More than 100,000 appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations at the United Center's new mass vaccination site opened Thursday.
Meanwhile, some Cook County residents who received their first dose of the vaccine received a text message asking for proof of treatment, leading to plenty of confusion.
Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic across Illinois today:
Report: Cubs, White Sox Present Plan for 30% Opening Day Capacity
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said this week the Cubs and White Sox "have come up with very good plans" for hosting fans at games this season. One new report offered a potential look at what that could look like.
ESPN's Jesse Rogers reported on "Waddle & Silvy" Thursday the Cubs and Sox recently put together a joint presentation for the state of Illinois and city of Chicago where each club proposed hosting fans at 30% capacity starting April 1.
That would put somewhere around 12,000 fans in both the Wrigley Field and Guaranteed Rate Field seats.
The two clubs are waiting to hear back on the proposal, which also includes socially-distanced seating, and mobile pay and the ability to pre-order concessions, according to Rogers.
The Cubs open the season at home on April 1. The White Sox home opener is a week later, on April 8.
Read more here.
Lightfoot Directs City Departments to Prepare for Potential Events, Concerts this Summer
Major Chicago events like Lollapalooza, the Taste of Chicago and other summer festivals and concerts in Chicago may return this summer so long as COVID-19 indicators continue to trend in the correct direction.
On Thursday, city officials said that while nothing is for certain, they’ve asked various departments to prepare for the possibility of summer events to return.
“While we are not formally planning nor permitting events at this time, our COVID-19 indicators continue to trend in the right direction and we are hopeful that some events that align with health guidelines may be possible later this year,” Christine Carrino of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s press office said in a statement to NBC 5.
“As such, Mayor Lightfoot has directed City departments to prepare for the possibility of events this summer and ensure any resources that could be necessary are available.”
Last summer, events like Lollapalooza and the Taste of Chicago were canceled and for the last year concert halls and theatres have been shuttered or forced to operate at a limited capacity.
On Thursday, the Metro announced shows at GMan Tavern, located next to the iconic concert hall that are scheduled for later this month with limited capacity.
However, some, like JAM Productions owner Jerry Mickelson are already selling tickets online for his outdoor music venues in hopes they can soon reopen at full capacity this summer and with precautions in place.
Read more here.
More Than 27,000 COVID Vaccine Appointments Booked Within Hours at United Center Site
Of the more than 100,000 appointments that were made available at the United Center mass vaccination site on Thursday, more than 27,000 have already been snapped up, health officials announced Thursday evening.
According to Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s press office, 27,819 appointments have already been booked for senior citizens to receive their first doses of the coronavirus vaccine.
The remaining appointments will be reserved for residents 65 years of age and older until 4 p.m. Sunday, according to the city.
The United Center site will begin to administer vaccine shots on March 9, then will fully open on March 10. The site will operate seven days a week for eight weeks with help from the federal government, according to city officials.
To register for doses of the vaccine, Chicago-area residents are encouraged to visit the Zocdoc website, or to call the multi-lingual vaccination hotline at 312-746-4835. That hotline is available between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Sundays.
City officials do caution those using the hotline to anticipate long wait times, and say that the city’s website is a more reliable method to obtain a vaccination appointment.
St. Patrick's Day in Chicago: Top Doc Warns Against Parties This Year
Though Chicago may be opening up more as the city increases indoor dining capacity for restaurants and bars and eases other restrictions, officials are still warning against St. Patrick's Day celebrations.
Last year, the holiday marked the beginning of the pandemic, with the city canceling its parade yet crowds still filling streets, bars and restaurants.
"We were getting into March, this very compressed time period, kind of leading into St Patrick's Day where we were starting to see some more cases and I think in a lot of ways canceling the St. Patrick's Day parade was one of the first big things that people started recognizing that this was going to be a major impact," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Tuesday during a Facebook Live.
Now, as cases continue on a downward trend with vaccinations increasing daily, there's hope. But that doesn't necessarily mean the parties can resume, Arwady said.
