The U.S. moved a step closer to offering booster doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for some populations, but there's still more to be done before the shots will actually be administered.
Plus, Chicago has announced the return of popular holiday events as the city gears up for fall and winter.
Here's what you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic across Illinois today:
Chicago Announces Return of City's Popular Holiday Traditions, Events
After a holiday season that saw the cancellation of several popular traditions in Chicago, the city has announced the return of some of the most beloved events and activities for fall and winter.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Thursday that in-person holiday festivities will return this year, beginning with Halloween.
According to the mayor's office and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, Halloween community events will return citywide.
In addition, winter traditions will return at Millennium Park, including ice skating and the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony, which will be held on Nov. 19.
Read more here.
Chicago Mayor, Top Doctor to Announce New Vaccine Campaign
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady are expected to announce a new "citywide vaccine campaign Thursday."
According to Lightfoot's public schedule, the two are set to join community leaders at 10:30 a.m. in the Red Shied Salvation Army gymnasium for the announcement.
Watch it live in the player above.
FDA Authorizes Pfizer COVID-19 Boosters for Seniors, High-Risk
The U.S. moved a step closer Wednesday to offering booster doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to senior citizens and others at high risk from the virus as the Food and Drug Administration signed off on the targeted use of extra shots.
The FDA authorized booster doses for Americans who are 65 and older, younger adults with underlying health conditions and those in jobs that put them at high risk for COVID-19. The ruling represents a drastically scaled back version of the Biden administration’s sweeping plan to give third doses to nearly all American adults to shore up their protection amid the spread of the highly contagious delta variant.
However, more regulatory hurdles lie ahead before the dispensing of boosters can begin.
Read more here.
Overcrowding at Pediatric ERs Has Area Hospitals Urging Parents to Visit Pediatrician, Urgent Care First
Doctors from a half dozen Chicago-area hospitals, along with the top health officials in Illinois, say local hospital emergency rooms are seeing unprecedented numbers of patients with non life-threatening illnesses, such as the common cold or other respiratory viruses.
“We are seeing two times as many children in the ER in September than this time last year,” said Dr. Melissa Rice, Chair of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Rush University Medical Center.
“This surge is straining the health system, leading to extended wait periods,” said Dr. Elizabeth Alpern, Head of Emergency Medicine at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital.
In addition to Rush and Lurie, doctors from University of Chicago Medicine Comer’s Children’s Hospital, Advocate Children’s Hospital, UI Health and Loyola Medicine echoed similar concerns at a joint news conference at Lurie Children’s Hospital Wednesday.
Respiratory illnesses including RSV and even the common cold are surging, as capacity restrictions and other mitigations have been lifted in Illinois as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
The respiratory illnesses share some common symptoms with COVID-19 and doctors say that has concerned parents heading straight to the emergency room, despite testing availability at other sites such as immediate and urgent care centers, pediatricians’ offices and more.
For concerns that aren’t life-threatening, hospitals are urging parents to call their pediatrician or family doctor first.
Read more here.
‘Maderna' Tourist Wanted After Skipping Hawaii Zoom Hearing
A Hawaii judge issued a bench warrant for an Illinois woman after she failed to appear for a virtual court hearing Wednesday following her arrest for an alleged fake COVID-19 vaccination card that misspelled Moderna as “Maderna.”
Judge Karin Holma said she would issue a $500 warrant for the 24-year-old woman's arrest during a hearing on the case held via Zoom.
Deputy Hawaii Attorney General Kory Young said he was requesting the warrant even though the scheduled proceeding was a status hearing.
Chloe Mrozak, of Oak Lawn, was accused of using falsified vaccination documents, according to court records.
'Serious Increase in Patients' at Pediatric ERs Sparks Warning from Health Officials
An early surge in cases of RSV, a virus that typically appears in the winter, on top of coronavirus cases and other pediatric illnesses, has led to a "serious increase in patients" at pediatric emergency rooms, and Illinois health officials and doctors are now asking parents to call doctors about non-life threatening illnesses before bringing their children to the ER.
Saying "emergency rooms are crowded with very long wait times," the state's top public health experts, alongside hospital leaders and doctors, are set to hold a press conference Wednesday morning at Lurie Children's Hospital to "urge families to contact their primary care physician, pediatrician or visit an immediate care center for illnesses that are non-life threatening."
