Note: Any news conferences from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot or other officials will be streamed in the video player above.
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams visited Chicago Tuesday, offering a blunt warning.
Meanwhile, Chicago officials shut down two parties on the city's Near North Side over the weekend with dozens of people in attendance, including one that involved a $100 entry fee.
Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic across the state of Illinois today (Dec. 23):
Church Pleads For Toy Donations as Demand Surges Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
As the need grows for holiday gifts amid the coronavirus pandemic, a Chicago toy drive is asking for more donations to meet the increased demand this year.
Rev. William Melvin Jones, pastor at Sanctuary Church in Chicago, said volunteers have been working around the clock to bring Christmas to children across the city.
"We are going to be here all night long," Jones said.
For more than 24 years, the Chicago Toy Depository at Sanctuary Church has been answering Christmas letters from children, preparing toys and filling stockings for typical several hundred families.
This year, however, the church received more than 1,000 requests for toys and food in light of the financial struggles people are facing during the coronavirus pandemic. In a message Wednesday, the Chicago Toy Depository said they are still in "desperate" need of 800 toys.
"Let the Lord touch their hearts where they would come out and help us," Jones said.
When Will Indoor Dining Return in Illinois? Pritzker Weighs In
With statewide metrics appearing to gradually improve, when might Illinois see the return of indoor dining?
According to Gov. J.B. Pritzker the answer isn't so concrete.
Currently, Illinois is under Tier 3 mitigations, but even if the state returns to Tier 2 mitigations, indoor dining would still be suspended.
It's not until Tier 1 that indoor dining can return with capacity limitations, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health's website.
"What we don't want to do is yo-yo back and forth between Tier 3, Tier 2 and that would not open bars and restaurants either way," Pritzker said Wednesday. "We do want to get everything open as soon as possible. We are heading, generally speaking, in the right direction."
Pritzker noted that while some metrics have been declining, hospitalizations have risen over the last few days, increasing by more than 100.
"That's concerning," the governor said. "So we're going to keep a very close eye on it. I'm the first one to want to move the regions down to Tier 2 and Tier 1 and back to Phase 4 as soon as possible but we also want to make sure that we've crushed this growing number of cases and growing number of hospitalization and that we do not have, as we do now, a very, very large number of ICU patients."
Pritzker said he plans to watch the numbers through the holidays.
"We'll get there, I believe, shortly and we want to see how the Christmas and New Year's holidays go," he said.
For more information, click here.
Illinois Administers Most COVID-19 Vaccine Doses of Any US State, Pritzker Says
Within the first full week of vaccinations, Illinois has administered the most COVID-19 vaccine doses compared to any other state nationwide, officials announced Wednesday.
In a coronavirus briefing, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Illinois, including Chicago, has administered 100,991 vaccine doses as of Tuesday night, which is the most of any state across the U.S.
"By sheer population, California is three times our size and Texas is two and a half times our size, so they will outpace us in sheer numbers at some point this week," Pritzker said. "But the vaccine team in Illinois sprinted past them all in week one."
Pritzker added that Illinois received 23,400 Pfizer vaccine doses outside of Chicago, 15,600 Pfizer doses to the City of Chicago and 37,050 Pfizer doses set aside for long term care vaccinations next week. In addition, the state will receive 174,000 Moderna vaccine doses outside of Chicago and 48,000 doses going directly to the city.
For more on the coronavirus vaccine in Illinois, click here.
Illinois Reports 6,762 New Coronavirus Cases, 135 Additional Deaths Wednesday
Illinois health officials reported 6,762 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, along with 135 additional deaths attributed to the virus.
The latest numbers from the Illinois Department of Public Health bring Illinois' statewide total to 918,070 probable or confirmed cases of coronavirus since the pandemic began.
Wednesday's 135 additional fatalities bring the state to 15,547 deaths as a result of the pandemic, according to IDPH data.
Over the last 24 hours, 82,328 test specimens were returned to state laboratories, according to IDPH data.
In all, 12,688,071 tests have been performed in the state since the pandemic began.
