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Coronavirus live blog April 30, 2021: Falling vaccine demand marks latest challenge in pandemic

The latest news on how COVID-19 is impacting Chicago and Illinois.

News

TOP STORY: Daily COVID-19 vaccinations nosedive across Illinois: ‘We’re doing everything that we can to reach out’

Dr. Marina Del Rios, from University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System, gets her 2nd and final dose of the vaccination at Norwegian American Hospital Jan. 5, 2021. Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file

Almost a third of all Illinois residents are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19 — but the number of people signing up for shots each day has dipped by almost a third over the past three weeks.

Residents were racing to snatch up the coveted shot appointments a month ago, and just as they’ve become readily available statewide, “there are just fewer people that are seeking it out,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Friday.

The latest challenge in the pandemic of falling vaccine demand is one the governor’s health team anticipated, and now must zero in on to bring the state closer to herd immunity.

“It’s a national trend, as we’ve reached somewhere in the 50-60% range of vaccinations among our 16-plus population,” Pritzker said during a news conference in downstate Centreville, near East St. Louis.

Read the complete story by Mitchell Armentrout here.

6 p.m. Anxiety drove short-term vaccine reactions in 5 states: US officials

NEW YORK — It was anxiety — and not a problem with the shots — that caused reactions in dozens of people at coronavirus vaccine clinics in five states, U.S. health officials have concluded.

Experts say the clusters detailed Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are an example of a phenomenon that’s been chronicled for decades from a variety of different vaccines. Basically, some people get so freaked out by injections that their anxiety spurs a physical reaction.

“We knew we were going to see this” as mass COVID-19 vaccine clinics were set up around the world, said Dr. Noni MacDonald, a Canadian researcher who has studied similar incidents.

Read the complete story here.

4:30 p.m. Marriage ceremonies in Cook County can be conducted on Zoom starting Monday

Couples looking to tie the knot before a Cook County judge can do so starting Monday via a live-streamed Zoom ceremony, Chief Judge Timothy Evans’ office announced Friday.

Ceremonies conducted via telephone are also an option for couples without access to Zoom.

Couples can also get married in person, but they might have to wait since ceremonies are currently booked through May.

Read the complete story here

3:40 p.m. Brazil backs away from the virus brink as deaths top 400,000

RIO DE JANEIRO — For most of this month, intensive care units across Brazil were at or near capacity amid a crush of COVID-19 patients, and sedatives needed to intubate patients dwindled. The nation’s biggest cemetery had so many corpses to bury that gravediggers worked hours past sundown.

But Brazil has stepped back from the edge — at least for now — as burial and hospital services no longer face collapse. It has ceased to be the virus’ global epicenter, as its death toll ebbed and was overtaken by India’s surge. Experts warn, however, that the situation remains precarious, and caution is warranted.

The number of states with ICU capacity above 90% has slipped to 10, from 17 a month ago, according to data from the state-run Fiocruz medical research institute. And nighttime burials at Vila Formosa and three other cemeteries in Sao Paulo were suspended Thursday, after two weeks of declining deaths.

Read the complete story here.

2:50 p.m. March US incomes surge as relief rolls out, spending jumps

WASHINGTON — U.S. consumer spending rose at the fastest pace in nine months while incomes soared by a record amount in March, reflecting billions of dollars in government support payments aimed at putting the country firmly on the road to recovery.

Consumer spending rose 4.2% last month, the Commerce Department said Friday, the best showing since a 6.5% spending increase in June. Spending had fallen 1% in February as frigid winter weather disrupted sales.

Incomes surged by a record-breaking 21.1% in March after having fallen 7% in February. The big gain reflected delivery of billions of dollars in relief payments with individuals getting up to $1,400 payments from the $1.9 trillion support package President Joe Biden pushed through Congress last month.

Read the complete story here.

2 p.m. US to restrict travel from India over COVID starting Tuesday

WASHINGTON — The U.S. will restrict travel from India starting on May 4, the White House said Friday, citing a devastating rise in COVID-19 cases in the country and the emergence of potentially dangerous variants of the coronavirus.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden’s administration made the determination on the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Read the complete story here.

