Coronavirus live blog, Dec. 9, 2020: Illinois endures its fifth-highest daily death count ahead of coronavirus vaccine’s expected arrival

Here’s Wednesday’s news on how COVID-19 is impacting Chicago and Illinois.

SHARE Coronavirus live blog, Dec. 9, 2020: Illinois endures its fifth-highest daily death count ahead of coronavirus vaccine’s expected arrival

Mayor Lori Lightfoot outlined her plan for distributing coronavirus vaccines in Chicago Wednesday, and they’ll be free to all adults working or living in the city.

Here’s what else happened in coronavirus-related news.


8:55 p.m. 179 more Illinois coronavirus deaths as infection rate drops again but hospitalizations jump

Swab samples that tested positive for COVID-19 at Simple Laboratories in Harwood Heights in April.

Swab samples that tested positive for COVID-19 at Simple Laboratories in Harwood Heights in April.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file

Days ahead of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine’s expected arrival in Illinois, the state endured its fifth-highest daily death count of the pandemic Wednesday with public health officials announcing COVID-19 has claimed 179 more lives.

And while the average statewide infection rate has fallen to its lowest point in almost five weeks, Illinois hospitals saw their biggest one-day jump in coronavirus patients since reaching an all-time high before Thanksgiving.

The latest fatalities reported by the Illinois Department of Public Health included 61 Cook County residents and 27 more from elsewhere across the Chicago area.

The daily toll of 179 trails only the spring peak of 191 and the three worst days of the pandemic, all of which have been tallied over the last week — capped by the grisly record of 238 COVID-19 deaths reported Dec. 2.

The respiratory disease has claimed 13,666 Illinois lives since early March — about 52 lives lost each day. At least 812,430 people have contracted the virus over the past nine months.

Read the full story here.

5:12 p.m. Lawmakers act to avert shutdown, buying time for COVID talks

WASHINGTON — Still spinning their wheels on COVID-19 relief, lawmakers grabbed a one-week government funding extension on Wednesday that buys time for more talks — though there is considerable disagreement over who is supposed to be taking the lead from there.

Amid the uncertainty, the House easily passed a one-week government-wide funding bill that sets a new Dec. 18 deadline for Congress to wrap up both the COVID-19 relief measure and a $1.4 trillion catchall spending bill that is also overdue. The 343-67 vote sent the one-week bill to the Senate, where it’s expected to easily pass before a deadline of midnight Friday to avert a partial government shutdown.

The measure would give lawmakers more time to sort through the hot mess they have created for themselves after months of futile negotiations and posturing and recent rounds of flip-flopping.

Top GOP leaders said the right people to handle endgame negotiations are the top four leaders of Congress and the Trump administration, focused on a proposal by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to eliminate a Democratic demand for a $160 billion or so aid package for state and local governments.

Read the full report here.

3:21 p.m. Lightfoot plans free vaccinations next year for all adults living, working in Chicago

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Wednesday outlined plans to distribute free coronavirus vaccines next year to all adults who live and work in Chicago, beginning with front-line health care workers and employees of long-term care facilities, many of whom are minorities.

If Federal Drug Administration approval goes as planned — Pfizer’s vaccine Thursday, Moderna’s next week — the Chicago Department of Public Health expects to receive 23,000 doses later this month, with additional doses every week after that.

“We’re anticipating in the month of December somewhere in the 100,000-to-150,000 range. We’re ready for twice that. We’re ready for half that,” Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady told reporters.

During the first week, the vaccine will be distributed to Chicago’s 34 hospitals to begin vaccinating “highest-risk” health care workers. That includes those treating COVID patients, or working in intensive care units.

During the second or third week, the city also anticipates rolling out vaccines to staff and residents at all 128 long-term care facilities in Chicago, including both skilled nursing and assisted care facilities.

In late December or early January, the city plans to open “mass vaccination sites,” by appointment only, for the remainder of the 400,000-strong universe of healthcare workers who are not based in hospitals.

Read the full story here.

1:07 p.m. Vaccine close, but Pritzker warns coronavirus precautions are still key: ‘All I can say is that the virus is deadly.’


Emilio Cici, 42, of Burr Ridge, gets a shot as he participates in a clinical trial for a COVID-19 vaccine developed by UK drugmaker AstraZeneca in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Rush University Medical Center, Thursday afternoon, Nov. 19, 2020.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

As Illinois’ coronavirus numbers took another step in the right direction Tuesday, Gov J.B. Pritzker touted the promising early reviews of the COVID-19 vaccine that could start being administered to health care workers across the state as early as next week.

But with daily death counts stuck in the triple digits and a potential post-Thanksgiving spike still looming, the governor warned against complacency in the face of the deadly virus — even with the vaccine in sight.

Once the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gives emergency use authorization to the Pfizer vaccine as expected Thursday, an independent state panel will also have to sign off for distribution in Illinois. But the governor’s health team made clear that the first shipment of the 95%-effective inoculation will be cast across Illinois in short order.

“Illinois will only distribute a vaccine that is deemed safe, and we are one of many states that have established additional review panels,” Pritzker said. “We all want to make sure this vaccine is safe, and additional sets of eyes on the evidence can only be helpful.”

Read the full story from Mitchell Armentrout here.

12:16 p.m. Big Ten expected to let Ohio State play for title

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Big Ten athletic directors support removing the conference’s six-game minimum requirement for teams to be eligible to play for the league championship, and a vote is expected Wednesday to make it official.

