More than $43 million in "expedited federal funding" has been given to Illinois' Emergency Management Agency to help with the state's COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan.
Meanwhile, the city of Chicago could enter Phase 4 of the state's coronavirus restrictions in the coming days, but doesn't plan to increase the capacity for indoor dining.
Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic across the state of Illinois today, Jan. 29:
Chicago Won't Increase Indoor Dining Capacity When State Eases COVID Restrictions
The city of Chicago won't permit bars and restaurants to increase indoor dining capacity even though Illinois health officials are expected to ease restrictions in the city as a result of progress in the fight against COVID-19, city officials announced Friday.
Chicago, which is designated as Region 11 by the Illinois Department of Public Health, remained at Tier 1 Friday, the highest level of restrictions that allows indoor dining.
Under Tier 1 mitigations, indoor service is limited to lesser of 25% or 25 persons per room, no tables exceeding four people are permitted indoors and indoor service must be suspended if an establishment is not serving food. Additionally, all bars and restaurants must close at 11 p.m., and reservations are required for all parties.
Read more here.
Illinois Lab Says It Has Detected Potential New COVID Mutation Linked to UK Variant
A lab in Illinois says it has discovered what it believes is a new mutation of COVID-19 that may be linked to the U.K. variant now being reported in the U.S.
According to Reditus Laboratories in Pekin, Illinois, a novel SARS-CoV-2 Spike 69-70 deletion, also known as V70X, was detected in tests run this week on specimens from coronavirus testing in DuPage County.
Reditus CEO Dr. Aaron Rossi said the mutation was detected in two people "who are believed to be the first two confirmed cases of the 69-70 deletion lineage in Illinois." Twelve cases of the mutation were confirmed nationwide earlier this month, the lab reported.
“What this [detection of the 69-70 deletion] tells us is the virus is consistently mutating at a more rapid pace,” Rossi said in a statement. “The general consensus is the mutations are more contagious than the earlier strain of the virus.”
Read more here.
Illinois Reports 4,156 New Coronavirus Cases, 71 Additional Deaths Friday
Illinois health officials on Friday reported 4,156 new cases of COVID-19 as well as 71 additional deaths attributed to the virus.
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, Friday's new cases brought the statewide total number of confirmed cases to 1,120,528 since the pandemic began. The fatalities reported Friday lifted the death toll to 19,138.
In the last 24 hours, Illinois officials said 111,057 test specimens were returned to state laboratories, putting the state at 15,844,619 tests performed during the pandemic.
The seven-day rolling positivity rate on all tests was 4.3%, remaining the same from the day before. The positivity rate for unique individuals tested dropped slightly to 5.4% Friday.
As of Thursday night, 2,735 patients in Illinois were in the hospital with coronavirus, including 532 patients in Illinois in intensive care units and 297 on ventilators.
Also as of Thursday night, 1,304,475 coronavirus vaccines had been delivered to providers across Illinois, while 496,100 doses had been allocated to the federal government’s Pharmacy Partnership Program for long-term care facilities, IDPH said. That brought the total number of doses sent to Illinois to 1,800,575.
A total of 58,357 doses were administered Thursday, officials said, lifting the total number of vaccine doses given in the state to 887,845, including 131,401 for long-term care facilities. The latest figures brought the 7-day rolling average administered daily to 38,738 doses, according to IDPH data.
Chicago and CPS' Top Doctors to Host Roundtable With Experts
Chicago's top doctor and the chief health officer for the city's public school district will host a roundtable with experts Friday morning to discuss Chicago Public Schools' plan for in-person learning.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady and CPS Chief Health Officer Dr. Kenneth Fox will host the livestreamed event at 10:30 a.m., according to the district. It can be watched live in the video player above.
The discussion will center on CPS' plan to return to in-person learning. That plan is scheduled to see kindergarten through eighth grade students back in classrooms on Monday, though that start date may be in jeopardy as negotiations between CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union continue.
