Following the Food and Drug Administration's full U.S. approval of the Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, Illinois could see an uptick in vaccinations.
Meanwhile, city of Chicago workers will likely see a COVID vaccine mandate in coming days, according to the mayor.
Here's what you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic across Illinois today:
Coronavirus by the Numbers: Illinois Region Nearly Out of ICU Beds as COVID Cases Surge
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As Illinois continues to see a surge in COVID cases and hospitalizations, one of the state’s healthcare regions is being hit especially hard, with just one ICU bed available for an area covering 20 of the state’s 102 counties.
According to the latest figures from the Illinois Department of Public Health, the state’s Region 5, located in the far southern tip of Illinois, there is only one intensive care unit bed available out of the 84 that the region possesses.
That has occurred because the region has seen its intensive care population increase on 29 of the last 30 days, according to IDPH figures. Hospital bed availability has plummeted in that time, and the region’s positivity rate on COVID tests has increased from 8.1% on July 23 to 10.8% as of Aug. 21, the last date for which data is available.
Other regions are currently dealing with ICU bed availability issues as well. In Region 1, located in the northwestern corner of the state, there are currently 21 beds available out of 171 total ICU beds. In Region 4, located next door to St. Louis in the southwestern part of Illinois, there are 22 ICU beds available, and in Region 6, comprised of Champaign County and several other large counties, there are 24 ICU beds available out of 143.
According to IDPH, at least 37 counties in Illinois are at a “warning level” for intensive care unit bed availabilities, meaning that fewer than 20% of the ICU beds in those counties are available.
Pritzker Warns of ‘Significantly Greater Mitigations' If COVID Metrics Don't Decline
Gov. J.B. Pritzker warned Tuesday that if Illinois' COVID metrics don't decline, "significantly greater mitigations" could be imposed in the state.
"We're consistently looking at the menu of options that we may need to impose in order to bring down the numbers," Pritzker said during a press conference. "I will remind you that if we are not able to bring these numbers down, if hospitals continue to fill, if the hospital beds and ICUs get full like they are in Kentucky -that's just next door to Illinois - if that happens, we're going to have to impose significantly greater mitigations."
As of Tuesday, 37 Illinois counties and Chicago were at a "warning level" for intensive care unit bed availability, according to data from the state health department.
For a county to reach "warning level," it must have below 20% ICU bed capacity, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported.
Chicago Travel Advisory: 4 States Added as COVID Cases Continue to Rise
Chicago on Tuesday added four states to its travel advisory, recommending that unvaccinated people entering the city from those areas test negative for COVID-19 or quarantine upon arrival.
The four new states added include: Maryland, South Dakota, Nebraska and Colorado.
The addition brings the total number of states on the advisory to 43 states, along with two territories.
The District of Columbia, which was added last week, was removed after falling below the threshold, city officials said.
Chicago to Mandate COVID-19 Vaccines for City Workers, Lightfoot Says
The city of Chicago will soon instate a vaccine requirement for city employees, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday, however the city has yet to negotiate the specifics with workers' unions.
Speaking to reporters at a news conference, the mayor said discussions with labor unions have been "going on for a couple of weeks" and announcements will be made "in the coming days."
"We absolutely have to have a vaccine mandate, it's for the safety of all involved, particularly members of the public who are interacting with city employees on a daily basis," Lightfoot said. "It's important for colleagues to also feel like they have a workplace that is safe."
Where You Can Get the Pfizer Vaccine in Illinois, Now That FDA Has Granted Full Approval
With the Pfizer vaccine fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration, here's a look at where you can get vaccinated and how to schedule an appointment.
While full approval has been granted for those age 16 and older, the vaccine is still under emergency use authorization for children 12 to 15 years old. During the beginning of the vaccine rollout earlier this year, a number of mass vaccination sites were set up in an effort to vaccinate a large number of people as quickly as possible.
Now with the Pfizer vaccine's full approval, another uptick in vaccinations is possible as the U.S. sees a rise in cases of the rapidly-spreading Delta variant.
Families Concerned About Lack of Physical Distancing at Suburban High School
As cases of the delta variant soar nationwide and worries about COVID-19 grow, some parents and students have expressed uneasiness about the lack of physical distancing at a suburban Berwyn high school.
Videos and pictures from inside Morton West High School show masked students in crowded hallways, cafeterias and classrooms.
Nadia Ortiz, whose daughter, Mylani Hernandez, attends the school, told NBC 5 the lack of distancing simply makes her scared.
Her daughter agrees.
