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

Two Florida women disguised themselves as elderly grandmothers in an unsuccessful attempt to get their second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, officials said Thursday.

Restaurants, Hotels Call for Reopening Plan

Feb 19, 2021
People
Blueroomstream.com

Officials from the hotel, restaurant and convention industries told a state Senate panel Thursday that they need a clear plan for how they will be allowed to reopen as the COVID-19 pandemic wanes, warning that without such a plan, many will go out of business permanently.

“We need to know … a strategy, we need to know the metrics as we move forward because we cannot, we cannot lose another summer here in the state of Illinois,” Sam Toia, president and CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association, told the state Senate’s newly-formed Tourism and Hospitality Committee during its first virtual hearing.

Carbondale Adds Second Vaccination Clinic On Friday

Feb 18, 2021
City Hall Vaccine Site
Roni LeForge / City of Carbondale

Carbondale will add two mass COVID vaccination sites on Friday.

The state of Illinois is opening mass vaccination sites at the Banterra Center and the Carbondale Civic Center to help boost the number of shots available in southern Illinois.

In his State of the State address, Governor JB Pritzker recognized the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and his hope for the future.

Pritzker gave the address at the Illinois State Fairground, recalling the venue’s history during the 1918 influenza pandemic and the role it’s playing as a vaccination site during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Florida, Democrats are criticizing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who they claim is allowing politics to play a role in COVID-19 vaccine distribution. DeSantis became testy when questioned by reporters at a vaccination event near Lakewood Ranch, an upscale community on Florida's Gulf Coast.

The vaccination event was the latest in a series of state-sponsored clinics at retirement communities. Under DeSantis' "Seniors First" initiative, the COVID-19 vaccine is being made available to everyone age 65 and over in Florida — an estimated 4.5 million people.

The White House plans to increase testing capacity in the U.S. through multiple channels, officials said in a media briefing on Wednesday.

The administration says it will spend $650 million to expand testing for K-8 schools and settings where people congregate such as homeless shelters, via new "hubs" created by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense. Regional coordinating centers will work to increase testing capacity, partnering with labs and universities to collect specimens, perform tests and report results to public health agencies.

Weather Causing Federal COVID-19 Vaccine Delivery Delays, State Says

Feb 16, 2021
Jerry Nowicki of Capitol News Illinois

State officials have been notified that winter weather across much of the U.S. is causing delays in the delivery of COVID-19 vaccine shipments, according to a Tuesday release.

President Biden's COVID-19 czar Jeff Zients told governors on Tuesday that the weekly vaccine supply going out to states is increasing by more than 20% to 13.5 million doses this week, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, announced.

Psaki also said the supply going directly to pharmacies will double to 2 million this week.

Before taking office, Biden promised to improve and streamline Trump's Operation Warp Speed and pledged to get 100 million vaccine doses into arms in the first 100 days of his administration.

After traveling to Wuhan, China, a team of researchers from the World Health Organization is readying a preliminary report on the origins of the coronavirus.

Wuhan is where the virus was first reported in December 2019.

The WHO team's main public conclusion so far is that it's "extremely unlikely" that the virus originated in a lab in Wuhan. The scientists think the virus most likely started in bats, then jumped to other animals, then to humans.

The massive storm sweeping across the country isn't only bringing subzero temperatures and widespread power outages to much of the U.S., it's also putting a freeze on COVID-19 vaccine distribution in several states and cities.

In Missouri, Gov. Mike Parson announced on Monday that all state-run mass vaccination events scheduled for this week are canceled, citing safety concerns brought on by the extreme weather.

COVID-19 Positivity Rate, Hospitalizations Continue to Decline as Deaths Top 20,000

Feb 15, 2021
Jerry Nowicki of Capitol News Illinois

The state’s COVID-19 case positivity rate is below 3 percent for the first time since July and hospitalizations for the disease continued on a steady decline Monday as confirmed deaths topped 20,000 since the pandemic began.

As of Sunday night, there were 1,789 people hospitalized for COVID-19 in Illinois, including 389 in intensive care unit beds and 184 on ventilators. Those numbers were all major decreases from second-wave peaks seen at the end of November.

America's top infectious disease official Dr. Anthony Fauci received a prestigious $1 million Israeli prize Monday, along with six other researchers who shared two additional $1 million prizes for their contributions to health and medicine.

The Dan David Prize, affiliated with Tel Aviv University, said it honored Fauci for his career in public health and "speaking truth to power" during the politicized COVID-19 crisis.

For the first time since November, average new daily coronavirus infections in the U.S. fell under 100,000 — well below the average infection rate in December and January, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The seven- day average of new infections dropped below 100,000 on Friday, continuing at that level through Sunday, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Researchers reported 83,321 new infections and 3,361 new deaths Sunday.

After three members of a family in New Zealand's largest city tested positive for the coronavirus, the city of Auckland has gone into lockdown — and the entire country is on high alert.

In a televised address Sunday evening, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the country is taking a "precautionary approach that has served us so well as a country."

Initial findings this week by World Health Organization researchers into the origins of the coronavirus are raising concerns in the White House over the independence of their investigation as well as the level of transparency China is providing into the early days of the pandemic.

