Home Local Coronavirus in Illinois updates: Chicago opens COVID-19 vaccines to those with health conditions and remaining essential workers today; state reports 1,761 new cases and five additional deaths

Coronavirus in Illinois updates: Chicago opens COVID-19 vaccines to those with health conditions and remaining essential workers today; state reports 1,761 new cases and five additional deaths

by staff

Chicago residents who have medical conditions or are essential workers but hadn’t yet qualified for the coronavirus vaccine become eligible for the shot starting Monday.



And while nearly 69% of seniors 65 and up had received at least one shot as of Monday, the state health department is reporting rising trends for both of the other two measurements, as well as for daily cases.

Here’s what’s happening Monday with COVID-19 in the Chicago area:

(Updated) 5:20 p.m.: Biden, CDC director warn of COVID rebound if nation lets up

President Joe Biden and a top health official warned Monday that too many Americans are declaring virus victory too quickly, appealing for mask requirements and other restrictions to be maintained or restored to stave off a “fourth surge” of COVID-19. The head of the CDC said she had a feeling of “impending doom” if people keep easing off.

The double dose of warnings came even as Biden laid out hopeful new steps to expand coronavirus vaccinations, with all adults to become eligible over the next 5 weeks. Biden announced plans to expand the number of retail pharmacies that are administering vaccines, and investments to help Americans get to vaccination sites. But the optimism was tempered by stark warnings about the potential for another wave of cases.

“This is deadly serious,” Biden said, urging governors to reinstate mask mandates and other restrictions that some states have been easing.

Hours earlier, during a virtual White House health briefing, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, grew emotional as she reflected on her experience treating COVID-19 patients who are alone at the end of their lives.

“We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope,” she said. “But right now, I’m scared.”

“I’m going to lose the script, and I’m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom.”

Cases of the virus are up about 10% over the past week from the previous week, to about 60,000 cases per day, with both hospitalizations and deaths ticking up as well, Walensky said. She warned that without immediate action the U.S. could follow European countries into another spike in cases and suffer needless deaths.

“I have to share the truth, and I have to hope and trust you will listen,” she said.


5:05 p.m.: Parson’s Chicken & Fish opening 2 new locations after COVID-19 turned expansion plans upside down

Parson’s Chicken & Fish, the trendy fast casual chain specializing in — you guessed it — chicken and fish, is opening two new locations in the coming weeks.

But a swift doubling of its Chicago footprint in the West Town and Andersonville neighborhoods doesn’t portend a strategy of rapid growth for the chain launched in Logan Square eight years ago. It’s just the latest curveball tossed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

2:43 p.m.: Illinois close to having 70% of residents 65 and older vaccinated, but rising COVID-19 hospitalizations and cases will prevent state from opening up further

Almost 70% of Illinois residents 65 and over have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, but an increase in COVID-19 cases, positivity rates and hospitalizations will keep the state from entering the “bridge” phase of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s reopening plan.

Pritzker was optimistic on March 18 when he introduced a gradual plan toward fully reopening the state that included an in-between phase, which would allow higher capacity limits for businesses and gatherings.

But in addition to having 70% of seniors vaccinated, a move to the bridge phase required no significant increase over the most recent 28 days in metrics including hospital admissions and the number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals.

And while nearly 69% of seniors 65 and up had received at least one shot as of Monday, the state health department is reporting rising trends for both of the other two measurements, as well as for daily cases.

12:45 p.m.: City to team with Chicago Federation of Labor to vaccinate up to 1,200 eligible union workers per week

As Chicago expands the number of essential workers eligible for vaccines, the city announced Monday it will partner with labor groups to launch a vaccination site for eligible union workers.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a site at the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 399 in Chicago that will be capable of vaccinating roughly 1,200 people per week. Lightfoot said the move is in partnership with the Chicago Federation of Labor.

”Since Chicago first received COVID-19 vaccines, our highest priority has been to vaccinate our most vulnerable residents and essential workers as quickly as possible,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “Unions are trusted messengers and dedicated advocates for thousands of Chicago’s essential workers, and this collaboration will ensure that workers with the highest need will have access to the vaccine as we enter Phase 1c.”



12:07 p.m.: 1,761 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases and five additional deaths reported

Illinois health officials on Monday announced 1,761 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 and five additional fatalities, bringing the total number of known infections in Illinois to 1,239,589 and the statewide death toll to 21,256 since the start of the pandemic.

