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, 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.
Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic across the state of Illinois today (Dec. 16):
Long-Term Care Facilities Hope to Receive First COVID Vaccines by Month's End
Some medical workers in the state of Illinois are already getting their coronavirus vaccines, and by the end of the month, health officials are hoping that long-term care facility residents and workers will be able to get theirs as well.
During a coronavirus press briefing on Wednesday, IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike laid out some of the details of the program, which aims to get coronavirus vaccine shots to long-term care facilities beginning the week of Dec. 28.
According to Ezike, the shots will be administered by employees from CVS and Walgreens pharmacies as part of a partnership with the federal government, a program that is filling workers at the homes with optimism and happiness.
“It absolutely will put my mind at ease,” Chicago nursing home employee Rosalind Reggans said. “Given my age and the fact that I’m a cancer survivor of three years, it would totally put my mind at ease.”
Vaccines will not be mandatory in many facilities, but they are strongly encouraged as a tool to help residents resume social visits with family and friends.
According to officials at Burgess Square Healthcare in suburban Westmont, residents who have been vaccinated can go outside to meet family members and friends, so long as face coverings are worn.
Eventually, the hope is that enough state residents will be vaccinated to achieve so-called “herd immunity,” allowing for mask mandates, social distancing protocols and other mitigation measures to be rolled back and ultimately eliminated.
IHA Chief Says Vaccine Delivery ‘on Track' to Illinois County Health Departments
Several counties reported receiving their first doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine on Wednesday, with the head of the Illinois Health and Hospital Association saying that the rollout of the vaccine is currently “on track” despite some concerns about delays.
In a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, IHA President and CEO AJ Wilhelmi said that the organizations is working closely with Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration and the Illinois Department of Public Health to ensure the safe and timely rollout of the doses of the vaccine that have arrived in the state so far.
“That process is on track,” Wilhelmi said in a statement. “Hospitals and health care workers have been on the front lines of the pandemic for 10 months and are doing their part to execute on the vaccination plan. The extensive and logistically challenging vaccination process is rolling out now, as scheduled, and thousands of vaccines will be administered before the end of the week, as planned.”
In separate press releases Wednesday, health officials in Kane and DuPage counties announced that they had received their first doses of the vaccine, with the plan to roll the treatment out to health care centers and hospitals in the coming days.
Those departments are part of a complex delivery process, necessitated by the low temperatures at which the Pfizer vaccine must be stored.
After the vaccine is shipped, it must be repackaged and then sent to various health care organizations around the state, according to officials. Wilhelmi says that there is a five-day window before the vaccine could potentially spoil, and hospitals need approximately 48 hours of preparation to make sure that the vaccines can be administered in a timely manner after receipt.
New Minimum Wage Rates Continue to Take Effect Beginning in 2021 Despite COVID-19 Financial Setbacks
New minimum wage rates will still take effect throughout Illinois in 2021, despite financial difficulties caused by the pandemic, state officials announced Wednesday.
Beginning Jan. 1, the Illinois Department of Labor will increase the statewide minimum wage rate to $11 per hour.
"We want people who are working at the lowest wages in our economy, the poorest working people in Illinois, we think that they deserve a raise," Gov. J.B. Pritzker said.
Illinois officials asked that employees watch their paychecks throughout the new year to ensure time worked is being paid at the new rate.
“We want to make sure that workers earning minimum wage are aware that the $1 increase should be reflected in their pay checks for any time they work after the first of the year,” Michael Kleinik, director of the state's labor department, said. “While we fully expect employers will pay the new wage, we also want workers to be aware of the change.”
In 2019, Pritzker signed legislation into law providing a path to increase Illinois' minimum wage rate to $15 per hour by 2025. During 2020, residents saw two minimum wage increases -- first to $9.25 in January, then to $10 in July.
Before the increases over past year, the state's minimum wage rate was $8.25 and $13 in Cook County, containing Chicago. Currently, Chicago's minimum wage is $13.50 per hour for "small employers" and $14 for "large employers."
For more information on minimum wage in Illinois, click here.
Shipments of COVID-19 Vaccine to Illinois Expected to be Cut in Half by Feds: Pritzker
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker says that state and local health officials are preparing for smaller shipments of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine in coming weeks, as federal officials have informed states that the original shipments of the treatment will be roughly cut in half.
Originally, an estimated 8.8 million coronavirus vaccine doses were set to be delivered to cities and states across the U.S., but that estimate has been cut in half for each of the next two weeks, Pritzker said.
“Per the direction of Operation Warp Speed’s General Perna, that estimate was tightened significantly down to 4.3 million doses shipped nationally next week. The following week, originally projected for another 8.8 million, is also now also scheduled to be 4.3 million,” Pritzker said.
As a result, the governor says that the move to cut the shipments in half will likely mean that the state and the city of Chicago will also see their own shipments halved as they begin the process of inoculating health care workers.
Pritzker and Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, say that the shipments of the vaccine will continue, but cautioned that projections on how much of the vaccine that the state can anticipate receiving will continue to fluctuate based on the latest information from the federal government.
Some Chicago-Area Hospitals Still Waiting on Coronavirus Vaccine Shipments
As health care workers around the U.S. begin to receive the first vaccinations against the coronavirus, some hospitals across the Chicago area are still waiting on their shipments of the vaccine.
A spokeswoman for Loyola University Medical Center in suburban Maywood said Wednesday that the hospital system was told it would not receive its doses of the vaccine until as early as Thursday. The vaccine was produced by Pfizer and approved for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last week, with shipments sent across the nation beginning Sunday.
Edward Hospital, located in suburban Naperville, was notified Tuesday that it would receive its allotment of 1,950 doses of the vaccine on Thursday. A spokeswoman for the University of Chicago Medicine said early Wednesday that the hospital system had not received its shipment yet but planned to begin vaccinating staff on Thursday pending its arrival.
The Cook County Department of Public Health had also not received its supply of the vaccine, a spokeswoman said Wednesday, anticipating it would arrive Thursday.
Rush University Medical Center said Wednesday the hospital had not received specifics on when its shipment would arrive but a spokesman noted that when they do receive an arrival window, the hospital will have five hours notice before they can begin vaccinations. The spokesman also said it the shipment isn't on site by 1 p.m., that would push the vaccinations to the following day.
Read more here.
Illinois Reports 7,123 New Coronavirus Cases, 146 Additional Deaths Wednesday
Illinois health officials reported 7,123 new confirmed and probable coronavirus cases on Wednesday, along with 146 additional deaths attributed to the virus.
According to the latest data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, there have been 870,600 cases of the virus in the state since the pandemic began, along with 14,655 deaths attributed to the virus.
In the last 24 hours, state officials say 93,278 test specimens have been turned in to state laboratories, bringing the statewide total to 12,055,288 during the pandemic.
The rolling seven-day positivity rate on all tests conducted during that span is currently at 8.5%, while the positivity rate for residents tested for the virus is at 10.3%, officials say.
Hospitalizations related to the virus dipped to 4,793, with 1,045 of those patients occupying ICU beds and 590 on ventilators, according to health officials.
Gov. Pritzker to Hold Daily Update at New Time Wednesday
UPDATE: The governor's press conference on Dec. 16 will instead be held at 1 p.m. Watch live in the player above or here.
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."
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