Illinois’ top public health doctor says if you went to a Super Bowl party last weekend, it's a good idea to get tested for COVID-19.

Southern Illinois University
Southern Illinois University / Southern Illinois University

SIU held its third community COVID-19 safety update Friday.

SIU Chancellor Austin Lane led a virtual panel presentation to update the community on the university’s COVID-19 safety measures.


State Reaches Record 95,000 Vaccine Doses Administered in One Day

Feb 12, 2021
Jerry Nowicki of Capitol News Illinois

The statewide seven-day rolling COVID-19 positivity rate dropped Friday to a low not seen since the summer as the state reached a record 95,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine administered the day prior.

The positivity rate was 3.1 percent Friday, a low last recorded July 21. The 95,375 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine administered Thursday topped the previous record set Feb. 4 by more than 20,000.

Rural Areas Face Challenges In COVID Vaccine Rollout

Feb 12, 2021

Across the Midwest, the rollout of COVID vaccines has been spotty. Lots of people are having a trouble with online signups. And vaccine demand far exceeds supply. That’s made the process challenging, especially in rural areas. 

Senators Question Public Health Officials on Vaccine Rollout

Feb 12, 2021
Blueroomstream.com

State senators questioned public health officials regarding the state’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts in a Thursday hearing, one day after Gov. JB Pritzker announced that the state would expand vaccine eligibility under Phase 1B by Feb. 25.

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike and Deputy Director Andrew Friend testified before the committee in a more than three-hour hearing, noting the state faces significant challenges in meeting vaccine demand with limited federal supply.

Vaccine Operations Increase with Federal Aid

Feb 11, 2021
Jerry Nowicki of Capitol News Illinois

Vaccine operations and eligibility are expanding across the state as Illinois’ seven-day rolling positivity rate remained at 3.3 percent for the fourth consecutive day Thursday.

While touring an Illinois Department of Human Services vaccination site at the Elgin Mental Health Center Thursday, Gov. JB Pritzker announced that over the last week, Illinois was the number one state among the top 10 most populous states in the nation for per capita vaccinations.

Congressional forecasters are projecting a federal deficit of $2.3 trillion this fiscal year, even without the additional $1.9 trillion in spending that President Biden has proposed.

That would mean a smaller deficit than the record $3.1 trillion in 2020, according to the forecast issued by the Congressional Budget Office on Thursday. But at $2.3 trillion, the budget gap in 2021 would still top 10% of the overall U.S. economy — making it the second-largest deficit since World War II.

Elected officials in Florida are reacting strongly against media reports that the White House is considering imposing domestic travel restrictions to control the spread of COVID-19.

"It would be unconstitutional. It would be unwise and it would be unjust," Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday at a vaccination site in Port Charlotte, on Florida's Gulf Coast.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is now blocked from Instagram after he repeatedly undercut trust in vaccines. Kennedy has also spread conspiracy theories about Bill Gates, accusing him of profiteering off vaccines and attempting to take control of the world's food supply.

"We removed this account for repeatedly sharing debunked claims about the coronavirus or vaccines," a spokesperson for Facebook, which owns Instagram, told NPR on Thursday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended her government's decision to extend a COVID-19 lockdown into March, as she issued a stark warning that new strains of the coronavirus "may destroy any success" already achieved in keeping the pandemic in check.

State to Expand Vaccine Eligibility to Individuals with Underlying Conditions

Feb 10, 2021
Jerry Nowicki of Capitol News Illinois

Gov. JB Pritzker announced Wednesday that the state plans to expand COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to individuals of all ages who have comorbidities and underlying conditions by Feb. 25.

Speaking at a news conference in Quincy Wednesday, Pritzker said the expansion of eligibility under Phase 1B of the state’s vaccine distribution plan comes as a result of increased availability of doses at the federal level.

The president of the European Commission admitted to mistakes Wednesday in the bloc's approach to inoculating its 447 million people against COVID-19, acknowledging that it was late to approve a vaccine and that officials held unrealistic expectations about how quickly one could be deployed.

As a result, "We are still not where we want to be," Ursula von der Leyen told European Parliament lawmakers in Brussels.

Why has it been so hard to get a COVID-19 vaccination? One reason may be the software that almost all medical records in the U.S. are built on.

It makes up the systems nurses and doctors type patients' vital signs and prescriptions into — whether they're getting a routine physical or going to the emergency room with a broken arm.

Updated at 1:30 p.m. ET

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new research on Wednesday that found wearing a cloth mask over a surgical mask offers more protection against the coronavirus, as does tying knots on the ear loops of surgical masks. Those findings prompted new guidance on how to improve mask fit at a time of concern over fast-spreading variants of the virus.

Statewide Vaccination Numbers Continue to Improve

Feb 9, 2021
Jerry Nowicki of Capitol News Illinois

Public health officials announced 58,189 COVID-19 vaccinations were administered statewide Monday, nearly double the one-day total from the same day a week ago.

Compared to the 32,559 does administered last Monday, the one-day total reflects a steadily improving vaccination picture statewide as Gov. JB Pritzker’s administration faces continued criticisms for the state’s rollout of the vaccine.

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