3 regions see Illinois COVID-19 restrictions loosen
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Illinois health officials reported 6,642 new COVID-19 cases and 123 deaths Friday.
The total number of cases in Illinois now stands at 1,059,324, with a total of 18,049 deaths, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Governor Pritzker laid out new information Friday on the rollout of the next phase of the state's COVID-19 vaccination plan.
Ten days from now, the state will be moving to vaccination phase 1B, which includes essential workers and people 65 and older.
First responders, like police and firefighters, corrections officers; food and agricultural workers, like those at food processing plants; grocery store workers, public transit employees, like flight crews and bus drivers; educators, such as teachers and school staff members; along with workers at shelters and adult day care would all fall under Phase 1B.
Hundreds of sites will be set up to vaccinate more than three million people in that group.
Four and a half weeks into Illinois' vaccine rollout, the state is averaging just 27,000 doses given per day.
While that figure is expected to rise, at the current rate it would take two and a half years for all Illinoisans to get the required two doses.
The governor is blaming slow federal distribution.
"I don't think they know which end is up," he said Friday.
But amid criticism, the state has been slow to move to the next vaccine phase.
Officials announced phase 1B will begin January 25 for people 65 and older, as well as some essential workers.
"We are working to get the vaccine that is delivered to Illinois into the arms of people as quickly and as equitably and as effectively as possible," said Illinois' top doctor, Ngozi Ezike.
To vaccinate the more than three million people in 1B, the state is partnering with hundreds of pharmacies, urgent care clinics, doctors' offices and workplaces where shots will be given by appointment only.
Retail pharmacies, like Walgreens, will be part of the plan. The governor also said other retail sites will join in, but he said do not call these retail stores yet, as a state website is being set up first.
"We will launch the Illinois COVID-19 vaccination administration plan website, giving everyone the ability to find a nearby vaccination site and information about how to make an appointment," Pritzker said.
Officials also said the Illinois National Guard will set up two vaccination sites in suburban Cook County, similar to what it did with testing.
"Patience will be required in these first weeks of phase 1B because vaccine supplies are just extremely limited," Pritzker said. "The first two guard teams are deploying to two Cook County health sites, and we have nearly two dozens more National Guard teams ready to come online in the weeks ahead as vaccination supply increases."
However, with Illinois administering less than 45 % of doses it's received, some said the state's efforts have been underwhelming.
"I was very disappointed to hear that it's going to take ten more days before we start vaccinating 1B because I know there are several other states where they have been vaccinating the 1Bs now for some time," said Professor Hani Mahmassani, director with Northwestern University's Transportation Center. "I'll believe that there is a plan when there is a website where we can actually all register."
The governor said a website is in the works and will be up and running before January 25 with appointment and vaccination site information, but it is still unclear is how the state will verify the age and employment status of those who sign up.
At least four people have been confirmed Friday to be COVID-19 positive following the General Assembly in Springfield.
The spokesperson for the IL Speaker of the House said the IDPH is reporting three COVID-19 positive cases at the Bank of Springfield Center where the Illinois House met this past week.
The spokesperson for the Il Senate President Don Harmon said there is one positive COVID-19 case in the Capitol Complex, where the Illinois Senate met.
The affected person was not on or near the Senate floor for the inauguration and did not come into contact with any guests of the Senate Democratic Caucus, according to a press release. It also stated that the affected person did not come into contact with any of the witnesses who testified before the Executive Committee or members of the press.
Thursday night, members of the Illinois General Assembly were asked to quarantine and be tested following notice of a possible positive COVID-19 test on the Capitol Complex.
In a press conference Friday, Gov. JB Pritzker said the majority of Illinois regions are making good progress.
Regions 1, 2 and 5 will move down into Tier 2 of resurgence mitigations immediately, and most others are expected to move down a tier in the coming days if current trends continue.
Region 1 includes Boone, Carroll, DeKalb, Jo Daviess, Lee, Ogle, Stephenson, Whiteside and Winnebago counties; Region 2 includes Bureau, Fulton, Grundy, Henderson, Henry, Kendall, Knox, La Salle, Livingston, Marshall, McDonough, McLean, Mercer, Peoria, Putnam, Rock Island, Stark, Tazewell, Warren and Woodford counties; and Region 5 includes Alexander, Edwards, Franklin, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Marion, Massac, Perry, Pope, Pulaski, Saline, Union, Wabash, Wayne, White and Williamson counties.
Tier 2 allows the return of group fitness classes, low-risk youth sports and the reopening of museums at limited capacity.
Indoor dining and bar service is not allowed in Tier 2, or even in Tier 1, and with the holidays behind us, there are renewed calls to lift that restriction.
"I feel very strongly that we are very close to a point where we should be talking about opening up bars and restaurants," Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.
But the state said Chicago and Cook County do not yet meet the metrics to ease restrictions.
Lightfoot said she would talk to the governor about restaurants and bars reopening.
Four Lake County restaurants are planning to welcome back customers Friday for indoor dining against state orders, part of a growing trend in the Chicago area.
Pritzker said Friday it appears the careful reopening of bars and restaurants likely will not lead to a resurgence once regions reach Tier 1.
Restaurants and bars in Regions in Tier 1 can open indoor dining with capacity limited to the lesser of 25 people or 25 percent of room capacity. Additionally, establishments must serve food and indoor tables must be limited to no more than four people, with reservations limited to two hours. Outdoor dining regulations remain unchanged.
