1.9 million hits in first hour for Cook website offering COVID-19 vaccination appointments
Illinois' daily tally of people getting COVID-19 vaccinations remained below the seven-day average, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported Tuesday, but it's not for lack of interest.
As proof, "our website this morning saw nearly 1.9 million hits in the first hour," Cook County Department of Public Health spokeswoman Deborah Song said. She was describing the onslaught of people trying to hook up with vaccinations at a second Cook County mass inoculation site opening Wednesday at Triton College in River Grove.
"We booked more than 3,400 appointments in the first 35 minutes," Song said. "At its peak, the website experienced 65,810 hits in a single minute, which can slow down some of the functionality."
Statewide, a total of 32,559 shots went into arms Monday compared to the seven-day average of 44,139.
The state has received 1,951,925 doses of vaccine since distribution began in mid-December, and 1,028,969 people have been inoculated. So far, 227,362 people -- 1.78% of Illinois' 12.7 million residents -- have been fully vaccinated. Vaccines manufactured by Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. require two doses several weeks apart.
The frenzy in Cook County is reflected across the region as residents report frustration with long waits on vaccination websites, only to learn appointments are unavailable.
"The demand for vaccines continues to outpace the supply that is currently in the United States," Song said. "We are as anxious to provide vaccinations as individuals are to receive them, but we are asking residents to remain patient."
Illinois infection rates and hospitalizations continue to trend down, providing optimism for Jonathan Pinsky, Edward Hospital's medical director of infection control and prevention.
"We've seen a large decrease (in admissions) in the last month," Pinsky said, noting 30 patients were admitted last week compared to 115 a week in mid-November, during the state's second virus surge.
Edward and other hospitals began vaccinating front line workers in mid- to late December. Now that many are fully inoculated, "I think people are really excited," Pinsky said. "They feel a bit safer taking care of patients and knowing that the end is in sight."
Another hopeful sign is that vaccinations for long-term care residents, who make up about 49% of COVID-19 deaths, are wrapping up, he said.
"We're really getting to the point where we would expect, either this week or in the next couple of weeks, for that population to have immunity," Pinsky said.
Illinois is currently inoculating four groups: health care workers, long-term care residents, people age 65 and older, and essential workers such as police, teachers and grocery store employees.
Cook County is promising four new mass vaccination sites in the coming weeks. But "at this time, appointment availability remains extremely limited," Song said. "We are building local capacity so that when supply increases in the coming weeks and months, we will have the infrastructure in place to ramp up immediately."
The state reported 47 more deaths from the virus Tuesday and 2,304 new cases. The seven-day infection average is 3,212.
Illinois hospitals were treating 2,447 COVID-19 patients as of Monday night. The seven-day hospitalization average is 2,624.
The state's seven-day average positivity rate is now at 3.9%.
Total cases statewide stand at 1,130,917, and 19,306 Illinoisans have died since the pandemic began.
Labs processed 60,899 virus tests in the last 24 hours.
Meanwhile, Chicago's Department of Health announced it was contracting with health care scheduling company Zocdoc to streamline COVID-19 vaccination appointments and offer real-time information about availability to help handle demand from residents.