FEMA Gives $43M in Funding to Illinois to Help With COVID Vaccine Distribution
More than $43 million in "expedited federal funding" has been given to Illinois' Emergency Management Agency to help with the state's COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan, officials announced Thursday.
The money was given by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) after a federal disaster declaration on Jan. 20.
According to the agency, the money is an "advance payment" for costs like contract healthcare staffing. It also includes money for the creation and operation of temporary facilities and "vaccination assistance teams" in Illinois.
“FEMA is committed to expanding COVID-19 vaccination efforts across the country,” Kevin M. Sligh, acting regional administrator of FEMA Region 5, said in a statement. “This expedited grant funding ensures the availability of critical healthcare resources to vaccinate Illinoisans and is just one part of our support to the state in their fight against this pandemic.”
For a complete guide to what we know about vaccinations in Illinois, click here.
Can You Visit Grandparents After They Receive COVID-19 Vaccinations?
After grandparents or older parents receive the coronavirus vaccine shot, is it safe to visit?
One expert from Northwestern University says not yet.
“Nothing changes after the vaccine. We will still need to socially distance and wear our masks. We should avoid our frail elders, because we just do not know the strength of their immune response to the vaccine and whether they have built up sufficient antibodies," Northwestern Medicine geriatrician and professor Dr. June McKoy said.
According to the physician, older adults naturally have diminished immune responses as they age, which continues to put them at risk for the coronavirus.
So when can families reunite with their older relatives?
McKoy said that until the U.S. has reached herd immunity, she would not advise visiting grandparents or older adults. She added that if grandparents lives in a long term care facilities, they will likely remain unable to take visitors in accordance with state rules.
Here's How CPS' Reopening Plan Compares To Other School Districts Nationwide
The battle continued Thursday between Chicago Public Schools and the teachers union over plans to reopen for in-person learning.
Both sides have not been able to agree on several issues, including a plan for vaccines, a plan for a "phased-in" reopening approach, accommodations for high risk teachers and a standard metric for positivity rate in the district.
Parents with students in pre-k and cluster programs who opted to return to in-person learning earlier this month were told to switch back to remote this week while the union works to reach an agreement.
For comparison, NBC 5 looked at reopening plans for several school district across the country.
Some school districts in other cities, like in Houston, have already been back in the classroom since October. The Houston Independent School District has just under 200,000 students.
The Houston district said 56% of students are learning virtual and 44% are learning in person, with parents able to reconsider their learning option every quarter.
“Every classroom has been evaluated to determine the maximum number of students and staff who can be in the room while maintaining safe ventilation standards,” School District of Philadelphia Superintendent William Hite said.
Hite’s district is taking a phased-in approach and will transition students to hybrid learning. The district is preparing to welcome pre-k to second grade students back on Feb. 22. for two days learning in person and three days learning remotely.
The district surveyed parents to gauge their response to the reopening plan. The district said 9,000 parents selected the hybrid learning model for their child.
The New York City Department of Education welcomed the return of kindergarten through fifth grade students for in-person learning in December. The district said it will conduct mandatory COVID testing at school weekly, though students in grades six to twelve remain remote until further notice.
The Los Angeles Unified School District has not reopened for in-person learning citing safety concerns.
CPS Asks Students to Stay Home For Third Day in a Row Friday Amid Negotiations
Chicago Public Schools asked students who have already returned to classrooms to stay home again for the third day in a row as the negotiations continue with the Chicago Teachers Union over in-person learning.
CPS asked parents of both pre-K students and students in cluster programs to keep their children home Friday as a result of the CTU's vote to switch back to all remote learning during negotiations.
"CTU leadership continues to direct staff to remain home. Therefore, we must ask parents to continue keeping your children home as we are unable to guarantee sufficient staffing to safely cover in-person learning," the district said in a tweet. "Remote learning will continue tomorrow."
The teachers union’s vote to switch back to all-remote learning took effect Wednesday, the same day that teachers of students in kindergarten through eighth grade were supposed to report to schools to begin preparations for the return of students on Feb. 1.