Illinois Coronavirus Updates: State Case Numbers Rise, New COVID Variant

A new COVID variant is now being tracked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as Illinois reports a rise in case metrics. Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic across Illinois today. As 2 Subvariants Surpass BA.5, Concerns Emerge About Another New COVID Strain BN.1 While the BA.5 COVID variant was the nation’s dominant strain for months, that’s not the case any longer. Subvariants BQ.1.1 and BQ.1 have since taken over, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, which showed the two account for approximately 44% of new COVID infections, NBC News reported. BA.5 was responsible for approximately 30% of all cases, according to the most recent data. They aren’t the only variants to surface recently, however. Read more here. Illinois Sees Rise in COVID-19 Cases Over Past Week As Concern Over Respiratory Viruses Grows Ahead of Thanksgiving Illinois health officials reported 13,659 new COVID-19 cases since Nov. 11, along with 48 additional deaths over the past seven days. Cases and deaths have seen a slight rise over the previous week, which saw 11,020 new COVID-19 cases and 38 deaths from the virus. As of the past seven days, one Illinois county, Winnebago County, is at a high level of COVID-19 transmission. Additionally, 20 other counties were at a medium level of transmission. Read more here. 1 Illinois County Rises to ‘High’ COVID Alert Level Under CDC Guidelines One Illinois county has risen to a “high” COVID alert level this week, sparking new masking guidelines and marking a shift after the state had no counties at such a level last week. At a “high” alert level, masking is recommended for all in indoor public spaces. More than a dozen other counties in Illinois were listed at a “medium” level, meaning those at high risk of illness are urged to wear masks in public indoor spaces. Read more here. RSV is Surging as Cases of Flu, COVID Are Rising. Should We Be Wearing Masks? Health experts in Chicago and across the country since October have been expressing concern that an “explosion” of respiratory viruses — RSV, influenza and COVID — would start to appear this fall and winter as cases of each continue to rise. “My concern is as COVID really takes off and as the flu really takes off that it is really going to continue to stretch our hospital capacity,” said Dr. Allison Arwady, the public health commissioner for the Chicago Department of Public Health. Read more here. Should Residents Wear Masks, Even When it Isn’t Required? Chicago’s Top Doctor Weighs In Amid slow increases in COVID cases in Illinois and around the United States, Chicago’s top doctor says that residents may want to start wearing masks more often in indoor spaces, especially with flu and RSV cases on the rise as well. Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, took time during her Tuesday Facebook Live to address questions about masking, and says that she has continued to wear masks in indoor spaces. Read more here. 3 Unusual COVID Symptoms and What to Watch For If You Think You Have Them As the COVID pandemic enters its third winter, many now know that not everyone experiences the same symptoms. But for some, the symptoms might seem particularly strange. While many may experience fevers, coughs, congestion and more, there are some unexpected symptoms that could sprout. Read more here. Are Breakthrough Cases Being Reported With Bivalent COVID Booster? Top Doc Says Yes Chicago’s top doctor said there have been reported of breakthrough COVID infections in people who have received the new bivalent COVID booster and there’s a reason for that. “We have seen some breakthrough cases just like we have every time… since the beginning of COVID,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Tuesday, adding that “it is definitely related to the newer strains.” Arwady referred to the changing dynamics of variant proportion in the Midwest and across the U.S., with the BA.5 omicron subvariant quickly losing its hold as the dominant strain. Read more here. BA.5 May Not Be the Dominant Variant Much Longer. Here’s Why and What That Means The BA.5 omicron subvariant has been the dominant COVID variant in the U.S. for months, but its reign could soon be over. That’s because two descendants of the BA.5 strain could potentially overtake it. This comes as new variants continue to emerge, including the BN.1, which has now been added to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s weekly tracker. Read more here. What to Know About Quarantine, Isolation and Testing for COVID Ahead of the Holidays With concerns of a “tripledemic” on the rise ahead of the holiday season, and several Chicago-area counties under heightened COVID alert levels, what should you know if you test positive for COVID or come into contact with someone who has? