Health

In the news... On Friday morning, residents of Cook County began receiving single-COVID-19 vaccine shots inside a former K-Mart store on Oakton Street in Des Plaines.

Signups for appointments in Des Plaines began Thursday for what reportedly is the state's first large-scale location of injections of the vaccine from Johnson & Johnson-owned Janssen Biotech, approved for emergency use last weekend by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Also starting Thursday, seniors were able to try to make an appointment at another mass vaccination site--the United Center on Chicago's west side. Injections are scheduled to begin next week, with a capacity of about 6,000 innoculations a day.

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For updates on the pandemic, check:  coronavirus.illinois.gov   

Call:  1-800-889-3931, the COVID-19 information hotline, or email:  dph.sick@illinois.gov   To have pandemic updates sent directly to your cell phone, text covid to 312-500-3836.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) Health Insurance Marketplace is open February 15 – May 15, 2021 for the Special Enrollment Period (SEP) in Response to COVID-19 - ends in 84 days.

Learn how to prepare for a telehealth session. 

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More on How to Sign Up for Vaccine at the United Center and in Des Plaines

You can go to Zocdoc.com/vaccine or call 312-746-4835 to book an appointment at the United Center. You will be required to enter your birth date to confirm you are at least 65 years old.

To make appointments at the closed K-Mart store in Des Plaines. go to vaccine.cookcountyil.gov or by phone at (833) 308-1988. Supported by the state national guard, site hours will be Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., with a daily goal of accommodating up to 3,500 people.

Approval of Janssen Biotech/Johnson & Johnson Request for EUA Signals Hope

There is hope this third, long-awaited vaccine in the U.S. may lead to the end of the pandemic.

On Sunday, an advisory panel to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approved the single-shot Janssen Biotech/Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Endorsement from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) came one day after the FDA okayed it for emergency use, joining the two-shot Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines in the fight against COVID-19.

"This third safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine comes at a potentially pivotal time," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Sunday in a statement.

"CDC's latest data suggest that recent declines in COVID-19 cases may be stalling and potentially leveling off at still very high numbers. That is why it is so critical that we remain vigilant and consistently take all of the mitigation steps we know work to stop the spread of COVID-19 while we work our way toward mass vaccination."

Last Friday the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) endorsed a request for emergency use authorization (EUA) from Janssen Biotech of their vaccine. The next day the FDA approved it.

How to Better Wear Your Mask(s)

The CDC has updated guidance about mask wearing. DO:

  • Choose a mask with a nose wire along the top. It prevents air from leaking from the top of the mask.
  • Add layers of material, including wearing one disposable mask underneath a cloth mask.
  • Knot and tuck ear loops of a three-ply mask.
  • Do NOT combine two disposable masks.
  • Do NOT use a KN95 mask with any other mask.

Vaccination Sites in Illinois

Delivery of vaccine lagged for a couple of months while demand continued to exceed supply, leaving many eligible people frustrated and fearful. With the advent of mass vaccination sites, there is hope.

Still, there are logistics. Given that vaccinations now continue to be only available by appointment, not everyone has had unlimited time to repeatedly call and/or search websites. Also, not everyone knows how to go online. So for many, their loved ones have doggedly tracked down appointments.

All of that said, a portal on the state's coronavirus website lists vaccination locations. The vaccine signup hotline for Cook County is 833-308-1988, Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. And, you can go to the following sites:

An estimated 3.2 million Illinois residents--65 and older, plus frontline essential workers (including teachers, and grocery workers)--became eligible for shots when the state moved into phase 1B.

Do you have misgivings about getting a COVID-19 vaccine? The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has answers to frequently asked vaccine questions.

Update on Variants of the Coronavirus in U.S.

It is the nature of viruses to mutate and change. Variants are different versions of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Work on "booster" shots already is under way in case the current vaccines are not able to deal effectively with these variants.

B.1.1.7, one of three variants identified in the United States, spreads more rapidly and is possibly more dangerous. First spotted in the United Kingdom, there now are 2,672 cases in 48 states. As of Thursday, Florida continued to have the most cases of B.1.1.7, with 642, followed by Michigan, with 421. California was third with 250.

A different variant, B.1.351, was initially detected in South Africa. There now are 68 cases in the U.S., involving 17 states. With still another variant, P.1., initially identified in Brazil, there now are 13 identified cases, covering seven states.

lllinois remains at a total of 70 variant-related cases:  69 of B.1.1.7, and one of B.1.351.

Don't Fall for COVID-19 Vaccine Scams

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has advice on how to avoid pandemic-related scams.

Test Positivity

Fortunately, test positivity numbers continue to fall. IDPH reported Friday the preliminary seven-day statewide positivity as a percent of total test from February 26-March 4 dropped slightly to 2.2% (Test positivity is total positive tests over total tests.) The preliminary seven-day statewide test positivity for the same period fell one-tenth of a percent to 2.8%.

