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Latest coronavirus news, December 20, 2020: Illinois reports 79 new COVID-19 deaths, surpasses 900,000 total cases

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

Latest

Illinois surpasses 900,000 COVID-19 cases

Christmas cards and costumes are displayed in the window at Mid Central Printing & Mailing store in Wilmette, Ill.
Nam Y. Huh/AP Photo

State health officials on Sunday announced an additional 79 coronavirus-related deaths, snapping an unprecedented 12-day streak of Illinois reporting 100 or more deaths.

Though Sunday was the first time the state hadn’t recorded a three-digit daily death toll in almost two weeks, Illinois is still in the midst of its deadliest stretch of the pandemic, and it’s not unusual to see lower numbers on the weekends due to backlogged reporting.

This month, Illinois has logged nearly 3,000 coronavirus-related deaths, which is more than 19.4% of the state’s pandemic death toll of 15,202.

Half of Sunday’s 79 fatalities were reported in the Chicago area. The vast majority of those deaths reported statewide were among people 60 and older, with people under 60 accounting for six of Sunday’s total deaths.

Illinois also surpassed 900,000 coronavirus cases Sunday with state health officials announcing 6,003 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 infections.

Read the full story here.


News

12 p.m. Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine shipments being prepped after FDA approval

OLIVE BRANCH, Miss. — Initial shipments of the second COVID-19 vaccine authorized in the U.S. left a distribution center Sunday, a desperately needed boost as the nation works to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control.

The trucks left the factory in the Memphis area with the vaccine developed by Moderna Inc. and the National Institutes of Health. The much-needed shots are expected to be given starting Monday, just three days after the Food and Drug Administration authorized their emergency rollout.

Later Sunday, an expert committee will debate who should be next in line for early doses of the Moderna vaccine and a similar one from Pfizer Inc. and Germany’s BioNTech. Pfizer’s shots were first shipped out a week ago and started being used the next day, kicking off the nation’s biggest vaccination drive.

Public health experts say the shots — and others in the pipeline — are the only way to stop a virus that has been spreading wildly. Nationwide, more than 219,000 people per day on average test positive for the virus, which has killed at least 314,000 in the U.S. and upwards of 1.7 million worldwide.

Read the full story here.

11:30 a.m. Germany, Italy, other EU nations halt UK flights over fears of new coronavirus variant

BERLIN — One by one, several European Union nations banned flights from the U.K. on Sunday and others were considering similar action in a bid to block a new strain of coronavirus sweeping across southern England from establishing a strong foothold on the continent.

Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria and Italy all announced restrictions on U.K. travel, hours after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that Christmas shopping and gatherings in southern England must be canceled because of rapidly spreading infections blamed on the new coronavirus variant.

Johnson immediately put those regions into a strict new Tier 4 restriction level, upending Christmas plans for millions.

A government spokesman in Germany said Sunday that the country is working on a regulation to restrict travel between Germany and Britain to protect the country from the new coronavirus variant. The government said it was also in contact with its European partners about the travel restrictions. It wasn’t immediately clear when or for how long the restrictions would be.

Read the full story here.

9 a.m. 108 more Illinois coronavirus deaths, 7,562 new cases

Public health officials on Saturday announced 108 more Illinois residents have died of COVID-19, which has spread to an additional 7,562 residents.

The new cases were diagnosed among 96,851 tests, slightly raising the state’s average positivity rate over the last week to 8.2%.

That number still has gradually trended downward over the last month since the state hit the peak of its coronavirus resurgence in late November, along with other key metrics.

The latest caseload marked the ninth straight day with fewer than 10,000 cases reported by the Illinois Department of Public Health, while the number of hospitalized coronavirus patients has steadily declined over that period, too, down to 4,624 as of Friday night.

But the state is stuck in an unprecedented 12-day streak of reporting 100 or more deaths, the worst stretch of the pandemic. The latest victims included 55 Chicago-area residents.

Read the full story here.

7 a.m. He’s ‘good to go’: Dr. Fauci tells kids he vaccinated Santa Claus

Santa Claus may be immune to COVID-19 but he now has an extra layer of protection thanks to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert.

Fauci, who will celebrate his birthday on Christmas eve, told children watching a “Sesame Street” town hall put on by CNN Saturday that he vaccinated Kris Kringle himself.

In the clip, a masked Elmo told viewers that his friend has a question for Santa. Lucy, 8, from San Rafael, California posed a question that is troubling many children this season: ”How did Santa get the vaccine and is it safe for him to go in the house?”

Connor, 9, from Mount Holly, New Jersey, and Paxton, 6, from Geneva, Illinois, voiced the same question.

“Well, I have to say I took care of that for you because I was worried that you’d all be upset,” Fauci said in response.

Read the full story here.


New Cases


Analysis & Commentary

2:30 p.m. EDITORIAL: Move forward with reopening schools come January

The Chicago Teachers Union has tried twice to stop Chicago Public Schools from reopening in January — and has lost both times.

The latest failure came on Thursday, when the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board denied the union’s request for a preliminary injunction to halt the Jan. 4 return date for preschoolers and some special education students and staff. The union had accused CPS of violating labor law by refusing to negotiate in good faith over a safe reopening.

The loss is a huge blow to the CTU, which has been at a toxic stalemate with CPS for months over bringing students back to the classroom, even for hybrid learning that would have children in schools only part-time.

But the decision comes as good news, in our view, to the families of 77,000 students who have opted to return to in-person instruction. Remote learning, it seems, is simply not cutting it for these children’s educational and social well-being.

Read the full editorial from the Sun-Times Editorial Board here.

9 a.m. Pfleger plans NY’s Eve march to protest the ‘COVID and carnage’ that has devastated Chicago this year

It’s a case of cheer and fear.

It’s the Christmas season’s most deadly couple: COVID-19 and gun violence.

The coronavirus may have claimed the lives of 3,850 Chicagoans through the middle of this past week, but the violence of the gun has now resulted in the shooting of nearly 4,000 people in Chicago.

Gun violence, notes anti-gun activist priest Michael Pfleger, has killed nearly 750 people this year so far.

Angered by these alarming stats, Sneed is told Pfleger plans to repeat his 2016 New Year’s Eve march down North Michigan Avenue, when cross-carrying protestors draped themselves with names of Chicago’s 2016 murder victims.

Only this time Pfleger will be leading protesters carrying Chicago flag replicas riddled with bullet holes and “dripping” with blood.

“We can’t just be silent over this murderous carnage in our city,” said Pfleger, who is pastor of St. Sabina Catholic Church, located in Auburn Gresham on the South Side, which has been devastated by violence.

“The shooting deaths are now on their way to a move upwards,” he said. “These numbers are not acceptable, must not be acceptable.”

Read the full column from Michael Sneed here.