Meanwhile, suburban Cook County will join the rest of the state outside Chicago in expanding coronavirus vaccine eligibility Monday to everyone 16 and older as the state makes 150,000 appointments for first doses available for next week at mass vaccination sites and pharmacies in the suburbs.
Most of Illinois’ 101 other counties already have expanded eligibility to everyone old enough to receive the vaccine, but the city of Chicago, which gets its own supply from the federal government, isn’t following suit until April 19, the most recent deadline President Joe Biden set for universal adult eligibility.
Additionally, the University of Chicago, located in the Hyde Park neighborhood, is reporting at least 50 COVID-19 cases involving undergraduates, officials announced Thursday. New restrictions are being imposed, including a stay-at-home order and a halting of in-person classes.
Here’s what’s happening Friday with COVID-19 in the Chicago area:
6:50 p.m.: COVID-19 cases are up in more vaccinated parts of Chicago. One possible reason: People are dropping their guard.
Deleon Davenport lives in South Shore but manages a restaurant in River North, and he’s seen the differences in the latest surge.
Near his home, he said, people seem to wear masks and keep their distance from strangers more. But where he works, he watches hordes of unmasked pedestrians and outdoor diners acting like the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
River North’s predominant ZIP code has nearly double the percentage of residents fully vaccinated than the ZIP code covering South Shore. But River North’s also has twice the number of new COVID-19 cases, relative to population size.
It’s part of what may seem like a surprising trend in Chicago: Some of the city’s more vaccinated areas also are seeing higher case rates.
But it doesn’t surprise Davenport because of the more carefree behavior he sees where he works.
“Seeing people without masks actually frustrates me now,” Davenport said.
The River North neighborhood is among the many new flashpoints of an emerging third surge of cases on Chicago’s North Side. From West Town and Lincoln Park to Edison Park, these neighborhoods have some of the city’s highest rates of vaccination so far, as many as 42% of residents getting at least one shot in the period studied. And yet the third surge has affected them more than some areas that suffered greatly in previous surges.
Health officials say the reasons are complex.
5:55 p.m.: Tank Noodle, Uptown restaurant mired in controversy, must return $150,000 state pandemic grant
Tank Noodle restaurant in Chicago has been asked to return a $150,000 state grant after officials say owners lied on the application about breaking the law.
The restaurant, which was the subject of a U.S. Department of Labor investigation announced last month, must pay back the Business Interruption Grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity, according to a department spokesperson.
“After a review of Tank Noodle’s grant, DCEO has found them in violation and has requested the return of the award,” the department said in a statement. “DCEO is actively working with the business owner to develop a payment plan to recover these funds.”
The BIG program, the largest of its kind in the country, was developed to help small businesses hit hardest by COVID-19. The average grant award was $30,000. Business owners were meant to use the money for essential expenses, such as payroll.
According to the state, all businesses were required to certify they were in compliance with local and federal laws at the time of application. Grantees also were asked to certify their business had no “lawsuits, claims, suits, proceedings or investigations pending to their knowledge, and also that they are not subject to any criminal investigations or charges.”
The news comes following a federal investigation into owed wages to 60 employees spanning a two-year period. In March, the U.S. Department of Labor revealed that Tank Noodle’s owners had agreed to pay nearly $700,000 in back wages to the workers.
5:35 p.m.: Will County residents can make direct vaccination appointments through health department beginning Monday
As Will County prepares to open up vaccinations to anyone over age 16, health officials urged caution Friday as COVID-19 positivity rates continued to increase.
The county reported a 6.4% daily test positivity rate April 5, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health website. The county’s seven-day rolling average for test positivity that day was 5.8%, according to the IDPH. On March 26, the county’s daily test positivity rate and 7-day rolling average was 3.9%.
As of Friday, the health department reported 331,046 vaccines had been administered, and 120,638 people were fully vaccinated.
“We can’t think that just because we received the vaccine that we can take our masks off or we can go back to life as we knew it,” health department executive director Sue Olenek told the county board’s public health and safety committee Wednesday. “We still need to be vigilant.”
The health department reported indoor wedding events were held between March 10 and 13 with about 120 people in attendance. The department said more than 20 confirmed and probable cases are linked to events at a facility in Will County, a place of worship in Cook County and a banquet facility in DuPage County.
The department will open vaccination sites to those 16 and up beginning Monday, when its website, willcountyhealth.org, will update to include a “click here” button for people to make an appointment. Department spokesman Steve Brandy said residents no longer need to complete a survey and can simply make an appointment themselves at one of the county’s five vaccination sites.
2:47 p.m.: Illinois COVID-19 questions answered: After getting the COVID-19 vaccine, can you take Tylenol or Advil?
Dr. Michael Lin, an infectious disease specialist at Rush University Medical Center, said if people who get vaccinated have symptoms such as fever or pain, it is safe to take fever-reducing or pain-reducing medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. For pregnant women specifically, acetaminophen is preferred.
In general, Lin said, there is no data to suggest avoiding specific classes or types of medications.
CDC guidance suggests talking to your doctor about over-the-counter medicines. The agency does not recommend taking pain relievers before vaccination for the purpose of avoiding side effects.
2:45 p.m.: Almost all Illinois schools have resumed some in-person classes. Can that last amid rising COVID numbers?
Nearly 13 months after COVID-19 abruptly shut schools across Illinois, almost all of the state’s 1.9 million public school students are now back in the classroom and receiving some form of in-person instruction, according to state education data.
