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COVID-19 in Illinois updates: Here’s what’s happening Monday | #coronavirus | #kids. | #children | #schools | #parenting | #parenting | #kids


Officials on Monday reported 1,143 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19. That’s the lowest case count since 1,076 cases were reported July 28, although the new cases resulted from a relatively small batch of 42,234 tests.

The number of Illinois residents who have been fully vaccinated — receiving both of the required two shots — reached 835,597, or 6.56% of the total population. Over the past seven days, an average of 77,876 vaccinations have been administered daily.

Speaking at an unrelated news conference, Lightfoot said she doesn’t know how many doses of the newly authorized vaccine the city will be getting to start. But, she said, the city “will put it to work as soon as we get it.”

Meanwhile, the saliva-based COVID-19 test developed by University of Illinois researchers has obtained federal emergency use authorization, a highly anticipated stamp of approval that confirms its accuracy and enables broader distribution across the state.

Up to 37,000 kindergarten through fifth-graders were expected to resume in-person classes, part-time, on Monday, though actual turnout has generally been lower than the number of students who chose the in-person option.

Concerns about both the reopening plan and about the quality and equity of remote learning are among the reasons some CPS parents indicated on social media that they were participating in a “sick-out.”

Private schools are having their own reopening issues. Parents at the University of Chicago Lab School are demanding a return to full in-person, citing mental health, social isolation and a reduction in education quality with remote learning.

Here’s what’s happening Monday with COVID-19 in the Chicago area and Illinois:

1:22 p.m.: Illinois administers another 50,897 COVID-19 vaccinations; 1,143 new and probable cases the lowest daily count since July

The state administered 50,897 coronavirus vaccine doses Sunday, public health officials announced, well below the seven-day average and a steep drop from Wednesday’s record of 130,021 vaccinations. The statewide total of vaccinations reached 2,756,831.

The number of Illinois residents who have been fully vaccinated — receiving both of the required two shots — reached 835,597, or 6.56% of the total population. Over the past seven days, an average of 77,876 vaccinations have been administered daily.

12:45 p.m.: University of Illinois wins FDA approval for saliva COVID-19 test: ‘We’re wasting no time in deploying this,’ Gov. Pritzker vows

The saliva-based COVID-19 test developed by University of Illinois researchers has obtained federal emergency use authorization, a highly anticipated stamp of approval that confirms its accuracy and enables broader distribution across the state.

In a statement, Gov. J.B. Pritzker hailed the test as “groundbreaking work” and said he is “wasting no time in deploying this technology throughout the state.”

12:34 p.m.: Chicago expecting Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine shipment, Mayor Lori Lightfoot says

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the city expects a shipment of Johnson and Johnson’s new one-shot vaccine, giving Chicago a boost in the fight against COVID-19.

Speaking at an unrelated news conference, Lightfoot said she doesn’t know how many doses of the newly authorized vaccine the city will be getting to start. But, she said, the city “will put it to work as soon as we get it.”

“(Public health) has been preparing now for some time, as we saw the Johnson and Johnson vaccine kind of moving through the regulatory approval process,” Lightfoot said. “It gives us obviously another tool to use to get people vaccinated. So we’re excited for that opportunity.”

12:08 p.m.: Outside Lincoln Elementary, doughnuts and face masks

Christine Kelly, PTA president at Lincoln Elementary in Lincoln Park, said her children will continue with remote learning since that’s working for her family and to accommodate those who don’t have the same flexibility.

”It’s helpful for other families that want to come back to have less children,” she said. Kelly said she hopes fall will be a better time for her children to return when “all the kinks will be worked out.”

Kelly and other members of the PTA stood at a street corner to welcome parents and teachers coming back Monday. The PTA chartered a coffee and doughnut food truck to serve returning teachers and handed out face masks with the school logo.

”We just want to show our appreciation and thank the teachers for being here,” Kelly said. “It’s not an easy decision.”

