Chicago will join the rest of Illinois by advancing to the next phase of the states COVID-19 vaccination program on Monday, which will include residents age 65 or older and front-line essential workers, including teachers, the city said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Teachers Unions governing body is expected to convene Wednesday and could send a vote to members as soon as Thursday to strike or take other collective action as early as next week, several sources told the Tribune.

Heres whats happening Tuesday with COVID-19 in the Chicago area and Illinois:

7 p.m.: IHSA approves plan for winter sports to begin, allows contact days for fall, spring and summer sports

Winter sports will be on their way.

By an email vote, the Illinois High School Association board approved a plan Tuesday that allows winter sports, with the exception of boys and girls basketball, to be played seven practice days after the first practice.

Badminton, boys swimming, boys and girls bowling, and girls gymnastics are all lower-risk sports.

The acclimation period was developed by the IHSAs sports medicine advisory committee.

The Illinois Department of Public Health moved Chicago and most of the suburbs Monday into Tier 2, which allows competition.

Will and Kankakee counties, however, are still in Tier 3. That means high schools like Lincoln-Way East, Lincoln-Way Central, Lincoln-Way West, Lockport, Lemont, Providence and Joliet Catholic will not be able to practice or compete until reaching the next level.

The IHSA also approved contact days for all fall, spring and summer sports, beginning Jan. 25.

6 p.m. (update): Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum announce plans to reopen as COVID restrictions loosen

Shedd Aquarium Tuesday became the first major cultural institution to announce reopening plans following the states determination Monday that Chicago is now in improved Tier 2 COVID mitigation status.

The Shedd news was followed by the Field Museum revealing its plans to reopen even sooner, by the end of this week.

The lakefront aquarium, which in November closed down for a second time due to the pandemic, said it will allow the public back in on Saturday, Jan. 30. Members will be allowed in first, Jan. 27-29, with additional members-only hours available on the 31st.

Its Museum Campus neighbor the Field said it will open to members Thursday and Friday and then to the general public on Saturday, with next Monday and Thursday being free to Illinois residents.

Other museums are expected to follow suit. The areas two major zoos, Brookfield and Lincoln Park, are closed for the first two months of the year as a cost-saving and safety measure.

5:20 p.m.: Drive-through indoor facility opens at Lake County Fairgrounds for faster vaccinations

Conditions were good for Deputy Lake County Coroner Kiersten Reif when she received her first dose of COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 28 at the Lake County Health Departments drive-through site at its Waukegan offices.

But, Reif liked the circumstances much more when she received her second dose Tuesday at the departments new drive-through indoor facility at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Grayslake.

It was a lot nicer, and less congested, Reif said. They were able to do a lot more at the same time.

It was a lot better this time, added Sgt. Steve Carroll of the coroners office, who also received his second dose.

The health department opened its expanded facility at the fairgrounds Tuesday utilizing the buildings garage doors to allow patients to pull into the building, receive their shot and drive out in five minutes, with a goal of doubling overall vaccination capacity.

Mark Pfister, the health departments executive director, said the fairgrounds large main building has the room to accommodate multiple lines of vehicles, and indoor lighting enables longer hours. Indoor working conditions make it easier for staff to prepare and administer the doses.

Once a person is in line, they should get their shot in five minutes, Pfister said. This is for people who are eligible and registered in our system. We can do more (now), but we must have the vaccine in our system.

5 p.m.: IRS investigating hundreds of COVID-19 scams, warns Illinois taxpayers

As the second round of pandemic relief checks go out to millions of Americans, the Internal Revenue Services criminal investigation division warned Illinois taxpayers Tuesday that it was looking into hundreds of COVID-19-related scams across the country and abroad.

Criminals will look for any opportunity to take what they are not entitled to and this is no exception, said Acting Special Agent in Charge Tamera Cantu, of the IRS Chicago field office, in a news release.

This payment is meant to help those that are struggling to get by as a result of the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, said Cantu. Be wary of any phone calls, emails, or text messages asking for your personal information or offering a deal that seems too good to be true.

