Officials announce changes to who’s eligible for vaccines at United Center in an attempt to make distribution more equitable

With the COVID-19 vaccine rollout continuing to pick up steam, Illinois on Sunday also announced its smallest daily caseload and single-day death toll in months.

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Officials on Sunday announced major changes in who is eligible to receive shots at the Near West Side arena in an attempt to ensure doses are equitably available to the communities most impacted by the pandemic.

Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP via Getty Images

With Illinois’ historic vaccine rollout expected to kick into overdrive this week thanks to the United Center being used as the city’s largest mass vaccination site, officials on Sunday announced major changes to who’s eligible to receive shots at the Near West Side arena in an attempt to ensure doses are equitably available to the communities most impacted by the pandemic.

Starting Sunday afternoon, residents outside of Cook County will no longer be eligible for appointments at the United Center site. Meanwhile, anyone who lives within city limits and is eligible to receive the vaccine under Phase 1B+ of the state’s distribution plan will be able to register for appointments at the United Center. This includes anyone 18 and over with underlying health conditions, as well as people 65 and older.

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Officials are also setting aside appointments for Chicago residents who live in areas hardest hit by the virus and have experienced the highest rates of severe illness and death; appointments are also being set aside for community-based organizations targeting their outreach to special populations in Chicago, including people with disabilities.

These decisions were made under FEMA guidance to ensure more equitable distribution of the vaccine.

Officials targeted the United Center to be a mass vaccination center for its proximity to the most vulnerable communities in the city, but more than half of the appointments snatched up over the last three days were made by people outside Chicago.

Early data indicated that only 40% of the more than 40,000 seniors who had signed up for appointments at the United Center since Thursday morning were Chicago residents.

“Equity is central to our COVID-19 strategy, and as we strive to vaccinate the entire city, our commitment to equity is more important than ever,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement..

Tens of thousands of open appointment slots remain for the United Center, which is expected to dole out about 6,000 doses per day starting Tuesday, officials said. To register, go to zocdoc.com/vaccine, or call (312) 746-4835. Call centers will be open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Illinois has administered more than 3.35 million doses of the vaccine over the last three months. On Saturday, 98,550 shots were injected into the arms of Illinois residents, marking the fifth-highest single day total, officials said.

The state’s rolling average of shots given per day is up to an all-time high of 93,183.

With the COVID-19 vaccine rollout continuing to pick up steam, Illinois on Sunday also announced its smallest daily caseload and single-day death toll in months.

State health officials reported 1,068 new probable and confirmed COVID-19 cases, the fewest new cases recorded in a day since July 21. Sunday’s cases were found among the 68,094 tests processed by the Illinois Department of Public Health in the last day, for a daily positivity rate of roughly 1.6%.

Illinois’ daily caseload has surpassed 2,000 only twice in March, 10 times in the last month and twice in March. Because of this, the state’s seven-day positivity rate has dropped close to an all-time low. On Sunday, that figure, which experts use to gauge the spread of the virus across the state, was 2.3% — down a full percentage point from one month ago.

Officials also announced 14 virus-related deaths, marking the smallest daily pandemic death toll since October. Five of those fatalities were reported in the Chicago area.

Statewide hospitalizations have returned to pre-peak levels, too. As of Saturday night, 1,141 beds were occupied statewide by coronavirus patients, with 255 of those patients in intensive care units and 112 on ventilators, officials said.

Nearly 1.2 million people in Illinois have been confirmed to have had the virus among the more than 18.6 million tests processed over the last year. The state boasts a virus recovery rate of 98%.


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