5:00 p.m. Illinois’ coronavirus positivity rate remains at a two-month high
Illinois’ coronavirus positivity rate remained at a two-month high Sunday, continuing a troubling upward trend that could lead officials to tighten restrictions on businesses once again.
State health officials reported 2,449 new and probable COVID-19 cases that were detected among 64,116 tests processed in the last day. That kept the state’s seven-day positivity rate for a second day at 3.8%, the highest it’s been since Feb. 2.
In March, that figure, which experts use to gauge how rapidly the virus is spreading, dropped to the lowest since summer. In fact, the state’s seven-day positivity rate remained below 3% for nearly six weeks, from Feb. 15 to March 27.
Over the last week, though, that figure has been on a gradual rise.
While the state’s overall positivity rate remains well below the peak levels seen last fall, suburban Cook County and Chicago’s test positivity rates have climbed steadily and are creeping toward the 8% benchmark that could result in a scaling back of recently expanded indoor business capacity limits.
The Chicagoland area’s databases aren’t updated on weekends. But as of Friday, both suburban Cook County and Chicago had a test positivity rate of 5%. For Chicago, that’s up more than a full percentage point from the previous week, when that figure checked in at 3.7% March 26.
Officials warned Saturday that tighter coronavirus restrictions could soon be in store for businesses in suburban Cook County if this upward trend continues.
“We may very well have to clamp down within a matter of days,” said Dr. Rachel Rubin, co-lead and senior medical officer for the Cook County Department of Public Health, who partially blamed the uptick on COVID fatigue. “I’m not promising that one way or the other. We need to evaluate exactly what kinds of activities and movements do we think are really pushing this surge.”
3:09 p.m. Christians celebrate second pandemic Easter, some with a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine
VATICAN CITY — Christianity’s most joyous feast day was celebrated worldwide with the faithful spaced apart in pews and singing choruses of “Hallelujah” through face coverings on a second Easter Sunday marked by pandemic precautions.
From vast Roman Catholic cathedrals to Protestant churches, worshippers followed regulations on the coronavirus. In some European countries, citizens lined up on Easter for their turn to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
In the Lombardy region of Italy, where the pandemic first erupted in the West, a hospital gave a traditional dove-shaped Easter cake symbolizing peace to each person waiting to get vaccinated. Many who came were in their 80s.
A soccer team in Lyon, France, opened its stadium as a vaccination center for the long holiday weekend. Some 9,000 people were expected to receive their shots there over three days as the French government tries to speed up vaccinations amid a fresh outbreak of infections.
In the Holy Land, travel restrictions and quarantine regulations prevented foreign pilgrims from flocking to religious sites in Jerusalem during Holy Week, which culminates in Easter celebrations. Pope Francis lamented that the pandemic has prevented some churchgoers from attending services.
At St. Peter’s Basilica, the 200 or so faithful allowed to attend looked lost in the cavernous cathedral. Normally, thousands would be at the Mass celebrated by Francis, and more than 100,00 would sometimes assemble outside in St. Peter’s Square to receive his Easter blessing afterward.
1:26 p.m. UK to test series of measures to determine if people can return to mass gatherings
LONDON — Britain is planning to test a series of measures including “coronavirus status certifications” over the coming weeks to see if they can allow people to safely return to mass gatherings at sports arenas, nightclubs and concerts.
People attending a range of events this month and in May, including a club night and key FA Cup soccer matches, will need to be tested both before and after. The trials will also gather evidence on how ventilation and different approaches to social distancing could enable large events to go ahead.
Officials are also developing plans to test out COVID-19 passports that are expected to show if a person has received a vaccine, has recently tested negative for the virus, or has some immunity due to having had coronavirus in the previous six months.
The issue of vaccine passports has been a hotly debated topic around the world, including in the United States and Israel. The question is how much governments, employers, venues and other places have a right to know about a person’s virus status. Many disagree over what the right balance is between a person’s right to medical privacy and the collective right of people in groups not to be infected with a dangerous disease by others.
9:05 a.m. From child care to COVID-19, rising job market faces obstacles
WASHINGTON — 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:
New Cases & Vaccination Numbers
- The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 2,839 new cases of the deadly respiratory disease were diagnosed across the state.
- The state reported 13 more COVID-19 deaths, including that of a Cook County woman in her 40s.
- Illinois’ pandemic death toll is up to 21,361, among almost 1.3 million who have tested positive over the past year.
- Public health officials announced Friday that more than 6 million COVID-19 vaccinations have now gone into Illinois arms.