Coronavirus live blog, Feb. 10, 2021: Illinoisans with diabetes, cancer, heart disease or disabilities eligible for COVID-19 vaccines

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

SHARE Coronavirus live blog, Feb. 10, 2021: Illinoisans with diabetes, cancer, heart disease or disabilities eligible for COVID-19 vaccines

Beginning Feb. 25, all Illinois residents with underlying health conditions or disabilities are expected to be eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Wednesday.

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


News

8:55 p.m. All Illinoisans with underlying health conditions to be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines Feb. 25

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Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Beginning Feb. 25, all Illinois residents with underlying health conditions or disabilities are expected to be eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Wednesday.

That will include people with diabetes, those who have or had cancer, COPD or heart disease, Pritzker said after touring a new mass vaccination site in Quincy.

The expansion of Illinois’ Phase 1B distribution plan follows CDC guidelines for vaccinating people with such underlying conditions, the Democratic governor said.

For now, about 4 million of the state’s 12.7 million residents have been given the green light to sign up for shots — if they’re able to track down an appointment to get one of the coveted doses that remain in short supply.

Read the full story from Mitchell Armentrout here.


6:52 p.m. Taxing time: How the pandemic will affect filing your taxes

The pandemic has made everything a bit trickier — tax filing season is no exception.

The whole process is starting a bit later this year and there are a few wrinkles to be aware of for those who received unemployment benefits, worked from home, took on gig work, were a victim of fraud — or faced other issues common to 2020.

The IRS will begin accepting tax returns on Feb. 12.

Read the full report here to see what you need to know about filing your taxes for 2020.

1:50 p.m. CDC study: two masks are better than one vs. COVID-19

NEW YORK — U.S. government researchers found that two masks are better than one in slowing coronavirus spread, but health officials stopped short of recommending that everyone double up.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday reported the results of a lab experiment that spaced two artificial heads 6 feet from each other and checked to see how many coronavirus-sized particles spewed by one were inhaled by the other.

The researchers found that wearing one mask — surgical or cloth — blocked around 40% of the particles coming toward the head that was breathing in. When a cloth mask was worn on top of a surgical mask, about 80% were blocked.

When both the exhaling and inhaling heads were double-masked, more than 95% of the particles were blocked, said the CDC’s Dr. John Brooks.

Read the full story here.

11:31 a.m. Lightfoot offers Chicago restaurants some relief, but trade group calls it a ‘baby step’

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Patrons enjoy lunch indoors Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021, at Gibsons Italia restaurant in Chicago.

AP Photos

Chicago restaurants fighting for survival after twice being forced to stop serving diners indoors are getting a bit of a reprieve, but it’s only what Illinois Restaurant Association President Sam Toia calls a “baby step.”

Instead of raising indoor capacity from 25% to 50%, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration is “turning the dimmer switch” — by freezing capacity at 25% but allowing Chicago restaurants to serve 50 people “per room,” up from 25 people per room currently.

“Take a restaurant like Gene & Georgetti’s. There, you have about four different rooms. Two rooms upstairs. Two rooms downstairs. So they probably could get 50 people in each of their rooms and get to about 200 people,” Toia said.

The problem with the mayor’s go-slow approach is that it penalizes neighborhood restaurants with only one dining room, Toia said.

“It’s a baby step. We would like to be at, straight-out 40 or 50 percent capacity with no limits on rooms. However, the mayor and Dr.[Allison] Arwady does not want to move that fast that quick,” Toia said, referring to the city’s health commissioner.

Read Fran Spielman’s full story here.

11:20 a.m. A third of US adults skeptical of COVID shots: AP-NORC poll

NEW YORK — About 1 in 3 Americans say they definitely or probably won’t get the COVID-19 vaccine, according to a new poll that some experts say is discouraging news if the U.S. hopes to achieve herd immunity and vanquish the outbreak.

The poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that while 67% of Americans plan to get vaccinated or have already done so, 15% are certain they won’t and 17% say probably not. Many expressed doubts about the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness.

The poll suggests that substantial skepticism persists more than a month and a half into a U.S. vaccination drive that has encountered few if any serious side effects. Resistance was found to run higher among younger people, people without college degrees, Black Americans and Republicans.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s leading infectious-disease scientist, has estimated that somewhere between 70% and 85% of the U.S. population needs to get inoculated to stop the scourge that has killed close to 470,000 Americans. More recently, he said the spread of more contagious variants of the virus increases the need for more people to get their shots — and quickly.

So is 67% of Americans enough?

Read the full story here.

8:23 a.m. CTU members approve CPS reopening deal, sending tens of thousands of students and teachers back to schools

Chicago Teachers Union members have accepted school reopening terms offered by Chicago Public Schools, ending a monthslong standoff with district officials and setting the nation’s third-largest school system on a path to bring back tens of thousands of students and teachers to classrooms.

The deal puts school workers on a fast track for vaccines, creates health and safety standards and committees for over 500 schools, lays out a comprehensive testing plan and delays the return of most students until March — all measures the union pushed for in protracted negotiations.

“The vast majority of CPS families have been separated from their schools for nearly a year, and the ratification of our agreement ensures families have options to choose in-person learning and make a plan that is best for them,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS chief Janice Jackson said in a joint statement Wednesday morning.

“We look forward to welcoming students as they return to their classrooms in the days ahead. ... Our schools are fully prepared to safely welcome back students beginning tomorrow, and we are eager to provide additional support for the families who need more than remote learning can provide.”

Read Nader Issa’s full story here.


New cases


Analysis and commentary

9:55 a.m. From Groundhog Day to Christmas morning: Getting vaccine a real shot in the arm for the COVID-19 blues

I’d been on hold a while, but probably no longer than 15 minutes, before a woman from the Cook County Public Health vaccination scheduling helpline answered the phone.

It had required dozens of calls and trips to the website to get through this far, but I’d made it to the same stage two previous times in the past week, so my expectations were low.

The two previous occasions I’d been politely told they didn’t have any more vaccine appointments “at this time” and was advised to try back later.

So, when the woman answered the phone Monday, and I asked if she had any openings, I’m sure my tone of voice sounded more defeatist than hopeful.

But then she said: “Could you do 1:30 p.m. tomorrow in Tinley Park?’’

I almost jumped out of my chair.

Of course, I could do 1:30 p.m. in Tinley Park. I could do 1:30 a.m. if they wanted, not that I offered.

For minutes afterward, I was stunned. What was this strange feeling I was experiencing? Relief? Happiness? Yes, happiness. It had been a while.

Keep reading Mark Brown’s column on getting the COVID-19 vaccine here.

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