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Chicago Sees Major Progress Against Coronavirus As 1 In 10 Now Vaccinated And Positivity Hits Lowest Rate Ever

Friday's 3.5 percent positivity rate is even lower than what the city experienced during the summer.

Dr. Allison Arwady (right), head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, gives Mayor Lori Lightfoot her second dose of coronavirus vaccine on Feb. 19.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — One in 10 Chicagoans has now gotten their first shot of a coronavirus vaccine, the city’s health chief announced Friday.

The city has struggled to keep up with the huge demand for vaccine appointments while trying to get more people of color to take the shots. But on Friday, officials said Chicago is meeting significant milestones, vaccinating more Black and Latino people and will soon get more vaccine doses — all victories for the city as it regains control over its COVID-19 outbreak.

All together, more than 389,000 doses of vaccine have been administered in Chicago — and, as of Friday, the state has administered more than 2 million doses.

In Chicago, half of all people who got a coronavirus vaccine this week were Black or Latino, a significant improvement after the city’s campaign initially saw more doses going to white people. White people have still gotten the most shots, but Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she’s “confident” the number of people of color getting vaccinated will grow.

“It tells me that all the outreach and education is finally breaking through,” Lightfoot said. “We will certainly not rest on our laurels, but this is another important milestone … .”

Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said the city is meeting other important goals, too: The health department has distributed to health providers at least 95 percent of the vaccine doses it’s been provided every week.

And the health department has a goal of seeing at least 85 percent of doses administered to people and reported in within seven days of being delivered. But this week, the city surpassed that, with 100 percent of doses being administered to people within seven days.

“We’re hitting and exceeding all of our efficiency goals,” Arwady said.

At the same time, the city is seeing decreases in the number of cases being reported out of its highest-risk settings, like long-term care facilities, Arwady said. In fact, throughout Chicago, new cases reported per day are dropping, and the city reported its lowest positivity rate from any point during the pandemic Friday: 3.5 percent. That’s lower than what the city experienced even during the summer.

Those decreases can’t just be blamed on a drop in testing due to the snowstorm, Arwady said. Testing is only down 6 percent from a week ago, while cases have dropped 29 percent over the same timeframe.

“This kind of progress has come because we have been doing the things that work here in Chicago,” like social distancing and wearing a mask, Arwady said. “And we need people to keep doing this.”

The city also expects to get more vaccine doses soon. This week, Chicago got 6,900 first doses from the federal government, but next week, the city will get more than 8,000 doses for the first time.

And more than 30 federally qualified health centers in Chicago will start getting an additional 100 doses per week directly from the federal government in coming weeks, Arwady said.

“We have more than 525 providers enrolled, ready to give vaccine,” Arwady said. “We’re just waiting for vaccine.”

The progress means one in 10 Chicagoans has now gotten their first shot of a vaccine, Arwady said; and that number rises to one in four Chicagoans among people 65 and older.

The city did see some delays in vaccine doses arriving this week due to the weather, Arwady said; but, as of Thursday, all of the Pfizer doses for this week have arrived and most Moderna doses are expected Friday. The city has not stopped vaccinating due to the delay, though it has had to do fewer vaccinations.

Still, the virus continues to claim lives and sicken people in Illinois. Another 63 Illinoisans were reported dead from coronavirus during the past day.

The most recent victims included 16 people from Cook County, including a man in his 30s and a man in his 50s.

At least 20,192 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois, and another 2,176 deaths are probably related to the virus, according to the state.

The state reported 2,219 confirmed cases during the past day. That brings the total number of confirmed cases in Illinois up to 1,170,902.

RELATED: A Year Of Loss: COVID-19 Has Killed More Than 4,500 Chicagoans. For These Families, Life Will Never Be The Same

But there are signs of hope: Chicago and Illinois are weeks into vaccinating people, and new cases, deaths and positivity rates are at their lowest point in months.

The state is administering an average of 59,460 vaccine doses per day, based on a seven-day rolling average. So far, Illinois has administered at least 1,789,564 vaccine doses of the 2,186,775 provided to it.

More than 389,000 doses of vaccine have been administered to Chicagoans.

Another 271,142 vaccines have been administered in long-term care facilities, which have been provided with 445,200 doses. Those vaccinations are done through a federal partnership with pharmacy chains.

All together, at least 2,060,706 vaccine doses have been administered in Illinois.

More than 11 percent of people in Illinois have gotten at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. JB Pritzker said Wednesday. Still, the state lags behind others.

The state is also still experiencing delays in getting vaccine doses from the federal government due to the weather.

RELATED: Finding A Coronavirus Vaccine Appointment In Chicago Is ‘Like The Hunger Games’ — But City Says It’s Focused On Equity, Not Just Speed

Illinois and Chicago are vaccinating people 65 and older and frontline workers as part of Phase 1B of the vaccination campaign. Illinoisans who are eligible are able to make appointments to get vaccinated at pharmacies, their health provider’s office, state-run mass vaccination sites and other places.

The state will also start vaccinating people with underlying conditions or disabilities starting Feb. 25, though Pritzker said Thursday there is still a “massive” shortage of doses. Chicago will not add people with underlying conditions or disabilities to its Phase 1B.

RELATED: Here’s How You Can Get Vaccinated Against Coronavirus In Chicago

The state is peeling back some of its coronavirus safety restrictions as regions get their outbreaks more under control. Chicago is now in Phase 4, the phase when the state’s restrictions are at their most relaxed before a full return to normalcy.

The city has released a roadmap detailing what metrics it will use to lift restrictions from businesses as it gets better control of its COVID-19 outbreak. Students also started returning to schools Thursday.

At the same time, a more contagious variant of the virus from the United Kingdom has been found in Chicago.

The state’s ability to have indoor service and youth sports “could be cut short if we aren’t extremely careful,” Pritzker said at a news conference in January. “The CDC is already warning that the faster-spreading U.K. variant could become the dominant strain in the United States in March. And a virus that’s more contagious ultimately results in more cases, more hospitalizations and more deaths.

“I know none of us wants to see another wave of COVID that brings on more mitigations, so let’s not let our guard down.”

And officials have cautioned it will be months before vaccines are widely available to the public. Chicago’s plan tentatively predicts vaccines will be available to everyone 16 and older by late May.

That means people are still at risk and will have to continue taking precautions for much of 2021, officials have said. People should keep wearing a mask, staying socially distant, washing their hands frequently, not gathering, not traveling and not having people into their home, experts have said.

Illinois’ seven-day positivity rate rose slightly to 2.8 percent Friday with 85,963 tests reported. It was at 2.7 percent Thursday. 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, held at 3.3 percent Friday.

As of Thursday night, 1,596 people were hospitalized with coronavirus in Illinois, including 366 people in the ICU and 190 people using ventilators.

In Chicago, nine deaths and 271 confirmed cases were reported since Thursday. There have been at least 4,819 deaths from COVID-19 in Chicago and 241,781 confirmed cases, according to state data.

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

An average of 323 confirmed cases are being reported per day, a 29 percent decrease from the previous week. At the same time, testing has decreased by 6 percent.

The city’s seven-day positivity rate is at 3.5 percent, down from 4.6 percent the week before.

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