The IRS highlighted several COVID-19 scams, including fabricated text messages requiring bank account information to receive a stimulus check, fake test kits, cures and vaccines, fraudulent donation requests and calls to invest in companies supposedly developing vaccines.

The agency notes online that it does not demand payment without the chance to appeal, ask for account information over the phone or via text, threaten lawsuits, jail time or deportation for nonpayment or ask people to pay in gift cards.

The IRS Chicago field office did not have further data on the scams affecting Illinois residents specifically, a spokesperson said.

Taxpayers can report suspected scams to the National Center for Disaster Fraudsphone hotline, 1-866-720-5721 or through its online complaint form.

4:10 p.m.: Illinois school districts get $2 billion in latest COVID-19 federal relief package

Illinois public schools have been awarded $2.2 billion in COVID-19 relief funding more than four times the federal dollars the state received in the first round of pandemic aid for schools last spring, state education officials said.

The U.S. Department of Educations preliminary allocations for the second round of COVID-19 relief money for Illinois schools through the second Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund arrives as president-elect Joe Biden is pledging to reopen a majority of schools across the U.S. during his first 100 days in office.

The infusion of federal dollars will be released to school districts in the form of grants for urgent needs, officials said, including COVID-19 safety protocol, mitigating learning loss during the pandemic, closing the digital divide, and addressing the mental health needs of students, officials said.

3:50 p.m.: Illinois launches four new COVID-19 vaccination sites in Cook County

Illinois residents began getting COVID-19 shots at four new mass vaccination sites in Cook County on Tuesday as the state readies for the next phase of immunizations.

Two of the sites are in the western suburbs, the North Riverside Health Center in North Riverside and Morton East Adolescent Health Center in Cicero; and two are in the south suburbs, Robbins Health Center in Robbins and Cottage Grove Health Center Ford Heights.

The four sites are being run with support from the Illinois National Guard and will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, Gov. J.B. Pritzkers office said Tuesday.

The sites are will be open to front line health care workers until Illinois officially moves into Phase 1b of its vaccination plan on Monday. That phase includes people 65 and older and front-line essential workers including public transit and grocery store employees, as well as teachers.

The Illinois Department of Public Health is also launching partnerships with large pharmacies to set up hundreds of new sites in communities across Illinois, according to Pritzkers office.

Pritzker called the sites a pivotal first step of a plan that coordinates our 97 local health departments statewide who operate clinics already and will open up more as vaccine supply grows, in a statement on Tuesday.

Illinois National Guard members are also deploying to other parts of the state to help set up new vaccination sites and expand existing ones.

Illinois began vaccinating front-line health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities against COVID-19 in mid-December.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle called the new vaccine sites critical in increasing our vaccination capabilities and protecting our communities from COVID-19, as we return to normalcy.

3:15 p.m.: Restaurants decry uneven playing field over owners who flout indoor dining ban

Even as a return to indoor dining in Illinois appears to be inching closer, restaurant owners particularly those who have been complying with state mandates are expressing growing resentment over what they describe as an uneven playing field.

The resentment is twofold: Restaurants that skirt or openly flout Illinois state rules and the number doing so is significant, restaurateurs claim are taking away business from compliant operations. Inconsistent or absent enforcement is enabling violators.

Indoor dining could resume as early as this week, according to Dr. Allison Arwady, Chicagos public health commissioner, who cited improved COVID-19 numbers, in predicting Tuesday that dining could be days away. Yet capacity would still be limited to 25%, giving restaurants flouting the rules an unfair advantage. In Chicago, 395 businesses, most of them restaurants and bars, have been cited for violating COVID-19 regulations since March.

No restaurateur will call out bad-faith competitors by name. Nobody wants to play police officer, and there is sympathy for those who are struggling to keep their businesses alive and their staffers employed. But there is concern that, by allowing indoor dining to customers eager to return to normal, rules-breaking restaurants may be adding to the surge in coronavirus cases, thus postponing the day when indoor dining can resume safely.

