Illinois COVID-19 Update: Will, Kankakee counties move to Tier 1 as IL reports 4,979 new cases, 123 deaths

South suburban restaurants reopen limited indoor dining
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Illinois health officials reported 4,979 new COVID-19 cases and 123 deaths Thursday as the state announced it will relax restrictions for two more regions.

The total number of cases in Illinois now stands at 1,086,333, with a total of 18,520 deaths, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Region 7, which includes Will and Kankakee counties, is advancing to Tier 1, meaning restaurants in the south suburbs can now reopen for limited indoor dining.

Some restaurants, including George's in Lockport, have been serving customers inside even while it was officially banned by the state. But the team there is still excited by the news and hope it will make more customers feel safe enough to drop in for a bite. Manager Lauren Straub said she was elated to learn that limited indoor dining can resume in Will and Kankakee counties.

State health officials announced Thursday that Illinois Region 7 was moving into Tier 1 mitigation, allowing indoor restaurant and bar dining service for up to 25 people or 25% capacity per room, whichever is fewer people.

"People are gonna feel comfortable and, you know, want to come in and they feel safe enough to come in and dine with us," Straub said.

Straub said her team had already been serving people inside before now because the restaurant, like so many, is trying to stay afloat. But she hopes the official green light will boost business.

"Our clientele in the morning, the elderly people, so they, I think they'll kind of feel more safe coming out that it's okay to come out and not feel as worried," she explained.

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Some customers, like Karen and John Sadler, were already comfortable eating inside before the changes - and they were back again for lunch.

"It's nice to sit in a booth again and it's like coming home because you know, they're an integral part of our neighborhood," Karen Sadler said.

In nearby Romeoville, Gio's breakfast was still mostly empty after the indoor dining reboot announcement. But manager Giselle Evangelista is thinking her dining room will be an attractive option for people hoping to keep their social distance.

"It's really really big," Evangelista said. "I feel like people are gonna see that on our Facebook page."

And with more in-person dining, she's hoping her staff will see more tips - which haven't been as plentiful with take-out orders.

"Since our servers rely on tips, that will help us out a lot more because that's basically what we live off," she said.

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Even when restrictions are lifted in Chicago, some restaurants say they still won't be reopening for now.

But as more suburban restaurants get this new lifeline, indoor dining remains banned in Chicago.

And even when those restrictions are lifted in the city, some restaurants still won't be reopening for now.

"25% (capacity) makes us lose money, 50% (capacity) makes us lose money," said Jodi Fyfe, owner of Eden in the West Loop.

But for Chicago restaurants that want to reopen indoor dining, city officials say that may be possible as soon as this weekend if the current trends hold.

Region 6 moves to Phase 4

And Region 6, which includes Champaign, Clark, Clay, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, De Witt, Douglas, Edgar, Effingham, Fayette, Ford, Iroquois, Jasper, Lawrence, Macon, Moultrie, Piatt, Richland, Shelby, and Vermillion counties, will move to Phase 4 of the Restore Plan.

If mitigation metrics continue to improve, Region 4 will move into Tier 2 on Friday.

Region 4 includes Bond, Clinton, Madison, Monroe, Randolph, St. Clair and Washington counties.

"I am excited that 10 out of our 11 regions have moved out of Tier 3 mitigations," said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Illinois Department of Public Health director. "However, this does not mean we can let our guard down. We must continue to practice actions to protect ourselves from the virus - wear our masks, avoid large gatherings, and get the vaccine when it is our turn. This is particularly critical as new variants circulate, which early studies show spread much more rapidly. We are headed in the right direction once again, so let's stay the course."

IDPH will continue to closely monitor test positivity, ICU bed availability and the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19, state officials said. Should data show regions trending in the wrong direction, based on the established mitigation metrics, regions could once again find themselves in a higher tier with increased measures.

You can see a map of the Restore Illinois regions here and the differences between Illinois' COVID-19 mitigation tiers here.

Vaccine registration frustrations

Days before Illinois is scheduled to move to vaccination phase 1B, some are frustrated with the lack of information about how to register.

"I'm trying to do my part, and it just seems like I keep running into a brick wall," said James Henry, of Elmhurst.

Henry said he was excited when Gov. JB Pritzker announced last week that Phase 1B would start in Illinois on January 25 for people 65 and older and many essential workers.

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But Henry, 72, said he found nothing about how to register for a vaccine on either the state or DuPage County Health Department websites.

He eventually found a local pharmacy taking 1B appointments and scheduled himself and his wife for next week.

