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Illinois Coronavirus Updates: Chicago Releases New Details on Vaccine Plan

NBC Chicago logo NBC Chicago 1/20/2021
a man and a woman taking a selfie: A healthcare worker receives the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at Perry Memorial Hospital in Princeton, Illinois, U.S., on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. © Bloomberg via Getty Images

A healthcare worker receives the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at Perry Memorial Hospital in Princeton, Illinois, U.S., on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020.

The city of Chicago released new details about its coronavirus vaccine distribution plan on Tuesday, including tentative dates for when each of the next phases might begin, with a goal of opening vaccinations up to all Chicagoans over the age of 16 by the end of May.

And what exactly are the tiers and phases in the state's mitigation plan - and how do regions move between them? Get a full breakdown below.

Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic across the state of Illinois today, Jan. 20:

2 Chicago-Area Counties Could Soon Bring Back Indoor Dining; Ill. Region Near Phase 4

Two Chicago-area counties could be headed for Tier 1 mitigations soon, allowing them to reopen indoor dining at restaurants in a limited capacity.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, Region 7, home to Will and Kankakee counties, is trending in the right direction to enter Tier 1.

Currently, the region is the only one in the Chicago area still under Tier 3 mitigations. Most of the area is under Tier 2 mitigations with some counties reaching Tier 1 earlier this week.

In addition to Region 7's progress, IDPH also reports Region 6 could enter Phase 4 beginning Thursday.

"If all the mitigation metrics continue to improve, Region 6 will move into Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois Plan on Thursday," the department said Wednesday. "And Region 7 is on target to move into Tier 1."

It remains unclear when exactly Region 7 could reach Tier 1, but according to the latest metrics reported by the state, the area is only waiting to see daily declines in hospital patients.

As of Wednesday, the region saw declines in three of the last 10 days, but will need to reach seven of the last 10 days to begin lifting restrictions.

The region's positivity rate Wednesday was reported at 7.4%, well below the 8% threshold for Tier 1.

Illinois Reports 4,822 New Coronavirus Cases, 107 Additional Deaths Wednesday

Health officials in Illinois reported 4,822 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, along with 107 additional deaths attributed to the virus.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, Wednesday's new cases brought the statewide total number of confirmed cases to 1,081,354 since the pandemic began. The fatalities reported Wednesday lifted the death toll to 18,398.

In the last 24 hours, Illinois officials said 86,121 test specimens were returned to state laboratories, putting the state at 14,984,649 tests performed during the pandemic.

The seven-day rolling positivity rate on all tests was 5.5%, while the positivity rate for unique individuals tested is at 6.8% - both down slightly from the day before.

As of Tuesday night, 3,284 patients in Illinois were hospitalized due to coronavirus. Of those patients, 722 were in intensive care units, while 379 were on ventilators.

Read more here.

Chicago Could See Return of Indoor Dining Next Week, City's Top Doc Says

Chicago started to ease some of its coronavirus restrictions this week as the region moved down to Tier 2, but indoor dining remains suspended across the city until it reaches Tier 1.

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady says Tier 1 could be in the near future, with the city potentially meeting the required metrics by the weekend.

"So here in Chicago, our number of COVID cases in the hospital is going down well, our ICU capacity adequate and our positivity had come down. And so really, as of now, still in restaurants and bars, there is no indoor service - that's allowed in the next tier, which we may possibly be able to move toward as early as, you know, possibly over the weekend, early next week, depending where this number goes," Arwady said Tuesday.

Read more here.

Chicago Reveals New Details, Tentative Dates of COVID-19 Vaccine Plan

The city of Chicago released new details about its coronavirus vaccine distribution plan on Tuesday, including tentative dates for when each of the next phases might begin, with a goal of opening vaccinations up to all Chicagoans over the age of 16 by the end of May.

Chicago is currently preparing to enter Phase 1B of its vaccination plan along with the rest of Illinois Monday, opening up doses for frontline workers and those over the age of 65.

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady announced in a livestream on Tuesday that the city will tentatively look to enter the next phase, Phase 1C, on March 29, followed by Phase 2 on May 31.

"I want to be very clear that any dates we provide are purely speculative based on how much vaccine we get," Arwady said. "Right now here in Chicago we're getting 34,000 approximately first doses… per week and that is not even enough to be able to vaccinate 5% of the people who are going to be eligible in Phase 1B."

Read more here.

Chicago's Shedd Aquarium Opens Next Week With Tier 2 Mitigations

Chicago's Shedd Aquarium plans to open next week amid Tier 2 coronavirus mitigations, officials announced Tuesday.

After Chicago moved into Tier 2 mitigations Monday, the Shedd said the facility is prepared to "safely reopen" to members Jan. 27.

For three days following the opening, members will have exclusive access to the Shedd before the aquarium opens to the general public on Jan. 30, according to a release.

Tickets will go on sale to members Thursday at noon, the Shedd said. The general public can purchase tickets beginning Saturday at noon.

COVID Vaccination Sites Open in Cook County to Aid Completion of Phase 1A

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced the launching of four state-supported coronavirus vaccination sites, as health officials aim to get through the first phases of the vaccination process.

The sites will be operated with the assistance of the Illinois National Guard, according to a press release. Vaccinations began Tuesday at the sites, and shots will be available for health care workers who are part of Phase 1A in the state’s vaccination plan.