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued changes to its COVID guidelines over the summer, changing the recommendations for quarantine, social distancing and even testing. Since then, bivalent COVID booster shots have been administered, but a rise in RSV and flu, coupled with continued COVID cases have left some worried. Here’s what you should know. Moderna Announces New Data on Effectiveness of Bivalent COVID Booster Moderna on Monday revealed its newest trial data showed its bivalent COVID booster shots “elicited a superior neutralizing antibody response against Omicron BA.4/BA.5 variants” when compared to its original vaccine and booster shots. “We are pleased to see that both of our bivalent booster vaccine candidates offer superior protection against Omicron BA.4/BA.5 variants compared to our original booster, which is encouraging given COVID-19 remains a leading cause of hospitalization and death globally. In addition, the superior response against Omicron persisted for at least three months after the mRNA-1273.214 booster,” Stéphane Bancel, Moderna’s chief executive officer, said in a statement. Bancel also noted that the data appeared to indicate the bivalent shots showed protection against the new BQ.1.1 subvariant currently growing in numbers in the U.S. “Our bivalent boosters also show, in research assays, neutralizing activity against BQ.1.1, an increasingly dominant emerging variant, confirming that updated vaccines have the potential to offer protection as the virus continues to evolve rapidly to escape our immunity,” Bancel said. Doctors Urge Vaccinations as Respiratory Viruses Circulate Ahead of Holiday Season Health officials across the Chicago area are urging people to get vaccinated ahead of the colder weather, especially with cases of RSV and the flu rising. “This ‘tripledemic’… what we’re calling it right now involves three viruses,” explained Dr. Geraldine Luna, medical director for the Chicago Department of Public Health. Respiratory viruses such as the flu, RSV and COVID-19 are “spreading rapidly” across Illinois, the state’s Department of Public Health said earlier this week. Read more here. ‘Tripledemic’ Feared as RSV and Flu Cases Rise, COVID Community Levels Increase in Chicago Area With winter approaching and Thanksgiving less than two weeks away, doctors warn the U.S. could potentially face what’s being called a “tripledemic” – a rise in three respiratory illnesses. “When we say ‘tripledemic’ what we mean is that we’re seeing high cases of RSV, high cases of influenza, and we expect we’re going to see high cases of COVID as well,” explained Dr. Kevin Smith. Read more here. Cook County, Chicago Now Under ‘Medium’ COVID Alert Level. What You Should Know Chicago and Cook County are among several places in the Chicago area now under an elevated COVID alert level. “We are already seeing influenza surging in the southern U.S., COVID is back on the increase as we move back into a Medium COVID level locally, and Chicago’s pediatric hospitals are already bursting with children seriously ill from other respiratory viruses, like RSV,” CDPH Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a statement. “Families will be traveling and gathering indoors for the holidays, and I worry about that increased circulation of COVID-19 and flu, and especially the possibility of severe outcomes for those who remain unvaccinated or not up to date.” Read more here. 6 Chicago-Area Counties Under Elevated COVID Alert Level. Here’s What That Means Six Chicago-area counties are now under an elevated COVID alert level, with new mask recommendations taking effect. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Cook, DuPage, Lake, McHenry, Will and Grundy counties are now all under the “medium community level” for COVID. Here’s what that means for you. IDPH Warns Respiratory Viruses ‘Spreading Rapidly’ Ahead of Holidays Illinois health officials are warning that respiratory viruses are “spreading rapidly” in the lead-up to the holidays, with RSV, flu and COVID-19 continuing to spread as days shorten and temperatures cool. “The U.S. is currently facing its highest flu hospitalization rate in a decade, with young children and seniors most at risk,” IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra said in a statement. “Vaccines remain our best tools to prevent the worst outcomes from COVID-19 and flu. I strongly recommend all that have not gotten full protection from COVID-19 and the flu to get vaccinated right away. Both the new COVID-19 bivalent booster and the flu shot target the current strains of these viruses.” Read more here. COVID-19 Cases Fall in Illinois as Over 1.5 Million Bivalent Booster Shots Have Been Administered Statewide Illinois health officials reported 11,020 new COVID-19 cases since Nov. 4, along with 38 additional deaths over the past six days. Cases and deaths have seen a notable decline over the previous week, which saw 14,225 new COVID-19 cases and 54 additional deaths from the virus. Read more here.

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