COVID-19 deaths surpass 16,000 as vaccines arrive at long-term care facilities
The state's death toll from COVID-19 has surpassed 16,000, Illinois health officials announced Monday.
Officials reported 105 more deaths from the coronavirus and another 4,453 new cases, as national pharmacy chains CVS and Walgreens began vaccine inoculations of long-term care facility residents and workers Monday.
CVS officials said the chain has enough doses to vaccinate 150,000 people throughout the state. Residents and workers at more than 900 skilled nursing homes and assisted living centers throughout Illinois will be serviced by CVS as part of the federal government's rollout of the vaccine.
"Vaccinating one of our most vulnerable populations is the latest milestone in our multifaceted pandemic response," said Karen S. Lynch, executive vice president of CVS Health. "The eventual availability of COVID-19 vaccines in communities across the country will bring us one step closer to overcoming the most significant health challenge of our lifetime."
The pharmacy chain will be able to administer 20 million to 25 million shots nationwide each month, company officials said.
Meanwhile, the state's death toll from the virus has reached 16,074, with 942,362 Illinois residents infected since the outbreak began.
Hospitals around the state reported 4,243 patients being treated for the virus Sunday, 160 more than were hospitalized the day before. Of those hospitalized Sunday, 884 were in intensive care.
The state's case positivity rate now stands at 7.2%, based on a seven-day average. The rate rose slightly after several days of decline.
Seven-day average case positivity rates in Chicago and the suburban counties also increased. The highest rate is in McHenry County, where 10.1% of all the tests taken there over the past week have resulted in a new case. The lowest rate is Chicago's 6.6%. The case positivity rate is calculated by dividing the number of new COVID-19 cases diagnosed by the total tests processed over a rolling seven-day span.
The entire state remains under Tier 3 virus mitigation restrictions, which limit business operations and capacity as well as social gatherings. The state's 11 health regions have been under these restrictions since Nov. 20.
Regions can have the restrictions loosened if three key metrics are met simultaneously. Those metrics are a seven-day average test positivity rate below 12% for at least three consecutive days, hospital and ICU bed availability based on a three-day average above 20% for three consecutive days, and declining hospitalizations based on a seven-day average for at least seven days during a 10-day period.
Currently, Region 8 with DuPage and Kane counties, and Region 7 with Will and Kankakee counties meet those criteria, as does the region that contains just the city of Chicago. However, state health officials and the governor have been hesitant to lift the restrictions because of fears holiday gatherings might eventually cause another spike in cases, hospitalizations and, ultimately, more deaths. A Thanksgiving surge appears to have never materialized, though, so it's unclear if Gov. J.B. Pritzker will be as equally cautious after this holiday break as he was in November.
Elsewhere in the state, regions 1, 2 and 6 also meet the criteria to have restrictions loosened. Region 1, which is the nine counties in northwestern Illinois and contains towns like Rockford, Freeport and Galena, has been under mitigation restrictions the longest of any region. However, its current metrics are some of the best in the state, which health officials point to as proof that these restrictions work, if followed.