What to know about 'Phase 1b' COVID-19 vaccinations
Nearly 8% of Illinoisans have contracted COVID-19 since the pandemic began, with infections surpassing 1 million Thursday.
Meanwhile, officials are preparing for a second wave of vaccinations -- likely in late January or February -- that now will include those 65 and older after Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday expanded the pool from age 75 and up.
Health officials are pointing to county websites, listed below, where people can keep up-to-date on vaccination procedures and in some cases register for eventual vaccination. But many details are still being worked out for how mass vaccinations will work and when they will begin for those in the large "1b" group.
Public health departments are "developing systems to identify those in tier 1b and build the infrastructure," said physician Greg Huhn, Cook County Health's employee vaccination coordinator.
"It will include clinics, it will include large chain pharmacies. It may involve large venues," he said.
Under federal guidelines, front-line health care workers and long-term care facility residents are getting vaccinated first as part of Phase 1a. Next up are 3.2 million people in Phase 1b comprising anyone 65 and older and essential workers, meaning people who can't work at home or who must work closely with others.
First responders, teachers, transit workers, manufacturing employees, prison workers and inmates, postal workers, grocery store workers, and shelter and day care staff members are among those in this group.
"Illinois will be in Phase 1a for a few more weeks and then move to Phase 1b," Illinois Department of Public Health spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said Thursday.
Illinois ranks fifth in vaccinations compared to seven surrounding states, with 1,681 inoculations per 100,000 people, and Pritzker said he will activate the National Guard to assist.
The vaccination rate is 2,353 per 100,000 in Iowa, 2,114 per 100,000 people in Kentucky, 1,847 per 100,000 in Missouri, 1,839 in Indiana, 1,411 per 100,000 in Wisconsin and 1,381 per 100,000 in Michigan, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
The IDPH also reported 8,757 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, the highest since Dec. 11, and 177 more deaths, bringing total deaths to 17,272.
Total infections statewide stand at 1,008,045 -- and the largest segment of cases, people in their 20s, make up 18.5%, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Those age 30 to 39 follow at 16%, then people in their 40s at 15.4% and 50-somethings at 14.9%.
Children and teenagers make up 14.5% of cases or 146,618, a number that has nearly quadrupled since early October.
More women than men get the disease, 51.6% to 46.6%; nearly 2% did not report gender.
Among the more than 1 million cases were the Del Mars of Palatine. Five out of eight family members, including a 5-year-old, contracted COVID-19 over the Christmas holidays. The family has largely recovered, but "the effects of the COVID-19 virus not only put my family through the physical pain and discomfort that come with being sick but also the stress and anxiety of the potential deadly effects that we read about every day," said Aaron Del Mar, Palatine Township roads commissioner.
Nearly 49% of people who die from the respiratory disease are 80 and older in Illinois.
In a partnership with the federal government, Walgreens and CVS pharmacies are providing vaccines to long-term care facilities. CVS has provided 12,807 shots in Illinois, excluding Chicago; Walgreens did not have tallies.
The staff and residents at Lutheran Home in Arlington Heights began getting vaccinated Wednesday.
"For senior living communities, these vaccines provide great hope," Corporate Communication Director Rex Paisley said. "Within Hearthstone assisted living on the campus of Lutheran Home, resident opt-in for the vaccine has eclipsed 95%, and may reach 100%."
The positivity rate for cases of COVID-19 stands at 8.5% based on a seven-day average.
Illinois hospitals were treating 3,921 patients with COVID-19 as of Wednesday night, the IDPH reported. That's higher than the seven-day average of 3,896.
"I'm looking forward to the next chapter as we double down with vaccinations ... to get to where we approach the end game for COVID-19," Huhn said. "I'm still in for the fight."
What you can do now
Local public health sites will offer updated information on the vaccine and how it will be administered, and in some cases people can register to be notified when they can be vaccinated.
• The Cook County Department of Public Health has information on vaccines at cookcountypublichealth.org/communicable-diseases/covid-19/covid-vaccine.
• The DuPage County Health Department offers vaccine updates by email at dupagehealth.org/667/COVID-19-Vaccine.
• The Lake County Health Department offers a vaccine registry at allvax.lakecohealth.org.
• The McHenry County Health Department has vaccine information at mchenrycountyil.gov/county-government/departments-a-i/health-department.
• The Will County Health Department offers vaccine information and a survey at willcountyhealth.org.