3:10 p.m.: Lightfoot calls on Chicagoans to take part in national memorial to remember COVID-19 victims on eve of Biden-Harris inauguration

Chicagos Democratic mayor is calling on Chicagoans to turn off their lights and other electronics Tuesday night, the eve of President-elect Joe Bidens inauguration, for 10 minutes in remembrance of victims of the deadly coronavirus pandemic.

The event, dubbed a National COVID-19 Memorial Service, is being organized by the incoming Biden administration and scheduled at 6 p.m.

The Willis Tower antenna, along with several other buildings in the downtown skyline, sit partially dark during a 10-minute citywide COVID-19 memorial service on Jan. 19, 2021, in Chicago. (Armando L. Sanchez / Chicago Tribune)

Chicago residents as well as businesses owners can participate by turning off their lights and electronics, step outside their home or workplace, and light a candle and offer a moment of silence for those who have died from the virus.

Following 10 minutes of reflection, everyone will turn the lights back on at 6:10 p.m. CST to symbolize moving from darkness to light, the mayors office said in a statement last week.

Among those who have said theyre participating: the Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago (BOMA/Chicago) an association of 240 downtown buildings and Wrigley Field. The mayors office set up an email for people to participate,, as well as a social media hashtag, #brightertogether.

Lightfoot is not attending the Biden inauguration, her staff said.

2:10 p.m.: American COVID-19 deaths pass 400,000, with death rate accelerating, on final full day of Trumps term

As President Donald Trump entered the final year of his term last January, the U.S. recorded its first confirmed case of COVID-19. Not to worry, Trump insisted, his administration had the virus totally under control.

Now, in his final hours in office, after a year of presidential denials of reality and responsibility, the pandemics U.S. death toll has eclipsed 400,000. And the loss of lives is accelerating.

This is just one step on an ominous path of fatalities, said Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University and one of many public health experts who contend the Trump administrations handling of the crisis led to thousands of avoidable deaths.

Everything about how its been managed has been infused with incompetence and dishonesty, and were paying a heavy price, he said.

The 400,000-death toll, reported Tuesday by Johns Hopkins University, is greater than the population of New Orleans, Cleveland or Tampa, Florida. Its nearly equal to the number of American lives lost annually to strokes, Alzheimers disease, diabetes, flu and pneumonia combined.

With more than 4,000 deaths recorded on some recent days the most since the pandemic began the toll by weeks end will probably surpass the number of Americans killed in World War II.

1:55 p.m.: Downtown Dogs closing after more than 26 years due to pandemic

Downtown Dogs, the much-loved Chicago hot dog stand that first opened in 1994, plans to close by the end of the month. According to a message from the restaurant, the pandemic has caused us to lose our lease and permanently close our doors. The restaurant also noted that it was looted twice over the past year.

While finding a hot dog in Chicago isnt exactly a difficult task, Downtown Dogs location a block from the Chicago Water Tower, meant that it was a welcome reprieve from the crush of bag-toting tourists on the Magnificent Mile. Along with fully loaded hot dogs, the shop served a number of classic Chicago dishes, including Italian beefs and Polish sausages. In fact, we last visited for a pizza puff, that misunderstood Chicago classic.

You have until Jan. 30 to place your last order.

1:25 p.m.: Evanston, Skokie move forward with COVID-19 vaccination plans as thousands of doses already administered

Evanston and Skokie health officials hope to finish their first round of COVID-19 vaccinations this week as they look toward expanding distribution to include high-risk residents.

When that will ultimately happen, though, depends on if the state provides the needed vaccine doses to finish inoculating paramedics and hospital health care workers, said Greg Olsen, public health manager for the city of Evanstons Health and Human Services Department.

Once we have the vaccine in hand, its been very smooth, Olsen said.

However, local health officials dont know in advance how much vaccine they will receive each week, which makes it difficult to estimate when, exactly, this phase will wrap up and the next phase of inoculations will begin.

