Note: Any news conferences from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot or other officials will be streamed in the video player above.
Chicago's top health official will receive the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine on Tuesday as the city launches a new vaccination site for health care workers.
Meanwhile, Illinois officials are preparing to pay out new unemployment benefit funds authorized by the COVID-19 relief bill signed into law over the weekend.
Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic across the state of Illinois today (Dec. 29):
Chicago Public Schools Releases New Details on Reopening Plan
Chicago Public Schools released new details for its reopening plan in the new year as the coronavirus pandemic continues, aiming to bring in students as soon as Jan. 11.
For staff members who applied for non-medical accommodations as students begin to return, CPS said the district is providing additional supports such as COVID-19 testing and launching a process to ensure employees who serve as primary caregivers for high-risk household members are granted accommodations.
"While the district cannot guarantee every one of these caregiver requests will be granted a remote work accommodation, we expect that we will grant the vast majority of their requests," CPS said.
For any staff who indicated that childcare is a barrier for them returning to in-person work, the district said they can request for their child to attend the student's regular school four days per week instead of two. CPS reminded that students in grades K through 8 will attend school two days per week in the hybrid model.
"Health and safety are the district’s highest priorities and accommodations for remote work have been granted to all teachers and staff who have documented medical conditions as defined by the CDC, and where possible, accommodations were also granted to staff who live with someone with a high-risk medical condition, or who face child care challenges," CPS said in a statement.
Read more here.
Illinois Reports 5,644 New Coronavirus Cases, 106 Additional Deaths Tuesday
Health officials in Illinois reported 5,644 new confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, along with 106 additional deaths attributed to the virus.
According to the latest data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, the state has now reported 948,006 cases of the virus since the pandemic began, along with 16,179 total deaths.
Over the last 24 hours, 66,786 new tests returned to labs across the state. In all, 13,103,444 tests have been performed during the pandemic, according to IDPH data.
The state's seven-day positivity rate for tests sat at 8.8% Tuesday, while the positivity rate for cases was 7.4%. Both numbers mark increases from a day earlier.
Hospitalizations in the state ticked upward on Tuesday to 4,313 patients receiving care for the coronavirus. The number of patients in intensive care units dropped to 904, while there are currently 506 patients on ventilators in the state due to COVID-19.
Chicago Updates Travel Order With Only 2 States Below Quarantine Threshold
Chicago health officials updated the city's coronavirus travel order Tuesday, leaving only two states below the threshold requiring a quarantine upon arrival in the city.
As of Tuesday, 34 states were categorized as "red" states, meaning travelers must quarantine for 10 days when coming to Chicago.
That number is up from weeks past.
Fifteen states plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia were listed as "orange," meaning they require a quarantine or negative test prior to arrival in Chicago. That list now also includes: Connecticut, Wisconsin, Maryland, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Michigan, North Dakota, Washington and Oregon.
Only two states, Hawaii and Vermont, were listed as "yellow," meaning a quarantine is not required when entering or returning to the city - though health officials have long warned against any non-essential travel and continue to urge strict adherence to public health guidelines like wearing masks, social distancing and avoiding gatherings.
Dr. Arwady Gets Coronavirus Vaccine as Chicago Launches New Vaccination Site
Chicago's top health official received her first dose of the coronavirus vaccine on Tuesday as the city launched a new vaccination site for health care workers.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady was vaccinated at the site at Malcolm X College, where the city's COVID-19 vaccine "Point of Dispensing (POD) site" opened for health care workers who are not affiliated with a hospital, officials say.
"I am really, really pleased to be able to get my vaccine today. I have absolutely no hesitation about it. I've been anxious to get it. But I did not want to jump my place in line," she said, noting that the city has first been vaccinating hospital-based health care providers in accordance with federal guidance.
Read more here.
IDES Prepares to Implement Unemployment Program Extensions Passed in Federal COVID Relief Bill
The Illinois Department of Employment Security is preparing to pay out new unemployment benefit funds authorized by the COVID-19 relief bill signed into law by President Donald Trump over the weekend, but is also asking for more guidance from the Department of Labor to ensure prompt payment of those benefits.
In a press release issued Monday, IDES officials say they are urging authorities not to “create further hardship,” and criticized the president for his “inaction” after he delayed signing the relief package earlier this month.
The new relief bill, in addition to authorizing payments to U.S. residents, also included extensions for several key programs, including Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) benefits and Extended Benefits programs.
These programs all expired on Dec. 26 under the provisions of the original CARES Act, which was passed in March, but were all extended by the new COVID-19 relief package. Lawmakers have warned of potential payment delays because of Trump’s objections to the bill, which he raised only after the House and Senate voted to approve the measure.
