Chicago has announced changes to its reopening plan as the city faces "worrying increases" in COVID health metrics.
Meanwhile, the Cook County COVID vaccine registration website saw roughly half a million hits per second during the latest appointment drop on Wednesday, causing the site to crash for some users.
And are you thinking of traveling for spring break? Here's a look at what you need to consider first.
Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic across Illinois today:
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Can You Get COVID After Being Fully Vaccinated? Chicago's Top Doc Breaks it Down
Can you get coronavirus after being fully vaccinated? The answer is yes, but what are the odds?
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady sought to answer that question during a Facebook Live Thursday, noting that while infection post-vaccination is possible, it's also rare.
"If you have been vaccinated, you can get COVID," Arwady said. "It does not happen very often."
Read more here.
Chicago Announces Reopening Changes Amid ‘Worrying Increases' in Metrics
Chicago has announced changes to its reopening plan as the city faces "worrying increases" in COVID health metrics and aims to prevent "a third surge of the virus in Chicago."
The city said it plans to keep most of its indoor restrictions in place, but outdoor capacity limits will increase at some establishments.
According to the new guidelines, the updated capacity limits, which take effect immediately, include:
- Bars and Restaurants: Maximum outdoor table size can increase to ten people, with tables set up so that patrons are six feet from patrons at other tables
- Social Events (e.g. weddings, potlucks and other community events): Total outdoor capacity can increase to the lesser of 50% or 100 people
- Performance Venues, Theaters and Seated Spectator Events: Outdoor venues with capacity greater than or equal to 200 can operate at 25% capacity. Smaller venues can operate at no more than 50% capacity or 50 people.
- Outdoor Recreation: Maximum groups of 50; multiple groups permitted
- Places of Worship: No outdoor capacity limit provided that six feet of social distancing is maintained between parties
- Health and Fitness Centers: Outdoor classes can increase to 100 people
Chicago's COVID Metrics Have Increased ‘Alarmingly' in the Past Week, Officials Say
Chicago's coronavirus metrics have shown "worrying increases" in recent weeks, officials said Thursday, noting that "most alarmingly," the daily number of new COVID cases in the city has risen into the "high risk" category due to five straight days of increases.
The Chicago Department of Public Health previously set four metrics to determine the city's eligibility to move forward in its reopening plan. On Thursday, city officials said all four metrics have increased in the last week, three of them "significantly." Here's where they stand as of Thursday:
- COVID cases diagnosed per day: currently averaging 365, in the “High-Risk” level and up 23% in the last week
- COVID test positivity: currently averaging 3.4%, in the “Lower-Risk” level and up 18% in the last week
- Emergency Department visits for COVID-like illness: currently averaging 73 per day, in the “Moderate-Risk” level and up 38% in the last week
- ICU beds occupied by COVID patients: currently averaging 73, in the “Lower-Risk” level and up 3% in the last week
Cook County Vaccine Sign-up Got 500K Hits Per Second During Appointment Drop, Crashing Website for Some
The Cook County COVID vaccine registration website saw roughly half a million hits per second during the latest appointment drop on Wednesday, causing the site to crash for some users as demand for the vaccine continues to dwarf available supply.
Cook County released about 16,000 first-dose COVID vaccine appointments at 12 p.m. on Wednesday for five suburban vaccination sites in Des Plaines, Forest Park, River Grove, South Holland and Riverside.
Cook County Health's Chief Communications Officer Caryn Stancik said Thursday that the website saw 500,000 requests per second for those appointments during the drop. That spike caused technical problems for many users, some of whom complained on social media that the registration had crashed entirely. All of the appointments were booked in about two hours, Stancik said.
St. Patrick's Day Gatherings Could Be Driving Rise in COVID Metrics: Arwady
Gatherings involving young people, possibly in celebration of St. Patrick's Day, could be behind the rising coronavirus metrics being reported in Chicago this week, the city's top doctor said Thursday.
"I think we have definitely seen, you know, young people gathering, including in situations like St. Patrick's Day, broadly driving some of this increase," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a Facebook Live Thursday.
According to Arwady, it appears young adults are seeing the largest increase in cases in recent days, a concerning trend reminiscent of last fall's surge.
Coronavirus in Illinois: 2,190 New COVID Cases, 35 Deaths, 118K Vaccinations
Health officials in Illinois on Thursday reported 2,190 new coronavirus cases and 35 additional deaths, along with more than 118,000 vaccinations in the past 24 hours.
According to figures from the Illinois Department of Public Health, the 2,190 new confirmed and probable COVID cases reported in the last day brought the state’s total to 1,229,898 cases since the pandemic began last year.
The 35 new deaths lifted the state's death toll to 21,171 fatalities related to the virus, according to health officials.
Loretto Hospital COO Resigns Amid COVID Vaccine Controversies
The board of trustees at Chicago’s Loretto Hospital has unanimously accepted the resignation of COO/CFO Dr. Anosh Ahmed, one of the central figures in an ongoing controversy over the hospital purportedly giving well-connected people early access to the coronavirus vaccine.
The board announced the decision on Wednesday evening. The hospital has been under intense scrutiny for several weeks, as reports from Block Club Chicago and WBEZ have linked hospital officials with special coronavirus vaccination events held at the businesses of high-profile individuals connected to the hospital’s board.
