CHICAGO — At least 85 percent of Illinoisans 65 and older have now gotten at least one shot of a coronavirus vaccine.
That means Illinois is just slightly outpacing the nation in vaccinations for older people, as 83 percent of United States residents 65 and older have gotten at least one shot. People in that age group are at a greater risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19, underscoring the necessity of vaccinating them.
The state and city are racing to vaccinate as many people as possible so they’ll be better protected against COVID-19 — and to prevent more variants from developing. But vaccinations are slowing down.
At the same time, officials are looking at how they can reopen Chicago and the rest of the state, with Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Gov. JB Pritzker setting a goal of “fully” reopening in early July. Meeting that goal is dependent on people getting vaccinated and metrics like new COVID-19 cases going down, though.
Cases, hospitalizations and Chicago’s positivity rate climbed for weeks in March. But those numbers have recently begun to stabilize and fall, and people are getting vaccinated, making it possible to reopen — though it must be done slowly, Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said at a Thursday news conference.
“This is happening, make no mistake, because people are getting vaccinated,” Arwady said. “Things are heading the right way, but we are not done; and our ability to continue to move ahead is most dependent on people continuing to get vaccinated.
“… Talk to everybody you know and say, ‘Have you gotten this vaccine yet? And if not, let me help you.'”
Still, the number of cases being reported per day is too high, Arwady said.
At the same time, the average number of vaccine doses being administered per day has dropped recently. That change has come even though the vast majority of Illinoisans are not fully vaccinated, though everyone 16 and older is now eligible for the shots in Chicago and across the state.
Arwady and Lightfoot have said they won’t require Chicagoans to get vaccinated, and there won’t be a “vaccine passport” that people will have to present to get into restaurants or events.
But they are looking at ways to incentivize people to get vaccinated — and that does mean they’ll host events where vaccinated people can get concert tickets, or vaccinated people might get preferential spots at sports events and concerts, the officials said. The city also doesn’t require fully vaccinated people to quarantine or get tested when they travel, nor are vaccinated people included in capacity limits for private events.
Officials will continue to urge everyone to get vaccinated and take safety precautions — like wearing a mask and staying socially distant — as there’s still a high risk for spreading COVID-19 among unvaccinated people.
Current vaccines have been shown to be highly effective at preventing serious illness and death, but the vast majority of Chicagoans have not yet been fully vaccinated.
Another 40 Illinoisans were reported dead by coronavirus during the past day.
The most recent victims included 11 people from Cook County, including two people in their 60s.
At least 22,136 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois, and another 2,347 deaths are probably related to the virus, according to the state.
The state reported 1,778 cases over the past day. That brings the total number of confirmed cases in Illinois up to 1,348,176.
Across Illinois, 70,063 vaccine doses are being administered per day, based on a seven-day rolling average. Illinois and Chicago have administered at least 9,646,432 vaccine doses of the 12,247,735 provided to them.
City data shows 2,070,386 doses of vaccine have been administered to Chicagoans in the city, and 2,222,690 doses have been administered in the city overall. About 45.9 percent of all Chicagoans have gotten at least one shot, while 33.1 percent have completed their vaccination. Among Chicagoans 65 and older, about 67.1 percent have gotten at least one dose, while 56.7 percent have finished their vaccination.
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 fell to 3 percent Thursday with 96,296 tests reported. It was at 3.3 percent Wednesday. The figure represents the percentage of people testing positive among recent tests.
Illinois’ seven-day test positivity rate, which measures the percentage of tests that were positive, fell slightly to 3.8 percent Thursday. It was at 3.9 percent Wednesday.
As of Wednesday night, 2,055 people were hospitalized with coronavirus in Illinois, including 483 people in the ICU and 243 people using ventilators.
In Chicago, seven deaths and 292 confirmed cases were reported since Wednesday. There have been at least 5,209 deaths from COVID-19 in Chicago and 277,943 confirmed cases, according to state data.
The city is seeing an average of five deaths per day, down from an average of six per day the week prior.
An average of 505 confirmed cases are being reported per day, a 4 percent decrease from the previous week. At the same time, testing has fallen 4 percent since a week ago.
The city’s seven-day positivity rate is at 4.5 percent, down from 4.6 percent the week before.
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