- Associated Press - Thursday, April 8, 2021

CHICAGO (AP) - As Illinois is poised to open up eligibility for the coronavirus vaccine to residents as young as 16, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Thursday that the state will make 150,000 more first-dose vaccination appointments available in the Chicago suburbs.

The governor said the vaccinations will be available at 11 state-run mass vaccination sites in the suburbs and at area pharmacies.

Starting on Monday, residents 16 years and older will be able to schedule appointments in suburban Cook County as well as the state’s other 101 counties.

Officials have said that universal eligibility will be expanded to Chicago on April 19, meeting a goal set this week by President Joe Biden, but Pritzker said Chicago residents are “absolutely welcome” to sign up for appointments at the state-run vaccination sites outside the city.

Pritzker cautioned residents to not expect to get an appointment immediately.

“Even with all of these new appointments, there will not be enough vaccine in week one to get everyone that wants to be vaccinated,” he said.

The push for more vaccines comes as the state is seeing a troubling increase in the number of COVID-19 cases.

In Chicago, that increase was evident at the University of Chicago, where officials on Thursday reported that at least 50 new cases involving undergraduates - many of whom live in residence halls - had prompted the school to impose a stay-at-home order and halt in-person classes.

“Many of these cases may have been connected to one or more parties held by off-campus fraternities over the last week,” the school said in a statement, according to a Chicago Tribune, that also included a warning that officials expect the number of cases to increase.

Also Thursday, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported 3,739 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases. In recent weeks, a daily rise in cases of more than 2,000 has become routine. Last month, there were several days when there were fewer than 2,000 cases and the health department reported the total for March 8 was 1,182 cases.

The latest totals bring the number of confirmed and probable cases to 1,269,196 and the 34 more COVID-19 deaths brings the total death toll since the pandemic began last year to 21,457.

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