CHICAGO (CBS) — Amid falling demand for COVID-19 vaccines in several counties, the Illinois Department of Public Health is authorizing all local and county health departments in the state to begin vaccinating anyone age 16 and older.

The state previously planned to make all Illinoisans 16 and older eligible for the vaccine starting April 12. For now, it will be up to each individual local and county health department to decide if they will expand eligibility, and the state is encouraging residents to check with their local health department on their rules.

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The state is encouraging counties with lower demand to expand vaccine eligibility.

State-run vaccination sites will make the move to vaccinating anyone age 16 and up on April 12.

“The number one goal for the state is to get as many people vaccinated, as quickly and safely as possible in order to stay ahead of variants,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement. “This shift is similar to what we saw when expanding vaccine eligibility from Phase 1B to Phase 1B+ where some parts of the state were ready to move forward, while others were not.  Each county is different and local health departments know better how to vaccinate people in their communities as soon as and as equitably as possible.”

The city of Chicago, Cook County, and the collar counties say demand for the vaccine hasn’t diminished, so they’re not expanding vaccine availability yet to everyone age 16 and up.

On Monday, the city will move to Phase 1C of the vaccination plan, making shots available to all essential workers and adults with certain underlying medical conditions that make them more vulnerable to the virus.

Meantime, the state is sending rapid response vaccination teams to five counties in northwestern Illinois — Carroll, Ogle, Lee, Boone, and Whiteside counties — in an effort to administer shots quickly in an effort to curb rising cases. Those doses are on top of those counties’ standard allotment of vaccines. Appointments will be coordinated by the local health department.

The state is expecting to receive nearly 1 million doses of vaccine from the federal government next week, which would be an all-time high.

Vaccinations statewide are down over the past week. According to IDPH, the state is averaging 99,449 doses administered per day over the past week, compared to 108,228 per day one week ago.

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The move to expand vaccine eligibility comes as new cases and hospitalizations from COVID-19 are beginning to rise again.

IDPH reported 3,002 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 on Friday, as well as 33 new deaths. It’s the first time since Feb. 6 that Illinois has reported more than 3,000 new cases in a single day.

Since the start of the pandemic, Illinois has reported a total of 1,232,900 cases, including 21,203 deaths.

According to IDPH, the city of Chicago has seen its daily case rate increase by nearly 50% since last week, along with six days of increases in test positivity rate. Suburban Cook County has seen its daily case rate increase more than 40%, along with nine days of increasing hospital bed usage. Region 1, the Northern portion of the state including Rockford and surrounding communities, has seen eight days of increasing hospital bed usage and six days of increasing test positivity.

The statewide seven-day average case positivity rate is up to 2.9%, the highest it’s been since Feb. 15.

 

“While these rates are certainly significantly lower than the peak, they represent a potential early warning sign about a possible resurgence,” IDPH said in a statement.

Hospitalizations are also on the rise across the state. As of Thursday night, 1,302 coronavirus patients were hospitalized in Illinois, including 264 in the ICU and 120 on ventilators. It’s the first time the state has reported more than 1,300 hospitalizations in a single day since Feb. 26.

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IDPH said, since March 8, Illinois has seen 10 days of increases in the seven-day rolling average for hospital admissions.

CBS 2 Chicago Staff