More than 100,000 appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations at the United Center's new mass vaccination site will open this week, Chicago and Illinois officials announced Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Chicago is again increasing indoor dining capacity at restaurants and bars and easing several coronavirus restrictions as the city's coronavirus positivity rate continues to drop.
Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic across Illinois today:
Smokers Now Eligible for COVID Vaccine in Illinois Under Phase 1B Plus
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Smoking is on the list of high-risk medical conditions and comorbidities that make someone eligible for the coronavirus vaccine under Illinois' Phase 1B plus.
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, smoking is considered an "eligible condition" under the phase alongside other conditions like cancer, diabetes, obesity, pregnancy and more.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that "being a current or former cigarette smoker increases your risk of severe illness from COVID-19."
Illinois entered its Phase 1B Plus on Feb. 25, increasing eligibility to include people with certain underlying conditions and comorbidities. The move meant an additional 3.4 million people across Illinois became eligible for the vaccine.
Smoking was not on the list of eligible conditions when the phase was first announced, but was added as the state entered the phase last week.
Coronavirus in Illinois: 2,104 New Cases, 44 Deaths, Over 82K Vaccinations
Health officials in Illinois on Wednesday reported 2,104 new cases of coronavirus, along with 44 additional deaths and more than 61,000 vaccine doses administered in the past 24 hours.
According to the latest data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, Wednesday's new confirmed and probable cases brought the state to 1,191,520 cases of coronavirus since the pandemic began.
The 44 new deaths reported Wednesday bring the state to 20,626 fatalities during the pandemic, according to IDPH.
Read more here.
100K United Center COVID Vaccine Appointments to Open: Here's What You Need to Know
More than 100,000 appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations at the United Center's new mass vaccination site will open this week. Here's a look at what you need to know:
Appointments will open exclusively to Illinois residents age 65 and over at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in a statement, noting that there will be two ways to sign up:
- To register online, visit Zocdoc.com/vaccine. The web site is projected to handle much higher volume of appointment requests. Zocdoc will show real-time appointment availability and eligible residents will then be able to select a date/time and book an appointment online. Date of birth will be required when booking an appointment to confirm vaccine eligibility.
- To register by phone, call (312) 746-4835. A multi-lingual call center will be available to help seniors make an appointment from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Given the anticipated high demand for appointments, residents who can use the website should book their appointments online. While the call center has 200 staffers, those who need to use the call center will very likely experience lengthy wait times.
The exclusive registration period for seniors will be open through Sunday afternoon, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a Facebook Live update on Tuesday.
Illinois Launching 2 More Mass Vaccination Sites, Including 1 in Des Plaines
Illinois will soon launch two new mass vaccination sites, including one in Des Plaines, officials announced Wednesday.
The state-supported sites are set to launch Thursday in both Des Plaines and Quincy, bringing the total number of mass vaccination sites in Illinois to 18. The Des Plaines site, located in a former K-Mart at 1155 E. Oakton St., marks the fourth such site in Cook County alone.
“The COVID-19 vaccine site in Des Plaines is our latest step forward in vaccinating Cook County and our most vulnerable communities,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said in a statement. “This new site, which is conveniently located for many residents of the northwest suburbs, will be utilized over the coming months as we progress in our program and vaccine supply increases.”
For more information click here.
United, American Airlines to Open Vaccination Sites at O'Hare Airport
United and American Airlines have announced plans to offer vaccinations at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.
United's "point of distribution" site, which will operate out of the airline's current clinic in Terminal 2 on the baggage claim level, will open Thursday for eligible airport employees.
American Airlines said it will be provided with a "limited supply" of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for distribution to "team members at ORD." The doses will be administered beginning Thursday in the K19 Former Flagship Lounge in Terminal 3, the airline said.
Chicago Could Begin Vaccinating Phase 1C Earlier Than Expected, Officials Say
After previously announcing Phase 1C would likely begin at the end of March, Chicago's top doctor said Tuesday that the city could begin the next phase of coronavirus vaccinations earlier than anticipated.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said the city could begin vaccinating those eligible in Phase 1C at an earlier date, based on an increase of available COVID vaccine doses in the state."
However, Arwady noted that as of Tuesday, the estimated state date would not change, nor any eligibility criteria.
"We'll make adjustments to that as we always have, as we see how vaccine doses come in," Arwady said. "But honestly, the way they've been coming in is about how I've expected them to come in. March is going to look a lot better than February did related to vaccine. And I think April is going to look a lot better than March."
Arwady has said Phase 1C would likely begin March 29 and Phase 2, which includes all residents over the age of 16, could begin May 31.
Advocate Aurora Health Exploring Opening Mass Vaccination Site at Wrigley Field
While the United Center will transform its parking lots into a mass coronavirus vaccination site later this month, another iconic Chicago stadium could potentially follow its lead.
According to Advocate Aurora Health, a mass vaccination site is being explored at Wrigley Field, aiming to help even more Chicago-area residents to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
According to a statement by health system officials, there are still a few hurdles to clear for the site to become a reality, including authorization by the city of Chicago.
“We are proud to partner on a possible Wrigley Field mass vaccination site, which would potentially be authorized by the city of Chicago,” the hospital system said in a statement. “If the site is designated, and city vaccine supplies become available, Advocate Aurora Health would provide clinical staffing and technical infrastructure.”
According to hospital officials, the location at Wrigley Field is under consideration because of its proximity to several CTA bus lines and the CTA Red Line, “ensuring residents of disproportionately impacted communities have access to the vaccine as supplies are available.”
Read more here.
Some Fans Could Be Allowed to Return to Chicago Stands 'This Season,' Mayor Says
Chicago could potentially see the return of some fans into the stands, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Tuesday, as the city prepares for baseball season to kick off.
"Not at this time, but I think there will be a point sometime this season where you'll see fans in the stands of both Wrigley and Guaranteed Rate field, which I still call Sox Park," Lightfoot said.
The Cubs are set to kick off their home opener at Wrigley Field on April 1, while the White Sox are scheduled to return home on April 8 after starting their season on the road.
Lightfoot's comments come as some fans begin to return to stands in places long shut down, like Barclays Center in New York.
"What I've said before is that we're in discussions with both of the sports teams," Lightfoot said. "I think they've come up with a very good plans and when we are ready, we will announce what the future will look like for other potential spectators in the stands."
Note: For COVID-19, the herd-immunity threshold is estimated to be between 60 and 90 percent. Our analysis considers herd immunity reached at 75% of the population fully vaccinated based on estimates by Dr. Anthony Fauci.