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Illinois public health officials on Friday reported a second straight record-setting day for COVID-19 vaccinations — but the state also hit a worrying milestone by logging more than 4,000 new cases of the disease for the first time in 10 weeks as the latest coronavirus surge builds momentum.
With 164,462 doses administered Thursday, Illinois is vaccinating more people than ever, at an average clip of 118,336 shots per day over the last week, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
That still hasn’t been enough to tamp down a sharp rise in infections over the past month, as most key metrics have almost doubled.
With another 4,004 residents testing positive for the virus — the most in a day since Jan. 29 — about 3,122 Illinoisans have contracted COVID-19 each day over the past week. That rate is up 91% compared to the first week of March, when the state was reporting an average of 1,663 daily cases.
3:55 p.m. Olympic sports struggling to survive at many colleges because of coronavirus
The death of a 117-year-old program, one that captured championships and produced Olympians, ended with a gasp. And then a vote.
The fact the former did not alter the outcome of the latter offered a stark glimpse into the steadily eroding support for men’s gymnastics at the NCAA level, one that will eventually have a ripple effect up and down the food chain for a sport struggling for relevance inside the U.S. Olympic movement.
That gasp. John Roethlisberger could hear it during a University of Minnesota Board of Regents meeting last fall. At one point someone asked how much money the school’s athletic department would save by approving the proposal to cut men’s gymnastics, men’s tennis and men’s indoor track and field, a move athletic director Mark Coyle called necessary to help offset a $45 million to $65 million deficit due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The answer? $1.6 million. Or just more than 1% of the athletic department’s $123 million budget.
2:45 p.m. Biden to rush vaccine support to Michigan as governor urges limits
WASHINGTON — Washington will rush federal resources to support vaccinations, testing and therapeutics, but not vaccines, to Michigan in an effort to control the state’s worst-in-the-nation COVID-19 transmission rate, the White House said Friday.
The announcement came as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer strongly recommended, but did not order, a two-week pause on face-to-face high school instruction, indoor restaurant dining and youth sports. She cited more contagious coronavirus variants and pandemic fatigue as factors in the surge, which has led some hospitals to postpone non-emergency procedures.
Statewide hospitalizations have quadrupled in a month and are nearing peak levels from last spring and fall.
“Policy alone won’t change the tide. We need everyone to step up and to take personal responsibility,” she said Friday, while not ruling out future restrictions. Michigan’s seven-day case rate was 492 per 100,000 people, well above second-worst New Jersey, with 328 per 100,000 residents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
1:30 p.m. No region in the world spared as coronavirus cases, deaths surge
WARSAW, Poland — Hospitals in Turkey and Poland are filling up. Pakistan is restricting domestic travel. The U.S. government will send more help to the state with the country’s worst infection increase.
The worldwide surge in coronavirus cases and deaths includes even Thailand, which has weathered the pandemic far better than many nations but now struggles to contain COVID-19.
The only exceptions to the deteriorating situation are countries that have advanced vaccination programs, mostly notably Israel and Britain. The U.S., which is a vaccination leader globally, is also seeing a small uptick in new cases, and the White House announced Friday that it would send federal assistance to Michigan to control the state’s worst-in-the-nation transmission rate.
The World Health Organization said infection rates are climbing in every global region, driven by new virus variants and too many countries coming out of lockdown too soon.
12:20 p.m. Riverwalk vendors begin phased reopening Friday
Vendors on the Chicago Riverwalk began a phased-in reopening Friday that will have all vendors open by the end of May.
Island Party Hut, Beat Kitchen on the River and City Winery opened Friday. A new vendor addition this year is Pier 31, which plans to open in May.
“The Riverwalk is not only an important part of our city’s economic engine, but it also adds to the liveliness of our iconic summers,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a news release.
“This reopening serves as yet another indicator of our city’s resilience in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we look forward to making this Chicago staple available to residents and visitors this spring and summer.”
11:05 a.m. Aldermen move to prevent parade permit infighting
With 500 permits issued every year, it’s safe to say that Chicago loves a parade.
On Thursday, the City Council’s Committee on Cultural Affairs and Special Events proved that love by providing a bit of post-pandemic protection.
At Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s behest, aldermen endorsed an ordinance that preserves permit priority for “traditional parades” scheduled at around the same time along the same route “in connection with a specific holiday or consistent theme for at least the prior five years.”
