Illinois health officials on Monday reported the lowest daily cases of coronavirus in the state since March 2020.
Meanwhile, Chicago Cubs players Anthony Rizzo and Jason Heyward have both made headlines over their respective decisions not to receive coronavirus vaccination shots.
Here's what you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic across Illinois today:
Illinois Records Fewest New COVID Cases Since March 2020
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Illinois public health officials on Monday reported the lowest daily cases of coronavirus since March 2020.
The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 165 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19, including 9 additional deaths.
Health officials also announced they will stop issuing daily coronavirus updates as the state continues to see lower infection rates and fewer reported cases and deaths. Instead, the Public Health Department will issue a news release on Friday's, with data on the website being updated every weekday.
“The immediate threat of the ongoing pandemic has decreased at this time, and the cadence of updates is being scaled back to reflect this change,” said Melaney Arnold, spokeswoman for the state’s health department
The state will distribute its first weekly update this Friday, with daily updates ending immediately.
Jason Heyward, Anthony Rizzo Discuss Decision Not to Get COVID Vaccine
Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo and outfielder Jason Heyward both made headlines over the weekend, as both players discussed their respective decisions not to receive coronavirus vaccination shots.
Rizzo told media on Friday that he had not been vaccinated against the virus, while Heyward discussed his decision not to receive the vaccine on Sunday.
The discussion comes as the Cubs continue to fall short of an MLB-mandated level of vaccination that would allow the club to dispense with many of the coronavirus restrictions still being implemented. At least 85% of the team’s “Tier 1” employees would need to receive the vaccine in order for those restrictions to be lifted, but President of Baseball Operations Jed Hoyer has said that the club hasn’t reached that level, and that he doesn’t anticipate that the club will.
Rizzo revealed Friday that he had not received the vaccine, saying that it hasn’t been an “easy decision” not to receive the treatment.
“It’s not an easy decision to make, but I think it’s the right decision for me and my family right now,” he said during an interview on ESPN 1000’s “Kap & J. Hood” show.
Rizzo said that he is “taking some more time to see the data” on vaccines.
Chicago Fire FC to Open Soldier Field to Full Capacity in July
Chicago Fire FC became the latest sports team in the city to throw their doors open to full capacity, announcing that the club’s July 3 game against Atlanta United FC will be the first to have 100% of tickets available for purchase.
According to the team, the 100 and 200 levels of Soldier Field will be able to be sold to capacity, with about 28,000 fans able to attend the contest.
“This is the moment our fans, city, players and staff have been waiting for,” Fire COO John Urban said in a statement. “The chance to finally showcase the full fan experience we’ve created inside and outside Soldier Field. We know the stadium will be buzzing with energy and passion, providing our players a special home field advantage.”
Tailgating will also be allowed to return on July 3, the team announced.
Coronavirus in Illinois: 165 New COVID Cases, 9 Deaths, 22K Vaccinations
Health officials in Illinois reported 165 new confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus on Monday, along with nine additional deaths and more than 22,000 new vaccine doses administered.
In all, 1,387,760 cases of coronavirus have been reported in the state since the pandemic began. The additional deaths reported Monday bring the state to 23,070 confirmed COVID fatalities.
The state has administered 25,235 tests over the last 24 hours, bringing the total to more than 25 million tests conducted during the pandemic.
The state’s seven-day positivity rate on all tests is now down to 0.8%, while the seven-day positivity rate on individuals tested stands at 1.1%.
In the last 24 hours, a total of 38,593 doses of the coronavirus vaccine have been administered to state residents. That brings the state’s average to 40,341 daily vaccination doses over the last seven days, according to IDPH data.
Health Officials in Illinois Say More Than 9,200 COVID Cases Linked to Variant Strains
The Illinois Department of Public Health has now linked more than 9,200 cases of coronavirus to five different variants of the virus, including nearly 6,200 cases of a strain that originated in the United Kingdom.
According to the latest data from IDPH, a total of 9,211 cases of the virus are now linked to variant strains of the illness.
