Gov. J.B. Pritzker has announced that all Illinois residents age 16 and older outside the city of Chicago will become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine next month.
Pritzker also unveiled an overhaul of Illinois' reopening plan, including changes to the current Phase 4 and a new "Bridge Phase" before the state can fully reopen in Phase 5.
Meanwhile, Chicago says it will withhold first doses of the coronavirus vaccine from Loretto Hospital amid controversy over improper vaccinations of Trump Tower employees as well as Cook County judges.
And Cook County will open new vaccination appointments at 12 p.m. Friday as the county prepares to move into Phase 1B Plus next week.
Feeling out of the loop? We'll catch you up on the Chicago news you need to know. Sign up for the weekly Chicago Catch-Up newsletter here.
Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic across Illinois today:
First Ever Double Lung Transplant Between COVID Patients Performed in Chicago
Chicago doctors completed one of the first known double lung transplants from one former coronavirus patient to another.
The procedure not only made history, according to Chicago doctors, but is also opening doors for donors and recipients as demand increases because of the pandemic.
The history-making procedure lasted about 10 hours, almost double that of a traditional lung transplant. The recipient was an Illinois man in his 60s, who had a severe COVID-19 infection, according to Northwestern Medicine.
Dr. Ankit Bharat, Northwestern Medicine’s director of the lung transplant program, said the patient was on ECMO life support for four months and on a ventilator since May 2020.
He said the lungs came from a donor who had a mild case of COVID-19, but died from an unrelated matter.
Read more here.
Lightfoot Honors COVID Victims, Outlines Next Steps in Chicago's Recovery
Calling on Chicagoans to help build a "better, more equitable and inclusive city," Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Friday detailed what she referred to as "bold actions" to help residents recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Marking the one-year anniversary of the pandemic, Lightfoot led a moment of silence in remembrance of the 5,000 Chicagoans who died from COVID-19 in the past year.
"This has been a year of loss. A year of pain," the mayor explained during her evening address at City Hall. "But through that shroud of pain and grief, Chicago has continued to be the resilient city that we have always been."
Lightfoot touted the city's creation of the Racial Equity Rapid Response Team, which addressed "the horrific number of Black folks dying from COVID" and "the disproportionate impacts of the virus in the Latinx communities."
Looking ahead to the future, the mayor pledged that "no longer will ZIP code determine destiny."
Read more here.
Cook County COVID Vaccine Appointments Booked as Region Opens Up to 1B Plus
All first-dose appointments at Cook County's community vaccination locations were booked as of Friday afternoon as the county prepares to expand coronavirus vaccine eligibility to include those in Phase 1B Plus.
Registration for the appointments opened at 12 p.m. on the Cook County vaccine website. Appointments could also be made by calling the county's hotline at (833) 308-1988 on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
But as of 3 p.m., the county's website displayed a message that read "There are no more first dose appointments available at Cook County Community Vaccination locations."
"Please be patient," the website states. "We anticipate vaccine supply to increase in the coming weeks."
Read more here.
Chicago Works to Expand Outdoor Dining With New Design Initiative
As the city continues to administer thousands of COVID-19 vaccines, Chicago officials announced a new design initiative in hopes to expand outdoor dining.
The Chicago Alfresco initiative provides an opportunity for businesses and community organizations to obtain a grant for designing long-term outdoor dining spaces, according to a release.
Chicago Alfresco guidelines promote designs that show a sense of "ownership, belonging and safety" through physically transforming the space while engaging with the community, officials said.
All design plans must be for a six-month minimum, with priority given to those made for three years, according to the city's website. Proposals can be created for the following project types: existing plaza programming; street and alley activation; and curbside use.
The first round of proposals for Chicago Alfresco will be accepted until April 15 and be approved by April 30. For people looking to learn more information, a virtual webinar will be held March 26 at 3 p.m.
Read more here.
Loretto Hospital Vaccinated Members of CEO's Suburban Church
Chicago's Loretto Hospital, which is at the center of controversy for improperly vaccinating a number of city residents and workers, also vaccinated members of its CEO's suburban church, according to video obtained by NBC 5.
Oak Forest's Valley Kingdom Ministries International honored Loretto Hospital CEO and President George Miller for his role in bringing the vaccine to the church during a service on Feb. 28. In accepting his award from the church, Miller acknowledges that he and the church's leader are longtime friends.
In a statement, Loretto said Miller "reached out directly to CDPH before the hospital agreed to provide vaccines to eligible recipients at his church."
"CDPH informed Mr. Miller that as long as the recipients lived, worked, or received medical care in the city and were 1A or 1B-eligible they could be vaccinated," the statement read.
Read more here.
Essential Workers Will Be Eligible for COVID Vaccine in Illinois This Month, State Announces
Essential workers not currently eligible under Illinois' Phase 1B Plus will soon qualify for the COVID vaccine under new eligibility guidelines released by the state Friday.
According to the updated guidance, Illinois will expand eligibility beginning Monday to higher education staff, government workers, and media. Then, beginning March 29, food and beverage workers, construction trade workers, and religious leaders will be eligible for the vaccine.
