State vaccinates a record 130,021 people Wednesday as case counts keep dropping
Three weeks after Illinois eased COVID-19 restrictions, average daily caseloads are declining, state data showed Thursday, as officials announced a single-day virus vaccination record of 130,021.
All of Illinois entered into "Phase 4" of the state's COVID-19 prevention program on Feb. 4, allowing gatherings of up to 50 people and greater capacity in restaurants, for example. Despite the increase in social activities, virus caseloads dropped from a seven-day average of 2,611 from Feb. 5 to 11 to 1,836 a day from Feb. 12 to 18, or nearly 30%, Illinois Department of Public Health records indicate.
The seven-day average from Feb. 19 to Thursday is 1,792 cases, a dip of 2.4% from the prior week.
"The fact that the trends are continuing the way they are with numbers continuing to decline with positivity rates, number of hospitalizations, the number of people in ICUs and on ventilators, really is all good evidence that we're doing the right things," said Michael Bauer, Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital medical director.
Wednesday's vaccination milestone surpasses the earlier high of 95,375 on Feb. 11 and the seven-day average of 66,274.
Thursday also marks the start of COVID-19 vaccinations for people age 16 and up who are "medically vulnerable" to the virus with conditions such as cancer or heart disease -- except in the suburbs and Chicago.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced last week the expansion of shots within Phase 1B, which had included people 65 and older plus essential workers such as firefighters.
But leaders in suburban Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties, plus Chicago health department leaders, said they won't change the rules for now.
"We simply do not have the vaccine supply at this time to expand beyond the original 1B," Will County Health Department spokesman Steve Brandy said. "But we certainly hope things improve supply-wise as we move further into March and further into spring."
Pritzker exhorted counties to embrace the expansion Thursday, noting the federal government has promised to deliver 100,000 vaccines a day by mid-March and is sending some vaccine shipments directly to retail pharmacies across the U.S.
Walgreens is the only company in Illinois receiving those direct shipments currently, but the program will expand.
"It's vital that the most medically vulnerable like those with heart disease, lung disease and cancer have access to the vaccine, regardless of their age," Pritzker said in a statement.
The IDPH also reported 32 more deaths from the respiratory disease and 1,884 new cases Thursday.
The federal government has delivered 3,138,545 doses of vaccine to Illinois since distribution began in mid-December and 2,440,950 shots have been administered.
So far, 617,717 people -- 5.27% percent of the state's population -- have been fully vaccinated. That's an increase of nearly 200,000 people compared to a week ago on Feb. 18 when the tally was 472,755.
The federal government had promised to provide 500,000 vaccine doses this week, and Illinois is on track to meet that goal with 436,370 shots delivered so far.
Vaccines manufactured by Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. require two doses weeks apart.
Asked whether St. Patrick's Day parties posed a threat, Bauer said if people follow rules about masks, social distancing and limited gatherings, "hopefully we will be in good place where we will not see any of those small spikes. The fact we really didn't after the Super Bowl, where more people were indoors etc., I think it is a bit of a glimpse into our future."
Illinois hospitals were treating 1,463 COVID-19 patients on Wednesday night.
The state's positivity rate for COVID-19 cases is 2.5% based on a seven-day average.
Total cases statewide stand at 1,181,226 and 20,406 Illinoisans have died since the pandemic began.
Labs processed 91,292 virus tests in the last 24 hours.
Today's vaccination tip
More vaccines and less delays couldn't come soon enough for many suburbanites in 1B. Bill Thompson of Buffalo Grove credits his wife, Elizabeth, for appointment mining in suburban Cook County that paid off recently. They are both over age 65.
The Cook County Health Department's vaccine appointment phone lines open at 7 a.m. each morning, Thompson said Thursday.
"She got on the phone at 7 a.m. and kept calling them until a person answered. The first day she had to call for an hour and a half, but finally someone answered. They told her there were no appointments available that day but that she should call again tomorrow.
"So the next day she got through to someone in about 20 minutes and they had appointments available. We went to North Riverside later that morning and got our first shot," he recounted. "The telephone system is easier because you know when to start calling," as opposed to the website.
The phone number is (833) 308-1988.
Got a vaccination tip or story? Drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.