Coronavirus live blog, April 5, 2021: Illinois’ COVID-19 positivity rate holds steady at two-month high, hospitalizations jump to highest level in over a month

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

SHARE Coronavirus live blog, April 5, 2021: Illinois’ COVID-19 positivity rate holds steady at two-month high, hospitalizations jump to highest level in over a month

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6 p.m. Illinois’ COVID-19 positivity rate holds steady at two-month high, hospitalizations jump to highest level in over a month

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People receive doses of a COVID-19 vaccine at the drive-thru vaccination site at the United Center’s mass vaccination clinic on the Near West Side, Tuesday afternoon, March 23, 2021.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Public health officials on Monday that Illinois’ COVID-19 positivity rate held steady at a two-month high as the number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations climbed to the highest level in over a month.

Illinois’ rolling seven-day test positivity rate has stood at 3.8% for three straight days, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. The 2,102 new cases reported Monday were diagnosed from 59,586 tests. Eleven more people died from the virus, bringing the state’s total death toll to 21,384.

The state’s positivity rate — a key metric for tracking the virus’ spread — has risen from a low of 2.1% recorded March 13, marking a troubling jump in coronavirus cases that could lead officials to tighten restrictions on businesses again.

Over the past week, Chicago’s positivity rate has increased from 3.9% to 5.1%, jumping above a critical benchmark. The World Health Organization has advised governments that test positivity rates should remain at or below 5% for 14 days before reopening.

Hospitalizations also continued to rise, with officials reporting that 1,581 beds were occupied by Sunday night. That’s the highest number recorded since Feb. 18.

Reporter Tom Schuba has the full story.

4:01 p.m. There’s a shot! Mass vaccination site opens next to Wrigley Field

Want to catch the Cubs and do your part to try to avoid catching — or spreading — COVID-19?

Beginning this week, eligible Chicagoans can head to Wrigleyville to get vaccinated. The American Airlines Conference Center at Gallagher Way, next to Wrigley Field, is one of two new mass vaccination sites opening in the city; the other is at Chicago State University.

The North Side facility is expected to offer up to 2,000 shots daily, according to the mayor’s office. Chicago State is expected to offer up to 1,200 walk-up and 1,000 drive-thru vaccination appointments daily. Shots at either site are available by appointment only. To register, go to zocdoc.com/vaccine.

All of the slots at the North Side location were booked through Friday, but registration for appointments for next week was expected to begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday, organizers said. All Chicago residents in Phase 1a, 1b or 1c are eligible to receive a shot at either location. People must bring proof of residency to their appointments. The vaccinations are free and medical insurance is not required.

Reporter Stefano Esposito has the full story.

12:41 p.m. UK eyes mass testing as it takes next steps out of lockdown

All adults and children in England will be able to have routine coronavirus tests twice a week as a way to stamp out new outbreaks, the British government said Monday as it prepared to announce the next steps in lifting the nation’s months-long lockdown.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said regularly testing people who don’t have COVID-19 symptoms would help “stop outbreaks in their tracks, so we can get back to seeing the people we love and doing the things we enjoy.”

The government said free lateral flow tests will be available starting Friday by mail, from pharmacies and in workplaces. Lateral flow tests give results in minutes but are less accurate than the PCR swab tests used to officially confirm cases of COVID-19.

The government insists they are reliable. Health Minister Edward Argar said the tests produced a false positive rate — showing someone has the virus when they don’t — in less than 1 in every 1,000 tests.

“So that is still a highly accurate test which can play a really important part in reopening our country and our businesses, because it is so simple to take,” Argar told Sky News.

Read the full Associated Press story here.

9:05 a.m. Deep dish in depth: Patrons sample pizzas and hear their stories on new walking tour

With summer on the horizon and some recent easing of restrictions on indoor/outdoor dining, pizza lovers can now partake of their favorite food in a whole new dining experience.

Finger Licking Foodie Tours is debuting its self-guided Chicago deep-dish pizza walking tour starting Monday (which also happens to be National Deep-Dish Pizza Day). The brainchild of Chicago-born entrepreneur Donald Contursi, the tour is born of his hugely successful Las Vegas foodie tours, which expose patrons to four three-course dinners at some of Sin City’s most acclaimed restaurants.

But like the Vegas incarnation (Lip Smacking Foodie Tours), the Chicago version — a self-guided endeavor (until pandemic restrictions allow for larger groups and an in-person tour guide) — is more than just food. It’s the chance to spend some quality time with friends and/or family (minimum two people per tour) for an afternoon or evening trek, and it’s about the stories behind some of the city’s most iconic deep-dish pizzas and the pizzamakers.

The two-hour tour (available every day, every half hour) includes stops at three restaurants without the long wait; because it’s a prepaid tour, guests will be seated upon arrival and served within 10 minutes. Each tour stop allows for 35 to 40 minutes to enjoy a small, deep-dish half cheese/half sausage pizza for two (vegetarian versions also available). Drink packages are also available at additional cost. And not to worry, you can take any leftovers with you as you head to the next eatery to sample another pie (a map and voice-over guide on your cell phone will direct you step-by-step to the next location).

Read the full story from Miram Di Nunzio here.


New cases and vaccination numbers


Analysis and commentary

10:41 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 theCTA?” 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.

My fellow public transit riders have abandoned my beloved CTA. The empty seats and aisles tell the tale. The system suffered a 57% decline in ridership last year, as the Chicago Reader reported last month.

I get it. During the pandemic, riders have shunned public transportation. Some fear COVID-19. Others are working from home. Many are jobless. We all have heard the tales of decline. Stories about filth, vagrancy, harassment and worse on the CTA.

Thankfully, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and transit officials have avoided service cuts and layoffs. An influx of more than $817 million in federal stimulus funds have kept the CTA rolling.

Now as the pandemic eases, riders are beginning to return. But the CTA still posts fewer than 500,000 average daily rides, compared with 1.5 million before the pandemic, according to the Reader.

We are desperate to return to normal. When we do, we must do it via the CTA. If riders don’t return to the CTA, Metra and Pace, look for layoffs, service cuts and hefty fare hikes. That would be devastating, especially to the essential workers and working-class families who have no other transit options.

Keep reading Laura Washington’s column here.

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