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' latest vaccination update shows the state has topped 125,000 doses so far as part of its vaccine rollout.
But new concerns over whether the vaccines are being administered fast enough have sparked questions.
Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic across the state of Illinois today (Dec. 30):
Officials Continue To Monitor For Any Potential Cases of New COVID-19 Variant In Illinois
The variant strain of COVID-19 has now been identified in the United States, as Colorado reported its first confirmed case and Gov. Gavin Newsom of California reported the strain has also been detected in southern California.
“This is not a new strain of the virus. It’s just a variant of a strain that we are dealing with right now,” said Dr. Aniruddha Hazra with the University of Chicago Medical Center.
Researchers in the UK warn this new variant is significantly more contagious and doctors in Chicago said it’s possible that the new variant has been spreading in Illinois—we just don’t know it yet.
“I think it’s possible certainly,” said Dr. Michelle Pricket with Northwestern Medicine. “We have not been testing specifically for it. Our tests are more looking for just the general version of the virus. The way you find these variants you have to do a full sequencing is my understanding.”
Dr. Hazra weighs in on the possible spread in Illinois.
“The fact that there’s a community case in Colorado with no sorta linkage to travel or what not most likely means its community spread here in the United States already. Whether not it’s truly in Illinois or not we can’t say for sure, but in the end I don’t think it really matters we should just be prepared and act as that variant is here," Hazra said.
Despite fears about the speed with which the virus will spread, both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines are believed to be effective against the new variant.
“Everything we’re hearing is that the vaccine should be suspectable to this new variant,” said Prickett.
While there is more to be learned about the new variant, such as how widely the it has spread and how it compares to other strains, doctors in Chicago said people should continue to wash their hands, social distance, and stay within their households to prevent the spread.
Calculate Your Spot in Illinois' Coronavirus Vaccine Line
Vaccinations for health care workers are underway in the Chicago area and across Illinois.
When could you and your family get the coronavirus vaccine, according to rollout recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine?
Find your estimated spot in line by selecting your Illinois county and answering the questions in the tool here to calculate your risk profile.
'It Was That Quick': Teen Died 3 Days After Being Hospitalized With COVID-19, Mom Says
A Tinley Park mom says her daughter died just three days after the otherwise healthy teen was hospitalized with coronavirus just before Christmas.
Sarah Simental, a Lincoln-Way East senior who just turned 18 last month, first reported a minor headache on Dec. 16, her mother Deborah Simental said. The next day, she began feeling congested and had a sore throat.
"My immediate thought was these are symptoms of COVID," Deborah Simental said.
Outside of her home, Simental had only seen her boyfriend prior to experiencing symptoms, her mother said.
On Friday, her symptoms continued as she developed a fever, chills and vomiting.
Saturday morning, her mother took her to get a coronavirus test and that evening her results came back positive.
Early Wednesday morning, Simental went to Silver Cross Hospital after she started experiencing pain in her left shoulder. While there, her oxygen levels dropped and Simental was placed on a ventilator and taken to the intensive care unit.
By Christmas day, the 18-year-old was being airlifted to University of Chicago Medical Center and on Dec. 26, she passed away.
"It was that quick," Deborah Simental said. "No underlying conditions at all. She was a very healthy, 18-year-old young lady. We were proactive with health, we had all gotten flu shots and knew the importance because I stressed it all the time when it comes to social distancing and making sure we had masks."
Read more of the Simental family's story here.
Illinois Reports 7,374 New Coronavirus Cases, 178 Additional Deaths Wednesday
Health officials in Illinois reported 7,374 new confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, along with 178 additional deaths attributed to the virus.
According to the latest data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, the state has now reported 955,380 cases of the virus since the pandemic began, along with 16,357 total fatalities.
Over the last 24 hours, 74,573 new tests returned to labs across the state. In all, 13,178,017 tests have been performed during the pandemic, according to IDPH data.
The state's seven-day positivity rate for tests sat at 8.9% Wednesday, while the positivity rate for cases was 7.6%. Both numbers mark increases from a day earlier.
Hospitalizations in the state decreased Wednesday to 4,244 patients receiving care for the coronavirus. The number of patients in intensive care units dropped to 884, while there are currently 496 patients on ventilators in the state due to COVID-19.
Jewel-Osco Says Free Vaccines 'Coming Soon'
Jewel-Osco is preparing to receive doses of the coronavirus vaccine, saying in an email to customers that free vaccines were "coming soon."
According to the grocery chain's website, COVID-19 vaccines will be coming to its pharmacies in the near future. People are being urged to sign up for vaccine information.
Pritzker: More Than 125,000 Doses of COVID-19 Vaccine Administered in Illinois
Amid growing concerns about the slow rollout of the coronavirus vaccine in the United States, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office says that more than 125,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered so far in the state.
