A day earlier, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said llinois expects to begin administering an average of 100,000 doses per day by mid-March. He said the increase is based on “public commitments from the White House and from vaccine manufacturers.”
At the same time, Illinois is expanding COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to people under age 65 with health conditions starting Thursday, but it likely will be difficult for Chicago-area residents to find shots in coming days. Here’s why.
Here’s what’s happening Thursday with COVID-19 in the Chicago area and Illinois:
7 p.m. (update): Senate parliamentarian says Dems’ minimum wage hike must be dropped from COVID-19 bill
The Senate parliamentarian has dealt a potentially lethal blow to Democrats’ drive to hike the minimum wage, deciding that the cherished progressive goal must fall from a massive COVID-19 relief bill the party is trying to speed through Congress, Democratic Senate aides said Thursday.
The finding by Elizabeth MacDonough, the chamber’s nonpartisan arbiter of its rules, comes as Democrats prepare for House approval Friday of an initial version of the $1.9 trillion package that still includes the minimum wage boost.
It also forces Democrats to make politically painful choices about what to do next on the minimum wage, which has long caused internal party rifts.
The Senate aides confirmed the parliamentarian’s decision to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because it hadn’t yet been released.
4:20 p.m.: Illinois administers record 130K plus vaccines, as expansion of eligibility opens outside of Chicago and Cook County
A record 130,021 coronavirus vaccine doses were administered in Illinois on Wednesday, public health officials reported, reaching a statewide total of 2,440,950. The previous daily record was 95,375 doses, administered Feb. 12.
The milestone comes as Illinoisans outside Cook County who are younger than 65 and have preexisting health conditions are now eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine as part of the state’s 1B+ phase.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the expansion earlier this month, though Chicago and Cook County opted not to join the state in expanding phase 1B, saying that the move would make it more difficult for those already eligible to secure vaccine appointments. About 3 million people statewide would qualify under the expansion.
“As states and cities across the country expand eligibility for the vaccine, it’s vital that the most medically vulnerable like those with heart disease, lung disease and cancer have access to the vaccine, regardless of their age,” the governor said in a statement.
Officials said the expansion is in line with guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The list of eligible conditions include cancer, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, pregnancy and heart conditions.
The Chicago Department of Public Health put out a statement Thursday reiterating its position that the city does not receive enough vaccine to expand eligibility.
“If Chicago expanded eligibility, it would add hundreds of thousands of more people seeking vaccine in Chicago, without increasing the amount of available vaccine. This would mean those currently eligible, including seniors, front line essential workers and those in our most heavily COVID-burdened communities, would have an even harder time getting a vaccine,” the statement read. “We are working to get as many people vaccinated as quickly and efficiently as possible.”
3:28 p.m.: United Center to serve as mass vaccination site: sources
The United Center will be a mass vaccination site capable of giving thousands of shots as the federal government ramps up its distribution capabilities, sources with knowledge of the plan said.
The vaccination site will be in the West Side stadium’s parking lot, which is unused due to restrictions on fans at basketball and hockey games, according to sources who were not authorized to speak publicly about the plan. An announcement is expected on Friday and operations there could begin as soon as next month.
3:03 p.m.: Biden marks 50M vaccine doses in first 5 weeks in office, on track to exceed 100 day distribution goal
Days after marking a solemn milestone in the pandemic, President Joe Biden is celebrating the pace of his efforts to end it.
On Thursday, Biden marked the administration of the 50 millionth dose of COVID-19 vaccine since his swearing-in. The moment came days after the nation reached the devastating milestone of 500,000 coronavirus deaths and ahead of a meeting with the nation’s governors on plans to speed the distribution even further.
“The more people get vaccinated, the faster we’re going to beat this pandemic,” Biden said at the White House ceremony, noting that his administration is on course to exceed his promise to deliver 100 million shots in his first 100 days in office.
12:40 p.m.: Some unemployed Illinoisans to see delay in benefit payments after getting locked out of their accounts
Some unemployed Illinoisans will see a delay in their benefit payments after they were unable to access the state’s system for certifying benefits earlier this week.
From Monday through Wednesday, a “limited number” of recipients were locked out of their accounts with the Illinois Department of Employment Security, which prevented them from certifying their unemployment status, a critical step to getting paid, according to spokeswoman Rebecca Cisco.
That included people on regular state unemployment benefits and those who are receiving additional weeks of benefits provided by federal pandemic relief legislation. People filing for benefits under the state’s system for self-employed workers were not affected.
12:25 p.m.: Democrats await Senate decision on minimum wage provision in COVID-19 relief package
Republicans are closing ranks against Democrats’ proposed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, even as the White House seemed to rule out a procedural Senate power play to protect one provision most treasured by progressives: a minimum wage hike.
Despite paper-thin congressional majorities, Democratic leaders were poised to push the sweeping package through the House on Friday. They were hoping the Senate, where changes seem likely, would follow quickly enough to have legislation on President Joe Biden’s desk by mid-March.
12:08 p.m.: 1,884 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases and 32 additional deaths reported
Illinois health officials on Thursday announced 1,884 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 and 32 additional fatalities, bringing the total number of known infections in Illinois to 1,181,226 and the statewide death toll to 20,406 since the start of the pandemic.
Officials also reported 91,292 new tests in the last 24 hours. The seven-day statewide test positivity rate was 2.7% for the period ending Wednesday.
