Officials have narrowed eligibility requirements for appointments at the United Center’s mass COVID-19 vaccination site, sparking confusion and frustration as the Zocdoc booking site was also plagued by glitches.
Meanwhile, more Chicago Public Schools students return to classrooms on Monday for the first time in nearly a year.
And a limited number of fans will be allowed back at Cubs and White Sox games in Chicago this baseball season.
Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic across Illinois today:
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Zocdoc Glitches Plague Registration for United Center COVID Vaccine Appointments
Glitches plagued medical appointment booking website Zocdoc on Sunday as registration for COVID-19 vaccine appointments at the United Center opened to more Chicago residents.
Registration, previously open just to Illinois residents over the age of 65, opened to all Chicago residents eligible under Phase 1B Plus at 4 p.m. on Sunday.
When it opened, the website showed appointments that were available but in some cases did not allow users to book those appointments. Some also reported that they were able to book appointments that were later canceled without explanation.
"On Sunday afternoon, some users experienced difficulty booking a vaccination at the United Center," a spokesman for the company said in a statement." Zocdoc identified and resolved the root issue in less than one hour, and Chicago residents were successfully able to book vaccinations, reaching peak booking rates of more than 750 bookings per minute. Due to high demand, our current allotment of United Center vaccine availability was quickly fully booked."
"We apologize to anyone who was unable to secure an appointment at the United Center, and we will continue to add new appointments to our platform from Chicago vaccine providers as they become available. We look forward to helping more eligible individuals find and book a COVID-19 vaccination," Zocdoc said.
When asked about the users who received unsolicited cancellation emails after booking their appointments, Zocdoc said that issue was related to multiple people attempting to book the same slot.
"At peak booking times, many users were concurrently selecting the same appointment slots. If multiple users were attempting to book the same appointment slot at the same time, and that time slot ran out of availability, some users may have received a cancellation notification if their pending booking was unable to be confirmed," Zocdoc said. "This was an edge case which occurred for fewer than 100 users."
United Center COVID Vaccine Eligibility Changes, Causing Confusion and Frustration
Eligibility for the new United Center mass COVID-19 vaccination site narrowed less than an hour before registration opened further on Sunday, causing confusion and frustration for many seeking to book appointments.
After an exclusive registration period for Illinois residents over the age of 65 that began on Thursday, appointments for the United Center were initially slated to expand at 4 p.m. Sunday to all Illinois residents qualified to get vaccinated under Phase 1B Plus.
But just after 3 p.m. Sunday, officials announced that eligibility would change to include only Chicago residents in Phase 1B Plus, which is anyone over 65, some frontline workers, school staff and more, or anyone 18 and up who has certain health conditions or comorbidities.
For a full look at who's eligible under the expanded Phase 1B Plus, click here.
The last-minute change sparked confusion and frustration for some who had been waiting to book appointments at the new site. The ZocDoc website also appeared to have a glitch on Sunday, showing appointments that were available but not allowing users to book those appointments. Some also reported that they were able to book appointments that were later canceled without explanation.
The change in eligibility was made based on additional Federal Emergency Management Agency guidance, Gov. J.B. Pritzker's office said in a statement, to "ensure equity in vaccine distribution and that the people and communities most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic have access to the vaccine."
During the exclusive registration for seniors, more than 40,000 people over the age of 65 booked appointments at the United Center, all of which will be honored, officials said. But less than 40% of those appointments were made by Chicago residents.
The United Center was selected for the new vaccination site, announced late last month through a partnership with state, city, county and federal officials under a nationwide pilot program, was selected based in part based on its central location and accessibility for a "significantly medically underserved and marginalized population" to bring vaccines to "particularly vulnerable communities."
Read more, including how to register, here.
Coronavirus in Illinois: 1,182 New Cases, 5 Deaths, Nearly 30K Vaccinations Reported
Health officials in Illinois confirmed just over 1,100 new cases of coronavirus and five additional deaths on Monday, with nearly 30,000 doses of the COVID vaccine administered to state residents in the last 24 hours.
According to the latest figures from the Illinois Department of Public Health, a total of 1,182 new confirmed and probable COVID cases were reported over the last day, bringing the state’s total to 1,199,517 cases since the pandemic began last year. The five new deaths bring the state to 20,767 fatalities related to the virus, according to health officials.
