Coronavirus live blog, Dec. 11, 2020: Drivers on Chicago’s busiest routes among nearly 900 CTA employees with COVID-19

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

SHARE Coronavirus live blog, Dec. 11, 2020: Drivers on Chicago’s busiest routes among nearly 900 CTA employees with COVID-19

Illinois passed a grim pandemic milestone: more than 14,000 deaths from COVID-19 statewide. But there was some hope announced at the end of the day.

Here’s what you need to know in coronavirus-related news.


8:55 p.m. Bus drivers on Chicago’s busiest routes among nearly 900 CTA employees with COVID-19


Commuters board the CTA’s southbound No. 49 bus on North Western Avenue at West Leland Avenue on the North Side, Friday morning, Dec. 11, 2020. | Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Two of the CTA’s busiest bus routes — the No. 79 that runs along 79th Street and the No. 49 on Western Avenue — have recorded the most coronavirus cases among bus drivers, with nine drivers on each run falling ill over a six-month span, records show.

Three other routes — the No. 4, No. 8 and No. 22 — each saw eight CTA drivers infected with COVID-19 over the same period.

Four more routes — the No. 3, No. 20, No. 29 and No. 72 — had seven drivers each diagnosed with the virus.

Together, those nine routes carried more than 65,000 riders on the average weekday in September.

Read the full Watchdogs story here.

8:44 p.m. FDA approves Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

WASHINGTON — The U.S. gave the final go-ahead Friday to the nation’s first COVID-19 vaccine, marking what could be the beginning of the end of an outbreak that has killed nearly 300,000 Americans, according to a person familiar with the decision but not authorized to discuss it publicly.

Shots for health workers and nursing home residents are expected to begin in the coming days after the Food and Drug Administration authorized an emergency rollout of what promises to be a strongly protective vaccine from Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech.

Initial doses are scarce and rationed as the U.S. joins Britain and several other countries in scrambling to vaccinate as many people as possible ahead of a long, grim winter. It will take months of work to tamp down the coronavirus that has surged to catastrophic levels in recent weeks and already claimed 1.5 million lives globally.

Read the full report here.

6:11 p.m. Indiana reinstating surgery limits amid COVID-19 surge

Indiana’s hospitals will have to postpone elective surgeries starting in the coming week under an order the state’s governor said is needed to free up hospital capacity amid steep recent increases in serious COVID-19 illnesses.

An initial shipment of 55,000 doses of the first coronavirus vaccine is expected to arrive at Indiana hospitals shortly as front-line health care workers start to receive shots.

Read the full report here.

3:22 p.m. White House fraud worsened pandemic, eroded trust

The past year that we’ve all been struggling through has been described as the most tumultuous one in America since 1968.

There were multiple crises that contributed to the 2020 mess, but there is no question that it was made worse by two massive frauds that were perpetrated on our country.

If you look up the word “fraud” in the dictionary, you will find the following definition: “deceit, trickery, sharp practice, or breach of confidence, perpetrated for profit or to gain some unfair or dishonest advantage.”

The first national fraud consists of two oft-communicated suggestions from the White House: 1) The wearing of masks might not mitigate the contraction of COVID-19, and; 2) The country has been “rounding the turn” toward ending the pandemic for several months.

There is so much evidence of the president saying this — and it being false — that I wasn’t sure how to select just one reference link. I ended up providing two nonpartisan fact-checkers. But you could also walk into any hospital and ask the thousands of doctors and nurses who are fighting to save lives every day. It would take you quite a while to find one who agrees with either statement.

Would universal mask-wearingendthe pandemic if you could actually enforce it? Of course not. But we’re talking about mitigation. Not only did the president repeatedly question the effectiveness of masking, he also organized, promoted and performed at mass rallies across the country where his minions did not wear masks. He could have made it a requirement. He did not.

Read the full story here

1:49 p.m. Another 190 coronavirus deaths push Illinois toll past 14,000

COVID-19’s rampage through vulnerable Illinois communities continued unabated Friday as public health officials announced 190 more people have died of the coronavirus.

At least 3,782 people in Illinois have succumbed to the virus over the last month alone, a toll greater than the state saw during the previous four months combined.

The latest tally included a Cook County man in his 20s and two people in their 30s, among a total of 106 Chicago-area fatalities.

They brought the state’s pandemic death toll past the 14,000 milestone, now up to 14,050 lives lost. Another thousand deaths are considered to have been probable but untested viral cases.

Reporter Mitch Armentrout has the full story.

10:34 a.m. Union says almost 20% of MLS players tested positive for coronavirus

The Major League Soccer Players’ Association says nearly 20% of the league’s players tested positive for the coronavirus over the course of the season.

Bob Foose, executive director of the union, revealed the results in a conference call with reporters Thursday.

