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Coronavirus live blog, April 3, 2021: COVID-19 restrictions could return to suburban Cook County as state officials alert ‘the beginning of another surge’

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3:36 p.m. 2,839 new COVID-19 cases in Illinois as Cook County faces ‘the beginning of another surge’

Dr. Rachel Rubin, co-lead and senior medical officer for the Cook County Department of Public Health, addresses the details of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan for suburban Cook County during a discussion at the Cook County Health Professional Building, Monday afternoon, Dec. 14, 2020. | Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times
Dr. Rachel Rubin, co-lead and senior medical officer for the Cook County Department of Public Health, has warned that the Chicago area is already facing another COVID-19 surge.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times, Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

A troubling rise in COVID-19 cases across the Chicago area and the rest of Illinois means another coronavirus “clamp-down” could soon be in store for businesses in suburban Cook County, officials warned Saturday.

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 2,839 new cases of the deadly respiratory disease were diagnosed across the state, raising Illinois’ average testing positivity rate to 3.8%. That figure has almost doubled in just three weeks.

Hospitals statewide have seen a 32% increase in COVID-19 patients over that period, with 1,426 beds occupied Friday night.

And with about 600 people testing positive in Cook County each day — most of them young adults — suburban cases have more than doubled over the past month, according to Dr. Rachel Rubin, co-lead and senior medical officer for the Cook County Department of Public Health.

“We are in the beginnings of another surge now,” Rubin said during a virtual news conference. “Maybe this is as high as we’ll go, and maybe it’ll level out and go down. We can’t say. It’s very very hard to predict. But that’s one of the reasons we’re pushing out vaccine as quickly as we get it.”

Mitchell Armentrout has the full story here.

12:11 p.m. From child care to COVID-19, rising job market faces obstacles

A surge in hiring in the United States last month — 916,000 added jobs, the most since August — coincides with growing confidence that a blistering pace of job growth will continue as vaccinations increase and federal aid fuels economic growth.

The most optimistic economists even predict that between now and year’s end, the nation could produce as many as 10 million more jobs and restore the labor market to its pre-pandemic level.

Maybe so. Yet even in normal times, it would be hard to regain all those jobs so quickly. And these aren’t normal times.

Many people who’ve been thrown out of the labor force remain fearful of the coronavirus and reluctant to take face-to-face service jobs. Millions of women are still caring for children attending school online — and can’t take jobs because they can’t find or afford child care.

Extended unemployment aid has meant that some employers might have to pay more to attract workers, which they may feel unable to do. And some people will need new skills before they can land a job to replace the one they lost.

While few doubt that the trillions in federal money flowing through the economy will help accelerate hiring, the challenges are sure to endure.

Here’s a look at some of them.

10:08 a.m. Will people go back to using mass transit as much after the pandemic? What Chicagoans say.

With ridership on Chicago-area mass transit down so heavily that an influential city planner says drastic measures are necessary to rebuild rider confidence, we asked readers whether they expect to go back to riding public transit as much after the pandemic as they did before.

Among the answers: It’s better than paying to park downtown. Yes: good for the environment. No, will work remotely more. Yes but will bike when the weather’s nice.

Satchel Price has more readers’ answers here.


New cases and vaccination numbers

  • The Illinois Department of Public Health Saturday reported 2,839 new confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus disease in Illinois, including 13 additional deaths.
  • The makes for a total of 1,254,185 cases and 21,361 deaths.
  • Saturday saw 62,694 tests among a total of 20,562,496, the state said.
  • The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total test from March 27-April 2, 2021 is 3.8%. The preliminary seven-day statewide test positivity from March 27-April 2, 2021 is 4.3%.
  • 6,043,292 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Illinois, representing about 38% of residents 16 and up receiving their first dose.

Analysis and commentary

10:25 a.m. Chicago, let’s get back on the L and do our part to save public transit

Get on the L or a bus. Or both.

This avid CTA rider has been tripping around town on trains and buses throughout the past year and, yes, during the reign of COVID-19.

My elderly mother does her regular shopping via the CTA. My nephew rides the L to his job on the graveyard shift. We are all safe and sound.

When I tell friends, jaws drop. “You take the CTA?”

Then I tell them to get on board. Chicago needs our butts in those seats.

I gave up my driver’s license 25 years ago. Public transportation is infinitely cheaper and wiser than driving.

I am a proud CTA cheerleader. We have been blessed with one of the best transit systems in the nation. Now, it is in peril.

Keep reading Laura Washington’s column here.

9:13 a.m. Clearing more hurdles — this time with parents — to get kids back in school

What will it take to get more children back in classrooms?

We’re asking ourselves that because of a new poll that found 69% of parents nationally are concerned that their children’s learning and social development are suffering because of remote learning during the pandemic.

That’s no surprise. Virtual learning is a distant second to in-person teaching. Yet in Chicago, and in other parts of the country where schools have reopened, fewer than half of the students are back in their classrooms.

Clearly, most parents are still wrestling with their fear of COVID-19, as the poll from the Associated Press/University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy also found: 64% of parents are concerned about the greater spread of coronavirus due to in-person schooling.

We get it. The pandemic is far from over, the country is nowhere near herd immunity — just under 17% of the population has been vaccinated — and Chicago and other places are seeing an alarming resurgence of COVID-19.

But we want to say this once again: Top scientists from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and elsewhere have concluded in an abundance of studies that schools are not a major source of COVID-19 infection when safety protocols — masking, physical distancing, frequent hand-washing, good ventilation — are in place.

Read the CST Editorial Board’s full piece here.