Though COVID-19 vaccines have been made available to all employees at Illinois veterans’ homes, only 40% of staff members have so far opted to receive their first dose of the inoculation against the deadly virus.
The Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs announced last Thursday that vaccines have been made available to all residents and employees at the department’s facilities.
So far, 74% of residents, and 40% of staff, have received the vaccine, but a further breakdown of those numbers show that staff at the locations have largely opted out of receiving the first dosage of the COVID-19 vaccine.
At the Manteno home, only 18% of staff have been vaccinated — the lowest percentage of the state’s four homes.
At LaSalle, which has grappled with a coronavirus outbreak that has killed 36 veterans, only 28% of the staff have been vaccinated.
Nearly a third of staffers at the home in Anna have received the vaccine, while 42% of staff at Quincy have received their first doses.
Bridget Dooley, the public information officer for the department, said they’re currently “pulling out all the stops” to encourage staff members to take the vaccine.
“We continue to aggressively communicate and educate employees about the importance of taking the vaccine, and we’ve asked those who have taken the vaccine, who tend to be leaders among their peers, to reach out to their co-workers,” Dooley said.
9:43 a.m. 40% of Chicago teachers and staff didn’t report to schools as ordered, district says
About 40% of Chicago Public Schools teachers and staff who were expected to report to schools Monday for the first time during the pandemic didn’t show up for in-person work, officials said Tuesday, accusing the Chicago Teachers Union of “pressuring” its members to defy the district’s orders.
In all, about half of teachers and three-quarters of support staff returned to classrooms as expected, accounting for 60% of the 5,800 employees told go back to schools, officials said. The first two days after winter break last school year saw about 83% of employees present.
Those who didn’t report to work and elected to continue teaching remotely were sent emails telling them their absence was unexcused. CPS CEO Janice Jackson said that those who continue to ignore their orders will face progressive discipline according to the union’s contract, but that it’s in nobody’s interest to fire teachers.
CTU President Jesse Sharkey told reporters earlier in the morning that “there are a tremendous amount of concerns and many of our members are not feeling safe at all, are feeling more anxious and scared than ever.”
In a survey conducted by the union, 69% of members who did return reported conditions in schools that were “not adequate,” Sharkey said. Among staff concerns, Sharkey said, were “filthy” buildings, those in “various states of disrepair” and either missing or inadequate air purifiers.
Sharkey said the reopening won’t work if “the district simply continues to dictate to us.”
8:33 a.m. Alex Trebek urges support for COVID-19 victims in first of final five shows
In a message taped for what turned out to be his final week as “Jeopardy!” host, Alex Trebek urged the game show’s viewers to honor the season of giving by helping victims of the coronavirus epidemic.
Trebek’s plea aired in the opening moments of the show that aired on Monday.
“We’re trying to build a gentler, kinder society and if we all pitch in just a little bit, we’re going to get there,” he said.
Trebek died November 8 at age 80 of pancreatic cancer but had pre-taped several weeks of shows that have continued to air. Monday’s show began the final week of programs that he left behind.
His last week of shows were originally scheduled to air on Christmas week; two categories of clues on Monday were “December 21” and “Christmas on Broadway.” But to give Trebek’s final week wider exposure, “Jeopardy!” put them off until this week.
The show’s executive producer, Mike Richards, told NBC’s “Today” show on Monday that Trebek was “an absolute warrior” in his last taping sessions.
“He was in enormous pain,” Richards said. “He was, you know, 10 days away from passing away. And you will not sense that in any of these episodes.”
7:31 a.m. Lower Metra fares, improved Pace service for south suburban Cook County under new program
Some Metra and Pace riders will see lower fares and improved service thanks to a pilot program launched Monday.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who spearheaded the program, said it will make public transportation more accessible and affordable to people who live in or travel to the south suburbs.
“The Southland has long been plagued by a lack of access to transportation and affordable options to get residents to their destinations,” Preckwinkle said Monday. “Time spent waiting on a train or bus could mean the difference between keeping or losing a job and right now, in the current climate with the pandemic, every dollar counts.”
Fair Transit South Cook is a three-year program giving riders a 50% reduction in fares for the Metra Electric and Rock Island Lines. It also increases the hours and frequency of Pace’s Halsted 352 route.
Preckwinkle said the program is especially important now that the pandemic has “disrupted all aspects of our daily lives” and Cook County’s essential workers who rely heavily on public transportation will see some help.
- State health officials on Monday announced another 79 Illinois residents have died of the coronavirus in the last day and 5,059 new positive cases.
- Forty-one of those 79 deaths were in Cook County, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Though a teen was among the fatalities, the majority of deaths — in both the county and state — involved people at least 60 years old.
- As of Monday, Illinois had recorded 16,834 deaths due to COVID-19, with more than 984,000 positive tests across the state since the pandemic’s outbreak last year, according to IDPH.
- The state’s seven-day positivity rate — the metric used to gauge the speed at which the virus is spreading — ticked up from 8.3% on Sunday to 8.6% on Monday, state health officials said. Eight days ago, the positivity rate was 6.8%.
Analysis and commentary
6:55 a.m. Unworkable City Council pandemic proposals could gravely harm Chicago’s hotel industry
The hotel industry is facing the worst economic challenge any of us have seen. The anchor of Chicago’s economy — the tourism industry — has been, and continues to be, decimated. We all know the reason — COVID-19.
There have been times when hotels have more employees working than reservations on the books. We continue to have to make payroll, pay for PPE that the government did not provide, try to make the minimum loan payments on our properties and pay millions of dollars in property taxes. What you have read in the news about hotels is 100%, absolutely correct — many across Chicago simply will not survive the downturn.
Yet, a series of unsafe, and unconstitutional, proposals are being considered in Chicago’s City Council, including one that would force housekeepers to clean rooms every single day no matter the risk to their health and welfare.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the hotel industry has worked tirelessly to protect workers and guests in the face of unprecedented health and economic challenges. Since the onset of the pandemic, we have worked diligently to implement health and safety procedures to protect employees and guests. We have enhanced the cleaning of all public spaces, provided PPE to staff and utilized technology to limit in-person interactions.
Instead of adding additional regulations that would further hinder an already struggling industry, elected officials at all levels of government should consider ways to support hotels and their employees.