Note: Any news conferences from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot or other officials will be streamed in the video player above.
Illinois and Chicago health officials oversaw the administration of the first doses of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine in the city and state Tuesday, given to health care workers at multiple locations.
Meanwhile, the deadline for Illinois small businesses to apply for coronavirus relief grants is at 5 p.m. Tuesday, according to state officials.
Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic across the state of Illinois today (Dec. 15):
Pritzker Announces $700 Million in Spending Reductions Amid $4 Billion Revenue Shortfall
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced more than $700 million in spending reductions for fiscal year 2021 as the state looks to cope with the projected loss of nearly $4 billion in revenues due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pritzker says that a variety of strategies will be used to hit those reduction benchmarks, including a hiring freeze, reductions or freezes in grant money allocations, and operational savings.
The governor says that agencies who are working to cope with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic will not be impacted by the cuts.
“Cutting our budget will be, by its very nature, painful,” he said. “If anything, our schools and public safety and healthcare deserve more investments, not less.”
According to current projections, the state believes it will lose in excess of $4 billion in revenues because of the pandemic. The state also has a projected budget shortfall of $3.9 billion in the current fiscal year, nearly $2 billion of which is attributed to revenue shortfalls related to the pandemic.
To help cope with those losses, the state will make significant changes in its Department of Corrections, with the governor announcing that approximately 10% of the spending reductions will be focused within the department.
Read more here.
Chicago Travel Order Updated With New Requirements; Only 1 State Below Quarantine Threshold
Chicago health officials updated the city's coronavirus travel order Tuesday, changing its guidelines and its threshold as only one state remained below the quarantine requirement.
As of Tuesday, 31 states were categorized as "red" states, meaning travelers must quarantine for 14 days when coming to Chicago. That's up from two weeks prior as Tennessee, Arizona, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, California, Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Arkansas, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, West Virginia transitioned onto the highest level of the order.
Seventeen states, plus Puerto Rico, were listed as "orange," meaning they require a 14-day quarantine or negative test prior to arrival in Chicago. Most recently, Iowa dropped from red to orange status, but Maine and Vermont were both added to the orange list.
Only one state, Hawaii, was listed as "yellow," meaning it does not require a quarantine.
The emergency travel order requiring a 14-day quarantine for travelers from certain locations was issued in July in an effort to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
Last month, the city changed the way it reports states being added to its travel order, categorizing states in a color-coded map to determine which requirements are in effect for travelers, from the original requirement of a 14-day quarantine to a negative test result depending on the severity of the state's outbreak.
The latest update to the order follows changes in the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In order to be listed as a "red" state, the threshold was increased to 60 new cases per day per 100,000 residents, up from just 15 cases per day. It also changes the quarantine timeframe from 14 days to 10.
As Vaccinations Begin in Illinois, What Does That Mean for Phase 5? Pritzker Weighs In
Phase 5 of Illinois' reopening plan was set to begin once a vaccine or highly effective treatment became widely available.
With the start of vaccinations for coronavirus in Illinois that day is inching closer, but according to Gov. J.B. Pritzker there's still a long ways to go.
"Today is the beginning of a process that allows us to move toward reopening the state entirely," Pritzker said. "It will take some time."
How much time?
"The length of time, you know, as you talk to the experts what they would say is the manufacturing process will take some time so they can deliver them as fast as they can," Pritzker said. "But months will go by here while we are working through the ACIP/CDC guidelines first for health care workers and those in longterm care facilities and then the many others that are in the various phases... until we get herd immunity. That's what we're all aiming for for the state of Illinois and the United States of America."
Chicago's Top Doctor Predicts When Coronavirus Will Be ‘in the Rearview Mirror'
Chicago's top health official said the first vaccinations against the coronavirus on Tuesday marked "the beginning of what will be the end of COVID-19" in the city, but cautioned the public that it will still be quite some time before the pandemic is over.
Five health care workers were the first people in Chicago to be vaccinated on Tuesday at Loretto Hospital on the city's West Side in a moment the mayor called "history in the making."
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady celebrated the advance in battling the pandemic that has now claimed more than 300,000 lives nationwide - but noted that she believed it would probably be about another year before the coronavirus is "in the rearview mirror."
