Illinois positivity rate hits lowest point in a month as Pritzker says he’s ‘optimistic’ for summer reopening

Illinois positivity rate hits lowest point in a month as Pritzker says he’s ‘optimistic’ for summer reopening

Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot appear at a news conference announcing reopening efforts Tuesday at McCormick Place. | Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Besides saying earlier this week that the state could enter a “bridge phase” next week — an intermediary stage before a full reopening — Pritzker has not committed to a specific timeline for lifting all COVID-19 restrictions. 

Illinois’ average COVID-19 infection rate fell to its lowest level in over a month Tuesday as Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot teased a potential full reopening for the city and state this summer.

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 2,211 new coronavirus cases diagnosed among the latest 57,483 tests to lower the average statewide positivity rate to 3.3%, suggesting the virus is spreading at its slowest pace since March 31.

Back then, the state was on the upswing of a month-long spike in cases that threw off Pritzker’s reopening plan, peaking with a 4.4% average positivity rate logged April 12.

That figure has been falling steadily ever since, a net decrease of 25% in a little over three weeks. COVID-19 hospitalizations have eased back down over that period, too, ramping up reopening talks.

Besides saying earlier this week that the state could enter a “bridge phase” next week — an intermediary stage before a full reopening — Pritzker has not committed to a specific timeline for lifting all COVID-19 restrictions.

“But I’m optimistic,” the governor said Tuesday. “I think things are going in the right direction.”

Still, the state reported 19 more COVID-19 deaths, including nine in Cook County. Illinois’ death toll is up to 22,066, among 1.3 million-plus residents who have tested positive over the last year.

Meanwhile, vaccine demand is heading in the wrong direction.

About a third of all residents are fully vaccinated, but Illinois is averaging just 72,613 shots administered statewide per day over the past week — a rate that has fallen by 45% since April 12. The state reported only 40,361 shots went into arms Monday, though that figure is an undercount due to a national reporting outage among several pharmacies, officials said.

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.

Demand has dwindled while shots have become easier than ever to get. Walmart and Sam’s Club announced 175 of their Illinois pharmacies are now accepting walk-in vaccine appointments. Many Walgreens pharmacies are also accepting walk-ins, as are all of Chicago’s city-run mass vaccination sites.

Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said the city’s “vaccination bus” will make a stop Wednesday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Atlas Senior Center in South Shore, providing the one-and-done Johnson & Johnson vaccine at 1767 E. 79th St.

“We’re going to be experimenting over these next few weeks with some new efforts where we’re going go knocking on some doors and talking to folks about — ‘Are you interested in getting the vaccine?’ We’re going to be bringing a station or a bus near you, and seeing what that uptake is like,” Arwady said during an online Q&A.

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady speaks during a news conference at City Hall last July. Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady speaks during a news conference at City Hall last July.

Also on Tuesday, the Chicago Department of Public Health updated its emergency travel order to include Indiana on the list of COVID-19 hot spots from which travelers arriving in Chicago have to self-quarantine or show proof of a negative test.

The other “orange-level” states are Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Florida, Delaware, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, West Virginia, Maine, North Dakota, North Carolina, Oregon, and Washington, plus Puerto Rico.

The city’s travel order doesn’t apply to people who are at least two weeks removed from their final vaccine dose.

“You want to not have to worry about this sort of thing? Just get vaccinated, because your risk just becomes so much lower,” Arwady said.

For help finding a vaccination appointment in Chicago, visit zocdoc.com or call (312) 746-4835.

For suburban Cook County sites, visit vaccine.cookcountyil.gov or call (833) 308-1988.

To find providers elsewhere, visit coronavirus.illinois.gov or call (833) 621-1284.

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