Coronavirus live blog, April 7, 2021: Cases, hospitalizations, positivity on the rise — reopening on hold until ‘we get that under control’
Here’s Wednesday’s news on how COVID-19 is impacting Chicago and Illinois. Follow here for live updates.
8:55 p.m. Coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, positivity on the rise — reopening on hold until ‘we get that under control’
Illinois public health officials on Wednesday reported 3,790 new cases of COVID-19, the highest number of infections confirmed in a single day since late January — and the latest red flag of a statewide resurgence.
The new cases raised Illinois’ average testing positivity rate to 4.1%, another figure the state hadn’t seen since Jan. 29, according to the Illinois Department of Health.
It was at an all-time low of 2.1% on March 12, suggesting coronavirus transmission has nearly doubled over a span of less than four weeks.
The uptick has been even more pronounced in Chicago, where the positivity rate is 5.2% and an average of 606 residents are testing positive every day — a 21% increase compared to last week.
Serious cases of the disease are on the rise, too.
Hospitals across Illinois were treating 1,710 COVID-19 patients Tuesday night, the most they’ve admitted since Feb. 16 and a net increase of 300 in only a week.
“The number of hospitalizations is increasing, the number of cases of people going into ICU beds is increasing, and that’s of great concern to us,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said at a Rockford new conference. “We want to make sure that before we reopen any further in the state that we get that under control.”
7:51 p.m. State senator proposes $600 state tax credit to try to address ‘devastation that this pandemic has brought’
Hoping to help working parents hit hard economically, newly appointed state Sen. Mike Simmons on Wednesday pitched legislation that would provide parents a $600 tax credit per child that he argues will help undo “the damage of this pandemic.”
Simmons’ first bill, which he introduced last month, would provide a $600 state-level child tax credit for individuals who earn $40,000 a year and for those making $60,000 a year who file their taxes jointly. The bill would provide $600 per child.
“This is really best targeted at our single moms and single dads and working parents all across the 7th District,” Simmons said, referring to the North Side area he represents in the Illinois Senate. “This legislation will help to bring relief to our working families and ensure that we have a long-term solution that undoes the damage of this pandemic.
“In the wake of a year that has imposed so many anxieties and so much grief, and so many heavy burdens on our parents and our young people in particular, COVID-19 has fallen hard upon children in the way we may not fully realize for years to come.”
4:05 p.m. Even as schools reopen, many students learn remotely: survey
Large numbers of students are not returning to the classroom even as more schools reopen for full-time, in-person learning, according to a survey released Wednesday by the Biden administration.
The findings reflect a nation that has been locked in debate over the safety of reopening schools during the coronavirus pandemic. Even as national COVID-19 rates continued to ebb in February, key measures around reopening schools barely budged.
Nearly 46% of public schools offered five days a week of in-person learning to all students in February, according to the survey, but just 34% of students were learning full time in the classroom. The gap was most pronounced among older K-12 students, with just 29% of eighth graders getting five days a week of learning at school.
With the new findings, President Joe Biden came no closer to meeting his goal of having most elementary schools open five days a week in his first 100 days. School offerings were nearly identical to what was reported a month before. But among eighth grade students, there was a slight shift from fully remote to hybrid learning.
Speaking at a coronavirus briefing on Wednesday, White House COVID-19 adviser Andy Slavitt described the findings as a step forward.
12:58 p.m. UK advises limiting AstraZeneca in under-30s amid clot worry
LONDON — British authorities recommended Wednesday that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine not be given to adults under 30 where possible because of strengthening evidence that the shot may be linked to rare blood clots.
The recommendation came as regulators both in the United Kingdom and the European Union emphasized that the benefits of receiving the vaccine continue to outweigh the risks for most people — even though the European Medicines Agency said it had found a “possible link” between the shot and the rare clots. British authorities recommended that people under 30 be offered alternatives to AstraZeneca. But the EMA advised no such age restrictions, leaving it up to its member-countries to decide whether to limit its use.
Several countries have already imposed limits on who can receive the vaccine, and any restrictions are closely watched since the vaccine, which is cheaper and easier to store than many others, is critical to global immunization campaigns and is a pillar of the U.N.-backed program known as COVAX that aims to get vaccines to some of the world’s poorest countries.
