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Coronavirus live blog, April 27, 2021: 2020 grads from Illinois universities will get a chance to walk across the stage in cap and gown after all

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

News

6 p.m. Illinois universities plan in-person commencements — and 2020 grads are invited, too

Annie Czerwinski, pictured with her family when she graduated (virtually) from the University of Illinois last year, is planning to return to campus for an in-person event this spring.
Provided

Annie Czerwinski is eagerly awaiting a chance to walk the stage in a cap and gown in a commencement ceremony at the University of Illinois next month — something that she has been anticipating for years.

Czerwinski, however, has been waiting longer than most students taking part in such events this spring: She actually got her degree in molecular and cellular biology last May. But because the pandemic canceled last year’s in-person commencement, the state’s flagship school is allowing any 2020 graduate to come to the campus in Urbana-Champaign and be recognized along with 2021 grads.

“Honestly, it was really sad,” Czerwinski said of missing out on a formal in-person program last year. “I had been looking forward to commencement for so long.”

But the new plans mean Czerwinski, who plans to go to optometry school in August, will be able to travel to Urbana-Champaign from her home in suburban Homer Glen “with my parents and sisters and my boyfriend and they will watch me walk across the stage. Even if it is just for 15 minutes, I am really excited.”

Read the full story from Zac Clingenpeel here.

2:50 p.m. Shot slowdown prompts big question: How does city ‘make vaccine something that people are excited about getting?’

Since Chicago’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign began, the city has met ambitious weekly goals to distribute 95% or more of the doses it receives from the federal government.

That could soon change as shots are more readily available — and public health officials have to get “creative” to get more doses into arms, Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Tuesday.

“I do expect that’s going to fall a little bit because we are hearing less demand. We are hearing providers say that they have enough vaccine,” Arwady said. “It’s a good issue where we now have enough supply, but the question is will we have the demand to really keep up with the supply?”

The city announced a milestone of 2 million shots given as of Tuesday, but after four months of residents clamoring for limited numbers of appointments, only about 42% of Chicagoans have gotten at least one dose, and just 29% are fully vaccinated. And only about 65% of residents 65 or older have gotten a shot, well below the national average of 82% for that age group.

Read Mitchell Armentrout’s full story here.

1:55 p.m. Pandemic imperiled non-English speakers more than others, Boston hospital finds

For Latinos, there was an additional warning sign: language.

People who were infected and who didn’t speak much, or any, English had a 35% greater chance of death.

Clinicians who couldn’t communicate clearly with patients in the hospital’s coronavirus units took note.

“We had an inkling that language was going to be an issue early on,” said Dr. Karthik Sivashanker, then Brigham’s medical director for quality, safety and equity. “We were getting safety reports saying language is a problem.”

Sivashanker dived into the records, isolating and layering the characteristics of those who died: their race, age, sex and whether they spoke English.

“That’s where we started to really discover some deeper, previously invisible inequities,” he said — inequities that weren’t about race alone.

Hospitals across the country have reported more hospitalizations and deaths of Black and Latino coronavirus patients than of whites. Black and Brown patients might be more susceptible because they are more likely to have a chronic illness. But when the Brigham team compared Black and Bown patients with white patients with similar chronic illnesses, they found no difference in the risk of death from COVID.

Read the full story here.

1:09 p.m. Harry and Meghan will lead vaccine fundraising concert to aid medical workers

Prince Harry and Meghan will serve as the campaign chairs of Global Citizen’s effort to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to medical workers in the world’s poorest countries.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will appear at “Vax Live: The Concert to Reunite the World,” to be taped Sunday at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles and air on ABC, CBS, FOX, YouTube and iHeartMedia broadcast radio stations on May 8, Global Citizen, the anti-poverty nonprofit, announced Tuesday.

