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Illinois administers record 130K-plus vaccines, as expansion of eligibility opens outside Chicago and Cook County

Monday, March 01, 2021
Chicago Tribune
by JENNY WHIDDEN and ALICE YIN

A record 130,021 coronavirus vaccine doses were administered in Illinois on Wednesday, public health officials reported, reaching a statewide total of 2,440,950. The previous daily record was 95,375 doses, administered Feb. 12.

The milestone comes as Illinoisans outside Cook County who are younger than 65 and have preexisting health conditions are now eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine as part of the state’s 1b+ phase.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the expansion earlier this month, though Chicago and Cook County opted not to join the state in expanding phase 1b, saying that the move would make it more difficult for those already eligible to secure vaccine appointments. About 3 million people statewide would qualify under the expansion.

“As states and cities across the country expand eligibility for the vaccine, it’s vital that the most medically vulnerable like those with heart disease, lung disease and cancer have access to the vaccine, regardless of their age,” the governor said in a statement.

Officials said the expansion is in line with guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The list of eligible conditions include cancer, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, pregnancy and heart conditions.

The Chicago Department of Public Health put out a statement Thursday reiterating its position that the city does not receive enough vaccine to expand eligibility.

PAID POST

“If Chicago expanded eligibility, it would add hundreds of thousands of more people seeking vaccine in Chicago, without increasing the amount of available vaccine. This would mean those currently eligible, including seniors, front line essential workers and those in our most heavily COVID-burdened communities, would have an even harder time getting a vaccine,” the statement read. “We are working to get as many people vaccinated as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

Cook County Health CEO Israel Rocha Jr. also said Thursday that there was no timeline in sight to move on from the current phase 1b, but “there is some discussion” for an in-between expansion for people with chronic conditions before the entire phase 1c begins for suburban Cook County. About 35% of the 65 or older population in that jurisdiction has at least gotten the first dose, he said, and officials want that number to be closer to 45 to 50%.

Rocha said the issue lies with inconsistent vaccine shipments, which County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said was why there was no date for expansion yet.

“Our goal as a county and as a health and hospital system is to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as we possibly can,” Preckwinkle said. “The challenge of course is the supply. That’s the challenge everywhere.”

Pritzker’s office noted the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is “poised for approval,” and federal vaccine shipments to Illinois are projected to reach 100,000 doses per day in mid-March.

The number of Illinois residents who have been fully vaccinated — receiving both of the required two shots of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines — reached 671,717, or 5.27% of the total population Wednesday. Over the past seven days, the state averaged 66,274 vaccines administered daily.

Officials on Thursday reported 1,884 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 and 32 additional fatalities. The total number of known infections in Illinois is 1,181,226 and the statewide death toll is 20,406.

As of last week, the state has reported no additional cases of the coronavirus variants originating from the United Kingdom and South Africa. Officials previously identified a total of 42 cases of the U.K. variant and one case of the South African variant.

The seven-day statewide positivity rate for cases as a share of total tests was 2.5% as of Wednesday, reaching its lowest level since the week ending June 22, when the rate was 2.0%. Thursday’s new cases resulted from a batch of 91,292 tests.

As of Wednesday night, 1,463 people in Illinois were hospitalized with COVID-19, with 334 patients in intensive care units and 168 patients on ventilators.



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