Here’s the latest news on how COVID-19 is impacting Chicago and Illinois.
1 in 5 high schools students absent from class, CPS data shows
Almost one in five Chicago Public Schools high schoolers was absent last week regardless of whether they signed up for in-person learning or chose to stay remote, according to district data released Wednesday.
The new attendance figures come as officials celebrate the reopening of all CPS high schools last week, a milestone reached after long negotiations with the teachers union and after 13 months of closures because of COVID-19.
District leaders have said offering in-person classes is the first step to recovering from the pandemic, but they’ll face challenges in the months ahead in reengaging students who haven’t had consistent or quality access to education.
Districtwide, including elementary schools, “we are continuing to see the majority of our students learning virtually, with an overall attendance rate of 89.5%,” Bogdana Chkoumbova, CPS’ chief of school management, said at Wednesday’s virtual Board of Education meeting.
Keeping with trends throughout this school year, Black students and children experiencing homelessness have had the highest absentee rates, largely because those populations have been most impacted by the various barriers to learning during the pandemic.
9:37 a.m. CPS to allow in-person graduations for class of 2021
Large commencements with hundreds of cheering parents, siblings and grandparents might not return for some time, but this year’s 8th graders and high school seniors will be able to take part in more traditional ceremonies than last year.
Both indoor and outdoor graduations and other end-of-year events can be held this spring with some capacity restrictions, Chicago Public Schools officials announced at Wednesday’s virtual Board of Education meeting.
“As we look for ways to honor our graduates after what’s been a very difficult year, the district developed a plan to celebrate graduates while ensuring the safety of each school community,” Bogdana Chkoumbova, CPS’ chief of school management, told the school board.
“Schools will have the option to hold indoor, outdoor or virtual graduation events where students can obtain their diplomas and take pictures in their caps and gowns,” Chkoumbova said. “Graduations can either be social events, where mingling can occur, or spectator events that are ticketed and seated with no mingling.”
8:12 a.m. Outdoor mask guidance echoes what many Americans already do
In the small Nebraska town of Oxford, the school district dropped its mask mandate last month in what was a fairly straight-forward decision: Cases were down dramatically, and it didn’t bother local officials that their move flouted Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
Those federal mask guidelines just didn’t seem to fit local conditions well in the town of about 800 people where hardly anyone wears a mask.
“We haven’t paid a whole lot of attention to what is going on at the federal level — mainly what is coming out through the state,” Southern Valley Superintendent Bryce Jorgensen said. “You just can’t compare Chicago to Oxford, Nebraska. Things are just different.”
On Tuesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased its guidelines on the wearing of masks outdoors, saying fully vaccinated Americans don’t need to cover their faces anymore unless they are in a big crowd of strangers. And those who are unvaccinated can go outside without masks in some situations, too.
For most of the past year, the CDC had been advising Americans to wear masks outdoors if they are within 6 feet of one another.
The decision marked the U.S. government’s latest step toward normalcy, but came as much of the country already had moved on from mask rules. The CDC essentially endorsed what many Americans have already been doing.
New cases and vaccination rates
- Officials on Wednesday reported 2,728 new cases of the disease were diagnosed among 87,698 tests to lower the average statewide positivity rate to 3.4%. After a monthlong spike in cases, that number is back down to its lowest point since the end of March.
- The virus killed 33 more residents, including a Cook County woman in her 20s.
- Illinois’ COVID-19 death toll is up to 21,891 among the 1.3 million-plus residents who have tested positive since March 2020.
- The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 106,173 doses were administered Tuesday, lowering the state’s average to 100,823 shots per day over the last week.
- That rate has steadily fallen since hitting an all-time high of nearly 133,000 on April 12. Now it’s on pace to fall below 100,000 this week for the first time since March 26.