"We are in a much better place than we were a few months ago, right? You saw we were able to expand bars and restaurants to 50% capacity, some expanded hours there, but we've got to keep the COVID precautions in place and I would just ask people - not the year yet for a big celebration," Arwady said. "I'm very hopeful that, you know, in a few months if things keep heading the way that they're going we are going to be sort of more and more open. We're certainly having conversations about later in the spring, in the summer if things keep heading the way that they're heading, but the middle of March is is not yet a point to sort of think that COVID is just over."
Coronavirus in Illinois: 1,740 New Cases, 42 Deaths, Over 93K Vaccinations
Health officials in Illinois on Thursday reported 1,740 new cases of coronavirus, along with 42 additional deaths and more than 93,000 vaccine doses administered in the past 24 hours.
According to the latest data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, Thursday's new confirmed and probable cases brought the state to 1,193,260 cases of coronavirus since the pandemic began.
The 42 new deaths reported Thursday bring the state to 20,668 fatalities during the pandemic, according to IDPH.
Read more here.
State to Increase Vaccine Doses at These Illinois Hospitals Under New Program
Several Chicago-area hospitals will receive additional COVID vaccine doses from the state as part of a new pilot program aimed at increasing equitable distribution, officials announced.
The Illinois Department of Public Health announced a new partnership with four local "federally qualified health centers and safety net hospitals" to get vaccines to residents in Cook, DuPage, and Lake Counties.
Under the program, the hospitals will receive between 300 and 500 doses each week, in addition to the doses already being distributed by the state to existing health care partners.
The program aims to "help ensure that communities hardest hit by COVID-19 have access to the vaccine," the governor's office said in a release. It will also look to reduce vaccine hesitancy in underserved areas.
For a full list of hospitals in the program click here.
Des Plaines COVID Vaccine Site to Open Appointments Thursday
A new mass vaccination site set to open in Des Plaines by this weekend, becoming the first large-scale facility to administer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in Illinois, will begin taking appointments Thursday afternoon.
The Cook County Health Department will open its fourth large-scale vaccination site at 1155 E. Oakton St. in Des Plaines on either Friday or Saturday, pending vaccine arrival, according to a release.
Residents can begin making required appointments at the new location at 1 p.m. Thursday. Appointments can be made from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday at vaccine.cookcountyil.gov or by calling (833) 308-1988.
Cook County officials said they expect to provide nearly 3,500 doses per day once the vaccination site is "fully optimized" and vaccine is available. Officials noted the Des Planes site will be the first large-scale facility statewide to administer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
For a look at how you can sign up for a COVID vaccine appointment in Illinois, click 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 opened Thursday. Here's a look at what you need to know:
Appointments opened 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 are 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.
Cook County Sends Texts Requesting Proof of COVID Vaccine
An unknown number of Cook County residents who had received the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine received a text message asking for proof of treatment, leading to plenty of confusion and concern among those who received them.
NBC 5 Investigates looked into the texts and found that they were indeed legitimate. The texts asked recipients to send proof of their vaccine ID card in order to schedule their second dose, but some thought they were being scammed.
Now, Cook County health officials say they are aware of the concerns, saying they discovered “a number of second dose appointments scheduled without a matching record."
The department says it asked individuals to provide their record cards to “ensure we are administering the right vaccine at the right interval.”
According to county officials, there is no central database built to keep track of vaccine doses. To cut down on confusion, Cook County health officials say it’s critical to choose one location for both doses, and for residents to make sure they format their names the same way throughout the entire vaccination process.
NBC 5 Investigates: Searching The Sewers For COVID-19 at the Cook County Jail
Authorities at Cook County Jail are searching for coronavirus clues in the unlikeliest of places: the sewers.
"You know, I wanted to get as far out front of determining what the positivity rrate was in the jail," Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart told NBC5. "It's just a proactive thing that I really wanted to do."
The process is complex, but the premise is rather simple. After all, anyone infected with the virus sheds evidence of it in their waste.
And it just so happens that the output of the restrooms and cells at Cook County Jail run in defined sewers out of each division, isolated from storm water or melting snows. It's an ideal place to look for traces of the virus.
If you know how and where to look, that is (and if you don't mind staring down a torrent of sewage). Enter the scientists from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Smokers Now Eligible for COVID Vaccine in Illinois Under Phase 1B Plus
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.
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.
Get the latest news on COVID-19 in your inbox. Click here to sign up for our daily coronavirus newsletter.