Officials also reported 49,449 new tests in the last 24 hours. The statewide positivity rate for cases is 3.3%.

The 7-day daily average of administered vaccine doses is 103,769, with 49,192 doses given on Sunday. Officials also say a total of 5,577,614 vaccines have now been administered.

—Chicago Tribune staff

11:06 a.m.: Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines prove highly effective in real-world use, CDC says

The U.S government’s first look at the real-world use of COVID-19 vaccines found their effectiveness was nearly as robust as it was in controlled studies.

The two vaccines available since December — Pfizer and Moderna — were 90% effective after two doses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Monday. In testing, the vaccines were about 95% effective in preventing COVID-19.

“This is very reassuring news,” said the CDC’s Mark Thompson, the study’s lead author. “We have a vaccine that’s working very well.”

11:41 a.m.: For those in need, pop-up Aurora food pantry events ‘helping a lot’

Katherine Thomas of Aurora arrived at Phillips Park at 4:45 a.m. Monday knowing that in a few hours there would be groceries in the back of her van.

“I got here before 5 a.m. and I’ve come to all of the food pop-ups here,” Thomas said. “It’s really been helping a lot.”

Food insecurity in light of the pandemic and other factors made Aurora’s eighth free pop-up food pantry at Phillips Park a welcome sight to 1,000 families that received food boxes Monday morning.

As usual, cars began queueing up well before the announced 9 a.m. distribution time as the city rolled out its latest monthly effort offered in collaboration with Northern Illinois Food Bank and Marie Wilkinson Food Pantry.

11 a.m.: ‘COVID put me out of business’: Mario’s Barber Shop closes after 50 years in Park Ridge

A barber shop that has been a fixture in Park Ridge for more than 50 years has closed its doors.

Stylists at Mario’s Barber Shop, located in the Crossroads shopping plaza at 1017 N. Northwest Highway, cut their last locks of hair on March 15.

Owner Michael Pascolla said the COVID-19 pandemic and high cost of rent prompted him to close the shop just ahead of his lease expiring at the end of the month.

6:59 a.m.: Notre Dame announces plan to vaccinate all students in April

The school will receive enough Pfizer vaccine for every student to be fully inoculated with both necessary doses before the end of May, university president Rev. John Jenkins said in a letter to students, faculty and staff Thursday night. A vaccination clinic is anticipated to open by Mid-April, but students are only being encouraged – not required – to receive the shots.

“Needless to say, we are delighted to receive this positive news,” Jenkins said, noting that Notre Dame will continue enforcing its current campus health and safety protocols.

The Indiana Department of Health has indicated that other Indiana colleges and universities would also be allowed to open campus vaccination centers next month. More details about the rollout are expected in the coming weeks.

The Notre Dame vaccination clinic will also have shots available for faculty and staff, Jenkins said, although university officials have asked non-students to first seek out vaccine at local community sites.


—Associated Press

6 a.m.: Reopening schools became a rallying cry for parents. Now it’s a campaign issue in suburban school board races: ‘This is a lot bigger than COVID’

Lenny Walker was standing in line at a grocery store in Buffalo Grove recently when he heard someone behind him call out, “Hey, aren’t you with the District 214 school board?”

“I turned around and smiled at him and said, ‘Yes, I am,’ and he replied, ‘Why don’t you open the fricking schools? You’re destroying my kid,’ ” recalled Walker, a father of four from Wheeling.

“As I was leaving the store, and kind of looking over my shoulder, another guy approached me and asked, ‘Do you get that a lot?’ and I answered, ‘Yes, all of the time,’ and he told me, ‘Stay strong,’ ” Walker said.

Despite such jarring encounters, Walker is running for reelection in an unusually heated race of eight candidates seeking four seats. And COVID-19 has left its imprint on school board contests throughout the suburbs, with parents’ frustration over school closings and remote learning driving more attention, and new candidates, to many races — possibly with consequences that last well beyond the pandemic.

Pre-pandemic, suburban school board contests were often no-drama affairs, in some cases, failing to attract enough candidates to fill open seats. But this election arrives in the wake of a tumultuous 2020 campaign season that was punctuated by parents protesting for reopened schools, marathon school board meetings and even lawsuits, including one filed this month against school board members in Naperville- and Aurora-based Indian Prairie School District 204 by a group of parents who allege a coordinated “cover-up of COVID-19 planning.”

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