Coronavirus in Illinois updates: Bar that hosted Trump rally shut down for violating COVID-19 restrictions; 4,979 new COVID-19 cases and 123 more deaths reported

Coronavirus in Illinois updates: Bar that hosted Trump rally shut down for violating COVID-19 restrictions; 4,979 new COVID-19 cases and 123 more deaths reported

The city of Chicago will be releasing more information about centralized vaccine registration in the coming days but most residents will receive COVID-19 inoculations through their health care provider or pharmacy, public health commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Thursday.

In response to a question about members of the public who are anxious for a centralized sign-up, Arwady said residents should sign up for the city’s “COVID Coach” web app and keep a look out for more information in the coming days.

Earlier in the day, as expected, Will and Kankakee counties and a downstate region that includes Champaign-Urbana and Decatur had restrictions loosened Thursday under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s coronavirus reopening plan, the Illinois Department of Public Health said.

Indoor dining at 25% capacity or 25 people, whichever is less, is now allowed in Will and Kankakee counties. Indoor seating is limited to four people per party.

Additionally, Chicago Teachers Union members are voting this week on a collective action to defy Chicago Public Schools and refuse to report to school buildings starting Monday, continuing remote learning for as long as they have access to their online platforms. The deadline to vote is Saturday.

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

Will and Kankakee counties and a downstate region that includes Champaign-Urbana saw restrictions on indoor dining loosened Thursday under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s coronavirus reopening plan.

Under the state’s latest adjustments, indoor dining can reopen in Will and Kankakee counties with limits set at 25% capacity or 25 people, whichever is fewer. Indoor seating is limited to four people per party. Those rules are also in effect in the northwest region of the state and a region that encompasses a swath of north-central Illinois.

1:06 p.m.: South Side bar that hosted Trump rally shut down for violating COVID-19 restrictions; 12 others cited

A Mount Greenwood bar and restaurant that hosted a rally for former President Donald Trump in November has been closed indefinitely by the Chicago’s department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection after violating COVID-19 restrictions by holding an indoor gathering with 99 people, city officials said Thursday.

Firewater Saloon (3908 W 111th St.), which describes itself as “Chicagoland’s favorite spot for country western food and music,” will not be allowed to reopen until the BACP signs off on “a plan to safely reopen,” the agency said Thursday.

12:12 p.m.: 4,979 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases and 123 additional deaths reported

Illinois health officials on Thursday announced 4,979 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 and 123 additional fatalities, bringing the total number of known infections in Illinois to 1,086,333 and the statewide death toll to 18,520 since the start of the pandemic.

Officials also reported 99,036 new tests in the last 24 hours. The seven-day statewide rolling positivity rate for cases as a share of total tests was 5.4% for the period ending Wednesday.

12:09 p.m.: As Chicago looks to next phase of COVID-19 vaccinations, city health commissioner says most inoculations will come through residents’ healthcare providers or their pharmacy

The city of Chicago will be releasing more information about centralized vaccine registration in the coming days but most residents will receive COVID-19 inoculations through their health care provider or pharmacy, public health commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Thursday.

So far, vaccines largely have been limited to health care workers and people over 75. On Monday, the city will move into a new distribution phase, referred to as 1b, by opening up inoculations for residents age 65 or older and front-line essential workers, including teachers.

In response to a question about members of the public who are anxious for a centralized sign-up, Arwady said residents should sign up for the city’s “COVID Coach” web app and keep a look out for more information in the coming days.

10:36 a.m.: Limited indoor dining now allowed in Will and Kankakee counties

As expected, Will and Kankakee counties and a downstate region that includes Champaign-Urbana and Decatur had restrictions loosened Thursday under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s coronavirus reopening plan, the Illinois Department of Public Health said.

In the east central Illinois region that includes Champaign-Urbana, indoor dining will be allowed for groups of up to 10 people with seating capacity limited to the number of tables that can be placed 6 feet apart within the establishment.

Those same rules are already in place in a west central region that includes Springfield and a region that encompasses the state’s 20 southernmost counties.

