Illinois COVID-19 Update: Gov. JB Pritzker gets Johnson & Johnson vaccine as IL reports 2,793 new coronavirus cases, 20 deaths

Illinois COVID cases rise as race between virus variants, vaccinations continues
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Illinois Governor JB Pritzker received a Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine as Illinois Department of Public Health officials reported 2,793 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 and 20 deaths.

IDPH reported a total of 1,227,708 COVID-19 cases, including 21,136 deaths, since the beginning of the pandemic.

Gov. Pritzker said he is now eligible to get the vaccine as a government worker.

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Governor JB Pritzker receives a Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield Wednesday,

"Thanks to the great work of our doctors, researchers and public health scientists, these vaccines offer us all the fastest way back to normal life," he said.

Gov. Pritzker speaks before getting vaccinated

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Governor JB Pritzker speaks ahead of getting vaccinated in Springfield.

The governor also said a vaccine hotline is available for residents who have trouble getting appointments over the internet. The hotline number is 833-621-1284 and is available from 6 a.m. until midnight seven days a week.

As of Tuesday night, 1,261 patients in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 272 patients were in the ICU and 117 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.

RELATED: Illinois COVID vaccine map shows how many residents vaccinated by county

Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported testing 79,381 specimens for a total of 19,805,516 since the pandemic began.

RELATED: Illinois coronavirus testing: Where to get tested for COVID-19 in Illinois, Chicago area

The preliminary seven-day statewide test positivity from March 17-23 is 3.1%. For the past 13 days, test positivity has either held steady or increased each day, climbing from 2.5% to 3.1%.

Across NorthShore University HealthSystem, the number of COVID-related hospitalizations and ER visits has tripled in the last couple weeks.

"We were more hopeful a few weeks back when we saw the numbers going down, and now that we're seeing the numbers going up, it is somewhat demoralizing," said Dr. Neil Freedman, division head for pulmonary and critical care at NorthShore University HealthSystem.

Most of NorthShore's positive test results are among young adults. But most requiring care fall in the 40 to 60 age range, a group yet to be prioritized for vaccinations.

Different than in the past, fewer patients are 65 and older - perhaps because more have been immunized.

"Many people are letting their guard down, and I think there are either certain groups of people or family members who are gathering, some of whom may be vaccinated, but many who are not," Freedman said.

After weeks of declines, statewide hospitalizations are up more than 16% in the past week and a half.

Before receiving his dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Gov. JB Pritzker expressing concern.

"I've been to this movie before and seen the rising positivity rates," he said.

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COVID-19 is a particularly difficult virus to control, making the path to reopening in Illinois a race between virus and vaccine.

Medical experts say there is no doubt the more contagious variants that have been circulating the Midwest are responsible for some of the new cases.

"As we've seen throughout the pandemic, this virus is very hard to keep under control for long, so we can expect, even after a short plateau in case numbers, that cases will go up again," said Dr. Benjamin Singer, Northwestern Hospital Pulmonary Critical Care Specialist.

Despite the increase, Gov. Pritzker said for now, the state will stay on course to lift more restrictions in April. But the governor and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot both said they are willing to scale back on reopening plans if numbers keep going up.

The restaurant industry is keeping a close eye on the numbers. It's predicted 20% of restaurants will be permanent casualties of the pandemic, and the Illinois Restaurant Association said they cannot afford another rollback.

"If we roll back that 20% can go to 30% and it would be devastating," said Sam Toia, president of the IRA.

Because COVID is so hard to control, doctors say the key is getting more people vaccinated. At this moment, it's a race between vaccine and virus.

A total of 5,853,915 doses of vaccine have been delivered to providers in Illinois, including Chicago, with an additional 414,900 doses allocated to federal government partners for long-term care facilities, bringing the total number delivered in Illinois to 6,268,815.

A total of 5,036,364 vaccines have been administered in Illinois as of Tuesday night, including 363,711 for long-term care facilities. The seven-day rolling average of vaccines administered daily is 97,680 doses. There were 107,219 doses reported administered in Illinois Tuesday.

The IDPH said it is working with the federal government on possible discrepancies in the reporting of the number of vaccines administered. IDPH said it is possible the number of doses administered is underreported and that it will update its data if a discrepancy is found.

As of Tuesday, 66% of Illinoisans 65 and over have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 32% of Illinoisans aged 16 and older have received their first dose. In order for Illinois to move into Gov. Pritzker's Bridge Phase of reopening, 70% of residents 65 and older must have received at least their first dose of vaccine. In order to move into Phase 5 of reopening, at least 50% of residents 16 and older must have received at least their first dose of vaccine.

The deaths reported Wednesday include:
-Champaign County: 1 female 60s
-Cook County: 1 female 60s, 1 female 80s, 1 male 80s
-Franklin County: 1 male 70s
-Fulton County: 1 female 70s
-Henry County: 1 female 60s
-Kane County: 2 females 70s

-Macon County: 1 male 50s
-McHenry County: 1 male 70s
-McLean County: 1 male 70s, 1 female 80s
-Rock Island County: 1 female 80s
-Shelby County: 1 male 60s
-St. Clair County: 1 female 70s
-Stephenson County: 1 female 90s
-Winnebago County: 1 female 70s, 1 female 90s
-Woodford County: 1 male 80s
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