Chicago Withholding 1st Doses of COVID Vaccine From Loretto Hospital Amid Controversy
The Chicago Department of Public Health says that it will withhold first doses of the coronavirus vaccine from Loretto Hospital after officials admitted that members of its staff improperly vaccinated employees of Chicago's Trump Tower, as well as more than a dozen Cook County Circuit Court judges.
The CDPH confirmed that it will not send shipments of first doses to the hospital, but said that it will allow residents who received their first dose of the vaccine at the hospital to receive their second doses in the coming days.
"The hospital will not receive first doses until we can confirm their vaccination strategies and reporting practices meet all CPDH requirements," the department said in a statement.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot also released a statement, saying that the city "will not tolerate providers who blatantly disregard" CDPH guidelines.
COVID Vaccine Cook County Appointments Open Friday for Phase 1B Plus
Cook County will release new COVID-19 vaccine appointments on Friday for all Illinois residents qualified in Phase 1B Plus as the county prepares to expand eligibility.
Registration for the appointments will open to all eligible Illinois residents at 12 p.m. on the Cook County vaccine website. Appointments can also be made by calling the county's hotline at (833) 308-1988 on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The Cook County Department of Public Health announced Wednesday that it will move to Phase 1B Plus beginning Monday, expanding eligibility to residents 16 years of age or older with specific health conditions.
All vaccine providers in suburban Cook County have been asked to move to Phase 1B Plus, as will the state-supported mass vaccination sites in the area. Those sites are:
- The Tinley Park Convention Center, 18451 Convention Center Drive
- South Suburban College, 15800 State St. in South Holland
- Triton College, 2000 5th Ave. in River Grove
- A former K-Mart at 1155 E Oakton St in Des Plaines
Those mass vaccination sites were previously only administering vaccine allocated for Cook County, but CCDPH said that beginning next week, they will receive additional vaccine supply to enable the sites to serve all eligible Illinois residents.
As such, the appointments made available on Friday will be open to Illinois residents who are qualified to get vaccinated in Phase 1B Plus as well as in Phase 1A or the earlier iteration of Phase 1B, which largely included certain essential workers.
Illinois National Guard to Assist Vaccination Efforts in McHenry, Lake Counties
Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Thursday that the Illinois National Guard will be deployed to the Lake County Fairgrounds to help bolster coronavirus vaccination efforts at the site, while a mobile vaccination team will now assist health officials in McHenry County to boost numbers there.
Read more here.
Batavia COVID Vaccine Hub Set to Open Friday
Kane County officials announced Thursday that a new mass vaccination site, called the Kane Vax Hub, will open in Batavia Friday.
The site will be located at 501 N. Randall Rd., in what was formerly a Sam's Club store. It will be will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, depending on vaccine supply, but only those currently in priority groups 1A, 1B and 1B+ are eligible for appointments, official said.
Illinois COVID Vaccine Eligibility Will Expand to All Adults Outside Chicago in April, Pritzker Says
Eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine will expand to all Illinois residents over the age of 16, except for those in the city of Chicago, beginning on April 12, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Thursday.
"At that date, all state-supported mass vaccination sites, local health departments, pharmacy partners – in short, every jurisdiction that receives vaccine from the State of Illinois’ allocation – will be instructed to move to widespread eligibility," Pritzker's office said in a statement.
All vaccinations will remain by appointment only, officials said, noting that "making an appointment to receive a shot may take time."
Pritzker's office also noted that residents who are not currently eligible to receive the vaccine cannot yet schedule an appointment for a future date, asking for patience in the days and weeks after April 12 as appointments "may be limited."
Why Chicago Won't Be Included When Illinois Expands COVID Vaccine Eligibility
Chicago residents won't be included when Illinois opens COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to anyone age 16 and older next month. Why won't the city expand eligibility alongside the rest of the state?
Chicago receives its supply of vaccine from the federal government allocated separately from the state. As such, the city operates on its own framework and timetable.
Chicago officials announced Wednesday that the city will enter Phase 1C of COVID vaccinations on March 29, expanding eligibility to all remaining essential workers like servers, bartenders, hair stylists and more, along with residents who have qualifying underlying health conditions.
"While we are hopeful that we can expand eligibility to include all residents relatively soon, the ability to do so will depend on vaccine supply," a spokeswoman for Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement Thursday. "We have established a comprehensive and efficient vaccine distribution system and will be ready when vaccine supply increases, and if that happens sooner than expected it's possible we could adjust our timeline. For now, we will continue to prioritize essential workers and seniors, and we look forward to moving to Phase 1C in a week and a half."
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said during a Facebook Live broadcast Thursday morning that the city "will for sure expand to everyone" by May 1.
Pritzker acknowledged Thursday that the city operates independently of the state but said he hoped Chicago officials would expand quickly.
"I hope that it will move expeditiously toward opening up even more. That's what we're doing across the rest of the state of Illinois. And I think that it will be hard for the city if people… who live just beyond the city borders are able to get an appointment to go get vaccinated, but people who are within the city may not be able to because they haven't opened that up," he said.
