Illinois Coronavirus Updates: Latest COVID Metrics, State Adopts New Guidance for Schools

Health

NBC Chicago 12 July, 2021 - 11:32am 38 views

With the U.S. experiencing a rapid rise in the more transmissible delta variant, portions of Illinois are seeing increases in positivity rates and hospitalizations.

Meanwhile, the Illinois Department of Public Health is "fully adopting" the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's updated COVID-19 guidance for masking in schools.

And just how effective are the three different vaccines against the delta variant?

Here's what you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic across Illinois today:

With the U.S. experiencing a rapid rise in the more transmissible delta variant, portions of Illinois are seeing increases in positivity rates and hospitalizations.

According to statewide data, most of Illinois continues to see historically-low coronavirus positivity rates, however, upticks in COVID metrics have been reported in the state's health care regions that border hard-hit Missouri.

Region 4, which borders St. Louis, has seen a huge jump in positivity rates in recent weeks. According to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, the region had a 1.5% positivity rate on all tests on June 6. Approximately one month later, that positivity rate has now more than quadrupled, currently standing at 6.1%.

Hospitalizations have also risen dramatically in the region, increasing for 13 consecutive days, according to IDPH data.

In Region 3, which includes Springfield and several counties that border Missouri, positivity rates have also quadrupled in a matter of weeks. On June 16, the positivity rate was at 1%, and as of July 3, it is now at 4.5%.

In Region 5, comprised of counties in the far southern tip of Illinois, positivity rates have nearly gone up by five times, from 1% on June 1 to 5.2% as of July 6. Hospitalizations have also increased each of the last eight days.

Those dramatic increases come as Missouri sees some of the highest COVID case rates in the nation. According to the state’s latest numbers, published by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, less than 40% of Missouri residents have been fully vaccinated, and in some rural counties, that number is less than 20%.

Read more here.

Health officials in Illinois on Friday reported 2,945 new confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus in the last week, along with 53 additional deaths and more than 120,000 new vaccine doses administered.

In all, 1,395,497 cases of coronavirus have been reported in the state since the pandemic began. The additional deaths reported this week bring the state to 23,297 confirmed COVID fatalities.

The state’s seven-day positivity rate on all tests rose to 1.5%, and the seven-day positivity rate on individuals tested rose to 1.7%.

Over the past seven days, a total of 120,675 doses of the coronavirus vaccine have been administered to state residents. That brings the state’s average to 17,239 daily vaccination doses over the last week, according to IDPH data.

State officials say more than 57% of adult residents in the state are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with nearly 72% receiving at least one dose.

As of midnight, 430 patients are currently hospitalized due to COVID in the state. Of those patients, 91 are in intensive care units, and 35 are on ventilators.

The Illinois Department of Public Health is "fully adopting" the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's updated COVID-19 guidance for masking in schools, the department announced Friday.

According to the new guidance, vaccinated teachers and students don't need to wear masks inside school buildings, a change that comes amid a national vaccination campaign in which children as young as 12 are eligible to get shots, as well as a general decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths.

"The CDC is right," said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike in a statement. "Vaccination is the best preventive strategy. As school board members, parents, teachers and superintendents plan for a return to in-person learning in the fall, we strongly encourage those who are not vaccinated to continue to mask. IDPH is proud to fully adopt school guidance issued by CDC, which is based on the latest scientific information about COVID-19."

The IDPH said this updated school guidance aligns with guidance for fully vaccinated people in the state.

According to the IDPH, major elements of the updated guidance include:

Ezike and IDPH encouraged schools and communities to "monitor community transmission of COVID-19, vaccination coverage, screening testing and outbreaks to guide decisions about on the level of layered prevention strategies being implemented."

Read more here.

The first winner of the Illinois vaccine lottery's $1 million prize was announced Thursday, as well as three winners of $150,000 scholarships.

The winner of $1 million is from Chicago, according to Illinois officials. Three young people from DeKalb, suburban Cook County and Chicago won the scholarship money.

Residents from those cities and counties are advised to keep their phones on and check their emails regularly to find out if they've won, Illinois officials said.

