A Tribune analysis of more than 1 million first doses of the coronavirus vaccine given in Chicago found nearly 60% of shots went to residents of affluent suburbs and residents of neighborhoods deemed to have the lowest risk of COVID-19.
The analysis shows that the city’s vaccination rollout serves as yet another example of the longtime health care inequities laid bare by the pandemic. Read the full report here.
Meanwhile, Illinois public health officials on Friday reported a seven-day average of 1,421 cases of COVID-19, the lowest since an average of 1,403 was reported July 29. Officials on Friday also reported 1,573 new probable and confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 21 deaths.
An additional 126,023 coronavirus vaccine doses were administered in the state Thursday, the highest count since April 22, bringing the total to 10,767,013 doses, officials said. The number of residents who have been fully vaccinated reached 4,995,694, or 39.21% of the total population.
Here’s what’s happening Friday with COVID-19 in the Chicago area:
5:50 p.m.: Esteemed Chicago street vendor who got COVID-19 days before he was to be vaccinated has died
Felipe Vallarta, a well-known street vendor in the Rogers Park neighborhood, died Friday after being hospitalized with COVID-19 for several weeks.
On Friday morning at 10 a.m., the family gathered to pay him one last visit before he was disconnected from the ventilator, said his niece Mercedes Vallarta. The Cook County medical examiner confirmed Vallarta’s death.
His granddaughter, Jany Andrade, 21, played his favorite songs from Vicente Fernandez right before he was disconnected.
“As much as doctors tried, they said there was nothing left to do to save him; he needed to rest,” said Mercedes Vallarta. She added that his wife, daughter and granddaughter are inconsolable.
He and his wife, Zenaida Castillo, 74, had been selling elotes — corn — and other Mexican snacks on the corner of Rogers Avenue and Clark Street since 2015, when Castillo lost her job as a babysitter.
The two immigrated from Puebla, Mexico, and lived for more than 20 years in Rogers Park, where they “had many friends and neighbors who appreciated him,” said his wife during an interview in early May.
Hundreds of people donated money to a GoFundMe page that Andrade opened in April to help the family pay for medical expenses.
Now the money will be used to cover funeral expenses, including burial in his native town in Mexico, said Mercedes Vallarta.
3:10 p.m.: Archdiocese easing COVID-driven capacity restrictions
The Archdiocese of Chicago announced Friday that parishes can plan to increase capacity during Mass and liturgies, citing state guidelines for the “bridge phase” of reopening that began earlier this month as local COVID-19 cases and positivity rates declined.
“For social gatherings, capacity is 250 people indoor, 500 people outdoor,” Archdiocese officials said in a news release. “Parishes are hereby permitted to plan for increased attendance for Masses and liturgies which isapproximately every other pew of the church.”
The statement says the Archdiocesan COVID-19 Task Force is taking a “hopeful, yet cautious, approach” to easing capacity restrictions, adding that most pandemic protocols like physical distancing, sanitation and registration to attend church are still in effect.
As for mask requirements, the news release says some parishes might be more eager to remove restrictions and others might be more hesitant, perhaps because the community experienced more COVID-19 infections or some immunocompromised parishioners are at a higher risk.
The Archdiocese says parishes can decide to let individuals attend without masks “as long as they bring proof of vaccination and the parish’s greeter/hospitality team has the capacity to validate attendees’ vaccination status.”
2:25 p.m.: Graduation parties at Chicago restaurants proving ‘next to impossible,’ with COVID-19 limits and minimum spends of up to $2,500
When it came time to plan for her 18-year-old twins’ high school graduation in June, Judy Sutton Taylor knew she’d need an early start to snag a dinner reservation for her family and three out-of-town guests.
She didn’t expect six weeks to not be enough.
“Some restaurants will do it outside, but are telling me if it rains and they need to move us inside, that we’ll have to be split up among two tables, which isn’t really great,” she said. “Some of the restaurants only have availability at 5 p.m. or 9 p.m. This is trying six weeks out from the date.”
Finding a table for seven has been “next to impossible,” Sutton Taylor said, as COVID-19 restrictions are limiting group sizes in many Chicago restaurants, even as the state loosens its measures to prevent infection as vaccination rates increase.
