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.
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."
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 his coronavirus briefing, Pritzker said Illinois, including Chicago, had administered 100,991 vaccine doses as of Tuesday night, the most of any state in 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."
This week alone, Pritzker said 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.
Still, state 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.
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.