Delivery of Vaccine/Number of Vaccinations Given

As of Friday, 3,780,305 doses of vaccine have been delivered to providers in Illinois, including Chicago. About 443,700 total doses have been allocated to the federal Pharmacy Partnership Program (PPP), which Illinois opted into, with CVS and Walgreens handling vaccinations at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities (LTCFs). That brings the total number of doses in Illinois to 4,224,005.

IDPH reported Friday 3,125,425 vaccines have been administered as of midnight, including 336,911 for LTCFs. The 7-day rolling average of vaccines given daily is 83,115 doses. On Thursday, a record 131,882 doses were administered in Illinois.

Vaccines By Type

The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are messenger RNA or mRNA vaccines. They do not contain a live virus. mRNA vaccines take advantage of the process cells use to make proteins, to prompt an immune response and build immunity to SARS-CoV-2.

The Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine is different. It's a viral vector vaccine. Scientists took an adenovirus (common viruses causing a range of illness), the viral vector, and replaced a small bit of its genetic instructions with coronavirus genes for the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.

Deaths at Long-Term Care Facilities

Nearly 10,000 residents of LTCFs have died of COVID-19 in Illinois, alone.

However there are indications that vaccinations have started to make a difference. Since the beginning of the pandemic last year, 9,894 residents of LTCFs died from COVID-19, according to IDPH statistics posted Friday. That's an increase of 37 from the previous week. The total number of cases at LTCFs as of Friday was 75,170, up 86 from the week before.

Aspects of the Three Current Vaccines

Pfizer-BioNTech's second shot is to be administered within three weeks of the first. Moderna's second shot, within four weeks.  Pfizer's vaccine requires ultra-cold storage; Moderna's does not. Neither does Janssen/Johnson & Johnson's. Pfizer's is for 18 years and older. Moderna's, at least 16 years old. The Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine is for those at least 18 years old.

All three of the vaccines received quick approval: Pfizer and Moderna's vaccines in 2020. And, Janssen/Johnson & Johnson's in 2021. On December 18, the FDA okayed an EUA request for a second vaccine, from Moderna, a day after VRBPAC said yes. As the FDA did a week before for Pfizer-BioNTech, the nation's first vaccine. It was two days for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in late February.

Testing

The testing center at the Arlington racetrack, 2000 W. Euclid Avenue in Arlington Heights, is open from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m., while daily supplies last. IDPH has a list of testing sites

On Friday, laboratories reported 103,336 specimens within the past 24 hours, for a total of 18,492,848.

Mental Health/Medical Help

Call4Calm connects you to a mental health professional. It's free and anonymous. For English, text talk to 552020. For Spanish, text hablar to 552020.

To get help for substance abuse, call:  1-833-2findhelp.  Or, go to:  helplineil.org

For those with COVID-19 symptoms who don't require in-patient care, there is daily telehealth monitoring. Northern Illinois:  1-866-443-2584... Central Illinois and Rockford: 1-833-673-5669...Southern and west central Illinois (+ Metro East):  1-217-545-5100.

Cases by Location in Illinois

IDPH provides a breakdown by zip code and county of infections. In zip codes 60016 (5,537) and 60018 (3,312), Friday's total number of positive cases was 8,849.

COVID-19 statistics as of Friday, March 5, 2021

lllinois, IDPH:   1,194,702 cases (1,442 new confirmed and probable cases). 20,700 deaths (33 new confirmed deaths). (Total nucleic acid-based tests performed and reported electronically for testing of COVID-19 at IDPH, commercial or hospital laboratories.) Recovery rate:  98%. Recovered cases defined as persons with initial positive specimen collection data more than 42 days, who have not died.

As of 11:59 p.m., March 4, IDPH:  1,166 individuals with COVID-19 were hospitalized. Of those, 263 were in the intensive care unit (ICU), and 121 of the ICU patients were on ventilators.

U.S. (since January 21, 2020), as of March 5:  CDC:  28,646,679 total cases (66,481 new cases since March 4).  Total deaths: 519,064 (1,840 new deaths since March 4).

Globally as of March 5:  WHO:  115,289,961 confirmed cases and 2,564,560 confirmed deaths, in 223 countries, areas or territories with cases.

Visit the following sites for additional information about COVID-19 and how to deal with this public health emergency:

 -- World Health Organization (WHO)

 -- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

 -- New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM)

 -- Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH)

 -- Cook County Department of Public Health

 -- Johns Hopkins University of Medicine

The death toll in Illinois due to vaping remains at five, according to IDPH.      

Help try to prevent suicides. Options include:

 -- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:  1-800-273-8255 (24/7)

 -- What can you do? The National Institute of Mental Health has details.  

 -- Veterans Crisis Hotline:  1-800-273-8255

Here's the latest on the opioid crisis.

Considering a career in health? Oakton Community College's spring information sessions have been cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Contact the health career advisor directly.

Oakton also has Continuing Education for Health Professionals (CEHP).