Read more here.
More Than 20K Doses of COVID-19 Vaccine Administered in Chicago
More than 20,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to health care workers throughout the city of Chicago, the city's top doctor revealed Monday.
The majority of those who have received the vaccine are hospital employees, however a small amount of emergency medical services personnel have also been vaccinated, said Dr. Allison Arwady, the commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health.
The 20,000 figure, Arwady emphasized, does not include health care workers who have been vaccinated in Chicago, but live outside city limits. No significant problems or unexpected side effects have been reported, according to the doctor.
With Chicago emphasizing equitable distribution as a strategy to combat COVID-19, city officials were asked Monday whether race and ethnicity data regarding vaccinations is available.
Arwady said that CDPH is only able to report data by ZIP code and age, but added race and ethnicity data is being collected by the state of Illinois. State officials hope to make the demographic data publicly available, officials said.
Approximately 16,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine are expected to be administered in the city by the end of the week, Arwady said. Similarly, the city anticipates more than 21,000 doses of Pfizker's vaccine to be administered over the same time period.
On Monday, vaccinations for employees and residents started at eight of the city's long-term care facilities. This week, additional doses of the vaccine will be distributed to dozens of outpatient facilities, which will vaccinate their own staff members.
Phase 1A of the city's vaccination plan, which is focused on health care workers and long-term care facility residents, could potentially last through February.
First Doses of Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine Administered in Chicago
Front line workers at Chicago's Esperanza Health Centers were given their initial doses of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine Monday, becoming the first individuals in the city to receive the widely-anticipated vaccine.
Esperanza, which primarily serves Chicago's Southwest Side, was one of six federally-qualified health centers that began administering the Moderna vaccine Monday.
Calling Esperanza a lifeline for the Latinx community, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot explained that equity remains the city's COVID-19 strategy, as the virus disproportionately impacts people of color.
"I know the challenges that many members of the Latinx community face and at times may be insurmountable," the mayor said at a news conference at the health care center's facility in the Brighton Park neighborhood.
The rollout of the Moderna vaccine is particularly exciting, said Dr. Allison Arwady, the commissioner of Chicago's Department of Public Health, because unlike the Pfizer vaccine, it doesn't require ultra-cold storage.
Suburban Long-Term Care Facilities Begin Receiving COVID-19 Vaccines
As coronavirus vaccines are delivered to the state of Illinois, more facilities are gaining access to the treatments, including several suburban long-term care facilities that are seeing their first batches of doses arriving this week.
One such location was Burgess Square Healthcare and Rehab Center in suburban Westmont, which saw its first doses of the treatment arrive recently.
“We’ve been waiting for this for so long,” Dr. Rajeev Kumar said. “We have three clinic days and we hope to get all of our staff and all of our residents vaccinated. Hopefully within a month or so, our residents will have their freedom back.”
Long-term care facilities have been hit hard by the pandemic, with staffers working around the clock to help keep vulnerable residents safe.
As part of the federal government’s rollout of the coronavirus vaccine, Walgreens and CVS have been contracted to provide doses of the vaccine to long-term care facilities, and doctors are optimistic that the treatment will be immediately helpful.
“Looking at the studies done, there’s really no additional risk to seniors,” Kumar said. “Usually, seniors have a less robust response to vaccines, so the side effects might even be muted in our seniors compared to younger populations.”
Kumar says that the Westmont facility has seen high-demand for the vaccine, and at least 90% of the residents and 50% of the staffers at the facility have already received their first doses. The second dose will be administered in the coming weeks, with companies like Walgreens and CVS handling the scheduling and administration of the doses.
Once the second dose is administered, Kumar says that residents will be allowed to leave the facility to visit family and friends, provided they continue to wear masks and to exercise other COVID-avoidance strategies, like frequent hand-washing.
Such measures are necessary, as the general population won’t begin receiving the treatment until next year, according to health experts.
Illinois Surpasses 16K Deaths Since Coronavirus Pandemic Began
Health officials in Illinois reported 4,453 new confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus on Monday, along with 105 additional deaths attributed to the virus.
According to the latest data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, the state has now reported 942,362 cases of the virus since the pandemic began, along with 16,074 total deaths.
Over the last 24 hours, 51,046 new tests returned to labs across the state. In all, 13,036,658 tests have been performed during the pandemic, according to IDPH data.
The state's seven-day positivity rate for tests sat at 8.7% Monday, while the positivity rate for cases was 7.2%. Both numbers mark increases from a day earlier.
Hospitalizations in the state ticked upward on Monday to 4,243 patients receiving care for the coronavirus. The number of patients in intensive care units dropped to 884, while there are currently 515 patients on ventilators in the state due to COVID-19.