Illinois public health officials on Tuesday reported 7,910 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19, putting the state over 800,000 cases since the pandemic began. The state now has 804,174 cases and 13,487 fatalities after 145 new deaths were reported Tuesday.
The new numbers came as Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the state’s top public health official on Tuesday sought to allay fears about the safety of a new coronavirus vaccine developed under intense pressure on an expedited schedule. The first shipment of the vaccine to Illinois possibly just days away.
Although it was developed and tested in a matter of months, the vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech, which could receive emergency use authorization from the FDA soon after an advisory panel meets Thursday, is based on decades of research on coronaviruses and has been thoroughly reviewed by teams of experts, Pritzker said at his daily COVID-19 briefing.
Meanwhile, Chicagoans traveling to destinations with COVID-19 restrictions are getting more options to get tested before flying. The Chicago Department of Aviation aims to have testing sites at O’Hare and Midway airports up and running next week before December holiday travel begins, and American Airlines is expanding access to at-home testing kits.
Here’s what’s happening Tuesday with COVID-19 in the Chicago area and Illinois:
7:45 p.m.: If Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine receives FDA approval, here’s what it will mean for Chicago and the rest of Illinois
All eyes will be on the Food and Drug Administration on Thursday when an advisory committee is set to meet and discuss Pfizer’s request for emergency-use authorization of its COVID-19 vaccine.
Thursday’s meeting marks one of the last hurdles before the Pfizer vaccine can be approved in the United States and begin shipping to health care providers, including in Illinois. Afterward, the committee will make its recommendation to the FDA, which will make the ultimate decision on approval.
“Thursday is a big day,” Chicago Department of Health Commissioner Allison Arwady said in a question-and-answer session on Tuesday. “Approval could come within a matter of days after that.”
The FDA on Tuesday released preliminary documents on its website ahead of the meeting showing promising data, with the vaccine’s efficacy around 95% after the second dose.
“It looks good,” Arwady said of the preliminary report, calling Tuesday an “exciting day.”
With possible approval of the Pfizer vaccine coming within days, officials in Chicago and elsewhere in Illinois are preparing to receive the first doses, maybe as early as next week.
7:20 p.m. (update): White House offers COVID-19 relief package that would send $600 direct payment to most Americans
The Trump administration dove back into Capitol Hill’s confusing COVID-19 negotiations on Tuesday, offering a $916 billion package to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that would send a $600 direct payment to most Americans.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin made the offer to Pelosi late Tuesday afternoon, he said in a statement. He offered few details, though House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy said it proposes the $600 direct payment for individuals and $1,200 for couples, which is half the payment delivered by the March pandemic relief bill.
Mnuchin reached out to Pelosi after a call with top congressional GOP leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who remains at odds with Democratic leaders over COVID-19 relief.
5:40 p.m.: Coronavirus vaccine could be days away from arriving in Illinois
With the first shipment of a new coronavirus vaccine to Illinois possibly just days away, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the state’s top public health official on Tuesday sought to allay fears about the safety of an immunization developed under intense pressure on an expedited schedule.
Although it was developed and tested in a matter of months, the vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech, which could receive emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration soon after an advisory panel meets Thursday, is based on decades of research on coronaviruses and has been thoroughly reviewed by teams of experts, Pritzker said at his daily COVID-19 briefing.
The governor’s remarks came the same day the FDA released its initial review of data on the Pfizer vaccine and as the immunizations began in the United Kingdom. While Pfizer’s own study is still in progress, the FDA analysis of the company’s data found that, so far, the vaccine appears safe and more than 90% effective.
Still, Illinois, like other states, has its own panel of experts reviewing the FDA’s analysis, Pritzker said.
“We all want to make sure this vaccine is safe, and additional sets of eyes on the evidence can only be helpful,” he said.
4 p.m.: School employees should be priority in vaccine rollout, Illinois teachers unions say
The two largest teachers unions in Illinois are calling on the state legislature to put educators on the shortlist for the COVID-19 vaccine, and are asking for rapid testing at schools and guidance they say is essential to ensure school buildings are safe for in-person student learning.
