Record of over 150,000 vaccinations in a day: Now when can people return to Loop offices?

  • Metra and Chicago business leaders are anticipating a time when vaccines are widespread and many workers can return to the office. Last summer, the Loop was a ghost town on a weekday afternoon amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Metra and Chicago business leaders are anticipating a time when vaccines are widespread and many workers can return to the office. Last summer, the Loop was a ghost town on a weekday afternoon amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Marni Pyke | Staff Photographer, July 2020

 
 
Updated 3/13/2021 5:41 PM

COVID-19 vaccinations hit a new daily record with 152,697 shots in arms Friday as vaccine doses shipped to Illinois surpassed 5 million, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported Saturday.

The federal government has delivered 5,038,635 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Illinois since distribution began in mid-December and shipped 770,260 shots since March 7. The total doses administered in the state is 3,943,970 with 585,756 shots given since last Sunday.

 

The seven-day average of vaccinations is 97,758.

So far, 1,442,346 people have been fully vaccinated, or 11.32% of Illinois' 12.7 million population. Vaccines manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna require two doses several weeks apart.

For residents without internet access or who need help online, the state on Friday launched a Vaccine Appointment Call Center open from 6 a.m. to midnight every day at (833) 621-1284.

Vaccine eligibility now is limited to seniors, essential workers like police and people with serious medical conditions, but federal and state leaders indicated all adults in Illinois should have access to shots by May 1 or earlier.

With that date not so far off, Metra and the Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago convened a Safe Return to Work Summit on Thursday.

Regular commuter traffic between the suburbs and downtown plummeted in spring 2020 and hasn't recovered.

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U.S. CEO of BMO Financial Group David Casper said he's tired of the catch phrase describing pandemic life as "the new normal."

"This is not the new normal. This is the abnormal, but we are getting back to normal, and normal is getting back to the office," Casper said. "You cannot replace human interaction."

Building management representatives said that new touchfree technologies and high-tech air filtration systems are important to reassuring office workers their spaces are safe from virus germs. Crowded elevators should become a thing of the past, and separate exits and entrances will become commonplace, they noted.

Janice R. Thomas, Metra's chief of staff, said the railroad replaces the air inside cars every four minutes, and "while the fresh air enters the car and circulates inside, it passes through MERV-13 filters."

BMO's Casper said the bank is hoping to bring about 50% of its employees back to the downtown office once vaccines are readily available, but not five days a week. And, he expects many workers will be hesitant.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We're also going to listen. ... There are some good reasons why people are concerned. You have to have empathy," Casper said.

New cases of COVID-19 reached 1,675 Saturday with 23 more people dying from the respiratory disease.

Daily caseloads are still trending downward in general since Feb. 4 when COVID-19 restrictions were loosened on activities across the state, with capacities increased indoors at restaurants, for example.

From last Sunday through Saturday, new cases averaged 1,511. Last week from March 3 to 9, the daily average was 1,689. The week of Jan. 31 through Feb. 6, daily cases averaged 2,915.

Patients in hospital with COVID-19 came to 1,082 as of Friday night.

The state's positivity rate for COVID-19 cases is 2.1% based on a seven-day average, reflecting lows not seen since mid-June 2020.

Total cases statewide stand at 1,207,847 and 20,924 Illinoisans have died since the pandemic began.

Labs processed 77,505 virus tests in the last 24 hours.

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