Here’s what happened today in the fight against the coronavirus in Chicago, the state and the nation.
Boxes containing the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are prepared to be shipped at the Pfizer Global Supply Kalamazoo manufacturing plant in Portage, Mich.Morry Gash/AP Photo
As Illinois prepares to receive its first shipment of coronavirus vaccine from the federal government this week, a group of community activists on Sunday called on Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot to “correct big mistakes” in their vaccine distribution plans.
They say those plans must be made more equitable for communities of color disproportionately impacted by the virus.
A group of activists that included Alds. Jeanette Taylor (20th) and Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) asked Pritzker and Lightfoot to expand outreach and work to build trust with Black and Brown communities.
Earlier this month, Pritzker laid out the state’s distribution plan for the first shipment of a COVID-19 vaccine. Illinois expects to receive 109,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine from the federal government by Dec. 19. About 23,000 of those vaccines, or 21%, will be sent to Chicago, with the remaining expected to go to the 50 counties suffering the highest per capita coronavirus death rates; that’s about half the counties in the state.
2 p.m. COVID-19 vaccine shipments begin in historic U.S. effort
KALAMAZOO, Michigan — The first shipments of a COVID-19 vaccine for widespread use in the United States headed Sunday from Michigan to distribution centers across the country, with the first shots expected to be given in the coming week to health care workers and at nursing homes.
Shipments of the Pfizer vaccine will set in motion the biggest vaccination effort in American history at a critical juncture of the pandemic that has killed 1.6 million and sickened 71 million worldwide.
Initially, about 3 million doses were expected to be sent out, and the priority is health care workers and nursing home residents as infections, hospitalizations and deaths soar in the U.S. With numbers likely to get worse over the holidays, the vaccine is offering a bright spot in the fight against the pandemic that’s killed nearly 300,000 Americans.
Federal officials say the first shipments of Pfizer’s vaccine will be staggered, arriving in 145 distribution centers Monday, with an additional 425 sites getting shipments Tuesday, and the remaining 66 on Wednesday. The vaccine, co-developed by German partner BioNTech, is being doled out based on each state’s adult population.
9 a.m. Tree sales soar ahead of coronavirus Christmas: ‘We didn’t really see it coming’
Buying a real Christmas tree is part of the Barnett family’s holiday tradition. Each year, Troy Barnett tries to find the largest evergreen he can from a lot near his Lincoln Park home, he said.
But his plan hit a snag earlier this month when the lot shut down for the season after it sold its entire inventory just weeks after opening.
“I was totally surprised,” Barnett said. “It was our tradition just to walk over, but they sold out of their trees two weeks prior to us traditionally getting it.”
Shannon Carey ran into a similar issue. As Carey and his girlfriend looked around online to find a real tree, they noticed many lots were already empty.
“I was surprised at how much the demand had surged.” Carey said. “I had no idea.”
Merchants say Chicagoans are flocking to Christmas tree lots at unprecedented rates this year amid a holiday season like no other. Unable to travel or see extended family as COVID-19 cases continue to rise, many are turning to real Christmas trees to make their holiday season bright, resulting in many places selling out earlier than they have in the past.
It’s reflective of a national trend as Christmas tree sales were up nearly 30% nationwide through the first week of December, according to a CNBC report.
8 a.m. 127 more Illinois coronavirus deaths Saturday as state prepares to receive first vaccine doses
As the state prepares to receive its first shipment of coronavirus vaccine doses from the federal government, Illinois public health officials on Saturday announced COVID-19 has killed an additional 127 residents and spread to 8,737 more.
Both figures are well below the state’s average daily tallies over the last two weeks, which have marked Illinois’ deadliest period of the entire pandemic. About 9,200 people have tested positive each day during that stretch, with the virus claiming an average of 147 lives every day.
The new cases were diagnosed among a record-high 126,888 tests submitted to the Illinois Department of Health, meaning only about 6.9% of the latest tests came back positive. That’s the lowest one-day proportion of positive tests the state has reported since Oct. 27, before Illinois’ autumn resurgence hit a peak in mid-November.
7 a.m. COVID-19 vaccine shipments set to arrive in states on Monday
WASHINGTON — The nation’s first COVID-19 vaccine will begin arriving in states Monday morning, U.S. officials said Saturday, after the government gave the final go-ahead to the shots needed to end an outbreak that has killed nearly 300,000 Americans.
Trucks will roll out Sunday morning as shipping companies UPS and FedEx begin delivering Pfizer’s vaccine to nearly 150 locations, said Army Gen. Gustave F. Perna of Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s vaccine development program. Another 450 sites will get the vaccine Tuesday and Wednesday.
The locations include hospitals and other sites able to meet the ultra-cold storage requirements for the vaccine. Within three weeks, vaccines should be delivered to local pharmacies and other locations, Perna said at a news conference.
The vaccine was timed to arrive Monday morning so that health workers would be available to receive the shots and begin giving them, Perna said.
It was unclear who would receive the first dose of the vaccine, though health workers and nursing home residents were the priority. Perna said that decision would be determined by health authorities.
The announcement kicks off a massive logistical operation involving the federal and state governments, private companies and health care workers to quickly distribute limited vaccine supplies throughout the U.S.
Analysis & Commentary
9 a.m. LETTERS: I volunteered for COVID-19 vaccine trials. We need public education to build trust in the vaccine.
Below is an excerpt from a Letter to the Editor submitted by Froy Jimenez, a Chicago Public Schools civics teacher.
As a volunteer for one of the COVID-19 vaccine trials and part of the Phase 3 Moderna study, I urge that there be education and full disclosure about the vaccines.
A front-page Sun-Times article outlines the city’s vaccination plan. These efforts will require trustworthy elected leaders to be completely forthcoming about the facts regarding the vaccine, and for the public to participate in the plan fully and equitably. Public trust and a massive vaccine education campaign are a must.
The political, business, labor and other community influencers who fought for the Fair Tax must invest in public service ad campaigns on vaccine education. This campaign must be apolitical so that vaccination, unlike wearing a face mask, does not divide Americans and diminish our fight against the virus. The vaccine cannot be allowed to be labeled as “Trump’s shot.” Conversations should involve honest dialogue about scientific and medical evidence, not repetition of sound bites.
The best way to overcome skepticism, as Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady points out — especially in communities of color hit the hardest by the virus — is through education.