Illinois Coronavirus Updates: Chicago's Top Doctor on Rising Cases, At-Home COVID Tests

Do you still have free at-home COVID tests from the government? You might want to check the expiration date. Plus, how worried is Chicago’s top doctor about rising case metrics in the city? Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic across Illinois today: Masks Recommended in 4 Southern Illinois Counties, According to CDC Metrics Despite progress in COVID metrics across most of Illinois and the absence of a face covering requirement, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is still recommending masks in some Illinois counties. The CDC updated its county-by-county community levels map Thursday, showing high levels in four counties across southern Illinois. Read more here. NYC Could Hit Medium COIVD Risk Level in Weeks, Arwady Says. Here’s What Would Happen If Chicago Follows In Chicago and across the country, many cities are seeing increases in COVID-19 cases over the last few weeks, which the city’s top doctor said could lead to a change in transmissibility levels in some areas. “New York City, for example, is seeing an increase,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Thursday. “They are also in low, but they are expecting that they may get to that medium risk level possibly in a couple of weeks or so.” Read more here. COVID Booster Shots: When Could More Be Eligible for 4th Dose? Top Doc Weighs In Millions of Americans can now receive a second COVID-19 booster shot, but not everyone is eligible. A new decision on eligibility could be coming soon, however. Chicago’s top doctor said the rest of the population may not see authorization for a fourth COVID shot until the fall. Read more here. Coronavirus in Illinois: 10K New Cases, 71 Deaths in Last Week as Cases Continue to Climb Illinois health officials reported 10,786 new COVID-19 cases over the past week, along with 71 additional deaths, marking a small increase in cases following weeks of decline, but a continued decline in deaths. The previous week, 8,426 the state reported and 87 deaths. The week before that, 8,039 new cases and 109 deaths were reported. Read more here. Do At-Home COVID Tests, Including Free Ones From the Government, Expire? With at-home COVID tests now readily available, some might be saving there’s for when they have a need to test, but how long can you actually wait? According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the tests, including ones sent to Americans for free by the government, can expire. Read more here. Chicago COVID Cases Rising, but Spread Remains Low According to City’s Top Doc The city of Chicago is seeing a slight rise in COVID cases, but Dr. Allison Arwady, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said during a press conference on Thursday that there’s a key takeaway that she wants Chicagoans to pay attention to. “We continue to see cases, but overall the outbreak remains in good control,” Arwady announced. The community spread currently remains low, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health. As of Thursday, the city of Chicago saw 304 new COVID cases, which is up 28% in the last week. Read more here. Airline Mask Mandate: Which Ones Have Dropped the Requirement and Where? Following their country’s respective health and safety guidelines, several international airlines have made changes to their masking policies, letting travelers choose whether they wear one on certain flights. In the U.S., the Transportation Security Administration extended its masking requirement on public transportation — which encompasses buses, trains, airplanes and transportation facilities — through April 18. It remains unclear if that mandate will extended once again as that deadline approaches. So while flights in the U.S. will continue requiring masks, whether or not you’ll need to wear one on an international flight, however, depends. Here is a list of airlines that have altered their mask mandates so far. Illinois COVID Metrics: State Reports More Than 2,000 New Cases for First Time Since February For the first time in more than a month, the state of Illinois reported more than 2,000 new confirmed and probable COVID cases in a single day, part of a sustained increases in new diagnoses in recent weeks. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, there were 2,194 new cases reported by laboratories in the last 24 hours. That marks the first time since Feb. 26 that the state has reported more than 2,000 new cases in a single day. Read more here. Why Chicago’s Top Doctor Isn’t Worried About Emerging COVID Variant XE Just Yet A new hybrid COVID variant known as XE spreading in the United Kingdom is making plenty of headlines with concerns about its transmissibility, but Chicago’s top doctor said she’s not concerned about it just yet. “Mostly, it’s been detected in the UK, several hundred cases, but nothing at this point that is clearly showing major concern or spread,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a statement. “And so it hasn’t even been labeled at this point, an official variant of interest.” Arwady noted that while the recombinant variant has been detected in the U.S. already, no cases have been reported in Chicago or Illinois as of Monday. Read more here. What is the XE COVID Variant and Where Has it Been Detected So Far? A new hybrid COVID variant known as XE spreading in the United Kingdom is making headlines, but what exactly is it and why are health officials taking note? Here’s a look at what we know so far. COVID Symptoms in Children: Here’s Are Signs for Parents to Look Out For With children heading back to school following spring break vacations and some still unable to get vaccinated against COVID-19, many parents are wondering what symptoms they should be aware of in kids. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children have similar symptoms to adults, and in many cases experience milder illness. “While children are as likely to get COVID-19 as adults, kids are less likely to become severely ill,” the Mayo Clinic reports. “Up to 50% of children and adolescents might have COVID-19 with no symptoms. However, some children with COVID-19 need to be hospitalized, treated in the intensive care unit or placed on a ventilator to help them breathe.” Read more here. COVID vs. Allergies: Here’s How to Tell the Difference With pollen sweeping the air and COVID variants lingering around, it can be difficult to identify the culprit behind the sneeze. So, how can you tell the difference between the two? Experts say the only real way to know the answer is to take a test, but until then, health officials say to treat any possible symptoms as COVID. Here’s a list of COVID and allergy symptoms as outlined by the CDC.

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