Note: For COVID-19, the herd-immunity threshold is estimated to be between 60 and 90 percent. Our analysis considers herd immunity reached at 75% of the population fully vaccinated based on estimates by Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Illinois Face Mask Mandate Remains as State Looks Ahead
Even as Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced new metrics and guidelines aimed at transitioning the state to a full reopening, he made it clear that face mask requirements will remain in place.
"Illinois will lift its face covering requirement when the CDC recommends it," Pritzker said Thursday, crediting public masking as a primary reason why the state can afford to look ahead to a new reopening phase. "Masks have been one of our best ways to reduce risk in this pandemic, and we won’t be so foolish as to throw away our best weapon heading into the last lap of the fight."
State masking mandates were put into place by Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health on May 1, 2020.
IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike on Thursday echoed Pritzker, urging the state not to lose its momentum in the fight against coronavirus and noting "we absolutely will not have any mask-burning parties."
"We in Illinois know the importance of masks," Ezike said. "We know that we still need to avoid crowds ... and keep our distance."
How Soon Could Illinois Reach Phase 5, a Full Reopening?
How soon could Illinois reach Phase 5 of its reopening plan, marking a full reopening for the state? The answer might be sooner than you think.
As Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced new metrics for the state to fully reopen, a spokesperson for the governor's office said Phase 5 could come as early as May - should vaccinations continue on pace and cases remain steady or decline.
"I think there's a kind of an expeditiousness if you look at these metrics that we've set and how fast things are going into people's arms," Pritzker said. "We're really headed on a very good trajectory to get to Phase 5."
Pritzker Announces Changes to Phase 4 COVID Restrictions Under New Reopening Plan
Illinois' reopening plan is changing, but not just in the future.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Thursday that in addition to a new transition phase the state must reach before Phase 5, there are also changes being made to the current Phase 4 guidelines.
Under a new rule, anyone with proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 PCR test within one to three days of an event or outing will not count toward capacity limits.
In addition, lower-risk activities that were either not permitted or allowed at a lower capacity have been expanded in Phase 4.
Read more here.
Pritzker Announces New ‘Bridge Phase' Aimed at Getting Illinois to Phase 5
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Thursday new metrics and guidelines aimed at transitioning the state to a full reopening, unveiling what he called a "Bridge Phase" that would allow for higher capacity limits prior to entering Phase 5.
The new phase allows for higher capacity limits at places like museums, zoos and spectator events as well as increased business operations, the state announced, but masks will continue to be mandated.
The updated guidelines bridge the gap between Phase 4, which the state is currently in, and Phase 5, which would mark a complete reopening and requires a widely available vaccine or highly effective treatment.
According to the governor, the so-called Bridge Phase "will serve as a transition period with higher capacity limits and increased business operations, without prematurely embracing a reckless reopening before the majority of Illinoisans have been vaccinated."
All of Illinois will move through the Bridge Phase and Phase 5 together, once they meet the required metrics, unlike previous tiered mitigations.
In order for Illinois to advance to the Bridge Phase, the entire state must reach a 70% first-dose vaccination rate for residents 65 and older, in addition to maintaining the current required metrics of at least 20% ICU beds availability and holding steady on hospitalizations for COVID-19 or COVID-like illnesses, mortality rates and case rates over a 28-day monitoring period.
Coronavirus in Illinois: 2,325 New COVID Cases, 34 Deaths, More Than 91K Vaccinations Reported
Health officials in Illinois on Thursday reported 2,325 new coronavirus cases and 34 additional deaths, along with more than 91,000 vaccinations in the past 24 hours.
According to figures from the Illinois Department of Public Health, the 2,325 new confirmed and probable COVID cases reported in the last day brought the state’s total to 1,216,090 cases since the pandemic began last year.
The 34 new deaths lifted the state's death toll to 21,022 fatalities related to the virus, according to health officials.
In the last 24 hours, state health officials say 89,817 new test specimens were returned to state laboratories, bringing the statewide total to 19,389,098 tests performed. According to health officials, the seven-day positivity rate on all tests currently stands at 2.4%, while the positivity rate for individuals tested is at 2.7%, both a slight increase from the day before.
As of Wednesday evening, 1,120 Illinois residents were hospitalized due to the virus. Of those patients, 252 were in ICU beds and 100 were on ventilators.
A total of 91,684 doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in the past 24 hours, a drop from the more than 102,000 shots given the day before, IDPH said. The latest figures brought the rolling seven-day average for daily vaccinations to 99,210. In all, Illinois has received 5,587,315 doses of the vaccine and of those, a total of 4,375,171 have been administered across the state.
Are You Eligible? Here's Who Qualifies for COVID Vaccine Under Chicago's Phase 1C
As Chicago prepares to expand vaccine eligibility to more residents as it moves to Phase 1C later this month, who will become eligible?
Phase 1C, set to begin on March 29, will include those with underlying health conditions and essential workers like restaurant employees, those in personal care services, retail workers and more, officials announced Wednesday.
But the list of underlying conditions is not the same as the one being used for the state's Phase 1B Plus. Vaccinations at city-run sites will also be limited to city residents only.
For a full list of who is eligible in Chicago's Phase 1C, click here.