Illinois reports 190 more deaths, pushing death toll over 14,000
The number of Illinoisans who have died from COVID-19 surpassed 14,000 Friday, the Illinois Department of Public Health announced.
The state reported 190 more deaths Friday from the respiratory disease, an increase from the seven-day average of 155 people.
The news comes as Illinois prepares for initial distribution of a Pfizer Inc. vaccine once it is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said at a briefing.
"Illinois is prepared to quickly get it to our front-line workforce," he said.
The first recipients will be health care workers, followed by residents and caretakers in long-term care facilities, based on federal guidelines.
The state has a panel of experts that also will scrutinize the FDA findings.
"Based on the information to date, our team is optimistic a vaccine can safely move forward," Pritzker said.
"We're definitely ready to start vaccinating our medical staff," said Edward-Elmhurst Health COVID-19 Task Force member Ankur Singal, a doctor. Edward and Elmhurst hospitals are prepared to receive doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which require storage at minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit when frozen.
"It's something we've been working on for 10 weeks," Singal said. "The information has changed and evolved, and we've needed to be flexible and pivot and be prepared for any scenario.
Side effects of the vaccine can include headaches, fatigue and muscle aches. Singal intends to get a shot "without hesitation."
Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital infectious disease specialist Daniel Boyle has fielded questions about the vaccine from health care workers.
He tells them that based on CDC data, the shots are safe and "with the level of COVID-19 we're seeing in the community, I honestly feel the risk of a serious adverse event from the vaccine is less than the risk of getting COVID-19 and possibly very sick."
Boyle added, "I will take the vaccine, for sure."
After medical workers and nursing homes, essential workers and people with serious health conditions will be prioritized for shots, and the general public will follow.
Asked if inoculations would be required at schools, Pritzker noted a COVID-19 vaccine has not yet been approved for young people and it makes sense in the early stages "not to have a requirement. But certainly, I know that we'll be looking at ... as the months ensue ... the idea of where, if any place, there may be some requirement."
There were 9,420 new cases of COVID-19 Friday, higher than the seven-day average of 8,980. But current infections are significantly lower than in November when the average daily tally was 10,278.
The positivity rate for COVID-19 cases measured 9.4% based on a seven-day average. That number is calculated by dividing the number of new COVID-19 cases diagnosed over seven days by the total tests processed. Current case positivity rates are less than November tallies, which averaged 11%.
But December deaths are significantly higher than November averages of 84 people a day. Pritzker noted fatalities are a lagging indicator.
The discrepancies are "maddening to me because people are dying today and it seems like things are getting better on the front end," he said. "If we don't continue to bring infections down and positivity rates down, we'll continue to see these kind of high levels of death every day, and it is devastating."
Illinois hospitals were treating 5,141 COVID-19 patients as of Thursday night; the seven-day hospitalization average is 5,206.
Labs reported 104,448 tests in the last 24 hours.
The total infections statewide now stand at 832,951 with 14,050 deaths.