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Illinois Coronavirus Updates: New Sports Rules, Chicago and Cook County ‘on Track' for Tier 1

NBC Chicago logo NBC Chicago 1/22/2021
a person in a blue shirt:  Marielle Fricchione (cq), immunization program medical director and a pediatrician with he Department of Public Health, brings the COVID-19 vaccines for five frontline medical workers at Loretto Hospital on December 15, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. © Getty Images

Marielle Fricchione (cq), immunization program medical director and a pediatrician with he Department of Public Health, brings the COVID-19 vaccines for five frontline medical workers at Loretto Hospital on December 15, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker delivered an update on the state's coronavirus response Friday.

Meanwhile Chicago's top health official on Thursday said that there are four ways in which residents will be able to get vaccinated against COVID-19, revealing new details about the city's vaccination rollout plan.

Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic across the state of Illinois today, Jan. 22:

Walmart, Kroger and Mariano's to Begin COVID Vaccinations in Illinois in Coming Weeks

Walmart, Kroger and Mariano's are slated to begin providing COVID-19 vaccinations to Illinois residents in the coming weeks, according to the companies and state officials.

A Walmart spokeswoman confirmed Friday that beginning this week and next, the big-box retailer will start providing inoculations in the city of Chicago as well as in Indiana along with six other states.

The company has already been providing vaccinations in New Mexico and Arkansas, where it's headquartered.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Friday that Kroger and Mariano's, which is a subsidiary of the Ohio-based grocery chain, are expected to start giving vaccinations to residents by Feb. 1. Additionally, the supermarket chain Hy-Vee, which has locations in central and western Illinois, will also provide inoculations.

With New Variant, ‘Now More Important Than Ever' to Follow Mitigations: Illinois' Top Doctor

While much remains uncertain about the new COVID-19 variant first discovered in the United Kingdom, Illinois' top doctor said Friday that enough is known, so people are able to take the proper precautions.

"...If something is more transmissible, that would suggest that we need to double down on mask wearing," Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of Illinois Department of Public Health said Friday, as she also stressed social distancing and handwashing. "Like all those things we've been saying...the message doesn't really change, it just means it's now more important than ever before to adhere to them [mitigations]."

On Friday, a U.K. scientist revealed some evidence suggests the strain carries a higher risk of death than the original strain, although he cautioned that the data is uncertain.

Read more here.

Illinois to Start Phase 1B of Vaccinations, But Not All Who Are Eligible Will Get it at First

Illinois and Chicago will both enter the next phase of their vaccination plan starting Monday, but not everyone eligible in the phase will receive the vaccine right at the start, officials said Friday.

Phase 1b, which includes roughly 3.2 million residents, centers on residents age 65 years and older and "frontline essential workers," including first responders, education workers like teachers and support staff, childcare workers, grocery store employees, postal service workers, and more.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said while the state still plans to move into the phase starting Monday, there will be limitations based on how much vaccine the state receives.

"This does not mean, however, that right away you will be able to get the vaccine as easily as you can get the flu shot," Pritzker said. "Because federal vaccine production was hampered by the failure of the previous administration to properly invoke the Defense Production Act, vaccine supply is still limited all across the nation. There are additional vaccines in the pipeline that may soon seek FDA approval, and that will help. But there are 3.2 million Illinoisans in Phase 1B, so there will be far greater demand than supply for the near term – to put it in perspective, we’re expecting approximately 126,000 first doses to arrive next week outside of Chicago. That’s less than 4 percent of the 1B population. Until the vaccine supply improves, we will all need to be patient."

Pritzker said the state is working to build capacity and hopes to see an increase in doses in the coming weeks.

Illinois Health Officials to Add COVID-19 Vaccination Appointment Sign-Up to Website

Illinois health officials announced Friday the launch of a statewide coronavirus vaccination appointment sign-up addition to their website, which should more effectively provide doses.

"As we increase capacity to make vaccine widely available, we will launch a statewide website to provide more information so that you can make an appointment to get vaccinated," Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in a press conference.

Illinoisans can already access the state's coronavirus website, which provides the vaccination plan, Restore Illinois plan and information on the pandemic. Once appointments become available, residents can access a link taking them to their local health care provider to coordinate when and where to receive the vaccine.

Read more here.

IDPH Issues New Guidance for Youth, Recreational Sports

As Illinois regions continue loosening restrictions, the state has released new guidance for youth and recreational sports.

With the entire state now out of Tier 3 mitigations Friday, the state's health department released guidelines for various sports, including those in schools, travel clubs, private leagues and clubs, recreational leagues and centers, and park district sports programs. 

"Over the past seven months I've received countless emails, letters, phone calls from students from parents from coaches, many others about youth sports in organized protests about the issue. I hear and see, and I feel the passion around youth sports. I take very seriously the value that recreational outlets offers the physical and the mental health of our children," Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said during a press conference Friday. "I also take very seriously, the need to protect them as do their parents and their coaches and the broader community, and we will talk about that now. The updated sports guidance that we are releasing today outlines the level of play allowed dictated by the current public health conditions that we find ourselves in. We have to think about the amount of virus circulating in the communities. We have to continue to think about the test positivity, the people in the ICU with COVID and as well as other metrics."

