* Jake Griffin…
State health officials Wednesday reported 69 more Illinois residents have died from COVID-19, the highest single-day total the state has seen since mid-June.
COVID-related deaths have been growing in recent weeks as the state has begun to experience an exponential growth of new cases of the respiratory disease that has caused four of the state’s 11 health regions to have additional restrictions imposed.
“We should understand that’s always the pattern,” Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said at a media briefing Wednesday with the governor. “A certain number of cases will become hospitalizations, and a certain number of hospitalizations will go on to be deaths.”
The state’s death toll from the respiratory disease now stands at 9,345, and the state is now averaging 39 deaths a day over the past week. A month ago, the daily average of deaths for the week was 20, according to IDPH figures.
* Mitchell Armentrout…
By the end of this week, COVID-19 restrictions ordered by Pritzker will be in place in four of the state’s 11 regions — including Chicago’s south and west suburbs in Kankakee, Will, Kane and DuPage counties — due to rising testing positivity rates.
All other regions are at or over 7% positivity and trending steadily upward toward the 8% threshold set by the Democratic governor that triggers restrictions. That includes Chicago and the rest of its suburbs.
“People are lowering their guard,” Pritzker said at his latest coronavirus briefing. “Wear the mask. If there’s nothing else that you hear me say, today and everyday, please wear the mask. Keep social distance.”
* Jamie Munks and Dan Petrella…
Illinois on Wednesday recorded its highest daily coronavirus-related death toll since June as state officials released an early version of its plan for how a vaccine will be distributed once one is approved and available.
The plan “is designed to provide an equitable distribution across the state with priority access going to our most vulnerable populations, front-line health care workers and first responders who directly interact with and treat COVID patients, as well as staff and residents in long-term care facilities,” Pritzker said during his daily coronavirus news briefing.
The plan will “evolve as vaccine trials come to a conclusion and the FDA decides which to approve,” Pritzker said, noting that there are a range of unknowns around whether vaccinations will require multiple doses and if they will need cold or room temperature storage.
While President Donald Trump has vowed that a vaccination could be available soon, most experts think it won’t be until next year before that happens, a point backed up on Wednesday by Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.
* Sean Crawford…
A bigger challenge might be getting enough people to willingly take it. Ezike acknowledged education will be needed to get buy-in from the broader population.
“Getting the vaccine is one step. Getting it into people’s arms is another. And so, we need both of those to get to a better state with this pandemic,” she said. “Once a safe and effective vaccine is available, CDC planning assumptions indicate 80 percent of the population would need to be immunized to achieve herd immunity.”
That could take a while. Along with the logisitics of getting the vaccine to people, there are also questions about production. Ezike added it could take “many, many months” before it is widely available.
Under Illinois’ plan, the vaccines will be free to all residents, although some health providers may charge a fee to give the shot.