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It’s Not ‘Foregone Conclusion’ COVID Vaccines Will Be Required In Chicago Public Schools, City’s Top Doc Says

It will likely be months before there's a decision made about requiring COVID-19 shots kids to attend school.

Fourth-grader Kate Johns gets a COVID-19 vaccine at Esperanza Health Centers, 6057 S. Western Ave., on Nov. 4, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — The city’s top health official said she expects there to be conversations about requiring COVID-19 vaccination to attend school — but she’s not yet certain kids will have to get the shots.

Chicago Public Schools does not currently require students to get vaccinated against COVID-19 for in-person learning, though it has mandated vaccines for its staff.

COVID-19 vaccines have been approved for everyone 5 and older, though they’re operating under emergency use authorization for children. It’s unlikely the shots will be required for kids to attend public schools while they’re still use emergency use authorization, Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said during a Tuesday livestream.

But the vaccines will eventually “gain full status,” and there have been “big conversations” about if they’ll be required for students, Arwady said.

It will likely be months before there’s a decision made about requiring COVID-19 shots kids to attend school; when it is time, the decision could come down to how the United States is doing with its outbreak at the time, Arwady said.

“I expect this will be a conversation,” Arwady said.

If there aren’t more worrisome COVID-19 variants and if the country’s and area’s numbers look solid, it’s not a “foregone conclusion” CPS will require vaccination for students, Arwady said.

Arwady noted the district already requires various vaccinations for school attendance.

The city’s COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths have fallen in dramatically in recent weeks after hitting records highs during the Omicron surge. Earlier this week, officials announced they’ll end CPS’ mask mandate for students and staff Monday.

Some have raised concerns about that change, and the Chicago Teachers Union’s leaders said they would file an unfair labor practice charge against the district. Union leaders said the change puts people at risk, as vaccination rates remain low at CPS schools, and students of color and their communities remain particularly vulnerable to the virus.

Just 51.9 percent of Chicago kids 5-11 have gotten one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 43.1 percent are fully vaccinated. Most CPS schools have fewer than half of their students fully vaccinated.

Vaccinations:

• In Illinois, about 8.1 million people — or 63.98 percent of the state’s 12.7 million people — are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to state data.

• Across the state, 10,323 vaccine doses are being administered per day, based on a seven-day rolling average.

• Illinois and Chicago have administered at least 21,198,094 vaccine doses of the 23,933,245 provided to them.

• City data shows more than 1.8 million Chicagoans — or 69.5 percent of all residents — are fully vaccinated, and 76.9 percent of all Chicagoans have gotten at least one shot.

Everyone 5 and older is eligible to get vaccinated in Chicago.

COVID-19 vaccinations are free and do not require insurance. Anyone can call the city’s coronavirus hotline at 312-746-4835 to get more information on how and where to get vaccinated in their community.

The numbers:

• Since Tuesday, 54 Illinoisans were reported dead from COVID-19.

• At least 33,010 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois, and another 4,204 deaths are probably related to the virus, according to the state.

• The state reported 2,689 cases since Tuesday. That brings the total number of confirmed cases in Illinois up to 3,042,495.

• Since Tuesday, 137,431 tests were reported statewide. In all, 55,470,501 tests have been reported in Illinois.

• Illinois’ seven-day case positivity rate was at 1.2 percent. The figure represents the percentage of people testing positive among recent tests. It was at 1.2 percent Tuesday.

• Illinois’ seven-day test positivity rate, which measures the percentage of tests that were positive, was at 1.4 percent. It was at 1.5 percent Tuesday.

• As of Tuesday night, 118 people with COVID-19 were in the ICU and 59 people with COVID-19 were using ventilators in Illinois.

• In Chicago, 14 deaths were reported since Tuesday. There have been at least 7,291 deaths from COVID-19 in Chicago. The city is seeing an average of more than two people dying per day, down 47 percent from a week ago.

• Chicago has had 588 confirmed cases reported since Tuesday. It’s had a total of 560,223 confirmed cases. An average of 142 confirmed cases are being reported per day, down 30 percent from a week ago.

• Testing in Chicago is down 3 percent from a week ago.

• Chicago’s positivity rate was at .8 percent, down from 1 percent a week ago.

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