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117 More Coronavirus Deaths Reported In Illinois On Same Day Vaccine Campaign Begins

The most recent victims include 13 people from Cook County, including a man in his 40s and a woman in her 50s.

Dr. Lois Clarke, right, with Loretto Hospital, gives the COVID-19 vaccination to Barbara Shields-Johnson, a RN at Loretto at Loretto Hospital in Chicago on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020.
Jose M. Osorio/ Chicago Tribune/Pool
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CHICAGO — Illinois saw another 117 people reported dead from coronavirus during the past day.

The most recent victims include 13 people from Cook County, including a man in his 40s and a woman in her 50s.

That’s on top of 435 COVID-19 deaths reported since Friday. The toll adds on to recent heavy losses: Last week saw a record-breaking 1,079 Illinoisans reported dead from COVID-19. The week before saw 953 victims, making it the second-deadliest of the pandemic for Illinois.

At least 14,509 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois, and another 1,078 deaths are probably related, according to the state.

The state also reported 7,359 cases in the past day. That brings the total number of confirmed cases in Illinois up to 863,477.

Despite the high number of deaths recently, this week did come with a spark of hope: Chicago’s and Illinois’ coronavirus vaccine campaigns began Tuesday.

“This is, I fully believe, the beginning of what will be the end of COVID-19 here in Chicago,” Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said Tuesday morning, shortly after the city’s first doctor had been vaccinated.

But officials have urged people to keep taking safety measures, as the campaign is expected to take all of 2021.

Officials will first focus on vaccinating health care workers and people living and working in long-term care facilities. It will be months before vaccines are available to the general public.

“Our destination is clear, but the road ahead will be long,” Gov. JB Pritzker said at a Monday news conference. “… We are seeing the beginning of the end of this pandemic.”

In the meantime, people should keep wearing a mask, staying socially distant and washing their hands frequently, experts have said. People also should celebrate their holidays virtually and not see people outside their household, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health, has said.

“I definitely look forward to the day when the vaccine is widely available to every single person in the state,” Ezike said Monday. “Until that time, we still need to continue with our masking, avoiding crowds, watching our distance and washing hands. Let’s work to protect and not infect those that we love and those around us.”

RELATED: A Coronavirus Vaccine Is Coming. Here’s Everything You Need To Know About Getting One In Chicago

Every region in Illinois remains under Tier 3 restrictions. The rules close museums, casinos and theaters; cut capacity at stores; stop indoor sports and put stricter rules in place at gyms and salons, among other things.

In Chicago, people are being asked to stay home as much as possible, leaving only for essential things like grocery shopping; to work from home if possible; to stop gathering with anyone outside their household; and to stop traveling.

The surge in new cases in Chicago — and across Illinois — can only partially be explained by increased testing; in reality, there are more cases because coronavirus is spreading so much, officials have said. There’s evidence of that in the way positivity rates and COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations rose rapidly and have stayed high.

Illinois’ seven-day positivity fell to 8.6 percent Tuesday with 92,922 tests reported. It was at 8.7 percent Monday. The figure represents the percentage of people testing positive among recent tests.

Illinois’ seven-day test positivity, which measures the percentage of tests that were positive, remained the same at 10.3 percent.

As of Monday night, 4,965 people were hospitalized with coronavirus in Illinois, including 1,057 people in the ICU and 598 people using ventilators.

In Chicago, three deaths and 1,197 confirmed cases were reported since Monday. There have been at least 3,808 deaths from COVID-19 in Chicago and 187,080 confirmed cases, according to state data.

The city is seeing an average of 22 deaths per day, up from an average of 20 deaths per day the week prior.

An average of 1,610 confirmed cases are being reported per day, a 13 percent increase from the prior week.

The city’s seven-day positivity rate is at 12.6 percent, down from 13.3 percent the week before.

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