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Coronavirus live blog, April 20, 2021: Navy Pier to begin reopening April 30

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

News

6 p.m. Navy Pier to begin phased reopening April 30, eight months after closing because of pandemic

Brian Jackson/Sun-Times

Navy Pier will begin a phased reopening on April 30, eight months after it closed over the Labor Day weekend because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The following will be accessible to the public, who will be required to wear masks and practice social distancing: Navy Pier parking garages, Polk Bros Park, Peoples Energy Welcome Pavilion, North and South Docks, Pier Park (including some rides and attractions), East End Plaza, tour boats and cruises, the Sable hotel, and some restaurants at limited capacity, according to a statement released Tuesday.

Hours of operation will be from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

The pier was closed Sept. 7 after attendance during the summer dropped as much as 20 percent. The shutdown affected more than 70 restaurants, bars and other businesses on the pier.

Read the full story here.

2:37 p.m. No-prescription, rapid COVID-19 home tests to be sold at CVS, Walgreens, Walmart beginning this week

Consumers will be able to buy rapid coronavirus tests without a prescription this week at three national chain retailers, an expansion that comes as the nation’s vaccination effort accelerates and states relax distancing requirements and mask mandates.

Abbott Laboratories’ BinaxNOW coronavirus self-test kits will be shipped to CVS Pharmacy, Walgreens and Walmart locations, and also will be sold online. The two-test kit, which last month received Food and Drug Administration emergency-use authorization for serial screening, will cost $23.99, the company said.

Another rapid test made by Australia-based Ellume will be sold at CVS stores in Rhode Island and Massachusetts for $38.99. It also can be purchased online or at most CVS stores in other states by the end of May.

These retail tests eliminate another barrier for people who want to test themselves without visiting a doctor or a telehealth provider. Both tests deliver results in about 15 minutes and don’t require a lab.

Read the full story here.

1:40 p.m. Illinois coronavirus positivity rate falls back below 4%: ‘Things are looking up a little bit’

Illinois’ COVID-19 infection rate hit its lowest point in two weeks Tuesday, boosting optimism that the state is tamping down its latest viral resurgence.

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 2,587 new coronavirus cases diagnosed among 62,406 tests, decreasing the seven-day average statewide positivity rate to 3.8% — the first time that figure has fallen below 4% since April 6.

The positivity rate hit an all-time low of 2.1% in mid-March but shot up to 4.4% within a month, throwing off Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s reopening plan and prompting officials to sound the alarm on a potential third wave of COVID-19 sweeping Illinois just as a historic vaccination effort gained steam.

The numbers have now trended in the right direction for eight straight days, including in Chicago, where the regional positivity rate has inched down to 5.5% after more than a month of troubling increases.

Read Mitchell Armentrout’s full story here.

1:29 p.m. Lightfoot urges vaccination as COVID-19 cases rise in Black community faster than rest of city

Mayor Lori Lightfoot doubled down Tuesday on efforts to increase vaccinations among Black Chicagoans as cases, hospitalizations and deaths rise in the community.

“South Side, we are calling for you to come to Chicago State University and get this lifesaving vaccine,” Lightfoot said Tuesday during a news conference at the mass vaccination site at the university at 95th Street and Martin Luther King Drive.

Chicagoans seeking a vaccine appointment should call 312-746-4835.

About 40% of all Chicagoans, not just adults, have gotten at least a first dose of vaccine, but among the city’s Black residents, that number shrinks to 25%.

Read Mitch Dudek’s full story here.

11:06 a.m. ‘No place for you’: Indian hospitals buckle amid virus surge

Tests are delayed. Medical oxygen is scarce. Hospitals are understaffed and overflowing. Intensive care units are full. Nearly all ventilators are in use, and the dead are piling up at crematoriums and graveyards. India recorded over 250,000 new infections and over 1,700 deaths in the past 24 hours alone, and the U.K. announced a travel ban on most visitors from the country this week. Overall, India has reported more than 15 million cases and some 180,000 deaths — and experts say these numbers are likely an undercounts.

India’s wave of cases is contributing to a worldwide rise in infections as many places experience deepening crises, such as Brazil and France, spurred in part by new, more contagious variants, including one first detected in India. More than a year into the pandemic, global deaths have passed 3 million and are climbing again, running at nearly 12,000 per day on average. At the same time, vaccination campaigns have seen setbacks in many places — and India’s surge has only exacerbated that: The country is a major vaccine producer but was forced it to delay deliveries of shots to focus on its domestic demand.

Bhramar Mukherjee, a biostatistician at the University of Michigan who has been tracking India’s pandemic, said India failed to learn from surges elsewhere and take anticipatory measures.

Read the full Associated Press story here.

10:45 a.m. EU agency links J&J shot to rare clots, says odds favor use

The European Union’s drug regulatory agency said Tuesday that it found a “possible link” between Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine and extremely rare blood clots and that a warning should be added to the label. But experts at the agency reiterated that the vaccine’s benefits outweigh the risks.

The European Medicines Agency made those determinations after a very small number of blood clot cases in people who had gotten the vaccine were reported in the United States. The agency said a warning about the blood clots should be added to labels for the Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine and that these rare blood disorders should be considered “very rare side effects of the vaccine.”

The EMA, which oversees the use of pharmaceutical products in 27 countries with a combined population of about 448 million, also recommended a label change for the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine after finding a link between it and rare blood clots. In both cases, the agency said the benefits of being immunized against COVID-19 still outweighed the very small risks of recipients developing the unusual clots.

Read the full story here.

9:23 a.m. Guantanamo prisoners now getting COVID-19 vaccine: defense official

Prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention center can begin getting the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as Monday, a senior defense official told The Associated Press, months after a plan to inoculate them was scuttled over outrage that many Americans weren’t eligible to receive the shots.

The new timing coincides with President Joe Biden’s deadline for states to make all adults in the U.S. eligible for coronavirus vaccines. Beginning Monday, anyone older than 18 in the country qualifies to sign up and get in a virtual line to be vaccinated.

The defense official said all 40 men held at the Navy base in Cuba will be offered the vaccination to comply with legal requirements regarding the treatment of prisoners and to help prevent COVID-19 from spreading. Strict quarantine procedures had already sharply curtailed activities at the base and halted legal proceedings for prisoners facing war crime trials, including the men charged in the Sept. 11, 2001, attack.

“Obviously, we don’t want an outbreak of COVID on a remote island with the challenges that would present,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the effort ahead of an official announcement.

Read the full Associated Press story here.

8:00 a.m. Getting ready for the hospitality industry’s return

A culinary apprenticeship program kicked off Monday at McCormick Place to prepare cooks for the hospitality industry’s return.

Some of the students were among those laid off from hospitality jobs at the start of pandemic-related shutdowns in March 2020. The Unite Here Chicago Hospitality Institute program was slated to start last year.

“In early 2020, we were on the verge of launching the first culinary apprenticeship class,” board member Eric Centazzo said. “Everything came to a grinding halt because of the pandemic, as the hospitality industry and our workforce were hit especially hard.”

Students hope the program can give them a second chance in their careers.

“I got my passion for cooking from my mother,” said Satara Pirant, a cook who works for Savor McCormick Place and is participating in the program. “I’m proud that I will be able to welcome visitors back to McCormick Place with the world-class culinary training I’m going to receive.”

The apprenticeship program is sponsored by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and the Apprenticeship Illinois program.

Read Grace Asiegbu’s full story here.


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