The looser rules in Will and Kankakee counties were already in place the northwest region, which includes Rockford, DeKalb and Galena, and the north-central region, stretching from Kendall and Grundy counties west to the Quad Cities and including Bloomington and Peoria.

Indoor dining remains prohibited in the rest of the state, although the rule has been widely ignored by both restaurants and some local officials.

9:40 a.m.: Amazon offers to help Biden with COVID-19 vaccine distribution

Amazon is offering its colossal operations network and advanced technologies to assist President Joe Biden in his vow to get 100 million COVID-19 vaccinations to Americans in his first 100 days in office.

“We are prepared to leverage our operations, information technology, and communications capabilities and expertise to assist your administration’s vaccination efforts,” wrote the CEO of Amazon’s Worldwide Consumer division, Dave Clark, in a letter to Biden. “Our scale allows us to make a meaningful impact immediately in the fight against COVID-19, and we stand ready to assist you in this effort.”

Amazon said that it has already arranged a licensed third-party occupational health care provider to give vaccines on-site at its facilities for its employees when they become available.

9:34 a.m.: Upgrade my mask? Do I need an N95? What you can do to avoid the new coronavirus variant.

New variants of the coronavirus continue to emerge. But one in particular has caused concern in the United States because it is so contagious and spreading fast. To avoid it, you’ll need to double down on the same pandemic precautions that have kept you safe so far.

The variant known as B.1.1.7., which was first identified in Britain, doesn’t appear to cause more severe disease, but it has the potential to infect an estimated 50% more people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has predicted that this variant could become the dominant source of infection in the United States by March. Variants with the same mutation have been reported in Brazil and South Africa, and now scientists are studying whether a variant with a different mutation, and first found in Denmark, along with one identified in California, have caused a surge of cases in California.

(Updated) 9:02 a.m.: President Biden to sign 10 pandemic-related executive orders today, aiming to fast-track vaccines and reopen schools

Deep in the deadliest coronavirus wave and facing worrisome new mutations, President Joe Biden will kick off his national COVID-19 strategy to ramp up vaccinations and testing, reopen schools and businesses and increase the use of masks — including a requirement that Americans mask up for travel.

Biden also will address inequities in hard-hit minority communities as he signs 10 pandemic-related executive orders on Thursday, his second day in office.

“We need to ask average Americans to do their part,” said Jeff Zients, the White House official directing the national response. “Defeating the virus requires a coordinated nationwide effort.”

8:29 a.m.: US jobless claims decline to a still-high 900,000 as Biden inherits faltering economy

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell slightly last week to 900,000, still a historically high level that points to ongoing job cuts in a raging pandemic.

The Labor Department’s report Thursday underscored that President Joe Biden has inherited an economy that faltered this winter as virus cases spiked, cold weather restricted dining and federal rescue aid expired. The government said 5.1 million Americans are continuing to receive state jobless benefits, down from 5.2 million in the previous week. That suggests that while some of the unemployed are finding jobs, others are likely using up their state benefits and transitioning to separate extended-benefit programs.

More than 10 million people are receiving aid from those extended programs, which now offer up to 50 weeks of benefits, or from a new program that provides benefits to contractors and the self-employed. All told, nearly 16 million people were on unemployment in the week that ended Jan. 2, the latest period for which data is available.

6:35 a.m.: Ellen to give Chicagoan who lost job $10,000, gifts

Ellen DeGeneres surprises Chicagoan Kelli Wright and her two children, Christopher and Amiya, with $10,000 and various gifts on Thursday’s episode of her daytime show. Wright said she lost her airport job, and her grandmother died of coronavirus at about the same time last year.

”Despite experiencing a lot of personal loss this past year, Kelli volunteers every day at a food bank and spends the weekends with her kids bringing food and supplies to Chicago’s tent cities on the South Side,” DeGeneres said before interviewing the Wright family via video chat.

DeGeneres sent a truck full of gifts from her “12 Days of Giveaways” program, valued at about $30,000, to Wright’s home. DeGeneres’ show airs at 3 p.m. weekdays on WMAQ-Ch. 5.

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