In a matter of hours, Chicago and Illinois are set to enter the next and final stage of reopening.
Here's what you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic across Illinois today:
‘You Did it, Illinois:' Pritzker Says State Will Move to Phase 5 Friday, Making Reopening Official
After nearly 15 months, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has confirmed that the state will move into Phase 5 of its coronavirus reopening plan, eliminating all capacity limits for businesses and large-scale events as COVID metrics continue to drop in the state.
Pritzker, who announced last month that the state was on pace to move into the final phase of its reopening plan, made the official announcement Thursday, citing continuing declines in COVID metrics and increases in vaccinations.
“A strong economy requires that people not only feel safe, but truly be safe, as they go about their lives as workers, neighbors, consumers, and friends – and thanks to the lifesaving power of vaccinations, that day is finally here for Illinois,” Pritzker said in a statement.“I invite all Illinoisans to feel the hope and joy of this moment while also recognizing that this pandemic is still very present for the world at large – not to mention those here at home who have not been or cannot be vaccinated. As we take this next step forward, let’s do so with a renewed commitment to empathy, to community, and to making each day together count. You did it, Illinois.”
Under Phase 5 of the state’s reopening plan, all capacity limits on businesses, large-scale events, conventions and amusement parks will be lifted. Professional sports teams, including the Chicago Cubs and White Sox, will be permitted to have full crowds at their games, and a host of other festivals and concerts are now permitted to move forward.
Those capacity restrictions will also be fully lifted for restaurants and other businesses, according to state officials.
Officials: 1.6% of COVID Deaths Have Occurred in Breakthrough Cases in 2021
As Illinois prepares to move into Phase 5 of its coronavirus reopening plan, state health officials say that the number of so-called “breakthrough” COVID hospitalizations and deaths remains low among those who have been fully vaccinated against the virus.
According to the latest data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, a total of 413 fully vaccinated individuals have been hospitalized because of COVID so far in 2021. Of those patients, 106 died either of COVID or from complications related to the virus.
Those 106 deaths represent 1.63% of the total number of coronavirus deaths that the state has confirmed so far in 2021. According to IDPH data, a total of 6,524 residents have passed away due to COVID so far this year, with 23,014 confirmed deaths during the pandemic.
The CDC defines a breakthrough case of COVID as a case involving a person who tested positive for the virus at least 14 days after becoming fully vaccinated, and hadn’t tested positive in the preceding 45 days.
Arwady ‘Very Confident' Illinois Can Avoid COVID Surge After Moving to Phase 5
While some residents have expressed concerns that rollbacks of coronavirus restrictions could lead to surges in virus cases, Dr. Allison Arwady says that she is “very confident” that case numbers are low enough in the state to prevent a large surge from happening in the early stages of summer.
Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, spoke out about the possibility of a surge Thursday, just one day ahead of the state’s move into Phase 5 of its reopening plan. That phase will remove all capacity limits from businesses and large-scale events, signaling that the state is ready to fully reopen for the first time in nearly 15 months.
“All the modeling looks very good when we look in the short term over the next few weeks,” she said. “So I’m not concerned in the short term about a major spike in COVID.”
Arwady pointed to increases in the number of vaccinated individuals as a key component in the decision to move forward. According to Illinois Department of Public Health data, more than 51% of the state’s adult residents are now fully vaccinated against COVID, with more than 68% having received at least one COVID vaccine dose.
No, COVID vaccines will not make you magnetic, according to Chicago's top doctor.
Responding to social media videos showing people with keys, quarters or magnets sticking to their vaccinated arms, particularly on TikTok, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said "there is nothing magnetic in the vaccine."
"We've talked about what is in these vaccines, there's really very little," she said during a Facebook Live Thursday. "There's the instructions to teach your immune system how to fight off COVID and then there's a little bit of a fat layer to help make sure that that's protected. There's a little bit of salt and sugar to make sure it's at the right pH and it works with your body, and that is it. So, these are false."
Arwady said the social media challenge started circulating as part of "recent myths" on the Internet related to "misinformation that there is a chip or something that is tracking in some way" inside the vaccines.