Sutton Taylor isn’t alone in being frustrated. With Illinois and Chicago currently in the bridge phase ahead of a full reopening targeted for July 4, restaurants can book tables of up to 10 people, although some venues are sticking to the previous limit of six per table. In Chicago, indoor dining capacity is still capped at 75%.
Some available reservations also have hefty price tags attached, with minimum spends in the thousands leaving some families with sticker shock.
1:55 p.m.: Europe is reopening and Americans are busy planning trips. But they’ll need to read the fine print on COVID-19 testing.
There’s good news for travelers eager to dust off their passports after spending 2020 stuck at home: The list of countries lowering COVID-19 travel restrictions is growing.
After being largely closed to American tourists for more than a year, the European Union recently recommended expanding the list of EU countries considered safe enough to allow tourists and opening the doors to vaccinated travelers from other countries.
Individual countries are just starting to announce reopening plans, but anticipation of Europe’s reopening has sparked a flurry of interest in destinations that have been off limits to Americans for months, including London, Paris, Barcelona, Frankfurt and Amsterdam, according to travel search company Hopper.
Even with loosening restrictions, overseas trips still require navigating COVID-19 testing and vaccination requirements, forcing travelers to plan ahead and potentially budget a little extra, since tests may not be covered by insurance.
1:30 p.m.: Seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases in Illinois lowest since July 29; nearly 40% of residents now fully vaccinated
Illinois public health officials on Friday reported a seven-day average of 1,421 new and probable COVID-19 cases, the lowest since an average of 1,403 was reported July 29.
An additional 126,023 coronavirus vaccine doses were administered in the state Thursday, the highest count since April 22, bringing the total to 10,767,013 doses, officials said.
The seven-day average of daily vaccinations was 76,812. As of Friday, 59.27% of those 16 and up have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
The number of residents who have been fully vaccinated — receiving both of the required shots, or Johnson & Johnson’s single shot — reached 4,995,694, or 39.21% of the total population.
There were 1,573 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19, resulting from 73,099 tests. The statewide seven-day positivity rate for cases as a share of total tests is 2.2% as of Thursday.
As of Thursday night, 1,426 people in Illinois were hospitalized with COVID-19, with 360 patients in intensive care units and 206 patients on ventilators.
Officials also reported 21 additional fatalities Friday, bringing the statewide death toll to 22,556. The total number of known infections in Illinois since the start of the pandemic reached 1,373,457.
12:50 p.m.: Will County begins vacciantion clinics at junior high schools
With COVID-19 vaccines now approved for children ages 12 and up, Will County health officials started bringing the vaccine to area junior high schools.
Oak Prairie Junior High School in Homer Glen was the first to host a vaccination clinic for students Thursday. The Will County Health Department and Illinois National Guard delivered vaccines to 93 of the school’s 499 students, school officials said.
“I want to go back to the way my life used to be where I didn’t have to be afraid of getting sick or getting others sick,” said seventh grade student Lanie Spencer.
The 13-year-old from Lockport, who also has asthma, has stayed home for remote learning this school year. She said she looks forward to getting back to in-person learning, playing softball and basketball and going shopping.
School officials came under some fire following an email from the superintendent making parents aware of the vaccination clinic and that Great America was offering free tickets to students who are fully vaccinated, District 92 Superintendent Tim Arnold said. In an email to parents, Arnold clarified the district was not trying to incentivize the vaccinations and that the program was through Great America.
The Illinois State Board of Education adopted a resolution Wednesday requiring daily in-person learning next school year with limited exceptions for remote learning. Arnold said vaccines will aid in that transition for students.
He pointed to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance that people who are vaccinated do not have to quarantine after being exposed to another person with COVID-19, unless they have symptoms.
12:09 p.m.: 126,023 administered vaccine doses, 1,573 new cases and 21 deaths reported Friday
Illinois public health officials on Friday reported 1,573 new probable and confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 21 deaths. That brings the state’s totals to 1,373,457 cases and 22,556 deaths.
There were 73,099 tests reported in the previous 24 hours, and the seven-day statewide positivity rate as a percent of total test is 2.2%.
