R.I. County sees 651 new COVID cases, not planning vaccine mandate like Chicago

Local News
Melissa Balanon

FILE – A dose of a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at Lurie Children’s hospital, Nov. 5, 2021, in Chicago. The omicron-fueled surge that is sending COVID-19 cases rocketing in the U.S. is putting children in the hospital in close to record numbers, and experts lament that most of the youngsters are not vaccinated. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

The Rock Island County Health Department on Monday reported 651 new cases of COVID-19 since the last report on Wednesday, Dec. 29. The total number of cases now is 24,071.

Currently, 91 patients are hospitalized in the county with the virus. The average age of newly infected patients is 35.

“We are in the middle of a holiday-related surge, so the high number of cases is not shocking. It’s frustrating, but it’s not shocking,” Janet Hill, public information officer of the Rock Island County Health Department, said Monday. “The high number of hospitalizations is hugely concerning to us and our healthcare partners — 91 is our county’s all-time high. This surge could have been prevented. Only about 60% of Rock Island County residents 5 and older have been vaccinated.

“If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, please do so as soon as possible, and if you are eligible, get boosted,” she said. “Our hospital systems are stressed beyond capacity, and we haven’t hit the expected New Year’s surge within a surge.”

The health department offers twice-a-week walk-in vaccination clinics for those 12 and older: Tuesdays (Moderna and Johnson & Johnson for 18 and older) and Fridays (Pfizer for 12 and older). The hours for both days are 9 a.m. to noon and 1-4 p.m. Boosters or third doses for immunocompromised people are available on the same day as first and second doses. Boosters are offered for those have received their second dose Pfizer or Moderna six months ago or two months ago for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Appointments for this Friday’s pediatric Pfizer clinic for children ages 5-11 will be available on the department’s Facebook page at 10 a.m. Wednesday. Healthcare and pharmacy partners also are doing vaccinations for both children and adults. Visit vaccines.gov to find your shot.

Reported daily cases nationwide are exceeding 300,000 for the first time during the pandemic.

The Rock Island County Health Department is awaiting approval from the CDC for Pfizer boosters for children ages 12-15. The FDA gave the nod on Monday, but the CDC advisory panel and director must concur. If CDC approval is given by Friday, Pfizer boosters will be available to everyone 12 and older at the Friday walk-in clinic.

A new law took effect Jan. 3 in Chicago, requiring proof of vaccination to enter many indoor public establishments.

On Monday, Jan. 3, the city of Chicago implemented a new vaccine requirement for admission to a variety of establishments. Proof of vaccination there is required for the following public indoor places:  

  • Indoor Dining: Establishments where food or beverages are served, including, but not limited to, restaurants, bars, fast food establishments, coffee shops, tasting rooms, cafeterias, food courts, dining areas of grocery stores, breweries, wineries, distilleries, banquet halls, and hotel ballrooms; and 
  • Indoor Fitness: Gyms and fitness venues, including, but not limited to, gyms, recreation facilities, fitness centers, yoga, Pilates, cycling, barre, and dance studios, hotel gyms, boxing and kickboxing gyms, fitness boot camps, and other facilities used for conducting indoor group fitness classes; and 
  • Indoor entertainment and recreation venues where food or beverages are served: Including, but not limited to, movie theaters, music and concert venues, live performance venues, adult entertainment venues, commercial event and party venues, sports arenas, performing arts theaters, bowling alleys, arcades, card rooms, family entertainment centers, play areas, pool and billiard halls, and other recreational game centers.

Rock Island County is not considering a mandate like Chicago has, Hill said. “We follow Illinois Department of Public Health guidance, and no similar mandate has come down from Springfield. Administrator Nita Ludwig is the statutory health official in Rock Island County,” she said.

In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot issued the mandate. Chicago, like many Illinois cities, has home rule and can decide matters outside of state rules, Hill noted, adding such a ruling would not come from RICHD.

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