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Illinois Coronavirus Updates: Socializing After Vaccination, Phase 1B to Expand This Week

Illinois Coronavirus Updates: Socializing After Vaccination, Phase 1B to Expand This Week

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Can you begin to expand your social circle after receiving the coronavirus vaccine?

Illinois medical experts weighed in.

At the same time, the state is expected to expand the requirements for who is eligible for vaccinations in Phase 1B of the state's rollout this week.

Here are the latest COVID headlines from around the state:

Coronavirus in Illinois: 1,246 New Cases, 34 Additional Deaths, Nearly 60K Vaccinations

Health officials in Illinois are reporting 1,246 new cases of coronavirus on Monday, along with 34 additional deaths attributed to the virus.

According to the latest data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, Monday's new cases bring the state to 1,175,655 cases of the virus since the pandemic began last year. A total of 20,303 deaths have been reported as a result of the virus.

The seven-day positivity rate rose slightly Monday, with 2.8% of all tests coming back with positive results, according to IDPH. That's up from 2.7% the day before. The positivity rate on individuals tested held steady at 3.1%.

In terms of vaccinations, numbers have continued to be impacted by the bad weather that limited deliveries of new doses in recent days. A total of 59,748 doses of the vaccine were administered in Illinois Sunday, with the seven-day rolling average now standing at 55,499 doses per day.

A total of 2,256,975 vaccine doses have been delivered to providers in Illinois, along with 445,200 doses delivered to pharmacies as part of a federal program to inoculate staff and residents at long-term care facilities. Of those 2.7 million doses, 2,211,700 vaccines had been administered in Illinois as of midnight, including 282,820 for long-term care facilities.

Phase 1B Vaccine Eligibility Set to Expand This Week

Illinois is set to expand the list of people eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations in Phase 1B of its rollout, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Wednesday.

The state expects to increase eligibility beginning Feb. 25, allowing for people with "a high-risk medical condition" or comorbidity to be vaccinated. The list includes those with cancer, diabetes, obesity, women who are pregnant, and those with several other conditions.

Here's a list of what qualifies as a high-risk medical condition.

Chicago and Cook County do not expect to join the state in expanding eligibility.

For a complete look at where and how you can make an appointment in Illinois or where you can receive vaccine information for your area, click here.

More Staff Returning to Chicago Public Schools Classrooms Monday

Additional teachers and staff are set to return to classrooms as the district prepares to welcome back more students in the coming weeks.

According to CPS' schedule, kindergarten through 5th grade teachers were scheduled to report to school Monday, one week before their students return for in-person learning.

The move was part of an agreement between the district and Chicago Teachers Union, following weeks of negotiations over a return to in-classroom instruction and vaccinations for teachers.

Illinois' Top Doc Says Wide Vaccine Availability Months Away

Illinois’ top doctor vowed wide availability of the COVID-19 vaccine to the state's residents, but said it’ll take months for supply to meet demand.

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike’s comments in a weekend Chicago Tribune opinion piece come amid complaints of shortages and difficulties in obtaining appointments. The recent blast of winter weather also delayed shipments, leading to canceled appointments.

“It will be months before our supply comfortably outpaces demand — an obstacle we always expected, and the very reason we have devoted so much time and thought to the phases of prioritization,” Ezike wrote. “Everyone deserves their turn to get the vaccine, and it’s my promise to Illinois that we will get there — as efficiently, quickly and equitably as we can.”

COVID-19 Positivity Rate Lowest Since Pandemic Began, Chicago's Top Doc Says

Chicago's coronavirus positivity rate is the lowest it's been since the pandemic began, the city's top doctor announced Friday.

"I'm also happy to announce today, we are at a 3.5% positivity in the city of Chicago," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said. "That is the lowest positivity that the city of Chicago has seen from COVID, since COVID came to Chicago."

Arwady noted that over the summer, Chicago's positivity rate dropped below 4%, but never to the level the city is recording as of Friday.

Chicago's is averaging 323 new COVID-19 cases per day, Arwady said, which is down from the over 3,000 cases a day recorded at the peak of the virus. The city's daily case count is also below the cutoff that marks a "high-risk area," according to Chicago guidance.

Can You Socialize Once You're Fully Vaccinated? Experts Answer

After receiving the coronavirus vaccine, when is it safe to expand your social circles or see loved ones?

According to experts on NBC 5's "Vaccinated State" panel, the answer is a bit complicated.

"One thing we don't know about the vaccine is whether or not people will continue to shed virus if they get infected," said Dr. Richard Novak, head of the Division of Infectious Diseases for UI Health. "The vaccine is very effective in preventing people from getting sick, but that doesn't mean they didn't get infection. We don't know you know that yet. And if they do get the infection, we don't know the amount of virus that that they're shedding that's coming out of their body is decreased."

According to Novak, the length of immunity given by the vaccine remains unclear.

"What we do know is that actually an immunity lasts for at least the three months that we've had in the study and actually if you look at the levels of antibodies produced by the vaccines, first, it's higher than a natural infection," Novak said. "And the antibodies the vaccine induces are more potent than the natural infection, and the trajectory of the declining antibodies is quite slow so it's expected that the level of antibodies is going to continue to last for at least a year or more but we don't, we won't, know that until we complete the studies which are still ongoing."

Similarly, grandparents have asked when they can see young grandkids after receiving their vaccination, noting that children have been reported to be less susceptible to severe infections from the virus.

"We don't want to risk the possibility of quietly, silently, unwittingly transferring the virus to the baby," said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. "The baby could transmit to the parents and other people in the home. So we still need to exercise precautions when we're mixing households."

But what if both people have been fully vaccinated?

Complete vaccination is said to be two weeks after a person receives their second dose of the vaccine.

"To be honest with you, I think it's pretty safe for two completely vaccinated - that means two weeks after their second dose - completely vaccinated people to expand their friends circle to include other completely vaccinated people, and in a moderate way," said Dr. Emily Landon, executive medical director of Infection Control and Prevention at University of Chicago Medicine. "I think that's probably pretty reasonable. But I do think it's really important to, for the most part, continue wearing our masks."

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