Stories by Kristen Thometz

Cook County Launches COVID-19 Vaccine Website, 1st Mass Vaccination Site

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle speaks Monday, Jan. 25, 2021 at the Tinley Park Convention Center, which will serve as a mass vaccination site for the COVID-19 vaccine. (WTTW News)

A year after the first coronavirus case was reported in Illinois, officials launched a new mass coronavirus vaccination site, website and hotline for those who live and work in Cook County. But demand for the vaccine still far outweighs supply.

4 New COVID-19 Vaccination Sites Open in Cook County

(WTTW News)

The new sites will provide vaccinations to health care workers this week and will begin vaccinating residents ages 65 and older as well as front-line essential workers starting Monday.

Cook County Ramping Up COVID-19 Vaccination Efforts

The second doses of the Pfizer vaccine in Chicago were administered at Norwegian American Hospital on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021. (WTTW News)

Illinois will soon begin the next phase of its COVID-19 vaccination effort, extending doses to residents ages 65 and older as well as essential front-line workers. The rollout is again prompting officials to urge residents get the vaccine once it becomes available to them.

IDPH Director Ezike Gets 1st Dose of COVID-19 Vaccine

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike receives her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021 at the North Riverside Health Center. (WTTW News)

“Most people survive this illness but some don’t,” Illinois’ top doctor said before receiving her first dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. “I don’t want to gamble with my life and I don’t want anyone else to gamble with theirs.”

Illinois Attorney General Warns of Scams Related to COVID-19 Vaccine

The first doses of the Pfizer vaccine in Chicago were administered at the Loretto Hospital on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. (WTTW News)

“People should be wary of anyone who offers the vaccine or promises priority access to the vaccine or a COVID-19 cure in exchange for money,” said Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul.

3 New Laws to Know in 2021

(Meagan Davis / Wikimedia Commons)

The new year usually brings with it hundreds of new laws in Illinois. But like everything else in recent history, the coronavirus pandemic has changed that up, too. On Jan. 1, 2021, only a trio of new laws will take effect.

Cook County Medical Examiner Reports Record Number of Deaths in 2020

(Photo by Mayron Oliveira on Unsplash)

The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office handled a record 16,049 deaths in 2020, with coronavirus-related deaths accounting for more than half of those cases, according to officials.

Health Officials Urge Residents to ‘Spread Joy, Not COVID’ Amid Vaccine Excitement

US Surgeon General Pays a Visit to Chicago

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams speaks Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020 at a press briefing on the coronavirus with Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady and Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. (WTTW News)

Just days before Christmas, a trio of high-profile doctors, including U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, made a plea for people to follow public health measures designed to stop the spread of COVID-19, even as two vaccines are being distributed across the U.S.

Officials: Seek Respite in Cook County Forest Preserves This Winter. But Wear a Mask

(Jerzy Górecki / Pixabay)

On the first day of winter, Cook County officials touted the benefits of spending time in nature, encouraging people to discover the nearly 70,000 acres of forest preserves this season — safely.

Report: Black, Latino Families Struggling with Food, Housing Security During Pandemic

Families pick up Thanksgiving meal boxes and coats for their children at West Town nonprofit Northwestern Settlement on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. (Ariel Parrella-Aureli / WTTW News)

Black and Latino communities are disproportionately getting sick and dying from the coronavirus, but a new analysis reveals additional disparities that are impacting families during the public health crisis.

State Launches Program to Close Digital Divide, Calls for Donations

COVID-19 in Illinois: 7,123 New Cases, 146 Additional Deaths

Gov. J.B. Pritzker talks Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020 during his daily coronavirus press briefing. (WTTW News)

The coronavirus pandemic has made internet access more essential than ever as people work and learn from home. But not everyone has a device to connect to the web — or internet access itself.

Pritzker Outlines $700 Million in Budget Cuts

COVID-19 in Illinois: 7,359 New Cases, 117 Additional Deaths

Gov. J.B. Pritzker talks about the state’s finances Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020 during his daily COVID-19 press briefing. (WTTW News)

Facing a nearly $4 billion budget hole, Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday outlined millions in cuts that he called a “first step” toward balancing the state’s budget.

Illinois Marks ‘Beginning of the End’ as First COVID-19 Vaccines Are Administered

Plus: IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike on ‘Chicago Tonight’

A health care worker gets the COVID-19 vaccine in Peoria, Illinois on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. (WTTW News)

The state’s first round of COVID-19 vaccinations outside of Chicago took place Tuesday morning in Peoria, where five health care workers rolled up their sleeves to get their first dose.