Removing the minimum would clear the way for No. 3 Ohio State (5-0) to play in the Big Ten championship game on Dec. 19 against No. 15 Northwestern.

A person with knowledge of the Big Ten’s discussions told The Associated Press on Wednesday that before the rule can officially be changed it must be voted on by ADs, senior women’s administrators and presidents.

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the Big Ten was not making its internal discussions public.

The conference determined before the season that teams would have to play six of their eight scheduled games to qualify for the championship game. But Ohio State — No. 4 in the College Football Playoff rankings and the conference’s best team — has missed three games because of COVID-19 issues, leaving it one short.

Read the full story here.

11:42 a.m. Canada health regulator approves Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine

TORONTO — Canada’s health regulator on Wednesday approved Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

Health Canada posted on it is website that the vaccine made by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech is authorized.

“Canadians can feel confident that the review process was rigorous and that we have strong monitoring systems in place. Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada will closely monitor the safety of the vaccine once it is on the market and will not hesitate to take action if any safety concerns are identified,” Health Canada said in a statement.

Canada is set to receive up to 249,000 doses this month and 4 million doses of the vaccine by March.

The department said the vaccine is for use in people 16 years of age or older, but noted Pfizer-BioNTech are running further clinical trials on children of all age groups and that could change.

Read the full story here.

11:40 a.m. UK probing if allergic reactions linked to Pfizer vaccine

LONDON — British regulators warned Wednesday that people who have a history of serious allergic reactions shouldn’t receive the new Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as they investigate two adverse reactions that occurred on the first day of the country’s mass vaccination program.

The U.K.’s Medical and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency is looking into whether the reactions were linked to the vaccine. The two people affected were staff members with the National Health Service who had a history of allergies, and both are recovering. Authorities have not specified what their reactions were.

In the meantime, the regulator has issued the warning for anyone who has had a significant allergic reaction to a vaccine, medicine or food. That includes anyone who has been told to carry an adrenaline shot or others who have had potentially fatal allergic reactions.

“As is common with new vaccines the MHRA have advised on a precautionary basis that people with a significant history of allergic reactions do not receive this vaccination after two people with a history of significant allergic reactions responded adversely yesterday,’’ Professor Stephen Powis, medical director for the NHS in England, said in a statement. “Both are recovering well.”

Read the full story here.

9:09 a.m. The thing about death in the year 2020 is ... it’s not limited to COVID-19

The thing about death in the year 2020 is ... it’s not limited to COVID-19.

In the year of COVID, people you love make their transitions the same way — socially distanced, with much time since you saw or even talked to them last, their passing a jolt to your isolation-addled consciousness, memories left to fade like beautiful ghosts.

And so it was this weekend, when news came of the passing of two beloved members of my church family, from cancer, on the same day, Dec. 3. Gloria Woods and Nathan Clark were also members of my smaller, close-knit sub-family, Evanston Area Black Catholics, Inc.

COVID has created a new lifestyle. We are isolated, adapting to executing our own everyday work and family obligations under the fears and anxiety 2020 has wrought.

COVID deaths occur in hospitals that are locked down by a coronavirus cloaked as the grim reaper. It shuts out loved ones and our opportunity to say goodbye.

But death is still our eventual destination, and COVID hasn’t changed that.

Read the full story from Maudlyne Ihejirika here.

New Cases

Analysis & Commentary

3:20 p.m. ‘Sweet gentle soul’ holes up in his room with flu-like symptoms — dies on the way to the hospital

Xavier P. Gaines made his living as an armed security guard but loved working on computers and playing video games, dreaming he might one day have a chance to design his own games.

Gaines lived at home with his mom, kept to himself and stayed out of trouble. In fact, he’d never been in any trouble.

Gaines was only 26 when he landed on this week’s Cook County medical examiner’s list of COVID-19 victims.

He died Dec. 2, his heart giving out as he struggled to breathe just moments after walking down the steps of his West Pullman home — before he could get to the hospital.

“He died in front of my house, in the ambulance,” his mother, Nicky Reynolds, told me between tears.

Gaines was a big man. Maybe 6 foot tall, 365 to 375 pounds, his family said.

The Medical Examiner’s office listed “morbid obesity” as a contributing factor in his death.

Some families would prefer I gloss over that part, knowing that people can be judgmental. But the deadly coronavirus is particularly dangerous to those who are overweight, and I’ve come across it often enough at this point to know it’s a factor that should be emphasized, not hidden.

Read the full column from Mark Brown here.

9:11 a.m. Are Americans insufficiently alarmed by COVID-19?

Last month, researchers in Texas estimated that nearly 5 million of the state’s residents had been infected by the COVID-19 virus — more than four times as many as the official tally of confirmed cases suggested.

Although the gap implied that the virus was much less deadly than people initially feared, the Houston Chronicle framed the prevalence estimate as bad news.

That choice reflects a broader pattern in American press coverage of the pandemic, which tends to accentuate the negative, exaggerate risk and ignore encouraging information. The result is not just depressing but misleading and potentially counterproductive as Americans are told to keep up their guard against the virus during the winter they will have to get through before vaccines are widely available.

Based on an analysis of news stories about COVID-19 that appeared from Jan. 1 through July 31, Dartmouth economist Bruce Sacerdote and two other researchers found that 91% of the coverage by major U.S. media outlets was “negative in tone.” The rate was substantially lower in leading scientific journals (65%) and foreign news sources (54%).

Read the full column from Jacob Sullum here.

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