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Coronavirus vaccine or not, Chicago hotels brace for 2021 turmoil (LIVE UPDATES)

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Get the latest news on how COVID-19 is impacting Chicago and Illinois. Follow here for live updates.

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Vaccine or not, Chicago hotels brace for 2021 turmoil

 Pat Nabong/Sun-Times
The Wit, located at 201 N. State St. in the Loop, is seen through a sculpture, Friday afternoon, Jan. 8, 2021.

Chicago is a great hotel town because it’s a great business meeting town.

The choices here for visitors are immense. In the days before COVID-19, you had your pick of history at the Palmer House, the old-money elegance of The Drake, the unapologetic luxury of the Peninsula, or the brash energy of newer and hipper lodging with the typical but wildly popular rooftop bar. Most are still open in a limited fashion.

With a downtown inventory of about 44,000 hotel rooms, Chicago offers incredible variety. Even the less preferred places have their uses. Want Michigan Avenue on a budget? Try the Congress Plaza Hotel. And you needn’t be a guest to get some benefits. Bill Kimpton, the late founder of the Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group, once recalled how as a young man working in Chicago he would duck into the dim lobby of the old Bismarck Hotel for a nap. Kimpton’s company eventually modernized the Bismarck and jazzed up the lobby.

It’s not weekend and holiday trippers or even drowsy locals who allow for all those choices. It’s business gatherings and conventions, a segment that’s been at a standstill since the start of the pandemic. It made for a lost year in the lodging trade for 2020, but this year may be worse for many owners.

With little cash coming in, many hotel owners are in default to creditors. Experts in the industry say bankers and other lenders to hotels are getting impatient as the pandemic stretches on. Beyond that, owners are faced with the prospect that meetings and conventions scheduled months from now will be canceled.

Read the complete story by David Roeder here.


8:30 a.m. COVID-19 vaccine rollout problems confirm health officials’ past warnings

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Public health officials sounded the alarm for months, complaining that they did not have enough support or money to get COVID-19 vaccines quickly into arms. Now the slower-than-expected start to the largest vaccination effort in U.S. history is proving them right.

As they work to ramp up the shots, state and local public health departments across the U.S. cite a variety of obstacles, most notably a lack of leadership from the federal government. Many officials worry that they are losing precious time at the height of the pandemic, and the delays could cost lives.

States lament a lack of clarity on how many doses they will receive and when. They say more resources should have been devoted to education campaigns to ease concerns among people leery of getting the shots. And although the federal government recently approved $8.7 billion for the vaccine effort, it will take time to reach places that could have used the money months ago to prepare to deliver shots more efficiently.

Such complaints have become a common refrain in a nation where public health officials have been left largely on their own to solve complex problems.

Read the full story here.

7:30 a.m. Illinois’ pandemic death toll surpasses 17,500

State health officials on Sunday reported an additional 81 coronavirus-related deaths, bringing Illinois’ pandemic death toll to 17,574.

Cook County accounted for nearly three-quarters of Sunday’s reported fatalities. In total, 59 of the 81 deaths were reported in the Chicago area, including a Cook County man and woman in their 30s.

Illinois has logged more than 1,000 COVID-related deaths in January alone, averaging about 108 fatalities each day this month. That’s down from the first 10 days in December, when the state was averaging 159 deaths a day.

State health officials also announced 4,711 new and probable coronavirus cases, which were found in the latest batch of 77,775 tests reported to the Illinois Department of Public Health in the last day.

That lowered the statewide seven-day positivity rate to 7.9% — a slight decline from last Sunday when that figure, which experts use to gauge how rapidly the virus is spreading in the state, was 8.3%.

Read the full story from Madeline Kenney here.

7 a.m. House lawmakers may have been exposed to COVID-19 during violent Capitol riot

WASHINGTON — House lawmakers may have been exposed to someone testing positive for COVID-19 while they sheltered at an undisclosed location during the Capitol siege by a violent mob loyal to President Donald Trump.

The Capitol’s attending physician notified all lawmakers Sunday of the virus exposure and urged them to be tested. The infected individual was not named.

Dr. Brian Moynihan wrote that “many members of the House community were in protective isolation in the large room — some for several hours” on Wednesday. He said “individuals may have been exposed to another occupant with coronavirus infection.”

Dozens of lawmakers were whisked to the secure location after pro-Trump insurrectionists stormed the Capitol that day, breaking through barricades to roam the halls and offices and ransacking the building.

Some members of Congress huddled for hours in the large room, while others were there for a shorter period.

Read the full story here.

New Cases

Analysis and commentary

9 a.m. COVID-19 vaccine should be mandatory for state workers who care for high-risk people

The first round of the long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine was administered to residents and employees of Illinois veterans’ homes in late December, but data shows that the number of caregivers vaccinated is worrisome.

Seventy-four percent of residents in the homes have been vaccinated — that’s 95% of residents in Anna, 90% in Manteno and Quincy, and 71% in LaSalle — according to the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs. However, the people charged with providing care to our most vulnerable residents have been vaccinated in much lower percentages. Only 40% of the staff throughout Illinois have received the vaccine as of Dec. 31.

After waiting more than nine excruciating months for a vaccine, that is unacceptable. We believe the vaccine should be a mandatory condition of employment in all facilities in the state that care for high-risk individuals, especially the elderly. The only temporary exception would be for those who recently had COVID-19 or currently have it.

Read the full editorial here.

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