According to the latest figures, 126,211 doses have been administered statewide since they were first delivered earlier this month.
The state has thus far received 108,225 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, with 161,400 doses of the Moderna vaccine also shipped to the state so far. Those numbers do not include the doses that have been sent to the city of Chicago, according to officials.
According to Bloomberg, of the 124,425 doses of the vaccine that Chicago has received so far, just 20,353 have been administered to patients, reflective of a growing problem where doses of the vaccine could potentially expire before they are administered.
Chicago Public Schools Releases New Details on Reopening Plan
Chicago Public Schools released new details for its reopening plan in the new year as the coronavirus pandemic continues, aiming to bring in students as soon as Jan. 11.
For staff members who applied for non-medical accommodations as students begin to return, CPS said the district is providing additional supports such as COVID-19 testing and launching a process to ensure employees who serve as primary caregivers for high-risk household members are granted accommodations.
"While the district cannot guarantee every one of these caregiver requests will be granted a remote work accommodation, we expect that we will grant the vast majority of their requests," CPS said.
For any staff who indicated that childcare is a barrier for them returning to in-person work, the district said they can request for their child to attend the student's regular school four days per week instead of two. CPS reminded that students in grades K through 8 will attend school two days per week in the hybrid model.
"Health and safety are the district’s highest priorities and accommodations for remote work have been granted to all teachers and staff who have documented medical conditions as defined by the CDC, and where possible, accommodations were also granted to staff who live with someone with a high-risk medical condition, or who face child care challenges," CPS said in a statement.
Read more here.
Illinois Reports 5,644 New Coronavirus Cases, 106 Additional Deaths Tuesday
Health officials in Illinois reported 5,644 new confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, along with 106 additional deaths attributed to the virus.
According to the latest data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, the state has now reported 948,006 cases of the virus since the pandemic began, along with 16,179 total deaths.
Over the last 24 hours, 66,786 new tests returned to labs across the state. In all, 13,103,444 tests have been performed during the pandemic, according to IDPH data.
The state's seven-day positivity rate for tests sat at 8.8% Tuesday, while the positivity rate for cases was 7.4%. Both numbers mark increases from a day earlier.
Hospitalizations in the state ticked upward on Tuesday to 4,313 patients receiving care for the coronavirus. The number of patients in intensive care units dropped to 904, while there are currently 506 patients on ventilators in the state due to COVID-19.
Chicago Updates Travel Order With Only 2 States Below Quarantine Threshold
Chicago health officials updated the city's coronavirus travel order Tuesday, leaving only two states below the threshold requiring a quarantine upon arrival in the city.
As of Tuesday, 34 states were categorized as "red" states, meaning travelers must quarantine for 10 days when coming to Chicago.
That number is up from weeks past.
Fifteen states plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia were listed as "orange," meaning they require a quarantine or negative test prior to arrival in Chicago. That list now also includes: Connecticut, Wisconsin, Maryland, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Michigan, North Dakota, Washington and Oregon.
Only two states, Hawaii and Vermont, were listed as "yellow," meaning a quarantine is not required when entering or returning to the city - though health officials have long warned against any non-essential travel and continue to urge strict adherence to public health guidelines like wearing masks, social distancing and avoiding gatherings.
Dr. Arwady Gets Coronavirus Vaccine as Chicago Launches New Vaccination Site
Chicago's top health official received her first dose of the coronavirus vaccine on Tuesday as the city launched a new vaccination site for health care workers.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady was vaccinated at the site at Malcolm X College, where the city's COVID-19 vaccine "Point of Dispensing (POD) site" opened for health care workers who are not affiliated with a hospital, officials say.
"I am really, really pleased to be able to get my vaccine today. I have absolutely no hesitation about it. I've been anxious to get it. But I did not want to jump my place in line," she said, noting that the city has first been vaccinating hospital-based health care providers in accordance with federal guidance.
Read more here.
IDES Prepares to Implement Unemployment Program Extensions Passed in Federal COVID Relief Bill
The Illinois Department of Employment Security is preparing to pay out new unemployment benefit funds authorized by the COVID-19 relief bill signed into law by President Donald Trump over the weekend, but is also asking for more guidance from the Department of Labor to ensure prompt payment of those benefits.
In a press release issued Monday, IDES officials say they are urging authorities not to “create further hardship,” and criticized the president for his “inaction” after he delayed signing the relief package earlier this month.
The new relief bill, in addition to authorizing payments to U.S. residents, also included extensions for several key programs, including Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) benefits and Extended Benefits programs.
These programs all expired on Dec. 26 under the provisions of the original CARES Act, which was passed in March, but were all extended by the new COVID-19 relief package. Lawmakers have warned of potential payment delays because of Trump’s objections to the bill, which he raised only after the House and Senate voted to approve the measure.
Read more here.