Coronavirus live blog, April 26, 2021: Walk-ins now welcome at all six COVID-19 mass vaccination sites in suburban Cook County

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

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6 p.m. Walk-ins now welcome at all six COVID-19 mass vaccination sites in suburban Cook County

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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.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Starting Monday, all six COVID-19 mass vaccination sites in suburban Cook County will start accepting walk-in appointments.

While scheduling appointments in advance are still encouraged, walk-ins will be welcomed at the county’s mass vaccination sites Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For help finding an appointment in Chicago, visit zocdoc.com or call (312) 746-4835.

For suburban Cook County sites, visit vaccine.cookcountyil.gov or call (833) 308-1988.

To find providers elsewhere, visit coronavirus.illinois.gov or call (833) 621-1284.

Read Madeline Kenney’s full story here.

3:37 p.m. Pritzker announces $60 million state program to help combat vaccine hesitancy

Gov. J.B. Pritzker and health care leaders announced a new program Monday aimed at dispelling myths surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine in vulnerable communities and get resources into the hands of people who are still being infected by the virus.

“This program is about one-on-one connections involving established, trusted members of the community,” Pritzker said at the news conference. “Whether that is a federally qualified health center or a church, an LGBTQ+ center, a senior center or a local branch of the NAACP.”

The Pandemic Health Navigator program will help residents in over 100 counties statewide get vaccinated or answer any concerns have about the vaccine. It will also help those who have contracted the coronavirus by getting resources directly to them. Those resources include connecting families to food, educational resources, rental assistance and utility assistance.

Pritzker said his administration has worked hard to make the vaccine easily accessible with about 9 million people already receiving doses of COVID-19 vaccine, but the state needs to do more than make shots available to people.

Reporter Manny Ramos has more.

1:43 p.m. 2021 Chosen Few picnic postponed; online event scheduled for July 4 weekend

Chicagoans craving a semblance of live summer musicin the city are taking yet another hit to their plans as a popular local event rebrands as a virtual festival due to COVID-19 concerns.

The Chosen Few Picnic & House Music Festival, which takes place annually in Jackson Park, has postponed their usual slate of in-person activities in favor of a July 3, online event according to an official announcement Monday.

Last spring, the group consisting of DJs Wayne Williams, Jesse Saunders, Alan King, Andre Hatchett, Mike Dunn and Terry Hatcher, made a similar announcement, and despite ideas to hold an in-person socially-distanced show, the group wants to wait for an actual picnic and festival — a popular event on the social calendar of many Black Chicagoans — local house heads know and love.

Read the full story from Evan Moore here.

12:32 p.m. With graduations virtual, Chicago college students dream of in-person, multi-school ceremony at Soldier Field

With only weeks before Chicago colleges face yet another graduation period during the pandemic, many schools have again made plans for virtual ceremonies this spring.

That’s led some students to take matters into their own hands.

Three Columbia College Chicago students have launched a campaign called #CommenceAnyways to hold an in-person ceremony at Soldier Field — which would not involve campus administration in any way.

“I’ve learned and grown so much during my time being a college student, and it’s really this moment to be celebrated,” said organizer Nathan Branch.

Branch, along with classmates Jahmelah Miller and Alice Scharf, started the initiative as an event for CCC students, but have since opened up their Eventbrite ticket page for all Chicago-area graduating students.

According to the organizers, this would be the first in-person citywide graduation event in Chicago for college students, although last year, the city hosted a citywide virtual graduation for high school seniors.

“We set out to be the change we wanted to see,” Miller said. “After a few weeks of getting feedback we decided not only Columbia students deserved this effort but all college students. We have all worked so hard and deserve this moment.”

The campaign involves a social media push for donations on their gofundme page. In a video, several Chicago students expressed why they find the campaign important.

“As a first generation immigrant, graduation means a lot to me and my family,” said Bichoy Boutros, fashion design major at CCC,. “So thank you to #commenceanyways for making that happen.”

Read the full story here.

11:23 a.m. EU launches legal action against vaccine-maker AstraZeneca

BRUSSELS — The European Union’s executive branch said Monday that it has launched legal action against coronavirus vaccine-maker AstraZeneca for failing to respect the terms of its contract with the 27-nation bloc.

