to see a slow and persistent increase in COVID-19 case counts, especially among younger Chicagoans,” Chicago public health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a statement. “As we expand eligibility, we can increase vaccination for younger populations to slow the spread of the virus. Hopefully, our vaccine supply from the federal government will increase.”

Read the full story from Madeline Kenney here.

4:33 p.m. Competitive high schools to see greatest numbers of students return Monday

A little less than half of Chicago Public Schools students are anticipated to return to classrooms Monday for the start of the fourth academic quarter, when for the first time in 11 months all 515 non-charter schools — including high schools — will be open for in-person learning.

With 36% of high schoolers and nearly half of elementary school students planning to return, CPS could have up to 44% of its 279,000 students at non-charter schools back in classrooms this week. Those 122,000 students would be by far the most since the start of the pandemic, although the 157,000 continuing remotely still represents a number larger than all but 15 districts in the nation.

About 26,000 high school students opted to return to in-person learning, and the district said Friday they are all still expected back. Only three schools — all selective enrollment — will see a majority return, while half of the district’s 93 schools will welcome about one-third of students.

If they do all show up, that would be in contrast to the reopening of elementary schools in March, when 17,000 students backed out after opting in.

But for those that do go back, it will mark a return to a familiar space — even if things look vastly different than pre-pandemic days.

“This milestone has been more than a year in the making and is truly a cause for celebration,” CPS CEO Janice Jackson and district education chief LaTanya McDade said in an email to families Friday.

“We thank our partners at the Chicago Teachers Union for working with the district to reach an agreement that will allow us to safely reopen our schools,” they wrote. “We understand, however, that moving past the pandemic will require even more substantial resources, and we look forward to sharing the district’s plan to ensure all students, staff, and families have what they need to heal from the past year and move forward toward a brighter future.”

Read the full story from Nader Issa here.

3:27 p.m. Positivity rate falls again with 3,194 latest Illinois COVID-19 cases

Members of the Illinois National Guard and workers help set up the county’s sixth large-scale community vaccination site in Matteson, Tuesday afternoon, April 13, 2021. The Matteson mass vaccination site is slated to open to eligible members of the public at 1 p.m., Wednesday, April 14.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Public health officials on Saturday announced 3,194 new COVID-19 cases, lowering Illinois’ testing positivity rate to 4.1% and offering a potential sign of optimism that the state is easing down from its latest surge in infections.

The positivity rate, which indicates how rapidly the virus is spreading, is still up sharply compared to the all-time low of 2.1% the state reached last month, while an average of more than 3,200 residents have tested positive each day over the past week — nearly double Illinois’ case rate in early March.

But the statewide positivity rate has now fallen or held steady for five consecutive days after a full month of troubling upticks.

Chicago’s regional positivity rate has fallen slightly over the past few days to 5.6%, and it’s dipped to 5.5% in suburban Cook County.

Despite any incremental progress, it’s still “a critical time in this pandemic,” according to Dr. Kiran Joshi, senior medical officer and co-leader of the Cook County Department of Public Health.

“We’re very concerned about the potential for another surge,” Joshi said at a vaccination event hosted by the Muslim Community Center in Morton Grove. “There is some hope in that we’ve seen cases level off over the last week, but I do want to point out that this rise in cases has been fueled by individuals who are in their 20s, 30s and 40s, so we urge young people in particular to go out and get vaccinated, continue to wear your mask, to wash your hands, to keep your distance and to be careful with crowds.”

Read the full story from Mitchell Armentrout here.

11:51 a.m. Documenting LGBTQ history: Windy City Times an ‘invaluable resource’ for Chicago

Sitting in her home and sifting through thousands of negatives and photos of prominent LGBTQ activists like Daniel Sotomayor and Dr. Ron Sable, Tracy Baim had a searing memory of taking some of the last pictures of key figures in the queer rights movement while they were still alive and fighting.

Although Windy City Times “probably should have shut down a decade ago,” co-founder and co-owner Baim said the media outlet has persevered in spite of financial difficulties, mainly by relying on the kindness of strangers and personal sacrifice.

“The entire time I’ve been doing this, the money has been the hardest part of doing the work,” Baim said. “Everything else comes easy. I love telling the stories, taking the photos and doing the video. Telling the stories of the lives of people who are often ignored in the mainstream is the greatest honor.”

Windy City Times has been covering the LGBTQ community in Chicago for more than 35 years. Although the publication ended its print run last fall - the COVID-19 pandemic became the “final nail in the coffin” - its online site is still going strong.

The publication was founded in September 1985 by Baim and her co-workers Jeff McCourt, Bob Bearden and Drew Badanish, who left their jobs at GayLife newspaper to start Windy City Times.

At the time, the HIV/AIDS epidemic was in full swing, and there was a large movement to pass gay and lesbian rights legislation.

Baim said because most media outlets were not doing an adequate job of covering the LGBTQ community and its struggles, the responsibility fell on Windy City Times to offer persistent coverage of the gay rights battle, attending public meetings, protests and marches, and letting readers know where to go and who to call.

“It was really critical for our community to have our own voice … to have media that was vying for our community,” Baim said.

Read the full story from Mari Devereaux here.

9:12 a.m. Worldwide COVID-19 death toll tops 3 million

RIO DE JANEIRO — The global death toll from the coronavirus topped a staggering 3 million people Saturday amid repeated setbacks in the worldwide vaccination campaign and a deepening crisis in places such as Brazil, India and France.

The number of lives lost, as compiled by Johns Hopkins University, is about equal to the population of Kyiv, Ukraine; Caracas, Venezuela; or metropolitan Lisbon, Portugal. It is bigger than Chicago (2.7 million) and equivalent to Philadelphia and Dallas combined.

And the true number is believed to be significantly higher because of possible government concealment and the many cases overlooked in the early stages of the outbreak that began in Wuhan, China, at the end of 2019.

When the world back in January passed the bleak threshold of 2 million deaths, immunization drives had just started in Europe and the United States. Today, they are underway in more than 190 countries, though progress in bringing the virus under control varies widely.

While the campaigns in the U.S. and Britain have hit their stride and people and businesses there are beginning to contemplate life after the pandemic, other places, mostly poorer countries but some rich ones as well, are lagging behind in putting shots in arms and have imposed new lockdowns and other restrictions as virus cases soar.

Worldwide, deaths are on the rise again, running at around 12,000 per day on average, and new cases are climbing too, eclipsing 700,000 a day.

“This is not the situation we want to be in 16 months into a pandemic, where we have proven control measures,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, one of the World Health Organization’s leaders on COVID-19.

Read the full story here.


New Cases & Vaccination Numbers

  • Public health officials on Saturday announced 3,194 new COVID-19 cases, lowering Illinois’ testing positivity rate to 4.1%.
  • The state reported its fourth most productive vaccination day yet with 160,014 doses administered Friday.
  • Nearly 8 million shots have gone into arms overall, with about 3.3 million residents fully vaccinated — nearly 26% of the population.