Coronavirus in Illinois updates: Here’s what happened May 26 with COVID-19 in the Chicago area

Half of Cook County’s six suburban mass vaccination locations will close permanently on Thursday, officials said as the waning need for a centralized rollout has given way to a new strategy of meeting hard-to-reach residents where they are. The downscaling mirrors that of the city of Chicago, which is winding […]

Half of Cook County’s six suburban mass vaccination locations will close permanently on Thursday, officials said as the waning need for a centralized rollout has given way to a new strategy of meeting hard-to-reach residents where they are.

The downscaling mirrors that of the city of Chicago, which is winding down the United Center and other mass vaccination sites. City health officials said on Tuesday said they will shift focus to a hyperlocal inoculation campaign that includes dozens of pop-up events, vaccine incentives and home visits.

The United Center vaccination site on Monday ended its partnership with the federal government along with its walk-in appointments, public health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said at a news conference. The drive-thru option will remain open under city leadership until June 24.

On Wednesday, state officials reported 1,139 new and probable cases of COVID-19 and 27 additional deaths.

Officials also said Wednesday that 66% of adults in the state have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, which is nearing President Joe Biden’s goal of 70% of adults with one at least one shot by July 4.

Meanwhile, Moderna said Tuesday its COVID-19 vaccine strongly protects kids as young as 12, a step that could put the shot on track to become the second option for that age group in the United States. Moderna says it will submit its teen data to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other global regulators early next month.

Here’s what’s happening Wednesday with COVID-19 in the Chicago area:

4:22 p.m.: Chicago Pride Parade set to return Oct. 3 following 2020 COVID cancellation

Chicago’s Pride Parade has been officially moved to Sunday, Oct. 3, a pandemic-induced departure from its usual last Sunday in June date after the festival was cancelled in 2020 because of COVID-19, organizers said.

Following last summer’s cancellation, the new date reflects a one-time change in the date due to safety concerns surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, organizers said. Although cases and hospitalizations have declined, the magnitude of the parade, which usually gathers around 1 million people, organizers wanted to err on the side of caution.

“We wanted to find a date that would give enough space between now and when vaccinations were beginning to reach a number, and it appears at this point that Covid is trending down,” parade coordinator Tim Frye said in a phone interview. “We did not want to have two years go by without a parade.”

1:39 p.m.: UChicago’s Dr. Allison Bartlett talks about kids and COVID-19 vaccinations

As many parents across Chicago and the suburbs are hoping to get COVID-19 vaccine shots in their kids’ arms before the start of summer and return to full in-person learning in the fall, the Chicago Tribune talked to University of Chicago Medicine’s Dr. Allison Bartlett on Wednesday in a Facebook Live conversation.

While many families have already gotten their teens 16 and over vaccinated, the expansion of vaccine eligibility earlier this month to include kids ages 12 to 15 now has found Dr. Bartlett among the medical professionals who are urging parents to get their kids vaccinated as younger children represent a key demographic for achieving herd immunity.

But kids not only play an important role in halting the spread of the virus. Some experts say children who are vaccinated will be able to enjoy a more carefree summer after dealing with the stress of remote learning, and the disappointment over many of their favorite activities like sports teams and fine arts programs being canceled since the start of the pandemic.

Bartlett covered topics including the safety of the vaccine for kids and what to expect at the start of the school year next fall. She also discussed possible side effects and when the vaccines might be approved for children under 12.

12:32 p.m.: Half of Cook County suburban mass vaccination sites closing as health officials say hyperlocal focus needed for hard-to-reach population

Half of Cook County’s six suburban mass vaccination locations will close permanently on Thursday, officials said as the waning need for a centralized rollout has given way to a new strategy of meeting hard-to-reach residents where they are.

The Tinley Park, South Holland and River Grove mass vaccination centers will be “consolidating” into the remaining locations Thursday, according to a Wednesday Cook County Health news release. That means residents seeking a mass vaccination site in the suburbs must go to Forest Park, Des Plaines or Matteson for an inoculation shot, either with an appointment or walk-in.

12:17 p.m.: 1,139 new COVID-19 cases and 27 deaths reported Wednesday

Illinois public health officials on Wednesday reported 1,139 new and probable cases of COVID-19 and 27 additional deaths. That brings the state’s totals to 1,378,388 cases and 22,676 deaths.

There were 57,402 tests reported in the previous 24 hours, and the seven-day statewide positivity rate as a percent of total test is 2.0%.

