SPRINGFIELD – Illinoisans with underlying health conditions will be authorized to receive a COVID-19 vaccine beginning Feb. 25, according to a Pritzker Administration announcement this week, which State Sen. Brian Stewart (R-Freeport) says comes after several weeks of Senate Republicans calling on the Governor to prioritize those most vulnerable to COVID-19.
In other action, subject-matter hearings took place remotely for the Senate’s Labor, Commerce, and Health committees. Topics of discussion included unemployment insurance, Business Interruption Grants, and the COVID-19 vaccination rollout.
Also during the week, Senate Republicans continue to voice their concerns regarding the pending State Board of Education rule that is expected to come before the Joint Commission on Administrative Rules on Feb. 16.
Phase 1B expanded to include those with underlying conditions
The Governor announced Feb. 10 the expansion of Phase 1B vaccine eligibility to include those with underlying health conditions.
For weeks, Senate Republicans critical of Illinois’ vaccination rollout have been urging the Governor to prioritize these individuals, saying those most at risk of dying from the virus should be first in line.
Beginning Feb. 25, those with comorbidities, underlying conditions, and disabilities will be able to receive the vaccine. Prior to this announcement, Phase 1B included those ages 65 and older, essential workers, prisoners, and legislators.
The list of qualifying underlying conditions includes:
Chronic Kidney Disease
COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
Immunocompromised State from a Solid Organ Transplant
Sickle Cell Disease
Sen. Stewart says the prioritization of Illinoisans with underlying medical conditions is long past due. He also questioned why these individuals have to wait another two weeks for COVID-19 vaccines, when prisoners and legislators have already begun receiving shots.
Senate committees address COVID-19 concerns
The Senate’s regularly scheduled legislative session was canceled this week, but Senators continued their work remotely. The Senate’s Labor, Commerce, and Health committees met via Zoom to discuss a variety of issues brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Senate Labor Committee heard testimony about ongoing issues with the state’s unemployment insurance system. Senate Republicans expressed concern over the continued fraudulent claims, the long call-back times, and Illinois Department of Employment Security offices remaining closed.
The Senate Commerce Committee also heard testimony regarding Business Interruption Grants, which seek to assist businesses forced to close under the Governor’s mitigation restrictions. Republican members of the Committee expressed concerns about the lack of transparency in the process of awarding grants, and were frustrated with the fact that only 20 percent of applicants have received grants.
What garnered the most attention this week was the Senate Health Committee, which dove into the issues surrounding the Administration’s handling of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Illinois continues to lag behind others states in the percentage of people who have received at least one dose. Additionally, Senate Republicans continue to hear from constituents regarding the struggles they face in accessing a vaccine.
Sen. Stewart says he is frustrated by the lack of accountability by the Pritzker Administration. Just this week, the Governor signed his 13th consecutive emergency declaration, marking one full year of ruling under Executive Order. Despite having total control over every aspect of COVID-19, the Governor continues to blame everyone but his own Administration for the failures of the vaccine rollout.
ISBE rules continue to cause concerns
The controversial new rule gives the Illinois State Board of Education broad power to implement guidelines that impact teacher preparation standards. However, due to the nature of the demands the new rules place on teachers, Sen. Stewart is questioning the real intent behind the proposal.
Sen. Stewart notes the proposed new rule is setting a highly progressive narrative in the classroom, arguing that the proposal creates a burdensome, confusing, and vague set of progressive requirements that threaten a healthy learning environment in Illinois classrooms.
To read the full text of the controversial new rule, click here.