Chicago’s first COVID-19 vaccinations could be weeks away as Illinois reports 12,542 new cases, 125 deaths

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CHICAGO — Chicago’s top health official said the first COVID-19 vaccinations could be just weeks away, as experts continue to warn of the potential for a post-Thanksgiving surge in cases.

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said on Tuesday the city is waiting for guidance from the federal government, but is working with hospitals and long-term care facilities on early distribution plans.

Chicago is anticipating an initial shipment of 20,000 to 25,000 doses of vaccine, which will go to first responders and residents in long-term care facilities like nursing homes.

“I think it is likely we will be vaccinating in Chicago the third or fourth week in December,” Arwady said, noting it all depends on when federal officials sign off on emergency use for the vaccines being considered.

Illinois health officials reported 12,542 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases Tuesday, as well as 125 coronavirus-related deaths Tuesday.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, 10.4% tests performed from November 24-30 confirmed a new case of COVID-19, rising to levels last reported about a week ago.

While COVID-19 test positivity rates have been declining across Illinois, Governor JB Pritzker reiterated Tuesday that experts are warning the state and entire U.S. may see a surge in cases in the coming weeks after people traveled over the Thanksgiving holiday.

All of Illinois remains under stricter “Tier 3” COVID-19 mitigation measures, which Pritzker said will remain in place even if a region’s positivity rates and hospitalizations drop to a level that meets the state’s original criteria for moving to less-restrictive “Tier 2” in the coming weeks.

Indiana health officials reported 142 new coronavirus-related deaths Tuesday, the biggest single-day total seen in the state since the start of the pandemic. Prior to the latest figures, the state was averaging around 55 deaths over a 7-day period.

Health officials reported 5,518 new COVID-19 cases in Indiana as well, while the state’s test positivity rate from November 18-24 came in at 11%.

The IDPH said 116,081 new COVID-19 tests were reported over the past 24 hours, a near-record number that’s possibly higher due to delays caused by the Thanksgiving holiday. Officials continue to report cases confirmed by antigen tests as “probable” cases following CDC guidelines. Those tests made up about 9% of the total reported Tuesday.

COVID-19 test positivity rates and hospitalizations in most regions of Illinois continued to decline or remained stable as of Tuesday, however these are considered “lagging indicators” and may not yet reflect any potential post-Thanksgiving surge.

The South Suburban region including Will and Kankakee counties, which borders northwest Indiana, continues to report the highest test positivity rate in the state with a 7-day average of 17% as of November 28.

WATCH ABOVE: Governor JB Pritzker gives a daily update on COVID-19 in Illinois Tuesday

After starting to decline about a week ago, COVID-19 hospitalizations in Illinois have remained stable for a few days, with the IDPH reporting 5,835 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Monday night, including 1,195 in intensive care and 721 on ventilators.

Several regions of Illinois have seen the availability of intensive care unit beds drop below the state’s minimum of 20% available capacity as of Monday, including in southern Illinois where there are 11 of 88 intensive care unit beds available.

Health officials continue to estimate 97% of confirmed COVID-19 cases have recovered to date.

On the national level, treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin urged Congress to tap into $455 billion of unused emergency relief funds for another round of targeted aid for American households and businesses Tuesday. Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell appeared before a Senate committee to testify on coronavirus pandemic assistance.

An analysis of data from nearly 4.4 million U.S. elementary and middle school students found they have fallen measurably behind in math, while most appear to be progressing at a normal pace in reading since schools were forced to abruptly close in March.

The study found a disproportionately large number of poor and minority students were not in schools for assessments this fall, complicating efforts to measure the pandemic’s effects.

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