Federal regulators have authorized Pfizer's COVID vaccine for children ages 12 to 15, clearing the way for shots to begin Thursday.
Meanwhile, the Cubs and White Sox will both increase capacity limits at Wrigley and Guaranteed Rate fields to 60% later this month.
And Gov. J.B. Pritzker has announced a new incentive to encourage Illinois residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19: free tickets to Six Flags.
Here's what you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic across Illinois today.
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Pritzker to Revise Orders on Mask-Wearing After New CDC Guidance Released
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker says that he will revise executive orders to sync up with new CDC guidelines on mask wearing by vaccinated individuals in indoor and outdoor spaces.
The new guidelines, released Thursday, say that masks are no longer recommended for individuals who are fully vaccinated against coronavirus, paving the way for a return to normalcy as summer nears.
“I firmly believe in following the science, and will revise my executive orders in line with CDC guidelines lifting additional mitigations for vaccinated people,” Pritzker said. “The scientists’ message is clear: if you are vaccinated, you can safely do much more.”
Illinois Joins Companies in Offering Incentives to Encourage COVID Vaccinations
While Illinois doesn’t quite have a million-dollar giveaway, here is our up-to-date list of giveaways and discounts associated with getting COVID-19 vaccines.
-Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced a massive effort to encourage residents to get vaccinated, teaming up with Six Flags to donate 50,000 free tickets to amusement parks in Gurnee and Rockford.
According to the governor, the value of the tickets is approximately $4 million.
Illinois National Guard mobile vaccination teams will go to the Gurnee theme park on June 5 and 6 to administer doses, and more details will be released in coming weeks.
-The Chicago Cubs are offering discounted tickets to fans for their upcoming series against the Washington Nationals. For $20, fans who are fully vaccinated can sit in a special section of the bleachers at Wrigley Field, with no social distancing guidelines in place, according to the team.
The news comes ahead of the Cubs opening up seating capacity to 60%, as Illinois moves to its “Bridge Phase” in its COVID reopening plan.
Chicago Announces Capacity Changes for Vaccinated People in City's Bridge Phase
Chicago will have some new guidelines as the city enters its Bridge Phase Friday.
The city announced plans to expand vaccine exemptions as part of the new stage of reopening, allowing capacity limitations to increase for businesses with fully vaccinated guests.
"In addition to the increased capacity that comes with the Chicago Bridge Phase, businesses will have the option of not counting fully vaccinated individuals towards COVID-19 capacity limits for all industries," the city said in a release. "Restaurants and bars will also be able to seat parties larger than ten people if all patrons are fully vaccinated."
Under the exemption, the following changes can take place, according to the city:
- Fully vaccinated individuals do not count towards COVID-19 capacity limits across all industries.
- Bars, restaurants, and other establishments that allow onsite consumption of food or alcohol can increase table or party size above the limit of ten if all patrons age 16+ at that table or within that party are fully vaccinated.
- Late Hour Liquor Licensees can operate without hour restrictions for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began if only fully vaccinated patrons are permitted to enter. While all bars and restaurants are allowed to stay open under standard hours in the Chicago Bridge Phase, this will allow Late Hour establishments to stay open until 4:00 am Monday through Saturday morning and 5:00 am on Sunday morning if all patrons are fully vaccinated.
Six Flags to Give 50K Free Tickets to Illinois Residents Who Get COVID Vaccine
Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Thursday announced a new incentive to encourage Illinois residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19: free tickets to Six Flags.
Six Flags Great America is donating 50,000 free tickets to the amusement parks in Gurnee and Rockford to newly vaccinated Illinois residents, Pritzker's office said in a statement, noting that the value of the tickets is $4 million.
As part of the effort, the state is sending Illinois National Guard mobile vaccination teams to the park's Gurnee location on June 5 and 6, and if turnout is high they will return on other days to continue vaccinations, officials said.
Cubs and White Sox to Increase Capacity, Designate Areas for Fully Vaccinated Fans
The Cubs and White Sox will both increase capacity limits at Wrigley and Guaranteed Rate fields to 60% later this month as Chicago continues to further lift COVID restrictions, the teams announced Thursday.
The Sox will increase capacity to approximately 24,300 fans at Guaranteed Rate Field beginning May 24 against the St. Louis Cardinals, the team said in a statement.
The new capacity limits at Wrigley Field will take effect when the Cubs begin their three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds on May 28, the team said.
Both fields will also soon debut new designated areas in the stands specifically for fans who are fully vaccinated.
Illinois COVID Bridge Phase to Begin Friday, Pritzker Confirms
Illinois will officially be entering the Bridge Phase Friday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker confirmed, moving the state a step closer toward a full reopening.
The Bridge Phase of the state's COVID-19 reopening plan will allow for higher capacity limits at places like museums, zoos and spectator events as well as increased business operations.
