BREAKING: Illinois Covid Cases Spike Back Up, New Variant Hits U.S.; What Happens Next?
BREAKING NEWS: Well, perhaps we spoke too soon on covid being over. Illinois cases spiked back up today almost 60 percent over yesterday, a new worldwide variant — the stealth omicron — has been detected and is spreading, and deaths and hospitalizations increased statewide.
The new numbers according to the Illinois Department of Public Health were not good. After declining cases over the past week, and a day in which we were below 10,000 cases for the first time in several months, Illinois public health officials reported 15,732 new COVID cases and 143 related deaths Wednesday.
In addition, after a day in which the positivity rate went down to under 13 percent, it bumped back up again to 14.6 percent.
There have been 2,867,299 total COVID cases, including 30,419 deaths in the state since the pandemic began. Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported testing 143,139 new specimens for a total of 50,359,271 since the pandemic began.
Currently, 5,019 patients in Illinois are in the hospital with covid and 877 patients were in the ICU with 503 patients on ventilators with covid.
A total of 22,983,745 vaccine doses have been administered in Illinois as of Tuesday and 61.85 percent of the state’s population is fully vaccinated. The seven-day rolling average of vaccines administered daily is 39,760.
However, a new variant, the stealth omicron, has been identified across Asia, Africa and Europe and is expected to reach the U.S. soon, if it isn’t here already undetected as of yet. Medical companies are also working on various preventatives and new vaccines that intend to cover a wider range of potential variants.
“Timing is everything, you obviously can’t have the vaccine the day a variant comes out, so by the time it is available omicron might be in the rear view mirror,” said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of Illinois Dept. of Public Health.
“We don’t know what is in store, but we are grateful the current vaccines have been able to do the job and keep fully vaccinated people out of the hospital,” Ezike said.
In the meantime, with Illinois covid-19 infections, hospitalizations and average numbers dropping, state residents are calling for an end to the statewide mask mandate and other restrictions, with some protesting and suing to end them — particularly in schools.
The latest numbers from the Illinois Department of Public Health continue the trend over the past week of showing dipping cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, seeming to confirm what some officials have said, that the omicron surge has passed.
“Over the last two years, I’ve said over and over that you don’t know when a surge has reached its peak until you’re on the other side of it,” Pritzker said during a recent covid update.
As the numbers get better, officials still haven’t committed to a removal of the state mask mandate and other restrictions, and Illinois residents are beginning to protest to end the restrictions, particularly in schools. A group of over 700 parents has also filed a class action lawsuit to remove the mask and testing mandate from Illinois schools.
Sangamon County judge is considering a motion to block Illinois schools from requiring people to wear face masks in classes and excluding students and staff from school buildings if they’ve had close contact with someone who has tested positive for covid.
Greenville attorney Thomas DeVore is arguing that under the Department of Public Health Act, schools cannot exclude students for public health concerns without their parents’ consent or a quarantine order from a public health department.
“The plaintiffs have a right to insist the students not be excluded from school, and denied their right to an in-person education, except as provided by law,” the lawsuit states.
“Quite simply, the defendants are infringing upon the lawful right of the students, and of their parents or guardians, to be free to choose for themselves whether mask wearing as a treatment, or type of modified quarantine, for the purpose of limiting the spread of an infectious disease, is, absent a court order, appropriate,” the lawsuit states.
Officials are offering cautious optimism, happy that the numbers are going down, but still reminding people that the numbers are relatively high, especially when compared to just a month or two ago.
“I am very, very pleased to say that we have formally passed the omicron peak here in the city of Chicago,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said.
Arwady said the city will be lifting restrictions “at some point,” but said it depended on the numbers continuing to go down.
For ongoing coverage of this situation, continue to follow QuadCities.com.