"And then we get a call today, and Mariano's says, 'We're sorry, but the county says they aren't releasing the vaccine for group 1B,'" Henry said.

Earlier this week, the DuPage County Health Department said phase 1B for the county likely wouldn't start until early February. But late Wednesday, it issued a press release saying it "...anticipates beginning the transition to Phase 1b starting Monday, January 25..." But because of limited supply " may take approximately 12 weeks..." to vaccinate everyone in 1B.

There's still nothing on the county's website about how to register.

"I mean, at this point, just say, 'We don't know, folks,'" Henry said.

In the Chicago area, DuPage County, suburban Cook and the city of Chicago said they'll begin 1B vaccinations Monday. But in Lake County, officials said it could be one to two weeks. And in Will County, a few weeks.

Kane County said it began vaccinating some Phase 1B essential workers on Thursday. Vaccine appointments for Kane County residents in priority group 1B essential workers and seniors 65 and older will begin within the next two weeks.

"In the initial weeks of the national vaccination campaign, the supply of vaccine has been limited," said Kane County Health Department Interim Executive Director Kathy Fosser. "We are pleased to say we are catching up on our 1A health care workers and have begun vaccinating 1B essential workers."

Kane County will have more than 40 COVID-19 vaccine providers such as clinics, pharmacies, hospitals and medical practices in preparation for vaccinating group 1B.

"We are committed to getting these vaccines in the arms of residents as quickly as we receive them," said Fosser. "We anticipate our weekly allocation to increase as time goes on to allow us to more quickly get vaccine to residents."

ABC7 left messages for McHenry and Kankakee counties that were not returned.

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Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported 99,036 specimens for a total of 15,083,685.

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As of Wednesday night, 3,281 patients in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 662 patients were in the ICU and 358 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.

The preliminary seven-day statewide test positivity from Jan. 14-20 is 6.5%, which is the lowest it has been since late October.

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 Wednesday night, 901,025 doses of vaccine have been delivered to providers in Illinois, including Chicago, with an additional 524,050 doses allocated to federal government partners for long-term care facilities, bringing the total number delivered in Illinois to 1,425,075.

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IDPH reports that a total of 572,389 vaccine doses, including 90,752 at long-term facilities. The seven-day rolling average of vaccines administered is 22,585.

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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.

The deaths reported Thursday include:

- Adams County: 1 female 80s, 1 male 90s
- Bond County: 1 male 80s
- Boone County: 1 male 80s
- Christian County: 1 male 60s
- Coles County: 1 female 20s
- Cook County: 1 male 50s, 2 females 60s, 8 males 60s, 3 females 70s, 9 males 70s, 9 females 80s, 4 males 80s, 5 females 90s, 4 males 90s 1 female 100+
- Douglas County: 1 male 80s
- DuPage County: 1 female 70s, 1 male 70s, 1 female 80s, 1 female 90s

- Effingham County: 1 male 80s
- Henry County: 1 male 80s
- Iroquois County: 1 male 70s
- Jackson County: 1 male 80s
- Jersey County: 1 female 70s
- Kane County: 1 male 40s, 1 female 60s, 1 male 60s, 2 females 70s, 2 males 70s, 3 females 80s
- Kankakee County: 1 female 60s, 1 male 60s, 1 female 70s, 1 male 70s, 1 male 80s
- Knox County: 1 male 70s, 1 male 90s
- Lake County: 1 female 70s, 1 male 70s, 1 female 80s, 2 males 80s
- Lee County: 1 male 80s
- Livingston County: 1 male 70s, 1 female 90s
- Macoupin County: 1 female 80s, 1 female 90s
- Madison County: 1 male 50s, 1 female 90s
- Marion County: 1 male 60s
- Massac County: 1 female 80s
- McHenry County: 1 male 90s
- McLean County: 2 females 80s
- Montgomery County: 1 male 70s, 1 female 80s, 1 male 80s
- Peoria County: 1 female 60s, 1 male 70s, 1 female 80s
- Pike County: 2 females 80s
- Pope County: 1 male 90s
- Randolph County: 2 females 80s
- Saline County: 1 male 70s
- St. Clair County: 1 male 50s, 1 female 60s, 1 female 80s, 1 male 80s
- Tazewell County: 1 female 80s
- Will County: 1 male 60s, 1 female 70s, 1 male 80s, 1 female 90s, 1 male 90s
- Winnebago County: 1 female 70s, 1 male 80s, 1 female 90s, 1 male 90s
- Woodford County: 1 male 70s
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