Citing the worrying increase in cases, Lightfoot said she will keep current capacity limits at indoor establishments. But bars and restaurants can now increase their maximum outdoor table size to 10 people, with tables set up so that patrons are 6 feet from patrons at other tables, the city said.
Top state officials are worried, too.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker warned Wednesday that the state may be losing ground in its fight against the pandemic, and said officials will be watching the numbers to see whether recent reversals in several positive trends are the result of faster spreading variants of the virus or possibly “a blip in the data.”
Nationally, there was more encouraging news, with COVID-19 deaths dipping below 1,000 a day on average for the first time since November. Even as more Americans are being vaccinated, Dr. Anthony Fauci said he isn’t ready to declare the nation has turned the corner, the Associated Press reports.
Here’s what’s happening Thursday with COVID-19 in the Chicago area:
5:42 p.m.: Illinois residents now have until Aug. 15 to sign up for health insurance through Obamacare
Thousands of uninsured Illinoisans will have until Aug. 15 to sign up for coverage through the Affordable Care Act exchange as part of a federal extension announced by the Biden administration.
The extension means people will have three more months to enroll in Obamacare, including those who are newly eligible for premium subsidies through the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 reliefpackage signed into law earlier this month.
In February, Biden ordered a special enrollment period from Feb. 15 to May 15 so that people without health insurance during the coronavirus pandemic have another chance to enroll. Read more here. — Abdel Jimenez
1:51 p.m.: Illinois reports another 118,544 vaccine doses administered and 27 cases of COVID-19 variant first seen in California
Another 118,544 coronavirus vaccine doses were administered in Illinois Wednesday, bringing the statewide total to 5,154,908, public health officials reported.
The number of residents who have been fully vaccinated — receiving both of the required two shots, or Johnson & Johnson’s single shot — reached 1,921,995, or 15.09% of the total population.
The state averaged 101,175 vaccines administered daily over the last seven days.
The state also reported 27 cases of a COVID-19 variant first detected in Los Angeles County in July. The variant had not previously been reported in Illinois.
The Illinois Department of Public Health website states that “more study is needed about the infectiousness and severity of this variant.”
In addition, there were 21 additional cases of the coronavirus variant that originated from the United Kingdom for a total of 167, and three additional cases of the Brazilian variants for a total of nine. Officials previously identified three cases of the variant that originated in South Africa.
12:24 p.m.: West Aurora to offer rapid COVID-19 tests to students who show symptoms of virus at school
West Aurora School District 129 will offer free rapid COVID-19 testing at school on a voluntary basis to students who are showing symptoms of the virus as it prepares to return to five days of in-person learning a week.
The testing plan comes as West Aurora increases in-person learning to five days a week at all levels beginning April 7 in the wake of new guidance issued by the Illinois Department of Public Health which reduced social distancing guidelines from six feet to three feet.
The five days of in-person learning will affect students whose families opted for the blended learning plan at the elementary, middle school and high school levels as well as for the Early Learning Academy, district officials said.
Masks will still be required and protocols for cleaning buildings will still be followed under the state’s new rules, district officials said.
West Aurora Assistant Superintendent of Operations Angie Smith said the rapid COVID-19 tests will be administered to students by the district’s trained nursing staff.
12:23 p.m.: Lightfoot loosens COVID-19 restrictions, including outdoor dining, exercise classes, performance venues and weddings
Mayor Lori Lightfoot loosened restrictions for outdoor activities such as patio dining, exercise classes, weddings and concerts on Thursday, but didn’t budge on indoor capacity limits as Chicago grapples with a recent COVID-19 uptick that has officials alarmed.
Citing a worrying increase in coronavirus cases, Lightfoot said she will keep current capacity limits at indoor establishments. But bars and restaurants can now increase their maximum outdoor table size to 10 people, with tables set up so that patrons are 6 feet from patrons at other tables, the city said.
12:02 p.m.: 2,190 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases and 35 additional deaths reported
Illinois health officials on Thursday announced 2,190 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 and 35 additional fatalities, bringing the total number of known infections in Illinois to 1,229,898 and the statewide death toll to 21,171 since the start of the pandemic.
Officials also reported 90,101 new tests in the last 24 hours. The statewide positivity rate for cases is 2.7%.
The 7-day daily average of administered vaccine doses is 101,175, with 118,544 doses given on Wednesday. Officials also say a total of 5,154,908 vaccines have now been administered.
11:54 a.m.: What is a vaccine passport and will you need one to travel?
When travelers venture back out, many — especially those flying overseas — will need to manage new requirements to prove they’ve tested negative for COVID-19 or received a vaccine.
Travel industry trade groups, airlines and other organizations are developing so-called vaccine passports to make it easier to navigate changing rules. Most are in early stages or only used in certain destinations, though their creators say they are working to expand use. What’s less clear is whether any will emerge as a standard accepted broadly worldwide.
In the meantime, here’s what you need to know.
6 a.m.: Wisconsin prisoner population dropped in 2020 during pandemic
The adult prison population fell nearly 16% from the end of February 2020 to the end of last month, according to state Department of Corrections data compiled in the report. The inmate population fell every month during that year and stood at 19,581 at the end of last month, the lowest point since the end of October 1999. The numbers include prisoners held under contract in county jails.
The number of inmates in county jails also declined. The average daily jail population fell 35% between April 2019 and April 2020, from 12,871 to 8,338. Jails in 18 counties saw their population decline by at least half. The drop in jail inmates was immediate, declining by 3,832 inmates between February and April 2020. The decline mirrored a decrease in the number of jail inmates nationwide.
The report attributed the declines to tactics designed to slow COVID-19.
5:30 a.m.: AstraZeneca updates disputed US study, says COVID-19 vaccine 76% effective
AstraZeneca insists that its COVID-19 vaccine is strongly effective even after counting additional illnesses in its disputed U.S. study, the latest in an extraordinary public rift with American officials.
In a late-night news release Wednesday, the drugmaker said it had recalculated data from that study and concluded the vaccine is 76% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19, instead of the 79% it had reported earlier in the week.
Just a day earlier, an independent panel that oversees the study had accused AstraZeneca of cherry-picking data to tout the protection offered by its vaccine. The panel, in a harsh letter to the company and to U.S. health leaders, said the company had left out some COVID-19 cases that occurred in the study, a move that could erode trust in the science.
Some experts said the new data provided by AstraZeneca was “reassuring” and that the information was likely solid enough for U.S. regulators to authorize the vaccine.
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