The Illinois Department of Public Health will call from (312) 814-3524 or email from IDPH.communications@illinois.gov. Officials reminded that no personal information will be requested in the initial phone call or email.

"Winners will have seven days to securely complete, sign and send the authorization form to IDPH to accept their prizes." officials said in a release. "Winners will be announced eight days after each draw unless they choose to remain anonymous."

The "All In for the Win" lottery will give out the $10 million in the form of $7 million in cash prizes for adults and $3 million in scholarships for youth, all distributed through weekly drawings, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said.

As concern grows about the rapid spread of the delta COVID-19 variant, experts are continuing to urge Americans to get their coronavirus vaccines as a way of staving off a surge in new cases.

According to researchers, the delta variant is quickly becoming the dominant strain of coronavirus in the United States. Outbreaks have been reported in several states, mostly in areas with low vaccination rates.

Studies have shown that the delta variant spreads approximately 225% faster than the original strain of the virus. Studies have also shown that once a person catches the delta variant, they likely become infectious sooner, and that the virus grows more rapidly inside a person’s respiratory tract.

As the delta variant continues to spread, experts are continuing to push for more Americans to get the COVID vaccine. All three of the vaccines currently authorized for emergency use by the FDA, including Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, have shown to be largely effective against preventing serious illness and death due to COVID, and all three companies say that their vaccines are showing promise in preventing those outcomes with the delta variant as well.

Just how effective are the three different vaccines against the delta variant? What steps are being taken to ensure the safety and health of those who get the treatments? Here are the latest details.

Chicago will likely add two to three states back onto its travel advisory next week as some areas see a rise in coronavirus cases, the city's top doctor said Tuesday.

"We are doing very well right now here in Chicago but across the whole U.S., you know, cases actually are up a little bit, right, they're up 5 to 10% across the whole country," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said during a Facebook Live broadcast.

"And there are a number of states, two or three, that are likely to go back on our travel advisory, right, where they are actually having significant surges, not just of cases but of hospitalizations from COVID," Arwady continued in answering a question about mask mandates on public transportation.

Arwady's comments came exactly one week after Chicago turned its emergency coronavirus travel order into an advisory after no states were on the list requiring travel restrictions for the third consecutive update.

CDPH announced on June 29 that in more than a month, no state had reached the 15 cases per day per 100,000 residents threshold, which would be the "orange" tier in which unvaccinated travelers are required to quarantine or provide a negative COVID test upon arrival in the city.

The last time a state had reached the orange tier was May 18, the department said, and all U.S. states and territories remained in the less restrictive "yellow" tier of the travel order.

The travel order shifted to an advisory as a result, but the city said the emergency guidelines can be reinstated at any time "if significant surges are seen in any state."

Chicago's travel advisory is slated to next be updated on July 13, with any changes taking effect that Friday. It was not immediately clear if any states added back to the advisory would reinstate the quarantine or negative testing requirements of the previous order.

How should you decide if you should go to a certain location as travel picks up while the U.S. continues to navigate the coronavirus pandemic?

Chicago's top doctor shared her process for making recommendations Tuesday, saying what she includes in her consideration is the spread of COVID-19 in the particular area one might be thinking about visiting.

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady gave details on her process in response to a question during a Facebook Live broadcast on Tuesday. A viewer said he had a funeral to attend in Milwaukee and needed to bring his 80-year-old aunt. Both of them are fully vaccinated, he said, but noted that he wasn't sure about all the other attendees and wondered if he should be concerned for his aunt.

"This is exactly a question that I think a lot of us are thinking about," Arwady said in response. "And the good news is that if you are fully vaccinated and your aunt is fully vaccinated, you know, broadly your protection is very good. And you're right, you know, if you're not sure about all the others… you are going into a situation that could have some risk. I don't know your aunt, I don't know what underlying condition she has, but she's 80 so that is kind of a higher-risk situation."

Arwady said that her recommendation would "broadly" be to go to the funeral, based on the information given, particularly if it's someone the aunt was close with.

"When I am helping people make these decisions individually, I sometimes actually take a look at the area where someone's going to be traveling to have a sense of that," she said, noting cases across the U.S. are up about 5% before diving into specific areas.

