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Illinois Coronavirus Updates: New Cook County Vaccine Appointments – NBC Chicago

Illinois Coronavirus Updates: New Cook County Vaccine Appointments – NBC Chicago

Thousands of new first-dose COVID-19 vaccination appointments will open for Cook County residents at noon Wednesday. Meanwhile, Chicago’s coronavirus positivity rate is the lowest it’s been since the pandemic began, the city’s top doctor announced Tuesday. Here are the latest COVID headlines from around the state: Local Phase 1B Plus: Everything We Know About Illinois’

Thousands of new first-dose COVID-19 vaccination appointments will open for Cook County residents at noon Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Chicago’s coronavirus positivity rate is the lowest it’s been since the pandemic began, the city’s top doctor announced Tuesday.

Here are the latest COVID headlines from around the state:


Phase 1B Plus: Everything We Know About Illinois’ Expansion of Phase 1B COVID Vaccinations

Illinois’ Phase 1B is about to change as the state opens up eligibility to a much larger group of residents.

Known as Phase 1B Plus, the current phase of Illinois’ COVID vaccine rollout will soon expand to include people with certain high-risk medical conditions and comorbidities.

But that won’t be the case everywhere.

For everything we know so far about the expanded Phase 1B, set to begin Thursday, click here.

Coronavirus in Illinois: 2,022 New Cases, 44 Additional Deaths, Nearly 56K Vaccinations

Health officials in Illinois are reporting 2,022 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, along with 44 additional deaths attributed to the virus.

According to the latest data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, Wednesday’s new cases bring the state to 1,179,342 cases of the virus since the pandemic began last year. A total of 20,374 deaths have been reported as a result of the virus.

The seven-day positivity rate dropped Wednesday, with 2.6% of all tests coming back with positive results, according to IDPH. The positivity rate on individuals tested dropped slightly to 2.8%.

Over the last 24 hours, state laboratories received 82,976 test specimens, with 17,804,537 tests performed during the pandemic in all.

Hospitalizations in the state continue to drop, with 1,511 patients currently hospitalized due to COVID-19. Of those patients, 338 are currently in intensive care units, while 172 are on ventilators.

According to IDPH data, a total of 55,947 doses of the vaccine were administered in Illinois on Tuesday, with the seven-day rolling average now standing at 58,141 doses per day.

A total of 2,584,125 vaccine doses have been delivered to providers in Illinois, along with 445,200 doses delivered to pharmacies as part of a federal program to inoculate staff and residents at long-term care facilities. Of those 3 million doses, 2,310,929 vaccines had been administered in Illinois as of midnight, including 291,273 for long-term care facilities.

Thousands of New COVID-19 Vaccine Appointments to Open Wednesday in Cook County

Thousands of new first-dose COVID-19 vaccination appointments will open for Cook County residents at noon Wednesday.

A total of 5,000 appointments will open for later this week at Triton College and South Suburban College for individuals eligible under Phases 1A and 1B, according to a statement from Cook County Health.

Appointments can be made at vaccine.cookcountyil.gov. Those without internet access or who need assistance scheduling can call 833-308-1988 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Read more here.

Chicago Prioritizes COVID Vaccine Access for Homeless, Those in Congregant Living Settings

City health officials are working to ensure equitable access to the coronavirus vaccine, and part of that strategy is to prioritize vaccinations for homeless Chicagoans.

“I’m so pleased to be receiving my second dose of the COVID vaccine,” Constance Foster, a resident at the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago, said.

Foster was one of 170 residents and staff at the mission who received their second doses of the vaccine on Tuesday, part of the city’s effort to ensure that those individuals who live and work in congregant settings can get access to the treatment as soon as possible.

According to Dr. Allison Arwady, the commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, more than 2,000 doses of the vaccine have been given to homeless shelters during the pandemic, an important part of the more than half-million COVID vaccine doses administered throughout the city. “Long term care facilities or homeless shelters where we’re at, where we’ve disproportionally seen a lot of cases, we know it’s hard to always have all of the distancing and all of those things in place,” she said.

 “We are so grateful to CDPH for providing these vaccines. Prioritizing people experiencing homelessness and prioritizing people in Black and Brown communities is critical,” Dr. Alex Porte, a physician at the mission, added.

CDPH says that part of its push to help ensure equitable access to the vaccine is ensuring that it prioritizes vaccine doses for communities that lack primary care and health insurance.

Read more here.

Are COVID Vaccinations Free? Top Chicago Health Official Addresses Concerns

Chicago health officials are reminding residents that the coronavirus vaccine itself is free, but the city is also evaluating what it can do when clinics pass on administrative costs to patients when administering the treatment.

During a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said that patients aren’t allowed to be charged for the vaccine itself because of the agreements between the federal government and companies and clinics that are in charge of administering the vaccine.

“I want people in Chicago to hear that they should not be billed directly for receiving a COVID vaccine, unless they’re receiving other services that are associated with that visit,” she said.