12:06 p.m.: Despite the CPS reopening, majority of parents are keeping kids home

Plenty of parents still aren’t ready to send their children back at all.Shortly before Monday’s opening bell at Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy in the Little Village area Monday, Marilu Villeda rushed down the sidewalk outside with her 8-year-old daughter by her side.

But Villeda wasn’t walking her daughter to school — she just needed to run some errands before her children started their e-learning classes.

All three of their children attend Saucedo, but Villeda and her husband decided not to send them back to in-person classes yet.

”I don’t feel like it is safe yet,” she said, “and If I still have the option and support from their teachers to continue learning from home, I’ll rather have that.”

Villeda said that fortunately, the teachers have been “very accessible and supportive,” to help her make sure her children keep up with schoolwork.

”Either way, I’ll rather be safe than sorry,” said the mother in Spanish. “… We can’t afford to get sick.”

Her eight-year-old, Giselle Garcia, said she “loves school.”

But Villeda said that she will only feel comfortable with her children returning to school once the majority of the people, including the teachers, are vaccinated.

”It worries me that many parents that I know do not want to get the vaccine because they believe in some theories and stories about it,” Villeda said.

12:05 p.m.: 1,143 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases and 20 additional deaths reported

Illinois health officials on Monday announced 1,143 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 and 20 additional fatalities, bringing the total number of known infections in Illinois to 1,187,839 and the statewide death toll to 20,536 since the start of the pandemic.

Officials also reported 42,234 new tests in the last 24 hours. The seven-day statewide test positivity rate was 2.7% for the period ending Sunday.

The 7-day rolling daily average of administered vaccine doses is 77,876, with 50,897 doses given on Sunday. Officials also say a total of 2,756,831 vaccines have now been administered.

11:50 a.m.: ‘Dehumanization’ of Chicago’s restaurant workers leaves them with a tough choice: COVID-19 risk or unemployment?

There isn’t just one thing that makes restaurant work difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s the customers who don’t follow mask mandates and offer an eye roll — or worse — when reminded. It’s the bosses — not all of them, but certainly some — who prioritize maximizing business above all else.

It’s the fact that most restaurant workers aren’t yet eligible for vaccines, and likely won’t be until late March at the earliest. There are the personal feelings that it’s not safe to dine indoors, despite livelihoods that depend on it. And of course, there’s the endless specter of exposure to COVID-19.

11:22 a.m.: As some CPS families return to classrooms, others participate in ‘sick-out’ protest

Concerns about both the reopening plan and about the quality and equity of remote learning are among the reasons some Chicago Public Schools parents indicated on social media that they were participating in a “sick-out” on Monday.

The parent-organized “sick-out” protest, where parents kept their children out of class, demands “equitable education for students in all settings, especially the Black and Brown students who have been hit the hardest with failures and truancies during this pandemic,” according to a press release from a parent group. The group also sent a protest letter to the district and the mayor.

The parents say the agreement reached between CPS and the CTU addressed vaccinations and staff safety concerns but not the learning needs of students, most of whom are opting to remain virtual.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS CEO Janice Jackson “have repeatedly stated that CPS will not focus on improving remote learning even though over 70% of students will continue in full virtual setting, and the remaining students moving to hybrid mode will still have remote learning three days a week,” the release said. “This is unacceptable.”

11:08 a.m.: Next on some parents’ wish list: a full-time return to in-person classes

At Lincoln Elementary, scores of families lined up outside, waiting in a street that was blocked off by police and a firetruck to accommodate social distancing. Students spread out behind orange cones designating classrooms and entered the Lincoln Park school one by one to get their temperatures checked.

With his lunchbox in hand, fourth grader Veer Zaveri said he’s most excited about learning in a classroom because he’s tired of working at the desk in his bedroom. Bundled up in a puffy jacket and a Christmas-themed face mask, the 10-year-old said the only downside is “frostbite” from standing outside — one of the school’s new drop-off procedures.

Veer’s mother said she’s also ready for the change. Kruti Zaveri, 42, said she is less concerned about infections now that vaccine distribution is underway and that more is known about how COVID-19 spreads. Only nine students will be in her son’s classroom.

