Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot says this summer could look "more like what we normally experience" as the city prepares for the possibility of major events returning.
Meanwhile, Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth detailed how Chicago and Illinois stand to benefit from the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill passed this week.
And residents of five Chicago ZIP codes can still book vaccination appointments at the United Center, though appointments for the rest of the general public have been closed.
Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic across Illinois today:
What is 'COVID Psychosis' and What Are the Symptoms?
In some cases, people with no history of mental health challenges have reported developing severe psychotic symptoms after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
It's being described by some health care professionals as "COVID psychosis."
So what is it and what are the symptoms?
Dr. Danesh Alam, a psychiatrist with Northwestern Medicine, says "post-COVID psychosis" is rare, but as a result of reported cases, researchers are looking to see how COVID affects the human brain.
"Labs suggest that the virus may actually be crossing the blood brain barrier, and some of the changes that we see in [the] brain related to major psychotic disorders are being observed," the doctor explained.
Read more here.
Chicago Officials Warn They Will Be Watching for St. Patrick's Day Parties, Events
Chicago officials are warning anyone who may be hosting or celebrating St. Patrick's Day that guidelines are still in place and will be enforced.
The city's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection revealed plans to increase investigations heading into the weekend "and respond to complaints to ensure business compliance."
Officials urged residents to continue following public health guidelines and to avoid large gatherings.
“St. Patrick’s Day is one of greatest times of the year in Chicago, but as we enter the second year of this pandemic our celebration must look different than typical years,” BACP Commissioner Rosa Escareno said in a statement. “We have to stay diligent and commit to the regulations that keep our community safe. I expect our businesses to rise to the occasion this weekend as they have throughout the pandemic, but we will be prepared to take enforcement action if necessary.”
Read more here.
Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson: Which COVID Vaccine is Best?
As more Johnson & Johnson doses become available in Illinois, marking a third coronavirus vaccine option for residents, can you choose and should you?
According to medical experts, the three vaccines currently available in the U.S., which include the newly-approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine, each offer some level of protection.
Already, Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines have been circulating across the U.S., both requiring two shots for full protection.
But according to an analysis by U.S. regulators, Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine also offers strong protection against severe COVID-19.
Coronavirus in Illinois: 1,700 New Cases, 55 Deaths, Over 112K Vaccinations Reported
Health officials in Illinois confirmed 1,700 new cases of coronavirus and 55 additional deaths on Thursday, with over 112,000 doses of the COVID vaccine administered to state residents in the last 24 hours.
According to figures from the Illinois Department of Public Health, the latest new confirmed and probable COVID cases reported over the last day brought the state’s total to 1,204,409 cases since the pandemic began last year.
The 55 new deaths brought the state to 20,863 fatalities related to the virus, according to health officials.
Read more here.
Some Conventions Could Return to Chicago's McCormick Place This Summer
Optimism over the return of some events this summer in Chicago appears to be growing as even the governor gave hope this week.
Already, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the city could see a summer more like "what we normally experience," and now the governor's office noted that McCormick Place could also be bringing back some events.
In a statement to NBC 5, a spokesperson for Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said "that's the plan."
Summer 2021 Could Look ‘More Like What We Normally Experience,' Lightfoot Says
As Chicagoans prepare for the possibility of major events returning in coming months, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said that the city could see a return to more normalcy in summer 2021.
"I'm still very optimistic about summer activities and gatherings of this summer," Lightfoot said during a news conference Wednesday. "But more to come."
Lightfoot described officials as "cautiously optimistic" about the return of summer events like the Taste of Chicago, but said she would not predict if specific events would occur -- also suggesting that people may not participate should events be held.
"Let's be honest, just because we say X event is happening doesn't mean that people are going to come en masse, unless they're 18 or 19," Lightfoot said. "They'll come, but for the rest of us are a little more cautious."
Lightfoot said residents could see a return to more normalcy as officials know more information about the coronavirus.
"We know so much more about the virus, how it spreads that we did a year ago," Lightfoot said. "We know, in particular, about outside events -- that we can manage these in a safe way that's consistent with the public health guidance. So, as I said, I think the summer of 2021 looks more like what we normally experienced."
Duckworth, Durbin Detail How $1.9T Stimulus Will Help Illinois, Chicago
The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan was approved by the House of Representatives Wednesday, paving the way for President Joe Biden to sign the legislation into law later this week.
Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, both Democrats from Illinois, hailed the legislation as key to helping the state and the nation heal from the impacts that the coronavirus pandemic has had over the last 12 months.
In a statement, Duckworth and Durbin laid out how the funding will be distributed to help the state battle the pandemic: approximately $275 million in vaccine distribution money, $1.5 billion for additional testing supplies and other public health funding for Illinois health departments, more than $100 million for mental health and substance abuse treatment efforts in Illinois, hundreds of millions of dollars for community health centers and the workforce staffing those facilities and tens of millions of dollars for Illinois hospitals.
A key piece of funding in the bill, one sought by numerous elected officials including Gov. J.B. Pritzker, was funding to help make up for local and state budget shortfalls, and the bill provided funds to states, aiming to help avoid massive budget cuts.
An estimated $13.2 billion will be provided in state and local funding is ticketed for Illinois in the bill, including an earmarked $1.8 billion for the city of Chicago.
So You're Fully Vaccinated. Now What? Experts Reveal What Changes
You've received both shots of your COVID vaccine, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccination, so now what?
Can you see people? Should you still wear a mask? What about social distancing?
