1st nursing homes in Illinois get vaccines as coronavirus death toll tops 16,000

State public health officials reported another 105 virus deaths and 4,453 new COVID-19 patients.

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A technician handles a blood sample to test for COVID-19 at a Harwood Heights facility on April 22.

A technician handles a nasopharyngeal swab sample positive for COVID-19 at a Harwood Heights facility in April.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file photo

The death toll in Illinois from the coronavirus has climbed past the 16,000 mark, state public health officials said Monday.

The state reported 105 deaths from the coronavirus and 4,453 new confirmed and probable cases of the virus Monday.The death toll rose to 16,074 since the pandemic began nine months ago.

Sixteen of the new deaths were in Cook County. The new COVID-19 cases were found in a batch of 51,406 tests conducted over the last 24 hours.

As of Sunday night, 4,243 people in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of that number, 884 patients were in intensive care units and 515 COVID-positive patients were on ventilators.

The latest numbers come as eight long-term care facilities and essential workers at high-risk outpatient care facilities began receiving vaccines as part of Chicago’s vaccine rollout Monday.

Five frontline workers received the first doses of the Moderna vaccine Monday afternoon, a “big day” in the city’s vaccine rollout, Dr. Allison Arwady, the city’s public health commissioner, said.

“This is the start of a multi-week distribution process that will roll out over the end of this year, January and into February, as more vaccines, become available and include our federally qualified health centers,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said. “Workers at these facilities are overwhelmingly people of color and primarily serve our residents of color, and throughout the pandemic these health centers have provided the critical testing, care and resources needed by our vulnerable communities.”

The city received another 21,450 Pfizer doses that were sent to hospitals and expects to receive another 16,200 doses of the Moderna vaccine this week that will mostly go to long-term care facilities, Arwady said.

So far, the city has received the number of doses it expected, and she hopes the city will be able to give projections on the next steps of its vaccination plan, the health commissioner said.

Though the city’s vaccine rollout reached a new level Monday, Lightfoot warned Chicago is “still months away from widespread community distribution of the vaccine,” which means residents must still wash their hands, wear masks and keep their distance.

“We have hundreds of thousands of healthcare workers in the city, and so there is a long way to go. But we are ahead and really on track with where we would project in terms of vaccine rollout,” Arwady said. “And as ... the amount of doses stabilize, hopefully over these next few weeks, we’ll be able to project out a little bit more into the future, how long it will take to get through different phases.”

The state’s latest numbers continue a trend of lower case counts since a November surge saw the state log record-breaking daily cases, including a nationwide record of 15,415 cases reported in one day.

So far, the state has reported a total of 942,362 cases in all 102 counties in Illinois. Officials have previously pointed to a decrease in testing as a potential reason why the state is seeing lower daily case totals.

Though the state continues to grapple with the virus, state health officials have said Illinois is in the “beginning of the end” of the pandemic now that some residents have started to receive vaccine shots.

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, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said last week.

A spokeswoman for Pritzker said Sunday that 112,987 first doses of a vaccine have been administered statewide as of Dec. 24.

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

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