BREAKING NEWS: 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 and throughout Illinois, and spurring some to dread potential new restrictions hinted at by Gov. JB Pritzker, including requiring proof of vaccination to enter certain public spaces or activities.

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.

“While unsurprising, this news should remind Chicagoans of the ongoing threat from COVID-19, especially as families prepare to come together over the holidays,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a statement. “We know how to slow the spread of this virus: get vaccinated, get boosted, get tested if you have symptoms or have been in contact with someone with COVID-19, and stay away from others if you test positive. Wear a mask indoors, avoid poorly ventilated spaces, practice social distancing, and wash your hands.”

BREAKING: Omicron Covid Variant Invades Illinois; New Restrictions Including Proof Of Vax Looming

Arwady, in a Facebook live press conference Tuesday, 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.”

BREAKING: Omicron Covid Variant Invades Illinois; New Restrictions Including Proof Of Vax Looming

Both Arwady and Gov. JB Pritzker have hinted at additional mitigations and restrictions for the state now that omicron has arrived. In the Facebook Live conference, Arwady admitted that Chicago may begin requiring proof of vaccinations for some public spaces or activities, and Pritzker has not ruled out some segments of the state where covid rates have begun to skyrocket may go back to at least partial shutdowns.

Both officials have said that state and city officials are being encouraged to quarantine if they have symptoms.

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.

BREAKING: Omicron Covid Variant Invades Illinois; New Restrictions Including Proof Of Vax Looming

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.

All of the Illinois health regions have shown rising numbers of covid infections this fall.

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.

Officials have not ruled out more severe mitigations for the state, and several regions in the state are at levels that would have previously triggered additional restrictions. Those include Region 1, located in the northwestern corner of the state, where the positivity rate has risen to 9.3 percent and the availability of ICU beds has remained under the 20 percent threshold for over a month of consecutive days, according to IDPH data. In addition, Region 6, located in the eastern portion of the state and including Champaign County, is approaching the 8 percent threshold for positivity rates, sitting at 7.5 percent.

BREAKING: Omicron Covid Variant Invades Illinois; New Restrictions Including Proof Of Vax Looming

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker addresses the media about covid-19.

The previous mitigation standards for a shutdown stated that any region with positivity rates in excess of 8 percent, ICU bed availability below 20 percent, or increasing hospitalizations, would be hit with higher restrictions up to and including a shutdown.

“I consult with hospital leaders frequently to determine what’s the situation in your hospital, do you have enough beds? What do you think will happen if we continue to have an increase? What are your plans? We’re always watching that to know is there something more we need to do,” Pritzker said.

Locally in Rock Island County, the situation is likewise dire.

The health department reports 223 new cases of COVID-19 since its last report on Friday. The total number of cases now is 20,941. Currently, 62 patients are hospitalized in the county with the virus. The average age of newly infected patients is 36.

BREAKING: Omicron Covid Variant Invades Illinois; New Restrictions Including Proof Of Vax Looming

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker.

“Cases are rising quickly in Rock Island County, but just as concerning is how many people are hospitalized,” director Nina Ludwig said. “We haven’t had this many people hospitalized in the county with COVID-19 in almost a year.”
Today’s total is the highest since Dec. 8, 2020, when we had 83. The all-time high was 92 on Nov. 23, 2020.
“The difference from a year ago is that we now have three highly effective vaccines that prevent most serious cases of COVID-19 and keep hospital resources and staff available for other urgent healthcare, including heart attacks, strokes, post-surgical care, and serious accidents,” she said. “Our hospitals are filled with younger people who have not been vaccinated and older people who qualify for a booster.”

For ongoing coverage of this situation, continue to follow

BREAKING: Omicron Covid Variant Invades Illinois; New Restrictions Including Proof Of Vax Looming
Sean Leary is an author, director, artist, musician, producer and entrepreneur who has been writing professionally since debuting at age 11 in the pages of the Comics Buyers Guide. An honors graduate of the University of Southern California masters program, he has written over 50 books including the best-sellers The Arimathean, Every Number is Lucky to Someone and We Are All Characters.
BREAKING: Omicron Covid Variant Invades Illinois; New Restrictions Including Proof Of Vax Looming

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