Note: Any news conferences from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot or other officials will be streamed in the video player above.
With the potential approval of a coronavirus vaccine on the horizon, residents of a suburban county are already signing up to register for vaccination.
And as the state's top doctor warned of misinformation spreading about the vaccine, health experts are debunking some common myths already circulating.
Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic across the state of Illinois today (Dec. 11):
Illinois Reports 9,420 New Cases of Coronavirus, 190 Additional Deaths Friday
Illinois health officials reported 9,420 new confirmed and probable coronavirus cases and 190 additional deaths Friday.
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, Friday's new cases bring the state’s total to 832,951 since the start of the pandemic, with 14,050 total fatalities.
The state returned 104,448 new tests to state laboratories in the last 24 hours. In total, 11,586,296 tests have been performed since the pandemic began.
Illinois health officials reported a 9.4% seven-day positivity rate, based on the latest data from IDPH, which is 0.1% lower than one day prior.
As of midnight, 5,141 coronavirus patients are hospitalized in the state. Of those patients, 1,081 are currently in intensive care units, and 635 are on ventilators.
Coronavirus in Illinois: Here's How to Check Hospital Bed Availability Near You
If you need to go to the hospital -- for coronavirus or any other reason -- will there be room for you there right now?
The Illinois Department of Public Health issues daily reports on the number of hospital beds and intensive-care unit beds that are currently available in each of Illinois' eleven regions. The state begins to issue warnings when a region's supply of open beds drops below 20%.
According to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health earlier this week, three out of four staffed hospital beds are currently in use statewide.
Track the hospital bed availability near you here.
50K People Sign Up For Suburban COVID-19 Portal, Register for Vaccine
More than 50,000 people have signed up for a vaccine portal started in the Chicago suburbs that allows residents to receive the latest coronavirus updates and register for the vaccine.
Lake County health officials created a COVID-19 portal called "AllVax," allowing residents to sign up for coronavirus updates, schedule appointments and register for the vaccine.
"We're very, very excited and very optimistic that our public is willing and wanting this covid-19 vaccine to get their lives back," Mark Pfister, executive director of the Lake County Health Department and Community Health Center, said.
Pfister explained that people can register for the vaccine by providing their age and any underlying risk factors. Officials will then be able to directly contact them when the vaccine is available.
Lake County expects to receive 6,000 doses of the vaccine in the first shipment within days of approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to a release.
Though Lake County was the first in the state to launch the website, DuPage has also begun the same roll-out plan for its first expected 13,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine.
"We are looking at setting up a site and are in the final stages of identifying these sites so that they are geographically distributed across the county," Karen Ayala, DuPage County Health Department executive director, said.
Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Application Deadline Looms Next Week
The deadline for Illinois small businesses to apply for coronavirus relief grants comes early next week, according to state officials.
In his daily coronavirus briefing, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said small businesses owners have until next Tuesday at 5 p.m. to apply for the Business Interruption Grants.
"Since we launched the BIG program in June, making $540 million available
to small businesses, with $270 million reserved for childcare businesses
specifically – we’ve seen an enormous response, which speaks to the
challenges faced by so many of our small businesses," Pritzker said.
At this point in the pandemic, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity has paid out more than $168 million of the $270 million devoted to small businesses to over 6,300 owners in over 500 cities around the state, Pritzker said.
He added that officials expect to continue using grants through the end of the year until all funding is allocated.
Pritzker said special consideration for the grants is given to businesses most heavily impacted by the pandemic, especially those in downstate communities, along with businesses making an annual revenue of $5 million or less. Businesses that have not received other forms of emergency assistance like the Paycheck Protection Program will also be more specifically considered.
"If you own a small business, or you know someone who does – make sure
they take the time to submit an application if they qualify," Pritzker said.
Illinois' BIG program provides grants ranging from $5,000 to $25,000, according to Pritzker, with an average grant size of $25,000.
IDPH Will Protect Personal Information, Immigration Status Amid Vaccine Distribution: Ezike
Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike confirmed Thursday that residents' personal information, including immigration status, will be protected when officials begin rolling out the coronavirus vaccine.
When asked if individuals' immigration statuses would be required to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, Ezike responded saying the health department would "protect information of all people" who get the vaccine.
"We need to make sure we get numbers for how many people are immunized to know which areas and ethnic groups [receive the vaccine]," Ezike said. "But we will do all we can to protect the status of everyone."
Ezike added that she doesn't want people to be discouraged to receive the vaccine and that the health department will push a message to all communities once a vaccine is approved.
Pritzker Expresses Cautious Optimism as State Continues to Monitor for Post-Thanksgiving Surge
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker expressed cautious optimism Thursday saying the state has not yet seen coronavirus metrics head back in the wrong direction.
During his daily coronavirus briefing, Pritzker said the state has not yet seen a reverse in progress, but that the Thanksgiving COVID-19 surge may still come.
"At the beginning of the week, I said that I was hopeful that some of the recent early improvement in our COVID leading indicators will continue; I’m glad to say that we have yet to see a reversal in our progress that would dash that hope, though again, we are not out of the Thanksgiving surge period yet," Pritzker said.
Pritzker added that Illinois continues to have hundreds more Illinoisans in the hospital fighting COVID-19 than in the spring, but also seeing hundreds below the overall pandemic record set Nov. 25.
Though Pritzker said the state has made progress, he reminded that he cannot overstate how prelimiary the progress has been.
"We are at a time of year where traditional gatherings are usually abundant – and
because of the severity of this pandemic, it’s really never been more important not to do so," Pritzker said.
IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike also reminded people to not gather this year for holiday parties and end of the year celebrations. Instead, she said people should begin planning for an "end of the pandemic party" for next year.
6 Coronavirus Vaccine Myths ‘Debunked,' According to Health Experts
Illinois' top doctor urged residents to seek out verified information on the coronavirus vaccine currently awaiting approval in the U.S., warning of myths and misinformation spreading.
"Know myths from truths," Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said Thursday, warning of "a lot of misinformation" spreading - and not just on social media.
Dr. Sharon Welbel, the director of Hospital Epidemiology and Infection Control for Cook County Health, said she understands some people might have concerns about the vaccine, but she, too, wished to inform people of what is known so far.
Here are some "myths" experts - including Welbel, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and some of the country's top hospitals- have sought to clarify.
1. The vaccine isn't safe because the production of it was rushed
"It wasn't so much about being rushed, it was about being given priority," Welbel said said.
Welbel said that "a lot of resources" were put into the vaccine's development, which helped to shorten the timeframe but that it "still went through the traditional phases of any trial."
Welbel's response was echoed by others in the medical field, including Mayo Clinic.
"This emergency situation warranted an emergency response. That does not mean the companies bypassed safety protocols or performed inadequate testing," the hospital system's website states.
Ezike also said she trusts in the vaccine's "development and approval," saying "what is known of the safety has been evaluated."
2. If I had COVID-19 already, I don't need the vaccine
"We know people develop antibodies, but also know those antibodies can be short-lived," Welbel said. "We know people have reinfected, so the recommendation is that people should get the vaccine if they had COVID-19."
The CDC agrees.
"At this time, experts do not know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19," the agency's website reads. "The immunity someone gains from having an infection, called natural immunity, varies from person to person. Some early evidence suggests natural immunity may not last very long."
Read more here.
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