COVID-19 vaccines are administered by Jewel-Osco pharmacists to union workers at the IUOE Local 399 union hall ahead of Vice President Kamala Harris's visit to discuss vaccine rollouts and union work in Chicago on April 6, 2021. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

CHICAGO — Illinois broke its record for coronavirus vaccinations for the second day in a row, with 164,462 administered in the past day.

Officials are rushing to vaccinate people as a third surge forms in Chicago and throughout Illinois. New cases, hospitalizations and positivity rates are on the rise, and officials have said they fear a third wave is forming. Another 21 Illinoisans were reported dead from coronavirus in the past day and 4,004 cases were found — the most in a single day since late January, when the state was still coming down from the fall surge.

Chicago has sped up its vaccination timeline, with Mayor Lori Lightfoot announcing earlier this week all Chicago adults will be eligible for the shots come April 19. Illinois outside of Chicago will open vaccinations to everyone 16 and older come Monday — and on Thursday, Gov. JB Pritzker said Chicagoans who will still be ineligible in the city can instead go to state-run sites in the suburbs.

Eligibility is opening as more doses are coming to the city and the rest of Illinois from the federal government.

But Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said last week there are no signs the city’s rise in cases and hospital visits will slow anytime soon.

Part of what’s fueling the surge is new variants, Arwady said during a livestream. She said more variants of COVID-19 are being found in Chicago — in particular, the more infectious and deadly B.1.1.7 variant found in the United Kingdom.

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Current vaccines have been shown to be highly effective at preventing serious illness and death among those more common variants, but the vast majority of Chicagoans have not yet been fully vaccinated.

City contact tracers have also found people newly diagnosed with COVID-19 are reporting having been in contact with far more people recently, “because people are doing more high-risk gathering” in private and public settings, Arwady said.

“We are on a similar trajectory here” to Michigan, which is already seeing figures almost as bad as it did during its own second surge, Arwady said.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 across and Chicago’s and Illinois’ positivity rates are also rising. Deaths remain low, with an average of three per day in Chicago; but officials have previously said those losses lag behind other figures.

“The question is going to be: With vaccine in the mix, if we can get a lot of the highest-risk folks vaccinated quickly, will we see the impact on these severe outcomes?” Arwady said.

Arwady said, as of now, she does not have a “major concern” about overwhelming the health care system and seeing a “huge number of deaths … but the increase in cases really has the potential to cause significant illness, hospitalizations and potentially some increase in death again.”

People should avoid gathering, especially if all people at the gathering are not fully vaccinated or if there will be people present who would be at increased risk from coronavirus, Arwady said.

At the same time, the city has maintained its loosened rules on businesses, allowing for more people to gather at restaurants and bars. Chicago also recently loosening restrictions on outdoor activities in a bid to get people to spend more time outside, where it’s harder for the virus to spread.

On Wednesday, Lightfoot said she does anticipate the city having festivals this summer. But recently, the mayor also said the city won’t see “anything more significant in the reopening front” until the number of new cases stabilizes and falls.

Cook County is considering pulling back on indoor dining at bars and restaurants due to the surge.

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Reopening is also stalled on a statewide level. Though more than 70 percent of Illinoisans 65 and older have now gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, the rising number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 means the state can’t move into its “Bridge Phase.”

Another 21 Illinoisans were reported dead from coronavirus during the past day. The most recent victims included six people from Cook County, including a man in his 50s.

At least 21,476 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois, and another 2,286 deaths are probably related to the virus, according to the state.

The state reported 4,004 confirmed cases over the past day. That brings the total number of confirmed cases in Illinois up to 1,273,200.

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Across Illinois, an average of 118,336 vaccine doses are being administered per day, based on a seven-day rolling average. Illinois and Chicago have administered at least 6,871,645 vaccine doses of the 8,841,285 provided to them.

About 1,397,145 million doses of vaccine have been administered to Chicagoans, and 1,573,735 doses have been administered in the city overall.

People are still at risk from COVID-19 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 held at 4.2 percent Friday with 101,737 tests reported. 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 4.8 percent Friday.

As of Thursday night, 1,808 people were hospitalized with coronavirus in Illinois, including 369 people in the ICU and 163 people using ventilators.

In Chicago, two deaths and 844 confirmed cases were reported since Thursday. There have been at least 5,063 deaths from COVID-19 in Chicago and 263,154 confirmed cases, according to state data.

The city is seeing an average of three deaths per day, down from an average of four per day the week prior. That’s the lowest that figure has been in months, Arwady previously said. During the peak of the second, fall surge in the pandemic, nearly 25 people per day were being killed by COVID-19; during the peak of the first surge in the spring, nearly 50 people were killed per day.

An average of 614 confirmed cases are being reported per day, a 14 percent increase from the previous week. At the same time, testing has risen by 8 percent since a week ago.

The city’s seven-day positivity rate is at 5.2 percent, up from 4.7 percent the week before.

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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