The state's positivity rate for tests sat at 9%, the same as the day before, while the positivity rate for cases was 7.5%, up slightly from 7.4% on Tuesday.
The state saw its hospitalization numbers increase slightly again on Wednesday, with 4,593 patients hospitalized. Of those, 953 are currently in intensive care units and 536 on ventilators.
Gov. Pritzker to Give COVID-19 Update at Noon
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is set to give a coronavirus update for the state just ahead of the Christmas holiday Wednesday.
Pritzker is expected to deliver remarks virtually at noon, according to his public schedule. (Watch live in the player above)
Details on what the governor plans to discuss weren't immediately released.
The remarks come just one day after U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams joined Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike and Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady to discuss the city and state's vaccine rollout plans.
During a press conference after visiting a Chicago hospital, which he said had reached capacity in its intensive care unit due in part to the coronavirus pandemic, Adams issued a blunt holiday warning.
"Even if you don't personally feel at risk from COVID, your actions still can have an impact on you, your family and your community in other ways that you might not think of," he said after a visit to Saint Anthony's Hospital. "That full ICU, it's full because there are COVID patients pushing it over the top. But that means if you have a heart attack, there might not be room in the end. It means if you get in a car wreck on icy road, they may not have a bed for you. It means that if your sister or your wife goes into labor, there may not be space in the hospital for you. So it is critical that we continue this holiday season to do the things that are working."
Adams said that while Illinois is "fortunately moving in the right direction... the numbers still aren't where we need them to be." He said while the start of vaccines is the beginning of the end, residents must "remain vigilant."
"Even if you weren't doing the safest thing that we recommend and keeping it within your household, things such as quarantining yourself now - because every person you interact with now is a person whose bubble has now infiltrated your bubble and potential for you to take virus home to someone this Christmas - things like making sure you've got plenty of ventilation in your home environment, and making sure you've got plenty of hand sanitizer and that people are practicing good hand hygiene," Adams said. "Again, we want you to be as safe as possible. But if you can't keep it within your household, we still want you to think about how you can have a safer holiday season. I want you to have hope because a lot of people are fatigued. A lot of people are asking when this is going to end and I want you to know that I'm actually incredibly optimistic based on these two vaccines now being available, that that we do have a finish line in sight."
US Postal Service Dealing with ‘Historic' Volume of Holiday Mail
If you mailed-out holiday gifts weeks ago thinking the packages would arrive in plenty of time for Christmas Day, you may want to check the status of the delivery.
The United State Postal Service said it is dealing with a historic record of holiday volume.
“This negative impact is compounded by the temporary employee shortage due to the COVID-19 surge, as well as ongoing capacity challenges with airlifts and trucking for moving this historic volume of mail,” said USPS spokesperson Tim Norman.
The American Postal Workers Union said nearly 19,000 postal employees are currently in quarantine after either contracting, or being exposed to, the coronavirus.
“You have to understand that we’ve had people exposed to the virus. They’ve had childcare issues or they’re not able to come to work,” said APWU Local 1 Chicago president Keith Richardson.
Richardson said the postal workers are working with management to make sure that the packages and letters are delivered on time before the holidays.
The USPS said its 644,000 employees continue to work diligently to address issues and remain focused on delivering the holidays and beyond for the nation.
Phase 1A COVID-19 Vaccinations Could Last Through February: Arwady
Phase 1A of COVID-19 vaccinations could last through part of February, Chicago's top doctor announced Tuesday.
During a coronavirus briefing, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said the initial groups will likely take through mid-February to vaccinate. She added that, for some, they will only have received the first dose of the two before the city begins vaccinating other populations.
"So while we are in Phase 1A, which again, is December, January, February, the focus is on health care workers and long term care facility residents," Arwady said. "We will be starting to stand up like I mentioned some of these larger points of dispensing, to be able to make sure that all healthcare workers are able to be vaccinated."
Arwady said the city will put up its first mass vaccination site next week, which will allow for health care workers to be more rapidly vaccinated.
