Vaccine program ramps up with 58,000 more doses administered, as COVID-19 claims 71 more lives

As Illinois vaccine program slowly kicks into gear, infection numbers have sunk to their lowest levels since October.

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A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is administered earlier this month at Richard J. Daley College.

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is administered earlier this month at Richard J. Daley College.

Ashlee Rezin García/Sun-Times

Illinois’ COVID-19 vaccination efforts took another small step upward Friday with the report of a third straight daily record high of doses administered statewide.

The latest Illinois Department of Public Health figures of 58,357 shots given Thursday follow totals of more than 53,000 and nearly 56,000 over the previous two days.

A total of 887,845 doses have gone into Illinois arms over the last six weeks, but only 194,471 people so far have received the two doses required for full vaccination — barely 1.5% of the population.

Earlier this week, Gov. J.B. Pritzker criticized the slow rollout of vaccines at nursing homes — which are being administered in a federal partnership with major drugstore companies — such as CVS and Walgreens — where only 131,401 shots have been given among more than 496,000 allocated doses.

But Pritzker said Thursday the pharmacy companies are “on a good trajectory at this point” and preached patience as a pool of 3.2 million essential workers and people 65 or older now try to set up vaccination appointments in Phase 1B of the distribution plan.

“We wish we had enough vaccine for everybody right now so that we could have everybody vaccinated,” the governor said. “But we can’t do that now because the federal government didn’t order enough vaccine in the first place… The Biden administration has done a great job of going to those manufacturers and doing everything that they can think of to try to increase the amount of production.

The state’s seven-day rolling average of doses administered per day is now up to 38,738.

The ramp-up slowly kicks into gear as Illinois infection numbers sink to their lowest levels since October, before the state’s record-breaking resurgence.

Public health officials reported 4,156 more cases of COVID-19 detected among 111,057 tests. That kept the state’s seven-day average testing positivity rate at 4.3% — half as high as that key indicator of transmission was on Jan. 4.

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COVID-19 hospital admissions are still high compared to the summer, but they’re at less than half the level the state suffered at the November peak. As of Thursday night, 2,735 beds were occupied, with 532 receiving intensive care and 297 on ventilators.

But the virus also killed 71 more residents, raising the Illinois death toll to 19,138. Thirty-eight of the latest victims were from the Chicago area, including a Kane County woman in her 20s.

The virus has still done its worst damage at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities across the state that have seen about half of all Illinois’ fatal cases (9,461).

The average daily fatality rate has fallen by more than half compared to Illinois’ worst days of the pandemic in early December, when the virus was claiming about 154 lives every day. Overall, the recovery rate is 98%.

More than 1.1 million people have been infected statewide over the last 10 months.

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