The Trump administration on Tuesday instructed states to begin vaccinating Americans over the age of 65 for COVID-19, as well as those with chronic medical conditions.
The move comes as Illinois continues to vaccinate front-line health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities.
“We are working as fast as we can to make sure our people here in Chicago, who every day are potentially being exposed to COVID … making sure that they get their appointments booked for getting this COVID vaccine,” Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said Tuesday.
Illinois has so far administered about 350,000 COVID-19 vaccine shots, and is averaging around 24,000 doses daily. The pace is slower than what many people had hoped for.
Dr. Emily Landon is the executive medical director for infection prevention and control at UChicago Medicine.
She says her hospital system is distributing the vaccine like a “well-oiled machine,” thanks to their large workforce and existing vaccination infrastructure — but that’s not the case everywhere.
“It takes a lot to run one of these vaccine clinics. It’s not exactly easy. It’s not like you just go to the fridge and pull out the pre-filled syringe and slap a needle on and get a jab. There’s a lot that has to happen,” Landon said. “So there is certainly a lot more to doing this vaccine than there is to a regular vaccine, and I think a lot of places are struggling with the logistics of that.”
Meanwhile, citing the economic hardship caused by the pandemic, a group of restaurant owners on Tuesday called for Gov. J.B. Pritzker to allow indoor dining at a capacity of 20%.
Indoor dining and drinking at bars and restaurants has been suspended in Illinois since Nov. 20.
“We have to be at at least 20%. Deliveries and takeouts aren’t enough to keep us surviving. My business will be 100 years old shortly … and I want to make sure it stays open. So we need somebody to help us do that,” said Ralph Davino, owner of Pompei Restaurant on Taylor Street in Little Italy.
But Landon says she doesn’t think allowing people to eat inside at a restaurant is a good idea right now, especially with the arrival of a new, highly contagious variant of COVID-19 that emerged in the U.K. and has since been detected in the U.S., including in neighboring Indiana on Monday.
“Every restaurant is different from every other restaurant. And 20% capacity may be fine for some places with great ventilation and plenty of spacing, but it may not be for others,” Landon said. “There’s no good standards for ventilation, there’s no way to know which restaurants are going to be OK at 20% and which aren’t.”
This week also marked the return to in-person learning for some Chicago Public Schools students.
Landon says schools are a much more controlled environment than restaurants, where students and teachers can wear masks constantly and appropriately distance.
“I think it’s important that we do everything we can to get kids back in school, especially younger kids. And that means that we need to make all the efforts we can,” she said. “It does have to be a very controlled environment, and there’s going to be a lot of important things to watch as things reopen, but I think it’s time.”