Cook County Officials Expect to Get 20K Doses of COVID-19 Vaccine This Week

Cook County Department of Public Health co-lead Dr. Rachel Rubin talks Monday, Dec. 14, 2020 about plans to vaccinate suburban Cook County health care workers and residents. (WTTW News)

Suburban Cook County health officials outlined their vaccination plans Monday as they await the shipment of 20,000 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech. 

Illinois Receives Its 1st Shipment of COVID-19 Vaccine as Officials Urge Patience

COVID-19 in Illinois: 7,214 New Cases, 103 Additional Deaths

J.B. Pritzker talks Monday, Dec. 14, 2020 during the state’s daily COVID-19 briefing. (WTTW News)

“Today is a very special day that should instill us all with optimism and hope,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Monday as the state received an initial shipment of about 43,000 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine made by Pfizer. 

Suburban Cook County Launches Initiative to Prevent Opioid Overdose Deaths

Fentanyl pills (Credit: The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration)

With suburban Cook County on track to exceed 2,000 opioid overdose deaths this year, officials announce a program to address the “silent epidemic” that will connect people with treatment.

As Winter Holidays Near, Officials Urge People to Gather Virtually

COVID-19 in Illinois: 8,256 New Cases, 179 Additional Deaths

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike speaks Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020 during the state’s daily COVID-19 press briefing. (WTTW News)

“I urge people to postpone the normal ways that you’re used to celebrating. We are advising people to postpone travel during the holidays,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said Wednesday.

Pritzker: ‘Illinois Will Only Distribute a Vaccine That Is Deemed Safe’

COVID-19 in Illinois: 7,910 New Cases, 145 Additional Deaths

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020 during his daily COVID-19 briefing. (WTTW News)

With coronavirus vaccines on the horizon, state health officials are addressing people’s fears and skepticism surrounding their rapid development.

7 Things to Know About Illinois’ Plans for a COVID-19 Vaccine

(Angelo Esslinger / Pixabay)

The U.S. is about to embark on a massive COVID-19 vaccination campaign. Here's what you need to know about the state’s plan.

Is It Safe to Get Physical Therapy During COVID-19 Pandemic?

As an essential service, physical therapy clinics have remained open throughout the pandemic. (rodrigobernasc / Pixabay)

If you have pain, you may be tempted to tough it out while the nation sees a surge in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths. But that’s not advisable, physical therapists say. 

Ezike: ‘Let’s Not Make This Holiday Season Anyone’s Last’

COVID-19 in Illinois: 9,757 New Cases, 238 Additional Deaths

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike talks Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020 during the state’s daily COVID-19 briefing. (WTTW News)

State health officials reported 238 coronavirus-related deaths Wednesday, setting a new record for the number of fatalities reported in a single day in Illinois as Dr. Ngozi Ezike urged residents to “stay the course.”

‘Assume You Were Exposed’ to Virus, Pritzker Says, Urging People to Stay Home

COVID-19 in Illinois: 12,542 New Cases, 125 Additional Deaths

Gov. J.B. Pritzker introduces Steger resident Shanna Siegers during his COVID-19 briefing Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020. (WTTW News)

Anticipating a surge in coronavirus cases as result of Thanksgiving travel and gatherings, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said people should assume they’ve been exposed to the virus “and act like it.”

‘Tier 3’ Restrictions to Remain for Weeks as Officials Monitor Post-Thanksgiving Surge

COVID-19 in Illinois: 6,190 New Cases, 85 Additional Deaths

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks Monday, Nov. 30, 2020 about the spread of COVID-19 in Illinois. (WTTW News)

While the number of new COVID-19 cases have been declining in recent days, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the state is seeing a spike in hospitalizations and is “still very much in a precarious place.”

Survey: Roughly 70% of Chicago Parents Will Vaccinate Their Kids Against COVID-19

(kfuhlert / Pixabay)

“Communities that have been most negatively affected by COVID-19 are less likely to say they would to vaccinate their children and themselves against COVID-19,” said Dr. Matt Davis of Lurie Children’s Hospital.

Officials Release Reports on COVID-19 Outbreak in LaSalle Veterans Home

(beejees / Pixabay)

Findings from an investigation into a COVID-19 outbreak that has sickened more than 200 people revealed the facility was using hand sanitizer that was not effective against the virus and lax social distancing among staff.

UChicago Seeking 2,000 Volunteers for Clinical Trial of COVID-19 Vaccine

(WTTW News)

“We are looking for individuals from all walks of life to participate in this study,” said Dr. Habibul Ahsan, trial leader for the UChicago study. “We want to be sure that the community our hospital serves is well represented in this trial.”