1:05 p.m. US closes in on 100 million Americans fully vaccinated

Disneyland reopened on Friday and New York’s mayor predicted the big city will be up and running again at full strength by July 1, as the number of Americans fully vaccinated against COVID-19 closed in on 100 million.

Visitors cheered and screamed with delight as the Southern California theme park swung open its gates for the first time in 13 months in a powerful symbol of the U.S. rebound, even though the self-proclaimed Happiest Place on Earth is allowing only in-state guests for now and operating at just 25% capacity.

The reopening and similar steps elsewhere around the country reflect increasing optimism as COVID-19 deaths tumble and the ranks of the vaccinated grow — a stark contrast to the worsening disaster in India and Brazil and the scant availability of vaccines in many poor parts of the world.

While the overall number of lives lost to COVID-19 in the U.S. has eclipsed 575,000, deaths have plummeted to an average of about 670 per day from a peak of around 3,400 in mid-January.

Read the complete story here.

12:10 p.m. Scarred by pandemic, labor and allies mourn, then mobilize

As May Day 2021 approached, registered nurse Kathy Haff thought about the trials she and co-workers have faced over the past year and was moved to speak out.

Haff, who works at Community First Medical Center in Portage Park, wrote down her thoughts about three co-workers who succumbed to COVID-19. She touched on their humor, professionalism and generosity.

In a local observation of the International Workers’ Memorial Day, Haff talked Wednesday about her late colleagues during an online prayer service memorializing those who have died. Her point wasn’t to elevate them above others being remembered but to address the grief and sense of injustice that inhabits many workplaces because of the pandemic.

Haff told the Chicago Sun-Times the deaths shook the small hospital’s staff, where workers have organized with the National Nurses United union and pressed administrators to provide more personal protective equipment. “We finally have a voice with the union and the hospital isn’t happy because we’re airing their dirty laundry. They’re oblivious,” she said.

Read the full story by David Roeder here.

11:30 a.m. Response to coronavirus outbreak ‘inefficient and chaotic’ at LaSalle Veterans’ Home where 36 died, report finds

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Consistent statewide procedures and ongoing drills that target infection response and other emergencies will be routine at Illinois veterans’ homes after COVID-19 caught the LaSalle Veterans’ Home unprepared and claimed 36 lives last fall, the state’s newly appointed director said.

Terry Prince, a 31-year Navy veteran and former senior adviser to the U.S. Surgeon General, has issued a six-point plan for improving readiness at the state’s veterans’ homes in Anna, Manteno, Quincy and LaSalle. The plan follows a blistering investigative report that laid out a string of miscommunications, lax policy and missed opportunities when the pandemic hit the home in LaSalle, 94 miles west of Chicago.

The report by the inspector general of the Illinois Department of Human Services, released Friday, noted that despite escaping all traces of the deadly respiratory illness for eight months after it entered Illinois, there was little done to devise protocols for preventing or managing infections. After the first four cases were reported Nov. 1, the virus spread to 60 residents and 43 employees as confused staff operated in an environment that was “inefficient, reactive and chaotic,” the report said.

Read the complete story here.

10:45 a.m. Blackhawks excited for fans’ return to United Center, albeit for only 2 games

Four players in the Blackhawks’ lineup Thursday have never played in front of fans at the United Center.

Four others have never done so as a member of the Hawks. Another three have done so only once. That adds up to 11 players — more than half the team.

But come May 9 and 10 against the Stars, the last two games of the regular season, that will change. The City of Chicago announced Thursday the UC can be filled to 25% capacity starting with the Bulls’ May 7 game, although Hawks spokesperson said the Hawks would actually have around 20% capacity — approximately 4,000 fans.

Read the full story by Ben Pope here.

9:15 a.m. State Senate sends Pritzker COVID-19 relief bill designed to ‘keep people in the state of Illinois in their homes’

SPRINGFIELD — A bill distributing $1.4 billion of federal relief to those in need of COVID-19 emergency housing assistance was sent to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk on Thursday over Republican objections that the measure does not target those who are in real need of help.

