CHICAGO (CBS) — With Illinois set to move to the next phase of its vaccination plan next week, Gov. JB Pritzker said he’s encouraged that the Biden administration is seeking to ramp up production and distribution of vaccines.
Pritzker said, just days since President Joe Biden took office, he’s seen a noticeable change in the federal government’s response to the pandemic.READ MORE: Jussie Smollett Trial: Defense Suggests Abel Osundairo, Who Said He Was Paid To Help Stage Attack, Had Secret Romantic Relationship With Smollett
“So far it appears that addressing COVID is his administration’s top priority. Hour by hour, his team is seemingly unraveling the mess the previous administration left behind, and focusing on improving vaccine supply and administration,” Pritzker said.
In particular, the governor pointed to Biden’s proposal for a $20 billion national program to establish community vaccination centers across the country, and deploy mobile units to remote areas, and Pritzker urged Congress to quickly approve that plan.
“Forty-eight hours into this new president’s term and 11 months into this pandemic, it finally feels like help is on the way,” Pritzker said.
While nearly 60% of the vaccines dedicated for Illinois health care workers have been administered so far, Pritzker said the same can’t be said for the vaccines intended for long-term care residents and staff, and he blasted the Trump administration for the slow pace of that program so far.
Pritzker said less than 20% of the 524,050 doses of vaccine set aside for long-term care facilities have actually been administered so far.
“I’m very troubled to see the slow pace of the federal government’s program to vaccinate long-term care residents, and I have expressed that concern to the Biden administration and to the pharmacy partners. They must accelerate the pace of vaccines to our most vulnerable residents,” the governor said.
Pritzker said the state’s pharmacy partners have pledged to vaccinate at all skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities by Feb. 15, with second and third visits afterward to ensure full coverage to residents and staff.
To date, Illinois has received a total of 1,446,375 doses of vaccine, and has administered a total of 616,667 doses. Pritzker said every healthcare worker eligible for a vaccine under Phase 1A of the state’s inoculation plan has been given opportunity to get a shot, and the state will be launching Phase 1B on Monday.
During Phase 1B, vaccines will be available to people 65 and older; and non-healthcare frontline essential workers such as police officers, firefighters, correctional workers, teachers, grocery store workers, public transit employees, postal workers, daycare workers.
Pritzker said Illinois National Guard mobile vaccination teams have begun operating six sites in Cook County, and over next three weeks, approximately 25 more teams will be deploying to sites in high-need areas across the state.
Hundreds of other vaccination sites will be coming online by Feb. 1 at local health departments and various pharmacies, including CVS, Hyvee, Jewel-Osco, Kroger, Mariano’s, and Walgreens.
However, Pritzker cautioned that, with a still-limited supply of vaccines, most people eligible for a vaccine under Phase 1B won’t be able to get a shot as soon as they’d like.
Illinois is expecting 126,000 first doses of vaccine to arrive next week outside of Chicago, or less than 4% of the 1B population (1.3 million frontline essential workers, and 1.9 million people over age 65).READ MORE: Suburban Family Still In Shock After They Hired Home Improvement Contractor Via HomeAdvisor, Only For The Contractor To Smash Up Their Property
“Until the vaccine supply improves, we will all frankly need to be patient, but we are building capacity so that as vaccine increases, hopefully over the coming weeks, we will be ready,” Pritzker said.
The governor also pointed out appointments will be required to get a vaccination during Phase 1B, so people should not simply show up to their local health department or pharmacy hoping to get a shot.
Walgreens already has set up a website to schedule COVID-19 vaccinations, and Pritzker said other pharmacies will have online appointments available soon.
Meantime, Illinois continues to see its COVID-19 infection rate continue to drop.
The statewide 7-day average case positivity rate in Illinois stands at 5.0%, the lowest it’s been since Oct. 15. During the second surge of the pandemic in October and November, the state’s case positivity rate peaked at 13.2% on Nov. 13, and other than a two-week rise after Christmas, has dropped steadily ever since.
The Illinois Department of Public Health on Friday reported 7,042 new confirmed and probable of COVID-19 statewide, as well as 95 additional deaths. That’s a 41% increase in new cases in 24 hours, and while that can partly be attributed to 27% increase in testing over the past day, IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said the higher case count also reflects an adjustment in how the state reports and classifies probable cases of COVID-19.
“Beginning today, IDPH has adjusted reporting probable cases, which caused an artificial one day increase in cases of 1,903. Previously, only confirmed deaths were included in the total case count. However, the total case count includes both confirmed and probable cases. Therefore, probable deaths are now being included in the total case count. Confirmed deaths and probable deaths will still be reported separately,” IDPH said in a news release.
Since the start of the pandemic, Illinois has reported a total of 1,093,375 coronavirus cases, including 18,615 deaths.
As of Thursday night, 3,179 coronavirus patients were being treated in Illinois hospitals, including 661 in the ICU and 348 on ventilators. That’s the fewest overall hospitalizations statewide since Oct. 29.
While COVID-19 hospitalizations are still more than double the average seen over the summer, they have been cut nearly in half from the fall peak, when Illinois reported 6,175 hospitalizations on Nov. 20.
In addition, over the past week, six of the state’s 11 regions have been allowed to roll back virus mitigation rules to the point they can allow limited indoor dining. Chicago and suburban Cook County are on track to do so on Saturday if their current virus trends continue.
“I’m very pleased with the progress that we’re making in this state, but I want to remind us all that we continue to live in a perilous moment,” Pritzker said.
The governor said despite the recent improvements in virus trends, there is still a serious risk of a resurgence of the pandemic, especially with the emergence of the more contagious B.1.1.7 variant that was first detected in the U.K.
Illinois confirmed its first case of that more contagious variant last week, and it has been found in several other states. The CDC has warned it could become the nation’s predominant strain of COVID by March.MORE NEWS: Illinois Reports Most New COVID-19 Cases In More Than A Year, As Testing Hits All-Time High
“Our ability to have limited indoor restaurant service and to restart youth sports could be cut short if we aren’t extremely careful,” Pritzker said.