In the last 24 hours, state health officials say 39,636 new test specimens were returned to state laboratories, bringing the statewide total to 18.6 million tests performed.
As of Sunday evening, 1,178 Illinois residents were hospitalized due to the virus, the lowest number recorded since the pandemic began to spread last spring. Of those patients, 266 are currently in ICU beds, and 118 are on ventilators as they battle the virus.
According to health officials, the seven-day positivity rate on all tests currently stands at 2.3%, while the positivity rate for individuals tested is at 2.8%, remaining at historic lows during the pandemic.
Nearly 30,000 doses of the vaccine were administered on Sunday. The rolling seven-day average for daily vaccinations now stands at 90,135, according to IDPH officials.
In all, Illinois has been shipped 4,268,375 doses of the vaccine, and a total 4,268,375 have been administered in the state.
Chicago Fans Can Return to Baseball Stands for Opening Day, City Announces
Chicago fans will be allowed to return to the stands at Wrigley and Guaranteed Rate fields this season, but with limitations, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Monday.
Fans will be allowed beginning Opening Day "under limited capacity and guidelines," including a mask requirement.
Guaranteed Rate Field, which normally seats just over 40,000 guests, will be limited to 20%, or 8,122 fans with at least six feet between parties. Wrigley Field will also be limited to 20% capacity, leaving 8,274 fans allowed, compared to the normal capacity of 41,374.
The Cubs are set to kick off their home opener at Wrigley Field on April 1, while the White Sox are scheduled to return home on April 8 after starting their season on the road.
More CPS Students Return to Schools for In-Person Learning
More Chicago Public Schools students return to classrooms on Monday for the first time in nearly a year under the district's phased plan to resume in-person learning.
Students grades 6 through 8 return to schools Monday, after staff for those grades, as well as students in kindergarten through fifth grade returned last week.
Pre-K and cluster program students and teachers returned last month after CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union reached a deal to reopen schools after weeks of acrimonious negotiations over safety protocols, vaccinations and more.
Note: For COVID-19, the herd-immunity threshold is estimated to be between 60 and 90 percent. Our analysis considers herd immunity reached at 75% of the population fully vaccinated based on estimates by Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Suburban High School Student Helping Strangers Obtain COVID Vaccine Appointments
Avi Rubin, a suburban Highland Park high school student, may not fit the current age requirement to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, but he's become quite familiar with the sign-up process.
As the founder of "Vaccine Volunteers IL," Rubin has made it his mission to help complete strangers secure vaccination appointments. So far, he has helped around 70 Illinois residents obtain appointments.
During an interview with NBC 5 Sunday, he offered some advice for people who are signing up on their own.
"Start early at 12 a.m., because you know, appointments are posted throughout the day," Rubin explained. "...Then I've also found that the autofill is a great feature, because cancellations... You won't get those if you're spending 10 minutes filling out your information."
Those looking for assistance in obtaining an appointment can fill out Rubin's online form or text "VACCINE" to 773-780-0074.
Walgreens, Pritzker Acknowledge ‘Issues' and ‘Difficulties' With Booking COVID Vaccine Appointments
Walgreens and Gov. J.B. Pritzker have both acknowledged that the pharmacy chain is experiencing problems with its COVID-19 vaccine sign-up process, as the company's website continues to show no availability or will not allow patients to book available first-dose appointments, frustrating eligible Illinois residents seeking to get their shots.
"In this fluid situation during which vaccine inventory remains limited, our aim is to ensure eligible patients are able to receive vaccinations as soon as possible," a Walgreens spokesman said in a statement on Thursday. "We are continuing to enhance our vaccine scheduler with a great sense of urgency and are committed to providing the most convenient solution for our customers."
"We have dedicated teams actively working through scheduler issues to ensure an easy, secure and transparent experience for all eligible individuals scheduling their vaccinations according to vaccine availability," the statement continued.
In several attempts to book an appointment over the past week, at varying times each day and on multiple devices, the Walgreens site has shown two responses: either no available appointments anywhere in the state, or if appointments are shown, a subsequent page in the registration process says the first-dose appointment cannot be booked because there are no second-dose appointments available.