He also said hundreds of vaccination sites will be brought online in the coming weeks, in an effort to expand COVID-19 vaccine access.
Phase 1A of Illinois' COVID-19 vaccination plan is on track to be substantially completed next week, Pritzker said, with the entire state moving to 1B on Jan. 25.
In accordance with local progress, IDPH has permitted local health departments who have already substantially completed their 1A populations to move forward with 1B in order to leave no vaccine on the shelves.
The first case of the COVID-19 strain first identified in the UK has been found in Illinois, health officials said Friday.
Evidence suggests that this variant can spread more easily than most currently-circulating strains of COVID-19, but there is no evidence that the new strain affects the sensitivity of diagnostic tests or that it causes more severe illness or increased risk of death. In addition, data suggest current vaccines will be effective and safe in providing protection against the variant.
"This news isn't surprising and doesn't change our guidance around COVID-19. We must double down on the recommended safety strategies we know help stop the spread of this virus," CDPH Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said. "In order to protect Chicago, please continue to wear a mask, practice social distancing, wash your hands often, do not have outside guests in your home, and get vaccinated when it is your turn."
CDPH, IDPH and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in collaboration with various public health agencies, are closely monitoring this strain.
"When we learned of this and other COVID-19 variants, we increased our surveillance efforts by performing genomic sequence testing on an increased number of specimens," said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.
A follow-up case investigation by CDPH found that the individual had travelled to the UK and the Middle East in the 14 days prior to the diagnosis. CDPH has worked to identify close contacts of the individual to reinforce the importance of adherence with quarantine and isolation measures.
In response, Illinois PIRG Director Abe Scarr made the following statement:
"With Chicago's first confirmed case of the U.K. COVID-19 strain, we should assume the variant has already started spreading throughout our city.
It's a mistake to think we can start opening up again. Although vaccines are rolling out and a more robust federal response could be on the way, we are still several months away from vaccinating most of the public. In the meantime, to keep people healthy and save lives, we should not allow for high-risk activities like indoor dining.
This is a dangerous time for our city and state, and preventing unnecessary deaths must remain our top priority. Finding the new U.K. variant in Chicago means to stop the spread of the virus, we should redouble safety efforts, not ease them."
The discovery of the variant in Chicago comes as the global death toll from COVID-19 tops 2 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The milestone was reached just over a year after COVID-19 was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
It took eight months to hit 1 million dead and less than four months after that to reach the next million.
Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported 107,156 specimens for a total of 14,564,776.
As of Thursday night, 3,446 patients in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 712 patients were in the ICU and 386 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.
The preliminary seven-day statewide test positivity from Jan. 8 - 14 is 7.7%.
The test positivity rate is a metric the state began providing in late October. It is calculated by using the total number of positive tests over the total number of tests. This is the metric being used to by state health officials to make decisions about mitigations.
As of Thursday night, 726,475 doses of vaccine have been delivered to providers in Illinois, including Chicago, with an additional 268,525 doses allocated to federal government partners for long-term care facilities, bringing the total number delivered in Illinois to 995,000.
IDPH reports that a total of 447,348 vaccine doses, including 56,624 at long-term facilities. The seven-day rolling average of vaccines administered is 27,125.
The IDPH says that vaccine distribution numbers are reported in real-time and vaccine administration numbers lag by as much as 72 hours.
Deaths reported Friday include:
- Adams County: 1 male 60s, 1 female 90s, 1 male 90s, 1 female 100+
- Champaign County: 1 male 60s, 1 male 70s
- Christian County: 1 male 50s
- Coles County: 1 male 80s
- Cook County: 1 male 30s, 1 female 50s, 2 males 50s, 3 females 60s, 6 males 60s, 3 females 70s, 4 males 70s, 7 females 80s, 10 males 80s, 3 females 90s, 6 males 90s
- DeKalb County: 1 male 80s
- DuPage County: 1 male 60s, 1 female 70s, 1 male 80s, 2 females 90s
- Edwards County: 1 female 70s
- Franklin County: 1 male 80s
- Henderson County: 1 female 80s, 1 female 100+
- Henry County: 1 female 80s
- Iroquois County: 1 male 50s
- Jasper County: 1 female 80s
- Jefferson County: 2 males 70s
- Kane County: 1 male 60s, 2 females 70s, 1 female 80s, 1 male 80s
- Kankakee County: 1 male 60s, 1 male 80s
- Kendall County: 1 male 50s
- Lake County: 1 female 80s, 1 male 80s
- Lawrence County: 1 male 70s
- Macoupin County: 1 female 90s
- Madison County: 3 females 80s, 1 female 90s
- McHenry County: 1 male 30s, 2 males 70s, 1 female 80s, 1 male 80s, 1 male 90s
- McLean County: 1 male 80s, 1 male 90s
- Monroe County: 1 female 90s
- Peoria County: 1 female 60s, 1 male 70s, 1 female 90s
- Randolph County: 1 male 60s, 1 female 80s
- Richland County: 1 female 60s
- Schuyler County: 1 male 80s
- Shelby County: 1 female 80s
- St. Clair County: 1 male 60s, 3 males 70s, 1 male 80s, 1 female 90s
- Tazewell County: 1 male 40s, 1 male 60s, 2 males 70s
- Vermilion County: 1 male 40s, 1 female 50s, 1 male 70s
- Will County: 2 males 70s, 2 males 80s
- Williamson County: 1 female 70s
- Winnebago County: 1 male 60s
- Woodford County: 1 female 70s, 1 female 80s