Illinois coronavirus: Chicago restaurants could reopen this week; most residents could start getting vaccinated by May 31


Illinois’ coronavirus infection count took another step in the right direction on Tuesday, including in Chicago, where Gov. JB Pritzker’s health team could clear the table for bars and restaurants to resume service interior limited in a few days.

City health officials have also suggested the majority of residents could begin getting the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of May.

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced that 4,318 new infections had been detected among the latest batch of 71,533 tests. That puts the statewide seven-day average positivity rate at 5.7%, its lowest point in nearly three months.

Hospital numbers are also back to October levels, with 3,335 COVID-19 patients hospitalized statewide as of Monday evening.

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Chicago’s regional positivity rate has fallen to 8% and has been steadily declining since Jan. 8. After three consecutive days of below 8% positivity, the city will move from Level 2 to Level 1 of the Governor’s virus mitigation measures.

Pritzker tweaked his plan last week to allow bars and restaurants to resume indoor service at 25% capacity at Level 1. The Democratic governor also quietly eased state-required hospital measures over the weekend — citing the launch of state-contracted hospital staffing — which has accelerated some regions’ progress through the complex web of mitigation levels and reopening phases.

Pritzker slapped the entire state with Level 3 mitigation measures in November amid a violent statewide resurgence in COVID-19 cases and deaths.

Chicago is now in Tier 2 with Cook County Suburban, McHenry-Lake County Northern Suburban Area, and DuPage-Kane County Western Suburban Area. Level 2 allows casinos, museums and other large sites to reopen at limited capacity.

Dine-in service is already back for three regions that have upgraded to Level 1: the northeast corner of the state, the north-central region, and south-central Illinois.

Bar and restaurant patrons are also allowed indoors in two other regions – southern Illinois and the central region that includes Springfield – which have improved below 6.5% positivity to return to phase 4 of Pritzker’s reopening plan, which the state was in until November.

Will and Kankakee counties in the southern suburbs of the far south are still locked in Tier 3 with the eastern metropolitan area, but they are all moving in the right direction.

The easing of restrictions comes just days after health officials identified the first Illinois strains of a more infectious variant of COVID-19 that was first identified last month in the UK .

And the virus is still claiming lives at a rapid rate, with 33 additional deaths announced Tuesday across the state, including 21 Chicago-area residents. About 79 Illinoisans have died of COVID-19 every day over the past week, though that’s down from an average of about 131 daily deaths this time last month.

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About 1.1 million Illinoisans have contracted the virus since last March, and 18,291 of them have died.

So far, only 108,479 people statewide are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, less than 1% of the population of 12.7 million. A total of nearly 509,000 doses have been administered, but most recipients are still waiting for their required second injection.

Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said the city will move into Phase 1B of its vaccination plan along with the rest of the state next Monday. That’s when essential workers and people 65 and older will be able to receive doses. Healthcare workers and nursing home residents were on the front line.

Arwady said the city tentatively plans to start Phase 1C on March 29, giving injections to people 16 and older with underlying health conditions. She also suggested that all remaining residents 16 and older could start getting the shot on May 31.

Pritzker did not specify dates for the statewide distribution plan beyond Phase 1B, and Arwady acknowledged that it depends entirely on how many doses the city and state receive from the government. federal – and how quickly they receive them.

“A safe and effective vaccination process is what will take us past COVID,” Arwady said.

Officials said most residents would likely end up getting vaccinated at pharmacies or their primary care doctors, but mass vaccination sites are being set up in the city and suburbs.

Pritzker announced four more such sites launched Tuesday via Cook County Health at:

  • North Riverside Health Center, 1800 S. Harlem Ave. in North Riverside;
  • Robbins Health Center, 13450 S. Kedzie Ave. to Robbins;
  • Morton East Adolescent Health Center, 2423 S. Austin Blvd. to Cicero; and
  • Cottage Grove Health Center, 1645 Cottage Grove Ave. in Ford Heights.

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