BREAKING: Illinois Moves Into Covid ‘High Alert’ With Omicron Spreading; More Restrictions Coming?
BREAKING NEWS: Illinois has zoomed into covid “high alert,” with cases slamming the state, the new omicron variant spreading, and talk of more restrictions on the way including requiring proof of vaccinations to enter certain public spaces and workplaces.
The omicron covid variant has invaded Illinois, infecting at least one person in Chicago, prompting fears of a wide spread in the third-largest city in the United States. The Chicagoan infected by the omicron variant was both fully vaccinated with two shots and had gotten their third booster dose. They were tested at the hospital and dinged positive but did not require hospitalization and are recovering at home. It’s not known when they were infected or how many others they might have infected before they began showing symptoms and were tested. In addition, several other Chicagoans have been tested and some suspect that many others may pop positive for the omicron variant in the next few days. A doctor who discovered the variant in Chicago said it’s an ominous sign.
“A sample that had been submitted to the Regional Innovative Public Health Lab was suspicious for Omicron,” said Dr. Mary Hayden with Rush University Medical Center. “Omicron has many mutations that the other circulating variants don’t have and because it’s distinctive in that way, we could very quickly identify it as Omicron.”
“We have moved into very high transmission,” said Dr. Allison Arwady, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner. “While unsurprising, this news should remind Chicagoans of the ongoing threat from COVID-19, especially as families prepare to come together over the holidays.”
Dr. Arwady also reiterated what Gov. JB Pritzker had previously said about Illinois looking at increasing its restrictions and mitigations regarding covid, which was reported weeks ago on QuadCities.com. Arwady talked about statewide requirements for people to show proof of vaccination to enter theatres, gyms, restaurants and bars.
“It’s certainly something that, as this increase is continuing and with a new variant, we may do more of,” Arwady said.
Arwady, in a Facebook live press conference, said that test results are currently pending for city residents who have been in contact with out-of-state or out-of-country people with the omicron variant.
“We are following multiple individuals who we know had exposures, whether they were traveling in the U.S. or even internationally, and we have a pretty robust way to share information in a way to protect privacy, but allow us to do case investigation or contact tracing, including over state boundaries,” she said.
“We are still learning. Lots of you are asking, ‘Are we going to need an omicron booster? We might,” Arwady said. “We’ll know in another two weeks or so once all the data has been collected related to how well not just has the vaccine been protecting around the world, but has the booster been protecting. How well has ‘natural immunity,’ been protecting? Because we’ve been seeing a lot of folks who were kind of counting on prior infection getting infected again with this omicron variant in other parts of the world. And so I don’t have the answers out of whether an omicron booster will be needed, but what I do know is that getting the vaccines we have now and getting boosted has helped protect against the spread of omicron in a number of case examples.”
The emergence of omicron comes on the heels of Illinois registering its worst covid numbers in over a year, today marking over 3,000 people hospitalized statewide, and as the Midwest has begun to become a hotbed for covid, and an entryway for omicron, which is now in 20 states.
New covid cases statewide have raged over the past two weeks, with over 7,100 cases per day — the highest numbers since December 2020 — according to the Illinois Department of Public Health data. Over 11,000 new cases were reported statewide over the weekend, and Illinois has been reporting more new tests per day than it has at any point during the pandemic, with a new record of 231,876 new test results last Thursday.
The state is logging 153,311 test results per day — marking the highest number since the pandemic began. State positivity rates are also on the rise throughout Illinois, going over 5.4 percent statewide, according to the latest IDPH numbers released today. That includes several of the state’s regions hitting markers previously used to trigger shutdowns.
Hospitalizations are also skyrocketing, with over 3,000 patients currently hospitalized statewide, the most since September of this year, with 579 in intensive care unit beds, and 256 on staffed ventilators, also the highest numbers in four months.
For ongoing coverage of this situation, continue to follow QuadCities.com.