”It’s good that it’s back to a routine and that we can get back to work,” said Kruti Zaveri, an interior designer. “Some semblance of normalcy … I think we’re all ready.”

With about 71% of students expected to return, Abraham Lincoln Elementary boasts one of the district’s highest percentages of families choosing in-person instruction, according to preliminary CPS data.

Rozenn Heathcote, 46, chatted with fellow parents after dropping off her third grader. Her son Marcello was so excited to return that he packed his school bag last night and woke up early this morning, Heathcote said.

For her family, the resumption of in-person classes couldn’t come soon enough. She also has an eighth grader at home who will return to school next week in a subsequent wave.

”I really think that they learn better in class,” Heathcote said. “All the protocols are in place and there’s no reason to be worried. … This was only supposed to be a temporary solution, and it lasted for a year.”

Similar to other CPS elementary schools, Lincoln students opting for in-person learning receive two days of live instruction and three days of remote teaching. The classes are split in two, with half of students attending in-person for two consecutive days and everyone learning remotely Wednesday.

Heathcote, however, wants to see students receive a full week of in-person classes.

”My son will learn better in school. I’m not a teacher and I’ve been supervising what he was doing while working next to him,” she said. “I’m relieved that he is going to be getting what he should be getting. I’m worried we have been missing a lot of time.” 

10:50 a.m.: Back to school, but not quite back to normal: ‘I pray that this works out so next fall, we will have a familiar first day of school’

Outside Sutherland Elementary in the Beverly area, many parents arrived on foot with their child’s hands in theirs.

Masked staff members and teachers, some with clipboards, others with tablets, helped make sure parents and children knew where they were supposed to be on this first day of school.

Some children cried as school security took temperatures at the front at the main entrance. Other children bounded away from parents with plastic shopping bags in tow full of school supplies like paper towels, tissues and other cleaning supplies.

Most parents and children seemed excited that in-person learning was resuming.

”My oldest son, Miles, is a 4th grader. He really wanted to go back. We were in the car today and he was like, ‘I’m so excited, I can barely stand it,’” said Beverly resident Patrick McNulty. His second grader, Colin, was a bit more nervous with first-day jitters, so McNulty walked both boys to their designated doors, not leaving until they were comfortable saying goodbye. He said the teachers did a good job with remote learning, but it just wasn’t the same doing social interaction with the kids.

Chris and Angela Iverson, Beverly residents since 2012, walked their first- and third-grade daughters, Amelia and Juliana, up to school with their preschool-aged brothers. Angela Iverson said remote learning wasn’t ideal, but she didn’t have horror stories about it either. The couple didn’t second guess bringing their girls for in-person learning because the family already endured the coronavirus.

Dezsiree Jones was getting teary-eyed dropping of her second grader Kandace. As Jones was heading home going to get ready for work, she said her daughter is excited to be back in school.

”She’s excited about being back, so I’m excited for her,” she said.

John Campbell is a parent with three children, ages 3, 5 and 8. He’s having to deal with bus pickups and drop-offs with his two oldest at Sutherland. Before the pandemic, if he was running late, his children could wait inside the school, but protocols now don’t allow for that, he said.

”I got to make sure that I’m here on time,” he said. “It’s a blessing and a curse, but I do believe the kids need this. The break has been detrimental to their development. I know it’s all about choice, how the parents feel bringing the kids back. I pray that this works out so next fall, we will have a familiar first day of school. I miss normal. It has to get better.”

10:35 a.m.: Mayor: No one thought schools would be closed this long ‘but fate had another plan’

Speaking at Hawthorne Scholastic Academy on the North Side after greeting returning elementary students Monday on their first day back in nearly a year, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot could hardly contain her joy over the reopening. On the drive to the school, Lightfoot said she saw young kids “skipping ahead” of their parents with excitement. In the building, Lightfoot said a second-grader told her he wanted to make new friends. Alluding to the bitter fight with the Chicago Teachers Union over reopening, Lightfoot said, “This is exactly what we fought for.” 