The AstraZeneca vaccine has been central to Europe’s immunization campaign, and a linchpin in the global strategy to get vaccines to poorer countries. But the slow pace of deliveries has frustrated the Europeans and they have held the company responsible for partly delaying their vaccine rollout.

European Commission spokesman Stefan De Keersmaecker said that Brussels launched the legal action against AstraZeneca last Friday “on the basis of breaches of the advance purchase agreement.”

He said the reason for the legal action was that “some terms of the contract have not been respected” and that “the company has not been in a position to come up with a reliable strategy to ensure a timely delivery of doses.”

AstraZeneca’s contract with the EU, which was signed by the Commission on behalf of the member countries last August, foresaw an initial 300 million doses for distribution among member countries, with an option for a further 100 million.

The British-Swedish drugmaker had hoped to deliver 80 million doses of that in the first quarter of 2021, but only 30 million were sent. According to the Commission, the company is now set to provide 70 million doses in the second quarter, rather than the 180 million it had promised.

AstraZeneca said in a statement that it “regrets” the Commission’s decision to take legal action and that it will “strongly defend” itself in court.

“We believe any litigation is without merit and we welcome this opportunity to resolve this dispute as soon as possible,” AstraZeneca said. It said deliveries are improving “following an unprecedented year of scientific discovery, very complex negotiations, and manufacturing challenges.”

“We are making progress addressing the technical challenges and our output is improving, but the production cycle of a vaccine is very long which means these improvements take time to result in increased finished vaccine doses,” it said.

Read the full story here.

10:09 a.m. From rotten teeth to advanced cancer, patients feeling effects of pandemic-era treatment delays

With medical visits picking up again among patients vaccinated against covid-19, health providers are starting to see the consequences of a year of pandemic-delayed preventive and emergency care as they find more advanced cancer and rotting and damaged teeth, among other ailments.

Dr. Brian Rah, chair of the cardiology department at Montana’s Billings Clinic, was confused in the early days of the covid pandemic. Why the sudden drop in heart attack patients at the Billings Clinic? And why did some who did come arrive hours after first feeling chest pains?

Two patients, both of whom suffered greater heart damage by delaying care, provided what came to be typical answers. One said he was afraid of contracting covid by going to the hospital. The other patient went to the emergency room in the morning, left after finding it too crowded, and then returned that night when he figured there would be fewer patients — and a lower risk of catching covid.

“For a heart attack patient, the first hour is known as the golden hour,” Rah said. After that, the likelihood of death or a lifelong reduction in activities and health increases, he said.

Read the full story here.

8:52 a.m. Community colleges hope to bring students back to campus this fall

Community colleges across Illinois are cautiously optimistic they will be able to bring back students for in-person classes this fall.

And while a few four-year schools in the Chicago area — including Loyola University ChicagoColumbia College and DePaul University — have announced that students will be required to be vaccinated before returning to campus, most community colleges do not plan to make vaccines mandatory.

After more than a year of nearly all remote coursework, most community colleges said they plan to offer classes four different ways this fall: fully in-person; a hybrid format involving a combination of both in-person and online instruction; virtual classes that involve online synchronous meetings; and fully asynchronous, online classes.

City Colleges of Chicago will offer a range of in-person and remote options for students to take classes this summer and fall, officials said.

“While we strongly encourage all Chicagoans who are eligible to get vaccinated, students will not be required to be vaccinated. We are currently running a COVID-19 testing pilot at three City Colleges of Chicago locations,” said a City Colleges spokeswoman.

Read the full story from Zinya Salfitihere.


New cases and vaccination rates

  • State health officials on Sunday reported 2,035 new coronavirus cases and an additional 24 virus-related deaths. That brings the state’s pandemic totals to 1,321,033 cases and 21,826 deaths. The Chicago area accounted for 16 of Sunday’s fatalities, which included a Cook County woman in her 20s.
  • The new cases were diagnosed among the 61,299 tests processed by the Illinois Department of Public Health in the last day. That kept the statewide seven-day positivity rate at 3.5%, the lowest its been since the beginning of this month.
  • More than 8.8 million COVID-19 vaccine shots have now gone into the arms of Illinoisans since mid-December, including an additional 74,461 doses doled out Saturday, officials said.
  • As of Saturday night, 3,769,787 people in Illinois were fully vaccinated, meaning two weeks removed from their final dose, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health’s website. That’s about 29.6% of the state’s populations — still well under 80% needed for herd immunity.

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