Coronavirus live blog, April 28, 2021: Chicago readying ‘Vax Pass’ system for some concerts

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

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6 p.m. Some summer fun limited to COVID-19 ‘Vax Pass’ holders? ‘Vaccination is going to be your ticket.’

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The iconic lion statues wear face masks outside the The Art Institute of Chicago last May, one day ahead of a statewide mandate requiring masks in public places.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times file

Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady on Tuesday said the city will launch a COVID-19 vaccination passport program next month for admission to select concerts geared toward young people, in another effort to “incentivize” residents to get their shots.

For now, the city is working with club organizers on setting up shows and other events with “a youth flavor,” Arwady said, but the “Vax Pass” concept could end up applying to other venues, too.

“As we build vaccine confidence and convenience, we’re interested in thinking about ways to incentivize people to get the vaccine,” Arwady said. “I would hope that for most people their main incentive is to be able to stay healthy, keep their families healthy, keep their communities healthy — but we also know, younger people in particular may be excited about the idea of getting into events, for example, that might be limited to people who are vaccinated.”

Arwady stressed, “We are never going to require vaccination for all Chicago residents. That will never be a requirement, but I think increasingly, where people are wanting to do things and lower their risk, vaccination is going to be your ticket to doing some of that.”

Read Mitchell Armentrout’s full story here.

4:36 p.m. ‘Preferred seating’ at events like Lollapalooza could be used as vaccination incentive, mayor says

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Wednesday said the proposal to create a coronavirus vaccine passport for Chicago events is “very much a work in progress” but that preferred seating at those events could be one way to urge vaccination.

The concept is to use the “Vax Pass” as a carrot, instead of a stick, to bolster vaccination rates among young people most likely to attend outdoor music events like Lollapalooza and Riot Fest.

“We’re gonna be looking at ways in which we can incentivize people to get vaccinated and do that by looking at preferred seating. Preferred admission,” she said.

Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady on Tuesday had said the city will launch the vaccination passport program next month, but stopped short of saying large summer events such as Lollapalooza are officially back on.

Lightfoot discussed the program Wednesday at an unrelated event in Bronzeville, where she also sounded the alarm once again about the need to get vaccinated.

Vaccine “uptake among Black Chicagoans still lags behind every other demographic,” the mayor said, and that needs to change, particularly among African-Americans between the ages of 18 and 44.

“We need you to get vaccinated. Do it, of course, for yourself, but [also] for your family, for your grandparents. When you get vaccinated , it’s gonna be an easier return to a different life. I won’t say a normal old life because I don’t think that’s ever coming back. But I think the opportunities for opening up the city increase with the number of people who get vaccinated,” the mayor said.

Read the full story here.

1:50 p.m. Pritzker considering vaccine requirement for students returning to state universities

Students returning to public universities in Illinois might need to receive their COVID-19 vaccination before they’re allowed to return to campuses this fall, but it’s up to them — for now.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s health team has already deployed mobile vaccination units to many state schools to encourage inoculations, but he didn’t rule out a statewide mandate Wednesday as vaccine demand starts to wane across Illinois.

“We want everybody to get vaccinated, there’s no doubt. As to whether we would require people to get vaccinated in order to come back on campus, that’s something that’s under some discussion around the nation,” Pritzker said during an unrelated news conference at Heartland Community College in downstate Normal.

Some private universities have already announced vaccine requirements, including three in Chicago: Columbia College, DePaul University and Loyola University Chicago. The public university system in Massachusetts announced a mandate earlier this week.

Read the full story from Mitchell Armentrout here.

10:45 a.m. Expected COVID baby boom may be baby bust: analysis

NEW YORK — When most of the U.S. went into lockdown over a year ago, some speculated that confining couples to their homes — with little to entertain them beyond Netflix — would lead to a lot of baby-making. But the statistics suggest the opposite happened.

Births have fallen dramatically in many states during the coronavirus outbreak, according to an Associated Press analysis of preliminary data from half the country.

The COVID-19 baby boom appears to be a baby bust.

Nationally, even before the epidemic, the number of babies born in the U.S. was falling, dropping by less than 1% a year over the past decade as many women postponed motherhood and had smaller families.

But data from 25 states suggests a much steeper decline in 2020 and into 2021, as the virus upended society and killed over a half-million Americans.

Births for all of 2020 were down 4.3% from 2019, the data indicates. More tellingly, births in December 2020 and in January and February 2021 — nine months or more after the spring 2020 lockdowns — were down 6.5%, 9.3% and 10% respectively, compared with the same months a year earlier.

December, January and February together had about 41,000 fewer births than the same three-month span a year earlier. That’s an 8% decline.

“When there’s a crisis, I don’t think people are thinking about reproduction,” said Dr. John Santelli, a Columbia University professor of population and family health who reviewed the AP’s analysis.

Read the full story here.

8:15 a.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.

7 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.


New cases and vaccination rates

  • Illinois health officials reported 2,556 new cases of COVID-19 among 62,724 tests Tuesday, which keeps the average statewide positivity rate at 3.5% — as low as it’s been since the beginning of the month.
  • The virus also claimed 23 more lives, including that of a Will County woman in her 30s.
  • Since the pandemic began, more than 1.3 million Illinoisans have tested positive for COVID-19, and 21,858 of them have died.
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