Note: Any news conferences from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot or other officials will be streamed in the video player above.
Illinois vaccinated more than 100,000 people in its first week, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said, the most of any state in the U.S.
Plus, when might indoor dining return? Pritzker gave a complicated answer on what's next for Illinois.
Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic across the state of Illinois today (Dec. 24):
United Airlines to Require Travelers From UK to Show Negative Test When Flying to Chicago
Amid concerns over a newly detected coronavirus variant spreading around the United Kingdom, United Airlines announced Thursday that it will require all travelers from the U.K. flying to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport to show proof of a negative coronavirus test.
According to the airline, anyone traveling from London Heathrow to Chicago, Newark, Washington Dulles and San Francisco must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of their departure starting on Monday.
"The health and safety of our employees and customers is our highest priority," the airline said in a statement. "United has been a leader in enacting new policies and innovations designed to keep employees and passengers safer when traveling, including mask mandates and requiring customers to complete a 'Ready-to-Fly' checklist before the flight acknowledging they have not been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last 14 days and do not have COVID-related symptoms."
The latest requirement will apply to any traveler over the age of 5 and can include molecular or antigen tests. Those with connecting flights at LHR whose travel originated from another country will be exempt, the airline said.
This month, United has been operating four daily flights from London Heathrow to its four U.S. hubs.
Illinois Reports 7,037 New Coronavirus Cases, 96 Additional Deaths Thursday
Illinois health officials reported 7,037 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday, along with 96 additional deaths attributed to the virus.
The latest numbers from the Illinois Department of Public Health bring Illinois' statewide total to 925,107 probable or confirmed cases of coronavirus since the pandemic began.
Thursday's 96 additional fatalities bring the state to 15,643 deaths as a result of the pandemic, according to IDPH data.
Over the last 24 hours, 94,909 test specimens were returned to state laboratories, according to IDPH data.
In all, 12,782,980 tests have been performed in the state since the pandemic began.
The state's positivity rate for tests dropped to 8.9%, down from 9% the day before, while the positivity rate for cases was 7.2%, down from 7.5% on Wednesday.
The state saw its hospitalization numbers decrease slightly on Thursday, with 4,488 patients hospitalized. Of those, 944 are currently in intensive care units and 518 on ventilators.
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.
"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.
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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.
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