COVID-19 Vaccine Could Be Available in Chicago in 3 Weeks: Officials

(WTTW News via CNN)(WTTW News via CNN)

The first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine could be administered to health care workers in Chicago in three weeks, Chicago health officials said Tuesday.

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The Chicago Department of Public Health expects to receive between 20,000 and 25,000 doses of the vaccine as part of an initial shipment if federal officials grant pharmaceutical giant Pfizer an emergency authorization next week as expected, said Dr. Allison Arwady.

That authorization will detail how local health departments are allowed to distribute the vaccine, with the first doses going to health care workers at Chicago’s 37 hospitals, said Arwady, the department’s commissioner. 

Those who get the first doses of vaccine will need another shot to complete the immunization process and those second doses are expected to be earmarked for Chicago as part of a subsequent shipment, Arwady said.

“We’re at the beginning of what’s going to be a long campaign,” Arwady said.

Chicago has plenty of cold storage to handle the Pfizer vaccine, which must be kept at negative 80 degrees before being administered, because the city started building that capacity months ago in anticipation of an approved vaccine.

After health care workers in Chicago are immunized, the residents and employees at Chicago’s 128 long-term care facilities, including nursing homes, will be vaccinated, Arwady said. 

After that, essential workers will get the vaccine. Many live in the neighborhoods hardest hit by the coronavirus, Arwady said.

A new website, will allow Chicagoans to track the progress of the vaccine campaign, Arwady said.

The city’s coronavirus test positivity rate is 11.6%, down from 13.4% a week ago, as calculated by the Chicago Department of Public Health.

There are 1,723 confirmed cases of COVID-19 per day in Chicago, on average, down 18% in a week, according to city data.

Based on that data, one in 19 Chicagoans likely has an active COVID-19 infection, Arwady said.

The tentative improvement reflected in that data has not yet translated into a drop in hospitalizations of those diagnosed with COVID-19, Arwady said.

“We’re pretty full,” Arwady said, noting that the city’s intensive care units have about 25% capacity. 

Deaths also continue to rise, with 15 to 16 Chicagoans dying every day after being diagnosed with the virus — an increase of nearly five times in the past five weeks, Arwady said.

City health officials updated Chicago’s quarantine order on Tuesday to include 46 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. Travelers from just three states — Maine, Hawaii and Vermont — are not required to quarantine for 14 days or record a negative test for COVID-19.

Travelers from North Dakota, South Dakota, Idaho, Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Colorado, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Montana, Minnesota, Utah, Kansas, Alaska, Rhode Island and Indiana are required to quarantine for 14 days, because those states are recording more new COVID-19 cases per day, per 100,000 population, than Chicago, officials said.

Travelers from all other states will be required to quarantine for 14 days or test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of arriving in Chicago, officials said. Those states have an average between 15 new cases per day, per 100,000 population, and Chicago’s rolling case average, officials said.

Violators of the quarantine order could face fines of $100 to $500 per day for a maximum fine of $7,000, according to Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office. However, city officials have said they’re relying on an education campaign, rather than an enforcement effort. No one has been cited for violating the order, which was first announced in July.

Travel by essential workers and students commuting to class is exempt from the order, according to the mayor’s office, as is travel to obtain medical care or exchange children subject to a shared custody order.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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