Nearly all of Illinois’ roughly 850 school districts, or 96%, reported having students back in the classroom at least part-time, while 46% of districts have resumed in-person learning full-time. Just 4% of school systems are still offering only remote instruction, according newly posted data on the Illinois State Board of Education website.
The soaring number of Illinois districts now offering some type of classroom instruction translates into about 1.4 million students statewide now receiving a blend of remote and in-person learning. About 400,000 children are back in school full-time and nearly 100,000 are in strictly remote classes.
2:37 p.m.: How parents of teenagers can help them manage anxiety and stress in current stage of pandemic
Even in normal times, being a teenager is fraught.
Add in a pandemic, and it’s uniquely isolating. Teenagers are old enough to read and understand the fear within COVID-19 headlines, but young enough to not be fully equipped with the emotional maturity that can help adults.
Plus, missing prom and sports seasons and learning online instead of with your friends? It’s a lot.
“Teenagers are uniquely negatively impacted by this for sure,” said Advocate pediatric psychologist Gabrielle Roberts.
Parents can help in many ways, from not judging their teen’s anxiety to working as a partner to help navigate a return to the world of school and group activities.
2:32 p.m.: From checkout lines to vaccine lines: Vacant big-box stores get new life as mass vaccination sites
At a former Kmart store in Des Plaines, the parking lot was full and a steady stream of people walked through the building’s sliding glass doors.
No one was there to shop: what was once the last remaining Kmart in Illinois is now one of Cook County’s COVID-19 mass vaccination sites.
The store’s sign has been swapped for a banner announcing the vaccine site, and a member of the Illinois National Guard greeted people at the entrance Thursday morning. Racks of merchandise have been replaced by rows of tables and chairs where people check in and get their shots.
“Kmart has really changed,” joked Matt Demers, 39, of Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood, after receiving his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
1:10 p.m.: Illinois sets a new high for COVID-19 vaccinations, but case count tops 4,000 for first time since late January
A new daily high for coronavirus vaccinations was set in Illinois on Thursday but the daily COVID-19 case count also crossed the 4,000 mark for the first time since late January while hospitalizations also continued to be high.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker said while the vaccination numbers are headed in the right direction, rising hospitalizations continue to be a concern.
“There’s a sense of optimism, but you also have to look at the case numbers and the hospitalization numbers,” he said Friday morning at an unrelated event in south suburban Robbins. “We’re currently seeing hospitalizations going up. It’s very challenging. I worry about it.”
12:12 p.m.: 4,004 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases and 21 additional deaths reported
Illinois health officials on Friday announced 4,004 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 and 21 additional fatalities, bringing the total number of known infections in Illinois to 1,273,200 and the statewide death toll to 21,476 since the start of the pandemic.
Officials also reported 101,737 new tests in the last 24 hours. The statewide positivity rate for cases is 4.2%.
The 7-day daily average of administered vaccine doses is 118,336, with a daily record 164,462 doses given on Thursday. Officials also say a total of 6,871,645 vaccines have now been administered.
11:30 a.m.: Unions and parents call for boycotts over schools’ plans for in-person standardized tests this spring: ‘A waste of our time’
When Percy Julian Middle School in Oak Park began welcoming students back earlier this year on a limited basis, Susan Raphael was excited her 13-year old son would finally resume in-person instruction and be able to gather with classmates after nearly a year of remote learning.
But Raphael’s joy was soon replaced by frustration, after Oak Park School District 97 announced that — despite the prolonged COVID-19 disruptions — students would be required to spend four days this month taking federally mandated standardized tests on subjects like reading, math and language arts.
“My first reaction was, this is so silly. … They are taking away a week of student learning when they’re already losing instructional time like crazy,” said Raphael, a mother of three who has decided she will not send her son to school for the standardized testing on Monday and is unlikely to have her twin daughters take the tests later this spring.
“It seems like the system is broken, especially for students at big urban school districts like Oak Park and Chicago. It doesn’t provide any benefits for my child, especially with the risks,” Raphael added. ” … It’s a waste of our time.”
11:30 a.m.: Column: As COVID-19 cases skyrocket in some south suburbs, new restrictions may be needed
A sharp rise in the numbers of COVID-19 cases in several south suburbs should serve as a warning that the pandemic is far from over.
Twenty new cases were reported in Lynwood over the past two weeks, a 520% increase. Other towns with significant percentage increases were Calumet Park (11 new cases, up 214%), Harvey (54 new cases, up 211%) and Robbins (11 new cases, up 200%), according to the Cook County health department.
There were 105 new cases reported during the past week in Orland Park, a 97% increase, and 96 new cases in Tinley Park, a 146% jump, according to health department data retrieved Friday.
Officials warned that if case numbers kept climbing, tighter restrictions may be needed on indoor dining and other activities.
7:41 a.m.: Walgreens allowing people awaiting second doses of Pfizer vaccine to reschedule appointments
People who received their first doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at Walgreens may try to reschedule their second dose appointments — which were otherwise scheduled for four weeks after the first ones — for slightly earlier dates, a Walgreens spokesman said Thursday.
Once 20 days have passed since the first dose, people may try to reschedule the next shot for an earlier date, said spokesman Jim Cohn.
Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked Walgreens to start spacing first and second doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine three weeks apart instead of four, in line with the agency’s guidance. Walgreens had been scheduling appointments four weeks apart, regardless of whether they received Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
The CDC recommends 28 days between first and second doses of the Moderna vaccine, but 21 days between doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
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