Officials with the Illinois Education Association and the Illinois Federation of Teachers said school districts’ failure to follow Illinois Department of Public Health guidance and requirements for schools has put “the health of teachers, students, and communities at risk.”
3:45 p.m.: Biden vows to reopen most of nation’s schools, distribute at least 100 million vaccines in 1st 100 days
Joe Biden pledged Tuesday to bring the coronavirus pandemic under enough control to open most of the nation’s schools during his first 100 days as president — going much further on the issue than he has in the past, even while warning that the U.S. is facing a “dark winter.”
The president-elect said that promise is dependent on Congress providing sufficient funding to protect students, teachers and campus staff. He made it during an event in Delaware to introduce a team of health experts set to help the new administration combat a virus that has already killed more than 285,000 Americans.
Biden said he plans to distribute at least 100 million vaccines during his first 100 days in the White House and will seek to reopen most of the nation’s schools over the same period.
“It should be a national priority to get our kids back into school and keep them in school,” Biden said. “If Congress provides the funding, we need to protect students, educators and staff. If states and cities put strong public health measures in place that we all follow, then my team will work to see that the majority of our schools can be open by the end of my first 100 days.”
3:40 p.m.: COVID-19 relief package in the balance as McConnell pushes a smaller deal
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Capitol Hill’s most powerful Republican, proposed Tuesday to shelve a controversial pet provision for an emerging COVID-19 relief package — but only if Democrats agree to shelve one of their top priorities, too.
McConnell, R-Ky., said he would drop a provision that would provide a shield against lawsuits for COVID-related negligence. In exchange, McConnell wants House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to drop a demand for $160 billion or so to help states and local governments with fiscal relief.
McConnell’s offer came as a group of pragmatic, mostly moderate senators are themselves negotiating over the two contentious issues as they seek to dislodge the long-stuck COVID-19 relief effort. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., for instance, said he’s seeking a compromise on the tricky liability shield issue.
The group of moderates, led by Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republican Susan Collins of Maine, are seeking to rally rank-and-file lawmakers in both parties behind a $908 billion framework. It is more generous than a GOP plan that’s been filibustered twice already but far smaller than a wish list assembled by House Democrats.
3:20 p.m.: Believers find ways to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe for annual feast despite COVID-19 restrictions
Every year, Eusebia Flores prays the novena for Our Lady of Guadalupe in the days leading up to the feast in her honor on Dec. 12, a prodigious celebration for Catholics in Mexico and the United States.
That day, Flores said, it is essential to thank the mother of Jesus for all that she has done, but this year is special: Flores, who is a few months shy of 95, survived the coronavirus.
“I prayed to her with love and now I’m grateful that we are all healthy once again,” Flores said in Spanish.
For many Catholics, the feast this year will be more significant, despite changes in celebrations brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. While some, like Flores, thank the Virgin Mary for being healthy, others pray for the strength to deal with the pain of losing a loved one to COVID-19, said the Rev. Thomas J. Boharic.
“But it is the faith that has helped to carry them through regardless,” said Boharic, the pastor at Our Lady of Tepeyac, Assumption and St. Roman Parish on the West Side.
Driven by that faith, devotees in the Chicago area have found ways to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe despite the COVID-19 restrictions, which led to the cancellation of the Dec. 11-12 overnight celebration at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines, the largest one outside Mexico City.
2:55 p.m.: O’Hare, Midway aim to open COVID-19 testing sites next week as American Airlines widens access to at-home tests
Chicagoans traveling to destinations with COVID-19 travel restrictions are getting more options to get tested before flying.
The Chicago Department of Aviation aims to have testing sites at O’Hare and Midway airports up and running next week before December holiday travel begins, and American Airlines is expanding access to at-home testing kits.
Many international destinations and some domestic ones, including Hawaii, have travel restrictions that require passengers to test negative for COVID-19. Some require PCR tests, which can take up to 72 hours to return results. Rapid antigen test results can be available within 20 minutes.