“This is a course correction, there’s no question about that,” Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, said during a press briefing. “But it is, in a sense, in medicine quite normal for physicians to alter their preferences for how patients are treated over time.”
12:11 p.m. As daily life slowly creeps back to pre-pandemic routines, some feel dread
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Dinner reservations are gleefully being made again. Long-canceled vacations are being booked. People are coming together again, in some of the ways they used to.
But not everyone is racing back.
Their stories are emerging as the world begins to reopen — people secretly dreading each milestone toward normalcy, envisioning instead anxiety-inducing crowds and awkward catch-up conversations. Even small tasks outside the home — a trip to the grocery store, or returning to the office — can feel overwhelming.
Psychologists call it re-entry fear, and they’re finding it more common as headlines herald the imminent entry to post-pandemic life.
“I have embraced and gotten used to this new lifestyle of avoidance that I can’t fathom going back to how it was. I have every intention of continuing to isolate myself,” says Thomas Pietrasz, who lives alone and works from his home in the Chicago suburbs as a content creator. His alcohol and marijuana use also increased during the pandemic.
Pietrasz says his anxiety has grown markedly worse as talk of post-vaccine life grows. He says he got used to “hiding at home and taking advantage of curbside and delivery in order to avoid every situation with people.”
As the world edges back toward some semblance of normal life, many report challenges like Pietrasz’s playing out in their own lives. The time at home — lockdown, dread, fear, isolation — has changed them and made existing worries worse or created new ones entirely.
“It’s been a mix of reactions,” says Amy Cirbus, Director of Clinical Content at Talkspace, an online mental health group with nearly 50,000 current clients. “Some people are very relieved about going back to normal. Others are struggling. Many people are experiencing spikes in anxiety as they feel they aren’t ready for re-entry.”
10:17 a.m. CTU wants reopening of high schools delayed one week, citing COVID-19 variant concerns
The Chicago Teachers Union wants the school district to delay the tentative April 19 re-opening of high schools for in-person learning by one week, citing concerns about a spike in coronavirus cases, among other things.
CTU President Jesse Sharkey, speaking on a Zoom call with union leaders and reporters Wednesday, said he is concerned about a COVID-19 variant spreading in states neighboring Illinois. It is unclear, he said, if the variant is behind the recent spike in Chicago cases.
“We need to answer those questions in order to understand if it’s safe to open schools right now for the high schools,” Sharkey said. “This is precisely the age of people in this city who, in states around the country, ... are driving the surge in other places.”
9:26 a.m. Pride, tears — and a little chocolate cake — round out catching-up time for Harris, Foxx and Stratton
When Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and Vice President Kamala Harris first saw each other during the vice president’s visit to Chicago on Tuesday, Foxx said they both had tears in their eyes.
“She’s someone I’ve known throughout my career,” Foxx said. “She’s laid a trail for me. To be in the motorcade and see her, as a friend, makes me immensely proud.”
Foxx and Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton met up with the vice president at Brown Sugar Bakery on East 75th Street for a slice of German chocolate cake and a platter of cupcakes.
Harris had just visited a nearby COVID-19 vaccination site set up by the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 399. The center is run by the Chicago Federation of Labor, which has an ownership stake in the Chicago Sun-Times.
Foxx said Harris called her Monday, suggesting they catch up over a snack while the vice president was in town.
The two hadn’t spoken since congratulating each other on election night. Foxx had secured a second term, and Harris made history as the first woman and first Black and South Asian American to hold the nation’s second highest office.
During Harris’ visit to Chicago, her first since her historic election, Harris urged people to get vaccinated and spread the word to family members to do the same when it’s their time.
Foxx said it was “particularly great” that the vice president went to the South Side. The key for the state to emerge from the pandemic is to “make sure everyone is vaccinated,” Foxx said, adding that the disparity in vaccine distribution is “alarming.”
New Cases & Vaccination Numbers
- Officials reported 2,931 new cases of the virus on Tuesday.
- Since March 12, Illinois’ seven-day average statewide testing positivity rate has ballooned from 2.1% up to 3.9% — its highest point since Feb. 2.
- The state reported 13 more deaths Tuesday, including those of two Cook County men in their 40s.
- With 95,188 COVID-19 vaccinations administered Monday, more than 2.4 million residents have been fully immunized so far.