The vaccine itself is delivered to clinics free of charge through agreements between pharmaceutical companies and the federal government, according to Arwady. She did caution residents that there are other small costs that could be incurred if a patient receives other treatment or services during their visit to receive the vaccine.

“Where people are seeing a provider for something that goes beyond the COVID vaccine, like if (they’re) seeing their primary care doctor and having my regular check in and getting lab work done, and then get the COVID vaccine as part of that visit, you still are able to bill for that visit,” she said. “It gets complicated relatively quickly.”

Arwady says the issue of additional charges related to the vaccine has occurred most frequently when patients visit urgent care clinics and other similar facilities for treatment, but that the CDPH is looking into those issues.

Chicago’s Top Doctor Shares Biggest Concern With Emerging COVID Variants

Chicago’s top doctor said she’s less worried about the current variants being monitored in the U.S., because she has a bigger concern she’s monitoring.

The U.S. is monitoring new variants of the coronavirus emerging across the U.S., some of which have already been identified in cases in Illinois.

The main concern in the city, Arwady said, has been the variant first reported out of the U.K., which she noted has been detected in at least a dozen cases in the city, but more across the state.

“That’s the one that is thought to be more infectious meaning more contagious, but the vaccine continues to be very protective against it as we saw in in this trial here,” Arwady said during a Facebook Live Tuesday.

Outside of the U.K. variant, others that originated in South Africa and Brazil have also appeared in the U.S., raising some concerns.

The Illinois Department of Public Health revealed earlier this month that the first case of the coronavirus variant B.1.351, first identified in South Africa, was found in the state.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the current variants “spread more easily and quickly than other variants.”

But experts believe the current vaccines in the U.S. provide at least some level of protection against these variants, though Arwady noted one of the three strains poses a bigger risk than others and that is the variant out of South Africa.

“That one has been shown, particularly some of the vaccines, to have decreased effectiveness against that strain,” Arwady said. “So the Pfizer and the Moderna continue to be protective against that strain, but not as protective, like it backs off a little bit. And then unfortunately the AstraZeneca vaccine, which we don’t have here yet, but it was the one that they were planning to use in South Africa, really was not very protective. It was like less than 50% protective. And so, South Africa actually stopped its vaccination campaign because they did not want to be vaccinating people with a vaccine that was not protective against that barrier. That’s the kind of thing that makes me the most concerned.”

Read more here.

COVID-19 Positivity Rate Hits Record Low Since Pandemic Began, Chicago’s Top Doc Says

Chicago’s coronavirus positivity rate is the lowest it’s been since the pandemic began, the city’s top doctor announced Tuesday.

In a Facebook Live event, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady announced the city’s positivity rate is sitting at 3.2%, which is the lowest rate since the coronavirus pandemic arrived in Chicago.

The announcement comes days after the city hit the second lowest positivity rate since the pandemic began on Friday, where 3.5% of tests returned were positive COVID-19 results, Arwady said.

Arwady noted that over the summer, Chicago’s positivity rate dropped below 4%, but never to the level the city recorded Tuesday.

COVID-19 testing has decreased throughout the city, but Arwady said this metric would not cause the positivity rate to drop. Rather, she explained that should testing decrease, positivity rate would typically increase.

Chicago’s is averaging 257 new COVID-19 cases per day, Arwady said, which is down from the over 3,000 cases a day recorded at the peak of the virus. On Friday, Chicago was recording 323 new coronavirus cases daily.

The city’s daily case count is also below the cutoff that marks a “high-risk area,” according to Chicago guidance, which is one factor allowing the city to resume higher capacity indoor dining.

These Locations Aren’t Joining Illinois in Expanding Phase 1B Eligibility. Here’s Why

Several Chicago-area suburbs and Chicago itself will not be joining Illinois in expanding the list of people eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations in Phase 1B of the vaccine rollout.

Chicago was among the first to announce it would not be joining the state. They were later joined by suburban Cook County and DuPage County, which announced a similar decision.

“We’re not ready at this point ,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a Facebook Live video Tuesday. “The city of Chicago, Cook County, Evanston, DuPage County, Stickney – there may be others. All said, we’re just not at a point to be able to move ahead.”

DuPage County’s Health Department said in a statement it can’t expand eligibility “until vaccine supply increases.”

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle in a joint statement with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot echoed those claims, saying “we are not being supplied with enough doses that would allow us to expand eligibility in these phases.”

According to Arwady, more than 950,000 Chicago residents would become eligible if the city expanded Phase 1B under the state’s guidelines.

“We cannot add a million people to the about almost a million people including the 1A, who are already in competition for the existing doses,” she said. “It’ll just make everybody more frustrated. So as we have more vaccine, we definitely will be opening up and go from there.”

In a note to residents, Evanston said it did not anticipate being able to expand Phase 1B eligibility “due to the large number of individuals 65 years and older in Evanston who are currently eligible for vaccines as part of Phase 1b, and the limited supply of vaccines available to date.”

Read more here.

justice writers

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