Arwady recommended researching each state or region's rolling average number of new cases per day, adjusted for population, as well as trendlines in how much new cases have gone up or down in a particular area in recent days before deciding to travel there.

Chicago schools will encourage student COVID-19 vaccinations ahead of the start of the school year with school-based vaccination sites and events, officials announced Wednesday.

Officials with the nation’s third-largest school district plan to offer full in-person instruction in the fall and want to vaccinate as many students as possible before classes begin next month. District officials said they are “not in a position” to mandate COVID-19 vaccines, but will ask families to submit COVID-19 vaccine documents as is the practice with other vaccinations.

Starting next week the district will offer vaccines at three school sites for students and their families. The sites will be able to administer 600 doses weekly. The district is also working with hospitals for vaccination events in areas with low vaccination rates and offering the shots at back-to-school events.

More than 50,000 children under the age of 18 have already been vaccinated in Chicago, according to the city’s Department of Public Health. Roughly 350,000 students attend Chicago Public Schools.

It's a question many are asking as coronavirus vaccinations continue across the U.S.: are the COVID vaccines FDA approved?

Currently, no coronavirus vaccine is fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but three were given emergency use authorization by the agency: one each from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

Pfizer is currently the only vaccine authorized for emergency use in adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17, though Moderna filed for such approval on last month.

Emergency use authorization allows a vaccine to become available prior to full approval in the case of public health emergencies. The FDA can revoke the EUA at any time.

"The vaccines met FDA’s rigorous scientific standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality needed to support emergency use authorization," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states on its website.

But Chicago's top doctor expects full FDA approval could be granted as early as the fall.

"I expect that these vaccines will get what's called the full FDA approval soon," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said during a Facebook Live Tuesday. "I would guess this will probably be in the maybe September range."

Read more here.

If you're fully vaccinated against COVID-19, how likely is it that you could contract the rising delta variant that experts warn is more transmissible? Chicago's top doctor weighed in Tuesday.

"So this is where, again, luckily, the vaccines have continued to perform well and we shared some data, Pfizer Moderna and J&J have now put some data out showing that their vaccines do remain protective against the delta variant, though you lose a little bit," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said.

Concerns surrounding the delta coronavirus variant are rising in both Chicago and Illinois, but what is it about the new variant that has some worried?

Here's an exhaustive list of what we know so far about the variant itself and what is being seen in Chicago and Illinois.

Read full article at NBC Chicago

CPS Opening Vaccine Clinics At 3 Schools

CBS Chicago 12 July, 2021 - 11:36pm

California to bar K-12 students from campus if they refuse to wear a mask under new rules

Yahoo News 12 July, 2021 - 06:37pm

Exceptions will be made for students with special health needs or disabilities.

The state rules build on recommendations released Friday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which provide flexibility to states and school districts. Under the federal recommendations, for example, a school could allow vaccinated students to attend classes without masks. California is choosing to take a more strict and uniform approach, which also is possible under the federal framework.

According to the most recently collected data, 99% of responding school districts have reported that they will reopen fully for in-person instruction by the fall of 2021.

"That seems to be a safe course for ensuring that every student can come back to school in the fall," said state Supt. of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, who has reviewed the state health rules. "I certainly see the logic of it."

Masks could be especially helpful in schools where physical distancing is more difficult, he added.

"That makes it more tenable that everyone can come back and everyone can be safe," Thurmond said. "So I see this as a commonsense measure of promoting safety, but giving everyone the ability to get back."

"There's also the practical fact that there are students who cannot be vaccinated yet," he said.

Only those 12 and older are currently eligible to be vaccinated. In addition, many students 12 and older, although eligible, have not been inoculated.

Here are answers to some important questions arising from Monday's updated state rules.

The state. For the CDC, the word "guidelines" refers to recommendations rather than mandates. The state guidelines released Monday include rules that schools and families must follow. And local health agencies and schools are allowed to adopt their own requirements that are more strict than what the state requires.

The school must provide masks as needed. Bus drivers, as well, are supposed to have masks available.

In this situation, a school will not allow a student onto campus. The guidelines say: "Schools must exclude students from campus if they are not exempt from wearing a face covering under California Dept. of Public Health guidelines and refuse to wear one provided by the school."

