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

Chicago’s public health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady warned the city, particularly its younger adults, on Tuesday that coronavirus metrics were once again creeping into a danger zone that resembled a previous second surge during last October.

Though the seven-day rolling average of positive cases in Chicago sits at a low-risk 3.2%, Arwady during a Tuesday question-and-answer session said it is “heading the wrong way” and is up from the previous week’s 2.9%.

Meanwhile, a new mass vaccination site will open Friday in a former home improvement store in west suburban Forest Park, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced Monday.

The Illinois National Guard will run the site, which is designed to be capable of administering 1,000 doses per day at the start. The site will be open to all Illinois residents who are eligible to be vaccinated.

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

2:26 p.m.: Chicago ‘headed in the wrong way’ as younger adults drive uptick in COVID-19 cases,  public health commissioner warns

Chicago’s public health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady warned the city, particularly its younger adults, on Tuesday that coronavirus metrics were once again creeping into a danger zone that resembled a previous second surge during last October.

She echoed Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Monday remarks that cautioned the city will lose its recent gains under its reopening plan if younger adults do not “remain diligent” in masking and social distancing.

”COVID-19 is still here, folks,” Lightfoot said during a Monday news conference. “It is still real. It is still deadly and unfortunately, it’s still sending people to hospital, every single day. … We will step back and have to close back down if we are not diligent.”

Though the seven-day rolling average of positive cases in Chicago sits at a low-risk 3.2%, Arwady during a Tuesday question-and-answer session said it is “heading the wrong way” and is up from the previous week’s 2.9%. And the daily average cases rose by 23% from last week, according to the city’s dashboard, showing a rise from 285 to 350 cases that can’t be attributed to more testing because daily tests only rose 6%. The city’s caseload is at a “high-risk” category when it hits 300.

Though intensive care unit visits remain at their lowest since the pandemic started, Arwady said those numbers tend to lag case spikes and that emergency department visits from COVID-19 are up 45% in the past two weeks. Read more here. — Alice Yin

2:01 p.m.: ‘Brain fog,’ blurred vision and loss of taste: 85% of long-haulers who started with mild COVID-19 have 4 or more neurological symptoms, Northwestern study finds

In what is thought to be the first study of its kind, Northwestern doctors found high levels of neurological symptoms among patients who developed long-term COVID-19 symptoms after a relatively mild initial illness that did not require hospitalization.

Eight-five percent of patients reported four or more neurological symptoms, problems such as “brain fog” (or attention and memory problems), loss of taste or smell, headache and blurred vision. In addition, patients experienced non-neurologic symptoms, such as fatigue (85%) and depression or anxiety (47%).

About half of patients in the study missed more than 10 days of work, due to what doctors call long COVID syndrome, or symptoms lasting more than six weeks.

“Long COVID syndrome affects probably millions of people in the world, and people have persistent (neurological) symptoms, and some have cognitive dysfunction that significantly impairs their quality of life,” said study co-author Igor Koralnik, chief of neuro-infectious diseases at Northwestern Medicine. Read more here. — Nara Schoenberg

1:59 p.m.: Michigan, 6 other states moved up Chicago’s emergency travel order

Michigan was among seven states that will be subject to additional coronavirus mitigations under this week’s update of Chicago’s emergency travel order.

Starting Friday, Idaho, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana and West Virginia will move up from the city’s “yellow” tier to the “orange” one, according to a Chicago Department of Public Health news release.

Travelers coming from the latter tier, which will include 26 states, must quarantine for 10 days or test negative for coronavirus no more than 72 hours before arriving. People can avoid either requirement if they have been fully vaccinated at least two weeks earlier.”

Michigan is now third-highest in the country in terms of new COVID cases,” public health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a Tuesday news conference. “And it’s surprising because they had been for months one of the best states in terms of COVID control across the whole Midwest.”

Arizona, Kentucky, Nebraska, Texas, Utah and Washington, D.C., will move down to the yellow tier that will include 23 states as well as Washington and Puerto Rico, according to CDPH.

The orange category includes states or territories that have a seven-day rolling average above 15 daily cases per 100,000 residents, while yellow states are under that threshold.

The travel order is updated every two weeks and goes into effect Friday at midnight. Essential workers traveling for their job are exempt, as are people traveling for medical or care-taking reasons. People passing through the orange states for less than 24 hours also are exempt unless their final destination is that state.

The travel order was implemented over the Fourth of July weekend, but officials have said the list is meant to educate residents and have not strictly enforced it. Though Tuesday’s news release noted Chicago’s case numbers have declined, it still urged residents to avoid “nonessential travel.” Read more here. — Alice Yin

12:12 p.m.: 70,252 vaccine doses, 1,832 COVID-19 cases and 13 deaths reported Tuesday

Illinois public health officials Tuesday reported 1,832 new confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus disease and 13 additional deaths. That brings the state’s total to 1,224,915 cases and 21,116 deaths since the pandemic began.

There were 49,739 tests reported in the previous 24 hours. The seven-day statewide positivity rate as a percent of total test is 2.5%.

There were 70,252 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine administered on Monday and the seven-day rolling average of vaccine doses is 91,000.

11:10 a.m.: About 1,000 Illinois prisoners to be released under COVID-19 lawsuit settlement

About 1,000 Illinois prison inmates nearing the end of their sentences could soon be released under a settlement announced Tuesday in a federal lawsuit filed as the COVID-19 pandemic was creating a health crisis in state lockups.

The lawsuit filed in April 2020 alleged prison settings “pose a particular risk of spreading the COVID-19, with catastrophic consequences not just to the prisoners and staff, but also to their communities and the hospitals that serve them.”