Medical experts and health officials broke down some of the things you can and cannot do post-vaccination. Get a full breakdown here.
United Center COVID Vaccination Appointments Open For 5 Chicago Zip Codes
Coronavirus vaccination appointments at the United Center are no longer open to the general public, but are being scheduled strictly for five Chicago ZIP codes on the city's South and West Sides, officials announced.
Chicago officials said the appointments are going to communities "most impacted by the outbreak and those with low rates of vaccination," reminding that the United Center mass vaccination location was chosen due to its optimal accessibility.
These are the ZIP codes that can book COVID-19 vaccine appointments at the United Center: 60649, 60608, 60652, 60620 and 60619.
An online booking platform, including a voucher code, is being shared with members of these ZIP codes, according to officials. For those attempting to book without a voucher, the appointment will be canceled.
Coronavirus in Illinois: 1,682 New Cases, 30 Deaths, Over 104K Vaccinations Reported
Health officials in Illinois confirmed just over 1,600 new cases of coronavirus and 30 additional deaths on Wednesday, with over 104,000 doses of the COVID vaccine administered to state residents in the last 24 hours.
According to the latest figures from the Illinois Department of Public Health, a total of 1,682 new confirmed and probable COVID cases were reported over the last day, bringing the state’s total to 1,202,709 cases since the pandemic began last year.
The 30 new deaths brought the state to 20,810 fatalities related to the virus, according to health officials. According to health officials, the seven-day positivity rate on all tests currently stands at 2.3%, while the positivity rate for individuals tested is at 2.6%, remaining at historic lows during the pandemic.
Over 104,000 doses of the vaccine were administered on Tuesday. The rolling seven-day average for daily vaccinations now stands at 95,369, according to IDPH officials.
Note: For COVID-19, the herd-immunity threshold is estimated to be between 60 and 90 percent. Our analysis considers herd immunity reached at 75% of the population fully vaccinated based on estimates by Dr. Anthony Fauci.
These Are the 22 Mass COVID Vaccination Sites in Illinois
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has said on multiple occasions that shipments of COVID-19 vaccines are "set to soar" in the coming days, but for those who qualify, where can you get an appointment?
There are currently 21 state-supported mass vaccination sites across Illinois, plus a site at the United Center run in partnership with the federal government under a new pilot program.
An additional site was announced on Tuesday, as McLean County will open a vaccination site at the Grossinger Motors Arena in Bloomington, according to state health officials.
Two other sites also opened up shop this week: the Camden Centre in Milan, limited to Rock Island County residents with more information on the health department's website, and Shabbona Middle School in Morris, limited to Grundy County residents with more information on the county health department's website.
For a look at all locations, click here.
New Guidance Announced for In-Person Learning in Illinois Schools Amid Pandemic
As more Illinois schools return to in-person and hybrid instruction, the State Board of Education has made some adjustments to its public health guidance amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Some of those changes include changes to the appropriate distancing between teachers and students, reducing that number to 3-to-6 feet for vaccinated educators, and guidance urging schools to have parents and students conduct health screenings at home rather than on school grounds.
According to the ISBE’s letter, all schools that reopen their doors to in-person instruction will be required to adhere to five essential mitigation strategies, including:
1. Requiring universal and correct use of PPE, including face masks
2. Requiring social distancing be observed as much as possible
3. Requiring contact tracing, in combination with isolation of those suspected or confirmed to have COVID 19
4. Requiring an increase in schoolwide cleaning and disinfection
5. Requiring promotion and adherence to handwashing and respiratory etiquette.
Several other changes were also added to the state’s guidance. Capacity limits for in-person learning, along with those instituted for lunch periods at schools, will now be determined by a space’s ability to accommodate social distancing, rather than setting a specific percentage or number of students that can occupy a space.
Read more here.
Walgreens Apologizes for 'Delays or Failures' With COVID Vaccine Scheduler, Website
"We apologize that some customers may experience delays or failures when using our website and COVID-19 vaccine scheduler. Our teams are resolving the issues and working to prevent a reocurrence," the Illinois-based company tweeted.
Walgreens urged customers who do experience difficulties scheduling COVID vaccine appointments to instead call (800) WALGREENS.
Last week, both Walgreens and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker acknowledged to NBC 5 that the pharmacy chain was experiencing problems with its COVID-19 vaccine sign-up process, as the company's website continues to show no availability or will not allow patients to book available first-dose appointments, frustrating eligible Illinois residents seeking to get their shots.
More Appointments to Be Released for United Center 'Later This Week,' Mayor Says
Additional appointments are expected to become available for the United Center mass vaccination site "later this week," Chicago's mayor said, noting that appointments won't just be for Chicago residents.
"We are assessing what the equity numbers look like before we open it up and we'll give further details later this week about how it is that people can sign up ," Mayor Lori Lightfoot said as the facility began its first vaccinations Tuesday. "And these are dispersed continuing with city, county and state, but we are adjusting the numbers based upon what we see in terms of the appointments - what zip codes folks are coming from, and other demographic information."
So far, only 50,000 appointments have opened to the public over the past few days, officials revealed - a major walk-back of their initial announcement that roughly 110,000 appointments would be made available.
A last-minute change Sunday also meant only Chicago residents eligible under Phase 1B Plus guidelines could sign up as appointments expanded over the weekend, marking yet another shift from initial plans. But Lightfoot said other residents will be eligible for upcoming appointments.
Read more here.
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