Harry and Meghan are also leading an effort to raise money for the vaccine-sharing program COVAX, which hopes to produce $19 billion to pay for the vaccines for medical workers.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will also appear during the broadcast as part of the “We Can Do This” initiative to increase confidence in COVID-19 vaccines. French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Croatian Prime Andrej Minister Plenković will also appear at the concert, which will be hosted by Selena Gomez and headlined by Jennifer Lopez.

Read the full story here.

12:00 p.m. Closed by Covid-19, hotel overlooking riverwalk sends ‘message of hope’ through window designs

Driving North on Michigan Avenue, the image became clearer near Wacker Drive.

Yup. That definitely looks like a tulip on the south exterior of the Sheraton Grand Chicago hotel. And that must be a sun with a spray of sunrays in the left corner.

If you’ve driven through downtown this past year, you’ve likely seen other images: a heart at the peak of the pandemic; a gingerbread man at Christmas; a martini glass at New Year’s.

Or maybe the nods to Chicago institutions: a Cubs “W,” the “LU,” when Loyola University progressed in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen.

“I’ll send an idea to the general manager and say, ‘What do you think?’ Then armed with a map of the building, the targeted windows and the room numbers, we unleash our fantastic engineering team,” said Sheraton’s chief engineer, Mike Dukelow.

Read more Chicago Chronicles from Maudlyne Ihejirika here.

11:43 a.m. CDC says many Americans can now go outside without mask

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased its guidelines Tuesday on the wearing of masks outdoors, saying fully vaccinated Americans don’t need to cover their faces anymore unless they are in a big crowd of strangers.

And those who are unvaccinated can go outside without masks in some cases, too.

The new guidance represents another carefully calibrated step on the road back to normal from the coronavirus outbreak that has killed over 570,000 people in U.S.

For most of the past year, the CDC had been advising Americans to wear masks outdoors if they are within 6 feet of each other.

The change comes as more than half of U.S. adults have gotten at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine, and more than a third have been fully vaccinated.

More people need to be vaccinated, and concerns persist about variants and other possible shifts in the epidemic. But Saag said the new guidance is a sensible reward following the development and distribution of effective vaccines and about 140 million Americans stepping forward to get their shots.

Read the full story here.

11:18 a.m. In fight against virus, Biden looks for path back to normal

President Joe Biden spent his first 100 days in office encouraging Americans to mask up and stay home to slow the spread of the coronavirus. His task for the next 100 days will be to lay out the path back to normal.

When he entered office, Biden moved swiftly to overcome vaccine supply issues and more than tripled the country’s ability to administer them. But ending the coronavirus pandemic, the central challenge of his presidency, will require more than putting shots into arms — a task now growing more difficult as demand sags — but also a robust plan to help the nation emerge from a year of isolation, disruption and confusion.

If Biden launched the nation onto a war footing against a virus that infected nearly 200,000 Americans in January and killed about 3,000 of them per day, the next months will be tantamount to winning the peace. Already, deaths are down to fewer than 700 per day and average daily cases are below 60,000. U.S. officials insist there is a long way to go before the country can be fully at ease, but the progress is marked.

Keep reading the story here.

11:11 a.m. Medical students in India feel betrayed

Since the beginning of the week, Dr. Siddharth Tara, a postgraduate medical student at New Delhi’s government-run Hindu Rao Hospital, has had a fever and persistent headache. He took a COVID-19 test, but the results have been delayed as the country’s health system implodes.

His hospital, overburdened and understaffed, wants him to keep working until the testing laboratory confirms he has COVID-19.

On Tuesday, India reported 323,144 new infections for a total of more than 17.6 million cases, behind only the United States. India’s Health Ministry also reported another 2,771 deaths in the past 24 hours, with 115 Indians succumbing to the disease every hour. Experts say those figures are likely an undercount.

“I am not able to breathe. In fact, I’m more symptomatic than my patients. So how can they make me work?” asked Tara.

The challenges facing India today, as cases rise faster than anywhere else in the world, are being compounded by the fragility of its health system and its doctors.

Read the full story here.

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 putting 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 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.

Keep reading Manny Ramos’ story here.


New cases and vaccination rates