Coronavirus live blog, April 19, 2021: Chicago high schoolers return to classrooms for first time since pandemic

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

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5 p.m. Some Chicago high school students head back to their classrooms

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Students walk outside Lane Tech College Prep on Monday as some Chicago public high school students returned to the classroom.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Monday marked the start of the fourth academic quarter and for the first time in 11 months all 515 of Chicago’s non-charter schools — including high schools — were open for in-person learning.

With 36% of high schoolers and nearly half of elementary school students planning to return, Chicago Public Schools could have up to 44% of its 279,000 students at non-charter schools 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. 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.

William Kingsbury is a senior, but he said it felt like his very first day as he stepped onto the vast Lane Tech College Prep campus Monday morning. Kingsbury, 17, said he had no idea what to expect.

“I remember the first week (of lockdown). Nobody thought it was going to last this long,” he said. “Then a year later, here we are.”

He said he felt a little bit cheated. Before lockdown, he and other members of the robotics team had just finished their project and were getting ready to enter it into a competition. The pandemic killed that dream.

“It is what it is,” he said. “No one can control it.”

He unzipped his jacket to reveal a freshly laundered shirt.

“There are only 18 days of school,” he said, with smiling eyes. “I’m going to try to make sure I look good for each and every one of those days.”

Read Stefano Esposito’s full story on the first day back to high school for many Chicago students here.

2:10 p.m. Illinois reports 1,959 new COVID-19 cases, 22 deaths

State public health officials on Monday announced 1,959 new COVID-19 cases and 22 additional deaths.

Illinois’ test positivity rate remained at 4%, though nowhere near the all-time low of 2.1% that the state reached in March.

The state also reported administering 65,233 doses of vaccine Sunday, In total, about 8.1 million shots have gone into arms overall, according to state data.

Meanwhile, the city of Chicago on Monday reported that 50% of adult residents have now received their first dose of vaccine — about 1 million Chicagoans. The city officially moved into Phase 2 of vaccine distribution, meaning anyone 16 or older is eligible for the shot. To check for appointments, go to zocdoc.com/vaccine.

The pandemic has claimed 21,685 lives in Illinois. The most recent deaths included three men and a woman in their 50s from Cook County.

As of Sunday night, 2,127 people were being treated for the coronavirus in Illinois hospitals; of those, 510 patients in intensive care and 209 patients on ventilators.

Since mid-December, Illinois has doled out 8,054,634 coronavirus vaccinations.

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.

Read the full story from Stefano Esposito here.

12:32 p.m. A jab on the job: Companies, unions offer COVID-19 vaccines

Marie Watson wanted to be among the first in line when she and other essential workers became eligible for the coronavirus vaccine — and with good reason.

The maintenance parts buyer for a Mission Foods tortilla plant in Pueblo, Colorado, had lost her father to COVID-19 in the fall and was told by a doctor last year that she herself almost certainly had the virus.

So when her union, the United Food Workers and Commercial Workers, secured appointments for the plant’s 200 workers, she jumped in her car and drove to a nearby drive-thru clinic for the first of two doses.

“There was this sense of relief,” Watson said. “This was more confirmation that I’m on my way to being normal.”

A growing number of labor unions and companies are securing shots for their employees as eligibility widens. Some large companies such as Amazon are offering workplace vaccinations through licensed health care providers, while smaller outfits are booking appointments for workers at outside locations.

For employers, the vaccines are a critical step toward restoring normalcy at a time when they expect a spike in demand for their services as more people get inoculated. They are also betting that employees who did not initially trust the vaccine will have a change of heart when they see co-workers receiving it.

Read the full story here.

10:53 a.m. Urgent-care OB-GYN clinics for women offer an alternative to waits for appointments, ER visit

Last spring, weeks into the pandemic, Christina Garcia was spending her days struggling to help her two young sons adjust to online schooling when she got such a heavy, painful period she could barely stand. After a few days, her vision began to blur, and she found herself too weak to open a jar.

Garcia’s regular OB/GYN’s office — like most medical offices at the time — was closed. And she was terrified by the prospect of spending hours waiting in an emergency room with people who might have COVID-19.

By the time she stumbled in to the newBascom OB-GYN urgent care clinicat the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, clutching a pillow to her belly, Garcia was pale and dehydrated from blood loss and certain she was dying. “If I didn’t get to the clinic when I did, I think things could have ended up very different,” said Garcia, 34, who underwent an emergency hysterectomy for uterine fibroids.

For years, many women with common but urgent conditions like painful urinary tract infections or excessive bleeding in the aftermath of a miscarriage have faced a choice: Wait weeks for an appointment with their regular OB-GYN, or spend hours in an hospital emergency department waiting room.

Urgent-care OB-GYN clinics have begun popping up around the country in recent years, and the coronavirus pandemic has increased demand. While no data are available on the number of urgent-care clinics for women, they are part of a surge of interest in urgent-care clinics in general and other alternative models, such as retail clinics and digital-first healthcare startups. One of these, the New York women’s health startup Tia (“aunt” in Spanish), got $24 million in venture capital funding last spring and is opening physical clinics nationwide.

Read the full story from Kaiser Health here.

8:33 a.m. Chicago set to expand COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to all adults Monday

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

“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.”

Chicagoans can book appointments at zocdoc.com/vaccine or by calling (312) 746-4835. Residents can also use the city’s COVID-19 Vaccine Finder to identify additional vaccine providers, including Costco Pharmacies, CVS, Jewel Osco, Mariano’s and Walgreens, who handle their own scheduling.

For additional help finding an appointment, visit coronavirus.illinois.gov or call (833) 621-1284.

Read Madeline Kenney’s full story here.


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