The Aviation Department’s testing sites will offer both types to all passengers and airport employees, making them the most comprehensive of any airport system in the U.S., spokesman Matt McGrath said in an email Tuesday.
O’Hare will have a walk-up testing site adjacent to the terminal before travelers go through security and a drive-up site in a remote parking lot. Midway will have a walk-up testing site in the terminal. People seeking a test must show proof they plan to fly within the next 72 hours, or that they took a flight within the past five days. Airport employees are also eligible for testing.
The maximum price providers can charge is $150 per test and the PCR test is expected to cost slightly more than the antigen test. Testing facilities will accept insurance, according to the Aviation Department.
12:10 p.m.: 7,910 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases, 145 deaths reported
Illinois public health officials on Tuesday reported 7,910 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19, putting the state over 800,000 cases since the pandemic began.
The state now has 804,174 cases and 13,487 fatalities after 145 new deaths were reported Tuesday.
There were 95,825 tests reported in the previous 24 hours. The statewide positivity rate for the past seven days is 11.8%.
11:40 a.m.: Chicago alderman’s Ann Sather restaurant facing up to $10,500 in possible fines for indoor dining violations
Wrigleyville Ald. Tom Tunney’s Ann Sather restaurant is facing up to $10,500 in possible fines from the city after the Chicago aldermen acknowledged letting people eat inside the establishment in violation of city and state rules designed to help stop the spread of coronavirus.
How much Tunney’s Lakeview restaurant ultimately gets fined will be determined by the Department of Administrative Hearings at a later date.
The city also cited an unlicensed event at 1257 N. Milwaukee Ave in Wicker Park. Officials responded to a call early on Dec. 5 and found “a bouncer outside of an event billed as the ‘Wicker Loft,’” Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office said in a statement.
There were 142 people in the building who either weren’t social distancing or wearing face coverings and the city cited them for operating an illegal, unlicensed club, officials said.
City officials also cited River North CrossFit for allegedly conducting indoor fitness classes, Randy’s Lounge on Cottage Grove for allegedly holding an indoor event with 42 attendees, Volare restaurant on Grand and Firewater Saloon on Oliphant for allegedly allowing indoor dining. Another business, Flava Luxx on Madison, was cited for allegedly holding an indoor event with 22 attendees eating and drinking without social distancing or face coverings, the city said.
11:22 a.m.: Indiana has nation’s 2nd highest per-capita COVID-19 spread, CDC says
In the past week, Indiana has the nation’s second highest per capita COVID-19 spread, after Rhode Island, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That trend appears to show the state’s outlook is getting worse, even as cases and hospitalization rates hit all-time highs recently.
The CDC reported Indiana had 48,000 new coronavirus cases reported in the past week, or 103.1 per 100,000. Rhode Island, reported 8,100 new cases, or 110.6 per 100,000.
Indiana reported 124 new virus deaths Tuesday, with more than 6,100 total deaths and 300 more suspected deaths. With 485,000 people, Lake County hit 500 virus deaths Tuesday. By comparison, South Korea, a country of 51 million, has 552 COVID-19 deaths.
10:35 a.m.: Mexican restaurants pivot to COVID-19 test sites to increase access for communities in need
You may be familiar with the tacos and margaritas at Moe’s Cantina, but perhaps not with the restaurant chain’s latest line of business. The two locations of the Chicago restaurant have nixed Northern Mexican fare (for now) to transform into COVID-19 testing facilities. Owner Sam Sanchez has partnered with medical professionals to oversee the testing and hired former employees to take care of the nonmedical aspects.
The venture marks the second big pivot for Sanchez’s restaurant group, Third Coast Hospitality, which includes two Moe’s Cantinas and also two locations of Old Crow Smokehouse. At the River North location of the latter, Sanchez has been manufacturing and selling masks since June while simultaneously running restaurant operations. But after the second indoor dining shutdown ordered by the state took effect in late October, Sanchez closed both locations of Moe’s Cantina. Then, in November, something happened to make Sanchez see a new need: He began exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms.