So what changes between Illinois' current Phase 4 and the Bridge Phase? Click here for a breakdown.
Coronavirus in Illinois: 1,918 New COVID Cases, 35 Deaths, 68K Vaccinations
Illinois health officials reported 1,918 new confirmed and probable coronavirus cases and 35 additional deaths in the last day, along with more than 68,000 vaccinations administered.
The newly reported coronavirus cases bring the state total to 1,361,666 cases since the pandemic began and lift the total death toll to 22,320, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The statewide positivity rate remained at 2.7% of all tests returning positive results, and the positivity rate for individuals tested in the last seven days dropped to 3.2%, according to IDPH data.
The state reported 68,035 vaccinations administered in the last day, according to the latest data, bringing the seven-day rolling average of vaccines administered to 76,082 doses.
COVID Vaccine for 12-15: Where Kids Can Get Vaccinated in the Chicago Area
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has signed off on use of Pfizer's COVID vaccine for children ages 12 to 15, clearing the way for shots to begin Thursday.
Where can parents get their kids vaccinated in the Chicago area?
A number of health departments have announced plans to begin vaccinating children in that age group, as have health care providers.
Here's a look at what jurisdictions and providers have said.
COVID Testing Could Increase in Middle, High Schools Due to Major State Funding
Illinois middle and high schools could see an increase in COVID-19 testing following a multimillion dollar investment from the state, officials announced Wednesday.
The Illinois Department of Public Health announced a $235 million investment to expand covidSHIELD testing, which is a saliva-based test that quickly detects the virus in both symptomatic or asymptomatic individuals, at statewide middle and high schools.
The quick testing strategy is meant to identify who has COVID early, so that more students can quarantine and prevent further spread, according to state officials.
Rather than a nasal swap, the covidSHIELD test, which was developed by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, collects saliva and provides results typically within 12 to 24 hours. Officials said specimens will only be collected with parental consent at participating schools.
Read more here.
Northwestern to Require Students Vaccinated Against COVID Before Next School Year
Northwestern University became the latest Chicago area school to require students to receive the coronavirus vaccine before the start of the fall 2021 semester, the school announced Wednesday.
If a student is not fully vaccinated, meaning two weeks since the last dose, by the start of the 2021-2022 school year, the individual may not be able to register for fall classes, according to a statement from the school.
At this time, faculty and staff are not required to receive the COVID vaccine, the school said. In a letter to students, Northwestern said they predict more than 75% of the student body are either fully vaccinated or in the course of receiving the vaccine.
More information will be available in June on exemptions from vaccinations and how to provide vaccine status to the school, Northwestern said.
Read more here.
New Illinois Bill Would Let Bars Give a Free Drink to Customers Who've Gotten the COVID Vaccine
A new bill in the Illinois House would let bars and restaurants give out a free alcoholic drink to customers who have gotten vaccinated against COVID-19.
State Rep. Mike Zalewski, a Democrat from suburban Riverside, introduced House Bill 4078 on Tuesday.
The "Shot and a Beer" bill would allow establishments with liquor licenses to give customers a free drink if they show proof that they've gotten the COVID-19 vaccine, as part of a promotional campaign incentivizing getting vaccinated.
The measure, if passed and signed into law, would only be valid for six months after its effective date. The bill was introduced Tuesday and sent to the House Rules Committee, awaiting further action.
Read more here.
COVID Booster Vaccine Could Be Needed By Fall, Chicago's Top Doc Details
As word circulates around whether or not an a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot will be necessary in coming months, Chicago's top doctor said she could see an additional dose being required by fall.
The need for a booster shot likely won't depend on how effective any of the three COVID vaccines are, according to Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady. Rather, another shot could aid in protecting against any possible new variants that could arise during the summer.
"Where we would need a booster is not because one of the three vaccines we have lost how effective it is," Arwady said. "Most likely it's more that we could see a new variant emerge that the vaccines are no longer protective against, and that could happen just in the next few months."
She noted that the vaccine companies would need to gain additional research before bringing a potential booster to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which she says could take two to three months.
Read more here.
When Might Children Under 12 Be Eligible to Receive COVID Vaccine?
According to experts, those under 12 likely won't be able to receive the COVID vaccine until later this year or early next year.
Both Pfizer and Moderna have begun U.S. studies in children ages 6 months to 11 years. Those studies explore whether babies, preschoolers and elementary-age kids will need different doses than teens and adults. Dr. Bill Gruber, a Pfizer senior vice president who’s also a pediatrician, told the Associated Press that Pfizer expects its first results in the fall.
"Both Pfizer and Moderna currently have studies that are ongoing for vaccine down to six months so maybe into next year we may actually see vaccine for our people less than 12 years of age, so stay tuned for that and keep looking out," Dr. Candice Robinson, medical director for the Chicago Department of Public Health, said.