“This bill essentially is trying to keep people in the state of Illinois in their homes,” said state Sen. Omar Aquino, the bill’s sponsor. “It tries to prioritize and surgically utilize the one-time money that we’re getting from the federal government to assist those people that truly need it the most.”

The bill “prioritizes disproportionately affected areas” based on “positive COVID-19 cases” or by “a history of homelessness,” according to the Near Northwest Side Democrat.

But state Sen. Jason Barickman said the money does not go to those who need it the most because it prioritizes “not based on their individual circumstances but based on the ZIP code in which they live.”

Read the complete story here.

8 a.m. Fans allowed at Bulls, Blackhawks games as Chicago continues to ease restrictions

With two million vaccine doses administered and health metrics improving, Mayor Lori Lightfoot is reopening Chicago a little bit more — this time to let restaurants and theaters serve more patrons and allow fans inside the United Center for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

The new Phase Four rules, effective immediately, allow the Bulls and Blackhawks to close their seasons before roughly 5,250 fans per game — 25% of the United Center’s capacity.

The Blackhawks play at home Thursday and Saturday against the Florida Panthers, then finish their regular-season home schedule with two games in May. The Bulls have a home game Friday, the first of six regular-season games left.

That 25% rule also applies to Wrigley Field, Guaranteed Rate Field and Soldier Field, an increase from the current 20%. The 25% also includes churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship.

Restaurants and bars can increase indoor capacity to 50% or 100 people, whichever is less. The cap had been 50% or 50 people.

Meetings, conferences and conventions held at large indoor venues like McCormick Place now can operate at 25% capacity or 250 people, whichever is less.

Festivals and, what the city calls “general admission outdoor spectator events” get the green light to welcome 15 people for every 1,000 square feet.

The same rules apply to flea markets, which can operate at 25% capacity.

Fran Spielman has the full story here.

7:15 a.m. Shot, please! Preckwinkle pushes vaccinations for restaurant workers as indoor capacity expands

Public health officials in Cook County are serving up COVID-19 vaccines to bar and restaurant workers as the suburbs follow in lockstep with Chicago’s latest round of eased coronavirus restrictions.

Mondays in May will be designated “restaurant days” at the county’s six suburban mass vaccination sites, Cook County Board Presidents Toni Preckwinkle announced Thursday.

Anyone can sign up for an appointment or walk up to the six sites in Tinley Park, Matteson, River Grove, South Holland, Des Plaines or Forest Park. But officials want to vaccinate as many of the “essential heroes” in the hospitality industry as possible with indoor capacity expanding to the lesser of 50% or 100 people per room.

“Restaurant staff people worked tirelessly, even as they were asked to pivot to new roles to meet new demands, even as hours were cut, doors were closed, and their own life livelihoods were in jeopardy,” Preckwinkle said. “Now we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and people are returning toward cafes and restaurants for a sense of normal normalcy and camaraderie that we all have craved.”

An estimated 20% of restaurants statewide won’t survive the pandemic, according to Illinois Restaurant Association President Sam Toia, shuttering about 5,000 businesses and leaving more than 100,000 out of work.

Mitchell Armentrout has the full story here.


New cases and vaccination rates

  • A total of 3,394 new cases of COVID-19 and 38 additional deaths were reported by Illinois health officials Thursday.
  • The latest cases were among 89,057 specimens tested over the last 24 hours, bringing the state’s positivity rate to 4%, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
  • A total of 107,689 vaccine doses were administered in the state Thursday, health officials said. An average of 97,434 vaccine doses have been administered per day over the last week.
  • Since the pandemic began, over 1.3 million people in Illinois have tested positive for COVID-19 and 21,927 have died, officials said.

Analysis & Commentary

2 p.m. The birds have been helping us through this pandemic. Let’s help them

During the COVID-19 pandemic, birds enriched the lives of many Illinoisans who saw them out their windows or when going for a walk

Now Illinois should do something to help the birds.

Last month, Virginia became the first state to restore protections for migratory birds from unintended but predictable killings resulting from human activities. Such so-called “incidental take” will be banned under a regulation approved by the state’s Department of Wildlife Resources.

Illinois should adopt a similar rule.

Read the full Editorial by the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board here.