There were 59,494 doses of the vaccine administered Tuesday and the seven-day rolling average of daily doses is 71,215. Officials said 66% of Illinois adults have received at least one vaccine dose and 49% of adults are fully vaccinated.

11:53 a.m.: Chicago assisted living company tells workers to get vaccinated or find another job. Will more health care providers follow?

When Melissa Fisher learned she’d have to get vaccinated to keep her job, she tried to fight it.

Fisher, who works in an assisted living and memory care facility run by Chicago-based Enlivant, gave the company a letter from her pastor explaining her religious objection. Fisher also volunteered to get tested for COVID-19 each week, rather than be vaccinated.

But Enlivant stood firm, telling her in a May 21 email that her request to forgo vaccination was denied because of the nature of her job and “the threat to yourself and others from remaining unvaccinated.”

Fisher expects her last day will be May 31.

“I just thought they would honor my freedom of religion, my rights, but apparently we don’t have that right anymore,” said Fisher, who is an apostolic holiness Christian. Enlivant has more than 200 facilities across the country, including in Rockford and Joliet. Fisher, who works at an Enlivant facility in Tennessee, helps residents with daily tasks, such as dressing and going to the bathroom.

Workplace vaccination requirements are expected to become increasingly contentious as more offices reopen, and the issue could be especially pressing in the health care industry, where employees often work closely with elderly or vulnerable patients.

11:50 a.m.: Mayor Lori Lightfoot announces reopening of 22 Chicago beaches in video of herself knocking over her infamous cardboard cutout

Almost all of Chicago’s lakefront beaches will reopen on Friday for the first time since September 2019, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Wednesday following a loosely enforced shutdown throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

The return of a classic Chicago beach season will run through Labor Day, with 22 lakeshore spots in the city reopening all amenities except drinking fountains, which will remain shut off, according a Wednesday news release from the mayor’s office. Lakefront concessions will offer indoor and outdoor dining options starting Memorial Day weekend as well. But the Juneway, Roger, Howard and Fargo beaches will not reopen because of rising water levels and erosion.

”Welcome back, beaches,” Lightfoot said in a video of her knocking over the now-meme-level cardboard cutout of herself that was perched in front of a beach entrance.

10:55 a.m.: State to offer vaccination clinics at Union Station, TravelCenters of America over Memorial Day Weekend

Clinics aimed at providing Memorial Day travelers with COVID-19 vaccinations will be available at Union Station and five other locations this weekend through a state partnership with Amtrak and Walmart, officials announced Wednesday.

The announcement comes as the American Automobile Association projects Memorial Day weekend travel will be 60% higher than last year, and nearly two months after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said both domestic and international travel for fully vaccinated people was a low risk activity.

A vaccination clinic at Union Station will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday through Sunday, offering the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine to anyone 18 and older without an appointment.

Vaccinations will also be offered at TravelCenters of America locations in Mount Vernon, Troy, Effingham (a Petro outlet) and Bloomington. The clinics will be open Saturday through Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.Those clinics will also be offering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at no cost.

Additionally, there will be a vaccination clinic at Wally’s and Hy-Vee along I-55 outside Pontiac. that will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday.

9:33 a.m.: ‘GMA’ host marries couple in Wednesday broadcast from Chicago”

”I’m just so glad that we’re healthy, and we’re here,” said bride Heather Hathaway Miranda, whose wedding to Army Maj. Jose Perez was twice postponed because of coronavirus. Singer Ne-Yo performed for the couple’s first dance.

“GMA” has been visiting cities around the country as they lift coronavirus-related restrictions. Navy Pier is set to fully reopen this week. Strahan also stopped by Al’s #1 Italian Beef, Lou Malnati’s and the Cloud Gate sculpture in Millennium Park. He took a ride on a Shoreline Sightseeing boat and called the “Tilt” attraction at the 360 Chicago observation deck the “scariest thing I’ve done in a long time.”

The former NFL player also refused a personalized Chicago Bears jersey because he’s retired from the New York Giants.

9:13 a.m.: Mayor Lori Lightfoot proposes help for Chicago businesses, would include cap on third-party delivery fees

Mayor Lori Lightfoot introduced a package of measures on Wednesday aimed at helping Chicago businesses, including extending a cap on third-party delivery fees and $10 million in grants for those hurt by the coronavirus pandemic.

