The coronavirus is now the third leading cause of death in Illinois, public health officials said Wednesday, reporting that the latest 140 lives lost raised the state’s pandemic death toll to 11,014.
Here’s what else happened in Chicago and around Illinois in coronavirus-related news.
8:55 p.m. What it could mean for all of us if this woman had COVID-19 twice
By medical standards, Nicole Worthley is considered extraordinarily rare. She was diagnosed with the coronavirus on March 31 and again in September.
She was walloped both times, with a fever for six weeks and side effects all summer before round two kicked in.
No one knows how long the immune system can keep someone safe from COVID-19 after infection.
Some diseases, like measles, are one and done: Once infected or vaccinated, the immune system typically provides protection forever.
With other viruses, like the common cold — some of these closely related to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 — protection might not last a year or even a season.
COVID-19 was discovered less than a year ago, so scientists don’t yet know how long the body can fight it off.
The answer has implications for the longevity and effectiveness of vaccines, the possibility of developing so-called herd immunity, in which the virus no longer spreads because so many people have already been infected, and how those infected once should behave.
7:20 p.m. CPS plans to regularly test staff for COVID-19 after schools reopen
Chicago officials are developing a plan to regularly test public school teachers and staff once they return to classrooms early next year, an effort that could begin to ease the minds of anxious workers and move the school system a step closer to reopening for the first time during the pandemic.
Rapid, 15-minute tests supplied by the federal government will be used to assess asymptomatic school staffers who are in regular contact with students, the Chicago Department of Public Health and Chicago Public Schools said Wednesday. Workers who don’t see students won’t receive the tests.
The tests can be self-administered with the supervision of trained staff, and the swabs only have to be placed halfway up the nose. If an adult tests positive, they’ll be isolated and sent home to quarantine while a contact tracing team from CDPH investigates, officials said.
5:55 p.m. Delta plans to block middle seats through March 2021
Delta Air Lines, hoping to nab a bigger share of travelers flying during the pandemic, is extending its policy of blocking middle seats to space out passengers on its planes.
The airline’s policy, previously set to expire on Jan. 6, 2021, will now be in place through March, a period that includes the usually busy spring break travel season.
Bill Lentsch, Delta’s chief customer experience officer, said in a statement Wednesday: ”We recognize some customers are still learning to live with this virus and desire extra space for their peace of mind. We are listening and will always take the appropriate steps to ensure our customers have complete confidence in their travel with us.”
With the extension, Delta is the lone U.S. airline to continue blocking middle seats well into 2021.
Southwest Airlines, which like Delta has relentlessly marketed its policy of not filling its planes, recently said it will no longer block middle seats beginning Dec. 1.
2:07 p.m. Chicago’s fourth coronavirus testing site opening next week at Midway Airport
Chicago will create a new permanent coronavirus testing site at Midway Airport and direct $14 million in federal grants to help community health centers expand testing and contact tracing capabilities to stop a second surge of the pandemic.
Chicago’s positivity rate now stands at 15.9%. That’s up from 13.6% just a week ago. The seven-day rolling average of new cases in the city is 2,351, up 27% from a 1,853 daily average last week.
With the virus raging through the city in ways not seen since the onset of the pandemic, Mayor Lori Lightfoot responded by boosting Chicago’s testing capacity to reduce long lines at testing stations.
At a news conference Wednesday, Lightfoot said she has “listened to the community” that wanted more testing capacity on the Southwest Side.
“Chicago is setting new testing records every day and it is our highest priority to ensure that testing remains equitably accessible and available to Chicago’s most vulnerable residents,” the mayor was quoted as saying in a press release.
11:54 a.m. At-home rapid COVID testing
U.S. regulators on Tuesday allowed emergency use of the first rapid coronavirus test that can be performed entirely at home and delivers results in 30 minutes.
The single-use test kit from California manufacturer Lucira Health allows users to swab themselves to collect a nasal sample. The sample is then swirled in a vial of laboratory solution that plugs into a portable device. Results are displayed as lights labeled positive or negative.
10:28 a.m. Vaccine from Pfizer shows promise
Pfizer says that more interim results from its ongoing coronavirus vaccine study suggest the shots are 95% effective and that the vaccine protects older people most at risk of dying from COVID-19.
The announcement, just a week after Pfizer first revealed promising preliminary results, comes as the company is preparing within days to formally ask U.S. regulators to allow emergency use of the vaccine.