"We are supposed to be social distancing," she said. "Even though we have masks on, it may not help."
In-person classes started Aug. 16 for Hernandez, who is not vaccinated because of a medical condition, according to her mother. Ortiz said she worries about her daughter and other students, as well as teachers and staff, contracting COVID.
Rev Jesse Jackson and Wife Remain Hospitalized for COVID-19
Civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson and his wife, Jacqueline, remained hospitalized Monday after testing positive for COVID-19, family members said.
Jesse Jackson, 79, has been fully vaccinated, receiving his first shot in January at a public event where he urged others to do the same. But Jacqueline Jackson, 77, has not been vaccinated, according to longtime family spokesman Frank Watkins. He declined to elaborate Monday.
The couple, married nearly 60 years, were admitted to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, family members announced Saturday, with their age as a factor. A day later, their son Jonathan Jackson said both parents were resting comfortably at the hospital and “responding positively to their treatments.”
Moderna Vaccine FDA Approval: How Far Behind Pfizer Is It?
Moderna's two-shot and Johnson & Johnson's single-shot vaccines continue to be available under an emergency use authorization.
Moderna announced in June that it had begun a “rolling submission” to the FDA of data from its studies of the two-dose mRNA vaccine.
“We are pleased to announce this important step in the U.S. regulatory process for a Biologics License Application (BLA) of our COVID-19 vaccine,” Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said in a press release at the time. “We look forward to working with the FDA and will continue to submit data from our Phase 3 study and complete the rolling submission.”
That came about one month after Pfizer's submission, which means full approval of its vaccine could still be weeks away.
3rd Dose of COVID Vaccine? What We Know About Booster Shots So Far
With U.S. experts expected to recommend COVID-19 vaccine boosters for all Americans, regardless of age, what will that mean for you?
While no such guidance has so far been issued, an announcement on the U.S. booster recommendation was expected as soon as this week, two people familiar with the matter told NBC News. They spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
U.S. regulators have already authorized an extra dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for people with compromised immune systems, however.
Elected Officials Send Letter to Mayor, CPS Requesting Safer Return to In-Person Learning
One week before classes in Chicago Public Schools are set to resume, 49 elected officials have signed a letter, addressed to Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools, requesting what they call a safer return to in-person learning.
"We all felt that same sense of responsibility to get some answers for constituents, for families, for stakeholders," said State Sen. Cristina Pacione-Zayas, who represents the 20th district.
"I have children in CPS, and I’m trying to understand what they’re going to be walking into and how I can prepare and support them in that effort," she said.
Pacione-Zayas penned the letter along with Ald. Maria Hadden of the 49th Ward. Forty seven others signed on, including State Rep. Kambium Buckner.
Cook County's New Indoor Mask Mandate Takes Effect Monday
Cook County's new mask mandate, which states that everyone over 2 years old must wear a mask indoors, regardless of vaccination status, begins Monday.
Under the new requirements, masks must be worn inside multi-unit residential buildings and public places, including restaurants, movie theaters, retail establishments, fitness clubs and on public transportation, the Cook County Department of Public Health said.
The mandate applies to everyone who can medically tolerate a mask, regardless of vaccination status.
IDES Reminds Illinoisans Enhanced Federal Unemployment Benefits End Next Month
The Illinois Department of Employment Security publicly reminded residents Friday that federal unemployment programs will come to an end on Sept. 4, 2021.
The state noted that "the expiration of these programs has no impact on the state’s regular unemployment system or the claimants receiving regular unemployment benefits."
Expiring programs include the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which provided access to 100% federally funded unemployment benefits to individuals not traditionally eligible to receive unemployment benefits, such self-employed workers.
Pritzker Won't Say What Metric Could Trigger New Mask Mandate in Illinois
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday declined to give a specific metric at which the state might impose another indoor masking mandate, leaving the door open for further mitigations but deferring to local authorities to take action, even as he called the current COVID-19 surge fueled by the delta variant a "very dangerous moment."
When he was asked about his stance on another statewide mask mandate, on the same day a new Chicago order requiring masks in all public indoor spaces took effect, Pritzker demurred.
"Well as you know, I've not been reticent to act when I think it's appropriate to do so on mitigations. And we're always considering every day what next we need to do," he said.
"I applaud the city of Chicago in taking proactive efforts here. I encourage other local governments, whether they be cities or townships or counties to also take proactive steps and we will look at the state level, whether that's an appropriate thing at some moment," he continued, adding that he looks at the state's metrics and talks to the state's top health official every day.