Per state rules: "Schools should offer alternative educational opportunities for students who are excluded from campus because they will not wear a face covering."

Those exempted from wearing a face covering due to a medical condition must wear a non-restrictive alternative, such as a face shield with a drape on the bottom edge, provided their condition permits it. Students with more severe limitations will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

That is not a state requirement, although schools and school systems may choose to have a distance requirement as part of a multi-layered safety strategy.

No. Students must have access to a full school day on campus — provided they are willing to wear masks. When a school's preferred physical distancing is not possible, that school can rely on other safety measures, including disinfection, personal hygiene, adequate ventilation, screening for symptoms of illness and formal coronavirus testing.

The state and the CDC want to limit disruptions and have updated rules to limit when and how long students must remain quarantined.

For example, when an infected student and an unvaccinated close contact are both wearing masks, the contact may continue to attend school if that student is asymptomatic, continues to mask and undergoes at least twice weekly testing during a 10-day period.

A close contact would be a person exposed to an infected masked individual for more than 15 minutes over a 24-hour period indoors within 6 feet.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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De Blasio will force kids to wear masks in schools despite CDC guidance

New York Post 12 July, 2021 - 12:22pm

By Julia Marsh and David Meyer

July 12, 2021 | 1:22pm | Updated July 12, 2021 | 3:22pm

All New York City public school students must continue to wear masks in the classroom, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday — despite the CDC’s latest guidance that vaccinated kids and teachers can go mask-free.

“For now we’re sticking with the idea that wearing the masks is a smart thing to do in schools,” de Blasio said during his morning press briefing. “We’ll keep assessing as we go along, but for now it still makes sense.”

“We’ve been constantly working with the CDC but we also in this case have been very careful given everything the city’s been through,” the mayor added.

CDC officials on Friday called on school districts to set policies that enable “full reopening” of in-person facilities this fall.

The new guidance advises schools to implement “layers of protection” — such as testing and contact tracing — in lieu of masks or three feet of distance between students, who can get vaccinated starting at age 12.

Those recommendations echo recommendations made by the New York State Department of Health in June — which the city also opted to disregard.

NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said the decision to keep school mask rules in place for the time being “mirrors” the CDC’s advice.

He promised additional guidance for parents and students “in the weeks ahead.”

“The key in [the CDC’s] layered approach is to use all the tools we have in our toolbox,” he said.

“The guidance that we’ve given to date has been very clear,” the mayor told reporters, while referring to the city’s existing policies as the “gold standard.”

“Everyone’s coming back in September. A lot of safety precautions being taken,” Hizzoner said. “For now assume we’re wearing masks but that could change as it gets closer. It will be driven by the data we see and the science as always.”

CDC's new mask guidance in schools raises bullying concerns among experts, parents

Yahoo Life 12 July, 2021 - 10:31am

"Vaccination is currently the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic," the CDC says in the guidance. "Promoting vaccination can help schools safely return to in-person learning as well as extracurricular activities and sports."

Reactions were swift — and varied — on social media. "How do schools reasonably sort unvaccinated and vaccinated students and staff?! This is madness. Just keep mask-wearing policies in place," one person wrote on Twitter. "Neat! I'm gonna keep my mask on though," someone else said.

Others expressed concern about how this can affect kids socially. "What does this mean for elementary schools? Will this lead to an uptick in bullying complaints/volatility in buildings? How do we police this all day?" an education attorney wrote. 

Plenty of parents have concerns too. "I am personally conflicted about not requiring kids to wear masks if they are vaccinated," Matthew Parks, a father of three, tells Yahoo Life. "I am hopeful that this will motivate more parents to vaccinate their children and bring us closer to mitigating this disease." But, Parks, who lives in Lewes, Del., says, he's worried "that parents may lie about their children’s immune status and that unvaccinated children may become targeted." Parks says he's also worried that teachers will have trouble enforcing the masking of unvaccinated children. "Overall, I feel reassured that we are getting closer to our normal lives and that this is a step in the right direction, but I think it would be naive for us not to preemptively expect these potential problems," he says.

