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About 101K people vaccinated in Illinois so far, Pritzker says

Although the state is at “the beginning of the end” of the pandemic, health officials continue to caution residents to forego celebrating Christmas and other upcoming holidays with those who don’t live in the same home.

Cardinal Blase Cupich receives a coronavirus vaccination Wednesday at Saint Anthony Hospital.
Cardinal Blase Cupich receives a coronavirus vaccination Wednesday at Saint Anthony Hospital.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Illinois has administered nearly 101,000 doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine so far, more than any other state in the country, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday.

The state is still in “Phase 1A” of its vaccination plan, which puts about 700,000 health care workers and more than 100,000 nursing home residents first in line for shots.

But also among those to receive a shot Wednesday was Cardinal Blase Cupich, who was invited for inoculation at Saint Anthony Hospital as part of the effort “to combat vaccine hesitancy,” according to the Archdiocese of Chicago.

The leader of Chicago’s local arm of the Catholic Church followed the Vatican in asserting the vaccine is “morally acceptable,” following a flurry of unfounded conspiracy theories about the shots.

“The vaccines offer a ray of hope that the world will unite in our common humanity to bring about health and healing,” Cupich said in a statement. “Faith leaders must now step forward and encourage everyone to get vaccinated.”

New shipments of 174,600 doses of the Moderna vaccine are scheduled to arrive in Illinois by Thursday, further signaling the “beginning of the end” of the pandemic, but state public health officials say it’s still crucial for residents to forego large family gatherings for the holidays.

“Yes, there is a long road to go, but we are at the beginning of the end,” Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said. “We can’t let people who made it this far not make it to the finish line. ... The best way to avoid another surge in hospitalizations, another surge in deaths, another surge in new infections, is to celebrate the holidays at home with the family that you currently live with.”

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Numbers have moved in the right direction over the last three weeks, but the state is “likely to see some uptick” due to holiday transmission, Pritzker said.

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported the latest 135 coronavirus deaths and 6,762 new cases, which were diagnosed among 82,328 tests. That raised the state’s average positivity rate over the last week just slightly to 7.5%, but that key metric has still fallen from a fall high of 13.2% barely a month ago.

The state’s monthlong trend of declining hospital numbers continued as well, with 4,593 coronavirus patients hospitalized as of Tuesday night, with 953 receiving intensive care and 536 using ventilators.

The state’s COVID-19 death rate is still as high as ever, though, with nearly 900 fatalities confirmed in the last week alone. The virus has claimed 15,547 lives since March.

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Pritzker on Wednesday also announced the state will cover payments for the child care assistance program from December through February. Eligible providers are required to submit a waiver form to receive the assistance.

“Our lives are full of so many unknowns right now, and our child care services know that all too well,” Pritzker said. “These tumultuous times have rained down in multiple ways upon our early childhood network providers, and I wanted to make it easier for them so that we can make sure that child care is available to parents who need it.”