COVID-19 in Illinois updates: Here’s what’s happening Wednesday – Chicago Tribune

The long-standing 6-feet social distancing rule for Illinois schools has been halved to 3 feet, part of loosened guidelines unveiled by state education and health departments that say the new rules are needed for a rapid return to the classroom.

In a letter posted on the Illinois State Board of Education website, Superintendent Carmen Ayala said the revised guidance for schools “reflects what we have learned about the transmission of COVID-19 in school settings, as more students in Illinois and across the country have returned safely to in-person learning during the 2020-21 school year.”

Meanwhile, Illinois officials reported Wednesday that 104,777 doses of COVID-19 vaccine were administered Tuesday, a day after they said more than half of Illinois residents 65 and older have received the first dose of the vaccine. Over the past seven days, an average of 95,369 vaccinations have been administered daily, a record that surpasses the previous high of 93,183 recorded Saturday.

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

1:20 p.m.: Congress OKs $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill in win for President Biden, Dems

A Congress riven along party lines approved a landmark $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill Wednesday, as President Joe Biden and Democrats claimed a triumph on a bill that marshals the government’s spending might against twin pandemic and economic crises that have upended a nation.

The House gave final congressional approval to the sweeping package by a near party line 220-211 vote precisely seven weeks after Biden entered the White House and four days after the Senate passed the bill without a single Republican vote. GOP lawmakers opposed the package as bloated, crammed with liberal policies and heedless of signs the crises are easing.

Most noticeable to many Americans are provisions to provide up to $1,400 direct payments this year to most adults and extend $300 per week emergency unemployment benefits into early September. But the legislation goes far beyond that.

The measure addresses Democrats’ campaign promises and Biden’s top initial priority of easing a one-two punch that first hit the country a year ago. Since then, many Americans have been relegated to hermit-like lifestyles in their homes to avoid a disease that’s killed over 525,000 people — about the population of Wichita, Kansas — and plunged the economy to its deepest depths since the Great Depression.

“Today we have a decision to make of tremendous consequence,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., “a decision that will make a difference for millions of Americans, saving lives and livelihoods.”

12:59 p.m.: Another 104,777 COVID-19 vaccinations administered as Illinois records record seven day average of 95,369

Illinois public health officials said 104,777 coronavirus vaccinations were administered on Tuesday, bringing the statewide total of 3,567,927.

The number of Illinois residents who have been fully vaccinated — receiving both of the required shots — reached 1,247,781, or 9.97% of the total population.

Over the past seven days, an average of 95,369 vaccinations have been administered daily, a record that surpasses the previous high of 93,183 recorded Saturday.

Officials on Wednesday reported 1,682 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 and 30 additional fatalities. The total number of known infections in Illinois since the pandemic began is 1,202,709, and the statewide death toll is 20,810.

The seven-day statewide positivity rate for cases as a share of total tests was 2.3% as of Tuesday. Wednesday’s new cases resulted from 71,488 tests.

As of Tuesday night, 1,157 people in Illinois were hospitalized with COVID-19, with 242 patients in intensive care units and 111 patients on ventilators. — Jenny Whidden

12:11 p.m.: Illinois schools can cut social distance from 6 to 3 feet under new rules aimed at helping districts reopen

The longstanding 6-feet social distancing rule for Illinois schools has been halved to 3 feet, part of loosened guidelines unveiled by state education and health departments who say the new rules are needed for a rapid return to the classroom.

In a letter posted on the Illinois State Board of Education website, Superintendent Carmen Ayala said the revised guidance for schools, “reflects what we have learned about the transmission of COVID-19 in school settings, as more students in Illinois and across the country have returned safely to in-person learning during the 2020-21 school year.”

“This joint guidance supports the return to in-person instruction as soon as practicable in each community,” Ayala said.

12:07 p.m.: 1,682 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases and 30 additional deaths reported

Illinois health officials on Wednesday announced 1,682 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 and 30 additional fatalities, bringing the total number of known infections in Illinois to 1,202,709 and the statewide death toll to 20,810 since the start of the pandemic.

Officials also reported 71,488 new tests in the last 24 hours. The statewide positivity rate for cases is 2.6%.

The 7-day rolling daily average of administered vaccine doses is 95,369, with 104,777 doses given on Tuesday, a new daily record. Officials also say a total of 3,567,927 vaccines have now been administered.

9:37 a.m.: Coronavirus vaccines coming for teens, children, Dr. Anthony Fauci says

As adults in the United States continue to line up for their COVID-19 vaccines, children and teens have largely been kept out of the queue. That could soon change.

The nation’s top infectious diseases expert says that by fall, he expects to have data showing that children and teens age 12 to 17 can start rolling up their sleeves for COVID-19 shots. Younger children could follow in the first quarter of 2022.

“We project that high school students will very likely be able to be vaccinated by the fall term — maybe not the very first day, but certainly in the early part of the fall for that fall educational term,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

8:42 a.m.: US to buy 100 million additional doses of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine

President Joe Biden is announcing Wednesday the U.S. is buying an additional 100 million doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine.

The drugmaker is already obligated to supply 100 million doses to the federal government by the end of June. The additional vaccine would be delivered in the months following. A White House official previewed the news on the condition of anonymity before the president’s remarks.

6:45 a.m. Cook County officials honor people who have died from the coronavirus, mark one year since local COVID-19 disaster declaration

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and other county officials were scheduled Wednesday afternoon to hold a ceremony to honor those who have died from the coronavirus by marking the one-year anniversary of the county disaster declaration on COVID-19.

Preckwinkle and other officials were to hold the ceremony Wednesday afternoon at the Cook County Building downtown.

The memorial service comes just before the one-year anniversary Thursday of the World Health Organization declaring the spread of COVID-19 as a pandemic.

6 a.m.: US House expected to send $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill to Biden

Congress is poised to approve a landmark $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, placing President Joe Biden on the cusp of an early triumph that advances Democratic priorities and showcases the unity his party will need to forge future victories.

The House was expected to give final congressional approval Wednesday to the package, which aims to fulfill Democrats’ campaign promises to beat the coronavirus pandemic and revive the enfeebled economy. House and Senate Republicans have unanimously opposed the package as bloated, crammed with liberal policies and heedless of signs the dual crises are easing.

The measure provides up to $1,400 direct payments to most Americans, extended emergency unemployment benefits and hundreds of billions for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, schools, state and local governments and ailing industries from airlines to concert halls. There is aid for farmers of color and pension systems, and subsidies for consumers buying health insurance and states expanding Medicaid coverage for lower earners.

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