It took him four days to be able to get a test, for which he paid $150. He shared his positive result with his staff, encouraging them all to get tested, too. For some of them, however, it took two weeks to get tested and receive results, preventing them from working. The experience convinced Sanchez to pivot his business for the second time since March and to reopen the two Moe’s restaurants Dec. 2 as COVID-19 testing sites.
“There’s no way that should take that long,” Sanchez said of the extended waits people have endured to get tested. “People need to work, see their parents and travel. … People need tests now.”
10:30 a.m.: AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine about 70% effective, new results show, but questions remain about protection for those over 55
New results on a possible COVID-19 vaccine from Oxford University and AstraZeneca suggest it is safe and about 70% effective, but questions remain about how well it may help protect those over 55 — a key concern for a vaccine that health officials hope to rely on around the world because of its low cost, availability and ease of use.
Still, experts say the vaccine seems likely to be approved, despite some confusion in the results and lower levels of protection than what other vaccine candidates have shown.
9:20 a.m.: US regulators post positive review of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine data
Documents released by U.S. regulators Tuesday confirmed that Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine was strongly protective against COVID-19 — offering the world’s first detailed look at the evidence behind the shots.
But the U.S. judges experimental vaccines in a unique way: On Thursday, the FDA will convene what’s essentially a science court that will debate — in public and live-streamed — just how strong the data backing the shots really is.
A panel of independent scientists will pick apart the FDA’s first-pass review before recommending whether the vaccine appears safe and effective enough for millions of Americans. The FDA, which typically follows the committee’s advice, is expected to issue a decision in the days following the review. If given the green light, the first recipients would be health care workers and nursing home residents according to plans laid out by each state.
7:15 a.m. Funeral Tuesday for Chicago cop who died in November, as medical examiner rules death was from COVID-19
A funeral was scheduled Tuesday for Chicago police Officer Titus Moore, a 14-year veteran who died at home Nov. 24, as the Cook County medical examiner’s office determined Moore died from a COVID-19 infection.
Three other officers had died from coronavirus-related causes as of Monday, along with 1,526 officers and 46 non-officer department employees who have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the department. Moore was found dead at his West Chesterfield home Nov. 24 and the medical examiner’s office marked his autopsy results pending following an autopsy that week. The office has now ruled that Moore, 46, died from a COVID-19 infection, with other natural causes as contributing factors, according to the medical examiner’s data portal.
Moore’s private funeral service was scheduled for Tuesday morning at Leak & Sons Funeral Home, 7838 S. Cottage Grove Ave., with internment at Forest Home Cemetery in Forest Park, according to a police news release.
Moore, a field training officer, was hired in February 2006 and most recently worked in the Calumet District. Moore also had worked in the Grand Crossing District. He received more than 70 department awards, including three police commendations, the superintendent’s award of valor and a life saving award. His father, Theopsy Moore also was an officer. He is survived by his father and two sisters, according to the release.
6 a.m.: U. of C. study highlights child care barriers in Chicago’s Latino communities.
When the pandemic forced many day care centers across the city to close, it created a hardship for many local families and added even more difficulty to some who had already faced a tough time finding care in their communities.
Child care challenges in predominantly Latino Chicago communities were noted in a recent University of Chicago Chapin Hall report. The report showed that 86% of Latino families in Illinois live in child care deserts.
Researchers spoke to child care center directors and 32 Latina mothers who live in Belmont Cragin on the Northwest Side and Little Village on the West Side with at least one child under age 5. Mothers said they wanted more child care information and cited barriers such as access (bilingual resources are not always available), cost and convenience. Little Village moms said there were not many programs near their homes. Belmont Cragin moms shared their experiences of being waitlisted or referred elsewhere.
While the parent interviews were recorded between 2018 and 2019, researcher Aida Pacheco-Applegate said COVID-19 has only amplified the challenges. The study notes how the pandemic has laid bare what communities of color already face: health disparities.
Here are some recent stories related to COVID-19.