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who visited Illinois Tuesday to examine the state's vaccine rollout, said he hopes to have half the adult population nationwide vaccinated by the end of February.
U.S. Attorney's Office Warns of Potential Scams Related to COVID-19 Vaccine
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the northern district in Illinois is warning residents to be on the lookout for fraud schemes related to the release of new coronavirus vaccines.
In a press release Tuesday, residents were warned that scammers could potentially use a variety of tactics to steal money as vaccines from Moderna, Pfizer and other companies potentially hit the market in coming weeks and months.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office is saying that there isn’t a way for residents to “jump the line” for COVID-19 vaccines, warning against giving personal information out over the phone or online to unknown entities.
“Scammers often use telemarketing calls, text messages, social media postings and door-to-door visits to perpetrate fraud,” U.S. Attorney John Lausch Jr. said in a statement. “The fraudsters may falsely offer the vaccine or early access to it in exchange for money or personal identifying information, such as Social Security numbers or medical history.”
Residents are encouraged to contact their health care providers directly for information the vaccine, including when they will be eligible to receive it.
The office also offered several other tips for residents to help steer clear of scams related to the vaccine.
Who's Next in Line to Receive COVID-19 Vaccination in Illinois
Coronavirus vaccinations in Illinois have begun in accordance with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state health officials said, starting with health care providers.
Based on data from the CDC, health care workers are in the 1A group, or of the first people to receive the COVID-19 vaccine statewide.
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health website, the following groups of individuals will be prioritized in the initial phases of the vaccine rollout:
- Health care personnel and residents of long term care facilities
- Essential frontline workers, including first responders
- People with high risk medical conditions, as well as adults over 65 years of age
During the next vaccination phase, Phase 1B, first responders such as firefighters, police officers and teachers would likely receive the vaccine. Individuals in occupations such as corrections officers, U.S. postal workers, public transit workers and grocery store employees would likely also be next in line to receive a vaccination, according to CDC data.
Based on information from an Advisory Committee Immunization Practices meeting Sunday, essential workers and individuals between the ages of 16 and 64 with high-risk medical conditions could be next to receive the vaccine.
Any recommendations made by the ACIP must then be passed to the CDC for approval and official recommendations. As of Tuesday, the CDC has not officially said the order in which all vaccinations will occur, nor the timing.
Read more here.
2 Chicago Parties Shut Down by City, Including One Charging $100 Entry Fee
Chicago officials shut down two parties on the city's Near North Side over the weekend with dozens of people in attendance, including one that involved a $100 entry fee.
The city's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection said two illegal parties with over 50 guests were shut down Sunday morning.
The first was located at 409 W. Huron St. and involved roughly 66 people in a fourth floor commercial space, authorities said.
"The establishment was charged $100 at the door and serving alcohol, with a DJ providing entertainment," BACP said in a statement.
Officials said those in attendance were not social distancing and were not wearing face coverings. The establishment was cited for violating the city's COVID-19 restrictions and for "unlicensed activity." The location was also ordered to close by the Department of Buildings "for hazardous and dangerous conditions."
Authorities also said 83 people were discovered in an "illegal, unlicensed event in a residential apartment" at 107 W. Hubbard St. Again, no face coverings were worn and no social distancing was witnessed. Guests were also charged an entrance fee and a DJ was playing, officials said.
The person leasing the apartment was cited for violating restrictions and unlicensed activity and was also cited by the Department of Buildings "for hazardous and dangerous conditions," according to BACP.
Six other businesses were cited since Friday for allowing indoor dining or drinking. They include Wood on Halsted Street, Firewater Saloon on Oliphant Street, Ted's Cocktail Lounge on Madison Avenue, New China Buffet on Madison Avenue, Labriola Cafe on Michigan Avenue and Creative Kids Zone on Easy 71st Street.
US Surgeon General Says New Coronavirus Variant in UK May Already Be in US
A newly detected coronavirus variant spreading around the United Kingdom could already be circulating in the U.S., Surgeon General Jerome Adams said Tuesday.
