The light at the end of the coronavirus pandemic tunnel can finally be seen — but it’s not time to put away those masks yet.
Here’s what happened in COVID-19 news.
8:55 p.m. Chicago sees first COVID-19 vaccinations — and first signs of hope
Dr. Marina Del Rios, from University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System, receives Chicago’s first COVID-19 vaccination from Dr. Nikhila Juvvadi on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020, at Loretto Hospital, a 122-bed medical facility in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago. | Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune/Pool ORG XMIT: CST2012151507060437Jose M. Osorio, Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune/Pool
Emergency room physician Dr. Marina Del Rios was the first person in Chicago to be vaccinated for COVID-19 on Tuesday, one of five hospital workers to get shots.
“It’s really an honor to stand here and take part in this moment in history,” said Del Rios, director of Social Emergency Medicine at University of Illinois Health. “As an emergency physician who has been on the frontlines of this pandemic since Day One, I can attest that health care workers have been anxious for this day to come.”
Hospital health care workers are first to get inoculated, and, in the coming weeks, nursing home residents and staff will also be offered the vaccine, which requires two doses three weeks apart.
All five shots were given in the morning at The Loretto Hospital, a community health care provider in Austin, that was selected by the city as a site to receive and administer the first shots.
Austin and the surrounding West Side have been hit hard by the virus. Mayor Lori Lightfoot used the setting in a news conference to promise an emphasis on vaccinating the Black and Latino communities that bear a disproportionate burden of COVID-19 cases. As part of the effort, Lightfoot said it will be essential to closely follow demographic trends for vaccinations.
5:22 p.m. Cook County Jail was one of the nation’s largest COVID-19 hotspots last spring. It’s worse now
The number of detainees testing positive for the coronavirus at the Cook County Jail has soared to levels not seen since cases there last peaked in the spring, when it saw one of the largest outbreaks of confirmed cases of any location in the country.
Twenty-three detainees at the jail tested positive for the virus on Nov. 1, according to data from the sheriff’s office. Just over a month later, the jail set a new record for cases on Dec. 7, with 370.
That’s even higher than the previous peak, 307, on April 10.
The drastic increase in little more than a month illustrates just how difficult a task it is to control the virus’ spread inside correctional facilities and how quickly cases can rise.
It’s the situation Sheriff Tom Dart — who himself tested positive last month — warned about recently as he stood outside the jail and urged the public to take measures including wearing masks, socially distancing and remaining home as much as possible.
3:45 p.m. Mercy Hospital closure proposal rejected by state board
A state board on Tuesday unanimously rejected a plan to close Mercy Hospital in the Bronzeville neighborhood.
The Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board voted 6-0 after about four hours of testimony from dozens of community members, activists, doctors and nurses — all of whom called for the board to reject Trinity Health’s request.
Trinity Health said it was disappointed by the board’s vote.
“We will look forward to going before the board again in early 2021 with our plans to discontinue inpatient services at Mercy Hospital and transition to an outpatient model to serve residents on the South Side of Chicago,” Trinity Health said in a statement.
Dr. Linda Murray, a state board member, said, “I do not believe Mercy has made a reasonable case that their services will not have an extremely negative impact on the South Side of Chicago. … As a public health person, I am really distressed that this is going on in the midst of a global pandemic.”
2:52 p.m. Lightfoot pleads with Congress to approve money for cities and states hit by the pandemic
Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Tuesday implored President-elect Joe Biden and Democratic congressional leaders not to leave pandemic-ravaged cities and states out in the cold in the next round of stimulus funding.
Lightfoot unleashed her anger when asked about reports Biden is willing to compromise on a coronavirus relief package that does not include replacement revenue for state and local governments.
“I’m very disappointed about what I’m seeing as the developments. I don’t know that that’s the incoming Biden administration as much as it is what’s going on in the Senate,” she said.
“This virus has had a disastrous impact on economies — local, state — all across the country. … The notion that somehow a package would move and get to the president’s desk or signature and there would be zero relief for state and local governments is absolutely unacceptable. I am not someone who says, ‘This way or no way.’ But what are we talking about here?”
7:42 a.m. Coronavirus vaccine arrives in Illinois; first local inoculation will be Tuesday at Loretto Hospital
The first batch of COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Illinois on Monday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office said.
The state received about 43,000 does and expects additional doses in the coming weeks, his office said.
Health care workers at Loretto Hospital, 645 S. Central Ave., are expected to be the first in the city to receive the new vaccine Tuesday morning, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health.
Analysis & Commentary
7:40 a.m. Celebrate news about the COVID-19 vaccine, but don’t let your guard down
In a letter to the Sun-Times editors, Ashvin Lad, of Lake View, writes:
With the COVID-19 vaccine approved by the FDA and already in its early stages of distribution, we all ought to be feeling grateful and optimistic. I certainly am because, as a cancer survivor, I am at a higher risk of having a negative impact from the virus. But, because of this, I also know that we must not let our guard down because of the positive news.
We owe it to the essential workers who can’t stay home and who have spent nearly a year in high-risk jobs. We owe it to the medical workers who have been on the front lines of this battle, and too often seen loss. And we owe it to the biopharmaceutical scientists and researchers who have made the vaccines that I hope will end this pandemic.
We owe it to them to keep wearing masks, to keep washing our hands, to keep maintaining our social distance and to keep following the guidance of our local health authorities.