A consortium of Chicago civil rights attorneys and community activists who filed the suit initially sought the release of as many as 13,000 at-risk prisoners due to the virus. But in denying emergency relief last year, U.S. District Judge Robert Dow said there was “no convincing reason for a federal court to intrude” on the effort by other stakeholders to contain the problem.

The settlement reached Tuesday called for the release of low- to medium-risk inmates who are within nine months of their release date and are eligible for certain good-time credits, court records show. The Illinois Department of Corrections agreed to “use its best efforts” to process the awards within the next month.

In addition, the state agreed that IDOC will “continue to identify and evaluate medically vulnerable prisoners for release through legally available mechanisms,” according to the terms of the settlement.

9:32 a.m.: Medieval Times in Schaumburg will reopen castle doors next month

Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament will reopen its Chicago castle doors by late April after a year of being shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. This announcement follows Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s update of the state’s Phase 4 protocols to allow indoor theaters and performing arts venues to operate at 25% capacity.

The Chicago castle will be the seventh of 10 Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament locations inNorth America to resume performances. All guests will be required to wear a mask, receive a temperature check and maintain social distancing in the 85,000-sq.-ft. castle. Additionally, high-touch areas will be disinfected multiple times throughout the show, menus will be printed on disposable table cards or available digitally and disposable silverware will be available upon request.

9:15 a.m.: State Rep. La Shawn Ford resigns from Loretto Hospital board amid COVID-19 vaccine scandal

A member of the Loretto Hospital board has resigned because of revelations that the hospital improperly distributed coronavirus vaccines.

State Rep. La Shawn K. Ford, D-Chicago, said in a statement that he submitted his resignation on Monday.

“I am very disappointed with the recent developments at The Loretto Hospital regarding its use of coronavirus vaccine entrusted to the hospital,” Ford said in the statement. He said he resigned “because I strongly disagreed with how the reprimand of the hospital leadership was handled.”

8:58 a.m.: Parents sue Indian Prairie district over alleged open meetings, public records violations regarding reopening schools

A group of Indian Prairie parents have sued School District 204 district alleging a coordinated “cover-up of COVID-19 planning” in violation of the state’s public meetings and records request laws.

The complaint, filed last week in DuPage County Circuit Court, charges Superintendent Adrian Talley and the school board illegally discussed the topic of reopening schools in closed sessions in violation of the Open Meeting Act. They also allege some records they requested through the Freedom of Information Act were wrongly denied.

“This goes beyond the COVID issue. This goes into transparency and other topics in the district’s future,” said Brad Wachter, a plaintiff in the case and Indian Prairie parent.

District spokeswoman Janet Buglio said she could not comment because it’s a pending legal matter. District lawyers have not yet filed a legal response in court.

According to the lawsuit, district officials and school board members have used some closed session meetings this school year to talk about topics required to be discussed in public.

6:30 a.m.: Expansion of COVID-19 shots to higher education boosts plans for ISU’s fall semester

Illinois State University staff will be receiving COVID vaccinations on campus Thursday as expanded eligibility that includes higher education staff took effect Monday.

The news that higher education staff would be included in the latest expansion was greeted by ISU, Illinois Wesleyan University and Heartland Community College officials as a positive development. The expansion is something colleges and universities have been advocating.

All three are moving toward increased in-person learning and activities this fall, and widespread vaccinations will contribute to those plans.

ISU President Larry Dietz said in an earlier statement that recent announcements from Gov. J.B. Pritzker make him optimistic and “all indicators are pointing in the right direction to help us reach Phase 5 and return to an in-person on-campus fall semester.”

ISU spokesman Eric Jome said with the expansion of eligibility, “our optimism is growing even more. It’s a very good sign working in our favor.” However, he added, “If we’ve learned anything during this, it’s never take your eye off the ball.”

6 a.m.: Wisconsin Republicans want to wrest control of COVID-19 relief money from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers

The fight over control of Wisconsin’s share of the $1.9 trillion federal coronavirus stimulus package ramps up Tuesday in the state Legislature, with Republicans voting on a bill to take away Democratic Gov. Tony Evers ability to decide how to spend the estimated $5.7 billion coming for state and local governments.

The GOP-controlled Legislature was also slated to give final approval to measures that would prohibit employers and the government from requiring people to be vaccinated for COVID-19 and not allow churches to be shut down due to the pandemic. The Assembly was also voting on a bill requiring the governor to submit a plan for when all state employees will be back doing their jobs in offices, rather than from home.

Evers has promised to veto the measure giving the Legislature power over how the federal money is spent, and he’s expected to veto the others as well.

The governor has the power under current law to control how Wisconsin’s $5.7 billion share of the federal relief bill will be spent. About $3.2 billion is earmarked for state government, while another $2.5 billion is coming to counties and municipalities. Wisconsin previously received about $2 billion under the 2020 stimulus bill known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES.

6 a.m.: AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine trial results may have included ‘outdated information,’ US officials say

Results from a U.S. trial of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine may have included “outdated information” and that could mean the company provided an incomplete view of efficacy data, American federal health officials said early Tuesday.

A spokesman from the drug company said Tuesday it was “looking into it.”

AstraZeneca reported Monday that its COVID-19 vaccine provided strong protection among adults of all ages in a long-anticipated U.S. study, a finding that some experts hoped would help rebuild public confidence in the shot around the world and move it a step closer to clearance in the U.S.

But just hours after those encouraging results were reported, the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases issued an unusual statement.

The agency said the Data and Safety Monitoring Board “expressed concern that AstraZeneca may have included outdated information from that trial, which may have provided an incomplete view of the efficacy data.”

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