COVID-19

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This is a guide to the things we do know, from scientists, doctors and public health experts — a resource that changes alongside our understanding of this virus.

FAQ:  The Essential Coronavirus FAQ
MAP:  The real-time spread of coronavirus
STATE:  Tracking by State 
HOSPITAL:  Capacity by County

Pharmaceutical giant Merck will help manufacture Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki announced, calling it "an unprecedented historic step," considering that the two companies are normally competitors.

Merck will produce the drug substance at the heart of Johnson & Johnson's vaccine as well as work on filling vaccine vials and getting them ready for distribution.

JERUSALEM - Israel's Supreme Court on Monday ordered an end to a controversial surveillance program to track COVID-19 infections through cellular phone location data, citing concerns about the country spying on its own citizens.

JERUSALEM - Israeli health officials have urged their country's leaders to help vaccinate the entire Palestinian population against COVID-19, citing a public health imperative, an outgoing senior health official told NPR Monday.

Johnson & Johnson has begun shipping nearly 4 million doses of its newly authorized COVID-19 vaccine across the U.S., officials said Monday, and is expected to further scale up supply in the coming weeks and months.

"We think literally within about the next 24 to 48 hours, Americans should start receiving shots in arms," Alex Gorsky, Johnson & Johnson's CEO and chairman of the board, told NBC's Today.

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Courtesy of Camp Ondessonk

Thousands of children across Illinois missed out on outdoor opportunities through summer camp last year, when COVID-19 caused the cancellation of hundreds of camps and activities in 2020.

This year, camp directors say they're determined to get kids back outside.

Several cities across the country that count obesity as an underlying condition have opened COVID-19 vaccine appointments to people with a body mass index of 30 or higher — the medical benchmark for obesity.

While BMI isn't a foolproof standard by which to assess potential health risk factors, obesity medicine physician Dr. Fatima Stanford told NPR, "overall, it's a good measure" in this case.

A third COVID-19 vaccine is on the way, and this one requires only one shot for immunization.

The Food and Drug Administration authorized Johnson & Johnson's vaccine for emergency use Saturday, a day after a panel of advisers to the agency voted unanimously (22-0) in its favor.

In a unanimous 22-0, a panel of advisers to the Food and Drug Administration recommended that the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson be authorized for emergency use in adults during the pandemic.

The vote in favor of the vaccine, which requires only one shot for protection, was taken to answer this question: Do the benefits of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine outweigh its risks for use in people 18 years of age and older.

UPDATED: Officials Announce Federal Vaccination Site at Chicago’s United Center

Feb 26, 2021
Jerry Nowicki of Capitol News Illinois

State and federal officials on Friday announced a new federal mass COVID-19 vaccination site will be opening March 10 at the United Center in Chicago.

The new site will prioritize access for seniors and be open to any Phase 1B-plus eligible residents throughout the state, which now includes those 16 years of age or older with underlying conditions.

The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Friday of an uptick in the country's confirmed COVID-19 cases, saying recent progress may be "stalling" as highly infectious new variants become more predominant.

The owner of British Airways is calling for digital health passes for passengers as a step toward getting airlines back in the sky after devastating losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

State Announces Phase 1B Expansion, But Appointments Still Limited

Feb 25, 2021
Jerry Nowicki of Capitol News Illinois

Illinois residents 16 years of age and older with underlying conditions are now able to be vaccinated for COVID-19 in the state’s latest expansion of vaccination Phase 1B.

The expansion includes people aged 16-64 with conditions such as obesity, diabetes, pulmonary diseases, smoking, heart conditions, chronic kidney disease, cancer, solid organ transplant, sickle cell disease, pregnancy and persons with a disability, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The traditional prelude to the Olympics, the torch relay, will look – and sound – a bit different this year, as spectators are asked to avoid crowds and dampen their cheers when the torch passes by them.

Members of the Tokyo Organizing Committee announced a series of pandemic measures on Thursday, including leaving the option open for suspending portions of the relay should health officials deem it necessary.

As healthcare workers in the U.S. received COVID-19 vaccines, many were relieved and hopeful. But doctors who are foreign-born also describe a bittersweet feeling.

Pritzker expecting to hit 100,000 daily vaccines in mid-March

Feb 24, 2021
Jerry Nowicki of Capitol News Illinois

Gov. JB Pritzker said Wednesday the state expects to be receiving up to 100,000 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine daily by mid-March, up from the approximately 60,000 it is currently receiving on average.

That’s counting only the already-approved Moderna and Pfizer-BioNtech vaccines, and is not including a potential dosage spike that is expected occur if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves a Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week.

The Biden administration will distribute millions of face coverings to thousands of community health centers and food banks in an effort to help vulnerable Americans more easily mask up, officials said on Wednesday.

