Coping with COVID: Homewood mayor recovers, state reports vaccine progress

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Coping with COVID: Homewood mayor recovers, state reports vaccine progress

January 11, 2021 - 17:26
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Homewood mayor recovers. As of Friday, Jan. 8, more than 6% of Homewood's population had contracted COVID-19. That includes Mayor Richard Hofeld.

On Saturday, Hofeld was back in his business office after two weeks of isolation recovering from the infection.

He said the virus hit him pretty hard with chills, fever and loss of smell and taste, which are common symptoms of the disease. 

"I have no idea how I got it. I'd taken all the precautions," he said, noting that he wore a mask when in public, washed his hands and maintained physical distance, the three practices that health officials have stressed are the best defenses against the virus.

He took the opportunity to recommend that all residents follow those precautions, which may have helped keep him safe from the virus for the first nine months of the pandemic. 

He also urged residents to make use of the state's free COVID-19 testing site on the South Suburban College campus in South Holland.

"The testing staff is very professional, very accommodating," he said. He visited during afternoon hours and said he did not have to wait long.

Vaccine progress. In his COVID-19 news briefing last week, Gov. J.B. Pritzker reported on progress in the state's vaccination program, noting that 344,525 doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines had been received and more than 207,000 people had been vaccinated as of Jan. 5.

He said the delivery of vaccine doses has been slower than expected, however. 

The state is about one-third of the way through vaccinating the health care workers and long-term care facility residents and staff that are eligible under the Phase 1A guidelines. Pritzker said about 850,000 people are in that category. 

When Phase 1A has been completed, Phase 1B vaccinations will begin with a focus on seniors and frontline essential workers: first responders; postal, manurfacturing and distribution workers; public transit staff; educators; persons in food production and agriculture; and grocery and congregate facility workers.

He noted the state was planning to make one variance from the federal Phase 1B guidelines. Rather than including seniors aged 75 and older, Illinois will include anyone age 65 and older.

"I believe strongly that we ought to protect more of our seniors earlier than ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) has recommended," Pritzker said. 

He said the lowered age threshold is designed to increase access for those groups disproportionately affected by the virus, especially in Black and Brown communities. 

He provided numbers that illustrate the imbalance: The average age of death from COVID-19 for white people is 81; the average age for Black people is 72; and the average age for Latino people is 68. 

"I believe our exit plan for this pandemic must on balance overcome structural inequalities that have allowed COVID-19 to rage through our most vulnerable communities," he said. 

Mitigation update. At the Jan. 6 briefing, Pritzker mentioned that some regions in the state are making sustained progress in lowering infection rates. State health officials are monitoring the numbers, and on Jan. 15 it's possible some regions will be able to move out of the restrictive Tier 3 mitigation plan into the more open Tier 2 guidelines. 

Trends. Region 10, which includes Homewood and Flossmoor and remains under Tier 3 virus spread mitigation orders, has seen some improvement in infection rates in recent weeks. 

The seven-day rolling average positivity rate was down to 8.9% on Dec. 26, but by Jan. 5 had risen to 10.6%. On Jan. 7, it was down to 10.2%.