By far the most prevalent of those strains is the Alpha strain. Formerly known as B.1.1.7, the strain has infected at least 6,187 residents in Illinois, according to officials.
Illinois is also seeing an uptick in cases connected to the Gamma strain of the virus. That strain, formerly known as P.1, has caused 2,405 cases of coronavirus in Illinois, and was originally discovered in Japan and Brazil, according to the CDC.
Chicago Becomes Largest Big City to Fully Reopen, Mayor Says
Chicago's move into Phase 5 Friday makes it the largest big U.S. city to fully reopen, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.
"Due to the incredible progress we've made in our mission to stop the spread of COVID-19, I am thrilled to announce that we are able to safely transition into Phase 5 and become the first major city in the country to fully reopen," Lightfoot said in a statement. "Our ongoing vaccination efforts, which prioritize equity and inclusion, have made a remarkable difference in our COVID-19 journey and have resulted in the lowest positivity rate since the beginning of the pandemic. This progress, as well as ongoing initiatives such as Open Chicago, have allowed us to safely lift capacity limits and reconnect our residents back to the activities they love the most."
Chicago joined Illinois in entering Phase 5 Friday, the final stage of the state's reopening plan and a full reopening. The phase removed all capacity limits from businesses and large-scale events, signaling that the state is ready to fully reopen for the first time in nearly 15 months.
Phase 5: Everything to Know as Illinois and Chicago Reopen
Illinois fully reopened Friday, entering Phase 5 of the state's reopening plan.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who announced last month that the state was on pace to move into the final phase of its reopening plan, made the official announcement Thursday, citing continuing declines in COVID metrics and increases in vaccinations.
Still, while the phase does mark a full reopening, not all restrictions have been lifted.
Arwady ‘Very Confident' Illinois Can Avoid COVID Surge After Moving to Phase 5
While some residents have expressed concerns that rollbacks of coronavirus restrictions could lead to surges in virus cases, Dr. Allison Arwady says that she is “very confident” that case numbers are low enough in the state to prevent a large surge from happening in the early stages of summer.
Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, spoke out about the possibility of a surge Thursday, ahead of the state’s move into Phase 5 of its reopening plan.
“All the modeling looks very good when we look in the short term over the next few weeks,” she said. “So I’m not concerned in the short term about a major spike in COVID.”
Arwady pointed to increases in the number of vaccinated individuals as a key component in the decision to move forward. According to Illinois Department of Public Health data, more than 51% of the state’s adult residents are now fully vaccinated against COVID, with more than 68% having received at least one COVID vaccine dose.
Chicago Hides Hundreds of $250 Gift Cards Around City to Celebrate Reopening
Starting Friday, hundreds of $250 gift cards will be hidden around all 77 of Chicago’s neighborhoods, the city announced.
Each weekend through July 4, Chicagoans and tourists can find the gift cards scattered around the city.
It the newest initiative from Mayor Lori Lightfoot aimed at encouraging people to get back out to local businesses this summer.
“These are going to be at businesses and locations in all of our 77 neighborhoods. If you're the one who walks in and says, ‘Open Chicago,’ you will get this $250 gift card that we'll be hiding today through July 4,” Lightfoot said Friday as she announced the city would reopen.
More on how to find the gift cards hidden around Chicago.
‘These Are False’: Chicago’s Top Doc Debunks Viral Vaccine Magnet Social Media Videos
No, COVID vaccines will not make you magnetic, according to Chicago's top doctor.
Responding to social media videos showing people with keys, quarters or magnets sticking to their vaccinated arms, particularly on TikTok, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said "there is nothing magnetic in the vaccine."
"We've talked about what is in these vaccines, there's really very little," she said during a Facebook Live Thursday. "There's the instructions to teach your immune system how to fight off COVID and then there's a little bit of a fat layer to help make sure that that's protected. There's a little bit of salt and sugar to make sure it's at the right pH and it works with your body, and that is it. So, these are false."
Arwady said the social media challenge started circulating as part of "recent myths" on the Internet related to "misinformation that there is a chip or something that is tracking in some way" inside the vaccines.