Illinois health officials announced Wednesday that the state saw a record-high number of coronavirus vaccines administered in a 24-hour period.
In a press conference Wednesday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the more than 53,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine administered Tuesday marked a one-day high for Illinois, expressing optimism that vaccine shipments - limited nationwide by what state and local officials have said is low federal supply - would increase in the coming weeks.
A total of 53,628 doses were administered Tuesday, officials said, lifting the total number of vaccine doses given in the state to 773,623, including 117,983 for long-term care facilities. The latest figures brought the 7-day rolling average administered daily to 33,698 doses, according to Illinois Department of Public Health data.
"We believe that the ramp up of the number of those who get vaccinated and the vaccines is just beginning," Pritzker said.
Pritzker on Wednesday pushed back on claims that Illinois ranks near the bottom of all 50 states for COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
The New York Times' tracker of vaccine distribution across the country ranks Illinois 44th of all 50 states for percentage of the population that has received at least the first of two doses of the vaccine, with 4.7% of Illinois residents having received at least their first dose.
The tracker also ranked Illinois at 43rd in the U.S. for percentage of doses used, noting that Illinois has administered 48% of vaccine doses that it has received.
As of Tuesday night, 1,253,300 coronavirus vaccines had been delivered to providers across Illinois, while 537,050 doses had been allocated to the federal government’s Pharmacy Partnership Program for long-term care facilities, IDPH said. That brought the total number of doses sent to Illinois to 1,790,350.
Republican Illinois state Sen. Dan McConchie tweeted the New York Times story on Tuesday, writing that the state's metrics are "unacceptable."
"The governor must accelerate the rollout to save people’s lives and livelihoods," he added.
But Pritzker pushed back on McConchie during a news conference Wednesday, saying that the "real numbers" paint a different picture - though he did not immediately provide specific figures in refuting that claim.
"I think Sen. McConchie isn't paying attention to the numbers," he said. "The real numbers are that we have separated out the number of doses that are necessary for all of our long-term care facilities and that is taking time to roll out, that's being done by a federal partnership. If you take all of those doses out and remove the number of second doses that have been delivered to the state of Illinois… When you take all of those out, actually, we're doing quite well as a state at getting the administration of vaccinations, putting them in people's arms."
Pritzker said that while the more than half a million doses that have been allocated to the federal program appear as though they've been delivered to the state, they've actually been sent to CVS, Walgreens and those vaccinating nursing homes under that program.
"The other portion that I talked about is second doses," he added. "Those are being delivered and not administered. Why? Because if you're not ready for your second dose, which has to be three to four weeks after the first dose, then it sits in storage waiting for you because we don't want you to have received a first dose, and then get three weeks later, four weeks later and find there's no second dose. So those doses have to be put aside, but those are included in a large number that get reported as if those are all available immediately to push it into people's arms. They're not."
Pritzker said the state is "not even allowed to dip into" the second doses that have been shipped to Illinois and put into storage, though he did not immediately provide a specific number of how many of the more than 1.2 million doses received in Illinois so far (excluding the federal program) have been set aside for second doses.
Health officials on Wednesday reported 3,751 new cases of COVID-19 as well as 81 additional deaths attributed to the virus in Illinois.
According to IDPH, Wednesday's new cases brought the statewide total number of confirmed cases to 1,112,181 since the pandemic began. The fatalities reported Wednesday lifted the death toll to 18,964.
In the last 24 hours, Illinois officials said 80,124 test specimens were returned to state laboratories, putting the state at 15,633,443 tests performed during the pandemic.
The seven-day rolling positivity rate on all tests was 4.5%, down slightly from the day before. The positivity rate for unique individuals tested also dropped slightly to 5.6% Wednesday.
As of Tuesday night, 591 patients in Illinois were in intensive care units, while 300 were on ventilators.
Illinois entered Phase 1B of its vaccination plan Monday, opening up vaccinations to people age 65 years and older as well as "frontline essential workers," which includes first responders, education workers like teachers and support staff, childcare workers, grocery store employees, postal service workers and more.