Dr. Rosemary Olivero, a parent and pediatric infectious disease physician at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich., tells Yahoo Life that her family has discussed vaccinations and medical decisions "openly" with her children and that she does not have "immediate reservations" about the CDC's decision. "However, I understand that it is more difficult for children to adhere to mask-wearing if teachers, parents and peers are not also wearing masks," she says. "This can lead to defiance and opposition, which will need to be planned for."

Dr. Daniel Ganjian, a pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., who has several school-age children, tells Yahoo Life that he's "not so worried" about the safety of younger children who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated. "They are not as likely to get severely sick," he explains. However, Ganjian adds, it's up to schools to "have good policies in place," including having good ventilation and encouraging unvaccinated children to wear masks. 

But bullying — either targeted at kids who wear a mask or those who don't — is a very real concern, Dr. Robert Keder, a pediatrician who specializes in developmental behavior at Connecticut Children's Medical Center, tells Yahoo Life. "We see that adults are bullying each other over wearing masks or not," he says, adding that the problem could be particularly problematic in elementary and middle schools, where some kids are eligible to be vaccinated while others are not. 

"Children will always find ways to bully other children, and statistics show that the number one way in which they get bullied is by the way they look," clinical psychologist John Mayer, author of Family Fit: Find Your Balance in Life, tells Yahoo Life. "So, with that in mind, we can expect kids to get bullied both for wearing and not wearing a mask."

It can also be tricky among children who choose to wear a mask but are eligible to get vaccinated, Keder says. "We need to teach kids that wearing a mask, even if you choose to but don't 'have to,' is OK," he says. "People might be doing it for reasons that aren't obvious — they haven't been vaccinated, they're immunocompromised or they have someone at home who is sick."

While bullying can only be prevented so much, Melissa Santos, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and division chief of pediatric psychology at Connecticut Children's, tells Yahoo Life that a lot of the bullying risk comes down to the policies that schools have in place. "The key for schools with masks/no masks is having a consistent policy including having clear rules or expectations for what occurs if someone is bullied — much like they should have for other kinds of bullying," she says. "No tolerance for bullying should extend to masks."

If you have concerns about your child being bullied over mask usage, experts recommend having a talk with the child. "Talk to them about what we know about COVID-19, what we have control over, and that we're all trying to help in our own way," he says. "You can say that it's hard, because we have no control over other people's behavior, but we have choices about how we as a family can be safe and how we can wear our masks and wash our own hands."

If your child is older, Mayer suggests being frank about why kids bully. "Bullies act because there is something damaged in their life right now. It's not you that is damaged, weird, different or wrong," he recommends saying. "Reinforce that it is the parents' decision to have them wear or not wear a mask ... not the bully. You are following your parents' safety actions," he says.

Bullying concerns aside, infectious disease experts and organizations that represent teachers applaud the CDC's move. "I do not think vaccinated teachers or students need to wear masks," infectious disease expert Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, tells Yahoo Life. "The science is clear: Being fully vaccinated is protection against COVID-19. Schools need to recognize that a vaccinated individual does not pose a threat to others, and others do not pose a threat to them."

Becky Pringle, vice president of the National Education Association, tells Yahoo Life in a statement that the CDC's latest guidance "provides an important roadmap for reducing the risk of COVID-19 in schools," adding that "it is up to all of us in communities across the country to make it possible for all school buildings to be fully open, to stay open, and for all students, staff and families to remain healthy." That, she says, includes vaccinations. "Everyone who is eligible to be vaccinated should get their COVID-19 vaccination," Pringle says. "This is the most important thing we can do to protect ourselves and each other, and especially to protect those who cannot yet be vaccinated, including children under 12."

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, tells Yahoo Life that the CDC's guidance, "makes clear that masking is important in the absence of vaccination."

Still, there are a lot of questions about how, exactly, this is going to work in schools and if it's even the safest approach, especially when younger children are involved. "As the majority of unvaccinated persons in the U.S. are children, we are concerned for COVID outbreaks in places where children gather indoors for extended periods of time," Olivero says. "For this reason, completely getting rid of masks in schools may be very risky for the health of children as well as the evolution of novel variants."

A state official said it would require masks for all students and staff so they did not feel "singled out for being vaccinated or unvaccinated."

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