Chicago Employers Cannot Take Action Against Workers for Time Off to Receive COVID Vaccine
A new Chicago ordinance says employers cannot take adverse action against an employee for taking time off to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, providing similar worker protection to last May's coronavirus legislation.
The city's vaccine anti-retaliation ordinance protects employees from being fired or retaliated against for taking time to receive a coronavirus vaccination, causing employers to potentially face fines between $1,000 to $5,000 for violations.
Read more here.
Thinking of Traveling This Spring Break? Here's What You Should Know First
Thinking of traveling for spring break? Chicago's top doctor urged residents to think twice, unless they are fully vaccinated.
"My strongest piece of advice is, please do not travel until you are fully vaccinated - two weeks post your second vaccine," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said. "And that is doubly true if you're planning to travel internationally, because the US has done by far the most vaccines of any country in the world."
Even those who are vaccinated, Arwady said, should continue wearing masks and maintaining their distance.
Arwady's advice comes on the heels of guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which on Monday again advised against travel.
Read more here.
DuPage County Expands COVID Vaccine Eligibility to Phase 1B Plus
DuPage County moved to Phase 1B Plus of its COVID-19 vaccinations on Wednesday, expanding eligibility to residents age 16 or older with specific health conditions and disabilities, officials announced.
According to the DuPage County Health Department, over 174,000 residents will become eligible under Wednesday's new expansion to include more underlying health conditions.
“Although vaccine supply remains extremely limited, we are making significant progress in vaccinating some of the most vulnerable people in our communities,” Karen Ayala, executive director of DuPage County Health Department, said. “Getting vaccines into the arms of our residents is our highest and most urgent priority."
Health officials reminded that residents eligible in Phase 1A and Phase 1B remain prioritized to get the COVID-19 vaccine and can make appointments as new times become available.
To sign up for the vaccine or receive more information, click here.
What is Driving the Rise in COVID Cases in Chicago? Data Points to One Age Group
What's behind the latest rise in coronavirus cases in Chicago?
According to Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady, it appears one particular age group is seeing the largest increase in cases in recent days, a concerning trend reminiscent of last fall's surge.
"So the biggest thing driving this is increases in cases in our younger adults, and I want to highlight that," Arwady said during a press conference Tuesday. "Unfortunately, these sorts of increases are just what we were seeing in October as we were starting to see the beginnings of what became our huge surge. It was really the same case rates and younger adults that started this."
Read more here.
What Chicago Health Officials Are Watching for to Determine if Another Surge is On the Way
Chicago's top doctor said rising COVID metrics have her "worried," but as for whether or not they signal the beginning of a third surge in the city, there's one thing she's watching for.
"I don't know fully what's going to happen here," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said. "I do know that we are pushing vaccine absolutely as quickly as we can, ramping up our monitoring for the variants we are seeing...and continuing to ask people to do what has gotten us this far. If we see a big increase in cases not accompanied by an increase in hospitalizations or deaths I don't worry about that as much. But if we start to see it impacting in serious ways, you know, and then the big question is what does this mean for reopening?"
Arwady said health officials tracked indicators in the lead-up to the previous two surges to find ways to predict another potential increase.
Read more here.
Pritzker Receives COVID Vaccine
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker received his dose of the COVID vaccine on Wednesday, getting the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine in Springfield. Pritzker received his vaccine days after more essential workers - including government employees - became eligible in Illinois on Monday.
Innovative Express Care Blames ‘Communication Breakdown' for ‘Misallocated' COVID Vaccine Doses
Innovative Express Care on Wednesday blamed a "communication breakdown" with the city of Chicago after health officials said the clinic "knowingly misallocated" thousands of COVID vaccine doses intended for Chicago Public Schools employees.
The Chicago Department of Public Health on Tuesday announced that it had halted vaccine supply to Innovative Express Care, the health provider contracted to vaccinate CPS employees, after city officials said the provider "administered vaccine to non-CPS individuals without prior authorization."
CDPH said it had stopped distribution of vaccine doses to Innovative Express Care and that it would reclaim all vaccine stored with the provider - a decision Innovative Express Care on Tuesday said left them "bewildered, saddened, and frankly disappointed in our local government."
Innovative Express Care said Tuesday that CDPH "never made it clear" that they "should be storing vaccines in a refrigerator for people awaiting second doses."
"Rather, we have been following the nation’s commitment to get as many vaccines in eligible patients’ arms, as quickly as possible. Our mission involved vaccinating as many eligible patients as quickly as possible, and not at the whims of the city official’s latest political crisis," the provider 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.
When Can You Get the COVID Vaccine in Illinois? Here's a Breakdown
When can you get the COVID vaccine in Illinois? The answer is: it depends. While Illinois is expanding its eligibility guidelines, Chicago is on its own plan.
Eligibility will expand to all residents over the age of 16 outside of Chicago in April, Gov. J.B. Pritzker has announced. But some people are already eligible or will become eligible before then.
Here's a look at who is eligible to get the vaccine now and who will become eligible in the coming weeks.
Looking for a COVID Vaccine Appointment in Illinois? Here's a List of Places to Check
With both Illinois and Chicago opening vaccinations to millions of residents under varying guidelines, many are wondering where they can get vaccinated and how they schedule an appointment.
There are several ways eligible residents will be able to get vaccinated, but state officials have urged patience as doses continue to trail demand.
Click here for a breakdown of where you can get vaccinated and how to get an appointment, when available.