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Chicago to expand vaccine eligibility to most residents March 29

That group includes people 16 and up with underlying conditions such as heart disease, plus more groups of essential workers. The governor, meanwhile, is expected to announce Thursday he will be expanding vaccine eligibility to the rest of the state starting April 12.

Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, speaks at a Feb. 23 news conference. The city will expand vaccine eligibility to most residents March 29.
Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, speaks at a Feb. 23 news conference. The city will expand vaccine eligibility to most residents March 29.
Mengshin Lin/Sun-Times

Most Chicagoans will be eligible to sign up for COVID-19 vaccination appointments starting March 29, the city’s top doctor said Wednesday.

Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady outlined the city’s plan to expand vaccine eligibility to city residents 16 and up with chronic health conditions, plus additional groups of essential workers.

That means “a major increase” in the pool of eligible recipients, which will soon include the majority of Chicago’s 2.7 million residents, Arwady said.

“Most Chicagoans will actually be eligible to be vaccinated beginning March 29, but just because you’re eligible, it doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to be vaccinated right away. It’s all going to depend on vaccine supply,” Arwady said.

Meanwhile, Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expected to announce Thursday that he will expand vaccine eligibility to the rest of the state for those 16 and older starting April 12.

For the city, residents 65 and older will remain priority. About half the city’s seniors have gotten a dose so far, Arwady said.

The soon-to-be-eligible Phase 1C recipients are more likely to start receiving doses through April and May.

That group includes people with underlying conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity and sickle cell disease, among others. Newly eligible workers will include those in transportation, hospitality, food service, finance, media, information technology and others “with a focus on those who can’t work from home,” Arwady said.

After that, the city plans to follow President Joe Biden’s directive to open eligibility to all adults by May 1.

“I’m taking it as a sign that the federal government is confident the vaccine supply will ramp up even faster over the spring, and as vaccine supply ramps up we are more than ready here in Chicago to get it into arms,” Arwady said.

“We’ll definitely still be vaccinating hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans through the summer and beyond, but this is going to start feeling more like a traditional flu vaccine campaign where the problem is not finding a vaccine, it’s having the confidence and making the decision to get a vaccine.”

COVID-19 vaccine doses administered by day

Graphic by Jesse Howe and Caroline Hurley | Sun-Times

Source: Illinois Department of Public Health

Graph not displaying properly? Click here.

Most parts of the state outside the Chicago area already expanded eligibility last month to people with underlying conditions. Officials in suburban Cook County said they’ll do likewise beginning March 22, but haven’t yet announced a date for a full Phase 1C expansion.

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 102,390 more vaccine doses went into arms Tuesday, marking the state’s first six-figure vaccination day since March 12 and increasing Illinois’ overall vaccination tally to almost 4.3 million doses administered over the past three months.

From that total, just over 1.6 million residents have been fully immunized, or 12.6% of the population, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks Wednesday at a vaccination site in Decatur.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks Wednesday at a vaccination site in Decatur.
Transmisión en directo del Estado de Illinois

About 28% of residents 16 or older have gotten at least one shot, and about 58% of people 65 or older have gotten a dose, according to Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

The state is now averaging 102,223 shots administered per day over the past week.

While that figure fell slightly from an all-time high set a day earlier, coronavirus infection rates have dipped to all-time lows across the state.

Officials reported 1,655 new cases of the disease were diagnosed among 77,798 tests, decreasing Illinois’ average positivity rate slightly to 2.2%, lower than it ever fell last summer.

Hospital admissions are near a record low, too, with 1,143 beds occupied by COVID-19 patients as of Tuesday night.

New COVID-19 cases by day

Graphic by Jesse Howe and Caroline Hurley | Sun-Times

Source: Illinois Department of Public Health

Graph not displaying properly? Click here.

But the virus claimed 17 more lives, including those of a Cook County woman in her 40s and a Grundy County man in his 30s.

Roughly 26 Illinoisans have died of COVID-19 each day over the past week, a fatality rate that has dipped about 43% over the past month.

Despite that progress, Pritzker warned another surge like the one Illinois suffered last fall isn’t out of the question, especially with three more infectious variants of the virus detected in the state.

“We want to be careful here. These variants move faster than the original COVID-19,” Pritzker said at a Decatur vaccination site in central Illinois. “We have to react more quickly.”

Over the past year, more than 1.2 million residents have contracted COVID-19, and 20,988 of them have died.