BREAKING NEWS: As Illinois covid numbers hit yet more record highs, Gov. JB Pritzker announced the state will beef up testing and booster vaccine availability, and reinforced new restrictions beginning in January.

The governor will increase staffing at vaccination clinics by more than 100 people to administer more free booster shots and vaccinations, and the sites will begin operating six days a week, he said at a press conference today.

“I’m announcing this surge staffing to support our local health departments to vaccinate and boost tens of thousands more Illinoisans,” Pritzker said in a statement. “We are also increasing testing and continuing to distribute monoclonal antibodies, anti-viral pills and any treatments or personal protective equipment communities need.”

You can visit vaccines.gov to find a clinic near you.

BREAKING: As Illinois Hits New Covid Records, Pritzker Increasing Testing, Boosters, Restrictions

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker

The uptick in staffing and vaccinations begins Jan. 3, the same day new restrictions and vaccination requirements to enter many businesses begin in Chicago and surrounding Cook County. However, other counties have been likewise considering the action.

Pritkzer said, for now, he wouldn’t implement a statewide mandate, and would depend on each county to make their own decision in terms of restrictions.

“I want to be clear that I am going to continue to do everything possible to protect all the people of this state, whatever your vaccine status. But what kind of year 2022 turns out to be depends on all of us doing what is best for all of us,” Pritzker said. “If you are unvaccinated and you get very sick, you’ll be filling a bed that would have been available for your ailing spouse or your parent or your child — or someone else’s child — someone with cancer or a heart attack or seriously injured in a car accident. If we are forced to move to a crisis standard of care in our hospitals, it will be because a massive number of unvaccinated people chose to let others go without quality care — and even more people will die. If you are choosing not to be vaccinated for some non-medical reason, please change your mind.”

BREAKING: As Illinois Hits New Covid Records, Pritzker Increasing Testing, Boosters, Restrictions

Illinois covid numbers, including of the omicron variant, have been soaring over the past month. (Photo courtesy of the Iowa Department of Public Health)

For the third time in a week, Illinois covid numbers set a new record high. The last figures from the Illinois Department of Public Health showed 18,942 cases of the virus were diagnosed on Thursday, the last day numbers were reported. The seven day average for the state covid infection rate is now 12,573, yet another new record since the pandemic began.

The state is currently seeing its highest number of cases of the entire pandemic and hospitalizations increased by 330 patients in the last 24 hours, said Dr. Ngozi Ezike of the Illinois Department of Public Health, during the press conference.

“It’s not just about cases. If it was just cases and no one was ending up in the hospital, then let the cases be,” she said.

BREAKING: As Illinois Hits New Covid Records, Pritzker Increasing Testing, Boosters, Restrictions

Dr. Ngozi Ezike

As previously reported on QuadCities.com, the omicron variant has begun to sweep across Illinois, with confirmed cases in seven counties, all around Chicagoland. The variant was responsible for 73 percent of new cases over the last week nationwide.

In reaction to the exploding numbers, shutdowns and new restrictions have begun statewide. Beginning Jan. 3, Chicago as well as suburban Cook County — areas in regions 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 —  will require proof of vaccination for many indoor public spaces.

Several schools across the state announced they’ll be going to remote learning at least to begin the next semester in January. Northwestern, DePaul and University of Chicago in Cook County will all begin as remote learning, as will University of Illinois Urbana- Champaign in downstate Champaign and Illinois State University. In addition, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale has told students, faculty and staff that they must test negative for covid-19 within 48 hours of returning to campus, including those who have been vaccinated, and those who have not been vaccinated will have to continue to be tested weekly.

BREAKING: As Illinois Hits New Covid Records, Pritzker Increasing Testing, Boosters, Restrictions

Omicron is making up 73 percent of the new cases of covid-19 nationwide.

In addition, theatrical performances and sports around the Chicagoland area, including games by the Chicago Bulls, Chicago Blackhawks, and performances by the Joffrey Ballet, have been canceled or postponed, with more expected to be impacted.

Illinois cases are up over 40 percent since the start of December, and officials are finally admitting that they’ve been looking at expanding statewide restrictions.

“We have moved into very high transmission,” said Dr. Allison Arwady, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner. “While unsurprising, this news should remind Chicagoans of the ongoing threat from covid-19, especially as families prepare to come together over the holidays.”

For ongoing coverage of this situation, continue to follow QuadCities.com.

BREAKING: As Illinois Hits New Covid Records, Pritzker Increasing Testing, Boosters, Restrictions
Sean Leary is an author, director, artist, musician, producer and entrepreneur who has been writing professionally since debuting at age 11 in the pages of the Comics Buyers Guide. An honors graduate of the University of Southern California masters program, he has written over 50 books including the best-sellers The Arimathean, Every Number is Lucky to Someone and We Are All Characters.
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