Speaking in Chicago, Adams said the variant sparking concern in the UK has already been detected in multiple countries and has been circulating for weeks, possibly even months.
"This variant is already in at least three to four other countries, it's been identified," Adams said alongside Illinois' and Chicago's top public health officials. "This variant has also been around actually for several weeks to months in other places and so there's a chance that the variant is already here. What we need to emphasize to people is that the United States is connected to the rest of the world whether we want it to be or not and the most important thing that we can do is double down on our public health measures."
Adams stressed that SARS-coV-2, which causes COVID-19, has already mutated over 20 times this year alone. Though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the new version's "rapid change from being a rare strain to becoming a common strain has concerned scientists in the UK."
"There is no indication thus far that this new variant will be resistant to vaccines," Adams said, adding however that "there may be a day when we do have a variant that doesn't respond to these vaccines and that's OK too because that's what happens with seasonal flu."
Adams said the greater concern comes ahead of the holidays this week and next.
"My level of concern about this is not so much about the variant, it is about the fact that we need people to be particularly cautious this holiday season about taking safety measures because even if this viral variant does turn out to be more contagious, it doesn't change," Adams said. "It only emphasizes further the important of washing our hands, wearing our masks, watching our distance and waiting to gather."
Illinois Reports 6,239 New Coronavirus Cases, 116 Additional Deaths Tuesday
Illinois health officials reported 6,239 new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, along with 116 additional deaths attributed to the virus.
According to the latest numbers from the Illinois Department of Public Health, Illinois now has 911,308 probable or confirmed cases of coronavirus during the pandemic.
Tuesday's 116 additional fatalities bring the state to 15,414 deaths as a result of the pandemic, with another 1,257 deaths classified as “probable” COVID-19-related fatalities, according to IDPH data.
Over the last 24 hours, 84,764 test specimens were returned to state laboratories, according to IDPH data.
In all, 12,605,743 tests have been performed in the state since the pandemic began.
The state's positivity rate for tests sat at 9% while the positivity rate for cases was 7.4%. Both numbers mark a decline from one day earlier.
The state saw its hospitalization numbers increase slightly Tuesday, with 4,571 patients hospitalized, 981 of which are currently in intensive care units and 557 on ventilators.
Illinois Expects to Receive Moderna, More Doses of Pfizer Vaccine This Week
Illinois plans to receive its first shipments of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine as well as additional doses of the Pfizer vaccine this week, state officials said Monday.
Last week, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker expressed concern about reduced shipments of the Pfizer vaccine, saying that the state had been informed the federal government was anticipating a reduction of nearly 50% in the number of doses it was able to deliver to states in the following two weeks.
Army General Gustave Perna, the COO of Operation Warp Speed, said officials were working hard to provide accurate numbers to states, but that he was forced to lower allocations of the vaccine because of limits in the amount of “releasable doses."
As of Monday, more than 63,000 Illinoisans had received the first doses of the vaccine, according to a spokesman for Gov. Pritzker. The provided number does not include vaccinations in the city of Chicago.
Unlike the first doses of Pfizer's vaccine, which were sent to Illinois' Strategic National Stockpile and then distributed to hospitals, the doses expected in the coming days will be directly shipped to hospitals.
Approximately 60,450 doses of the Pfizer vaccine are slated to be delivered Tuesday and Wednesday, the governor's office stated. A large portion of the aforementioned doses will be allocated to long-term care facilities, and will be administered by Walgreens and CVS through a federal partnership.
Those vaccinations will begin the week of Dec. 28, state officials said.
The remaning 20,000 doses will be directly shipped to hospitals with ultra-cold storage, which is necessary for the Pfizer vaccine, and will be given to health care workers.
Approximately 174,000 doses of Moderna's vaccine are expected to be delivered to hospitals on a rolling basis starting Wednesday and Thursday.
On Sunday, U.S. Marshals escorted the first vials of the Moderna vaccine from a Mississippi warehouse to the FedEx Corporate Headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee, where the vials were distributed. The first vials headed to 4,000 destinations nationwide.