Here’s Tuesday’s news on how COVID-19 is impacting Chicago and Illinois. Follow here for live updates.
8:55 p.m. Cook County, state will stop administering J&J vaccine after US recommends ‘pause’ over clot reports
Use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine came to a grinding halt across Illinois Tuesday after federal health authorities recommended a “pause” on its use while it investigates reports of potentially dangerous blood clots.
“IDPH has notified all Illinois COVID-19 providers throughout the state to discontinue use of the J&J vaccine at this time. In order to keep appointments, IDPH is strongly advising providers to use Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines,” the Illinois Department of Public Health said Tuesday.
“Moderna and Pfizer make up the vast majority of doses on hand in the state of Illinois. This week, the state’s allocation of J&J was 17,000 doses. For the week of April 18, 2021, the expected allocation for the state is 483,720 total doses. Of that total allocation, 5,800 doses were expected to be J&J.
More than 6.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine have been administered in the U.S., the vast majority with no or mild side effects.
U.S. federal distribution channels, including mass vaccination sites, will suspend the use of the J&J shot, and states and other providers are expected to follow. The other two authorized vaccines, from Moderna and Pfizer, make up the vast share of COVID-19 shots administered in the U.S. and are not affected by the pause.
The mass vaccination site at the United Center had been scheduled to begin administering J&J shots Monday but that plan is on hold, according to a Federal Emergency Management Agency spokesman.
7:03 p.m. Pritzker ‘does not have concerns’ 20 days after getting his shot of Johnson & Johnson vaccine
Federal health officials who recommended shelving the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday did so just under three weeks after the one-and-done shot went into Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s left arm.
That means the chief executive of the state’s pandemic response is still within the three-week window experts have spotlighted since six vaccinated women suffered severe complications from blood clots within that time frame.
But like the overwhelming majority of the other 6.8 million Americans who have gotten the J&J jab, J.B. hasn’t had any problems, according to his office.
“The Governor does not have concerns after receiving the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, nor has he experienced any health issues since receiving his shot,” Pritzker’s press secretary Jordan Abudayyeh said in an email.
4:53 p.m. Aldermen move to protect workers who take time off for COVID-19 vaccination
Chicago employees who take time off to get the coronavirus vaccine would be shielded from all forms of retaliation and compensated for the time it takes, under a mayoral protection plan advanced Tuesday.
During the early days of the pandemic, the City Council moved to protect employees from retaliation for absences tied to the coronavirus.
The earlier anti-retaliation ordinance prevented employers from firing, suspending, transferring or reducing the pay of workers who stay home because they have COVID-19 symptoms, have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for the virus, or their business is deemed nonessential by statewide stay-at-home order.
On Tuesday, the City Council’s Workforce Development Committee broadened the protective umbrella to include the vaccination process.
3:15 p.m. FEMA accepting applications for funeral expense reimbursement to families who lost someone to COVID-19
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is offering up to $9,000 per burial to help families cover the funeral expenses of loved ones who died of COVID-19.
The application process can be started by calling 844-684-6333.
There’s currently no deadline for the program, which launched Monday and was quickly overwhelmed by callers.
“There was an extraordinarily high call volume Monday,” FEMA spokesman Dan Shulman told the Chicago Sun-Times on Tuesday.
There were close to 20,000 calls that got through Monday. We knew going in we were going to experience an extremely high call volume on the first day because of the number of people who’ve passed in the last year and some people experienced extended busy signals,” he said.
1:37 p.m. Poll: 15% of Americans worse off a year into pandemic
While most Americans have weathered the pandemic financially, about 38 million say they are worse off now than before the outbreak began in the U.S.
Overall, 55% of Americans say their financial circumstances are about the same now as a year ago, and 30% say their finances have improved, according to a new poll from Impact Genome and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. But 15% say they are worse off.
The problem is more pronounced at lower-income levels: 29% of Americans living below the federal poverty line say their personal finances worsened in the past year. Roughly that many also find themselves in a deepening financial hole, saying they struggled to pay bills in the past three months.
11:27 a.m. Loretto CEO should be fired after COVID vaccine controversy, community petition states
Some community organizers in Austin are calling for the firing of The Loretto Hospital President and Chief Executive George Miller over his handling of COVID-19 vaccines.
As of Monday, an online petition had almost 250 signatures and the lead organizers say they are asking for a video-conference meeting with the hospital board members, a request the directors so far are not granting.
“The documented inappropriate use of our vaccines, the lack of accountability/respect of our vaccines by President Miller and his team during the pandemic have and continue to disgrace Loretto Hospital and the community it serves,” said an April 5 letter from organizer Mary Russell Gardner and a dozen other women.
Miller is being disciplined by his board, receiving a two-week suspension, following vaccine events at the Trump Tower, the CEO’s South Suburban church and elsewhere that led Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Administration to cut off vaccine supplies until the hospital can show that it has a plan to make sure shots are going to the Austin community.
The hospital is conducting an inquiry and audit to present to the city. The hospital’s No. 2 executive, former Chief Operating Officer Anosh Ahmed, resigned last month in the wake of the controversy.
9:05 a.m. Pritzker office staffer tests positive for COVID-19
An employee in Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday, a spokeswoman for the governor said.
The staff member was not in close contact with Pritzker Monday, or in previous days, and all staff who were identified as having been so will follow U.S. Centers for Disease Control protocol, Jordan Abudayyeh, a spokeswoman for Pritzker’s office, said in a statement.
“The Governor’s Office continues to follow COVID-19 safety protocols including testing staff multiple times per week, weekly deep cleaning procedures, mask wearing, social distancing, and limiting the number of staff reporting to the office for in person work,” Abudayyeh said in the statement.
Since Pritzker had no direct contact with the staffer, he will not be self-isolating, his office said.
New cases and vaccination numbers
- Officials on Monday announced that Illinois’ coronavirus test positivity rate has reached its highest point since late January, when a previous surge in cases was tapering off. The seven-day positivity rate jumped to 4.4% and continued an incremental upward trend that could lead officials to again place stronger restrictions on businesses. The statewide positivity rate had dipped to 2.1% on March 13.
- The city’s positivity rate now sits at 5.6% — up from 5.1% just a week earlier, the city said Monday.
- The state also announced 2,433 new cases of COVID-19 diagnosed from 53,115 tests. Eighteen additional deaths were also reported.
- Nearly 2,000 people diagnosed with the virus were hospitalized Sunday, according to Illinois Department of Health data. That’s the highest number of statewide hospitalizations since Feb. 10.
- The number of inoculations administered Sunday dropped to 64,772 after five straight six-figure vaccination days, state health officials reported. So far, more than 7.2 million vaccine doses have gone into arms.