Chinese pharmaceutical makers are seeking market approval from Beijing for two new coronavirus vaccines – one that has shown 72% efficacy and another 69% efficacy in human Phase III trials.

The separate announcements on Wednesday come from Sinopharm for its second vaccine after the state-run company's first was approved for distribution in December, and from CanSino Biologics, Inc. (CanSinoBIO), for its first vaccine.

The first wave of coronavirus vaccines from the COVAX initiative are now reaching their destinations. Ghana became the first country to receive the vaccine on Wednesday, marking an important step for the international effort to help low- and middle-income countries cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the first round of allocations continues to roll out, more countries will receive their own doses in coming days, according to the World Health Organization, a leader of the initiative. In all, the COVAX alliance hopes to deliver nearly 2 billion doses of the vaccines this year.

The Food and Drug Administration released an analysis of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday morning that supports its authorization for emergency use.

On Friday, a panel of advisers to the agency will meet to evaluate the vaccine and make a recommendation about whether it should be given the OK. If the agency goes on to authorize the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, it would be the third, after those made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, to become available in the U.S.

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 Continue on a Steady Decline

Feb 23, 2021
Jerry Nowicki of Capitol News Illinois

Hospitalizations and positivity rates for COVID-19 in Illinois continued on a steady decline Tuesday, decreasing for the 13th straight week.

As of Monday night, the state reported 1,488 individuals were in the hospital with COVID-19, including 361 in intensive care unit beds and 172 on ventilators.

SOFIA, Bulgaria - In an effort to boost vaccination rates among a skeptical public, Bulgaria has opened up COVID-19 inoculations to all who want them.

On Friday, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov told the nation he was creating "green corridors" where any Bulgarian resident could line up for the vaccine.

The U.S. Education Department says states must resume the annual testing of students that was suspended a year ago amid the pandemic.

For the past two decades, federal law has required schools to test students once each year in math and reading, in grades three through eight and once in high school. And they are required to publicly report these standardized test results, broken out by racial and ethnic group and disability status, and in some cases, hold schools accountable with various sanctions if their students score too low.

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley is apologizing for turning away two people eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations on Saturday because they could not prove they live in the United States.

On Feb. 21, it posted a statement on Twitter. UT Health Rio Valley, the clinical practice of the university, stated it "apologizes to those patients who were affected" and "did not follow the most current State of Texas guidelines."

State Prepares to Expand Phase 1B Eligibility Beginning Thursday

Feb 22, 2021
Jerry Nowicki of Capitol News Illinois

Gov. JB Pritzker said Monday that the state will move ahead with plans to expand vaccine eligibility under Phase 1B of its vaccination plan later this week.

A total of 73,181 COVID-19 vaccinations were administered statewide combined Saturday and Sunday. The state has administered over 2.2 million doses to date, with 4.4 percent of the state’s population being fully vaccinated.

Two COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed in the U.S. right now, and this week an FDA advisory committee will vote on whether a third should join them.

If granted emergency use authorization, Johnson & Johnson's one-dose vaccine would become available in the U.S., along with those from Pfizer and Moderna.

Updated at 4:45 p.m. ET

As the U.S. passes the grievous marker of 500,000 lives lost to COVID-19, President Joe Biden will order flags on federal property to be lowered at half staff for five days to mark the solemn milestone, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a Monday briefing.

Biden will commemorate the people who died at a Monday evening ceremony, joined by First Lady Jill Biden, Vice President Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff. The event will include remarks, a candle lighting ceremony and a moment of silence, according to Psaki.

2/22/20: Watch Live: Biden Remarks On COVID-19 Deaths

Feb 22, 2021
The White House
Annette Elizabeth / NPR

President Biden is giving an address honoring the victims of the coronavirus pandemic as the country nears 500,000 deaths from COVID-19. Watch his remarks live at 5pm CST.

West Virginia isn't known for its good health outcomes. It leads the nation in deaths from diabetes, accidents and drug overdoses. But when it comes to distributing the COVID-19 vaccine, the state has been a shining star.

President Biden's national security adviser said Sunday that the administration has concerns over the data China has provided to the World Health Organization regarding the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

"We need a credible, open, transparent international investigation led by the World Health Organization," Jake Sullivan said in an interview with CBS' Face the Nation.

The British government has announced that every adult in the U.K. will be offered a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine by the end of July, one month earlier than initially planned. Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the accelerated target will allow vulnerable people to be protected "sooner," which should help relax the lifting of lockdown restrictions across the country.

Senior ministers met to discuss the plan Sunday. Johnson will unveil the plan to ease restrictions to the House of Commons on Monday.

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