“The COVID-19 outbreak remains under good control in Chicago – we are averaging just one COVID hospital admission a day for those under 18 – but this surge in local emergency departments is concerning,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a statement. “While I encourage parents to continue to take all the normal preventive measures to protect the health of their children, including getting them vaccinated if they’re eligible, they should only seek care at an emergency department if their child is seriously ill.”
Experts say that on top of the early RSV surge and coronavirus cases, local hospital emergency rooms are seeing higher volumes of patients with a common cold or other respiratory virus.
Chicago Health Officials Urge Residents to Get Vaccinated as Flu Season Nears
After a historic flu season last year, Chicago public health officials say that they are hopeful that the steps residents take to protect themselves from COVID-19 can continue to be effective in keeping the seasonal virus at bay for another year.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were just 2,038 cases of the flu reported by public health and clinical labs between Sept. 2020 and April 2021, far fewer than the approximately 38 million cases that were reported in the previous year.
Public health experts attributed the massive downturn in cases to increased emphasis on handwashing, increased social distancing and mask-wearing, all of which were brought about by the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Tuesday, Dr. Allison Arwady, the commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said that while she is hopeful those mitigation practices will continue this year, she is still nervous about the coming flu season, especially with the delta variant still causing elevated case levels in the city and the state of Illinois.
COVID by the Numbers: Coronavirus Metrics in Each of Illinois' 11 Health Care Regions
An Illinois health care region that saw all of its intensive care unit beds filled up with patients last week has been making progress in reducing overall hospitalizations, but ICU bed availability remains low amid a stubborn increase in COVID cases.
According to the latest data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, Region 5, comprised of 20 counties in the southern tip of Illinois, has two ICU beds available out of the 90 staffed beds in its hospital systems.
Fewer than 5% of the region’s ICU beds have been available over the last week, according to IDPH data.
The region is seeing some good news in other areas however, including in its number of overall COVID hospitalizations, which have decreased or remained steady each of the last nine days.
The latest data here.
Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer: What We Know About Booster Shots So Far
Johnson & Johnson released a new update on the potential for a booster shot of its single-dose coronavirus vaccine Tuesday, but as booster shots continue to be debated nationwide, what's next for all three COVID vaccines currently being administered in the U.S.?
Pfizer, Moderna and J&J have each conducted studies surrounding booster doses of their vaccines.
Scientists inside and outside the government have been divided in recent days over the need for boosters and who should get them.
COVID Vaccine and Kids: The Potential Schedule for Children Under 12
Pfizer's latest announcement that its COVID-19 vaccine works for children ages 5 to 11 and that it will seek U.S. authorization for this age group soon marked a key step toward beginning vaccinations for youngsters. But when could that happen?
Dr. Bill Gruber, a Pfizer senior vice president, told The Associated Press the companies aim to apply to the Food and Drug Administration by the end of the month for emergency use in this age group, followed shortly afterward with applications to European and British regulators.
Earlier this month, FDA chief Dr. Peter Marks told the AP that once Pfizer turns over its study results, his agency would evaluate the data “hopefully in a matter of weeks” to decide if the shots are safe and effective enough for younger kids.
If the FDA signs off, shots could be authorized for the younger age group by Halloween.
"I would guess at this point that we will have Pfizer vaccine available for 5- to 11-year-olds on that same timeframe that we've been talking about- early November, possibly late October," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Tuesday. "The FDA has said publicly, they are throwing a lot of extra resources at this trying to move this just as quickly as they can. But let me be super clear: everybody wants to see this data - the FDA, the CDC, [CDPH], the public."
Read more here.
Chicago Travel Advisory at 48 States, 3 Territories as Some Spots Removed, Others Return
Chicago's travel advisory has been updated once again, and although there are still 48 states and three territories on the city's warning list, the locations included still changed.
That's because Connecticut and the District of Columbia, both of which had been dropped from the advisory last week, are now back under the "orange category," which recommends unvaccinated travelers from such locations test negative for COVID-19 and quarantine.
At the same time, however, California and Puerto Rico fell off.
Full details here.
Moderna vs. Pfizer: Is One Vaccine Stronger Against Delta Variant?
With many now able to choose which COVID vaccine they receive, questions surrounding which offers better protection against the now-surging delta variant have spiked.
Several studies have been conducted to determine vaccine effectiveness, but is one vaccine actually better than the others?
According to medical experts, the three vaccines currently available in the U.S. each offer protection.
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