Issue Reports: COVID-19

Issue Reports: COVID-19

COVID-19 Illustrations

Below are brief descriptions of some of ways in which organizations in the Chicago area are learning about the coronavirus and taking steps to care for those who may be infected. 

Our best wishes for your health and safety. 

Area Hospitals Participate in Clinical Trials of Promising Drug Treatments 

The University of Illinois at Chicago began testing two potential treatments for the SARS-CoV-2 virus that is causing acute injury to the lungs and respiratory distress. In a clinical trial that started in the first week in April, UIC researchers begin giving COVID-19+ enrolled hospitalized patients one of three doses of the drug sarilumab.

Sarilumab was previously approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treating rheumatoid arthritis. Sarilumab targets small proteins that are activated in rheumatoid arthritis patients and also have been detected in COVID-19-infected patients. 

The UIC health system, as well as Northwestern Medicine and Cook County Health, also is testing another possible COVID-19 treatment involving the Ebola drug remdesivir. This drug has shown to be active against coronaviruses in animals. 


University of Chicago Tracks COVID-19 Hotspots

Since late March, the Center for Spatial Data Science at the University of Chicago has been developing and refining a data analysis of individuals with COVID-19 at the county level to better identify and track hot spots as they evolve and change.

By looking at data at the county level rather than state level, they were able to find trends that were “hidden” in the larger view, researchers said. The results, which are compiled in an interactive visualization, are a way to more efficiently track coronavirus clusters and direct urgently needed resources.

The center’s preliminary findings on March 23, for example, identified regional clusters that soon became areas of concern, including New Orleans and Chicago. After adjusting for population, the data visualization and analytics team found several other areas that may be overlooked.

Two large COVID clusters cover most of Arkansas and nearby areas in Mississippi. With low numbers of deaths in these clusters and a rapid growth rate of newly confirmed cases, Arkansas is likely highly vulnerable for intensive cases in the coming weeks.

Albany and Atlanta in Georgia have demonstrated such vulnerability already and may be further along in the pandemic, as several hospitals have already begun to reach stress points; ICU beds are already at capacity in many places. 

Abbott Labs Releases Rapid COVID Test

On March 27, Abbott Laboratories announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had authorized use of a molecular point-of-care COVID-19 test that provides results in 5 to 15 minutes. The test runs on the company’s ID NOW platform, a portable testing machine that operates on molecular technology. The tests are currently being deployed in urgent care centers around the country. 

The FDA also approved a coronavirus test from Abbott that can process large batches of patient samples by university and community hospitals. Between the two platforms, Abbott expects to produce about 5 million tests per month.

Other companies, including California-based Cepheid and Mesa Biotech, are also producing quick-acting testing kits. As of March 26, 92 public health laboratories in 50 states plus Washington D.C., Guam and Puerto Rico had successfully verified COVID-19 diagnostic tests and were offering testing, according to the CDC.

City of Chicago Targets Racial Disparity 

In response to newly released data regarding the heavy burden of COVID-19 on the city’s black and brown communities, Major Lori Lightfoot announced on April 6 that a number of measures would be directed toward stemming the disproportionate spread of COVID-19 among Chicago’s most vulnerable communities.

The data show that, while black residents make up 30% of Chicago’s population, they account for 52% of the city’s 4,680 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 72% of Chicago’s 98 deaths.

Among other things, the city will redeploy longer, accordion-style CTA buses to routes on the South and West sides that are still experiencing high ridership in order to allow for greater social distancing among commuters who rely on public transit, be it to travel to work or the grocery store.

The campaign also will ensure health care providers accurately collect race and ethnicity data on COVID-19 patients. The information will be used by a newly formed Racial Equity Rapid Response Team, led by West Side United, as the basis of a hyperlocal, tactical effort to reach out to those in need of health care services, from symptom monitoring to testing to proactive care, Lightfoot said.


University of Chicago Shows Effect of COVID-19 on Energy Use

New analysis from the University of Chicago’s Energy Policy Institute shows steep declines in power consumption in multiple regions stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. Since December, electric consumption in the US declined by 3.78% and particulate pollution fell by 72.08%.

Historically, these factors have been early indicators of broader economic trends, such as future economic downturns. Fiona Burlig, an assistant professor of public policy at the university, said the decline in the U.S. already matches what happened during the great recession over a decade ago. "This is particularly striking because we haven't even reached the apex of virus caseload yet, from everything the epidemiologists seem to be saying," she said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced governments around the world to impose tough restrictions on daily life to prevent the spread of the virus. With these restrictions, roads and airports are nearly empty, shops and restaurants are closed, and industrial activities are largely at a halt. In this environment, real-time information about economic activity is at a premium, but often hard to acquire. Surrogate measures, such as energy use, provide some insights. 

LWVIL Promotes the Fair Maps Amendment

The pandemic has shown us leadership matters. We need to stay safe, and we need the Fair Maps amendment (HJRCA41 and SJRCA18) to end gerrymandering in Illinois.

Legislators only have until May 3rd to pass it. Contact your officials today to ask them to sign on to the Fair Maps Amendment.

Further Reading

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