(847) 551-3000

Those 65 and older, plus teachers and other essential workers to be vaccinated

Those 65 and older, plus teachers and other essential workers to be vaccinated

  • Posted by Barrington Hills
  • On January 12, 2021

Illinois to allow local health departments to start vaccinating those 65 and older, plus teachers and other essential workers

 

Local health departments soon will be able to start vaccinating those 65 and older against COVID-19, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Monday, preparing the way for the much-awaited next phase of the vaccination program.

Currently, the state is in phase 1a of its COVID-19 vaccination plan, which provides shots to health care workers and staff and residents of long-term care facilities, amounting to some 850,000 people.

But not everyone eligible has opted to get the shot. Rather than waiting to use those doses, Pritzker said, those shots should be made available to the next round of 3.2 million eligible recipients in phase 1b — those 65 and older and those who are front-line essential workers.

That category includes first responders; teachers and other school personnel; workers at grocery stores, food and agriculture facilities and manufacturing sites; staff at shelters and day cares; U.S. postal workers; public transit workers; and corrections workers. Inmates will also be included in Phase 1b.

Local health departments that have substantially completed phase 1a will be allowed to move on to 1b to make sure doses are given quickly, the governor said.

In Lake County, officials hope to vaccinate teachers, administrators and staff as soon as early February. Officials said they were pushing to vaccinate educators because of the community’s desire to return to in-school learning.

“Phase 1b will take many weeks to complete, and if it’s not yet available in your area now, it’s because many counties aren’t through their 1a population enough to move forward,” Pritzker said.

The governor expects to make a formal announcement later this week about when Illinois will move into phase 1b on a statewide basis. “This is about leaving no vaccine sitting on the shelves as we move forward,” he said.

The state on Tuesday will begin posting online the numbers of those vaccinated. So far, Illinois has received 587,090 doses, of which 334,939 have been administered.

The federal Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program with CVS and Walgreens has acquired about 231,400 total doses to vaccinate staff and residents of long-term care facilities, starting with skilled nursing homes, where about half of all COVID-19 victims in the state have died. Still, just under 37,000 people have been vaccinated in the state so far under that program.

Anyone who declined the shot in the first phase will be allowed to receive the vaccine later if they choose.

In addition, the governor said, regions of the state that meet targets for reducing cases of COVID-19 will be eligible for loosened closure restrictions starting Friday.

Since Nov. 20, the entire state has been under Tier 3 mitigation measures, which prohibit bars and restaurants from offering indoor service, limit health clubs to 25% capacity, and closes casinos and video gambling, among other restrictions.

Those limits could be eased for any region that keeps its rate of positive COVID-19 tests below 12%, has greater than 20% availability of hospital and intensive care beds, and sees a decline in hospitalizations for seven out of 10 days.

Hospitalizations and positivity rates have dropped by more than one-third since Nov. 20, Pritzker said, adding that he believes the mitigation efforts had saved lives.

Still, the state on Monday reported 4,776 new and probable cases of COVID-19 and 53 deaths, bringing the totals to more than 1 million cases and 17,627 deaths since the start of the pandemic. The rate of positive tests statewide reached 7.6% as of Friday.

The director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, said she expects the variant of the coronavirus that has become dominant in the United Kingdom is likely in Illinois and will eventually dominate here. Because it is believed to be more infectious, it will likely bring more cases and deaths, she said, but can be minimized with continued safeguards including washing hands, keeping distance, wearing masks and getting vaccinated.

Lake County News-Sun freelance reporter Steve Sadin contributed.