"There is nothing I wanted more for Christmas than a vaccine that looked like this," Arwady said. She then highlighted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's evaluation process for the first vaccine from Pfizer, approved for emergency use last week, and noted that she felt "very confident in knowing that no steps for the safety process for approving a vaccine have been skipped."
Illinois Reports 7,359 New Coronavirus Cases, 117 Additional Deaths Tuesday
Illinois health officials reported 7,359 new confirmed and probable coronavirus cases on Tuesday, along with 117 additional deaths attributed to the virus.
According to the latest data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, there have been 863,477 cases of the virus in the state since the pandemic began, along with 14,509 deaths attributed to the virus.
In the last 24 hours, state officials say 92,922 test specimens have been turned in to state laboratories, bringing the statewide total to 11,962,010 during the pandemic.
The rolling seven-day positivity rate on all tests conducted during that span is currently at 8.6%, while the positivity rate for residents tested for the virus is at 10.3%, officials say.
Hospitalizations related to the virus remained steady at 4,965, with 1,057 of those patients occupying ICU beds and 598 on ventilators, according to health officials.
These Are the First People Who Got the Coronavirus Vaccine in Chicago
Five health care workers were the first people in Chicago to be vaccinated against the coronavirus on Tuesday in a moment the mayor called "history in the making."
The vaccinations took place at 10:30 a.m. at Loretto Hospital, located at 645 S. Central Ave. on the city's West Side.
The first five people to be vaccinated, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health, were:
- Dr. Marina Del Rios, Director of Social Emergency Medicine at the University of Illinois Health
- Elizabeth Zimnie, ER RN at Norwegian American
- Barbara Shields Johnson-Critical Care RN, Director of Med/Surg/ICU at Loretto Hospital
- Jermilla Hill-Patient Care Technician at Loretto Hospital
- Mark Hooks, ER RN at Loretto Hospital
Read more here.
Chicago Administers First Doses of Coronavirus Vaccine at Loretto Hospital
Chicago administered the first doses of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine on Tuesday at Loretto Hospital on the city's West Side, officials say.
The first doses were given just after 10:30 a.m. to health care workers at the hospital located at 645 S. Central Ave., according to the Chicago Department of Public Health.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot praised the arrival of the vaccine in the city on Monday and the first vaccinations but noted Tuesday that "widespread community distribution of the vaccine is still months away."
"Though we still have a long way to go, I want to extend my deep and heartfelt thanks on behalf of our city to the many scientists, researchers, and other medical staff who made this moment possible," she continued. "You are not only saving lives, you are putting our entire world back on track."
Read more here.
First COVID-19 Vaccination Outside Chicago Happens Tuesday in Peoria
The first coronavirus vaccination outside Chicago was given Tuesday at a hospital in Peoria, officials announced.
Healthcare workers at OSF Francis Medical Center were the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine outside the city in Illinois just after 11 a.m.
For more information on where vaccines will be administered Tuesday, click here.
Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Application Deadline Looms
The deadline for Illinois small businesses to apply for coronavirus relief grants comes early this week, according to state officials.
In a coronavirus briefing, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said small businesses owners have until Tuesday at 5 p.m. to apply for the Business Interruption Grants.
"Since we launched the BIG program in June, making $540 million available to small businesses, with $270 million reserved for childcare businesses specifically – we’ve seen an enormous response, which speaks to the challenges faced by so many of our small businesses," Pritzker said.
At this point in the pandemic, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity has paid out more than $168 million of the $270 million devoted to small businesses to over 6,300 owners in over 500 cities around the state, Pritzker said.
He added that officials expect to continue using grants through the end of the year until all funding is allocated.
Pritzker said special consideration for the grants is given to businesses most heavily impacted by the pandemic, especially those in downstate communities, along with businesses making an annual revenue of $5 million or less. Businesses that have not received other forms of emergency assistance like the Paycheck Protection Program will also be more specifically considered.
"If you own a small business, or you know someone who does – make sure
they take the time to submit an application if they qualify," Pritzker said.
Illinois' BIG program provides grants ranging from $5,000 to $25,000, according to Pritzker, with an average grant size of $25,000.
For more information, the governor said to visit Illinois.gov/DCEO.
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