“During a time when most professionals were working at home, our players were going to work every day, really just about every single day. Almost 20% of the players in the league at one point or another were infected with the virus, which meant that those who became infected and those who didn’t become infected became dangers and dangerous to their partners, their family and their friends just by virtue of doing their jobs,” Foose said.

MLS did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the figure, which would mean about 150 players tested positive. The league’s protocols called for several tests to confirm cases. Some of the league’s players also tested positive only after international duty.

Read the full story here.

10:22 a.m. National Guard joins fight against COVID-19 at veterans homes

Veterans homes dealing with coronavirus outbreaks will receive help from members of the Illinois National Guard, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Thursday as his administration looks to curb a rise in cases at the long-term care facilities.

The Guard is on the ground at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home — which has had 33 residents die from the virus — and will be sent Monday to facilities in Quincy and Manteno, Pritzker said.

They will provide staff support for screening and handling testing data.

“… Here in Illinois, we will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to safeguard our most vulnerable, especially those who lived to serve,” Pritzker said at his Thursday briefing on the coronavirus.

So far, 55 veterans at the Quincy home have tested positive for the coronavirus as of Wednesday — and a total of 125 residents and staff have recovered from the virus. At the Manteno home, 18 residents and 33 employees have tested positive for the virus since August, according to an update from the state’s Department of Veterans’ Affairs dated Thursday.

Read the full story from Rachel Hinton here.

8:13 a.m. Panel of FDA advisors back Pfizer coronavirus vaccine

WASHINGTON — A U.S. government advisory panel has endorsed Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine, in a major step toward an epic vaccination campaign that could finally conquer the outbreak.

The Food and Drug Administration is expected to follow the recommendation issued Thursday by its expert advisers. The advisory group, in 17-4 vote with one abstention, concluded that the shot appears safe and effective against the coronavirus in people 16 and older.

A final FDA decision is expected within days. Millions of shots would then ship to begin vaccinating health care workers and nursing home residents. Widespread access to the general public is not expected until the spring.

The meeting of outside advisers to the Food and Drug Administration represented the next-to-last hurdle before the expected start of the biggest vaccination campaign in U.S. history. Depending on how fast the FDA signs off on the panel’s recommendation, shots could begin within days.

Read the full report here.

New Cases

Analysis & Commentary

3:24 p.m. Legislative panel should approve nursing home safety rules

Long before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, Illinois nursing home residents were already vulnerable, suffering and alone.

Illinois nursing homes ranked 50thin the nation for direct care nursing hours per resident per day and were the second worst in the nation for long-stay residents receiving inappropriate use of antipsychotic medication, according to a 2018 AARP report.

More than eight in 10 voters in Illinois back in 2019 said that action should be taken to increase the quality of care in Illinois nursing homes, according to an AARP survey.

Then COVID-19 arrived, making the already tragic circumstances for Illinois’ nursing home residents devastatingly worse.

Read the full column here.

12:56 p.m. Police officers should wear masks whenever they interact with the public

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, I have been working from home for the last nine months and have spent more time in the Chicago neighborhood where I have lived for 17 years. It is a neighborhood where a significant number of active and retired members of the Chicago Police Department also live.

The same three marked police cars are usually parked in neighboring blocks. On routine traffic stops at a nearby busy intersection, I have often seen police officers not wearing masks as they approached drivers and pedestrians.

Numerous reports of uniformed CPD members not wearing masks in public offices and other public spaces, both on and off duty have emerged, including at DePaul University, where I am on faculty. Photos and videos of officers assigned to protests earlier this year showed officers just as likely to wear masks as not.

Recently, a federal judge admonished the Chicago Federation of Police for its lack of compliance with social distancing and wearing masks in a courtroom. The CPD launched its own “I Wear My Mask” campaign recently to encourage officers to comply with masks.

As the number of deaths from COVID in this country hit an all-time high of more than 3,000 in one day, closer to home, the Illinois Department of Public Health lists the number of COVID cases and deaths by Zip code.

Read the full column here.

8:49 a.m. COVID killed my stepfather, who followed the rules

This is a story about a good man who worked brutally hard his adult life, paid his taxes, played by the rules and was starting to enjoy retirement, only to die a week after testing positive for COVID-19.

No longer able to live by himself, Terry finally agreed a few months ago to move to a retiree apartment complex 15 minutes away from me and my family in Chicago.

It had a good track record of keeping its residents safe from COVID-19, provided him three squares a day and a spacious one-bedroom apartment where he could snack on Snickers and watch TV to his heart’s content.

Last week, he learned several staffers at the apartment complex had tested positive for COVID-19. Within days, his own test came back positive. He had no symptoms, but as a precaution, he was taken to the hospital, where he was infused with bamlanivimab, the experimental antibody drug. The ER doctor called his prognosis good, and he was released.

Two days later, he was dead, his body discovered during the morning delivery of breakfast to his room.

Read the full column by Steve Warmbir here.

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