“Illinois is moving forward with an aggressive vaccination plan that centers equity and focuses on communities which have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19,” Pritzker said in a statement. “Standing up these sites is a pivotal first step of a plan that coordinates our 97 local health departments statewide, who operate clinics already and will open up more as vaccine supply grows.”

Those looking for information on vaccinations are encouraged to visit the Cook County Department of Public Health’s website.

Here's a list of locations open for health care workers who still need to be vaccinated.

What Are Illinois' COVID Tiers and Phases? Here's a Breakdown

Most of Illinois' 11 regions moved between tiers and phases of the state's COVID-19 reopening plan on Monday when officials announced a change in the criteria needed to loosen restrictions.

What exactly are the state's tiers and phases - and how do regions move between them? Here's a breakdown:

Phases 4 and 5 are part of the original "Restore Illinois" plan that Gov. J.B. Pritzker unveiled last year at the outset of the pandemic. Tiers 1, 2 and 3 are "resurgence mitigations" that were implemented as the state's cases and deaths spiked amid a second wave of the coronavirus in the fall.

All 11 of the state's regions were placed in the most restrictive Tier 3 on Nov. 20, suspending indoor dining across Illinois and closing down museums and casinos, among other mitigations which lasted through the holiday season. Pritzker announced earlier this month that regions could begin to lift those most stringent restrictions on Jan. 15 if they met the criteria.

On Monday, Illinois officials announced that the state is launching multiple health care staffing contracts to help increase hospital staffing, thereby increasing the number of “staffed” beds available for coronavirus patients. That change means the hospital bed availability metric used in determining a region's tier or phase will now include ICU beds, but not medical or surgical bed limits, in the region.

As a result, the majority of Illinois’ regions were able to lift some of the mitigations in place as they moved into different tiers or phases of the plan.

Two regions dropped back to Phase 4, three are now in Tier 1 and four others are in Tier 2, while just two regions remain in the most restrictive Tier 3.

Read the full breakdown here.

Chicago-Area Doctors Say These Supplements Can Prevent Severe COVID-19 Cases

Doctors at DuPage Medical Group are advising patients of a protocol that won’t prevent them from getting coronavirus, but can decrease their risk of severe COVID-19 in adults who are not pregnant or breastfeeding.

“It’s based on data," said Dr. Mat Philip, a physician with DuPage Medical Group. "There's a lot of data on the benefits of aspirin and vitamin D, in terms of preventing severe COVID, and so we've started rolling it out to our patients."

The therapeutic consideration consists of a regimen of daily supplements. For the general public, the recommendations include taking one baby aspirin, a multivitamin and 1000 IU of vitamin D every day.

“We've tried to keep it as simple as possible because they could be on this for two months or three months,” said Dr. Philip.

If someone in a household gets COVID-19, the other household members are considered high risk and the regimen changes. It still includes a baby aspirin and a multivitamin, but the dose of vitamin D is doubled to 2000 IU, and a dose of 2-5mg of melatonin should also be added at bedtime.

Read more here.

Drive-Thru COVID-19 Vaccine Site Opens at Lake County Fairgrounds

Appointment-only drive-thru COVID-19 vaccinations began Tuesday at the Lake County Fairgrounds in north suburban Grayslake, county officials said.

Under Phase 1A of Illinois' vaccination plan, doses are currently only available to health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities. Phase 1B, which will center on residents aged 65 years and older and "frontline essential workers," is slated to begin next Monday, Jan. 25., Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced.

In order to receive the vaccine, which will be administered by the Lake County Health Department, an individual must register on the AllVax Portal and have a confirmed appointment, according to a news release.

When the Health Department receives a shipment of vaccine doses, officials said, a number of people who are eligible to receive the vaccine are notified to schedule an appointment. 

Anyone who lives or works in Lake County can register on the portal to be notified when it's their turn to be vaccinated.

Illinois Adjusts COVID Metrics Thresholds Required to Loosen Restrictions in Health Care Regions

Health officials in Illinois have announced adjustments to the metrics used to determine whether health care regions can roll back coronavirus mitigation rules, allowing the majority of the state’s regions to loosen restrictions as the state takes steps to increase hospital staffing.

The state is stepping up efforts to increase staffing at hospitals, and as a result officials have determined that the percentage of available hospital beds will no longer be used as part of the metrics required for a region to roll back coronavirus restrictions.

Originally, a set of four metrics were used to determine whether regions could roll back coronavirus mitigation rules, but according to state officials, hospital bed availability will no longer be included in that list.

Instead, the state will launch multiple health care staffing contracts to help increase hospital staffing, thereby increasing the number of “staffed” beds available for coronavirus patients. That change will reflect the wishes of health officials, who said that the usage of the “staffed beds” statistic was slightly misleading, as hospitals had enough bed capacity, but not enough staff to care for patients in those beds.

“With this surge staffing program, IDPH and hospital leaders feel confident that metrics can safely move away from utilizing medical/surgical bed limits to move across mitigation tiers,” state officials said in a statement.

The surge staffing program will be spearheaded by IDPH and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. Hospitals will be allowed to submit requests for additional staffing to the state, according to a press release.

All other metrics thresholds to move between tiers and phases will remain the same, according to the state.

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