Lightfoot thanked teachers and staff at schools and told parents that her administration was listening to them, even if it may not have seemed like that at times. She also reflected on the long delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

”When schools closed a year ago, none of us thought it would be yet another year. We thought and hoped it would be weeks, then we thought it would be months, then we thought surely by the start of this school year we’d be back,” Lightfoot said. “But fate had another plan.”

CPS spent $100 million to make sure classrooms were ready for in-person learning, Lightfoot said. The schools have offered vaccine opportunities to 18,000 employees, the mayor said.

Up to 37,000 kindergarten through fifth-graders were expected to resume in-person classes, part-time, on Monday, though actual turnout has generally been lower than the number of students who chose the in-person option.

9:56 a.m.: Restaurants say delivery has been both a blessing and a curse during the pandemic. What happens as eateries reopen?

5 Loaves Eatery, a tiny breakfast and lunch spot in Chicago’s Chatham neighborhood, avoided offering delivery for as long as it could.

But when sales plunged 85% early in the pandemic, owner Constance Simms-Kincaid felt she had no choice but to sign up for Grubhub, DoorDash and UberEats. She credits them with keeping the family business alive.

“I’ve gotta say that it’s been a blessing,” she said.

But it’s also been a curse.

9:49 a.m.: Coronavirus testing in US has seen a sharp decline. Here are a few reasons why.

Widespread testing is crucial in controlling the spread of the coronavirus and squashing new outbreaks, experts say. But the amount of testing in the United States has fallen by 30% in recent weeks.

From a high of nearly 14 million tests a week in early January, the pace fell to fewer than 10 million — a level not seen since October — in the week ended Feb. 24, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

Some areas report even sharper declines: Michigan is testing about half as many people now as it was in November, and Delaware’s state-run sites are testing about one-third as many. Los Angeles County’s sites, which were running flat out last month, tested just 35% of their capacity last week.

Experts cited a number of factors that could be contributing to the slump.

6:30 a.m.: Lightfoot, CPS chief Jackson to visit North Side school, discuss reopening

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS CEO Janice Jackson were scheduled to visit a Lakeview public school and discuss the reopening of schools Monday morning.

Lightfoot and Jackson were scheduled to tour Hawthorne Scholastic Academy and then hold a news conference Monday morning about the Chicago Board of Education’s reopening plans.

The news conference comes as 37,000 kindergarten through fifth grade students whose parents opted for in-person learning join fewer than 10,000 prekindergarten and special education students who signed up for in-person learning when the first wave of students returned last month.

6 a.m.: CPS opens its schools Monday to the most students since last March. Is the system ready?

When the first, smallest wave of students returned to Chicago Public Schools, many educators and principals said they were thankful for the phased-in reopening. It would give them time to fine-tune protocols before tens of thousands more children came back.

On Monday, those strategies will be put to the test.

With 37,000 kindergarten through fifth grade students opted in to in-person learning, the second wave is more than five times bigger than the first. An additional 18,500 sixth through eighth grade students are expected in the third wave March 8, according to the district’s latest numbers. Roughly 5,000 students in prekindergarten and special education cluster programs were signed up when the first wave resumed classroom learning in February.

At Wednesday’s Chicago Board of Education meeting, CPS CEO Janice Jackson said the district hopes to bring high school students back before the school year ends.

At each board meeting since intent-to-return forms were due for eligible students in December, officials have reported smaller numbers expected back: from 77,000 to 67,000 to 60,000 — not quite 30% of those eligible. Many parents selected the intent-to-return option for their child in order to preserve the possibility rather than lock their student into remote learning.

Parent activists are organizing a sickout for Monday to pull children from both in-person and virtual school for the day “to demand equitable education for students in all settings, especially the Black and Brown students who have been hit the hardest with failures and truancies during this pandemic.”

The group is calling on CPS to make improvements to remote learning, which the majority of students have chosen and which will still involve students participating in a hybrid model.

And a professional organization representing principals says many schools still don’t have enough staff to implement safe reopening plans.

Here are some recent stories related to COVID-19.

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