Illinois will soon expand eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine to include people with high-risk medical conditions and disabilities, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Wednesday.

The state is currently in Phase 1B of its vaccination program, which includes people 65 years and older, frontline essential workers and inmates. Starting Feb. 25, the state is expanding 1B to cover those more at risk of becoming seriously ill or dying from COVID-19. Those individuals were previously in the next phase, Phase 1C.

Under the expansion, based on U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidance, high-risk medical conditions that will be eligible include:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic Kidney Disease
  • COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
  • Diabetes
  • Heart Condition
  • Immunocompromised State from a Solid Organ Transplant
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Pulmonary Disease
  • Sickle Cell Disease

The expansion applies to people over 16 years of age. The list does not indicate any particular priority group.

Since a burst of initial hope when the first vaccines were administered in mid-December, the state has faced criticism from for a slow rollout that seems confusing and inefficient at times. Even people who are eligible to get vaccinated have found it impossible to make appointments, while others not eligible have inexplicably been able to book appointments.

“Making an appointment … is still an endeavor that requires enormous patience because we still have not received enough vaccine to provide for everyone who is eligible in Phase 1B,” Pritzker said. “This is extraordinarily frustrating for all of us.”

Illinois’ vaccination pace ranked in the bottom third of the nation when population size is taken into consideration, The Chicago Tribune reported. As of Wednesday, 2.57% of the state’s population was fully vaccinated.

Pritzker’s administration hopes improvements at the federal level, and the possible approval of a Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine later this month, will help. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine doesn’t have to be kept at extremely cold temperatures like other vaccines, and only one dose is required.

In response to complaints from Pritzker’s office, President Joe Biden’s administration is sending 5% more doses per week — a nearly 30% increase from vaccines received when Biden first became president, Pritzker said.

While the state faced vaccine rollout problems, there was better news on the virus’ spread. As of Wednesday, Illinois seven-day rolling case positivity rate was 3.3%, the lowest since July.

Metro-east’s positivity rate stays at summer levels

The metro-east’s COVID-19 case rate saw another drop to summer levels Wednesday as other key metrics throughout the region continued to improve.

The region’s COVID-19 seven-day average positivity rate stayed below 8% for the 17th consecutive day at 5.6%, a decrease from Tuesday’s average positivity of 5.7%.

The 5.6% figure — also achieved Sunday — represents the lowest the rate has been since July 10.

Furthermore, the case rate again remains below the 6% positivity rate threshold set by the state that helps determine if COVID-19 mitigation efforts used to slow the spread of the virus need to be increased or relaxed.

The region also reported a daily positivity rate of 4.0% on Wednesday — the lowest since July 3 — down from 6.3% on Tuesday.

On Thursday, Feb. 4, state health officials announced they were easing indoor dining and other restrictions in the metro-east, moving the region from Tier 2 to Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois Plan effective immediately. Additional information about which tier and phase regions are in can be found at the top of the IDPH website homepage.

Phase 4 guidelines include the following:

  • Restaurants and bars: Indoor dining and drinking now permitted for parties of up to 10 people. Seated areas should be arranged so that tables allow for 6 feet between parties; impermeable barriers may be installed between booths that are less than 6 feet apart.
  • Retail and service counter: Continue capacity limit of no more than 50% occupancy.
  • Personal care: Continue capacity limit of no more than 50% occupancy.
  • Indoor/outdoor recreation: Reopening select indoor recreation facilities (e.g., bowling alleys, skating rinks); indoor playgrounds and trampoline parks should remain closed; indoor recreation to operate at lesser of 50 customers or 50% of facility capacity.
  • Museums: Capacity limit of no more than 25% occupancy; guided tours should be limited to 50 or fewer people per group.
  • Meetings and social events: Limit to the lesser of 50 people or 50% of room capacity; multiple groups may meet in the same facility if they are socially distanced and in separate rooms.

The region had to meet the following metrics to move to Tier 1:

  • Test positivity rate between 6.5% and 8% for three consecutive days on a seven-day average.
  • Staffed ICU bed availability must be at 20% or more for three consecutive days on a seven-day average.
  • No sustained increase in COVID patients in the hospital on a seven-day average for seven of 10 days.

Meanwhile, the intensive care unit bed availability for coronavirus patients stood at 30%, marking the ninth-straight day of at least 20% capacity. Wednesday marked the highest that rate has been since Nov. 14, according to IDPH data.

The metro-east, or Region 4, consists of Bond, Clinton, Madison, Monroe, Randolph, St. Clair, and Washington counties.

The new testing positivity rate is based on data recorded as of Feb. 7. A region’s positivity rate is its percentage of positive COVID-19 tests versus the number of tests taken over a seven-day period.

Vaccinations continue in metro-east

According to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, Region 4 counties had administered 68,515 vaccinations and fully vaccinated 12,823 people as of Wednesday.

St. Clair County had administered the most vaccines in the region with a total of 27,901 as of Wednesday, while Madison County had fully vaccinated the most people at 4,667.

Vaccinations of healthcare workers and others in the 1A vaccinations group began in mid-December and have been ongoing. In St. Clair County, people 65 years old and up are now eligible to begin 1B vaccinations.

Vaccinations in Phase 1B are by appointment only at some pharmacies, as well as state-run and locally-run clinics. More detailed information about locations will be announced at

Here’s how you can let your county health department know you are interested in setting up a COVID-19 vaccine appointment when you become eligible:

State of Illinois vaccine update Wednesday

A total of 1,724,325 doses of vaccine have been delivered to providers in Illinois, including Chicago. In addition, approximately 428,100 doses total have been allocated to the federal government’s Pharmacy Partnership Program for long-term care facilities. This brings the total Illinois doses to 2,152,425.

A total of 1,480,079 vaccines have been administered in Illinois as of last midnight, including 223,790 for long-term care facilities. The seven-day rolling average of vaccines administered daily is 55,135 doses. On Tuesday, 62,923 doses were administered. Illinois is on-track to have administered more than 1.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine by Thursday, Feb. 11.

Meanwhile, the state reported Wednesday roughly 2.57% of its entire population has been fully vaccinated or 327,413 individuals.

For health questions about COVID-19, call the hotline at 1-800-889-3931 or email [email protected].

Illinois announces new cases, deaths

The state of Illinois announced 2,825 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, bringing the total to 1,152,995. The state health department also announced 53 additional deaths making it 19,739 since the pandemic began.

Also within the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported 82,885 new tests have been administered for a total of 16,822,385.

As of Tuesday, when the latest data was available, 2,082 people in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 464 patients were in the ICU, and 232 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.

The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total tests from Feb 3-9 is 3.3%.


How to share your questions with us

Help the BND report on COVID-19 vaccines and their distribution in southwestern Illinois. Send your questions and coverage ideas to [email protected] or 618-239-2500.

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