The guidance expands the level of play allowed for all sports in regions under Phase 4 guidelines, including play for intra-conference, region, or league levels.

Here's a full breakdown.

Why Chicago Health Officials Say COVID-19 Vaccinations Are Limited

Chicago is currently preparing to enter the next phase of vaccinations along with the rest of Illinois on Monday, opening up doses for frontline workers and those over the age of 65.

But the city's top doctor warned Thursday that appointments for those who qualify will be "very limited," urging patience as she said most people who qualify for vaccinations in this next phase will likely have to wait "a number of weeks."

Why is that? Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said the city is not receiving "anywhere near enough" doses from the federal government to vaccinate everyone eligible - a trend playing out nationwide since shipments began last month.

Read more here.

Illinois Reports 7,042 New Coronavirus Cases, 95 Additional Deaths Friday

Health officials in Illinois reported 7,042 new cases of coronavirus on Friday, along with 95 additional deaths attributed to the virus.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, Friday's new cases brought the statewide total number of confirmed cases to 1,093,375 since the pandemic began. The fatalities reported Friday lifted the death toll to 18,615.

IDPH said officials have adjusted how the state reports probable cases beginning Friday, now including both confirmed and probable cases in the daily count, which caused an "artificial one-day increase" in cases of 1,903. Prior to Friday, only confirmed deaths were included in the total case count, but the count will include probable deaths moving forward.

In the last 24 hours, Illinois officials said 125,831 test specimens were returned to state laboratories, putting the state at 15,209,516 tests performed during the pandemic.

The seven-day rolling positivity rate on all tests was 5.0%, while the positivity rate for unique individuals tested is at 6.2% - both down slightly from the day before.

As of Thursday night, 3,179 patients in Illinois were hospitalized due to coronavirus. Of those patients, 661 were in intensive care units, while 348 were on ventilators.

Also as of Thursday night, 922,325 vaccines coronavirus vaccines had been delivered to providers across Illinois, while 524,050 doses had been allocated to the federal government’s Pharmacy Partnership Program for long-term care facilities, IDPH said. That brought the total number of doses sent to Illinois to 1,446,375.

Of those, 616,677 doses of the vaccine have been administered, including 93,683 for long-term care facilities. On Thursday, a total of 44,288 doses were administered, lifting the seven-day rolling average number of vaccines given daily to 24,190.

All Illinois Regions Out of Tier 3 Coronavirus Mitigations

All Illinois Regions are now out of Tier 3 mitigations following an announcement from the state's health department Friday, and more restrictions could soon be eased heading into the weekend.

State health officials said Region 4, the only Illinois region that remained under Tier 3 mitigations, met the metrics to move into Tier 2 mitigations, effective Friday.

“We are pleased to hear our region as whole is trending in the right direction,” St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern said in a statement. “We will continue to advocate to our residents to mask up, wash their hands, and stay safe so we can continue to increase capacity at our hospitals and reduce our positivity rates."

Read more here.

Gov. Pritzker to Give COVID-19 Update

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is set to deliver an update on the state's coronavirus response Friday.

Originally scheduled for Thursday, the news conference was delayed one day and Pritzker will now hold the news conference at 12 p.m. at the Thompson Center in Chicago, according to his public schedule

The event can be watched live in the video player above.

Chicago and Suburban Cook County ‘on Track' to Enter Tier 1, Bring Back Indoor Dining Saturday

Chicago and suburban Cook County are "on track" to lift Tier 2 coronavirus restrictions on Saturday, state health officials said Friday, which would allow for the return of limited indoor dining, among other changes.

"If metrics continue to improve or are stable, regions 10 and 11 are on track to advance to Tier 1 on Saturday," The Illinois Department of Public Health said in a statement, also announcing that Region 4 downstate had lifted its Tier 3 mitigations.

Read more here.

Chicago Public Schools Releases Vaccination Plan

Chicago Public Schools officials on Friday announced a plan to vaccinate staff members in the next phase of the city's vaccination plan, as the district prepares to bring thousands of teachers and students back into classrooms.

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

Phase 1B does include educators and those in school settings, though health officials have warned that the city has not been receiving as many doses of the vaccine from the federal government as they had initially anticipated, a trend playing out nationwide since shipments began arriving last month.

CPS expects to begin receiving vaccines in mid-February, the district said, and will begin to distribute doses to employees at that time through school-based sites. The district noted that staff who are eligible to get vaccinated in Phase 1B can set up their own appointments through their health care provider or pharmacy.

CPS also said it has launched partnerships with health care organizations to vaccinate approximately 1,500 staff members in health care roles, who have been eligible to receive the vaccine under the current Phase 1A, over the next two weeks.

The district noted that it has created a "prioritization system" for the order in which staff will be able to get vaccinated. That strategy was developed "based on the level of exposure to others and ability to reliably maintain mitigation measures, as well as the amount of time the specific role has been serving in-person during the closure," CPS said.

The district's prioritization system is broken into three groups, which are further divided into subgroups.

Read more, including a breakdown of the groups, here.

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