Vaccine eligibility expands; Remote learning bill passes committee

Vaccine eligibility to expand April 12

As more coronavirus vaccines have been produced and made available for states, Illinois has been able to vaccinate more of the state’s high-risk individuals and can now begin moving on to the general population. Beginning Monday April 12, all Illinoisans over the age of 16 will be eligible to receive their vaccination.

Late this week Illinois surpassed five million doses administered since the first vaccinations began in December 2020. The vast majority of these are two-shot vaccinations, so it will take more than 26 million doses to fully vaccinate the state’s entire population. The Department of Public Health has been working with local health departments, community health centers, pharmacies and many other health providers in the state to reach as many Illinoisans as possible. As of Thursday just over 15% of Illinoisans were fully vaccinated.

Vaccines are administered by appointment only, so anyone seeking to obtain one will need an appointment to do so. Visit coronavirus.illinois.gov or call the Department of Public Health hotline at 1-833-621-1284 to get an appointment. You can also reach out to your county health department for information about local availability and vaccination plans.

Remote learning bill advances through committee

Just before the deadline passed for bills to advance to the House floor, another of my bills was favorably voted on by a House committee. House Bill 3573 makes a change in the School Code to allow a school district to utilize a remote learning day instead of an emergency day. It requires the school district to have a remote learning plan in place before they utilize a remote learning day and sets out some other requirements. The bill was approved by the Elementary and Secondary Education: Administration Licensing and Charter School committee by an 8-0 vote.

‘Bridge to Phase 5’ announced

Illinois is poised to take another step forward in the Restore Illinois re-opening plan for lifting the pandemic lockdowns. The entire state is currently in Phase 4 and the Governor has announced the creation of an intermediary step between our current status and full-reopening. This “bridge to phase 5” will offer the opportunity for higher capacity limits in public places like zoos and spectator events and will also increase the capacity at businesses.

The threshold for moving into this new phase requires a 70% first-dose vaccination rate for Illinoisans over the age of 65 (as of the end of last week we were at 58% and rising); maintain a 20% or lower ICU bed availability rate and no big increases in COVID-like hospital admissions or case rates. Illinois would fully move into Phase 5 once 50% of those over the age of 16 have been vaccinated and the other threshold is still being met.

Find more details on the bridge phase here.

Talking with Clifton students

I have been glad to be able to get back out on the road and back to visiting our local schools. I always enjoy talking with our state’s future leaders and that is something I have really missed during the year of lockdowns. A few days ago I got the chance to visit Ms. Swigert-Fenton’s class at Clifton Central High School. We had a good discussion about state government and they asked a lot of good questions. Thank you to everyone who participated!

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $4,815,776,925 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $7.7 billion. This figure represents the amount of bills submitted to the office of the Comptroller and still awaiting payment. It does not include debts that can only be estimated, such as our unfunded pension liability which is subject to a wide range of factors and has been estimated to be more than $141 billion.

More news from around the state

The latest update from the Department of Public Health

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To get all the latest news and information from every Illinois state agency, visit the state’s newsfeed website at https://www2.illinois.gov/news. There you will find the latest press releases from state agencies. If you want to receive updates only from the agencies you select, you can sign up to receive state agency news alerts by going to https://www2.illinois.gov/sites/gov/pages/communicationsoptin.aspx and signing up for e-mail news updates.

For additional helpful resources, click here.

My district offices remain closed to in-person visits, but are still accessible by phone at (815) 432-0106 (Watseka) and (815) 844-9179 (Pontiac).