The 7-day rolling daily average of administered vaccine doses is 66,274, with 130,021 doses given on Wednesday, the highest reported administered to date. Officials also say a total of 2,440,950 vaccines have now been administered.
11:50 a.m.: You’ve gotten your second COVID-19 vaccination. When will your life get back to normal?
Medical experts, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are telling people to continue masking and social distancing after they are considered fully inoculated because doctors don’t yet know whether vaccinated people can spread the virus to those who have not had the shot. They also don’t know how well the vaccines ward off the new variants.
Still, there are reasons to be hopeful that life can improve after becoming fully vaccinated. Right now, that means receiving two shots of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, and waiting another two weeks. Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot vaccine may be available soon following a Friday meeting by the Food and Drug Administration.
10:20 a.m.: Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine: What you need to know about the single-dose inoculation
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to grant emergency use authorization to Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine this week, a move that would ease the nationwide supply constraints and bring America one step closer to combating the coronavirus pandemic.
Here’s a roundup of frequently asked questions, and answers, as Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine nears approval.
8:46 a.m.: The flu has virtually disappeared from US, thanks to COVID-19 measures
February is usually the peak of flu season, with doctors’ offices and hospitals packed with suffering patients. But not this year.
Flu has virtually disappeared from the U.S., with reports coming in at far lower levels than anything seen in decades.
Experts say that measures put in place to fend off the coronavirus — mask wearing, social distancing and virtual schooling — were a big factor in preventing a “twindemic” of flu and COVID-19. A push to get more people vaccinated against flu probably helped, too, as did fewer people traveling, they say.
Another possible explanation: The coronavirus has essentially muscled aside flu and other bugs that are more common in the fall and winter.
7:50 a.m.: Don’t pass on Johnson & Johnson vaccine for more effective shots, Dr. Anthony Fauci says
Dr. Anthony Fauci says if a coronavirus vaccine is available, regardless of which one, take it.
The top U.S. infectious disease expert told NBC on Thursday a third vaccine becoming available “is nothing but good news” and would help control of the pandemic. U.S. regulators announced Wednesday that Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine offers strong protection against severe COVID-19. It’s expected to be approved soon by the FDA.
Fauci warns people not to hold off on getting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine while waiting for the slightly more effective Pfizer or Moderna shots.
7:25 a.m.: DuPage ready to resume jury trials in March using new COVID-safe courtroom, adding new HVAC system
Jury trials will resume in DuPage County next month, accommodated by a new 1,700-square-foot courtroom for socially distanced in-person jury trials and remote hearings.
Three smaller courtrooms, also set up for social distancing, can be used for jury trials as well, DuPage County Chief Judge Kenneth Popejoy said Wednesday as he provided a look at the new arrangement.
The return of jury trials will help address the backlog of cases that have accumulated during the COVID-19 pandemic, most of which had been put on hold because safety precautions could not be ensured.
7:20 a.m.: Pfizer testing whether third dose of vaccine would ward off COVID-19 mutations
Pfizer announced Thursday that it has begun studying a third dose of its COVID-19 vaccine, part of a strategy to guard against mutated versions of the coronavirus.
Health authorities say first-generation COVID-19 vaccines still protect against variants that are emerging in different parts of the world. But manufacturers are starting to prepare now in case a more vaccine-resistant mutation comes along.
7 a.m.: Column: Will people come back to live entertainment in Chicago? About 150,000 people already have.
How much pent-up demand exists for live entertainment that involves leaving your home? Chicago finally has helpful data. At the time of writing, around 150,000 tickets have been sold to “Immersive Van Gogh,” a show that is cranking out admissions on Chicago’s Near North Side from 9 in the morning until 10 o’clock at night. Right now. No Zoom account required.
Despite its title, “Immersive Van Gogh” is not an art museum exhibit. There are no Van Gogh paintings whatsoever to see at the former Germania Club. There are no artifacts at all. What people — a whole lot of people — are buying is a show that lands somewhere between film and theater. It’s a high-definition, environmental movie containing original music, images and storytelling. And it’s adaptable to the shape of the building in which it happens to be playing. In other words, it’s the kind of immersive, communal experience that conventional wisdom says just got blown away by the pandemic and won’t return for years.
Convention wisdom, as usual, is wrong.
6 a.m.: Activists ‘disappointed and not surprised’ after $181.7M of Cook County’s coronavirus relief funding spent on reimbursing sheriff’s office payroll
Over the past 11 months of the pandemic, Cook County directed more than 40% of its federal relief money toward labor costs for the sheriff’s office, drawing alarm from Black activists who have renewed calls to reallocate law enforcement spending since the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.
The county was granted more than $428.5 million in April under the federal coronavirus relief bill. About $181.7 million was expensed by the Cook County sheriff’s office for direct “labor costs” such as payroll and benefits, according to a Jan. 31 report posted on the county website.
The budget for the sheriff’s office, which runs Cook County Jail, the electronic monitoring of detainees and a small police force, has long been a target for local activists who say taxpayer dollars for a criminal justice system that disproportionately incarcerates Black people should instead be invested in housing, health care, transportation and other initiatives. Those calls, along with similar demands centered on the Chicago police budget, were revived last May after Floyd, a Black man, died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck.
Preckwinkle’s chief financial officer, Ammar Rizki, said despite the flow of federal coronavirus relief money to the sheriff’s office, the commitment made under the resolution stands. But some Black activists said the county’s promise already has been broken.
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