Coronavirus live blog, Feb. 8, 2021: Illinois logs lowest COVID-19 daily caseload since early October

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

SHARE Coronavirus live blog, Feb. 8, 2021: Illinois logs lowest COVID-19 daily caseload since early October

Monday’s new coronavirus cases mark the first time since October that Illinois has seen a daily case count in the thousands.

That’s good news for the state. Here’s what else happened in coronavirus-related news.


8:55 p.m. Illinois logs 1,747 new COVID-19 cases, 35 deaths


A worker helps residents perform a COVID-19 test at a test site in Chicago.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

State public health officials reported 1,747 new and probable cases of the coronavirus Monday as well as 35 deaths, continuing a trend of lower daily case counts at levels Illinois hasn’t seen since early fall.

As of Sunday night, 2,161 people with COVID-19 were reported to be in hospitals. Of those, 469 patients were in intensive care units and 251 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.

The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity rate for cases is 3.3%, health officials said.

Monday’s new cases mark the first time since October the state has seen a daily case count in the thousands; on Oct. 6, the state logged 1,617 new cases.

The 35 deaths reported Monday are the lowest daily toll since Jan. 19, when the state reported 33 deaths. Monday’s figures bring the state’s death toll to 19,668.

Read Rachel Hinton’s full story here.

7:18 p.m. CTU delegates meet to vote on CPS reopening proposal

The Chicago Teachers Union’s governing body is set to convene Monday evening to decide whether to tentatively accept the latest school reopening terms proposed by Chicago Public Schools.

If the 600-member House of Delegates approves a tentative deal, a rank-and-file vote among the union’s 25,000 members would likely be held the next day to officially end the standoff with district officials and start the resumption of in-person learning for up to 67,000 students.

Under the plan delegates will weigh at their 6 p.m. virtual meeting, at least 2,000 vaccine doses will be offered to preschool and special education cluster program staff this week, with their students scheduled to return to schools Thursday. Kindergarten through 5th grade staff would return Feb. 22 followed by their students March 1; 6th to 8th grade staff would go back March 1, and their students return March 8. High school students are also not currently scheduled to return in person.

If the deal is approved, the city will begin vaccinating 1,500 CPS workers each week at sites specifically for CPS employees later this month. Priority will be given to employees returning to work sooner, as well as those who are at higher risk due to age or demographics.

Reporter Nader Issa has the full story.

5:27 p.m. UN: ‘Concerning news’ vaccines may not work against variants

GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization said Monday the emergence of new COVID-19 variants has raised questions about whether or not existing vaccines will work, calling it “concerning news” that the vaccines developed so far may be less effective against the variant first detected in South Africa.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a media briefing that South Africa’s decision on Sunday to suspend its vaccination campaign using the AstraZeneca vaccine is “a reminder that we need to do everything we can to reduce circulation of the virus with proven public health measures.”

He said it was increasingly clear that vaccine manufacturers would need to tweak their existing shots to address the ongoing genetic evolution of the coronavirus, saying booster shots would most likely be necessary, especially since new variants of the virus are now spreading globally and appear likely to become the predominant strains.

Read the full story here.

4:10 p.m. Vaccine drive gains speed, but maskless fans fuel worries

The drive to vaccinate Americans against the coronavirus is gaining speed and newly recorded cases have fallen to their lowest level in three months, but authorities worry that raucous Super Bowl celebrations could fuel new outbreaks.

More than 4 million more vaccinations were reported over the weekend, a significantly faster clip than in previous days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nearly one in 10 Americans have now received at least one shot. But just 2.9% of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated, a long way from the 70% or more that experts say must be inoculated to conquer the outbreak.

Newly confirmed infections have declined to an average of 117,000 a day, the lowest point since early November. That is a steep drop from the peak of nearly 250,000 a day in early January.

The number of Americans in the hospital with COVID-19 has also fallen sharply to about 81,000, down from more than 130,000 last month.

Read the full story here.

12:21 p.m. New variants raise worry about COVID-19 virus reinfections

Evidence is mounting that having COVID-19 may not protect against getting infected again with some of the new variants. People also can get second infections with earlier versions of the coronavirus if they mounted a weak defense the first time, new research suggests.

How long immunity lasts from natural infection is one of the big questions in the pandemic. Scientists still think reinfections are fairly rare and usually less serious than initial ones, but recent developments around the world have raised concerns.

In South Africa, a vaccine study found new infections with a variant in 2% of people who previously had an earlier version of the virus.

In the United States, a study found that 10% of Marine recruits who had evidence of prior infection and repeatedly tested negative before starting basic training were later infected again. That work was done before the new variants began to spread, said one study leader, Dr. Stuart Sealfon of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.

“Previous infection does not give you a free pass,” he said. “A substantial risk of reinfection remains.”

Read the full story here.

11:55 a.m. South Africa seeks new vaccine plan after halting AstraZeneca

JOHANNESBURG — South Africa is considering giving a COVID-19 vaccine that is still in the testing phase to health workers, after suspending the rollout of another shot that preliminary data indicated may be only minimally effective against the mutated form of the virus dominating the country.

The country was scrambling Monday to come up with a new vaccination strategy after it halted use of the AstraZeneca vaccine — which is cheaper and easier to handle than some others and which many had hoped would be crucial to combatting the pandemic in developing countries. Among the possibilities being considered: mixing the AstraZeneca vaccine with another one or giving Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine, which has not yet been authorized for use anywhere, to 100,000 health care workers while monitoring its efficacy against the variant.

The abrupt change in strategy was prompted by preliminary results in a small study that showed the AstraZeneca vaccine was only minimally effective against mild to moderate cases of the disease caused by the variant.

