The Illinois Department of Public Health reported Thursday the first cases of COVID variant B.1.351 has been confirmed in the state, in a Rock Island resident. The state is currently reporting 22 cases of the United Kingdom variant B 1.1.7.
Doctors say it's very likely the South African variant has already been spreading around the state.
"The thing of concern is that some of these variants seem to, as I said, be popping up more frequently, suggesting that there's something about them, that gives them an advantage over other versions of COVID," said Dr. Mary Hayden, Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Rush University Medical Center.
Both variants seem to spread more rapidly, health officials said, and could lead to more cases of the virus or even another surge.
"The South African variant is a little more problematic. It diminishes the capability of the vaccines to induce the antibodies that would suppress it. But it doesn't completely eliminate it," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Doctors said vaccine manufacturers are beginning to tweak doses to keep up with mutations. Still, they reminded the public of the urgent need to wear a face mask, remain social distanced, limit in-person gatherings outside the household of all sizes and to get vaccinated when it is your turn.
In the meantime, Illinois health officials reported 2,825 new COVID-19 cases and 102 deaths Thursday.
The total number of cases in Illinois now stands at 1,155,833, with a total of 19,841 deaths, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported 96,525 specimens for a total of 16,918,910.
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As of Wednesday night, 1,954 patients in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 448 patients were in the ICU and 227 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.
The preliminary seven-day statewide test positivity from Feb. 4-10 is 3.9%.
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A total of 1,929,850 doses of vaccine have been delivered to providers in Illinois, including Chicago, with an additional 456,100 doses allocated to federal government partners for long-term care facilities, bringing the total number delivered in Illinois to 2,385,950.
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The IDPH says that vaccine distribution numbers are reported in real-time and vaccine administration numbers lag by as much as 72 hours.
IDPH reports that a total of 1,549,108 vaccine doses have been administered, including 226,974 at long-term facilities. The seven-day rolling average of vaccines administered is 56,094.
Chicago and area counties will not expand 1B eligibility
While the state may overall be expanding who is eligible to be vaccinated in group 1B, the city of Chicago and not one of the collar counties will follow suit.
"We've administered the vaccine as fast as supply will allow," said Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle. "And now we're in the same situation as LA County, where we will be temporarily closing some sites because we've exhausted our current vaccine supply. While other parts of the state may be ready to move into the next phase, Chicago and Cook County are not."
"Expanding that space would really result in our healthcare providers, our seniors, our frontline essential workers facing even greater difficulty in getting vaccinated, and we think our public is already frustrated enough," said Mark Pfister, executive director of the Lake County Health Department and Community Health Center.
"We don't have adequate supply with the current phase 1b eligibility. Now, it will be that much more difficult to meet demand without a significant increase in vaccine availability," said Will County Health Department Executive Director Sue Olenek.
"DuPage County Health Department is still working to understand the Governor's announcement. Illinois Department of Public Health shared they will be updating their vaccination plan with additional details in this weekend. Currently, we are focused on vaccinating the 270,000 people already in Phase 1b, in addition to the healthcare workers in 1a who have not yet had an opportunity to be vaccinated," the DuPage County Health Department said in a statement.
"We have made no determination at this time," said the Kane County Health Department in a statement.
Wednesday Governor JB Pritzker and IDPH expanded group 1B to those over the age of 16 with comorbidities and underlying conditions as defined by the CDC. In addition, Illinois will also prioritize individuals with disabilities, all effective Feb. 25, even as IDPH director Dr. Ngozi Ezike acknowledged supply continues to be an issue.
The governor, however, insisted he remains optimistic supply will increase over the coming weeks, especially with Johnson & Johnson's vaccine expected to be approved by the end of the month.
"It's a one dose vaccine," Pritzker said. "It will be a big development in the world of vaccines, and will help us tremendously to get everyone vaccinated."
The high risk categories covered in the expansion include:
-Chronic Kidney Disease
-COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
-Immunocompromised State from a Solid Organ Transplant
-Sickle Cell Disease
In a statement, the governor's spokesperson said the supply of vaccine has already started to increase and that "the most medically vulnerable in our state should qualify for vaccination as soon as possible" in part because "this group includes a disproportionately large share of vulnerable people of color."
But not among those included in group 1B are electricians, who were deemed essential workers at the start of the pandemic, and who have worked in hospitals, airports, airfields, water treatment plants and even helped build a makeshift hospital at McCormick place.
"We haven't missed a beat and we've been working every day," said Donn Finne, IBEW Local 134. "We've had a lot of COVID-19 cases run through our membership, and we've had deaths in our membership."
Finn said Local 134 has had several conversations with the governor's office, and thought they were making progress on a conference call Wednesday, but that wasn't the case.
"You're telling me 12,500 electricians shouldn't be included in that since we've been doing our jobs since day one, I don't buy that," he said.
Pritzker said he understands their frustration, but supply remains a big issue even though he said Illinois has administered the 5th most vaccines in all the nation.
"We have a long way to go, there's no doubt, to get everyone vaccinated, but that's something everyone in Illinois should know things are moving in a positive direction," Pritzker said.
Local 134 said that should include their members, a union that helped the governor get elected.
Gov. Pritzker visits Elgin vaccine site
Pritzker gave an update on vaccination efforts from the Elgin Mental Health Center in Elgin Thursday morning.
The Department of Human Services vaccination site in Elgin houses many patients and has dozens of staff members. Thursday morning, 50 patients and staff members got their second doses of the COVID 19 vaccine.
The expansion could nearly double the number of people currently eligible for the vaccine at a time when supply is low, but the governor expressed optimism that deliveries from the federal government will increase significantly in the coming weeks.
"My administration will be working with all the local public health departments to fit these higher risk individuals into their community vaccination plans in the coming weeks," Pritzker said.
The deaths reported Thursday include:
- Clay County: 1 female 80s
- Clinton County: 1 female 80s
- Coles County: 1 male 60s
- Cook County: 1 male 30s, 1 female 40s, 1 male 40s, 1 female 50s, 4 males 50s, 6 females 60s, 6 males 60s, 7 females 70s, 7 males 70s, 7 females 80s, 7 males 80s, 4 females 90s, 2 males 90s
- DeKalb County: 1 female 90s
- DuPage County: 1 female 40s, 3 males 70s, 1 female 80s, 1 male 90s
- Greene County: 1 female 50s
- Grundy County: 1 male 60s
- Jefferson County: 1 male 80s
- Kane County: 1 male 60s, 1 male 70s, 1 female 90s
- Knox County: 1 female 80s
- Lake County: 1 male 50s
- Lawrence County: 1 male 60s
- Livingston County: 1 male 80s
- Logan County: 1 female 90s
- Marion County: 1 male 70s
- McLean County: 1 male 60s
- Monroe County: 1 male 70s, 1 female 90s
- Moultrie County: 1 male 70s
- Randolph County: 1 male 70s
- Sangamon County: 1 female 70s
- St. Clair County: 1 female 50s, 1 female 90s
- Stephenson County: 1 male 80s
- Tazewell County: 1 female 40s, 1 female 50s, 1 male 70s, 1 female 90s
- Vermilion County: 1 male 70s
- Washington County: 1 female 90s
- Whiteside County: 1 male 60s, 1 male 90s
- Will County: 1 male 50s, 1 male 60s, 3 males 70s, 1 female 80s, 2 females 90s
- Winnebago County: 1 female 90s