Lightfoot’s proposals, which will need to be approved by City Council in the coming weeks, include extending a 15% cap on third-party delivery companies “until after the city recovers from the pandemic.” The mayor also is pushing a discounted payment plan for businesses with city debt to make it easier for them to renew licenses and continue operating.

9:03 a.m.: ‘Breakthrough’ COVID-19 infections after vaccination are rare, and just 2% result in deaths, CDC says

In a four-month span during which the U.S. vaccination campaign was in a race against a spate of COVID-19 surges, a nationwide study has found that roughly 10,000 people became infected with the coronavirus after they had received all their recommended doses.

Two percent of those patients with “breakthrough” infections died, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

That may sound like bad news. But run the numbers, and infectious-disease experts say it is actually quite good news indeed.

Between Jan. 1 and April 30, a total of 10,262 post-vaccination infections were reported by 46 states and territories. Those cases represent less than 0.01% of the 107,496,325 people in the U.S. who had been fully vaccinated by April 30, according to the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker.

6:50 a.m.: Cook County Health vaccine centers giving away free Great America passes Wednesday

Anyone getting vaccinated against COVID-19 at most Cook County-run vaccinations sites Wednesday will receive a free pass to Six Flags Great America, according to the county’s health agency.

In addition to being given out at the county’s six mass-vaccination sites, free passes also are being offered at some community health centers and high schools where vaccines are being distributed.

Six Flags Great America reopened last month with reduced capacity after being closed for most activities during much of the pandemic.

— Chicago Tribune staff

6 a.m.: Pritzker touts ‘Time to Drive’ for tourism despite gas price

The splashy, $6 million Illinois tourism campaign Gov. J.B. Pritzker unveiled this month, “Time for Me to Drive,” an anthem set to the 1970s REO Speedwagon mega-hit and touting hot spots from historic Galena to the Shawnee National Forest, ignores a key factor: The state’s price for gas is among the highest in the country.

AAA reports that the average price per gallon in Illinois Tuesday was $3.22. While lower prices in the past have sent lawmakers scurrying to special session to take action, Pritzker seemed unconcerned that the current price might leave summer road trips off the to-do list for some families when asked about it last week.

But so, apparently, are tourists. Despite a national average that tops $3 per gallon for the first time since 2014, AAA estimates that 34 million people will travel by car this Memorial Day weekend, down about 8% from the 37 million who took to the road in 2019, but up by more than half from the number packing the hatchback during the deadly early throes of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

It’s even taken on a name: “Revenge” travel, said AAA spokeswoman Jeanette McGee.

“People have pent-up demand, they have discretionary income saved up, and they have the time off…” McGee said. “People are going to continue to travel this year, regardless of gas prices.”

Pritzker was unfazed by the price hike’s impact last week when he announced the annual road program, folded into his ongoing $51 billion “Rebuild Illinois” plan adopted in 2019, which relies in part on a doubled motor fuel tax that will hit 39.2 cents per gallon July 1. He defended the tax as a fair, improved-roads user fee and said gas-price fluctuations are tied to outside “public markets” when asked whether families would embrace his “Time to Drive” campaign with gas so costly.

“It’s ‘Time for Me to Drive,’” Pritzker corrected, “and it’s a great song by REO Speedwagon from Champaign. I hope everybody will get out this summer and drive.”

The “Time for Me to Drive” title is a take-off of the 1978 hit by REO Speedwagon, formed at the University of Illinois in 1967. “Time for Me to Fly” was written by frontman Kevin Cronin, who explained in a 2017 interview that it’s a simple redux on a painful breakup with a high school sweetheart which sent him escaping to Colorado.

No word on whether he drove. But those who do this summer will have to roll with the changes. —John O’Connor, Associated Press

6 a.m.: Naperville Park Board to review plans for three-day Fourth of July event and possible holiday lights show at Frontier Park

The Naperville Park Board is to discuss draft agreements Thursday for the new Naperville Salute event over Fourth of July weekend and a new holiday lights show in December at its Thursday meeting.

Naperville Salute was to debut last year but was canceled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is why the park board never voted on the agreement with Naperville Responds for Veterans. However, the group did hold a July 4 fireworks show at Frontier Park, near Neuqua Valley High School.

This year the plan is to hold the full event on July 2-3 at Rotary Hill along the Naperville Riverwalk and a fireworks display on July 4 at Frontier Park.

The event succeeds Naperville Ribfest, which had been annually held over the Fourth of July weekend until being moved to a new location in Romeoville. Read the full story here. — Rafael Guerrero, Naperville Sun

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