Pfizer initially had estimated its vaccine, developed with German partner BioNTech, was more than 90% effective after 94 infections had been counted. With Wednesday’s announcement, the company now has accumulated 170 infections in the study — and said only eight of them occurred in volunteers who got the actual vaccine rather than a dummy shot. One of those eight developed severe disease, the company said.
9:47 a.m. IHSA puts winter sports on pause, signals basketball won’t start before January
The Illinois High School Association and Chicago Public Schools have both put the few winter sports that were currently being played on pause.
Bowling, cheer, dance and boy’s swimming and diving are suspended until further notice. The move comes after Governor J.B. Pritzker announced on Tuesday that all youth indoor sports should be put on hold as part of his COVID-19 mitigations.
The IHSA board will meet on Thursday to “continue plotting out potential paths for IHSA sports through the remainder of the school year” according to a statement.
The IHSA invited representatives from Pritzker’s office and the IDPH to Thursday’s meeting but the invitation was declined.
8:20 a.m. Thanksgiving Day dinners available for carryout from Chicago-area restaurants
Thanksgiving Day dinner plans look a little different for many of us this year as the coronavirus pandemic continues across the country. You may be limiting your typical large family gathering to a smaller meal with your immediate family (and struggling to scale down your stuffing recipe that makes 20 servings), or your high-risk loved ones may be sitting this one out — which means their signature dishes will be absent from your dinner table, too.
At the same time, many of us are actively seeking opportunities to help support beloved local restaurants that have been hard-hit financially by the virus.
Luckily, Chicago-area restaurants are busy making holiday meals that can picked up or delivered for the holiday, so you can enjoy all of your favorite traditional dishes even if your family gathering this year is being hosted by Zoom instead of grandma.
- Public health officials on Tuesday announced 12,601 more coronavirus cases have been identified across Illinois as a massive Midwest resurgence sends unprecedented numbers of COVID-19 patients into hospitals statewide.
- The World Health Organization has recorded 65 cases of the coronavirus among staff based at its headquarters, including five people who worked on the premises and were in contact with one another.
Analysis & Commentary
5:30 p.m. Making threats of violence undermines our self-government
Making threats of violence against our governor’s family should simply not happen in Illinois.
Unfortunately, such threats are growing more common across the nation. It’s up to the rest of us to tamp down any suggestion of violence whenever we run across it.
On Tuesday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said his family received a series of “hateful and threatening” messages after a debunked photo went viral purporting to show his daughter eating at a Chicago restaurant. Pritzker said the threats affected his family’s Thanksgiving plans.
“Hateful and threatening” messages? Over something that didn’t even happen? Such threats eat away at the cohesion that holds our city, state and nation together.
It’s not just Illinois. Across the nation, store employees are threatened when they ask customers to wear masks. Health care workers are threatened when they encourage pandemic safety measures.
12:42 p.m. What ‘pandemic fatigue’ could mean for Illinois’ teaching force
Consider the latest educational fallout from COVID-19: Hundreds of Illinois educators worn out from “pandemic fatigue” and on the verge of quitting.
They are on the brink of leaving, according to a survey of some 1,300 teachers statewide, because of the stress and safety concerns caused by teaching amid the pandemic.
The survey from the Illinois Education Association, which represents teachers in most districts outside Chicago, asked them about their experiences this school year, including their experiences with resuming in-person instruction.
One out of three educators surveyed said COVID-related stress had caused them to consider switching careers or retiring, something that state data show is already occurring at the highest pace in five years. Hundreds more teachers have already retired this year as compared with 2019.
7:12 a.m. Restrictions give Illinois a chance to check pandemic
We can be the single best weapon against the surging coronavirus in Illinois. We have to be.
That’s how Gov. J.B. Pritzker phrased it on Tuesday when he announced new “Tier 3” guidelines will go into effect on Friday for the entire state to combat the resurgent pandemic.
We hoping everyone listens and follows the rules, including those who have resisted COVID-19 restrictions until now.
Unlike some other states, Illinois avoided a second wave of COVID-19 in the summer. But a new wave is definitely here. New cases are increasing exponentially. Deaths are rising. Hospitals in every area of the state have more COVID-19 patients than they did the spring. Testing supplies are running short, again.
We have got to turn this around.