Read the full story here.

10:05 a.m. Tampa mayor frustrated by maskless fans after Super Bowl

TAMPA, Fla. — So much for the mayor’s order requiring masks at Super Bowl parties. Throngs of mostly maskless fans took to the streets and packed sports bars as the clock inside Raymond James Stadium ticked down on a hometown Super Bowl win for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“It is a little frustrating because we have worked so hard,” Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said during a Monday morning news conference with the Super Bowl Host Committee. “At this point in dealing with COVID-19, there is a level of frustration when you see that.”

Some 200,000 masks were handed out ahead of the game, and “a majority” of people and businesses followed the rules, she said.

Read the complete story here.

8:15 a.m. Illinois records 2,060 new COVID-19 cases, 48 additional deaths on Sunday

Illinois on Sunday recorded its smallest daily COVID-19 caseload in four months.

State health officials announced 2,060 new probable and confirmed coronavirus cases, the fewest reported in a single day since Oct. 6. The new cases were found among a batch of 81,550 tests processed by the Illinois Department of Public Health in the last 24 hours for a daily positivity rate of about 2.5%.

Illinois averaged 2,862 new cases each day through the first week of February. That’s a 55% decline from the first week of January when the state averaged about 6,379 new cases per day.

The state’s infection rates also have been on a steady decline over the last month.

After peaking at 8.6% in early January, the statewide seven-day positivity rate is down to 3.4%, the lowest that figure has been since early October. In the last week, that figure, which indicates how rapidly the virus is spreading, has fallen 0.5%.

Read Madeline Kenney’s full story here.

7 a.m. Local artist aims to ‘Protect Little Village’ with public art that celebrates mask wearing

Silvia Morales detested creating art as a child, and she probably would still feel that way today if not for an art teacher in high school.

“That teacher helped me find that I not only had a passion in something I thought I hated, but she showed me I had a future career in it,” Morales said.

Now, the 20-year-old herself is pursuing a career in art education at the University of Illinois at Chicago and is beginning to make a name for herself in Little Village’s public art scene.

Morales’ work largely is commentary on social injustices and the need for unity among Black and Brown people on the Southwest Side. Her first major mural was painted with her own students outside Ald. Mike Rodriguez’s (22nd) office and calls for harmony between Little Village and Lawndale residents.

“The mural is kind of, in a way, a message for accountability to ourselves and the need to build unification beyond the divide we constructed between us over the years,” Morales said. “It came about because of the struggles that came from the summer of civil unrest that we were going through not just locally but nationally.”

Read Manny Ramos’ full story here.

Analysis & Commentary

5:27 p.m. An NFL lesson: Masks were not seen as sign of weakness but as sign of responsibility

Last night, millions of people across the world watched the Tampa Bay Buccaneers win the Super Bowl over the Kansas City Chiefs. They saw great athletes performing at the top of their profession. They saw a game marked by hard tackling and blocking, fierce runs and complex plays. It was a big night with a big audience. The obvious question is how was the National Football League able to pull off playing the season with 32 teams and then the playoffs and the big game in the midst of a pandemic?

To even have a season and a Super Bowl, Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL leadership must be applauded for their acts of bold and clear direction. The League elaborated clear rules, and then tightened them in response to what they learned.

They required daily testing of the players and staff, conducting more than 1 million tests for COVID-19. That allowed discovery of any infections early and imposition of isolation before the virus spread to others.

Read the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s full column here.

1:31 p.m. COVID-19 burdens ‘child care deserts’

Families have to navigate through a complicated maze to find child care that meets their needs. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated parents’ struggles to find safe, affordable care, pushing women out of the workforce. While this is a challenge for families throughout the city, informational barriers to accessing care disproportionately impact communities of color. Further complicating this issue, Latino families in particular tend to live in communities considered “child care deserts” with insufficient child care. They also encounter barriers to enrollment.

Our research team recently had the opportunity to learn about this issue directly from Latina mothers. A Little Village mother explained to us that she had never seen a child care center in her neighborhood. Another said, “Everybody right here is like, ‘Oh, my kids didn’t go to Head Start’ Because there’s nothing close.” The limited supply of child care in Latino communities, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, pushes mothers out of the labor market and their families into poverty.

Not only is there a limited supply of formal child care in Latino communities, but families also lack information about the programs that do exist. Child care providers do not have uniform eligibility requirements, wait list protocols, locations, schedules, costs, curricula, languages, class sizes, safety guidelines, and supports, which make it more difficult for parents to understand their options. Even within individual programs, eligibility requirements and costs are complicated by braided funding streams.

Read the full commentary here.

7 a.m. Making a list, getting ready to make up for lost time, which can’t come soon enough

There’s an Italian restaurant we like on Ogden Avenue in Clarendon Hills called ZaZa’s. It’s nothing fancy, just good food.

Even in normal times, we don’t get to ZaZa’s often because it’s quite a hike from where we live now in the city. With the virus, it’s been at least a year since we’ve eaten there.

One of ZaZa’s specialties is something they call Pesce Bianco al Spinaci, which the menu describes as “whitefish roasted with extra virgin olive oil, capers, lemon and white wine, served with a side of fire-roasted spinach.”

It’s soooo good. The fish. The sauce. I can’t stop thinking about it lately.

I’ve pretty much decided to put it at the top of The List.

You know, The List — all the things you want to do when this is finally over.

Surely, you have one by now, if only in your head.

At this point, it’s not so much a matter of whether you’re thinking about what you’re going to do when the pandemic winds down as whether you can think about anything else. That can be a problem, of course, because, even with the vaccines, we’ve still got a long ways to go.

Read the full column from Mark Brown here.

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