COVID-19 in Illinois updates: Here’s what’s happening this weekend

Illinois public health officials Sunday reported 2,942 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 and 16 additional deaths. That brings the state’s totals to 1,279,772 cases and 21,505 deaths.

The state also said 131,285 doses of the coronavirus vaccine were administered Saturday and the seven-day rolling average of daily doses is 126,827. The state had recorded daily records in vaccines administered on the three previous days.

On Friday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said while the vaccination numbers are headed in the right direction, rising hospitalizations continue to be a concern.

“There’s a sense of optimism, but you also have to look at the case numbers and the hospitalization numbers,” he said at an unrelated event in south suburban Robbins. “We’re currently seeing hospitalizations going up. It’s very challenging. I worry about it.”

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

131,285 vaccine doses, 2,942 cases, 16 deaths reported

Illinois public health officials Sunday reported 2,942 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 and 16 additional deaths. That brings the state’s totals to 1,279,772 cases and 21,505 deaths.

There were 69,600 tests in the previous 24 hours and the statewide positivity rate as a percent of total test is 4.2%.

The state also said 131,285 doses of the coronavirus vaccine were administered Saturday and the seven-day rolling average of daily doses is 126,827.

3,630 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases and 13 additional deaths reported

Illinois health officials on Saturday announced 3,630 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 and 13 additional fatalities, bringing the total number of known infections in Illinois to 1,276,830 and the statewide death toll to 21,489 since the start of the pandemic.

Officials also reported 84,478 new tests in the last 24 hours. The statewide positivity rate for cases is 4.2%.

The 7-day daily average of administered vaccine doses is 122,674, with a daily record 175,681 doses given on Friday. Officials also say a total of 7,047,326 vaccines have now been administered.

Chicago Cubs first base coach Craig Driver tests positive for COVID-19

Chicago Cubs first base coach Craig Driver has tested positive for COVID-19, the team said Saturday.

Driver did not travel with the team to Pittsburgh because he had been feeling under the weather. Mike Napoli filled in as the first base coach during Thursday’s victory against the Pirates.

Walgreens in Chicago aim to vaccinate more than 10,000 residents with houses of worship

Walgreens will give COVID-19 vaccinations to more than 10,000 members of houses of worship across the city of Chicago this month, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Saturday.

More than 70 religious places will partner with Walgreens clinics for the next three weeks as part of a new “COVID-19 Vaccine Faith Initiative” in Chicago, Lightfoot said during a press conference at JLM Abundant Life Center on the city’s Near West Side. She touted the new vaccination partnership as a means to cover moderate to high-risk residents who have not participated in previous equity campaigns from the city.

With vaccine authorization for young kids still months away, what should families who are partially vaccinated do?

More than 20% of Illinoisans are fully vaccinated and able to resume some normal activities, but people with young children may be waiting a little bit longer.

None of the authorized vaccine providers in the U.S. are approved for use in people younger than 16, but Pfizer on Friday requested authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for adolescents between 12 and 15.

The trials for younger children, though, have just begun and are still months from such a request. Experts estimate that the vaccines may not be authorized for them until late this year or early 2022.

Though children are at lower risk of contracting COVID-19 infections and becoming seriously ill, they can infect more vulnerable people. They are also essential to reaching herd immunity because some adults cannot or choose not to become vaccinated, doctors say.

COVID-19 cases are up in more vaccinated parts of Chicago. One possible reason: People are dropping their guard.

Deleon Davenport lives in South Shore but manages a restaurant in River North, and he’s seen the differences in the latest surge.

Near his home, he said, people seem to wear masks and keep their distance from strangers more. But where he works, he watches hordes of unmasked pedestrians and outdoor diners acting like the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

River North’s predominant ZIP code has nearly double the percentage of residents fully vaccinated than the ZIP code covering South Shore. But River North’s also has twice the number of new COVID-19 cases, relative to population size.

It’s part of what may seem like a surprising trend in Chicago: Some of the city’s more vaccinated areas also are seeing higher case rates.

But it doesn’t surprise Davenport because of the more carefree behavior he sees where he works.

“Seeing people without masks actually frustrates me now,” Davenport said.

The River North neighborhood is among the many new flashpoints of an emerging third surge of cases on Chicago’s North Side. From West Town and Lincoln Park to Edison Park, these neighborhoods have some of the city’s highest rates of vaccination so far, as many as 42% of residents getting at least one shot in the period studied. And yet the third surge has affected them more than some areas that suffered greatly in previous surges.

Health officials say the reasons are complex.

From checkout lines to vaccine lines: Vacant big-box stores get new life as mass vaccination sites

At a former Kmart store in Des Plaines, the parking lot was full and a steady stream of people walked through the building’s sliding glass doors.

No one was there to shop: what was once the last remaining Kmart in Illinois is now one of Cook County’s COVID-19 mass vaccination sites.

The store’s sign has been swapped for a banner announcing the vaccine site, and a member of the Illinois National Guard greeted people at the entrance Thursday morning. Racks of merchandise have been replaced by rows of tables and chairs where people check in and get their shots.

“Kmart has really changed,” joked Matt Demers, 39, of Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood, after receiving his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

Unions and parents call for boycotts over schools’ plans for in-person standardized tests this spring: ‘A waste of our time’

When Percy Julian Middle School in Oak Park began welcoming students back earlier this year on a limited basis, Susan Raphael was excited her 13-year old son would finally resume in-person instruction and be able to gather with classmates after nearly a year of remote learning.

But Raphael’s joy was soon replaced by frustration, after Oak Park School District 97 announced that — despite the prolonged COVID-19 disruptions — students would be required to spend four days this month taking federally mandated standardized tests on subjects like reading, math and language arts.

“My first reaction was, this is so silly. … They are taking away a week of student learning when they’re already losing instructional time like crazy,” said Raphael, a mother of three who has decided she will not send her son to school for the standardized testing on Monday and is unlikely to have her twin daughters take the tests later this spring.

“It seems like the system is broken, especially for students at big urban school districts like Oak Park and Chicago. It doesn’t provide any benefits for my child, especially with the risks,” Raphael added. ” … It’s a waste of our time.”

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