Chicago's top doctor said results could come as early as September.
Read more here.
Should You Eat Before Receiving the COVID Vaccine? Chicago's Top Doc Answers
In preparation for the COVID-19 vaccine, should you eat a full meal beforehand? Chicago's top doctor gave her recommendation Tuesday.
During a Facebook Live event, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said people should eat before receiving any shot or having blood drawn.
"I always recommend that if someone's going to get their blood drawn or get a shot that you should just eat a good breakfast or a good lunch," Arwady said. "Make sure you've had plenty of water that day. That's really all you need to do related to preparation before the COVID vaccine shot. You don't need to take any medication in advance."
She added that individuals with food should meet with their physicians to ensure nothing interacting with the vaccine would cause a reaction.
Read more here.
Does the COVID Vaccine Contain the Virus? No and It Won't Make You ‘Shed' Spike Proteins Either
Does the COVID vaccine contain the virus? No, and it won't make you "shed" spike proteins or transmit COVID-19 to others in any way, experts say, explaining how the vaccines work in an effort to swat down rumors and misinformation.
Misinformation about the coronavirus has been rampant on social media since the pandemic began, and vaccinations are no different. One rumor that's popped up is that unvaccinated people can get sick simply from contact with those who have gotten the COVID vaccine as they "shed" viral particles.
Public health experts and medical professionals across the board say that this type of "shedding" is absolutely not happening with the COVID vaccines - and that understanding how the vaccines work is key to knowing the truth.
Read more here.
Can Schools Require the COVID Vaccine? Pritzker, Chicago's Top Doctor Weigh In
Across the country, a number of colleges and health care institutions have started to mandate the COVID vaccine, but will schools do the same? And are they legally permitted to?
In a Facebook live question-and-answer session Thursday, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady explained she read legal analysis on the topic, and said schools could likely mandate the vaccine, even while it's under emergency use authorization, as the country remains in a public health emergency.
"It’s going to be a big conversation," she said. "I think at schools, really across the country, having a fully-approved vaccine, including for kids, I think is one of the first steps in that conversation."
In Chicago, multiple other vaccines are required for Chicago Public Schools students, Arwady pointed out, however students can obtain a written exemption from a physician.
When asked about imposing a potential mandate at schools, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he's listening to scientists to determine the best course to take.
"We'll see what percent of the population at schools this spring show up to get vaccinated," Pritzker said Thursday. "And over the summer, and you know, we'll have to make some decisions about that as well."
For a complete guide to COVID vaccine appointments in Illinois, click here
COVID Vaccinations Coming to Workplaces in Chicago and Across Illinois
Teams to vaccinate people against COVID-19 will be dispatched to workplaces and commercial buildings in Chicago and across Illinois, officials announced Monday.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the program in a joint news conference with health officials and other community leaders.
The effort will begin in mid-May with 10 sites in Chicago, Schaumburg and Rockford in the first wave of the program. Those sites are:
- Merchandise Mart, 222 West Merchandise Mart Plaza, Chicago
- Harris Bank Building, 115 S. LaSalle Street, Chicago
- 540 W. Madison Street, Chicago
- Equitable Building, 401 N. Michigan Avenue, Chicago
- 150 N. Riverside Plaza, Chicago
- 311 South Wacker (Walgreens at 250 S Wacker Dr), Chicago
- Wrigley Building, 400-410 North Michigan Avenue (Walgreens at 410 N Michigan Ave), Chicago
- 308 W. State Street, Rockford
- 1111 S. Alpine Road, Rockford
- 1061 American Lane, Schaumburg
What Happens if You Miss Your Second COVID Vaccine Dose?
More and more Americans have been vaccinated in recent weeks, but the number of those who've skipped their second dose has risen as well.
More than 5 million people, around 8% of those who received one shot of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, didn't get their second dose, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But what if, for whatever reason, you missed your second shot?
According to the CDC, the second dose should be administered as close to the recommended interval as possible, which is 21 days for the Pfizer vaccine and 28 days for Moderna's. However, the shot can be given up to 42 days after the first dose "when a delay is unavoidable," the agency added.
Read more here.
Fully Vaccinated? Here's Where to Score a Deal in the Chicago Area
Are you fully vaccinated against COVID-19? Don't miss the latest deals offered across the Chicago area, as various businesses have already begun serving up bargains for vaccinated individuals.
Here's where to find COVID vaccination deals nearby.
Hosting a Wedding, Graduation Party or Private Event in the Chicago Area? Here's What You Need to Know
Graduation and wedding seasons are fast approaching and this year's events will be unlike any other.
While most events were canceled or dramatically scaled down last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, more widely available vaccines and early signs of improvements in COVID metrics have enabled some jurisdictions to loosen restrictions on in-person gatherings.
To learn more on capacity limits and other new guidelines, click here.