Even as the region enters its worst period of the pandemic thus far, the vast majority of public and private schools in the Chicago area that have reopened in some capacity this fall have had little confirmed exposure to the coronavirus in the past month, according to a Chicago Sun-Times analysis of state data.
A small fraction of schools have had outbreaks where virus transmission has been traced to school buildings, while high schools have shown to be more likely to experience COVID-19 scares than elementary schools, records show.
Those findings match nationwide figures showing relatively low instances of significant spread in educational settings, especially among younger students, and provide some insight into why health officials nationally and in Chicago have expressed strong confidence that schools are safer to reopen than first thought, even as the pandemic rages on.
The difference between elementary and high school infections also partially explains why Chicago Public Schools has prioritized the return of its youngest students as the district makes its third attempt in January to open its classrooms for the first time since March.
“It’s safe to keep schools open,” said Dr. Daniel Johnson, chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Johnson said evidence has shown minimal spread of the virus in school buildings even as transmission rises in the surrounding community.
12:11 p.m. How Chicagoans plan on getting through the COVID winter we’re facing
We asked Chicagoans: What’s your plan for getting through the winter during the pandemic? What are you doing to stay occupied? Some answers have been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.
“Currently finishing up the third book in a series. Been at this five years. First two books on Amazon. Writing and cooking keep me busy.” — Joanie Swanson
“Basement remodeling project.” — Kevin Roecker
“We have a quarantine baby boy here, born 17 days ago, keeping us very busy.” — Pete Kurasz
“Reading, art projects, music, writing handwritten letters, meditation and baking lots for those in my neighborhood.” — Angie Mamrot
10:32 a.m. How Britain’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout will work
Now that British regulators have become the first to authorize the COVID-19 vaccine developed by American drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech for emergency use, how will that country implement what potentially will be its biggest-ever immunization program? Here’s a look at what’s known about Britain’s vaccination plan:
HOW WILL THE ROLLOUT WORK?
Because the vaccine must be stored and transported at about minus-94 degrees Fahrenheit, there are clear logistical issues. Fortunately, the vaccine is stable at normal refrigerator temperatures, between 35.6 and 46.4 degrees Fahrenheit, for a few days. That means it can be stored locally ahead of being administered.
Another complication arises from doses coming in packs of 975 that cannot be divided at the moment, making it impossible to deliver vaccines to individual care homes. Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said he hoped authorities will approve a safe way of splitting up the dose packs so the jabs can get to care homes this month in the “first tranche of priorities.”
8:42 a.m. Illinois enters deadliest stretch of coronavirus pandemic so far with 192 more fatalities
Illinois has fallen into its deadliest stretch of the coronavirus pandemic so far as public health officials on Thursday announced COVID-19 has claimed 192 more lives while spreading to another 10,959 people.
The latest daily death toll is second only to the all-time high 238 coronavirus deaths reported Wednesday by the Illinois Department of Public Health.
While the figures from both Wednesday and Thursday included deaths delayed in reporting from the long Thanksgiving weekend, the state has averaged 124 deaths a day since the holiday.
That tops the worst seven-day stretch of the first coronavirus wave in the spring, during which the state was losing an average of 117 residents to COVID-19 every day.
More than 3,000 Illinois deaths have been attributed to the coronavirus in the last month alone, almost double the state’s death toll over the entire summer.
7:58 a.m. Biden to call for 100 days of mask-wearing to curb COVID-19 spread
WASHINGTON — Joe Biden said Thursday that he will ask Americans to commit to 100 days of wearing masks as one of his first acts as president, stopping just short of the nationwide mandate he’s pushed before to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
The move marks a notable shift from President Donald Trump, whose own skepticism of mask-wearing has contributed to a politicization of the issue. That’s made many people reticent to embrace a practice that public health experts say is one of the easiest ways to manage the pandemic, which has killed more than 275,000 Americans.
The president-elect has frequently emphasized mask-wearing as a “patriotic duty” and during the campaign floated the idea of instituting a nationwide mask mandate, which he later acknowledged would be beyond the ability of the president to enforce.
Speaking with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Biden said he would make the request of Americans on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20.
Analysis & Commentary
9:21 a.m. Why Biden, ex-presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton will take COVID-19 vaccines: Need to build trust in new drug
We’re at ground zero when it comes to the new COVID-19 vaccines awaiting federal Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization.
There are unfolding stories about how the vaccines are being distributed and cold stored and who will get the shots in the beginning since there won’t be that many doses available in the first wave.
Then there is the matter of trust, especially when the vaccines become widely available. People have to be convinced they are not lab rats.
There are many reasonable folks who just want to make sure the COVID-19 vaccine will work and they won’t suffer from awful side effects or worse.
Building trust in the midst of this pandemic will be a challenge. President Donald Trump rushing FDA scientists does not build credibility.
President-elect Joe Biden said on CNN on Thursday night he would be “happy” to get vaccinated in public. Ex-Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton also have volunteered to get a COVID-19 vaccine in public — when it’s their turn.
We’re in a climate where, sadly, conspiracy theories and baseless notions get traction.