12:55 p.m.: CTU delegates could set a strike vote this week as impasse looms over schools reopening

The Chicago Teachers Unions governing body is expected to convene Wednesday and could send a vote to members as soon as Thursday to strike or take other collective action as early as next week, several sources told the Tribune.

With thousands more teachers due to report to work in person for the first time on Monday and the union still at an impasse with Chicago Public Schools leaders over a reopening plan theres urgency to the need to come to an agreement to reopen schools.

CPS CEO Janice Jackson Tuesday she wants an agreement but that it must involve how schools can reopen safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, not whether they will reopen.

12:22 p.m.: Elmwood Park schools reopen for first time since closing last March

Parents and children, standing in small clusters divided by household, greeted each other from six feet apart as they waited in line outside Elmwood Elementary School for the first day of hybrid learning Tuesday morning in Elmwood Park.

Elmwood Park School District 401 students have been taking online classes since Gov. J.B. Pritzker closed all schools throughout the state last March. On Tuesday, the youngest students, pre-K through second graders, and those in bilingual classes and special education returned to school for the first time since then. The rest of the students are scheduled to return Jan. 25.

12:10 p.m.: 4,318 new and probable cases of COVID-19, 33 additional deaths reported

Illinois announced Tuesday 4,318 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19, for a total of 1,076,532 statewide since the pandemic began. The state also announced 33 new deaths for a total of 18,291.

There were 71,533 tests reported and the seven-day statewide positivity rate is 6.9%.

On Monday, 13,169 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine were administered, officials said, bringing the number administered statewide to 508,732.

12:05 p.m.: Chicago entering next phase of Illinois COVID-19 vaccine program Jan. 25, as officials predict indoor dining could resume within days

Chicago will join the rest of Illinois by advancing to the next phase of the states COVID-19 vaccination program on Monday, which will include residents age 65 or older and front-line essential workers, including teachers, the city said Tuesday.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, meanwhile, said she hopes indoor dining soon will be allowed at restaurants across Chicago after Gov. J.B. Pritzker eased other COVID-19 restrictions on the city.

Citing improved COVID-19 numbers, Dr. Allison Arwady, Chicagos public health commissioner, predicted indoor dining could be days away.

Were still a few days, could be a week, away from this but if progress continues in the right way, I think it is likely that we may be able to move all the way to the Tier 1 mitigation, which is when we are able to reopen indoor dining, Arwady said during an online question-and-answer session. Were not there yet, but I want you to know that the way the numbers are heading, I am feeling very optimistic.

Arwady also announced on Tuesday that the citys vaccination plan for phase 1b, which includes Chicagoans 65 and older and front line essential workers, will formally begin Jan. 25. Those oldest and at highest risk will be prioritized.

A team of pharmacists from Walgreens arrived at Plymouth Place Senior Living in La Grange Park Saturday morning with the coronavirus vaccine. When they left more than seven hours later, between 550 and 560 people had been vaccinated with the Pfizer BioNTech drug.

It is exciting for them, and their families are thrilled, said Kate Curran, Plymouth Places senior director of communications. Our staff and residents have been through months and months of challenging times.

The complex, at 315 N. La Grange Road, offers a range of living accommodations, from independent living to skilled nursing care.

We have had no communal dining for awhile, Curran said. Since COVID-19 infection rates increased in the fall, the residents have been tested for the virus twice a week.

11:45 a.m.: Small nonprofits could get up to $25,000 in latest round of state grant program

Ten small Illinois nonprofits could win grants of up to $25,000 in the latest cycle of an Illinois grant program, State Treasurer Michael Frerichs announced Tuesday.

We are excited to kick off the new year with up to $250,000 available to small nonprofits, Frerichs said in a news release. We all are experiencing the impact of the pandemic and this funding will help valuable organizations continue their mission to feed, house, and employ those in need.

See the article here:
Coronavirus in Illinois updates: Heres what happened Jan. 19 with COVID-19 in the Chicago area - Chicago Tribune

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