COVID

New developments have occurred statewide in the fight against COVID-19, but as has been the case throughout the pandemic, Chicago will operate under a different set of rules.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that more Illinois residents are eligible to receive the vaccine during an expansion of Phase 1B of the vaccination rollout, but that expansion is not occurring in Cook County.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot also announced that bars and restaurants now have slightly less restrictions for indoor dining and drinking.

Pritzker said that beginning Feb. 25, residents who are younger than 65 and have pre-existing health conditions will be eligible to receive the vaccine. They would join residents 65 and older and other frontline workers in Phase 1B.

However, Lightfoot and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle released a joint statement saying that won’t happen in Cook County due to a lack of vaccination supplies and a large population.

“Our goal is to get as many people vaccinated as quickly and efficiently as possible. That said, our greatest challenge in doing so is the very limited supply of vaccine we are receiving,” they said. “While we are making progress every day with vaccinating people in 1A and 1B, at this time we are not being supplied with enough doses that would allow us to expand eligibility in these phases. 

“Doing so in Chicago and Cook County would add well over 1 million additional people to 1B, and the result would be that those currently eligible, including seniors, frontline essential workers and those in our most heavily COVID-burdened communities, would have an even harder time getting a vaccine.”

Phase 1A began Dec. 15 and included health care workers, and staff and residents at long-term care facilities.

Phase 1B began Jan. 25 and originally included first responders, corrections officers and detainees at correctional centers, the education sector, grocery store employees, those living at homeless shelters, and members of the public who are 65 or older.

Throughout the state, Phase 1B now includes residents living with cancer, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, heart conditions, obesity and sickle cell disease, as well as pregnant women.

However, they aren’t eligible yet in Cook County.

“These phases were established after careful study and consideration, and are based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” Lightfoot and Preckwinkle said. “We recognize the governor must make tough choices and consider needs across this diverse state, but given the limited supply of vaccine, we must also make the tough choices as the leaders of the most populous city and county in the state. We look forward to expanding eligibility as vaccine supply improves.”

As 19th Ward Ald. Matt O’Shea announced, Chicago is utilizing the online program Zocdoc to help residents sign up for vaccinations. Users visit zocdoc.com/vaccine, where they provide their location and eligibility on receiving the vaccine.

If they are eligible in Illinois, Zocdoc shows nearby vaccination locations and appointment availability.

Lightfoot also announced that, effective Feb. 11, indoor service at bars, restaurants and events can slightly expand. Capacity can now be the lesser of 25-percent capacity or 50 people per room or floor.

For several weeks prior, capacity had been restricted to the lesser of 25 percent or 25 people.

Lightfoot issued a news release calling the changes a “roadmap” for the city “to continue to cautiously ease regulations on businesses as COVID-19 metrics improve.”

Expanding indoor capacity to 40 percent, she said, will be possible once Chicago reaches the “moderate risk” level for three days in these metrics: COVID-19 cases diagnosed per day, test positivity, emergency room visits for COVID-19-like illnesses and total number of intensive-care unit beds occupied by COVID-19 patients.

Capacity can increase to 50 percent, she said, after two weeks of maintaining at least the moderate-risk level across all four metrics.

On Feb. 10, she said, the number of cases diagnosed per day was averaging 466, which is in the “high risk” level; the number must be below 400 to be moderate risk.

The test positivity rate was 4.7 percent, which is in the “low risk” level, and the emergency-room visits for COVID-19-like symptoms was at an average of 69 per day, which is in the moderate-risk level.

The number of ICU beds occupied by COVID-19 patients was at an average of 148, also in the moderate-risk level.

“We are definitely trending in the right direction [as of Feb. 10], and I thank the residents and businesses that continue to do what is necessary to save lives,” Lightfoot said. “The tragedy of this pandemic unfortunately continues, but there’s hope at the end of this long journey. This path to 50-percent capacity ensures that we move forward with hope and confidence but also with the necessary precautions in place to ensure that the rush to reopen doesn’t endanger our progress.” 

Lightfoot said the city “has made significant progress” in the fight against the virus. As of Feb. 10, the positivity rate was 4.7 percent, the lowest since early October.

She also said total cases, hospitalizations and deaths had dropped “considerably” since the peak of the recent second surge.

Through Feb. 14, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported a total of 1,162,154 cases of COVID-19, including 19,961 deaths, in 102 counties.

The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total tests from Feb. 7–13 was 3 percent.  

A total of 2,125,375 vaccines have been delivered to providers in Illinois, including Chicago. In addition, officials said, about 445,200 doses have been allocated to the federal government’s Pharmacy Partnership Program for long-term care facilities. That brings the total Illinois doses to 2,570,575.

A total of 1,783,345 vaccines have been administered in Illinois, including 244,699 for long-term care facilities. The seven-day rolling average of vaccines administered daily is 62,927 doses, officials said, making it the highest seven-day average to date.