Many Chicago-area residents 65 and older will get invitations from health systems soon to make appointments to receive COVID-19 vaccines as Illinois prepares to move Monday to the next phase of vaccinations.

The new phase will include people from that age group and essential workers, such as those who work in grocery stores, schools and public transportation. Walgreens already is allowing some seniors and essential workers to schedule shots.

In other encouraging news, Will and Kankakee counties are on track to be the first in the Chicago area to see limited indoor dining resume under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s coronavirus reopening plan. The two-county region is meeting the requirements to allow indoor dining at 25% capacity or 25 people, whichever is fewer, beginning Thursday.

Meanwhile, Chicago Teachers Union members are voting this week on a collective action to defy Chicago Public Schools and refuse to report to school buildings starting Monday, continuing remote learning for as long as they have access to their online platforms. The deadline to vote is Saturday.

Illinois health officials Wednesday announced 4,822 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 and 107 additional fatalities, bringing the total number of known infections in Illinois to 1,081,354 and the statewide death toll to 18,398 since the start of the pandemic.

COVID-19 in Illinois by the numbers: Here’s a daily update on key metrics in your area

Illinois coronavirus graphs: The latest data on deaths, confirmed cases, tests and more

COVID-19 cases in Illinois by ZIP code: Search for your neighborhood

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Here’s what’s happening Thursday with COVID-19 in the Chicago area and Illinois:

6:35 a.m.: Ellen to give Chicagoan who lost job $10,000, gifts

Ellen DeGeneres surprises Chicagoan Kelli Wright and her two children, Christopher and Amiya, with $10,000 and various gifts on Thursday’s episode of her daytime show. Wright said she lost her airport job, and her grandmother died of coronavirus at about the same time last year.

”Despite experiencing a lot of personal loss this past year, Kelli volunteers every day at a food bank and spends the weekends with her kids bringing food and supplies to Chicago’s tent cities on the South Side,” DeGeneres said before interviewing the Wright family via video chat.

DeGeneres sent a truck full of gifts from her “12 Days of Giveaways” program, valued at about $30,000, to Wright’s home. DeGeneres’ show airs at 3 p.m. weekdays on WMAQ-Ch. 5. — Tracy Swartz

6 a.m.: Biden’s national COVID-19 strategy will require that masks be worn for travel

As the U.S. enters “what may well be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus,” President Joe Biden is putting forth a national COVID-19 strategy to ramp up vaccinations and testing, reopen schools and businesses and increase the use of masks — including a requirement that they be worn for travel.

Biden also will address inequities in hard-hit minority communities as he signs 10 pandemic-related executive orders on Thursday, his second day in office.

The U.S. mask order for travel being implemented by Biden will apply to airports and planes, ships, intercity buses, trains and public transportation. Travelers from abroad must furnish a negative COVID-19 test before departing for the U.S. and quarantine upon arrival. Biden has already mandated masks on federal property.

Although airlines, Amtrak and other transport providers now require masks, Biden’s order makes it a federal mandate, leaving little wiggle room for passengers tempted to argue about their rights.

Read more here. —Associated Press

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Here are some recent stories related to COVID-19.

COVID-19 Q&A: Can President Joe Biden meet his goal of 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered within the first 100 days of his presidency?

The IHSA approved a plan for winter sports to begin, allowing contact days for fall, spring and summer sports.

Pregnant Illinois mom worried her eligibility for a COVID-19 vaccine won’t arrive before her baby.

Some COVID-19 mutations may dampen the effectiveness of vaccines.

As the coronavirus surges, states are reporting shortages of vaccine.

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