There were 126,023 doses of the vaccine administered Thursday, and the seven-day rolling average of daily doses is 76,812.
9:33 a.m.: Waukegan High School graduates reflect on an unprecedented senior year: ‘We didn’t get that last dose of childhood’
Experiencing a school year that started remotely in August — with students not seeing the inside of a classroom until April — the members of Waukegan High School’s 148th graduating class knew they had endured a senior year unlike any other.
When the band began to play “Pomp and Circumstance,” and 264 students wearing purple caps and gowns with gold trim began marching onto Weiss Field, their parents could be heard commenting that the evening felt like a normal graduation.
However, it was easy to see how the coronavirus pandemic was once again throwing a curve at the senior class.
Waukegan High held its first of three graduation ceremonies over three consecutive days Wednesday at Weiss Field, splitting the 713 members of the Class of 2021 into equal groups, as a final nod to the health dangers posed by COVID-19.
9:27 a.m.: Chicago’s NEZ, with a little help from his friends, discovered how to create dance music during the pandemic by creating his own ‘nightclub’
It should come as no surprise that NEZ is a Chicago-bred musician. On his new solo EP, “Midnight Music,” the artist and producer crafted three perfect dance music tracks that sound and feel rooted in the city’s tradition of late nights and dance floors. One track, “Lift Off,” was even created with Chicago house music legend Felix Da Housecat. But the journey to “Midnight Music,” an album dedicated to the spirit and mood of parties and togetherness, involved a surprising revelation and change of course during the socially isolating pandemic.
Born Nesbitt Wesonga Jr., NEZ said he grew up in a very musical household. Both parents were big music fans, playing everything from soul and blues to jazz and rap. His mother is also a gospel singer. Wesonga said their musical interests soon translated to himself, and his parents began purchasing instruments for him to play. At age eight, he became a drummer at church.
”That’s when I really knew I wanted to actually do music, like forever, because I like the feeling of being able to just freely perform and make music,” Wesonga said. “When you make music in church, it’s a lot of improv and a lot of feelings. You really get a chance to just vibe out.”
6 a.m.: When shots were scarce, 60% of Chicago’s vaccine supply went to suburbanites and low-risk neighborhoods, Tribune analysis shows
In the early weeks of the COVID-19 vaccine’s release, a joke made the rounds among people hunting for appointments in Chicago:
What’s the best way to find a shot in the city?
While the punchline was meant to be facetious, it wasn’t far off the mark. A Tribune analysis of federal vaccination data shows that in Glencoe’s predominant ZIP code, roughly 1 in every 6 residents was given their first dose from Chicago’s vaccine supply during the rollout’s earliest phases.
Residents of other affluent suburbs also had luck finding shots in the city between December 2020 and mid-April, a period when eligibility rules were still in play, people were desperate to find appointments and city officials were promising to steer doses to the hardest-hit neighborhoods. At least 1 in 8 of all residents in ZIP codes covering Oak Park, Kenilworth, Wilmette, Winnetka and River Forest received their first dose in Chicago, the data shows. When looking only at those residents who got vaccinated, the numbers are even more stark: At least 1 in 4 found shots in the city.
Read more here. — Stacy St. Clair, Joe Mahr & Lisa Schencker
6 a.m.: Return visits to hospital for additional care were common for many early COVID-19 patients as the disease’s impact lingered, new study finds
Sandra Wilson-Muriel cried when she first picked up her cane.
When the Skokie woman came down with COVID-19 in March 2020, she knew the diagnosis was serious, but she never imagined that a respiratory virus would result in her needing to walk with a cane more than a year later.
Wilson-Muriel is a mom of four, co-owner of an accounting business and now a COVID-19 long-hauler. She experiences vertigo, pain in her joints, fatigue and breathing problems.
“I’m 54 years old,” she said. “I didn’t think I was going to be needing a cane.”
Wilson-Muriel, who has returned to the hospital multiple times in the year since she became ill, participated in a recent study that offers a glimpse into the post-COVID-19 lives of those who were hospitalized at the beginning of the pandemic.
Read more here. —Madeline Buckley
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