That priority status would remain even though those “traditional parades” were canceled last year because of the coronavirus — and even though none have been held so far this year, either.
Deputy Transportation Commissioner Mike Simon said the goal of the mayor’s ordinance is to prevent the temporary hiatus from opening the door to post-pandemic feuds between parade organizers vying for permits on the same day.
10:30 a.m. ‘Trauma upon trauma’: Asian Americans say mental health has suffered amid COVID-19, anti-Asian violence
The coronavirus pandemic sparked a mental health crisis. For Asians and Asian Americans also facing a rise in hate incidents across the country, it’s been “trauma upon trauma,” says Anne Saw, a Chicago psychologist.
“A lot of our communities are experiencing so many pandemic stressors that are then compounded by a lot of anti-Asian discrimination that we’re also experiencing,” says Saw, who teaches at DePaul University and directs the Chicago Asian American Psychology Lab.
“It’s tough to, like, get your head above water and get some room to breathe when every day we’re confronted with new traumas,” she says.
We talked to seven Chicagoans about how anti-Asian violence coupled with the pandemic have affected their mental health and their everyday lives. Among them was Kaylee Cong, 32, of Uptown, who manages a nail spa.
On March 20, four days after the Atlanta shootings, Cong says, her 60-year-old Vietnamese father was punched in the head as he walked alone that night near Broadway and West Ainslee Street. He turned to run, saw a white man holding a baseball bat watching him and called 911.
“We’re really scared,” says Cong, who’d been talking with her father about the Georgia shootings the day before he was attacked. “What if the person come back and do revenge? My entire life living here, it was so peaceful. There was no violence like this.”
She says her father hasn’t wanted to leave the house since that happened.
Older Asian Americans “just want to keep quiet and don’t want to make waves,” Cong says. “I have really different mentality. We deserve to, you know, feel safe. And we shouldn’t be afraid to stand up for ourselves.”
9:56 a.m. CPS high school reopening agreement remains elusive
A final high school reopening agreement remains elusive between Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union just days before high school teachers are due to return to classrooms — and the union president said Thursday the next few days of negotiations will determine whether workers show up on Monday.
Though the range of issues is smaller and disagreement over those items is not as severe as the hostile K-8 negotiations in February, there are still a few unresolved concerns the union is expressing as COVID-19 infections once again rise in the city.
CPS officials have directed 5,350 high school teachers to return to buildings Monday with or without a CTU agreement, and about 26,000 students in grades 9-12 are expected back the following week.
Whether or not that timeline sticks is dependent on “how outrageous the board’s positions are as we go ahead,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey told a few hundred members at a virtual meeting Thursday that was closed to the public.
“I’ve heard people say, ‘Sharkey, I want a really definitive answer, am I going in on Monday?’” he said. “And my really definitive answer is, it depends on where we’re at.”
8:08 a.m. Spike in COVID-19 cases causes University of Chicago to announce stay-at-home period for students
University of Chicago announced a stay-at-home period for students Wednesday evening following the largest COVID-19 outbreak at the university since the start of the academic year.
After more than 50 cases of the coronavirus were detected among undergraduates in recent days, the university announced that students living on-campus must observe a week-long stay-at-home period immediately.
“We expect this number to increase,” university officials said in an email sent to members of the university community Thursday.
All undergraduate classes will be fully remote for at least a week starting Thursday and students can only leave their residence halls for food, medical appointments and short walks for exercise.
New cases and vaccination numbers
- Illinois’ infection rate is still less than a third of what it was during the worst days of the pandemic last fall — but it’s doubled in the last four weeks.
- On Thursday, officials reported 3,739 new cases of the deadly respiratory disease were diagnosed statewide among 97,741 tests. The state’s testing positivity rate is at 4.2%, its highest point since the end of January and up from 2.1% on March 12.
- Nightly COVID-19 hospitalizations are up 66% since then, with hospitals treating nearly 1,800 COVID-19 patients Wednesday night.
- After a record-breaking 154,201 shots were given statewide Wednesday, one in five Illinois residents is now fully vaccinated, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
- The state is vaccinating more people than ever, averaging almost 113,000 shots per day over the past week. About 42% of residents 16 or older have gotten at least one dose, and 73% of seniors have gotten a shot.