A total of 53,628 Illinoisans received coronavirus vaccine shots Tuesday, a new record for the state as doses slowly make their way into arms during a sluggish nationwide rollout.
In six weeks since the first Illinois shot was given, almost 774,000 doses have been administered and only about 160,000 people have received the required two doses — not even 1.3% of the population.
But with 3.2 million more residents now eligible to start receiving shots this week with Phase 1B of the state’s distribution plan, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday he expects those numbers to expand.
“We’re moving as fast as we can. The number of vaccinations available to people is ramping up. I’m very pleased to see that,” Pritzker said at a new mass vaccination site in north suburban Grayslake. “But this is going to take time. People are going to have to be patient.”
The state is receiving about 140,000 new doses from the federal government per week, Pritzker said.
The state has averaged 33,698 doses administered daily over the last week, as an average of 4,404 new COVID-19 infections have been diagnosed each day.
The Illinois Department of Public Health reported the latest 3,751 cases detected among 80,124 tests, which lowered the average statewide testing positivity rate to 4.5%. That key indicator of transmission has fallen by almost half since Jan. 4.
The state’s hospital situation has improved from the dangerous fall peak, too. The number of beds occupied by COVID-19 patients fell below 3,000 Tuesday night for the first time since Oct. 27, down to 2,931. That’s less than half the all-time high of 6,175 hospitalized coronavirus patients Nov. 20.
But officials also reported an additional 81 deaths attributed to the virus, raising Illinois’ toll to 18,964 among more than 1.1 million people who have been infected since last March.
The latest victims included a Cook County man in his 30s and 36 other Chicago-area residents.
While COVID-19 has claimed an average of 75 Illinois lives per day over the past week, that’s less than half the state’s death rate at the beginning of December.
The steadily improving numbers have prompted Pritzker to loosen business restrictions across the state, but health officials are pleading with residents to continue masking and social distancing — especially with at least nine cases of the more infectious U.K. variant of COVID-19 identified last week in Cook County.
Contributing: Isabelle Sarraf