Coronavirus in Illinois: 366 New COVID Cases, 18 Deaths, 62K Vaccinations
Health officials in Illinois reported 366 new confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus on Thursday, along with 18 additional deaths and more than 62,000 new vaccine doses administered.
In all, 1,386,628 cases of coronavirus have been reported in the state since the pandemic began. The additional deaths reported Thursday bring the state to 23,014 confirmed COVID fatalities.
The state has administered 42,403 tests over the last 24 hours, bringing the total to more than 25 million tests conducted during the pandemic.
More on Illinois' COVID stats.
15 Cases of COVID-19 Delta Variant Reported in Chicago So Far, Top Doc Says
Chicago has so far reported at least 15 cases of the new Delta variant of coronavirus, the city's top doctor said Thursday, noting, however, that it is not the dominant variant in the city.
Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said during a Facebook Live that the Delta variant, which was first detected in India, is responsible for a little more than a dozen cases in the city.
Officials at the federal level say they are aiming to get more Americans vaccinated as quickly as possible so the Delta variant can’t gain more of a foothold in the United States.
“In the UK, the Delta variant is rapidly emerging as the dominant variant. It is replacing the B.1.1.7 (strain),” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Tuesday. “We cannot let that happen in the United States.”
More on the Delta COVID variant.
When is Phase 5 in Illinois?
Illinois is set to fully reopen this week and enter Phase 5 of the state's reopening plan.
The new stage begins Friday, but last week Gov. J.B. Pritzker released the guidelines for what exactly it means for residents.
While the phase is set to mark a full reopening, beginning on June 11, not all restrictions will be lifted.
Complete guide to Phase 5.
White Sox Return to 100% at Guaranteed Rate Field on June 25
The White Sox will return to 100% capacity at Guaranteed Rate Field starting with a June 25 against Seattle.
The announcement Wednesday came five days after the Chicago Cubs said they will move to 100% at Wrigley Field for their June 11 game against St. Louis. More than half the 30 big league teams have announced returns to full capacity.
The White Sox said the June 25 game will be followed by postgame fireworks. Season ticket holders will return to their regular locations, and seating pods will be eliminated.
IDPH to Offer Saliva-Based COVID Testing for Elementary School Students
The Illinois Department of Public Health says it is offering no-cost and low-cost COVID-19 testing supplies to elementary schools across the state, continuing its push to allow in-person education to take place later this year.
According to an IDPH press release, schools will be given access to the saliva-based covidSHIELD test, developed by scientists at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The test is designed to quickly detect coronavirus, including its variants, even among people who are not showing symptoms.
“As we move closer to returning to how we lived pre-pandemic, it is critically important that we identify cases of COVID-19 as quickly as possible to help prevent outbreaks, which could ultimately lead to new surges,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement. “Offering testing in schools, along with vaccination and masking, can help protect students, staff and teachers when in-person learning resumes.”
Schools will receive test results within 24 hours of specimens reaching a lab, according to the release. The saliva-based tests are also being offered to middle schools and high schools across the state.
Chicago Museums to Stay Open Late One Night to Mark City's Move to Full Reopening
Chicago museums at select locations across the area will remain open late Friday to ring in the city's move into a full reopening in Phase 5, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced.
"One of the best ways we can celebrate our city's reopening is by spending time at our renowned museums, which have undergone so many challenges over the course of this past year," Lightfoot said. "That's why I am thrilled that so many of our most iconic museums will be opening their doors until late this Friday night to give residents and visitors a headstart on returning to a sense of normalcy."
Starbucks Confirms Shortage as Illinois Customers Report Supply Troubles
Starbucks confirmed Wednesday that the company is experiencing "temporary supply shortages" of some products as customers in Illinois report supply issues on social media.
"Specific items will vary by market and store, and some stores will experience outages of various items at the same time," Starbucks spokesperson Sanja Gould told NBC Chicago in a statement. "We apologize for the inconvenience and are working quickly and closely with our supply chain vendors to restock items as soon as possible."
The spokesperson declined to say which products were experiencing shortages and did not say if the shortages were hitting the Chicago area specifically.
The statement comes as some customers took to social media to complain of some supply problems in the area, however.
More on the Starbucks supply shortage.
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