IL COVID vaccine efforts expand across state as other COVID-19 metrics rise

Illinois vaccine eligibility expands: More essential workers, those with underlying medical conditions now eligible to book appointments

ByAlexis McAdams WLS logo
Tuesday, March 30, 2021
COVID Illinois: Vaccine efforts expand as other metrics rise
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Hundreds of thousands of additional Chicagoans are now eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine, as the state sees other COVID metrics rise.

BATAVIA, Ill. (WLS) -- COVID-19 cases are rising across Illinois, as the state works to expand vaccine eligibility and opportunities.

The Illinois Department of Public Health officials reported 1,761 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 and five deaths Monday.

The preliminary seven-day statewide test positivity from March 22-28 is 3.8%.

But vaccination sites like one off Randall Road in Batavia are hoping to turn the troubling trend around. It's crucial to Kane County because of its proximity to big cities like Aurora and Elgin, which can help address racial disparities in administering vaccines.

"We are serving over 2,000 people each day, and as vaccine supply increases, we are hoping to get even more people served," said Michael Isaacson with the Kane County Health Department. "We are at the Kane vax hub."

The site offers all three vaccine brands.

Kane County health officials said Tuesday that 75,000 people in the county are fully-vaccinated.

"We want to get vaccine to almost 400,000 people in the community, and the supply just is not there yet," Isaacson said. "So this is something where people will have to be patient."

U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Naperville, visited the mass vaccination site Tuesday.

She said she's hopeful it will allow a faster rollout for people who have been trying to sign up for weeks.

"We have been getting a lot of calls from constituents, who said they could not get appointments in the 14th District. Now, sites like this are a real resource," Underwood said.

RELATED: Coronavirus Illinois: COVID vaccine distribution by county, region

The positivity rate is above 4% in the city, with Chicago averaging more than 400 new cases a day, the benchmark that has triggered new reopening mitigations.

In the past 10 days, hospitalizations in Chicago are up 16%, and in suburban Cook County, up more than 20%. Will and Kankakee counties have seen a 27% rise.

Driving the uptick are adults 18 to 39. In Chicago, Mayor Lightfoot said various gatherings, including bar crawls, have been the source of recent outbreaks. She urged caution and patience as people scramble to get vaccine appointments.

"It's not to the point that we were seeing in November, but it's something that we want to closely follow. We are very concerned about what the outlook may be over the next four to eight weeks," said Dr. Jennifer Seo, the Chicago Department Of Public Health chief medical officer.

Chicago opened up COVID vaccine eligibility to the Phase 1C group Monday.

The move means anyone 16 and older who has a qualifying medical condition can now book an appointment.

More types of essential workers are also now eligible, including workers in clergy and religious organizations, energy, finance, food and beverage service, higher education, information technology and communications, legal, media, other community or government-based operations and essential functions, personal care and hygiene, public health, public safety, retail, shelter and housing, transportation and logistics, water and wastewater.

WATCH: Mayor Lightfoot speaks about vaccine eligibility expansion in the city

Despite the uptick statewide, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot still sounds hopeful.

"We can do things in a targeted way and not have to shut down the entire economy and our way of life to be able to address issues," she said.

In Chicago's collar counties of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, and Will, vaccine eligibility has been expanded to anyone in Phase 1A, 1B and 1B+. Phase 1B+ now includes some essential workers, such as government employees, higher education staff, news media, restaurant staff, construction trade workers and religious leaders.

RELATED: Chicago COVID vaccine map shows how many residents vaccinated by zip code

Also starting Monday, vaccination sites run by the city of Chicago will only schedule appointments for people who live in the city.

Why are COVID-19 vaccine supplies still limited?

With the expansion to 1C, the majority of Chicago's adult population is now eligible to get a vaccine.

This week the state is expected to receive one million doses of the three available vaccines.

In other parts of the state where demand is low, health departments are now allowed to expand eligibility to anyone over 16.

Cook County has yet to announce when it will open access to those in 1C, but did make 25,000 new appointments available at four of its mass vaccination sites Sunday afternoon. Anyone eligible under phases 1A, 1B, 1B+ and approved essential workers were able to sign up for the shot due to new state guidelines, however, those appointments were booked up in just under two hours.

RELATED: 3 generations of West Englewood family get COVID-19 vaccine together

To date, two million Illinois residents, which is 16% of the state population, have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The state has been vaccinating over 99,000 people a day on average.

Gov. JB Pritzker said he may be forced to rethink his approach to fully reopening the state, which it was on pace to start next week.

Right now, Illinois is in the green on vaccination rates for those 65+, with nearly 69% receiving one dose - close to the 70% required.

RELATED: Gary to host federal COVID vaccination site at Roosevelt High School

But it's in the red on health metrics, including for daily cases, hospitalizations, and new admissions. And until that changes, there will be no further reopening.